Benedict XVI from November 2010 to February 2011

 

On Trust in Divine Providence
"The Christian Is Distinguished by His Absolute Trust in the Heavenly Father"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Echoing in today's liturgy is one of the most touching messages of Sacred Scripture. The Holy Spirit has given it through the writing of the so-called "second Isaiah," who to console Jerusalem, disheartened by misfortunes, expresses himself thus: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). This invitation to trust in the unfailing love of God is supported as much by the thought-provoking page of Matthew's Gospel, in which Jesus exhorts his disciples to trust in the providence of the heavenly Father, who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, and knows every need of ours (cf. 6:24-34). This is how the Master expresses himself: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."

Given the situation of so many people, close and far off, who live in misery, this discourse of Jesus might not seem very realistic, if not evasive. In reality, the Lord wants us to understand clearly that we cannot serve two masters: God and wealth. Whoever believes in God, the Father full of love for his children, puts in the first place the search for the Kingdom, for his will. And this is, in fact, the contrary of fatalism or of a naive irenicism. Faith in providence, in fact, does not dispense us from the exhausting struggle for a dignified life, but it frees us from anxiety about things and from the fear of tomorrow. It is clear that this teaching of Jesus, although remaining always true and valid for all, is practiced in different ways in keeping with the different vocations: A Franciscan brother can follow it in a more radical way, whereas a father of a family must keep in mind his duties towards his wife and children. In every case, however, the Christian is distinguished by his absolute trust in the heavenly Father, as it was for Jesus. It is precisely the relationship with God the Father that gives meaning to the whole of Christ's life, to his words, to his gestures of salvation, to his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus has demonstrated to us what it means to live with our feet firmly planted on the earth, attentive to the concrete situations of our neighbor, and at the same time having our heart always in Heaven, immersed in God's mercy.

Dear Friends, in the light of the Word of God this Sunday, I invite you to invoke the Virgin Mary with the title Mother of Divine Providence. To her we entrust our life, the path of the Church, the events of history. In particular, we invoke her intercession so that we will all learn to live in keeping with a more simple and sober style, in our daily industry and in respect of creation, which God has entrusted to our care.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Robert Bellarmine
"The End of Our Life Is the Lord"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience, held in Paul VI Hall. In his Italian-language address, the Pope focused his meditation on the figure of a Jesuit saint, Robert Bellarmine, cardinal, bishop and doctor of the Church (1542-1621).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

St. Robert Bellarmine, about whom I would like to speak to you today, carries our memories to the time of the painful division of Western Christianity, when a serious political and religious crisis caused the severance of whole nations from the Apostolic See.

Born Oct. 4, 1542, in Montepulciano, near Siena, he was the nephew, on his mother's side, of Pope Marcellus II. He had an excellent formation in the humanities before entering the Society of Jesus on Sept. 20, 1560. His studies in philosophy and theology, which he carried out between the Roman College, Padua and Leuven, centered on St. Thomas and the fathers of the Church, and were decisive for his theological orientation. He was ordained a priest on March 25, 1570, and was for a few years a professor of theology at Leuven.

Subsequently, called to Rome as professor at the Roman College, he was entrusted with the chair of "Apologetics"; during the decade that he had this office (1576-1586), he prepared a course of lessons that came together later in the "Controversiae." This work became famous immediately because of the clarity and richness of the contents and because of a primarily historical style. The Council of Trent had recently ended and for the Catholic Church it was necessary to strengthen and confirm her identity in regard to the Protestant Reformation. Bellarmine's activity comes within this context. From 1588 to 1594 he was first spiritual father of the Jesuit students of the Roman College -- among whom he met and directed St. Aloysius Gonzaga -- and then religious superior. Pope Clement VIII appointed him papal theologian, consultor of the Holy Office and rector of the College of Penitentiaries of St. Peter's Basilica. In the two-year period of 1597-1598 his catechism was published, the brief "Christian Doctrine," which was his most popular work.

On March 3, 1599, he was created cardinal by Pope Clement VIII and, on March 18, 1602, he was appointed archbishop of Capua. He received episcopal ordination on April 21 of the same year. In the three years in which he was a diocesan bishop, he was distinguished for his zeal as a preacher in his cathedral, for the weekly visits he made to parishes, for three diocesan synods and for a provincial council that he motivated. After having participated in the conclaves that elected Popes Leo XI and Paul V, he was recalled to Rome, where he was a member of the Congregations of the Holy Office, of the Index, of Rites, of Bishops and of the Propagation of the Faith. He also had diplomatic tasks in the Republic of Venice and England, to defend the rights of the Apostolic See. In his last years he composed several books on spirituality, in which he condensed the fruit of his annual spiritual exercises. Reading these, the Christian people draw again today great edification. He died in Rome on Sept. 17, 1621. Pope Pius XI beatified him in 1923, canonized him in 1930 and proclaimed him a doctor of the Church in 1931.

St. Robert Bellarmine played an important role in the Church of the last decades of the 16th century and the early years of the next century. His "Controversiae" was a point of reference -- that is still valid -- for Catholic ecclesiology on questions regarding revelation, the nature of the Church, the sacraments and theological anthropology. There, the institutional aspect of the Church is highlighted because of the errors that circulated then on such questions. However, Bellarmine also clarified the invisible aspects of the Church as Mystical Body and he illustrated this with the analogy of the body and the soul, in order to describe the relationship between the interior riches of the Church and the external aspects that render her perceptible. In this monumental work, which attempts to synthesize the various theological controversies of the time, he avoids every controversial and aggressive style in confronting the ideas of the Reformation, and, using the arguments of reason and Church Tradition, illustrates Catholic doctrine in a clear and effective way.

However, his legacy is found in the way in which he conceived his work. Onerous government posts did not impede him, in fact, from daily striving for holiness with fidelity to the demands of his state as a religious, priest and bishop. His commitment to preaching derived from this fidelity. Being, as a priest and bishop, first of all a pastor of souls, he felt the duty to preach assiduously. There are hundreds of his sermons -- homilies given in the Fiandre, in Rome, in Naples and in Capua on the occasion of liturgical celebrations. Not less abundant are his expositions and explanations for parish priests, women religious and students of the Roman College, which often centered on sacred Scripture, especially the Letters of St. Paul. His preaching and his catecheses have that characteristic of simplicity that he gleaned from his Ignatian education, all directed at concentrating the strength of the soul on the Lord Jesus, deeply known, loved and imitated.

In the writings of this man of government one sees very clearly, even in the reserve with which he concealed his sentiments, the primacy that he assigns to the teachings of Christ. St. Bellarmine thus offers a model of prayer, the soul of every activity: a prayer that listens to the Word of the Lord, is fulfilled in contemplating grandeur, does not withdraw into itself, finds joy in abandonment to God.

A distinctive sign of Bellarmine's spirituality is the lively and personal perception of the immense goodness of God, by which our saint felt that he was truly a beloved son of God and which was a source of great joy in recollecting himself, with serenity and simplicity, in prayer, in contemplation of God. In his book "De Ascensione Mentis in Deum" (The Mind's Ascent to God), composed following the structure of St. Bonaventure's "Itinerarium," he exclaims: "O soul, your exemplar is God, infinite beauty, light without shadow, splendor that surpasses that of the moon and the sun. Raise your eyes to God in whom are found the archetypes of all things, and of whom, as from a source of infinite fecundity, derives this almost infinite variety of things. Hence you must conclude: Whoever finds God finds everything, whoever loses God loses everything."

In this text one hears the echo of the famous "contemplatio ad amorem obtineundum" -- contemplation to obtain love -- from the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Bellarmine, who lived in the ostentatious and often unhealthy society of the end of the 1500s and the beginning of the 1600s, drew practical applications from this contemplation and projected forward the situation of the Church of his time with lively pastoral inspiration. In the book "De Arte Bene Moriendi" (The Art of Dying Well), for example, he indicates as a sure norm of good living and also of good dying, the frequent and serious meditation on the fact that one will have to render an account to God for one's actions and way of living, and to seek not to accumulate riches on this earth, but to live simply and with charity in order to accumulate goods in Heaven. In the book "De Gemitu Columbae," (The Mournful Cry of the Dove) -- where the dove represents the Church -- he calls the clergy and all the faithful to a personal and concrete reform of their life following what Scripture and the saints teach, among whom he mentions in particular St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, in addition to the great founders of religious orders such as St. Benedict, St. Dominic and St. Francis. Bellarmine teaches with great clarity and with the example of his own life that there cannot be a true reform of the Church if there is not first our personal reform and the conversion of our hearts.

From the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, Bellarmine drew counsels to communicate in a profound way, even to the most simple, the beauty of the mysteries of the faith. He wrote: "If you have wisdom, understand that you were created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation. This is your end, this is the center of your soul, this is the treasure of your heart. Because of this, esteem as truly good for yourself that which leads you to your end, and as truly evil what makes you lack it. Prosperous or adverse events, riches and poverty, health and sickness, honors and insults, life and death -- the wise man must never seek or flee from them for himself. But they are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are bad and to be fled from if they impede it" ("De Ascensione Mentis in Deum").

These, obviously, are not words that have gone out of style, but words for us to meditate upon today at length in order to orient our journey on this earth. They remind us that the end of our life is the Lord, the God that revealed himself in Jesus Christ, in whom he continues to call us and to promise us communion with him. They remind us of the importance of trusting in the Lord, of spending oneself in a life faithful to the Gospel, of accepting and enlightening every circumstance and every activity of life with faith and with prayer, always tending to union with him. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Robert Bellarmine, the great Jesuit theologian and Doctor of the Church. In the period following the Council of Trent, Saint Robert taught theology, first at Louvain and then in the Roman College. His most famous work, the Controversiae, sought to address the issues raised by Protestant theology from a serene historical and theological perspective, while his most popular work remained his brief catechism of Christian doctrine. He also served as spiritual father to the Jesuit students of the Roman College, including Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. Saint Robert was created Cardinal by Pope Clement VIII, and made Archbishop of Capua, where he spent three years in preaching and pastoral activity before being recalled to Rome and the service of the Holy See. In his later years, he composed a number of works of spirituality which reflect his deep Ignatian formation, with its stress on meditation on the mysteries of Christ and the loving imitation of the Lord. May the example of Saint Robert Bellarmine inspire us to integrate our work and our pursuit of Christian holiness, to grow in closeness to God through prayer, and to contribute to the Church's renewal through our own inner conversion to the Lord and the truth of his word.

A new and powerful earthquake, even more devastating than the one last September, has struck the city of Christchurch, in New Zealand, causing considerable loss of life and the disappearance of many people, to say nothing of the damage to buildings. At this time, my thoughts turn especially to the people there who are being severely tested by this tragedy. Let us ask God to relieve their suffering and to support all who are involved in the rescue operations. I also ask you to join me in praying for all who have lost their lives.

Finally, I would like to greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Japan and the United States. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Christian Perfection
"He Who Welcomes the Lord in His Life ... Can Begin Again"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 - 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!

On this seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time the biblical readings speak to us about God’s will to make men participants in his life: “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy,” we read in the Book of Leviticus (19:1). With these words and the precepts that follow from them, the Lord invited the Chosen People to be faithful to the covenant with him, walking in his ways, and established the social legislation on the commandment that says that “you will love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). If we listen, then, to Jesus in whom God took on a mortal body to become every man’s neighbor and reveal his infinite love for us, we hear again that same call, that same objective audacity. The Lord, in fact, says: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But who can become perfect? Our perfection is to live as children of God in humility concretely doing his will. St. Cyprian wrote that “to God’s paternity there must correspond a conduct as children of God so that God might be glorified and praised by man’s good conduct” (De zelo et livore, 15: CCL 3a, 83).

In what way can we imitate Jesus? Jesus himself says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you will be children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). He who welcomes the Lord in his life and loves him with all of his heart can begin again. He is able to do God’s will: to realize a new form of existence animated by love and destined for eternity. Paul the Apostle adds: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is deeply formed by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and efficacious. An [early Christian] author wrote: “When the whole being of man is mixed, so to speak, with God’s love, then his soul’s splendor is also reflected on the outside” (John Climacus, “Scala Paradisi,” XXX: PG 88, 1157 B), in the whole of his life. “Love is a great thing,” we read in “The Imitation of Christ,” [it is] “a good that makes every heavy thing light and easily endures every hardship. Love aspires to sail on high, not to be held back by any earthly thing. It is born of God and only in God can it find rest” (III, V, 3).

Dear friends, the day after tomorrow, Feb. 22, we will celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. To him, the first among the Apostles, Christ entrusted the task of Teacher and Shepherd for the spiritual guidance of the People of God, so that they might be raised up to heaven. Thus, I exhort all pastors “to assimilate that ‘new style of life’ which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles” (“Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests”). We call on the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she teach us how to love each other and to welcome each other as brothers, children of the same heavenly Father.

[After the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the faithful in several languages. In English he said:]

I offer heartfelt greetings to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus! In particular I greet the young singers from the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London. The Cardinal’s motto, “Amare et Servire," is a beautiful expression of the Christian way of life. We are all called to love unconditionally, as today’s Gospel reminds us, and to place ourselves generously at the service of our neighbor. Upon everyone here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week. Thanks for your attention. Have a good Sunday, goodbye!

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Papal Address to Pontifical Filipino College
"Complete Priestly Formation Includes Not Only the Academic"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to a group of students and faculty of the Pontifical Filipino College. The college is marking its 50th anniversary.

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Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to greet you, the students and faculty of the Pontifical Filipino College in this year marking the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment by my predecessor Blessed John XXIII. I join you in giving thanks to God for all your College has contributed to the life of your fellow Filipinos both at home and abroad over the course of the last five decades.

As a house of formation located here, by the tombs of the great Apostles Peter and Paul, the Filipino College has fulfilled the mission entrusted to it in a variety of ways. Its first and most important task remains to assist students in their formation in the sacred sciences. This the College has accomplished well, as hundreds of priests have returned home with advanced degrees obtained from the various Pontifical universities and institutions in the city, and have gone on to serve the Church throughout the world, some of them with great distinction. Let me encourage you, the present generation of students at the College, to grow in faith, to strive for excellence in your studies, and to grasp every opportunity afforded you to attain spiritual and theological maturity, so that you will be equipped, trained, and stout-hearted for whatever awaits you in the future.

As you know, a complete priestly formation includes not only the academic: over and above the intellectual component offered to them here, the students of the Filipino College are also formed spiritually through the Church of Rome’s living history and the shining example of her martyrs, whose sacrifice configures them perfectly to the person of Jesus Christ himself. I am confident that each of you will be inspired by their union with the mystery of Christ and embrace the Lord's call to holiness which demands from you as priests nothing less than the complete gift of your lives and labors to God. Doing so in the company of other young priests and seminarians gathered here from throughout the world, you will return home, like those before you, with a grateful and permanent sense of the Church of Rome’s history, of her roots in the paschal mystery of Christ, and of her wonderful universality.

While you are in Rome, pastoral necessity should not be overlooked and so it is right, even for priests in studies, to consider the needs of those around them, including the members of the Filipino community living in Rome and its environs. In doing so, let the use of your time always strike a healthy balance between local pastoral concerns and the academic requirements of your stay here, to the benefit of all.

Finally, do not forget the affection of the Pope for you and for your homeland. I urge you all to return to the Philippines with an unshakeable affection of your own for the Successor of Peter and with the desire to strengthen and maintain the communion which binds the Church in charity around him. In this way, having completed your studies, you will surely be a leaven of the Gospel in the life of your beloved nation.

Invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, and as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord, I willingly impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Bishops of Philippines
"Propose a Personal Relationship With Christ as Key to Complete Fulfilment"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience bishops from the Philippines, who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to receive you today on the occasion of your ad Limina visit, and I offer my sincere good wishes and prayers for yourselves and for all those entrusted to your pastoral care. Your presence at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul strengthens the profound unity that already exists between the Church in the Philippines and the Holy See. As the deep links which Catholics enjoy with the Successor of Peter have always been a significant characteristic of faith in your country, I pray that this communion will continue to grow and flourish as you consider the present challenges of your apostolate.

While the Philippines continues to face many challenges in the area of economic development, we must recognize that these obstacles to a life of happiness and fulfilment are not the only stumbling blocks that must be addressed by the Church. Filipino culture is also confronted with the more subtle questions inherent to the secularism, materialism, and consumerism of our times. When self-sufficiency and freedom are severed from their dependence upon and completion in God, the human person creates for himself a false destiny and loses sight of the eternal joy for which he has been made. The path to rediscovering humanity’s true destiny can only be found in the re-establishment of the priority of God in the heart and mind of every person.

Above all, to keep God at the center of the life of the faithful, the preaching of you and your clergy must be personal in its focus so that each Catholic will grasp in his or her innermost depths the life-transforming fact that God exists, that he loves us, and that in Christ he answers the deepest questions of our lives. Your great task in evangelization is therefore to propose a personal relationship with Christ as key to complete fulfilment. In this context, the second Plenary Council of the Philippines continues to have beneficial effects, the result being that many dioceses have formed pastoral programs focused on conveying the good news of salvation. At the same time, it must be recognized that new initiatives in evangelization will only be fruitful if, by the grace of God, those proposing them are people who truly believe and live the message of the Gospel themselves.

This is surely one of the reasons why basic ecclesial communities have had such a positive impact throughout the country. When formed and guided by people whose motivating force is the love of Christ, these communities have proven themselves to be worthy tools of evangelization as they work in conjunction with local parishes. Similarly, the Church in the Philippines is fortunate to have a number of lay organizations which continue to draw people to the Lord. In order to confront the questions of our times, the laity need to hear the Gospel message in its fullness, to understand its implications for their personal lives and for society in general, and thus be constantly converted to the Lord. I therefore urge you to take special care in shepherding such groups, so that the primacy of God may remain in the forefront.

This primacy is of particular importance when it comes to the evangelization of youth. I am happy to note that, in your country, the faith plays a very important role in the lives of many young people, a fact that is due in large part to the patient work of the local Church to reach out to the youth at all levels. I encourage you to continue to remind young people that the glamour of this world will not satisfy their natural desire for happiness. Only true friendship with God will break the bonds of loneliness from which our fragile humanity suffers and will establish a true and lasting communion with others, a spiritual bond that will readily prompt within us the wish to serve the needs of those we love in Christ. Care must also be given to showing young people the importance of the sacraments as instruments of God's grace and assistance. This is particularly true of the sacrament of matrimony, which sanctifies married life from its very beginning, so that God's presence may sustain young couples in their struggles.

The pastoral care of young people which aims to establish the primacy of God in their hearts, tends inherently to result not only in vocations to Christian marriage but also in plentiful callings of all kinds. I am pleased to note the success of local initiatives in fostering numerous vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. However, the need for ever more dedicated servants of Christ both at home and abroad is still pressing. From your quinquennial reports, it appears that in many dioceses the number of priests and the corresponding number of parishes is not yet sufficient to meet the spiritual needs of the large and growing Catholic population. With you, I therefore pray that young Filipinos who feel called to the priesthood and the religious life will respond generously to the promptings of the Spirit. May the Church’s mission of evangelization be sustained by the wonderful gifts which the Lord offers to those whom he calls! In your turn, as Pastors you will wish to offer these young vocations a well-developed and carefully applied plan of integral formation so that their initial inclination towards a life of service to Christ and his faithful may come to full spiritual and human maturity.

Dear brothers in the episcopate, with these thoughts I assure you of my prayers and commend you to the intercession of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. May his example of steadfast faithfulness to Christ be an encouragement to you in your apostolic labors. To you, to the clergy and religious, and to all the faithful entrusted to your care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. John of the Cross
"If a Man Has a Great Love Within … He Endures Life’s Problems More Easily"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his Italian-language address, the Pope centered his meditation on the figure of St. John of the Cross, priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and doctor of the Church (1542-1591).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Two weeks ago I presented the figure of the great Spanish mystic Teresa of Jesus. Today I would like to speak about another important saint of that land, a spiritual friend of St. Teresa, a reformer, and like St. Teresa, a member of the Carmelite religious family: St John of the Cross, proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926, and who is traditionally referred to as Doctor Mysticus, "Mystical Doctor."

John of the Cross was born in 1542 in small village of Fontiveros, near Avila, in Castilla la Vieja, son of Gonzalo de Yepes and Catalina Álvarez. The family was very poor because the father, of noble birth from Toledo, was expelled from his home and disinherited for having married Catalina, a humble silk weaver. John's father died when the youth was very young, and at nine years old, John went with his mother and brother Francisco to Medina del Campo, near Valladolid, a commercial and cultural center. Here he attended the "Colegio de los Doctrinos," also carrying out humble works for the nuns of the church-convent of Magdalen.

Subsequently, given his human qualities and the results of his studies, he was admitted first as nurse in the Hospital of the Conception and later in the College of the Jesuits, just founded in Medina del Campo. John entered it at 18 and studied social sciences, rhetoric and classical languages for three years. At the end of his formation, his vocation was very clear to him: the religious life and, among the many orders present in Medina, he felt called to the Carmel.

In the summer of 1563 he began his novitiate among the Carmelites of the city, taking the religious name of Matthew. The following year he was sent to the prestigious University of Salamanca, where he studied Philosophy and Arts for three years. In 1567, he was ordained priest and returned to Medina del Campo to celebrate his first Mass surrounded by the affection of his family.

It was precisely here that the first meeting took place between John and Teresa of Jesus. The meeting was decisive for both: Teresa set forth her plan for the reform of Carmel also in the masculine branch, and suggested that John adhere to it "for the greater glory of God." The young priest was fascinated by Teresa's ideas, to the point of becoming a great supporter of the project. They both worked together for some months, sharing ideals and proposals to open as soon as possible the first house of Discalced Carmelites. The opening took place on Dec. 28, 1568, in Duruelo, a solitary place in the province of Avila.

With John, the first masculine community was formed with three other companions. On renewing their religious profession according to the Primitive Rule, the four adopted new names: John then called himself "of the Cross," the name with which he would later be known universally. At the end of 1572, at the request of St. Teresa, he became confessor and vicar of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, where the saint was prioress. They were years of close collaboration and spiritual friendship, which enriched them both. During that period were written the most important Teresian works and John's first writings.

Adherence to the Carmelite reform was not easy, and it even resulted in grave suffering for John. The most dramatic incident was his seizure and imprisonment in 1577 in the convent of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance of Toledo, which was the result of an unjust accusation. The saint remained in prison for six months, subjected to privations and physical and moral constraints. Here he composed, along with other poems, the famous "Spiritual Canticle." Finally, on the night of Aug. 16-17, 1578, he was able to escape in a hazardous way, taking refuge in the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of the city. St. Teresa and his companions celebrated his liberation with great joy and, after a brief time to regain his strength, John was sent to Andalucia, where he spent 10 years in several convents, especially in Granada. He took on increasingly important posts in the order, eventually becoming provincial vicar, and completed the writing of his spiritual treatises.

Then he returned to the land of his birth, as a member of the general government of the Teresian religious family, which now enjoyed full juridical autonomy. He lived in the Carmel of Segovia, carrying out the office of superior of that community. In 1591, he was relieved of all responsibility and destined to the new religious Province of Mexico. While preparing for the long journey with 10 companions, he retired to a solitary convent near Jaen, where he became seriously ill.

John faced with exemplary serenity and patience enormous sufferings. He died on the night of Dec. 13-14, 1591, while his brothers recited the Morning Office. He took leave of them saying: "Today I am going to sing the Office in Heaven." His mortal remains were taken to Segovia. He was beatified by Clement X in 1675, and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726.

John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His most important works are four: "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," "Spiritual Canticle," "Living Flame of Love."

In the "Spiritual Canticle," St. John presents the path of purification of the soul, that is, the progressive joyful possession of God until the soul feels that it loves God with the same love that it is loved by him.

The "Living Flame of Love" continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the transforming union with God. The example used by John is always that of fire: as the fire burns and consumes the wood, it becomes incandescent flame, so also the Holy Spirit, who during the dark night purifies and "cleanses" the soul, then in time illumines and warms it as if it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit, that enables one to perceive the glory of the union with God in eternity.

The "Ascent of Mount Carmel" presents the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to ascend to the summit of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey that man undertakes, collaborating with divine action to free the soul from all attachment or affection contrary to the will of God. The purification, which to arrive at union of love with God must be total, begins with the way of the senses and continues with the one obtained through the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- the purification of intention, memory and will.

The "Dark Night" describes the "passive" aspect, that is, God's intervention in the process of "purification" of the soul. On its own, in fact, human effort is incapable of getting to the profound roots of the person's bad inclinations and habits: It can restrain them, but not uproot them totally. To do so, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes it to the union of love with him. St. John describes this purification as "passive" precisely because, though accepted by the soul, it is realized by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, as a flame of fire, consumes every impurity. In this state, the soul is subjected to all types of trials, as if it were in a dark night.

These indications on the saint's principal works help us to approach the outstanding points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to arrive at sanctity, the state of perfection to which God calls us all. According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune. All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.

This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.

Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit. This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end the question remains: Does this saint with his lofty mysticism, with this arduous way to the summit of perfection, have something to say to us, to the ordinary Christian who lives in the circumstances of today's life, or is he only an example, a model for a few chosen souls who can really undertake this way of purification, of mystical ascent? To find the answer we must first of all keep present that the life of St. John of the Cross was not a "flight through mystical clouds," but was a very hard life, very practical and concrete, both as reformer of the order, where he met with much opposition, as well as provincial superior, as in the prison of his brothers of religion, where he was exposed to incredible insults and bad physical treatment. It was a hard life but, precisely in the months spent in prison, he wrote one of his most beautiful works. And thus we are able to understand that the way with Christ, the going with Christ, "the Way," is not a weight added to the already sufficient burden, but something completely different, it is a light, a strength that helps us carry this burden.

If a man has a great love within him, it's as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life's problems more easily, because he has in himself that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing oneself to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this "openness": Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to his light that strength is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. Let us pray to the Lord so that he will help us to find this sanctity, to allow ourselves to be loved by God, which is the vocation of us all, as well as being true redemption. Thank you.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's catechesis, we discuss the sixteenth-century Spanish Carmelite mystic, Saint John of the Cross. John was born into a poor family. As a young man he entered the Carmelites and was ordained priest. Soon afterwards, he met Teresa of Avila in what was a decisive encounter for them both, as they discerned plans for reforming the Carmelite Order. He became confessor in Teresa's monastery, and together they developed a rich articulation of the workings of the Lord upon the soul in the spiritual life. Despite persecution and misunderstanding from within his own Order, John produced some of the most illuminating and insightful treatises in all of Western spirituality. His four major writings are The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love. One of the themes much developed by John was that of the purification of the soul: by means of created things, we can discover traces of the living God in this world. Faith, however, is the unique means by which we can come to know God as he is in himself. The demanding process of purification, at times active and at others passive, requires our determined effort, but it is God who is the real centre; all man can do is dispose himself and humble himself before the loving work of God in the soul. In this sense, John is for us a model of humble dedication and of faithful perseverance on the road to spiritual maturity.

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those students from Saint Benedict's School, Saint Aloysius College, Saint Patrick's Grammar School, and students and parishioners from the United States. Upon you all, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Christ and the "Fullness" of the Law
"What Is This Superior Justice That He Demands?"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel reading for this Sunday's liturgy continues Jesus' so-called "Sermon on the Mount," which occupies chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew's Gospel. After the Beatitudes, which are his program of life, Jesus proclaims the new law, his Torah, as our Jewish brothers call it. In effect, the Messiah, at his coming, would have also brought the definitive revelation of the law, and this is precisely what Jesus declares: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to bring about their full completion." And, to his disciples, he adds: "If your justice does not go beyond that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17, 20). But in what does this "fullness" of the Law of Christ consist? And what is this "superior" justice that he demands?

Jesus explains this through a series of antitheses between the ancient commandments and his way of reproposing them. Each time he begins by saying: "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors…," and then he says: "But I say to you… ." For example: "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors: 'Do not kill; whoever kills will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you: whoever gets angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22). And so it goes seven times.


This way of speaking surprised the people, who were frightened since that "I tell you" was equivalent to assuming for himself the authority of God, the source of the Law. The newness of Christ essentially consists in the fact that he "fulfills" the commandments with the love of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in him. And we, through faith in Christ, can open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who makes us capable of living divine love. Thus, every precept becomes true as a demand of love, and they all are summed up in a single commandment: Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

"Charity is the fullness of the Law," St. Paul writes (Romans 13:10). In the face of this demand, for example, the sad case of the four Roma children who died last week on the outskirts of this city when their shack caught fire, makes us ask ourselves whether or not are a more solidary and fraternal society, more consistent in love, that is, more Christian, might not have been able to prevent such a tragic event. And this question applies to many other sad events, known and unknown, that occur daily in our cities and our countries.

Dear friends, perhaps it is not by chance that Jesus' first important occasion of preaching is called the "Sermon on the Mount"! Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Law of God and bring it to the chosen people. Jesus is the very Son of God who descended from heaven to take us to heaven, to the height of God, along the path of love. Indeed, he himself is this way: we must do nothing other than follow him, to put God's will into practice and enter into his Kingdom, in the eternal life. One creature has already arrived at the summit of the mountain: the Virgin Mary. Thanks to her union with Jesus, her justice was perfect: This is why we call her "Speculum justitiae" (Mirror of Justice). Let us entrust ourselves to her that she might guide our steps in fidelity to the Law of Christ.

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. "Immense is the wisdom of the Lord", we hear proclaimed in our liturgy today. As the Blessed Virgin Mary entrusted her entire life to that wisdom, may we too place our lives completely under the guidance of God's law of love. Entrusting you to Mary's motherly care, I invoke upon you and your families God's blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday.

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Papal Address to Fraternity of St. Charles
"Bring to Everyone the Communion That Is Born From the Heart of Christ"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon greeting the priests and seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Charles on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the community.

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Dear brothers and friends,

It is with real joy that I meet with you, priests and seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Charles, who have gathered here on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its birth. I greet and thank the founder and superior general, Monsignor Massimo Camisasca, his council and all of you, relatives and friends who are part of the community’s circle. I greet in particular the Archbishop of the Mother of God of Moscow, Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, and Don Julián Carrón, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, which symbolically expresses the fruits and the roots of the work of the Fraternity of St. Charles. This moment brings back to my mind my long friendship with Monsignor Luigi Giussani and bears witness to his charisma.

On this occasion, I would like to respond to two questions that our meeting suggests: what is the place of the ordained priesthood in the life of the Church? What is the place of communal life in the priestly experience?

Your birth from the Communion and Liberation movement and your vital reference to the ecclesial experience that it represents, there is placed before our eyes a truth that was reaffirmed with particular clarity from the 18th century onward and that found a significant expression in the theology of Vatican II. I refer to the fact that the Christian priesthood is not an end in itself. It was willed by Christ in function of the birth and the life of the Church. Every priest can therefore say to the faithful: "Vobiscum christianus, pro vobis sacerdos" (With you I am a Christian. For you I am a priest.). The glory and joy of the priesthood is to serve Christ and his Mystical Body. It represents a very beautiful and singular vocation in the Church, which makes Christ present because it participates in the one and eternal priesthood of Christ. The presence of priestly vocations is a sure sign of the truth and the vitality of a Christian community. In fact God always calls, even to the priesthood; there is no true and fecund growth in the Church without an authentic priestly presence that sustains and nourishes it. So I am grateful to all those who dedicate their energies to the formation of priests and the reform of the priestly life.

Like all of the Church, in fact, the priesthood too must continually renew itself, rediscovering in the life of Jesus the most essential forms of its own being. The different possible roads of this renewal cannot forget some elements that must not be given up. Before all else a profound education in meditation and prayer, lived as a dialogue with the risen Lord present in his Church. In the second place a study of the of theology that permits an encounter with the Christian truths in the form of a synthesis linked to the life of the person and the community: only a sapiential outlook can see the value of the force that the faith possesses to illuminate life and the world, continually leading to Christ, Creator and Savior.

The Fraternity of St. Charles has underscored the value of communal life during the course of its brief but intense history. I too have spoken about it on various occasions before and after my call to the chair of Peter. "It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realize afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven" ("Light of the World," San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010, p. 149). The pressing matters of this moment are before your eyes. I think, for example, of the lack of priests. Communal life is not first of all a strategy for responding to these needs. Nor is it, in itself, only a form of help in the face of the solitude and weakness of man. All of this may certainly be true but only if it is conceived and lived as a path for immersing oneself in the reality of communion. Communal life is in fact an expression of the gift of Christ that is the Church, and it is prefigured in the apostolic community from which the priesthood arose. What the priest in fact administers does not belong to him. He rather participates with his brothers in a sacramental gift that comes directly from Jesus.

Communal life thus expresses a help that Christ provides for our life, calling us, through the presence of brothers, to an ever more profound conformity to his person. Living with others means accepting the need of my own continual conversion and above all discovering the beauty of such a journey, the joy of humility, of penance, but also of conversation, of mutual forgiveness, of mutual support. "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum" (Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity) (Psalm 133:1).

No one can assume the regenerative power of communal life without prayer, without looking to the experience and teaching of the saints -- in a particular way the Fathers of the Church -- without a sacramental life lived with fidelity. If we do not enter into the eternal dialogue of the Son with the Father in the Holy Spirit no authentic communal life is possible. It is necessary to be with Jesus so as to be able to be with others. This is the heart of our mission. In the company of Christ and of our brothers each priest can find the energy necessary to care for people, to provide for the spiritual and material needs that he meets, to teach always with new words, dictated by love, the eternal truth of the faith for which are contemporaries too thirst.

Dear brothers and friends, continue to go out to all the world to bring to everyone the communion that is born from the heart of Christ! May the experience of the Apostles with Jesus always be the light that illuminates your priestly life! Encouraging you to remain on the road that you have traced during these years, I gladly impart my blessing to all the priests and seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Charles, to the Missionaries of St. Charles, to their relatives and friends.

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Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2011
"Proposing Vocations in the Local Church"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2011 - Here is Benedict XVI's message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated May 15. The Vatican released the message today.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on 15 May 2011, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, invites us to reflect on the theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church". Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work of Priestly Vocations. Similar bodies, led by priests and members of the lay faithful, were subsequently established by Bishops in many dioceses as a response to the call of the Good Shepherd who, "when he saw the crowds, had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd", and went on to say: "The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9:36-38).

The work of carefully encouraging and supporting vocations finds a radiant source of inspiration in those places in the Gospel where Jesus calls his disciples to follow him and trains them with love and care. We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called his closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:9). In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father (cf. Lk 6:12) in a spirit of interior detachment from mundane concerns. It is Jesus' intimate conversation with the Father which results in the calling of his disciples. Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the "Lord of the harvest", whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.

At the beginning of his public life, the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19). He revealed his messianic mission to them by the many "signs" which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father's mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work. Finally, knowing "that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father" (Jn 13:1), he entrusted to them the memorial of his death and resurrection, and before ascending into heaven he sent them out to the whole world with the command: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19).

It is a challenging and uplifting invitation that Jesus addresses to those to whom he says: "Follow me!". He invites them to become his friends, to listen attentively to his word and to live with him. He teaches them complete commitment to God and to the extension of his kingdom in accordance with the law of the Gospel: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit " (Jn 12:24). He invites them to leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it. He gives them an experience of fraternity, one born of that total openness to God (cf. Mt 12:49-50) which becomes the hallmark of the community of Jesus: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).

It is no less challenging to follow Christ today. It means learning to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, growing close to him, listening to his word and encountering him in the sacraments; it means learning to conform our will to his. This requires a genuine school of formation for all those who would prepare themselves for the ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life under the guidance of the competent ecclesial authorities. The Lord does not fail to call people at every stage of life to share in his mission and to serve the Church in the ordained ministry and in the consecrated life. The Church is "called to safeguard this gift, to esteem it and love it. She is responsible for the birth and development of priestly vocations" (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 41). Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by "other voices" and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one's own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable hem to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond "yes" to God and the Church. I encourage them, in the same words which I addressed to those who have already chosen to enter the seminary: "You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life's true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity" (Letter to Seminarians, 18 October 2010).

It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations - as Jesus did with his disciples - to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the word of God; to understand that entering into God's will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfilment of our aspirations. "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church" means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one's life.

I address a particular word to you, my dear brother Bishops. To ensure the continuity and growth of your saving mission in Christ, you should "foster priestly and religious vocations as much as possible, and should take a special interest in missionary vocations" (Christus Dominus, 15). The Lord needs you to cooperate with him in ensuring that his call reaches the hearts of those whom he has chosen. Choose carefully those who work in the Diocesan Vocations Office, that valuable means for the promotion and organization of the pastoral care of vocations and the prayer which sustains it and guarantees its effectiveness. I would also remind you, dear brother Bishops, of the concern of the universal Church for an equitable distribution of priests in the world. Your openness to the needs of dioceses experiencing a dearth of vocations will become a blessing from God for your communities and a sign to the faithful of a priestly service that generously considers the needs of the entire Church.

The Second Vatican Council explicitly reminded us that "the duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life" (Optatam Totius, 2). I wish, then, to say a special word of acknowledgment and encouragement to those who work closely in various ways with the priests in their parishes. In particular, I turn to those who can offer a specific contribution to the pastoral care of vocations: to priests, families, catechists and leaders of parish groups. I ask priests to testify to their communion with their bishop and their fellow priests, and thus to provide a rich soil for the seeds of a priestly vocation. May families be "animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty" (Optatam Totius, 2) which is capable of helping children to welcome generously the call to priesthood and to religious life. May catechists and leaders of Catholic groups and ecclesial movements, convinced of their educational mission, seek to "guide the young people entrusted to them so that these will recognize and freely accept a divine vocation" (ibid.).

Dear brothers and sisters, your commitment to the promotion and care of vocations becomes most significant and pastorally effective when carried out in the unity of the Church and in the service of communion. For this reason, every moment in the life of the Church community - catechesis, formation meetings, liturgical prayer, pilgrimages - can be a precious opportunity for awakening in the People of God, and in particular in children and young people, a sense of belonging to the Church and of responsibility for answering the call to priesthood and to religious life by a free and informed decision.

The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church. With trust and perseverance let us invoke the aid of the Virgin Mary, that by the example of her own acceptance of God's saving plan and her powerful intercession, every community will be more and more open to saying "yes" to the Lord who is constantly calling new labourers to his harvest. With this hope, I cordially impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 15 November 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On St. Peter Canisius
"He Formed People's Faith for Centuries"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his Italian-language address, the Pope centered his reflection on the figure of St. Peter Canisius, doctor of the Church (1521-1597).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak to you about St. Peter Kanis, Canisius in the Latin form of his surname, a very important figure in the Catholic 1500s. He was born on May 8, 1521, in Nijmegen, Holland. His father was burgomaster of the city. While he was a student at the University of Cologne, he often visited the Carthusian monks of St. Barbara -- a propelling center of Catholic life -- and other pious men who cultivated the spirituality of the so-called modern devotion. He entered the Society of Jesus on May 8, 1543, in Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate), after having followed a course of spiritual exercises under the guidance of Blessed Peter Faber, Petrus Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was ordained a priest in June 1546 in Cologne and the very following year, he attended the Council of Trent as a theologian with the bishop of Augusta, Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, where he collaborated with two confreres, Diego Laínez and Alfonso Salmerón.

In 1548, St. Ignatius sent him to complete his spiritual formation in Rome and then sent him to the College of Messina to exercise himself in humble domestic services. He obtained a doctorate in theology in Bologna, on Oct. 4 he was assigned by St. Ignatius to the apostolate in Germany. On Sept. 2 of that year, 1549, he visited Pope Paul III in Castel Gandolfo and then he went to St. Peter's Basilica to pray. Here he implored the help of the great Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to give permanent efficacy to the Apostolic Blessing for his important destiny, his new mission. He wrote in his diary some words of this prayer. He said: "There I felt that a great consolation and the presence of grace were granted to me through these intercessors [Peter and Paul]. They confirmed my mission in Germany, and they seemed to transmit to me, as apostle of Germany, the support of their benevolence. You know, Lord, in how many ways and how many times on that same day you entrusted Germany to me, which I would later care for, and for which I desire to live and die."

We must keep in mind that we find ourselves in the time of the Lutheran Reformation, at the moment in which the Catholic faith in German-speaking countries, in face of the fascination of the Reformation, seemed to be fading away. The task entrusted to Canisius was almost impossible, as he was charged with revitalizing, with renewing the Catholic faith in Germanic countries. It was possible only in the strength of prayer. It was possible only from the center, that is, from a profound personal friendship with Jesus Christ; friendship with Christ in his Body, the Church, which is nourished by the Eucharist, his real presence.

Following the mission received from Ignatius and from Pope Paul III, Canisius left for Germany and went first to the duchy of Bavaria, which for several years was the place of his ministry. As dean, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, he looked after the academic life of the institute and the religious and moral reform of the people. In Vienna, where for a brief time he was administrator of the diocese, he carried out his pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons, both in the city and the countryside, and he prepared the publication of his catechism. In 1556 he founded the College of Prague and, until 1569, was the first superior of the Jesuit province of Upper Germany.

In this office, he established in Germanic countries a solid network of communities of his order, especially of colleges, which were starting points for the Catholic Reformation, for the renewal of the Catholic faith. At that time he also took part in the colloquium of Worms with Protestant leaders, among whom was Philipp Melanchthon (1557); he participated in the two Augusta Diets (1559 and 1565); he accompanied Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, legate of Pope Pius IV to Emperor Ferdinand (1560); he intervened in the final session of the Council of Trent where he spoke on the question of Communion under both species and on the Index of Prohibited Books (1562).

In 1580 he went to Fribourg in Switzerland, wholly dedicated to preaching and the composition of his writings. He died there on Dec. 21, 1597. Beatified by Blessed Pius IX in 1864, in 1897 he was proclaimed the second apostle of Germany by Pope Leo XIII, and canonized and proclaimed doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

St. Peter Canisius spent a good part of his life in contact with the socially most important persons of his time and exercised a special influence with his writings. He was editor of the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St. Leo the Great, of the Letters of St. Jerome and of the Prayers of St. Nicholas of Flue. He published devotional books in several languages, the biographies of some Swiss saints and many homiletic texts. However, his most widespread writings were the three catechisms composed between 1555 and 1558. The first catechism was addressed to students able to understand elementary notions of theology; the second to boys and girls of the people for an initial religious instruction; the third to adolescents with a scholastic formation at the level of middle and high school. Catholic doctrine was explained with questions and answers, briefly, in biblical terms, with much clarity and free of criticisms. In his lifetime alone there were a good 200 editions of this catechism! And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 1900s. Thus in Germany, still in my father's generation, people called the catechism simply the Canisius: He is really the catechist of the centuries; he formed people's faith for centuries.

This is a characteristic of St. Peter Canisius: to be able to harmoniously combine fidelity to dogmatic principles with respect due to every person. St. Canisius differentiated a knowing, culpable apostasy from a non-culpable loss of faith, in the circumstances. And he declared, before Rome, that the greater part of Germans who went over to Protestantism were without fault. At a historical moment of strong confessional oppositions, he avoided -- this is something extraordinary -- the harshness and rhetoric of anger of the time in discussions among Christians, something rare as I said -- and he looked only to the presentation of the spiritual roots and to the revitalization of the faith in the Church. His vast and penetrating knowledge of sacred Scripture and of the fathers of the Church served this cause: the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from modern devotion and Rhenish mysticism.

Characteristic of St. Canisius' spirituality was a profound personal friendship with Jesus. For example, on Sept. 4, 1549, he wrote in his diary, speaking with the Lord: "In the end, as if you opened to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, you commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, so to speak, to attain the waters of my salvation from your founts, O my Savior." And then he saw that the Savior gave him a garment with three parts that were called peace, love and perseverance. And with this garment made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewal of Catholicism. His friendship with Jesus -- which is the center of his personality -- nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Sacrament, by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united to the awareness of being a continuer of the mission of the Apostles in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangelizer is always a united instrument with Jesus and the Church and, because of this, fruitful.

St. Peter Canisius was formed in his friendship with Jesus in the spiritual environment of the Carthusian monastery of Cologne, in which he was in close contact with two Carthusian mystics: Johann Lansperger, Latinized into Lanspergius, and Nicholas van Hesche, Latinized into Eschius. Subsequently he deepened the experience of that friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, with the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus' life, which form a large part of St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises. His intense devotion to the Lord's Heart, which culminated in consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica, has its foundation here.

Rooted in the Christocentric spirituality of St. Peter Canisius is a profound conviction: There is no soul solicitous of its own perfection that does not practice mental prayer every day, an ordinary means that permits the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Master. Because of this, in the writings destined to the spiritual education of the people, our saint insists on the importance of the liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on feasts, on the rite of the holy Mass and on the sacraments but, at the same time, he is careful to show to the faithful the need and the beauty of personal daily prayer, which should support and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church.

This is an exhortation and a method which preserves their value intact, especially after they were proposed again authoritatively by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium": Christian life does not grow if it is not nourished by participation in the liturgy, particularly in Sunday's holy Mass, and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God. Amid the thousands of activities and the many distractions that surround us, it is necessary to find moments of recollection before the Lord every day to listen to him and to speak with him.

At the same time, the example that St. Peter Canisius has left us, not only in his works, but above all with his life is always timely and of permanent value. He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and is able to be an instrument at his disposal, united closely to him by faith in his Gospel and in his Church, by a morally coherent life and incessant prayer as love. And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity. Thank you.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis is on the life of Saint Peter Canisius. He was born in the Low Countries, and as a young man became one of the early followers of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Three years after his priestly ordination in Cologne, he laboured intensively for the religious and moral reform of the people as well as for the improvement of academic life in the University of Ingolstadt. He founded the College of Prague, and was named the first Superior of the Jesuit province in Southern Germany. From there he oversaw the Society's communities and colleges which quickly became major centres of Catholic reform. During this period, in the tumult of the Reformation, he took part in many civic and theological disputes. He published devotional literature as well as catechisms popular for their Biblically-inspired responses. Even in his later years in Fribourg, Switzerland, he remained extremely active, dedicating himself to writing and preaching. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed Peter Canisius the 'Second Apostle of Germany', and he was canonized and named Doctor of the church by Pope Pius XI. His significant contribution to catechesis is second only to the example for us of his disciplined Christ-centred spirituality, finding in the liturgy, daily prayer and devotion to the heart of Jesus the strength and inspiration to carry out well his innumerable tasks.

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Japan and Malaysia, students from Loyola University and the University of Saint Thomas, as well as students from the Highlands Institute and the Irish Institute in Rome. Upon all of you, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[He concluded in Italian:]

My thoughts turn finally to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, founder of the Somaschi, and of St. Josephine Bakhita, a daughter of Africa who became a daughter of the Church. May the courage of these faithful witnesses of Christ help you, dear young people, to open your heart to the heroism of holiness in every day existence. May it sustain you, dear sick, in persevering patiently to offer your prayer and your suffering for the whole Church. And may it give you, dear newlyweds, the courage to make your families communities of love, marked by Christian values.

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Papal Address to Apostolic Signature
Justice: "A Minimal Requirement and at the Same Time an Expectation of Charity"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered last Friday upon receiving in audience those taking part in the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature.

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Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like first of all to offer my cordial greeting to Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, whom I thank for his address at the beginning of this Meeting. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops who are Members of the Supreme Tribunal, the Secretary, the Officials and all the co-workers who carry out their daily service in the Dicastery. I also extend a cordial greeting to the Referendaries and the Advocates. This is my first opportunity to meet the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura after the promulgation of the Lex propria [Proper Law], which I signed on 21 June 2008. It was precisely in the preparation of this law that there emerged the desire of the Members of the Signatura to devote a regular Congregatio plenaria [plenary assembly] -- in the form common to every Dicastery of the Roman Curia (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, 28 June 1988, art. 11; General Regulation of the Roman Curia [Regolamento Generale della Curia Romana], 30 April 1999, articles 112-117) -- to furthering the correct administration of justice in the Church (cf. Lex propria, art. 112). Indeed, this Tribunal's area of responsibility is not limited to the highest exercise of the judicial function, but also includes the duty, in the realm of executive governance, to exercise vigilance over the correct administration of justice in the community of the Church (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 121; Lex propria, art. 32).

Among other things, as the Lex propria points out, this entails maintaining an up-to-date body of information on the state and activity of the local tribunals by means of the annual report which each tribunal is bound to send to the Apostolic Signatura. It also involves the organization and elaboration of the data that comes from these reports; the identification of strategies for an appropriate use of human and institutional resources in the local tribunals, as well as the constant practice of communicating with the Bishop-Moderators of the diocesan and interdiocesan tribunals, who have direct responsibility, institutionally, for the administration of justice.

This is a coordinated and patient task which aims above all to provide for the faithful the correct, rapid and efficient administration of justice, as I requested with regard to causes of nullity of marriage in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis: "When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law, the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning. Each diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that 'it is a grave obligation to bring the Church's institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful' " (n. 29). On that occasion I did not fail to refer to the Instruction Dignitas Connubii, which provides judges and the other ministers of tribunals with the necessary norms -- in the form of a vademecum -- so that causes of matrimonial nullity may be addressed and defined in the most rapid and reliable way.

The Apostolic Signatura carries out certain activities in order to ensure that ecclesiastical tribunals are present in the territory concerned and that their ministry is in line with the roper requirements of speed and simplicity to which the faithful are entitled in the treatment of their cases. According to its competence it encourages the establishment of interdiocesan tribunals, provides prudently for dispensing tribunal ministers from academic qualifications while carefully verifying their true expertise in substantive and procedural law, and grants the necessary dispensations from procedural laws when the exercise of justice requires in a specific case the relaxatio legis in order to achieve the purpose intended by the law. This also is an important work of understanding and application of procedural law.

However, vigilance over the correct administration of justice would be inadequate if it did not also entail the function of safeguarding correct jurisprudence (cf. Lex propria, art. 111, §1). The means for knowing and for intervening, which the Lex propria and its own institutional position provide to this Apostolic Signatura, permit it to act in a manner that, in synergy with the Tribunal of the Roman Rota (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 126), proves providential for the Church. The exhortations and prescriptions which this Apostolic Signatura includes in its responses to the annual reports of the local tribunals not infrequently recommend to the respective Bishop-Moderators knowledge of and adherence to not only the directives proposed in the Pope's annual Addresses to the Roman Rota, but also common Rotal jurisprudence regarding specific aspects that are crucial to the individual tribunals. I therefore also encourage the reflection, with which you will be engaged in these days, on the correct jurisprudence to propose to the local tribunals in the matter of error iuris as a cause of matrimonial nullity.

This Supreme Tribunal is likewise committed to another sensitive area of the administration of justice, which was entrusted to it by the Servant of God Paul VI; in fact, the Signatura adjudicates controversies which have arisen from acts of ecclesiastical administrative power and have been brought to it by means of recourses legitimately proposed against individual administrative acts, whether issued by the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia or approved by them (cf. Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, 15 August 1967, n. 106; CIC, can. 1445, § 2: Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 123; Lex propria, art. 34). This is a service of primary importance: the provision of instruments of justice -- from the peaceful settlement of disputes to their judicial treatment and resolution -- offers a place for dialogue and for the restoration of communion in the Church.

If it is indeed true that injustice should be confronted first of all with the spiritual weapons of prayer, charity, forgiveness and penance, nonetheless it cannot be excluded in certain cases that it is appropriate and necessary for it to be addressed by procedural means. The latter constitute above all occasions for dialogue which sometimes lead to harmony and reconciliation. It is not by chance that the procedural norms provide that in limine litis, indeed, at every stage of the trial, an opening and and opportunity be offered so that, "whenever someone feels injured by a decree, there not be a contention between this person and the author of the decree but that care be taken by common counsel to find an equitable solution between them, perhaps through the use of respected persons in mediation and study so that the controversy may be avoided or solved by some suitable means" (CIC, can. 1733 § 2). To this end initiatives and norms are also encouraged which aim at establishing offices or councils whose duty, according to norms to be established, is to seek and suggest equitable solutions (cf. ibid., § 2).

In other cases, that is, when it is impossible to settle the controversy peacefully, the carrying out of the contentious-administrative process will bring about a judicial resolution of the dispute. In this case too, the activity of the Supreme Tribunal aims to reconstitute ecclesial communion, namely, to re-establish an objective order in conformity with the good of the Church. Only this communion re-established and justified through the motivation of the judicial decision can lead to genuine peace and harmony within the ecclesial structure.

This is the meaning of the well-known principle: Opus iustitiae pax. The demanding re-establishment of justice is destined to reconstruct just and orderly relations among the faithful, and between them and ecclesiastical Authority.

Indeed, the inner peace and the willing collaboration of the faithful in the Church's mission derive from the re-established awareness that they are acting in full accord with their vocation. Justice, which the Church pursues through the contentious-administrative process, can be considered as a beginning, a minimal requirement and at the same time an expectation of charity, at once indispensable and yet insufficient, if it is compared with the charity on which the Church lives. Nevertheless the pilgrim People of God on earth will be unable to realize its identity as a community of love unless it takes into consideration the demands of justice.

I entrust to Mary Most Holy, Speculum Iustitiae and Regina Pacis, the prized and delicate ministry which the Apostolic Signatura carries out at the service of communion in the Church, while I express to each one of you the assurance of my esteem and my appreciation.

I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit upon you and upon your daily work and I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Members of Education Congregation
"To Educate Is an Act of Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience members of the Congregation for Catholic Education, gathered in their plenary assembly.

* * *

Esteemed Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address to each of you my cordial greeting for this visit on the occasion of the plenary meeting of the Congregation for Catholic Education. I greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the dicastery, thanking him for his courteous words, as well as the secretary, undersecretary, officials and collaborators.

The topics you are addressing in these days have education and formation as common denominator, which today constitute one of the most urgent challenges that the Church and her institutions are called to address. The educational endeavor seems to have become ever more arduous because, in a culture which too often makes relativism its creed, the light of truth is lacking, more than that, it is considered dangerous to speak of truth, thus instilling doubt on the basic values of personal and community life. Important, because of this, is the service carried out in the world by the numerous formative institutions that are inspired in the Christian vision of man and of reality: to educate is an act of love, exercise of "intellectual charity," which requires responsibility, dedication, consistency of life. The work of your Congregation and the choices you will make in these days of reflection and study will certainly contribute to respond to the present "educational emergency."

Your Congregation, created in 1915 by Benedict XV, has carried out its work for almost one hundred years at the service of the various Catholic institutions of formation. Among these, undoubtedly, the seminary is one of the most important for the life of the Church; hence, it exacts a formative plan that takes into account the context referred to above. Several times I have stressed how the seminary is a precious stage of life, in which the candidate to the priesthood experiences being "a disciple of Jesus." Required for this time destined to formation is a certain detachment, a certain "desert," because the Lord speaks to the heart with a voice that is heard if there is silence (cf. 1 Kings 19:12).; but required also is willingness to live together, to love "family life" and the community dimension that anticipate that "sacramental fraternity" which must characterize every diocesan presbyter (cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," No. 8) and which I also wished to recall in my recent Letter to Seminarians: "one does not become a priest on one's own. There is the 'community of disciples,' the totality of those who wish to serve the common Church."


In these days you also studied the draft of the document on the Internet and formation in the seminaries. Because of its capacity to surmount distances and put people in mutual contact, the Internet presents great possibilities also for the Church and her mission. With the necessary discernment for its intelligent and prudent use, it is an instrument that can serve not only for studies, but also for the pastoral action of future presbyters in different ecclesial fields, such as evangelization, missionary action, catechesis, educational projects, the management of institutes. Also of extreme importance in this field is to be able to count on adequately prepared formators who will be faithful guides and always up-to-date, in order to support the candidates to the priesthood in the correct and positive use of the media.


This year, then, is the LXX anniversary of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, instituted by the Venerable Pius XII to foster collaboration between the Holy See and the local Churches in the precious work of promotion of vocations to the ordained ministry. This anniversary could be the occasion to know and evaluate the most significant vocational initiatives promoted in the local Churches. In addition to stressing the value of the universal call to follow Jesus, the vocational pastoral must insist more clearly on the profile of the ministerial priesthood, characterized by its specific configuration to Christ, which distinguishes it essentially from the other faithful and puts itself at their service.
Moreover, you also undertook a revision of what the apostolic constitution "Sapientia Christiana" prescribes on ecclesiastical studies, regarding Canon Law, the Higher Institutes of Religious Studies and, recently, philosophy. A sector on which to reflect particularly is that of theology. It is important the render ever more solid the bond between theology and the study of sacred Scripture, so that the latter is really its soul and heart (cf. "Verbum Domini," No. 31).

However, the theologian must not forget that he is also the one who speaks to God. Hence, it is indispensable to have theology closely united with personal and community prayer, especially liturgical prayer. Theology is sciencia fidei and prayer nourishes faith. In the union with God, mystery is, in some way, savored, it comes close, and this proximity is light for the intelligence. I would also like to stress the connection between theology and the other disciplines, considering that it is taught in Catholic Universities and, in many cases, in civil ones. Blessed John Henry Newman spoke of the "circle of knowledge," to indicate that an interdependence exists between the different branches of knowledge; but God is He who has a relationship only with the totality of the real; consequently, to eliminate God means to break the circle of knowledge.

In this perspective, the Catholic universities, with their very precise identity and their openness to the "totality" of the human being, can carry out a valuable work of promoting the unity of knowledge, orienting students and teachers to the Light of the world, "the true light that enlightens every man" (John 1:9). These are considerations that are valid also for Catholic schools. First of all, there must be the courage to proclaim the "great" value of education, to form solid persons able to collaborate with others and to give meaning to their life. Today there is talk of inter-cultural education, object of study also in your Plenary Assembly.

Required in this realm is a courageous and innovative fidelity, which is able to combine the clear awareness of one's identity with openness to others, because of the exigencies of living together in multi-cultural societies. Emerging also for this end is the educational role of the teaching of the Catholic religion as scholastic discipline in inter-disciplinary dialogue with others. In fact, this contributes widely not only to the integral development of the student, but also to knowledge of the other, to mutual understanding and respect. To attain such objectives particular attention must be given to the care of the formation of leaders and formators, not only from a professional point of view, but also religious and spiritual, so that, with the consistency of one's life and with personal involvement, the presence of the Christian educator will be expression of the love and witness of the truth.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for all that you do with your competent work at the service of educational institutions. Always keep your gaze turned to Christ, the only Teacher, so that with his Spirit he will render your work effective. I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Sedes Sapientiae, and I impart to all my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

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World Day of the Sick
"The Lord Cares for Man in Every Situation"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2011 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this Sunday's Gospel the Lord Jesus tells his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13, 14). Through these images that are rich with meaning, he wants to convey to them the point of their mission and their witness. Salt, in Middle Eastern culture, has different meanings: alliance, solidarity, life and wisdom. Life is the first work of God the Creator and is the source of life; the Word of God itself is compared to light, as the Psalmist says: "Your word is a lamp for my steps, light on my path" (Psalm 119:105). And again in today's liturgy the prophet Isaiah says: "If you open your heart to the hungry, if you satisfy the downhearted, your light will shine in the darkness, your darkness will be as midday" (58:10). Wisdom sums up in itself the beneficial effects of salt and light: In fact the disciples of the Lord are called to bring new "taste" to the world, and to save it from corruption, with the wisdom of God, which shines fully on the face of the Son because he is the "true light that enlightens every man" (John 1:9). United to him, Christians can spread, in the midst of indifference and egoism, the light of God's love, the true wisdom that gives wisdom that grants meaning to man's existence and his actions.

On Feb. 11, the feast of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, we will celebrate the World Day of the Sick. It is an opportune occasion to reflect, to pray and to increase the ecclesial community's and civil society's awareness of sick brothers and sisters. In the message for this day, inspired by an expression of the first Letter of Peter: "By his wounds you are healed" (2:24), I invite everyone to contemplate Jesus, the Son of God, who suffered and died but is risen. God is radically opposed to the arrogance of evil. The Lord cares for man in every situation, shares his suffering and opens his heart to hope. Thus I exhort all health workers to see in the sick person not only a body marked by fragility, but first of all a person, to whom complete solidarity must be extended and adequate and competent responses given. In this context I further observe that today is the "Day for Life" in Italy. I hope that everyone will work to make the culture of life grow, to put the value of the human being at the center in every circumstance. According to faith and reason the dignity of the person is irreducible to his faculties or the capacities he can manifest, and so it is not lessened when the person himself is weak, handicapped and in need of help.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, so that parents, grandparents, teachers, priests and those who work in education might form the young generations in the wisdom of the heart so that they attain the fullness of life.

[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

In these days I am attentively following the delicate situation of that dear Egyptian nation. I ask God that that land, blessed by the presence of the Holy Family, rediscover tranquility and peaceful coexistence in the shared commitment to the common good.

I offer a cordial greeting to the delegations of the medical and surgical departments of the University of Rome, accompanied by the cardinal vicar [of the Diocese of Rome] on the occasion of the conference sponsored by the departments of gynecology and obstetrics on the topic of health assistance during pregnancy. When scientific and technological research are guided by authentic ethical values it is possible to find adequate solutions for the welcoming of nascent life and the promotion of maternity. It is my wish that the new generations of health workers are the bearers of a renewed culture of life.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel, Jesus urges us to make our light shine before others, to the praise of our Father in heaven. May the light of Christ purify all our thoughts and actions. As the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, may that same light bring hope and healing to those who are ill. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.

[In Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Greetings to all of you. Have a good Sunday.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Episcopal Ordination
"In This Hour Working in God's Fields Is Especially Urgent"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2011 - Here is the translation of a homily given by Benedict XVI on Saturday during a Mass for the episcopal ordination of five clergy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I greet with affection these five brother priests who will soon receive episcopal ordination: Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Monsignor Marcello Bartolucci, Monsignor Celso Morga Iruzubieta, Monsignor Antonio Guido Filipazzi and Monsignor Edgar Peña Parra. I would like to express to them my gratitude and that of the Church for the service they have given with generosity and dedication and ask everyone to accompany them in prayer in the ministry to which they are called in the Roman Curia and in representing the Pontiff as successors of the Apostles, so that they are always enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit in the Lord's harvest.

"The harvest is great but the laborers are few! Pray then to the lord of the harvest to send laborers for his harvest!" (Luke 10:2). These words from the Gospel of today's Mass touch us in a special way in this moment. It is the time of mission: The Lord sends you, Dear Friends, to his harvest. You must collaborate in that task of which the prophet Isaiah speaks in the first reading: "The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted" (Isaiah 61:1). This is the work of the harvest in God's fields, in the fields of human history: to bring the light of truth to men, to liberate them from being poor in truth, which is man's real misery and poverty. To bring them the glad tidings that are not only words but an event: God himself has come among us. He takes us by the hand, he takes us up to himself and thus is the broken heart healed. Let us thank the Lord for sending laborers into the harvest of world history. Let us thank the Lord for sending you, for your saying yes and because now you will again say your "yes" to being workers for the Lord and for men.

"The harvest is great:" This is also true today, precisely today. Even if it can seem that large sections of the modern world, of the men of today, turn their back on God and regard faith as something of the past -- there nevertheless exists the desire for the establishment of justice, love, peace, the desire that poverty and suffering be overcome, that men find joy. This desire is present in the world of today, the desire for what is great, for what is good. It is the nostalgia for the Redeemer, for God himself, even there where he is denied. Precisely in this hour working in God's fields is especially urgent and precisely in this hour the truth of Jesus' words -- "The laborers are few" -- weighs painfully upon us. At the same time the Lord makes us understand that we cannot send workers to the harvest on our own, that it is not a question of management, of our own organizational capacity. Only God can send workers into his field. But he wants to send us to this work through the doors of our prayers. Thus this moment of thanksgiving for the realization of a sending on mission is, in a special way, also the moment of prayer: Lord, send laborers into your harvest! Open hearts to the one you have sent! Do not allow our supplication to be in vain!

So, today's liturgy gives us two definitions of your mission as bishops, as priests of Jesus Christ: being workers in the harvest of the history of the world with the task of healing, opening the gates of the world to God's lordship so that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And our ministry is also described the cooperation in the mission of Jesus Christ, as participation in the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to him from God as Messiah, anointed Son of God. The Letter to the Hebrews, the second reading, further completes this with the image of the high priest Melchizedek, which is a mysterious reference to Christ, the true High Priest, the King of peace and justice.

But I would also like to say a word about how this great task is undertaken in practice -- about what it demands from us concretely. For the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, this year the Christian communities of Jerusalem chose the words from the Acts of the Apostles in which St. Luke wants to illustrate in a normative way what the fundamental elements of Christian existence are in the communion of the Church of Jesus Christ. He expresses himself thus: "They persevered in the teaching of the apostles in communion, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer" (Acts 2:42). In these foundational elements of the Church's being the essential work of pastors is also described. All four elements are held together through the expression "they persevered" -- "errant perseverates:" that is how the Latin Bible translates the Greek expression "proskarterountes:" perseverance, assiduousness, belongs to the essence of being Christian and it is fundamental for the work of pastors, the laborers in the Lord's harvest. The pastor must not be a reed blown this way and that by the wind, a servant of the spirit of the times. Being intrepid, the courage of opposing oneself to the currents of the moment belongs to the work of the pastor in a special way. He must not be a reed, rather -- following the image of the first Psalm -- he must be as a tree that has deep roots in which it is firm and well-founded. That has nothing to do with rigidity or inflexibility. Only where there is stability is there also growth. Cardinal Newman, whose journey was marked by three conversions, says that to live is to transform oneself. But his three conversions and the transformations that took place in them are nevertheless a single coherent journey: the journey of obedience to truth, to God; the journey of true continuity that brings about progress in precisely this way.

"Persevering in the teaching of the Apostles" -- faith has a concrete content. It is not an indeterminate spirituality, an indefinable feeling of transcendence. God has acted and he himself has spoken. He really did something and he really said something. Certainly faith is, in the first place, a giving of oneself to God, a living relationship with him. But the God to whom we have entrusted ourselves has a face and has given us his Word. We can count on the stability of his word. The ancient Church summed up the essential nucleus of the apostles' teaching in the so-called "Regula fidei" (Rule of Faith), which, in substance is identical with the professions of faith. This is the reliable foundation on which we Christians can stand even today. It is the secure basis on which we can build the house of our faith, of our life (cf. Matthew 7:24 ff.). And again, the stability and definitiveness of what we believe do not mean rigidity. John of the Cross compared the world of faith to a mine in which we are always discovering new treasures -- treasures in which there develops the one faith, which is the profession of God in Christ. As pastors of the Church we live this faith and in this way we announce it as the glad tidings that make us secure in God's love and in being loved by him.

The second pillar of ecclesial existence St. Luke calls "koinonia" -- communio. After the Second Vatican Council, this became a central term in theology and proclamation because in it, in fact, all the dimensions of being Christian and ecclesial life are expressed. We do not know exactly what Luke wishes to express with such a word in this text. We can safely understand it then on the basis of the general context of the New Testament and the apostolic Tradition. A first great definition of communio is given by St. John at the beginning of his first Letter: That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you: that you also may have communio with us and our fellowship may be with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1-4). God made himself visible and tangible and thus made a real communion with him. We enter into such a communion through believing and living together with those who touched him. With them and through them, we ourselves in a certain way see and touch the God who has drawn near. In this way the horizontal and the vertical dimensions are inextricably interwoven with each other. Standing in communion with the Apostles, standing in their faith, we too are in contact with the living God. Dear Friends, the office of bishops serves this end: that this bond of communion not be broken. This is the meaning of the apostolic succession: preserving communion with those who encountered the Lord in a visible and tangible way and so keep heaven open, the presence of God in your midst. Only through communion with the successors of the Apostles are we also in contact with God incarnate. But the converse is also true: only by means of communion with God, only by means of communion with Jesus Christ does this chain of witnesses stay united. Bishops are never alone, Vatican II says, but are always only in the college of bishops. This cannot shut itself up in its own generation. The interweaving of all generations, the living Church of all times belongs to collegiality. You, Dear Brothers, have a mission to conserve this Catholic communion. You know that the Lord has charged St. Peter and his successors with being the center of such a communion, the guarantors of being in the totality of the apostolic communion and its faith. Offer your help on behalf of maintaining that joy of the great unity of the Church, on behalf of the communion of all places and times, of the communion of faith that embraces heaven and earth. Live communion, and with your heart live, day by day, in the deepest center of that sacred moment in which the Lord gives himself in Holy Communion.

With this we have already come to that next fundamental element of ecclesial existence mentioned by St. Luke: the breaking of the bread. At this point the gaze of the evangelist turns to the past, to the disciples of Emmaus, who recognized the Lord in the gesture of the breaking of the bread. And from their his gaze goes even further back to the hour of the Last Supper in which Jesus, in breaking the bread, distributed himself, he made himself bread for us and anticipated his death and resurrection. Breaking the bread -- the Holy Eucharist is the center of the Church and must be the center of our being Christians and of our priestly life. The Lord gives himself to us. The Risen One enters into me and wants to transform me and make me enter into profound communion with him. In this way he also opens me to all others: we, the many, are one bread and one body, says St. Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17). Let us try to celebrate the Eucharist with a dedication, with an ever deeper fervor, let us try to shape our days according to its measure, let us try to let ourselves be formed by it. Breaking the bread -- this also expresses sharing, transmitting our love to others. The social dimensions, sharing, is not the moral apex of the Eucharist, but it is part of it. That clearly follows from the verse of the Acts of the Apostles that comes after the one we quoted earlier: "All the believers ... had everything in common," Luke says (2:44). We must be careful that the faith always express itself in love and in justice toward each other and that our social practice is inspired by faith: that faith be lived in love.

As the last pillar of ecclesial existence, Luke refers to "prayers." He speaks in the plural: "prayers." What does he intend to say with this? He is probably thinking of the participation of the first community of Jerusalem in the prayers in the Temple, to the customary laws for prayer. This highlights something important. Prayer, on the one hand, must be very personal, in my very depths I unite myself with God. It must be my struggle with him, my search for him, my gratitude for him and my joy in him. Nevertheless, it is never simply a private matter of my individual "I" which has nothing to do with others. Praying is essentially always also a praying in the "we" of God's children. Only in this "we" are we children of our Father, to whom the Lord taught us to pray. Only this "we" gives us access to the Father. On the one hand, our prayer must become more and more personal, touch and penetrate more deeply the core of our "I." On the other hand, it must always be fed by the communion of those who pray, the unity of the Body of Christ, to be shaped truly by the God's love. So, ultimately, praying is not one activity among others, a certain corner of my time. Praying is the response to the imperative that is at the beginning of the canon in the Eucharistic celebration: "Sursum corda" -- "Lift up your hearts!" It is the ascent of my being to the height of God. St. Gregory the Great has a beautiful comment on this. He points out that John the Baptist called Jesus a "burning and shining lamp" (John 5:35) and continues: "It is ardent for the heavenly desire, resplendent for the word. Thus, so that the veracity of preaching is maintained, life must be lived on the heights" (Hom. in Ez. 1,11,7 CCL 142, 134). The height, the high standard of life, which today is so essential to the witness to Jesus Christ, can only be found if in prayer we let ourselves be continually drawn by him toward his height.

"Duc in altum" (Luke 5:4) -- Set out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. Jesus said this to Peter and his companions when he called them to become "fishers of men." "Duc in altum" -- Pope John Paul II, in his last years, took up these words again in a powerful way and proclaimed them in a loud voice to the Lord's disciples today. "Duc in altum" -- the Lord says to you in this hour, Dear Friends. You are called to posts that are related to the universal Church. You are called to cast the net into the troubled sea of our time to bring men to follow Christ; to draw them out, so to speak, of the salty waters of death and darkness into which the light of heaven does not penetrate. You must bring them to the shore of life, into communion with Jesus Christ.

In a passage in his first book of his work on the Holy Trinity, St. Hilary of Poitiers suddenly breaks into a prayer: For this I pray "that you fill the unfurled sails of our faith and our profession with the breath of your Spirit and you drive me forward in the passage of my proclamation" (I 37 CCL 62, 35s). Yes, for this we pray in this moment for you, dear friends. So, unfurl the sails of your souls, the sails of faith, of hope, of love, so that the Holy Spirit might fill them and grant you a blessed journey as fishers of men in the ocean of our time. Amen.

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Pope's Preface to New Catechism for Youth
"It Speaks to Us of Our Very Destiny"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2011- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's preface to "Youcat," the new catechism for young people being prepared in light of the upcoming World Youth Day. Ignatius Press is publishing the English version, due out March 1. L'Osservatore Romano published the Holy Father's preface in Italian.

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Dear Friends, Young People!

Today I counsel you to read an extraordinary book.

It is extraordinary because of its content but also because of its format, which I wish to explain to you briefly, so that you will understand its particularity. Youcat drew its origin, so to speak, from another work that came out in the 80s. It was a difficult period for the Church as well as for worldwide society, during which the need was perceived of new guidelines to find a way towards the future. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and in the changing cultural environment, many people no longer knew correctly what Christians should actually believe, what the Church taught, if it could, no more and no less, teach, and how all this could be adapted to the new cultural climate.

Is not Christianity, as such, obsolete? Can one still today be reasonably a believer? These are the questions that still today many Christian ask themselves. Pope John Paul II then made an audacious decision: he decided that the bishops worldwide should write a book to answer these questions.

He entrusted to me the task of coordinating and overseeing the work of the bishops so that a book would be born from the contributions of the bishops, a real book and not a simple juxtaposition of a multiplicity of texts. This book was to bear the traditional title of Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and yet be something altogether stimulating and new; it was to show what the Catholic Church believes today and how one can believe in a reasonable way. I was frightened by this task, and I must confess that I doubted that such a thing could succeed. How could it be that authors who are spread around the whole world could produce a legible book? How could men who live in different continents, and not only from the geographical but also from the intellectual and cultural point of view, produce a text with an internal and comprehensible unity in all the continents?

To this was added the fact that the bishops had to write not simply as individual authors but in representation of their confreres and their local Churches.

I must confess that still today the fact seems a miracle to me that this project in the end succeeded. We met three or four times a year for a week and discussed passionately on the individual portions of the text that had been developed in the meantime.

The first thing to be defined was the structure of the book: it had to be simple, so that the individual groups of authors could receive a clear task and not force their affirmations into a complicated system. It is the very structure of this book, it is taken simply from a centuries-long catechetical experience: what do we believe/ in what way do we celebrate the Christian mysteries / in what way do we have life in Christ / in what way should we pray. I do not wish to explain now how we engaged in the great quantity of questions, until a real book resulted. In a book of this nature there are many debatable points: all that men do is insufficient and can be improved and, this notwithstanding, it is a great book, a sign of unity in diversity. From many voices it was possible to form a choir because they had the common score of the faith, which the Church has transmitted to us from the Apostles through the centuries until today.

Why all this?

Already then, at the time of the drafting of the CCC, we realized not only that the continents and the cultures of their people are different, but that also within the individual societies different "continents" exist: A worker has a different mentality from a peasant's, and a physicist from a philologist's; an entrepreneur from a journalist's, a youth from an elderly person's. For this reason, in language and in thought we had to place ourselves above all these differences and so to speak seek a common area among the different universal mentalities; with this we became ever more aware of how the text required "translations" into the different worlds, to be able to reach the people with their different mentalities and different problems. Since then, in the World Youth Days (Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sydney) young people from all over the world have met who want to believe, who are searching for God, who love Christ and desire common paths. In this context we asked ourselves if we should not seek to translate the Catechism of the Catholic Church into the language of young people and make its words penetrate their world. Of course also among the young people of today there are many differences; thus, under the tested guidance of the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schoenborn, a Youcat was formatted for young people. I hope that many young people will let themselves be fascinated by this book.

Some persons tell me that the catechism does not interest today's youth, but I do not believe this affirmation and I am sure I am right. Youth is not as superficial as it is accused of being; young people want to know what life truly consists of. A crime novel is fascinating because it involves us in the fate of other persons, but which could also be our own; this book is fascinating because it speaks to us of our very destiny and that is why it concerns each one of us very closely.

Because of this I invite you: Study the catechism! This is my heartfelt wish.

This supplement to the catechism does not flatter you; it does not offer easy solutions; it calls for a new life on your part; it presents to you the message of the Gospel as the "precious pearl" (Matthew 13:45) for which there is need to give everything, Because of this I ask you: study the catechism with passion and perseverance! Sacrifice your time for it! Study it in the silence of your room, read it together, if you are friends, form groups and study networks, exchange ideas on the Internet. In any case remain in dialogue on your faith!

You must know what you believe; you must know your faith with the same precision with which a specialist in information technology knows the working system of a computer; you must know it as a musician knows his piece; yes, you must be much more profoundly rooted in the faith of the generation of your parents, to be able to resist forcefully and with determination the challenges and temptations of this time. You have need of divine help, if you do not want your faith to dry up as a dewdrop in the sun, if you do not want to succumb to the temptations of consumerism, if you do not want your love to be drowned in pornography, if you do not want to betray the weak and the victims of abuse and violence.

If you dedicate yourselves with passion to the study of the catechism, I would like to give you yet a last counsel: You all know in what way the community of believers has been wounded in recent times by the attacks of evil, by the penetration of sin in the interior, in fact in the heart of the Church. Do not take this as a pretext to flee from God's presence; you yourselves are the Body of Christ, the Church! Carry intact the fire of your love in this Church every time that men have obscured her face. "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

When Israel was in the darkest point of its history, God called to the rescue no great and esteemed persons, but a youth called Jeremiah; Jeremiah felt invested with too great a mission: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth!" (Jeremiah 1:6). But God did not let himself be misled: "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak" (Jeremiah 1:7).

I bless you and pray every day for all of you.

Benedict PP. XVI

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Words to New Austrian Ambassador
"The Social Order Finds an Essential Support in the Spousal Union of Man and Woman"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience the new ambassador from Austria to the Holy See, Alfons M. Kloss.

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Very dear Ambassador,

With pleasure I accept the letters through which the president of the Austria accredits you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Holy See. At the same time I thank you for the cordial words with which you also expressed the closeness of the president and of the government to the Successor of Peter. I wish to send to the president, to the chancellor, and to the members of the government, as well as to all the citizens of Austria, my affectionate greetings and I wish to express the hope I have that relations between the Holy See and Austria will continue giving fruits in the future.

The culture, history and daily life of Austria -- "land of cathedrals" (National Hymn) -- are profoundly marked by the Catholic faith. I was able to verify this also during my pastoral visit to that country and during the pilgrimage to Mariazell four years ago. The faithful, whom I have been able to meet, represent the thousands of men and women of the whole country, who with their life of faith in their daily routine and their availability to others, show the most noble features of man and spread the love of Christ.

At the same time, Austria is a country in which the peaceful coexistence of several religions and cultures has a long tradition. "Strength resides in love," said the old popular hymn already in the time of the monarchy. This is also true for the religious dimension which has its roots in the depth of man's conscience and because of this belongs to the life of every individual and to the coexistence of the community. The spiritual homeland, as point of support, of which many persons are in need, who live a working situation of greater mobility and constant movement, should be able to exist publicly and in a climate of peaceful coexistence with the rest of the confessions of faith.

In many European countries, the relationship between the state and religion is facing a particular tension. On one hand, the political authorities take care not to grant public places to religions, understanding them as merely individual ideas of faith of the citizens. Sought, on the other hand, is the application of criteria of a secular public opinion to religious communities. It seems that they would like to adapt the Gospel to the culture and yet, they seek to impede, in an almost shameful way, that the culture be molded by the religious dimension.

Despite what has been said, account must be taken of the attitude of some states of Central and Eastern Europe that seek to make room for man's fundamental questions, faith in God, and faith in salvation through God. The Holy See has been able to observe with satisfaction some activities of the Austrian government in this connection. Examples are the important position assumed in relation to the so-called "decision of the crucifix" (Kreuzurteil) of the European Court of the Rights of Man, and the proposal of the minister of Foreign Affairs "that the new European service for external action, not only observe the situation of religious liberty in the world, but that it also write a report on it regularly and present it to the minister of Foreign Affairs of the European Union" (Austria Press Agentur, Dec. 10, 2010).

Recognition of religious liberty allows the ecclesial community to develop its manifold activities, which benefit the whole of society. Reference is made to the different institutes of formation and charitable services run by the Church which you, Mr. Ambassador, have mentioned.

The effort of the Church for the needy makes evident the way in which she is the spokesman of underprivileged persons. This ecclesial effort, which receives widespread recognition in the society, cannot be reduced to mere welfare. Its most profound roots are in God, in the God who is love. Hence it is necessary to respect fully the action proper to the Church, without converting it into one of the many services of social aid. It is necessary to consider it in the totality of its religious dimension. Therefore, it is always necessary to combat the egoistic isolation of man. All the social forces have the urgent and constant task of guaranteeing the moral dimension of culture, the dimension of a culture that is worthy of man and of his life in community. That is why the Catholic Church will work with all her strength for the good of society.

Another important intention of the Holy See is a balanced policy destined to the family. The latter occupies a place in society that implies the foundations of human life. The social order finds an essential support in the spousal union of man and woman, which is also directed to procreation. Because of this, marriage and the family call for special protection on the part of the state. It is for all its members a school of humanity with positive effects for the individuals in addition to being so for society. In fact, the family is called to live and protect mutual love and truth, respect and justice, fidelity and collaboration, service and availability to others, in particular towards the weakest.

However, the family with many children is often harmed. The problems in this type of families, as for example a high potential of tensions and disputes, low standard of life, difficult access to formation, indebtedness and increase in divorces, make one think that they should be eliminated from society. Moreover, it is necessary to lament that the life of newborns does not receive sufficient protection, and in addition, they are often given a secondary right of existence in relation to the liberty of their parents' decision.

The building of the common European home can come to a good end only if this continent is conscious of its own Christian roots and of the values of the Gospel, in addition to the Christian image of man, which are -- also in the future -- the leaven of European civilization. Faith lived in Christ and active love for one's neighbor, reflecting the word and life of Christ, and the example of the saints, must weigh more in Western Christian culture. Your compatriots proclaimed saints recently, such as Franz Jagerstatter, Sister Restituta Kafka, Ladislaus Batthyany-Strattman and Karl of Austria, can offer us wider perspectives. These saints, through different paths of life, offered themselves with the same dedication to the service of God and of his message of love for one's neighbor. Thus they leave us an example of guidance in the faith and of their witness of understanding among peoples.

Finally, Mr. Ambassador, I wish to assure you that in the development of the important mission that has been entrusted to you, you can count on my support and on that of my collaborators. I entrust you, your family and all the members of the embassy of Austria in the Holy See to the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Magna Mater Austriae," and from my heart I give you and all the beloved Austrian people the apostolic blessing.

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Pontiff's Address to Emmanuel Community
"A Genuinely Eucharistic Life Is a Missionary Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience members of the Emmanuel Community on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death of their founder, Pierre Goursat.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Friends,

With great joy I welcome you at this time in which the Emmanuel Community is preparing to observe the 20th anniversary of the death of its founder, Pierre Goursat, whose cause of beatification was introduced last year. May the example of his life of faith and his missionary commitment stimulate you and be for you a constant call to walk toward sanctity! In the forthcoming months you will also celebrate the 30 years of service of Fidesco in the most underprivileged countries, and then the 40 years of the foundation of the Community, and the 20th anniversary of the recognition of its statutes by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. With you I thank God for this work! To each one of you, priests and laymen, I address my cordial greeting. I greet in particular the moderator of the community, whom I thank for the kind words he addressed to me, the members of the International Council, those responsible for the great services, as well as the bishops who have come from the Community. May your pilgrimage to Rome at the beginning of the jubilee year be the occasion to renew your commitment to continue being ardent disciples of Christ in fidelity to the Church and her pastors!

Dear friends: the profound grace of your community comes from Eucharistic adoration. From this adoration compassion is born for all men, and from this compassion the thirst is born to evangelize (cf. Statutes, Preamble I). In keeping with the spirit of your own charism, I encourage you therefore to deepen your spiritual life giving an essential place to your personal encounter with Christ, the Emmanuel, God-with-us, so that you will allow yourselves to be transformed by him and have the passionate desire of the mission mature in you. In the Eucharist you find the source of all your commitments in the following of Christ and in his adoration you purify your look on the life of the world. "We cannot keep for ourselves the love that we celebrate in the Sacrament. By its nature, it exacts that it be communicated to all. What the world needs is the love of God, to encounter Christ and to grow in Him" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 84). A genuinely Eucharistic life is a missionary life. In a world frequently disoriented and in search of new reasons to live, the light of Christ must be taken to everyone. In the midst of the men and women of today, be ardent missionaries of the Gospel, supported by a life radically anchored in Christ! Be thirsty to proclaim the Word of God!

Today the urgency of this proclamation is felt particularly in families, so often broken, by the youth, or in intellectual world. Offer your contribution to the renewal from within of the apostolic dynamism of parishes, developing their spiritual and missionary orientations! I encourage you, moreover, to give your attention to persons that are returning to the Church and that have not received a profound catechesis. Help them to root their faith in an authentically theological, sacramental and ecclesial life! The work carried out in particular by Fidesco is also a testimony of your commitment in favor of the populations of underprivileged countries. May your charity reflect the love of Christ everywhere and become in this way a force for the building of a more just and fraternal world!

In particular I invite your community to live a genuine communion among its members. This communion, which is not simply human solidarity among members of the same spiritual family, is based on your relationship with Christ and on a common commitment to serve him. The community life you wish to develop, in respect of the state of life of each one, will be, hence, a living testimony for society of the fraternal love that must animate all human relations. Fraternal communion is already a proclamation of the new world that Christ came to establish.

May this same communion, which does not mean to be withdrawn in oneself, be effective also with the local Churches. Every charism is in relation with the growth of the whole Body of Christ. Hence missionary action must be ceaselessly adapted to the realities of the local Church, with a permanent concern for agreement and collaboration with the pastors, under the authority of the bishop. In fact, mutual recognition of the diversity of vocations in the Church and of their contribution, indispensable to evangelization, is an eloquent sign of the unity of the disciples of Christ and of the credibility of their testimony.

The Virgin Mary, Mother of the Emmanuel, has a great place in the spirituality of your community. Take her "to your home," as the beloved disciple did, so that she will truly be the Mother who guides you to her divine Son and helps you to remain faithful to him. Entrusting you to her maternal intercession, I impart to each one of you , as well as to all the members of the Emmanuel Community my heartfelt apostolic blessing.

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On St. Teresa of Avila
"She Presents Prayer as an Intimate Friendship With Christ"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He initiated a new cycle of catecheses on the doctors of the Church, beginning with "one of the highest examples of Christian spirituality of all time," St. Teresa of Avila.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the course of the catecheses that I dedicated to the fathers of the Church and to great figures of theologians and of women of the Middle Ages, I was able to reflect also on some men and women saints who have been proclaimed doctors of the Church for their eminent doctrine. Today I would like to initiate a brief series of meetings to complete this presentation of the doctors of the Church. And I begin with a saint who represents one of the highest examples of Christian spirituality of all times: St. Teresa of Avila (of Jesus).

Born in Avila, Spain, in 1515 with the name Teresa de Ahumada, in her autobiography she herself mentions some particulars of her childhood: birth from "virtuous and God-fearing parents" in a numerous family, with nine brothers and three sisters. While still a child, less than 9 years old, she read the lives of some martyrs that inspired her with the desire for martyrdom, so much so that she improvised a brief flight from home to die a martyr and go to heaven (cf. "Life," 1, 4): "I want to see God," said the little girl to her parents. Some years later, Teresa would speak of her childhood readings and affirmed that she discovered the truth, which she summarized in two fundamental principles: on one hand, "the fact that all that belongs to this word passes," on the other, that only God is "for ever, ever, ever" -- a theme that returns in the very famous poem "Let nothing disturb you / nothing affright you; / all things are passing . God is unchanging; / patience obtains everything; / he who possesses God / lacks nothing / God alone suffices!" Remaining orphaned of her mother at 12 years old, she asked the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. "Life," 1, 7).

If in her adolescence the reading of profane books led her to the distractions of a worldly life, her experience as a pupil of Augustinian nuns of St. Mary of Graces of Avila and the frequentation of spiritual books, especially classics of Franciscan spirituality, taught her recollection and prayer. At the age of 20, she entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation, still in Avila; in religious life she assumed the name Teresa of Jesus. Three years later, she became seriously ill, so much so that she was in a coma for four days, seemingly dead (cf. "Life," 5, 9). In the struggle against her illnesses the saint also saw the fight against weaknesses and resistance to God's call: "I wanted to live," she wrote, "because I understood well that I was not living, but I was fighting with a shadow of death, and I had no one to give me life, nor could I give it to myself, and he who could give it to me was right not to help me, given that so many times he had turned me toward him and I abandoned him" ("Life," 8, 2).

In 1543 she lost the closeness of relatives: her father died and all her brothers emigrated one after the other to America. In Lent of 1554, at 39 years of age, Teresa reached the culmination of her struggle against her weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of "a very wounded Christ" marked her life profoundly (cf. "Life," 9). The saint, who in that period found profound consonance with the St. Augustine of the Confessions, describes in this way the decisive day of her mystical experience: "It happened ... that all of a sudden I had a sense of the presence of God, which in no way could I doubt was within me or that I was all absorbed in him" ("Life," 10, 1).

In a parallel manner to the maturation of her interiority, the saint began to develop concretely the ideal of the reform of the Carmelite Order: In 1562 she founded in Avila, with the support of the bishop of the city, Father Alvaro de Mendoza, the first reformed Carmel, and shortly after she also received the approval of the superior-general of the Order, Giovanni Battista Rossi. In subsequent years she continued the foundation of new Carmels, 17 in total. Her meeting with St. John of the Cross was essential; with him in 1568 she constituted the first convent of Discalced Carmelites in Duruelo, near Avila. In 1580 she obtained from Rome the establishment of an autonomous province for her reformed Carmelites, the starting point of the Religious Order of Discalced Carmelites.

Teresa finished her earthly life precisely while she was committed in the activity of foundation. In 1582, in fact, after having constituted the Carmel of Burgos and while she was on her way back to Avila, she died on the night of Oct. 15 in Alba de Tormes, repeating humbly two expressions: "In the end, I die a daughter of the Church" and "It is time now, my Spouse, that we see you." An existence consumed within Spain but often for the whole Church.

Beatified by Pope Paul V in 1614 and canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV, she was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by the Servant of God Paul VI in 1970.

Teresa of Jesus did not have an academic formation, but she always treasured the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always held to what she had personally lived or seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to "The Way of Perfection"), namely, from experience. Teresa was able to enjoy relationships of friendship with many saints, in particular with St. John of the Cross. At the same time, she was nourished by reading the fathers of the Church, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, St. Augustine.

Among her major works, the most notable is her autobiography, titled "Book of Life," which she called "Book of the Mercies of the Lord." Composed in the Carmel of Avila in 1565, it reviews her biographical and spiritual history, written, as Teresa herself affirms, to submit her soul to the discernment of St. John of Avila, "Teacher of the spiritual." The purpose was to point out the presence and the action of the merciful God in her life: Because of this, the work often returns to the dialogue of prayer with the Lord. It is fascinating reading because the saint not only recounts, but shows that she relives the profound experience of her relationship with God. In 1566, Teresa wrote "The Way of Perfection," which she called "Admonitions and Counsels that Teresa of Jesus Gives to her Nuns." The recipients were the 12 novices of the Carmel of St. Joseph of Avila. Teresa proposed to them an intense program of contemplative life at the service of the Church, the basis of which were the evangelical virtues and prayer. Among the most precious passages is the commentary on the Our Father, model of prayer.

The most famous mystical work of St. Teresa is "The Interior Castle," written in 1577, in her full maturity. It is a re-reading of her own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible development of Christian life toward its fullness, holiness, under the action of the Holy Spirit. Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms, as an image of man's interiority, introducing, at the same time, the symbol of the silkworm that is reborn as a butterfly, to express the passage from the natural to the supernatural. The saint is inspired by sacred Scriptures, in particular the Canticle of Canticles, for the final symbol of "two Spouses," which allows us to describe, in the seventh room, the culmination of the Christian life in its four aspects: Trinitarian, Christological, anthropological and ecclesial.

Teresa dedicated the "Book of Foundations," written between 1573 and 1582, to her activity as founder of reformed Carmels, in which she speaks of the life of the nascent religious group. As in the autobiography, the account is intended to point out above all God's action in the work of the foundation of new convents.

It is not easy to summarize in a few words the profound and complex Teresian spirituality. I would like to mention some essential points. In the first place, St. Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life -- in particular, detachment from goods or evangelical poverty (and this concerns all of us); love for one another as the essential element of community and social life; humility as love of the truth; determination as fruit of Christian audacity; theological hope, which she describes as thirst for living water -- without forgetting the human virtues: affability, veracity, modesty, courtesy, joy, culture. In the second place, St. Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical personalities and intense listening to the Word of God. She felt in consonance above all with the bride of the Canticle of Canticles and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with the Christ of the passion and with the Eucharistic Jesus.

The saint stressed how essential prayer is; to pray, she said, "means to frequent with friendship, because we frequent him whom we know loves us" ("Life," 8, 5). St. Teresa's idea coincides with the definition that St. Thomas Aquinas gives of theological charity, as "amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum," a type of friendship of man with God, who first offered his friendship to man; the initiative comes from God (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1). Prayer is life and it develops gradually at the same pace with the growth of the Christian life: It begins with vocal prayer, passes to interiorization through meditation and recollection, until it attains union of love with Christ and with the Most Holy Trinity. Obviously, it is not a development in which going up to the higher steps means leaving behind the preceding type of prayer, but is rather a gradual deepening of the relationship with God, which envelops our whole life. More than a pedagogy of prayer, St. Teresa's is a true "mystagogy": She teaches the reader of her works to pray while praying herself with him; frequently, in fact, she interrupts the account or exposition to burst out in a prayer.

Another topic dear to the saint is the centrality of the humanity of Christ. In fact, for Teresa, the Christian life is a personal relationship with Jesus, which culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance that she attributes to meditation on the passion and the Eucharist, as presence of Christ, in the Church, for the life of every believer and as heart of the liturgy. St. Teresa lived an unconditional love for the Church: She manifested an intense "sensus Ecclesiae" in face of incidents of division and conflict in the Church of her time. She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending better the "Holy Roman Catholic Church," and she was prepared to give her life for it (cf. "Life," 33, 5).

A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine that I would like to underscore is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole Christian life and the final end of it. The saint had a very clear idea of "fullness" in Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the course of "The Interior Castle," in the last "stanza" Teresa describes this fullness, realized in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Teresa of Avila, the great sixteenth-century Carmelite reformer proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Teresa entered the Carmel of Avila at the age of twenty. Maturing in the spiritual life, she embraced the ideal of a renewal of her Order and with the support of Saint John of the Cross she founded a chain of reformed Carmels throughout Spain. Her highly influential writings, which include the Autobiography, The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, reveal her profound christocentric spirituality, and her breadth of human experience. Teresa considered the evangelical and human virtues the basis of an authentic Christian life. She identified deeply with Christ in his humanity and stressed the importance of contemplation of his Passion and of his real presence in the Eucharist. She presents prayer as an intimate friendship with Christ leading to an ever greater union of love with the Blessed Trinity. In her life and in her death Teresa embodied an unconditional love for the Church. May the example and prayers of Saint Teresa of Avila inspire us to greater fidelity to prayer and, through prayer, to greater love for the Lord and his Church, and more perfect charity towards our brothers and sisters.

I am pleased to greet the groups who have come from England, Norway, Nigeria and the United States of America. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily on Day for Consecrated Life
"A Life Dedicated to Listening and to Proclaiming His Word"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during evening vespers on the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, which is observed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The liturgical service took place in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

In today's feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus whom Mary and Joseph take to the Temple "to present him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). Revealed in this evangelical scene is the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father, who came into the world to carry out his will faithfully (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7).

Simeon points to him as "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), and proclaims with prophetic word his supreme offer to God and his final victory (cf. Luke 2:32-35). It is the meeting of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Jesus enters the ancient Temple, He who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit his people, bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and inaugurating the end times of salvation.

It is interesting to observe close up this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great "coming and going" of so many people, seized by their endeavors: the priests and the Levites with their turns of service, the numerous devotees and pilgrims, desirous of encountering the Holy God of Israel. None of these, however, notice anything. Jesus is a child like others, first born son of two very simple parents. Even the priests are incapable of accepting the signs of the new and particular presence of the Messiah and Savior. Only two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover the great novelty. Led by the Holy Spirit, they see in that Child the fulfillment of their long expectation and vigilance. Both contemplate the light of God that comes to illumine the world, with their prophetic gaze open to the future, as proclamation of the Messiah: "Lumen ad revelationem gentium!" (Luke 2:32). In the prophetic attitude of two old people is the entire Ancient Covenant, which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. On seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna intuit that it is in fact Him, the One Awaited.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total donation of the life for all those men and women who are called to reproduce in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features of Jesus virgin, poor and obedient" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Vita Consecrata," No. 1). That is why today's feast was chosen by the Venerable John Paul II to celebrate the annual Day of Consecrated Life. In this context, I address a cordial and grateful greeting to Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, whom I recently appointed prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the secretary and the collaborators. I greet affectionately the Superiors General present and all consecrated persons.

I would like to propose three brief thoughts for reflection on this feast. The first: the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains the essential symbol of light; the light that, coming from Christ, shines on Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna and, through them, on everyone. The Fathers of the Church linked this radiation to the spiritual journey. Consecrated life expresses this journey, in a special way as "philocalia," love of divine beauty, reflection of the goodness of God (cf. ibid., No. 19). Resplendent on Christ's face is this beauty. "The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ, to be confirmed in the faith and not risk dismay before his disfigured face on the Cross ... she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing his mystery, enveloped by his light, [from which] are gathered all his children ... But a singular experience of the light that emanates from the Word incarnate are certainly those called to the consecrated life. In fact, the profession of the evangelical counsels places them as sign and prophecy for the community of brothers and for the world" (ibid., No. 15).

In the second place, the evangelical icon manifests the prophecy, gift of the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna, contemplating the Child Jesus, perceive his destiny of death and resurrection for the salvation of all peoples and proclaim this mystery as universal salvation. Consecrated life is called to this prophetic witness, linked to its twofold attitude, contemplative and active. Given to consecrated men and women, in fact, is to manifest the primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practiced as a way of life and proclaimed to the poor and to the last of the earth. "In the strength of such primacy nothing can be preferred to personal love for Christ and for the poor in which He lives. True prophecy is born from God, from friendship with Him, from attentive listening to his Word in the different circumstances of history" (ibid., No. 84). In this way consecrated life, in its daily living on the paths of humanity, manifests the Gospel and the Kingdom already present and operative.

In the third place, the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple manifests the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life dedicated totally to the search of the face of God, of his signs, of his will; a life dedicated to listening and to proclaiming his Word.

"'Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram': thy face, O Lord, do I seek" (Psalm 26:8). Hence, the consecrated person witnesses the joyful and laborious commitment, the assiduous and wise search of the divine will" (cf. Congress for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction The Service of Authority and Obedience. Faciem tuam Domine requiram [2008], No. 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, be assiduous listeners of the Word, because every wisdom of life is born of the Word of the Lord! Be scrutinizers of the Word, through Lectio Divina, because consecrated life "is born from listening to the Word of God and accepting the Gospel as its norm of life. To live following the chaste, poor and obedient Christ is in this way a living "exegesis" of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in the strength of which the Bible was written, is the same who illumines the Word of God to men and women founders with new light. From it flows every charism and every rule is an expression of it, giving origin to itineraries of Christian life marked by evangelical radicalism" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," No. 83).

Today we live above all in the most developed societies, a condition often marked by a radical pluralism, by the progressive marginalization of religion from the public sphere, by a relativism that touches fundamental values. This calls for our Christian witness to be luminous and consistent and for our educational effort to be ever more attentive and generous. In particular your apostolic action, dear brothers and sisters, must become a life commitment, which accedes with persevering passion, to wisdom as truth and beauty "splendor of the truth." Be able to orient your life with wisdom, and with trust in the inexhaustible possibilities of true education, and the intelligence and the heart of men and women of our time to the "good life of the Gospel."

At this moment, my thought goes with special affection to all consecrated men and women, in every part of the earth, and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

O Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust to you consecrated life,
So that you will obtain for it the fullness of divine light:
That it may live in listening to the Word of God,
In the humility of the following of Jesus your Son and our Lord,
In the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church is built by the holiness of life
Of these your sons and daughters,
In the commandment of love. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Message to Latin American Vocational Congress
"The Abundance of Vocations Is an Eloquent Sign of Ecclesial Vitality"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent ahead of the 2nd Latin American Continental Congress on Vocations, promoted by the Department for Vocations and Ministries of the Latin American Bishops' Council, which is under way in Cartago, Costa Rica, through Saturday. The Vatican press office published the letter today.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Beloved Presbyters,
Women and Men Religious and Lay Faithful

Soon it will be 17 years since the 1st Latin American Continental Congress on Vocations, convoked by the Holy See, in close collaboration with the Latin American Bishops' Council and the Latin American Confederation of Religious. That event signified an important occasion to re-launch the vocational pastoral throughout the Continent. The present congress, which you are about to hold in the city of Cartago, in Costa Rica, is an initiative of bishops responsible for the vocational pastoral of Latin America and the Caribbean, which hopes to continue the path already undertaken, in the context of that great missionary impulse promoted by the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (Conclusive Document, No. 548).

The great task of evangelization requires an ever greater number of persons that respond generously to God's call and give themselves for life to the cause of the Gospel. Together with the strengthening of Christian life in general, a more incisive missionary action bears as a valuable fruit the increase of vocations of special consecration. In some way, the abundance of vocations is an eloquent sign of ecclesial vitality, as well as of the intense living of the faith on the part of all the members of the People of God.
The Church, in her innermost being, has a vocational dimension, implicit already in her etymological meaning: "assembly convoked" by God. Christian life also participates in this same vocational dimension which characterizes the Church. Always resounding again in the soul of every Christian is that "follow me" of Jesus to his Apostles, which changed their lives forever (cf. Matthew 4:19).

In this second congress, whose motto is "Master, at your word I will let down the nets" (Luke 5:5), the different agents of the vocational pastoral of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean have gathered for the purpose of strengthening the vocational pastoral, so that the baptized will assume their call to be disciples and missionaries of Christ, in the present circumstances of these beloved lands. To this end, Vatican Council II affirms that: "the whole Christian community has the duty to foster vocations and must try to do so, first of all, with a fully Christian life" ("Optatam Totius," No. 2). The vocational pastoral must be fully inserted in the whole of the general pastoral, and with a widespread presence in all the concrete pastoral ambits (Cf. 5th General Conference, Aparecida, Conclusive Document, No. 314). Experience teaches us that, wherever there is good planning and a constant practice of the vocational pastoral, vocations are not lacking. God is generous, and the vocational pastoral endeavor should be equally generous in all the particular Churches.

Among the many aspects that could be considered for the cultivation of vocations, I would like to highlight the importance of attention to spiritual life. A vocation is not the fruit of any human project or of a clever organizational strategy. In its deepest reality, it is a gift of God, a mysterious and ineffable initiative of the Lord, who enters the life of a person cultivating it with the beauty of his love, and arousing, consequently, a total and definitive self-giving to that divine love (cf. John 15:9.16). The primacy of the life of the spirit must always be kept present as the basis of all pastoral programming. It is necessary to offer the young generations the possibility to open their hearts to a greater reality: to Christ, the only one who can give meaning and fullness to their lives. We must overcome our self-sufficiency and go to the Lord with humility, begging him to continue calling many. But at the same time, the strengthening of our spiritual life will lead us to ever greater identification with the will of God, and to offer a wider and more transparent witness of faith, hope and charity.

Certainly, personal and community witness of a life of friendship and intimacy with Christ, of total and joyful self-giving to God, occupies a place of the first order in the work of vocational promotion. The faithful and joyful testimony of one's vocation has been and is a privileged means to awaken in young people the desire to follow in Christ's steps. And, together with this, the courage to propose to them with delicacy and respect the possibility that God will also call them. Often, a divine vocation gains ground through a human word, or thanks to an environment in which there is a lively faith. Today, as ever, young people "are sensitive to the call of Christ, who invites them to follow him" (Address at the opening session of the 5th General Conference, Aparecida, May 13, 2007). The world needs God, and that is why it will always need persons who live for him, and who proclaim him to others (cf. Letter to Seminarians, Oct. 18, 2010).

The concern for vocations holds a privileged place in my heart and in my prayers. Hence, I encourage you, dear brothers and sisters, to consecrate yourselves with all your strength and talents to this exciting and urgent task, which the Lord will fully compensate. I implore on the organizers and participants in that Congress the intercession of the Virgin Mary, true model of generous response to God's initiative, while imparting to you at the same time a special Apostolic Blessing.

Vatican, January 21, 2011

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Beatitudes as a Program of Life
"Teaching That Comes From Above and Touches the Human Condition"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2011 - 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!

On this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel presents the first great sermon that the Lord addresses to the people, on the beautiful hills near the Sea of Galilee. "When Jesus saw the crowds," St. Matthew writes, "he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him" (Matthew 5:1-2). Jesus, the new Moses, “takes his seat on the ‘cathedra’ of the mountain” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” Ignatius Press, 2008, p. 65) and proclaims as “blessed” the poor in spirit, the afflicted, the merciful, those who hunger for justice, the pure of heart and the persecuted (cf. Matthew 5:3-10). This is not a new ideology but a teaching that comes from above and touches the human condition -- precisely that which the Lord, becoming incarnate, chose to assume -- to save it. Thus “the Sermon on the Mount addresses the entire world, the present and the future … and can be understood and lived out only by following Jesus and accompanying him on his journey” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” p. 69). The Beatitudes are a new program of life to liberate us from the false values of the world and open us to the true goods, present and future. When, in fact, God consoles, satiates the hunger for justice, dries the tears of the afflicted, it means that, besides recompensing everyone in a material way, he opens the Kingdom of Heaven. “The Beatitudes are the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship” (ibid., p. 74). The Beatitudes reflect the life of the Son of God who allows himself to be persecuted, despised to the point of being condemned to death, so that men be granted salvation.

An old hermit said: “The Beatitudes are gifts of God, and we must give him great thanks for them and for the recompenses that come from them, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven in the world to come, consolation here, the fullness of every good and mercy from God … once we become the images of God on earth” (Peter of Damascus, in Filocalia, vol. 3, Torino 1985, p. 79). The history itself of the Church, the history of Christian sanctity, are a commentary on the Gospel of the Beatitudes because, as St. Paul writes, “what is weak in the eyes of the world God has chosen to confound the strong; what is ignoble and despised in the eyes of the world, that which is nothing, God chose these to reduce to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). This is why the Church does not fear poverty, scorn and persecution in a society that is often attracted by material well-being and worldly power. St. Augustine reminds us that “it is not worthwhile to suffer these evils, but to endure them for the name of Jesus, not only with a peaceful soul but even with joy” (“De sermone Domini in monte,” I, 5,13: CCL 35, 13).

Dear brothers and sisters, we invoke the Virgin Mary, the one who is Blessed par excellence, asking for the strength to seek the Lord (cf. Sophonias 2:3) and to follow him always, with joy, on the path of the Beatitudes.

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

This Sunday we celebrate “World Leprosy Day,” which was promoted in the 1950s by Raoul Follereau and officially recognized by the U.N.. Leprosy, although it is diminishing, unfortunately still strikes many people in conditions of great misery. I assure all the sick of a special prayer, which I extend to those who care for them and who in various ways work to eliminate Hansen’s Disease. I especially greet l’Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau, which celebrates its 50th anniversary.

In the days that follow, various countries of the Far East will celebrate with joy, especially in the intimacy of families, the Lunar New Year. To all those great peoples I wish from my heart serenity and prosperity.

Today is also the “International Day for Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land.” I join with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land in inviting everyone to pray to the Lord that he bring minds and hearts together in concrete peace projects.

[In English he said:]

I greet warmly all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear the eight Beatitudes, that beautiful account of what Christian discipleship demands of us. Jesus himself showed us the way by the manner of his life and death, and by rising from the dead he revealed the new life that awaits those who follow him along the path of love. Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke abundant blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding his greetings, in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

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Papal Greeting to Orthodox-Catholic Commission
"Christians Need to Work Together in Mutual Acceptance and Trust"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upo receiving in audience the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

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Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through you I gladly extend fraternal greetings to my venerable Brothers, the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

I am grateful for the work of the Commission which began in January 2003 as a shared initiative of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

As you know, the first phase of the dialogue, from 2003 to 2009, resulted in the common text entitled Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church. The document outlined aspects of fundamental ecclesiological principles that we share and identified issues requiring deeper reflection in successive phases of the dialogue. We can only be grateful that after almost fifteen hundred years of separation we still find agreement about the sacramental nature of the Church, about apostolic succession in priestly service and about the impelling need to bear witness to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the world.

In the second phase the Commission has reflected from an historical perspective on the ways in which the Churches expressed their communion down the ages. During the meeting this week you are deepening your study of the communion and communication that existed between the Churches until the mid-fifth century of Christian history, as well as the role played by monasticism in the life of the early Church.

We must be confident that your theological reflection will lead our Churches not only to understand each other more deeply, but resolutely to continue our journey decisively towards the full communion to which we are called by the will of Christ. For this intention we have lifted up our common prayer during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which has just ended.

Many of you come from regions where Christian individuals and communities face trials and difficulties that are a cause of deep concern for us all. All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in order to serve the cause of peace and justice. May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen you and your Christian communities.

With sentiments of fraternal affection I invoke upon all of you the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Joan of Arc
"Joan's Judges ... Did Not Know They Were Condemning a Saint"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He focused his reflection on the figure of St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431).

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431. This French saint, quoted many times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is particularly close to St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy and Europe, of whom I spoke in a recent catechesis. In fact they are two young women of the people, lay and consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and of the world of their time. They are, perhaps, the most characteristic examples from among those "strong women" who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly took the great light of the Gospel to the complex vicissitudes of history.

We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, his mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied him three times.

In her times, the Church lived the profound crisis of the great Western schism, which lasted almost 40 years. When Catherine of Siena died, in 1380, there was a pope and an anti-pope. When Joan was born, in 1412, there was a pope and two anti-popes. In addition to this laceration within the Church, there were continuous fratricidal wars between the Christian peoples of Europe, the most tragic of which was the interminable 100 Years War between France and England.

Joan of Arc could not read or write, but she can be known in the depth of her soul thanks to two sources of exceptional historical value: the two trials she underwent. The first, the "Trial of Conviction," contains the transcription of the long and numerous interrogations of Joan during the last months of her life (February-May of 1431), and includes the words of the saint herself. The second, the "Trial of Nullity of the Sentence," or of "rehabilitation," contains the testimonies of close to 120 eye-witnesses from all the periods of her life (cf. Procès de Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vol. and Procès en Nullité de la Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 5 vol., ed. Klincksieck, Paris l960-1989).

Joan was born in Domremy, a small village located on the border between France and Lorraine. Her parents were well-off farmers, known by everyone as very good Christians. From them she received a good religious education, with notable influence from the spirituality of the Name of Jesus, taught by St. Bernardine of Siena and spread in Europe by the Franciscans. To the Name of Jesus is always joined the Name of Mary and thus, in the framework of popular religiosity, Joan's spirituality was profoundly Christocentric and Marian. From her childhood, she showed great charity and compassion toward the poorest, the sick and all who suffered in the tragic context of the war.

From her own words, we know that Joan's religious life matured experientially beginning at the age of 13 (PCon, I, p. 47-48). Through the "voice" of the Archangel St. Michael, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and also to commit herself personally to the liberation of her people. Her immediate response, her "yes," was the vow of virginity, with a new commitment to sacramental life and to prayer: daily attendance at Mass, frequent confession and Communion and long periods of silent prayer before the Crucified or before the image of the Virgin. The compassion and commitment of the young French peasant girl in face of the suffering of her people became more intense because of her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission.

After the years of hidden life and interior maturation, the brief but intense two-year period of her public life followed: a year of action and a year of passion.

At the beginning of the year 1429, Joan began her work of liberation. The numerous testimonies show us this young woman who was only 17 years old as a very strong and determined person, capable of convincing unsure and discouraged men. Overcoming all obstacles, she met with the dauphin of France, the future King Charles VII, who in Poitiers subjected her to an examination by some theologians of the university. Their judgment was positive: They did not see anything evil in her, [finding] only a good Christian.

On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8. The other culminating moment of her political action was the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims, on July 17, 1429. For a whole year, Joan lived with the soldiers, carrying out among them a real mission of evangelization. Numerous are the testimonies about her goodness, her courage and her extraordinary purity. She was called by everyone and she herself described herself as "the maiden," namely, the virgin.

Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake. It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants. They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission. This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" ("Lumen Gentium," 8). It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake. As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God. Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint.

Joan's appeal to the pope's intervention on May 24 was rejected by the court. On the morning of May 30 she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market. She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession. Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435). Almost 25 years later, the Trial of Nullity, opened under the authority of Pope Calixtus III, concluded with a solemn sentence that declared the condemnation null and void (July 7, 1456; PNul, II, p. 604-610). This long trial, which includes the statements of witnesses and judgments of many theologians, all favorable to Joan, highlights her innocence and her perfect fidelity to the Church. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 by Benedict XV.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the center of her whole life. The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbor in Jesus and for Jesus. This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223).

To love him means to always obey his will. She said with total confidence and abandonment: "I entrust myself to my Creator God, I love him with my whole heart" (Ibid., p. 337). With the vow of virginity, Joan consecrated in an exclusive way her whole person to the one Love of Jesus: It is "her promise made to our Lord to protect well her virginity of body and soul" (Ibid., p. 149-150). Virginity of soul is the state of grace, the supreme value, for her more precious than life: It was a gift of God that she received and protected with humility and trust. One of the best known texts of the first trial has to do with this: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to put me there'" (Ibid., p. 62; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2005).

Our saint lived prayer as a form of continuous dialogue with the Lord, who also enlightened her answers to the judges, giving her peace and security. She prayed with faith: "Sweetest God, in honor of your holy Passion, I ask you, if you love me, to reveal to me how I must answer these men of the Church" (Ibid., p. 252). Joan saw Jesus as the "King of Heaven and Earth." Thus, on her standard, Joan had the image painted of "Our Lord who sustains the world" (Ibid., p. 172), icon of her political mission. The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations. Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the "triumphant Church" of Heaven, and the "militant Church" of earth. According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one "whole" (Ibid., p. 166). This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her. In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction.

I am pleased to recall how St. Joan of Arc had a profound influence on a young saint of the modern age: Thérèse of the Child Jesus. In a completely different life, spent in the cloister, the Carmelite of Lisieux felt very close to Joan, living in the heart of the Church and taking part in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of the world. The Church has joined them as patronesses of France, after the Virgin Mary. St. Thérèse expressed her desire to die like Joan, pronouncing the Name of Jesus (Manuscript B, 3r); she was animated by the same love for Jesus and her neighbor, lived in consecrated virginity.

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church. Thank you.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Joan of Arc, one of the outstanding women of the later Middle Ages. Raised in a religious family, Joan enjoyed mystical experiences from an early age. At a time of crisis in the Church and of war in her native France, she felt God's call to a life of prayer and virginity, and to personal engagement in the liberation of her compatriots. At the age of seventeen, Joan began her mission among the French military forces; she sought to negotiate a just Christian peace between the English and the French, took an active part in the siege of Orleans and witnessed the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims. Captured by her enemies the next year, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and burnt at the stake as a heretic; she died invoking the name of Jesus. Her unjust condemnation was overturned twenty-five years later. At the heart of Saint Joan's spirituality was an unfailing love for Christ and, in Christ, for the Church and for her neighbor. May the prayers and example of Saint Joan of Arc inspire many lay men and women to devote themselves to public life in the service of God's Kingdom, and encourage all of us to live to the fullest our lofty calling in Christ.

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Papal Homily Closing Prayer for Christian Unity Week
"We Are Still Far From That Unity for Which Christ Prayed"

ROME, JAN. 25, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the closing vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. Today's feast of the Conversion of St. Paul brought the prayer week to a close.

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Brothers and Sisters,

Following the example of Jesus, who on the eve of his Passion prayed to the Father for his disciples "that they may all be one" (John 17:21), Christians continue to invoke incessantly from God the gift of this unity. This request is made more intense during the Week of Prayer, which ends today, when the Churches and ecclesial Communities meditate and pray together for the unity of all Christians.

This year the theme offered for our meditation was proposed by the Christian communities of Jerusalem, to which I would like to express by heartfelt gratitude, accompanied by the assurance of affection and prayer either on my part or on that of the whole of the Church. The Christians of the Holy City invite us to renew and reinforce our commitment for the re-establishment of full unity meditating on the model of life of the first disciples of Christ gathered in Jerusalem: "They -- we read in the Acts of the Apostles (and we heard it now) -- devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the portrait of the early community, born in Jerusalem the same day of Pentecost, aroused by the preaching of the Apostle Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, addressed to all those who had arrived in the Holy City for the feast. A community not shut-in on itself, but, from its birth, catholic, universal, capable of embracing people of different languages and cultures, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles itself testifies. A community not founded on a pact among its members, or the simple sharing of a project or an ideal, but from profound communion with God, who revealed himself in his Son, from the encounter with Christ dead and resurrected.

In a brief summary, which ends the chapter that began with the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Evangelist Luke presents synthetically the life of this first community: how many had heard the word preached by Peter and were baptized, listened to the Word of God, transmitted by the Apostles; were happily together, taking charge of the necessary services and sharing freely and generously their material goods; celebrated the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his mystery of Death and Resurrection, in the Eucharist, repeating the gesture of the breaking of the bread; they continually praised and thanked the Lord, invoking his help in their difficulties. This description, however, is not simply a memory of the past, and even less the presentation of an example to imitate or of an ideal goal to reach. It is rather the affirmation of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, uniting all in Christ, who is the principle of the unity of the Church and makes believers one.

The teaching of the Apostles, fraternal communion, the breaking of the bread and prayer are the concrete ways of life of the first Christian community of Jerusalem gathered by the action of the Holy Spirit but at the same time they constitute the essential features of all Christian communities, of all times and all places. In other words, we can also say that they represent the essential dimensions of the unity of the visible Body of the Church.

We must be grateful because, in the course of the last decades, the ecumenical movement, "arising from the impulse of the grace of the Holy Spirit" ("Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 1), has taken significant steps forward, which have made it possible to attain encouraging convergence and consent on varied points, developing between the Churches and the ecclesial communities relations of mutual esteem and respect, as well as of concrete collaboration in face of the challenges of the contemporary world. We are well aware, however, that we are still far from that unity for which Christ prayed and which we find reflected in the portrait of the first community of Jerusalem. The unity to which Christ, through his Spirit, calls the Church is not realized only on the plane of organizational structures, but is configured, at a much more profound level, as expressed "in the confession of only one faith, in the common celebration of divine worship and in the fraternal concord of the family of God" (ibid., No. 2).

The search for the re-establishment of unity among divided Christians cannot therefore be reduced to a recognition of the reciprocal differences and to the obtaining of a peaceful coexistence: What we long for is that unity for which Christ himself prayed and which by its nature is manifested in the communion of the faith, of the sacraments, of the ministry. The path toward this unity must be seen as a moral imperative, response to a precise call of the Lord. Because of this, the temptation must be overcome to resignation and pessimism, which is lack of trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our duty is to continue passionately on the path towards this goal with a serious and rigorous dialogue to deepen the common theological, liturgical and spiritual patrimony; with reciprocal knowledge, with the ecumenical formation of the new generations and, above all, with conversion of heart and prayer. In fact, as Vatican Council II declared, the "holy intention to reconcile all Christians in the unity of the one Church of Christ, surpasses human forces and talents" and, because of this, our hope is placed first of all "in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the Father's love for us and in the power of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., No. 24).

On this path for the search of full visible unity among all Christians we are accompanied and sustained by the Apostle Paul, of whom today we celebrate solemnly the feast of his conversion. He, before the Risen One appeared to him on the road to Damascus saying to him: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!" (Acts 9:5), was one of the most ferocious adversaries of the early Christian communities. The evangelist Luke describes Saul among those who approved the killing of Stephen, in the days when a violent persecution broke out against Christians of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8:1). He left from the Holy City to extend the persecution of Christians to Syria and, after his conversion, he returned to be introduced to the Apostles of Barnabas, who made himself guarantor of the authenticity of his encounter with the Lord. From then on Paul was admitted not only as a member of the Church but also as preacher of the Gospel together with the other Apostles, having received, as them, the manifestation of the Risen Lord and the special call to be "chosen instrument" to carry his name before the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15).

In his long missionary journeys, Paul, journeying through different cities and regions, never forgot the bond of communion with the Church of Jerusalem. The collection in favor of Christians of that community, who, very soon, had need of being helped (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1), occupied an important place in Paul's concerns, which he considered not only a work of charity, but the sign and the guarantee of the unity and the communion between the Churches founded by him and the early community of the Holy City, as sign of the one Church of Christ.

In this climate of intense prayer, I wish to address my cordial greeting to all those present: to Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of this Basilica, to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to the other cardinals and brothers in the episcopate and priesthood, to the abbot and to the Benedictine monks of this ancient community, to men and women religious, to the laity that represent the entire diocesan community of Rome. In a special way, I would like to greet the brothers and sisters of the other Churches and ecclesial communities represented here this evening. Among them, it is particularly gratifying to me to address my greeting to the members of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches, whose meeting will take place here in Rome in the next few days. Let us entrust to the Lord the good outcome of your meeting, so that it can represent a step forward toward the much hoped for unity.

[...]

Dear brothers and sisters, trusting in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, we invoke, therefore, the gift of unity. United to Mary, who on the day of Pentecost was present in the Cenacle together with the Apostles, we turn to God source of every gift to have renewed for us today the miracle of Pentecost and, guided by the Holy Spirit, may all Christians re-establish full unity in Christ. Amen.

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Pope's Message for World Mission Sunday 2011
"As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2011- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Mission Sunday, which will be observed Oct. 23. The message, titled "As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You" (John 20:21), was published today by the Vatican press office.

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"As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You" (John 20:21). On the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, the Venerable John Paul II, at the beginning of a new millennium of the Christian era, reaffirmed forcefully the need to renew the commitment to take to all the proclamation of the Gospel with "the same enthusiasm of the Christians of the early times" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 58). It is the most precious service that the Church can give to humanity and to each person who seeks the profound reasons to live his existence fully. Because of this, this same invitation resounds every year in the celebration of World Mission Sunday. In fact, the incessant proclamation of the Gospel also vivifies the Church, her fervor, her apostolic spirit, it renews her pastoral methods so that they are increasingly appropriate to the new situations -- also those that require a new evangelization -- and animated by the missionary drive: "the mission renews the Church, reinforces the faith and Christian identity, gives new enthusiasm and new motivations. The faith is strengthened by giving it! The new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support in the commitment to the universal mission" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio," No. 2).

Go and Proclaim

This objective is continually revived by the celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist, which always ends recalling the mandate of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles: "Go ..." (Matthew 28:19). The liturgy is always a call 'from the world' and a new sending 'to the world' to give witness of what has been experienced: the salvific power of the Word of God, the salvific power of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. All those who have encountered the Risen Lord have felt the need to proclaim him to others, as did the two disciples of Emmaus. They, after recognizing the Lord in the breaking of the bread, "rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered there" and they told what had happened on the road (Luke24:33-34). Pope John Paul II exhorted to be "vigilant and prepared to recognize his face and run to our brothers, to take the great announcement to them: We have seen the Lord!" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 59).

To All

All peoples are recipients of the proclamation of the Gospel. The Church "is missionary by nature, as she takes her origin from the mission of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, according to the plan of God the Father" ("Ad Gentes," No. 2). This is "the happiness and vocation proper of the Church, her most profound identity. She exists to evangelize" (Paul VI, "Evangelii Nuntiandi," No. 14). Consequently, she can never be shut-in on herself. She roots herself in certain places in order to go beyond. Her action, in adherence to the word of Christ and under the influence of his grace and of his charity, is made fully and actually present to all men and to all peoples to lead them to faith in Christ (cf. "Ad Gentes," No. 5).

This task has not lost its urgency. On the contrary, "the mission of Christ Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is still far from being accomplished ... a global look on humanity shows that this mission is still at the beginning and that we must commit ourselves with all our energies in its service" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio," No. 1). We cannot remain tranquil in face of the thought that, after two thousand years, there are still peoples who do not know Christ and have not yet heard his message of salvation.

Not only this; the multitude grows of those that, even having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have forgotten and abandoned it, not recognizing themselves now in the Church; and many environments, also in traditionally Christian societies, today are refractory in opening themselves to the word of faith. Underway is a cultural change, fueled also by globalization, by movements of thought and by the prevailing relativism, a change that leads to a mentality and a lifestyle that does without the evangelical message, as if God did not exist, and which exalts the search for well-being, easy earnings, careers and success as the objective of life, even at the cost of moral values.

Co-responsibility of All

The universal mission involves all, everything and always. The Gospel is not an exclusive good of the one who has received it, but is a gift to be shared, good news to communicate. And this gift-commitment is entrusted not only to a few, but to all the baptized, who are "a chosen race ... a holy nation, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:9), to proclaim his wonderful works.

All activities are also implied in it. Attention and cooperation in the evangelizing work of the Church in the world cannot be limited to some particular moments and occasions, nor can they be considered as one of the many pastoral activities: the missionary dimension of the Church is essential and, therefore, must always be kept present. Hence it is important that every baptized person as well as the ecclesial communities be interested not only in a sporadic and irregular way in the mission, but in a constant way, as the way of Christian life. The Missionary Day itself is not an isolated moment in the course of the year, but a precious occasion to pause to reflect on how we respond to the missionary vocation; an essential response for the life of the Church.

Global Evangelization

Evangelization is a complex process and includes several elements. Among these, a peculiar attention on the part of missionary animation, has always been given to solidarity. This is also one of the objectives of World Mission Sunday, which through the Papal Missionary Associations requests help in carrying out tasks of evangelization in mission territories. An attempt is made to support institutions necessary to establish and consolidate the Church through catechists, seminaries, priests and also to make a contribution to the improvement of the conditions of life of persons in countries in which the phenomenons of poverty, malnutrition especially of children, illnesses, lack of health services and education are more acute. This also falls within the mission of the Church. Proclaiming the Gospel, she takes seriously human life in the full sense. It is unacceptable, reaffirmed the Servant of God Paul VI, that in evangelization subjects are neglected that refer to human promotion, justice, liberation from every form of oppression, obviously in respect of the autonomy of the political sphere. To be indifferent to the temporal problems of humanity would mean "to forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering and in need" ("Evangelii Nuntiandi," No. 31); it would not be attuned to Jesus' conduct, who "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 9:35).

Thus, through co-responsible participation in the mission of the Church, the Christian becomes a builder of communion, of peace, of the solidarity that Christ has given us, and collaborates in the realization of the salvific plan of God for the whole of humanity. The challenges that it meets, calls Christians to walk together with others, and the mission is an integral part of this path with all. In it we bear, though in vessels of clay, our Christian vocation, the inestimable treasure of the Gospel, the living testimony of Jesus dead and resurrected, encountered and believed in the Church.

May this World Mission Sunday revive in each one the desire and the joy of "going" to meet humanity taking Christ to all. In his name I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing, in particular to all those who most toil and suffer for the Gospel.

In the Vatican, Jan. 6, 2011, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Benedict XVI's Message for 2011 World Media Day
"Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2011- Here is the message Benedict XVI wrote for the 45th World Day of Social Communications, which will be observed June 5. The letter is titled "Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age." The Vatican press office published the letter today, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of communicators.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the 45th World Day of Social Communications, I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.

New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.

In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.

Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being. Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for "friends", there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.

The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my "neighbour" in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world "other" than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.

In the digital age too, everyone is confronted by the need for authenticity and reflection. Besides, the dynamic inherent in the social networks demonstrates that a person is always involved in what he or she communicates. When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals. It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its "popularity" or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!

I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10). The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.

In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations. Through the intercession of their patron Saint Francis de Sales, I pray that God may grant communications workers the capacity always to carry out their work conscientiously and professionally. To all, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2011, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Delegation of German Lutheran Church
"A 'Togetherness' Has Grown Between Us"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience a delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, who are in Rome for the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is under way through Tuesday.

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Regional Bishop Friedrich!
Dear Friends of Germany!

I give a cordial welcome to all of you, representatives of top leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, here in the Apostolic Palace, and I am happy because of the fact that you, as a delegation, have come to Rome at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In this way you also show that all our longing for unity can bear fruits only if they are rooted in common prayer. In particular, I would like to thank you, dear regional bishop, for your words that, with great sincerity, expressed the common efforts for more profound unity among all Christians.


In the meantime, the official dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics -- so it is written here -- can look back to more than 50 years of intense activity. You spoke of 30 years. I think that 30 years ago, after the Pope's visit, we began officially, but in fact we had been dialoguing for a long time. I myself was a member of the "Jaeger-Stahlin-Kreis" born directly after the War. One can speak then of 50 or 30 years. Despite the theological differences that continue to exist on questions that in part are fundamental, a "togetherness" has grown between us, which becomes increasingly the basis of a communion lived in faith and in spirituality between Lutherans and Catholics. What has already been achieved reinforces our trust in continuing the dialogue, because only in this way can we stay together on that way that, finally, is Jesus Christ himself.

Hence, the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism, as my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II affirmed in his encyclical "Ut Unum Sint," is not a mere strategy of communication in a changing world, but a fundamental commitment of the Church from her own mission (cf. Nos. 28-32).

For some contemporaries the common goal of full and visible unity of Christians seems to be again today very far. The ecumenical interlocutors in the dialogue have ideas on the unity of the Church that are completely different. I share the concern of many Christians over the fact that the fruits of the ecumenical endeavor, above all in relation to the idea of Church and ministry, are still not sufficiently received by the ecumenical interlocutors. However, even if new difficulties always arise, we look with hope to the future. Even if the divisions of Christians are an obstacle in molding catholicity fully in the reality of the life of the Church, as was promised in Christ and through Christ (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 4), we are confident in the fact that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the ecumenical dialogue, as important instrument in the life of the Church, will serve to overcome this conflict. This will happen, in the first place, also through the theological dialogue, which must contribute to understanding on the open questions, which are an obstacle along the path to visible unity and the common celebration of the Eucharist as sacrament of unity among Christians.

I am pleased to state that beside the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on the topic "Baptism and Growing Ecclesial Communion," there is also in Germany, since 2009, a bilateral commission of dialogue between the episcopal conference and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, which has taken up again its activity on the topic: "God and the Dignity of Man." This thematic realm includes in particular also the problems that arose recently in relation to the protection and dignity of human life, as well as the urgent questions on the family, marriage and sexuality, which cannot be silenced or neglected so as not to endanger the ecumenical consensus attained up to now. We hope that in these important questions related to life, new confessional differences will not emerge, but that together we will be able to give witness to the world and to men of what the Lord has shown us and shows us.

Today the ecumenical dialogue cannot be split from the reality and from the life in the faith of our Churches without harming them. Hence, let us look together to the year 2017, which will recall theses of Martin Luther from 500 years ago. On that occasion, Lutherans and Catholics will have the opportunity to celebrate throughout the world a common ecumenical commemoration, to fight at the world level for fundamental questions, not -- as you yourself have just said -- under the form of a triumphant celebration, but as a common profession of our faith in the One and Triune God, in the common obedience to Our Lord and to his Word. We must attribute an important place to common prayer and to interior prayer addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of mutual wrongs and for the fault related to the divisions. Part of this purification of the conscience is the reciprocal exchange on the appraisal of the 1,500 years that preceded the Reformation, and which are common to us. For this we wish to implore together, in a constant way, the help of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to be able to take further steps toward the unity that we long for, and to not be satisfied with where we are now.

We are encouraged along this path also by this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It recalls for us the chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: "And they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). In these four acts and conduct the early Christians were constant, and therefore the community grew with Christ and from it flowed this "togetherness" of the men of Christ. This extraordinary and visible witness to the world, of the unity of the early Church could also be for us an incentive and norm for our common ecumenical path in the future.

In the hope that your visit will reinforce further the valid collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics in Germany, I implore for you all the grace of God and His abundant blessings.

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"Conversion to Christ Is the Way That Will Lead ... to Full Visible Unity"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

During these days, Jan. 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christians Unity is being observed. This year it has as its theme a passage from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, that sums up in a few words the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem: "They persevered in the teaching of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42). It is very significant that this [year's] theme was proposed by the Churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem, gathered together in an ecumenical spirit. We know how many trials the brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East have to face. Their service is thus still more precious, confirmed by the witness that, in certain cases, has ended in the sacrifice of life. So, while we welcome with joy the points of reflection offered by the communities that live in Jerusalem, we join with them and may this become for everyone a further builder of communion.

Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confront in the community of Corinth, as the second biblical reading for this Sunday recalled: "I exhort you brothers to be united in what you say so that there are not divisions among you, but be in perfect union of thought and feeling" (1:10). The Apostle, in fact, knew that in the Christian community of Corinth discord and division had sprung up; thus, with great firmness he adds: "Is Christ divided?" (1:13). Speaking in this way he acknowledges that every division in the Church is an offense to Christ; and, at the same time, that it is always in him, the one Head and Lord, that we can find unity among ourselves, by the inexhaustible power of his grace.

This is why the Gospel's summons is always relevant today: "Convert, because the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). The serious commitment to conversion to Christ is the way that will lead the Church, in the times disposed by God, to full visible unity. The ecumenical encounters that are increasing throughout the world are a sign of this. Here in Rome, besides various ecumenical delegations being present, tomorrow will begin a session of the Commission for Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches. And the day after tomorrow, the Week of Prayer for Unity Among Christians will conclude with the solemn celebration of the vespers of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, always accompany us along this path.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted to the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. In the liturgy today, we hear of the generous response of the first disciples to the call of Christ. May each of us continually recognize the call of the Lord in our own lives and engage in the work of evangelization without fear or reluctance. Entrusting you to the care of Mary, Mother of the Church, I invoke upon you and your families God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[At the end of the greetings, he said in Italian:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week!

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Benedict XVI's Address to Tribunal of the Roman Rota
"The Right to Contract Marriage Presupposes That One Can Marry"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in audience the judges, officials and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.


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Dear Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota!

I am delighted to meet with you for this annual gathering on the occasion of the beginning of the judicial year. A cordial greeting to the College of Prelate Auditors, beginning with the dean, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, whom I thank for his polite words. A salute the officials, the lawyers and the other collaborators of this tribunal, and all present. This moment permits me the opportunity of renewing my esteem for the work that you do in the service of the Church and to encourage you to an ever greater commitment in such a delicate and important sector for pastoral care and the "salus animarum."

The relationship between law and pastoral care was at the center of the postconciliar debate over canon law. The well known statement of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, according to which "it is not true that to be more pastoral the law must make itself less juridical" (Allocution of the Roman Rota, Jan. 18, 1990, No. 4: AAS 82 [1990], p. 874) expresses the radical overcoming of apparent opposition. "The juridical dimension and the pastoral dimension," he said, "are inseparably united in the pilgrim Church on this earth. First of all, there is their harmony that derives from their common finality: the salvation of souls" (ibid.).

In my first meeting with you in 2006, I tried to show the authentic pastoral meaning of the processes of the annulment of marriage, based on love of the truth (cf. Allocution to the Roman Rota, Jan. 28, 2006: AAS 98 [2006], pp. 135-138). Today I would like to pause to consider the juridical dimension that is inherent in the pastoral activity of preparation and admission to marriage, to try to shed light on the connection between such activity and the judicial matrimonial processes.

The canonical dimension of the preparation for marriage is not perhaps an immediately obvious element. In effect, on the one hand we observe how in the courses of preparation for marriage, the canonical questions occupy a very modest place, if not insignificant, insofar as we tend to think that the future spouses have a very minimal interest in questions that are reserved for specialists. On the other hand, while not neglecting any of the necessities of the juridical activities that precede marriage, ready to accept that "nothing be opposed to its valid and licit celebration" (CIC, Canon 1066), there is a widespread belief according to which the examination of the spouses, the marriage banns and the other appropriate measures taken in the necessary pre-matrimonial investigations (cf. ibid., Canon 1067), among which are the marriage preparation courses, are merely formal obligations. In fact, it is often thought that in admitting couples to marriage, pastors must proceed with generosity since the natural right of the persons to marry is in play.

It is a good thing, then, to reflect on the juridical dimension of marriage itself. It is an issue that I have touched on in the context of reflection on the truth about marriage, in which I stated, among other things, that: "[w]ith regard to the subjective and libertarian relativizing of the sexual experience, the Church's tradition clearly affirms the natural juridical character of marriage, that is, the fact that it belongs by nature to the context of justice in interpersonal relations. In this perspective, the law is truly interwoven with life and love as one of the intrinsic obligations of its existence" (Allocution to the Roman Rota, Jan. 27, 2007, AAS 99 [2007], p. 90). Thus, there are not [two different kinds of marriage:] an existential marriage ("matrimonio della vita") and a legal marriage: there is only one marriage, which is constitutively a real juridical bond between the man and the woman, a bond upon which the authentic conjugal dynamic of life and love rests. The marriage celebrated by the spouses, the one that pastoral care concerns itself with and that which canonical doctrine focuses on, are a single natural and salvific reality, whose richness certainly permits a variety of approaches, without however losing its essential identity. The juridical aspect is essentially linked to the essence of marriage. This is understood in the light of a non-positivistic notion of law, but considered in the perspective of the relational character of justice.

The right to marriage, or "ius connubii," must be seen from this perspective. It is not, therefore, a subjective pretense that must be satisfied by pastors through a mere formal recognition, independently of the actual content of the union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that one can marry, and one intends to authentically celebrate marriage, that is, to do so in the truth of its essence as it is taught by the Church. No one can boast of a right to a nuptial ceremony. The "ius connubii," in fact, refers to the right to celebrate a real marriage. The "ius connubii," therefore, is not being denied where it is evident that the premises for its exercise are not present, that is, if the requested capacity to wed is manifestly lacking, or an objective is sought that is contrary to the natural reality of marriage.

In this regard I would like to reaffirm what I wrote after the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist: "Given the complex cultural context which the Church today encounters in many countries, the synod also recommended devoting maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honoring (cf. Proposition 40). The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself" (Post-Synodal Exhortation "Sacramentum caritatis," Feb. 22, 2007, No. 29: AAS 99 [2007], p. 130).

Preparation for marriage, in its various phases described by Pope John Paul II in the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris consortio," certainly has its purposes that transcend the juridic dimension, since its horizon is constituted by the whole good, human and Christian, of the couple and their future children (cf. no. 66: AAS 73 [1981], pp. 159-162), definitively directed to the holiness of their life (cf. CIC, can. 1063, No. 2). Nevertheless, we must never forget that the immediate objective of such preparation is that of promoting the free celebration of an authentic marriage, that is, the constituting of a bond of justice and love between the couple, with the characteristics of unity and indissolubility, ordained to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children, and which between baptized persons constitutes one of the sacraments of the New Covenant. With this an extrinsic ideological message is not addressed to the couple, much less is a cultural model imposed; rather the betrothed are made able to discover the truth of a natural inclination and a capacity for commitment that is inscribed in the being of their man-woman relationship. Law as an essential component of the matrimonial relation flows from here; it is rooted in a natural power of the couple that is actualized in consensual self-giving. Reason and faith concur to illuminate this truth of life but it must be clear in any case that, as the Venerable John Paul II taught, "the Church does not refuse the matrimonial celebration to those who are well-disposed, even if imperfectly prepared from the supernatural point of view, so long as the person has the right intention to wed according to the natural reality of marriage" (Allocution to the Roman Rota, Jan. 30, 2003, No. 8: AAS 95 [2003], p. 397). On this view, a special care must accompany the marriage preparation whether it be remote, proximate or immediate (cf. John Paul II, apostolic exhortation "Familiaris consortio," Nov. 22, 1981, No. 66: AAS 73 [1981], pp. 159-162)

Among the means for judging that the plan of the engaged couple is really conjugal, there is the pre-marriage examination. This examination has a principally juridical purpose: to judge that nothing is opposed to the valid and licit celebration of the marriage. To say that it is juridical is not to say that it is formalistic, as if it were a bureaucratic task consisting in filling out a form based on the answers to set questions. It is rather a unique pastoral event -- to be valued for all the seriousness and attention that it demands -- in which, through a dialogue full of respect and cordiality, the pastor tries to help the person seriously place himself before the truth about himself and his human and Christian vocation to marriage. In this case the dialogue, always conducted with man and woman separately -- without diminishing the importance of other conversations with the couple -- requires a climate full of sincerity in which their must be an emphasis on the fact that those entering into the contract are the ones primarily concerned and primarily obligated in conscience to celebrate a valid matrimony.

In this way, with the various means at our disposal for a sound preparation and verification, we can develop effective pastoral care aimed at preventing matrimonial annulments. We must do our best to break -- to the extent that it is possible -- the vicious circle that often exists between a careless admission to marriage, without adequate preparation and a serious examination of the necessary requirements for its celebration, and judicial declaration sometimes just as careless, but opposite in significance, in which the same marriage is considered null solely on the basis of the claim of its failure. It is true that not all the causes of a future declaration of nullity can be identified or manifested in the preparation for the marriage, but, at the same time, it would not be right to block access to marriage on the basis of unfounded presumptions, such as that as holding that in today's world people are generally incapable of marriage or only have an apparent desire for it. In light of this it is evidently important that there be a more acute awareness of the responsibility that those charged with the care of souls have in these matters. Canon law in general, and that dealing with marriage and trials in particular, certainly demands a special preparation, but a knowledge of the basic and the immediately practical aspects of Canon Law, relative to our proper functions, constitutes a formative exigency of fundamental relevance for all pastoral workers, in particular for those who are engaged in the pastoral care of families.

All of this requires, further, that the conduct of ecclesiastical tribunals send a univocal message about what is essential to marriage in harmony with the magisterium and Canon Law, speaking with one voice. Seeing the necessity of the unity of jurisprudence entrusted to this Tribunal, the other ecclesiastical tribunals must conform to the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota (cf. John Paul II, Allocution to Roman Rota, Jan. 17, 1998, No. 4: AAS 90 [1998], p. 783). Recently I insisted on the necessity of ruling rightly about the causes related to consensual incapacity (cf. Allocution to the Roman Rota, Jan. 29, 2009: AAS 101 [2009], pp. 124-128). The question continues to be quite relevant and unfortunately incorrect positions persist, such as that of identifying the discretion of judgment required for marriage (cf. CIC, Canon 1095, No. 2) with the prudence expected in the decision to marry, thus confusing a question of capacity with another that does not touch validity, since it concerns the degree of practical wisdom with which a decision is made that is, in any case, matrimonial. Graver still would be the misunderstanding if one were to attribute invalidating efficaciousness to imprudent choices made in the marriage.

In the sphere of nullity created by the exclusion of the essential goods of marriage (cf. ibid. can. 1101, No. 2) a serious commitment is necessary, moreover, so that the judicial rulings reflect the truth about marriage, the same truth that must illuminate admission to marriage. I am thinking, in a special way, of the exclusion of the "bonum coniugum." In relation to the this exclusion the same danger that threatens the correct application of the norms dealing with incapacity seems to repeat itself, and, that is, looking for the causes of nullity in the behaviors that do not regard the constitution of the bond but rather its realization in life. We must resist the temptation to transform the simple failures of the spouses in the conjugal life into defects of consent. True exclusion can only manifest itself when the ordination to the good of the spouses is harmed (cf. ibid., Canon 1055, No. 1), excluded with a positive act of the will. Without a doubt the cases in which there is a failure to recognize the other as a spouse are an exception. This occurs when the essential ordination of the community of conjugal life is excluded from the good of the other. The clarification of these hypotheses about the exclusion of the "bonum coniugum" must be carefully assessed by the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota.

In concluding these reflections of mine, I turn to consider the relationship between law and pastoral care. It is often the object of misunderstandings, to the detriment of law, but also to the detriment of pastoral work. On the contrary, it is necessary to promote in all sectors, and in a special way in that of marriage and the family, profound harmony between the pastoral and the juridical, which will certainly show itself to be fruitful for those who approach marriage.

Dear members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, I entrust all of you to the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that you never lack divine assistance in carrying out your daily labors with fidelity, the spirit of service and with fruitfulness, and I gladly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Rome's Police
"The Time in Which We Live Is Suffused With Profound Changes"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the directors and officers of the Police Headquarters in Rome.

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Illustrious Mr. Quaestor,
Illustrious Directors and Officials,
Dear Agents and Civil Personnel of the State Police!

I am truly happy about this meeting with you and I welcome you in the House of Peter, this time not for service, but to see, speak and greet one another in a more familiar way! I greet in particular Mr. Quaestor, thanking him for his courteous words, as well as the other directors and the chaplain. A cordial greeting to your families, especially the children!

I would like to thank you, first of all, for all the work you do in favor of the city of Rome, of which I am bishop, so that its life unfolds in order and security. I express my gratitude also for that extra commitment that often my activity requires of you! The time in which we live is suffused with profound changes. Even Rome, which is rightly called the "Eternal City," is very changed and evolves; we experience this every day and you are its privileged witnesses. These changes at times generate a sense of insecurity, due in the first place to the social and economic precariousness, made acute also by a certain weakening of the perception of ethical principles on which the law and personal moral attitudes are founded, which always give strength to those regulations.

Our world, with all its new hopes and possibilities, is suffused at the same time by the impression that moral consent is failing and that, as a consequence, the structures at the base of coexistence no longer succeed in functioning fully. Hence, in many the temptation appears of thinking that the forces mobilized for the defense of civil society are in the end destined to failure. In face of this temptation, we, who are Christians, have a particular responsibility to reawaken a new resoluteness in professing the faith and in doing good, to continue with courage to be close to men in their joys and sufferings, in happy hours as in those of darkness of earthly existence.

In our days, great importance is given to the subjective dimension of existence. On one hand, it is a good, because it makes possible to put man and his dignity at the center of consideration whether in thought or in historic action. One must never forget, however, that man finds his most profound dignity in the loving look of God, in reference to him. Attention to the subjective dimension is also a good when the value of the human conscience is put in evidence. However, here we find a grave risk, because developed in modern thought is a reductive vision of conscience, according to which there are no objective references in determining what is worthwhile and what is true, but it is the single individual, with his intuitions and experiences, who is the meter of measure; each one, hence, has his own truth, his own morality. The most evident consequence is that religion and morality tend to be confined in the ambit of the individual, of the private: that is, faith with its values and conduct is no longer to have a right and a place in public and civil life. Therefore, if on one hand great importance is given in society to pluralism and tolerance, on the other, religion tends to be progressively marginalized and considered irrelevant and, in a certain sense, foreign to the civil world, almost as if it should limit its influence on man's life.

On the contrary, for us Christians, the true meaning of "conscience" is man's capacity to recognize the truth and, the possibility prevails again of hearing its claim, of seeking it and finding it. It so happens that man is able to open himself to the truth and to the good, to be able to receive them freely and consciously. Moreover, the human person is an expression of a plan of love and truth: God has "projected" the person, so to speak, with his interiority, with his conscience, so that it can draw the guidelines to protect and cultivate himself and human society.

The new challenges which appear on the horizon exact that God and man again encounter one another, that society and public institutions find their "soul" again, their spiritual and moral roots, to give a new consistency to ethical and juridical values of reference and, hence, to practical action. The Christian faith and the Church do not cease to offer their own contribution to the promotion of the common good and of a genuinely human progress. The religious service itself and of spiritual assistance that -- in the strength of the normative dispositions in force -- state and Church are committed to furnish also to the personnel of the state police, witnesses the perennial fruitfulness of this meeting.

The singular vocation of the city of Rome requires from you today who are public officials, to give a good example of positive and profitable interaction between healthy laicism and Christian faith. The effectiveness of your service, in fact, is the fruit of the combination between professionalism and human quality, between the updating of means and systems of security and human gifts such as patience, perseverance in goodness, sacrifice and the willingness to listen. All this, well harmonized, goes in favor of the citizens, especially of persons in difficulty. Always be able to consider man as the end, so that all can live in a genuinely human way. As bishop of this city, I would like to invite you to read and meditate the Word of God, to find in it the source and the criterion of inspiration for your action.

Dear friends! When you are in service on the streets of Rome, and in your offices, think that your bishop, the Pope, prays for you, who loves you! I thank you for your visit, and entrust all to the protection of Mary Most Holy and of the Archangel St. Michael, your heavenly protector, while I impart from my heart to you and on your commitment a special Apostolic Blessing.

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On Praying for Christian Unity
"Prayer Has Always Been the Constant Attitude of the Disciples of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his address, the Pope centered his meditation on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is being held these days with the theme "They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in which all believers in Christ are invited to join in prayer to witness the profound bond that exists among them and to invoke the gift of full communion. Providential is the fact that prayer is placed at the center of the path to build unity: this reminds us, once again, that unity cannot be a simple product of human action; it is above all a gift of God, which entails growth in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Vatican Council II states "[t]hese prayers in communion are, without a doubt, a very effective means to implore the grace of unity and constitute a genuine manifestation of the bonds with which Catholics remain united with the separated brethren: 'For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matthew18:20)" ("Decree Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 8). The path to visible unity among all Christians resides in prayer, because fundamentally we do not "build" unity, but it is "built" by God, it comes from Him, from the Trinitarian Mystery, from the unity of the Father with the Son in the dialogue of love which is the Holy Spirit and our ecumenical effort should be open to divine action, it must be a daily invocation of God's help. The Church is His and not ours.

The theme chosen this year for the Week of Prayer makes reference to the experience of the early Christian community of Jerusalem, just as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles (we have heard the text): "And they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). We must consider that already at the moment of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on persons of different language and culture: this means that the Church embraces from the beginning people of different origins and, yet, precisely from these differences the Spirit creates one body. Pentecost, as the beginning of the Church, marks the enlargement of God's Covenant with all creatures, with all peoples at all times, so that the whole of creation will walk towards its true objective: to be a place of unity and love.

In the passage quoted from the Acts of the Apostles, four characteristics define the early Christian community of Jerusalem as a place of unity and love, and St. Luke does not wish to describe only an event of the past. He offers it to us as model, as norm for the present Church, because these four characteristics must always constitute the life of the Church. The first characteristic is to be united in listening to the teachings of the Apostles, in fraternal communion, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer. As I already mentioned, these four elements are still today the pillars of the life of every Christian community and constitute just one solid foundation on which to base our search for the visible unity of the Church.

First of all we have listening to the teaching of the Apostles, that is, listening to the testimony that they give of the mission, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is what Paul calls simply the "Gospel." The first Christians received the Gospel from the mouth of the Apostles, they were united to hear it and to proclaim it, since the Gospel, as Saint Paul affirms, "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Romans 1:16). Still today, the community of believers recognizes, in the reference to the teaching of the Apostles, their own norm of faith: every effort made for the building of unity between Christians passes through the deepening of fidelity to the depositum fidei which the Apostles transmit to us. Firmness in the faith is the basis of our communion, it is the basis of Christian unity.

The second element is fraternal communion. In the times of the early Christian community, as also in our days, this is the most tangible expression, above all for the outside world, of the unity among the disciples of the Lord. We read in the Acts of the Apostles -- we have heard it -- that the first Christians held everything in common and that those who had properties and goods sold them to distribute to the needy (cf. Acts 2:44-45). This communion of their goods has found, in the history of the Church, new forms of expression. One of these, in particular, is that of the fraternal relationship and friendship built between Christians of different confessions. The history of the ecumenical movement is marked by difficulties and uncertainties, but it is also a history of fraternity, of cooperation and of human and spiritual communion, which has changed in a significant way the relations between believers in the Lord Jesus: we are all committed to continue on this path. Hence, the second element is communion which is, first of all, communion with God through faith, but communion with God creates communion among ourselves and is translated necessarily into the concrete communion of which the Acts of the Apostles speak, that is, full communion. No one should be hungry in the Christian community, no one should be poor: it is a fundamental obligation. Communion with God, made flesh in fraternal communion, is translated, concretely, in social effort, in Christian charity, in justice.

Third element. Essential also in the life of the early community of Jerusalem was the moment of the breaking of the bread, in which the Lord himself makes himself present with the only sacrifice of the Cross in his giving himself completely for the life of his friends: "This is my Body given in sacrifice for you ... this is the chalice of my Blood ... shed for you." "The Church lives from the Eucharist. This truth does not express only a daily experience of faith, but encloses in synthesis the nucleus of the mystery of the Church" (Encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 1). Communion in Christ's sacrifice is the culmination of our union with God and therefore also represents the plenitude of the unity of the disciples of Christ, full communion. During this Week of Prayer for Unity the lament is particularly alive due to the impossibility of sharing the same Eucharistic table, sign that we are still far from the realization of that unity for which Christ prayed. This painful experience, which confers a penitential dimension to our prayer, must become the motive for a still more generous effort, on the part of all, in order that, eliminating all the obstacles for full communion, the day will come in which it will be possible to gather around the table of the Lord, to break the Eucharistic bread together and all drink from the same chalice.

Finally, prayer, or as St. Luke says, "the prayers," is the fourth characteristic of the early Church of Jerusalem described in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Prayer has always been the constant attitude of the disciples of Christ, what supports their daily lives in obedience to the will of God, as attested to us also by the words of the Apostle Paul, who writes to the Thessalonians in his first letter "[r]ejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Ephesians 6:18). Christian prayer, participation in Jesus' prayer is par excellence a filial experience, as attested to us in the words of the Our Father, prayer of the family -- the "we" of the children of God, of the brothers and sisters -- that speaks to a common Father. To be in an attitude of prayer, hence, implies being open to fraternity. Only in the "we" can we say the Our Father. Let us open ourselves to fraternity which stems from being children of the one heavenly Father and hence disposed to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Dear brothers and sisters, as disciples of the Lord we have a common responsibility to the world, we must carry out a common service: as the first Christian community of Jerusalem, beginning from what we already share, we must give a strong witness, founded spiritually and supported by reason, of the only God who has revealed Himself and who speaks to us in Christ, to be bearers of a message that directs and illumines the path of the man of our time, often deprived of clear and valid points of reference. Hence, it is important to grow each day in mutual love, committing ourselves to overcome those barriers that still exist among Christians; to feel that a true interior unity exists among all those who follow the Lord; to collaborate as much as possible, working together on the questions that are still open; and above all, to be conscious that in this itinerary the Lord must assist us, he still has to help us much because, without Him, alone, without "abiding in Him," we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5).

Dear friends, once again it is in prayer where we find ourselves gathered -- particularly during this week -- together with all those who confess their faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God: let us persevere in it, let us be people of prayer, imploring from God the gift of unity, so that his plan of salvation and reconciliation will be fulfilled in the whole world. Thank you!


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, all the Lord's followers are asked to implore the gift of full communion. This year's theme -- "They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42) -- invites us to reflect on four pillars of unity found in the life of the early Church. The first is fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by the Apostles. The second is fraternal communion, a contemporary expression of which is seen in the growing ecumenical friendship among Christians. The third is the breaking of the bread; although the inability of separated Christians to share the same Eucharistic table is a reminder that we are still far from the unity which Christ wills for his disciples, it is also an incentive to greater efforts to remove every obstacle to that unity. Finally, prayer itself helps us realize that we are children of the one heavenly Father, called to forgiveness and reconciliation. During this Week, let us pray that all Christians will grow in fidelity to the Gospel, in fraternal unity and in missionary zeal, in order to draw all men and women into the saving unity of Christ's Church.

I offer a warm welcome to the students and staff of the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies. I thank the choir from Finland for their praise of God in song. To all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, including those from Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope to Delegation of Lutheran Church of Finland
"That the Spirit of Truth Will Lead Us to an Ever Greater Love and Fraternity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in audience an ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church of Finland, on the occasion of its annual pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the feast of St. Henrik of Uppsala, the country's patron.

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Excellencies!
Dear Friends from Finland!

With great joy I welcome you on the occasion of your annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the feast of St. Henrik, patron of your beloved land. Every year, in this period, your traditional pilgrimage attests to the sincere, friendly and collaborative relations which have been established between Lutherans and Catholics and, in general, between all Christians of your country.

Although we have yet to attain the objective of the ecumenical movement or the full unity of the faith, many elements of agreement and rapprochement have matured, which reinforce us in our general desire to fulfill the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ "[t]hat all may be one" (John 17:21). A recently achieved result worthy of attention is the final report on the question of justification in the life of the Church. This report was written by the group of Nordic Catholic-Lutheran dialogue in Finland and Sweden, whose members held meetings during last year.

In theology and in the faith everything is united; hence a greater and profound common understanding will also help us to understand better, together, the nature of the Church and, as mentioned, the episcopal ministry, so that the unity of the Church can be found in a concrete way and thus be able to explain the faith to the men of today who question themselves, and make it more comprehensible, so that they see that He is the answer, that Christ is the Redeemer of us all. Therefore, our hope is alive that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, many diligent and competent persons who work in the ecumenical realm, will be able to make their contribution to the achievement of this great ecumenical endeavor always guided by the Holy Spirit.

This said, it is understood that the efficacy of our efforts cannot come solely from study and debate but depends above all on our constant prayer, on our life in keeping with the will of God, because ecumenism is not our work but the fruit of God's action.

At the same time, we are conscious of the fact that, in the last years, the ecumenical path has become, from some points of view, more difficult and certainly more exacting. Questions will be posed in regard to the method and ecumenical achievements of the last years, in addition to the uncertainty of the future, the problems of our time with faith in general.

From this perspective, your annual pilgrimage to Rome for the feast of St. Henrik is considered an important event, a sign and reinforcement of our ecumenical efforts, and of our certainty that we must walk together and that Christ is the way for humanity. Your pilgrimage helps us to look back with joy to see what has been achieved up to now and to look to the future with the desire of assuming a task full of responsibility and faith. On the occasion of your visit we all wish to strengthen our belief that the Holy Spirit, who awakens us, supports us and has made the ecumenical movement fruitful, will continue to do so in the future.

I firmly hope that your visit to Rome will strengthen the future collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics, between all the Christians of Finland. In view of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we want to pray so that the spirit of truth will lead us to an ever greater love and fraternity. May God give you his abundant blessings in this New Year that has just begun.

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Papal Address to Polish Ecclesiastical Institute
"Deepen Your Intellectual and Spiritual Preparation"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Monday upon receiving in audience members of the community from the Pontifical Polish Ecclesiastical Institute in Rome on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation.

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

It is with great joy that I receive you in the Apostolic Palace and I give you my cordial welcome. I greet you, monsignor rector, and all the community of the Pontifical Polish Ecclesiastical Institute, as well as the guests. In a particular way, I thank Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski for the significant words he addressed to me on behalf of all those present.

What has brought you here, to meet the Successor of Peter and to be confirmed in the faith and in your membership in the Church, is a happy circumstance rightly very dear to you: the centenary of the foundation of this worthy institution. Stemming from the illumined intuition and wonderful initiative of St. Jozef Sebastian Pelczar, then bishop of Przemysl, it initiated its history already during the pontificate of St. Pius X, to whom the foundation plan was presented. On May 13, 1909, the same Pope approved the request of Polish bishops and on March 19, 1910, with the religious decree "Polonae Gentis," the Polish Hospice was erected. It was solemnly inaugurated on Nov. 13, 1910, by Monsignor Sapieha, who became afterward cardinal archbishop of Krakow. Thus the institute was able to enjoy in the course of the years the solicitude and affection of several Pontiffs, among whom we recall, closer to us, the Servant of God Paul VI and, of course, the future blessed, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, who visited it in 1980 and stressed its great significance for the Church and the Polish people.

The celebration of the first centenary of this important institution constitutes a valid call to the rightful and grateful remembrance of those who gave it its beginning with faith, courage and effort; a call, at the same time, to the responsibility of carrying forward today the original aim, adapting it opportunely to the new situations. Above all is the commitment to maintain alive the spirit of the institution: its religious and ecclesial spirit, which responds to the providential divine plan to offer Polish priests an ideal environment for study and fraternity, during the period of formation in Rome.

Of this pontifical institute, which witnessed so many significant events for the Church in Poland, you are now also a part, dear student priests that, arriving in the heart of Christianity, desire seriously to deepen your intellectual and spiritual preparation, to carry out in the best way all the tasks of responsibility which in the course of time will be entrusted to you by your bishops for the service of the People of God. See yourselves as "living stones", an important part of this history which today also requires your personal and incisive response, offering your generous contribution, as offered in the course of the Vatican Council II, by the unforgettable primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who precisely in the Polish Institute had the opportunity to prepare the celebration of the millennium of Poland's baptism and the historic message of reconciliation that the Polish bishops addressed to the German prelates, containing the famous words: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness."

The Church needs well prepared priests, rich in that wisdom that is acquired in friendship with the Lord Jesus, drawing constantly from the Eucharistic table and from the inexhaustible source of his Gospel. From these two irreplaceable sources know how to draw the constant support and necessary inspiration for your life and your ministry, for a sincere love of the truth that today you are called to deepen also through study and scientific research and that you will be able to share tomorrow with many. The search for truth, for you that as priests live this peculiar Roman experience, is stimulated and enriched by the closeness to the Apostolic See, which must give a specific and universal service to the Catholic communion in truth and in charity. To remain close to Peter, in the heart of the Church, means to acknowledge, full of gratitude, that you are within a multi-secular and fruitful history of salvation, which by a manifold grace has reached you and in which you are called to participate actively so that, as a luxuriant tree, you will always bear precious fruits.

May love and devotion to the figure of Peter drive you to serve generously the communion of the whole Catholic Church and of your particular Churches, so that, as one great family, all can learn to recognize in Christ the way, the truth, and the life, the face of the merciful Father, who does not wish any of his children to be lost.

Venerable and dear brothers, I entrust you all to the Virgin Mary, so loved by the Polish people. Invoke her always as mother of your priesthood, so that she will accompany you on the path of life and attract to your present and future ministry the abundance of gifts of the Holy Spirit. May Mary help you to persevere with joyful fidelity in the grace and commitment to follow Jesus, and to nurture constantly a fruitful dedication to your daily work and to those that the Lord puts close to you

I impart from my heart to all of you, as well as to your families and to your dear ones, a special apostolic blessing. May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Neocatechumenal Way
"Feel Beside You the Living Presence of the Risen Lord"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Italian upon receiving in audience members of the Neocatechumenal Way.

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Dear Friends!

I am happy to receive you and to give you my cordial welcome. I greet in particular Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernández, initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, and Father Mario Pezzi, thanking them for their words of greeting and presentation which they addressed to me. With heartfelt affection I greet all of you here present: priests, seminarians, families and members of the Way.

I thank the Lord because he gives us the opportunity of this meeting, in which you renew your bond with the Successor of Peter, taking up the mandate that the Risen Christ gave to his disciples: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

For more than 40 years the Neocatechumenal Way has been contributing to revive and consolidate Christian initiation in the dioceses and parishes, fostering a gradual and radical rediscovery of the riches of baptism, helping to the divine life, the heavenly life that the Lord inaugurated with his Incarnation, coming in our midst, being born as one of us. This gift of God for his Church is placed "at the service of the bishop as one of the ways of the diocesan accomplishment of Christian initiation and of permanent education in the faith" (Statute, art. 1 paragraph 2). Such service, as my predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI reminded you in the first meeting he had with you in 1974, "will be able to renew, in today's Christian community, those effects of maturity and deepening which in the early Church were realized in the period of preparation for Baptism" (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII [1974], 406).

Accomplished profitably in the last few years has been the process of writing of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way that, after a period of validity "ad experimentum," was approved definitively in June 2008. Another significant step carried out in these days, with the approval of the competent dicasteries of the Holy See, is the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way. With these ecclesiastical seals, the Lord confirms today and entrusts to you again this precious instrument that is the Way, so that you can, in filial obedience to the Holy See and to the pastors of the Church, contribute, with new impetus and ardor, to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of baptism and to offer your original contribution to the cause of the New Evangelization. The Church has recognized in the Neocatechumenal Way a particular gift aroused by the Holy Spirit: as such, it tends naturally to insert itself in the great harmony of the ecclesial body. In this light, I exhort you to seek always a profound communion with the pastors and with all the components of the particular Churches and the very different ecclesial contexts in which you are called to operate. The fraternal communion between the disciples of Jesus is, in fact, the first and greatest testimony to the name of Jesus Christ.

I am particularly happy to be able to send today, to different parts of the world, more than 200 new families, who have made themselves available with the generosity and leave for the mission, joining ideally the close to 600 who already work in the five continents. Dear families, may the faith you received as gift be the light that is placed in the candelabrum, capable of showing men the way to Heaven. With the same sentiment, I will send 13 new "missiones ad gentes," which will be called to bring about a new ecclesial presence in the very secularized environment of different countries, or in places where the message of Christ has not yet reached. You can always feel beside you the living presence of the Risen Lord and the support of so many brothers, as well as the Pope's prayer which is with you!

I greet affectionately the presbyters from the "Redemptoris Mater" diocesan seminaries of Europe, and the other two thousand seminarians here present. Beloved, you are a special and eloquent sign of the fruits of goodness that can be born from the rediscovery of the grace of Baptism itself. We look to you with particular hope: be priests enamored of Christ and his Church, capable of transmitting to the world the joy of having encountered the Lord and of being able to be at his service.

I also greet the itinerant catechists and those of the Neocatechumenal community of Rome and Lazio and, with special affection, the "communitates in missionem." You have abandoned, so to speak, the securities of your original community to go to more distant and uncomfortable places, accepting being sent to help parishes in difficulty and to seek the lost sheep and bring them back to the sheepfold of Christ. In the sufferings and aridity that you might experience, feel united to the sufferings of Christ on the cross, and to his desire to gather so many brothers far from the faith and from truth, to bring them back to the house of the Father.

As I wrote in the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," "the mission of the Church cannot be considered as an optional or additional reality of ecclesial life. It is a question of letting the Holy Spirit assimilate us to Christ himself [...] in order to communicate the Word with one's whole life" (No. 93). The whole People of God is a "sent" people and the proclamation of the Gospel is a commitment of all Christians as a consequence of baptism (cf. ibid., No. 94). I invite you to reflect on the exhortation "Verbum Domini," reflecting, in a particular way where, in the third part of the document, mention is made of "[t]he mission of the Church: to proclaim the Word of God to the world" (No. 90-98).

Dear friends, let us share in the longing of salvation of the Lord Jesus, in the mission that He entrusts to the whole Church. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who inspired your Way and who has given you the family of Nazareth as model of your community, grant you to live your faith in humility, simplicity and praise, may she intercede for all of you and accompany you in your mission. May you also be sustained by my blessing, which I impart to you from my heart and to all the members of the Neocatechumenal Way spread around the world.

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Pontiff's New Year's Greetings to Vatican Security
They "Watch Over the Vatican Day and Night ... as Guardian Angels"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Italian upon receiving in audience the members of the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican for a traditional meeting that takes place every year in January for the exchange of New Year greetings.

* * *

Dear Officials and Agents! I am happy to receive you, in keeping with the good custom, for the reciprocal exchange of good wishes for the New Year. I address to each one my cordial welcome and my affectionate greeting, which I gladly extend to your respective families and colleagues who were unable to participate in this meeting, because they are engaged in their daily service to guarantee the security of St. Peter's Square, of the surroundings and of the other areas belonging to the Vatican.

I wish to address a particular well-wishing greeting to the director general, Dr. Raffaele Aiello, who since a few weeks has been at the head of your Inspectorate. I thank him for the courteous expressions he addressed to me, also in the name of those present and of the representatives of those central and peripheral structures of the Interior Ministry that cooperate with you, in a spirit of service and willing availability.

I address moreover my deferent greeting to Dr. Antonio Manganelli, the police chief, to the prefect, Salvatore Festa, to the other officials and directors, as well as the chaplains, renewing also in the name of my collaborators, my heartfelt gratitude for the precious work of that Inspectorate of Public Security.

I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the commitment and professionalism with which the officials and agents of the state police, watch over the Vatican day and night, almost as "guardian angels," guaranteeing the necessary security and placing themselves at the service of pilgrims. This work of vigilance, which you carry out with diligence and solicitude to protect the public order, is certainly considerable and delicate: it requires at times not a little patience, perseverance, sacrifice and willingness to listen. It is a service all the more useful to the tranquil and safe unfolding of the spiritual and religious manifestations that take place, especially in St. Peter's Square.

May your significant presence in the heart of Christianity, where crowds of faithful constantly arrive to meet the Successor of Peter and to visit the tombs of the Apostles, increasingly arouse in each one of you the resolution to revive the spiritual dimension of life, as well as the commitment to deepen your Christian faith, witnessing it joyfully through consistent conduct.

In the Christmas period, just ended, the liturgy invited us to receive the Word who from the beginning was in the heart of the Father and whom he has given us, revealing his face in a Child. He is the Eternal who enters into time and fills it with his fullness; he is the light that illumines and lightens all those that are in darkness; he is the Son of God who brings salivation to humanity. Let us always receive him with trust and joy! He is presented to us by the Virgin Mary. She, as a solicitous Mother, watches over us. Turn frequently to her maternal intercession and entrust to her the year 2011 that has just begun, so that it will be for everyone a time of hope and peace.

With these sentiments, I invoke on you and your work the abundance of celestial gifts, while I impart to you from my heart a special apostolic blessing, which I gladly extend to your families and dear ones.

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World Day of Migrants and Refugees
"The Messiah, the Son of God Was a Refugee"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday is observed the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which every year invites us to reflect on the experience of many men and women, and many families, who leave their own country in search of better conditions of life. Sometimes this migration is voluntary, sometimes, unfortunately, it is forced by wars or persecutions, and it often happens -- as we know -- in dramatic conditions. Because of this the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was instituted 60 years ago. On the feast of the Holy Family, immediately after Christmas, we noted that even Jesus' parents had to flee their own land and take refuge in Egypt to save the life of their child: The Messiah, the Son of God was a refugee. The Church itself has always known migration. Sometimes, unfortunately, Christians feel forced to leave, with suffering, their land, thus impoverishing the country in which their ancestors lived. On the other hand, the voluntary movement of Christians, for various reasons, from one city to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another, are occasions to enhance the missionary dynamism of the Word of God and make the witness to faith circulate more in the mystical Body of Christ, crossing peoples and cultures, and reaching new frontiers, new environments.

"One single human family:" this is the theme of the message that I composed for today's observance. It is a theme that indicates the end, the goal of the great journey of humanity across the centuries: forming one family, naturally with all the differences that enrich it, but without walls, recognizing all as brothers. Thus says the Second Vatican Council: "All peoples constitute one single community. They have one origin since God made the whole human race inhabit the whole face of the earth" ("Nostra aetate," 1). The Church, the Council continues, "is in Christ as a sacrament, that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and the unity of the whole human race" ("Lumen gentium," 1). For this reason it is fundamental for Christians, although they are spread throughout the world and, therefore, different by culture and tradition, to be one, as the Lord wishes. This is the purpose of the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," which will take place in the next couple of days, Jan. 18-25. This year it is inspired by a passage from the Acts of the Apostles: "United in the doctrine of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42). The Octave of Christian Unity is preceded tomorrow by the Day of Jewish-Christian Dialogue: an important event which recalls the common roots that unite Jews and Christians.

In turning to the Virgin Mary, with the "Angelus" prayer, we entrust to her protection all migrants and those who give them pastoral care. May Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain for us, moreover, to make progress in the journey toward the full communion of all disciples in Christ.



© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Excerpt of Decree for John Paul II's Beatification
"Sign of the Depth of Faith and Invitation to a Fully Christian Life"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2011 - Here is an excerpt of the decree written by the Congregation for Saints' Causes regarding the beatification of Servant of God John Paul II, published today by Vatican Radio. The prefect of the saints' causes dicastery is Cardinal Angelo Amato.

The full text can be found on ZENIT's Web page: www.zenit.org/article-31459?l=english

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Beatification: Sign of the depth of faith and invitation to a fully Christian life

The proclamation of a Saint or of a Blessed by the Church is the fruit of putting together various aspects regarding a specific Person. First, it is an act which says something important in the life of the Church herself. It is linked to a "cult," i.e. to the memory of the person, to his full acknowledgment of him in the awareness of the ecclesial community, of the country, of the Universal Church in various countries, continents and cultures. Another aspect is the awareness that the "presentation on the altars" will be an important sign of the depth of the faith, of the diffusion of faith in the path of life of that person, and that this sign will become an invitation, a stimulus for us all towards a Christian life ever more profound and full. Finally, thesine qua non condition is the holiness of the person's life, verified during the precise and formal canonical proceedings. All this provides the material for the decision of the Successor of Peter, of the Pope in view of the proclamation of a Blessed or of a Saint, of the cult in the context of the ecclesial community and of its liturgy.

John Paul II's pontificate was an eloquent and clear sign, not only for Catholics, but also for world public opinion, for people of all color and creed. The world's reaction to his lifestyle, to the development of his apostolic mission, to the way he bore his suffering, to the decision to continue his Petrine mission to the end as willed by divine Providence, and finally, the reaction to his death, the popularity of the acclamation "Saint right now!" which someone made on the day of his funerals, all this has its solid foundation in the experience of having met with the person who was the Pope. The faithful have felt, have experienced that he is "God's man," who really sees the concrete steps and the mechanisms of contemporary world "in God," in God's perspective, with the eyes of a mystic who looks up to God only. He was clearly a man of prayer: so much so that it is from the dynamism of his personal union with God, from the permanent listening to what God wants to say in a concrete situation, that the whole of "Pope John Paul II's activity" flowed. Those who were closest to him have been able to see that, prior to his meetings with his guests, with Heads of State, with Church high officials or ordinary citizens, John Paul II would recollect himself in prayer according to the intentions of the guests and of the meeting that was to come.

1. Karol Wojtyla's contribution to Vatican II Council

After Vatican II, during the pontificates of Paul VI and of John Paul II, the manner of presentation, and thus of self-presentation of the papacy, has become quite expressive. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs published in 2004 a book entitled "Go Forth in the Whole World." Giancarlo Zizola, a "vaticanist," remarked on the fact that "the papacy has conquered its citizenship in the realm of public visibility, breaking away from the siege of worship marginalisation where it had been kept by decree of secular society, in the name of a militant vision of the liberal tenet of Separation of Church and State" (p. 17). A German historian, Jesuit Klaus Schatz, speaking of Paul VI and of John Paul II, underlined the meaning of the "papacy on the way" -- thus in conformity with Vatican II -- more in the manner of a missionary movement than as a static pole of unity. Schatz refers to the manner of interpreting the papal mission as a challenge to "confirm the brothers in the faith" (Luke 22:32), in a way tied to structural authority, but with a strong spiritual and charismatic hint, in link with the personal credibility and rooted in God himself.

Let us pause a moment to consider Vatican II. The young archbishop of Cracow was one of the most active Council Fathers. He made a significant contribution to the "Scheme XIII" which was to become the Pastoral Constitution of the Council "Gaudium et Spes" on the Church in the Modern World, and to the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium." Thanks to his studies abroad, bishop Wojtyla had a concrete experience of evangelisation and of the mission of the Church, in Western Europe or in other continents, but above all of totalitarian atheism in Poland and in the other countries of the "Soviet Block." He brought all this experience to the Council debates, which were certainly not like drawing-room conversations, extremely courteous but void of contents. Here was a substantial and decisive effort to insert the Gospel's dynamism into the conciliar enthusiasm rooted on the conviction that Christianity is capable of furnishing a "soul" to the development of modernity and to the reality of the social and cultural world.

All this was to be of use in preparing for the future responsibilities of the Successor of Peter. As John Paul II said, he already had in his mind his first encyclical, "Redemptor Hominis," and brought it to Rome from Cracow. All he had to do in Rome was to write down all these ideas. In this encyclical, there is a wide invitation to humankind to rediscover the reality of Redemption in Christ: "Man (…) remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer 'fully reveals man to himself.' [...] man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly 'expressed' and, in a way, is newly created. [...] The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly -- and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being -- he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must 'appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself (No. 10). [...]

"This union of Christ with man is in itself a mystery. From the mystery is born 'the new man,' called to become a partaker of God's life, and newly created in Christ for the fullness of grace and truth. [...] Man is transformed inwardly by this power as the source of a new life that does not disappear and pass away but lasts to eternal life. [...] This life, which the Father has promised and offered to each man in Jesus Christ (…) is in a way the fulfilment of the 'destiny' that God has prepared for him from eternity. This 'divine destiny' is advancing, in spite of all the enigmas, the unsolved riddles, the twists and turns of 'human destiny' in the world of time. Indeed, while all this, in spite of all the riches of life in time, necessarily and inevitably leads to the frontier of death and the goal of the destruction of the human body, beyond that goal we see Christ. 'I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me ... shall never die'" (No. 18).

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Full text of decree: www.zenit.org/article-31459?l=english

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Benedict XVI's Address to Mayor of Rome
"Original Cell of the Society Is the Family, Founded on Marriage Between a Man and Woman"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the mayor of Rome, Giovanni Alemanno, along with the administrators of the Lazio Region of the Municipality and Province of Rome, on the occasion of the traditional exchange of good wishes for the New Year.

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Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies!

Following a happy custom, this year also I have the pleasing occasion of meeting the representatives of the Institutions of the Lazio region, of the Municipality and of the Province of Rome. I thank the Honorable Renata Polverini, president of the Regional Junta of Lazio, the Honorable Giovanni Alemanno, mayor of Rome, and the Honorable Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Province of Rome, for the courteous words addressed to me on behalf of all. I return the cordial good wishes for the New Year to you, to the citizens of Rome and of the Province and to the inhabitants of Lazio, to whom I feel particularly linked as Bishop of this city, Successor of Peter.

Rome's singular vocation, center of Catholicism and capital of the Italian State, requires of our city that it be an example of fruitful and profitable collaboration between the public institutions and the ecclesial community. Such collaboration, in respect of the reciprocal competencies, is particularly urgent today because of the new challenges that appear on the horizon. The Church, particularly through the work of the lay faithful and of the associations of Catholic inspiration, wishes to continue to offer her contribution for the promotion of the common good and of genuinely human progress.

Original cell of the society is the family, founded on marriage between a man and woman. It is in the family that the children learn the human and Christian values that make possible constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and acceptance of the other is learned. It is in their own home that young people, experiencing the affection of their parents, discover what love is and learn to love. Hence, the family must be supported by organic policies that are not limited to propose solutions to contingent problems but have as their aim its consolidation and development and are accompanied by an adequate educational endeavor. At times, unfortunately, grave violent events occur, and some aspects of crisis of the family are amplified, caused by rapid social and cultural changes.

Also the approval of forms of union that pervert the essence and end of the family, ends by penalizing all those who, not without effort, are committed to living stable affective bonds, guaranteed juridically and recognized publicly. In this perspective, the Church looks favorably on all those initiatives that seek to educate young people to live love in the logic of the gift of self, with a lofty and oblative vision of sexuality. Serving this aim is an educational convergence between the different components of the society, so that human love is not reduced to an object to consume, but can be perceived and lived as a fundamental experience that gives meaning and purpose to existence.
The reciprocal giving of themselves of spouses bears with it openness to generation: the desire of paternity and maternity is in fact inscribed in man's heart. So many couples would like to receive the gift of new children, but they are driven to wait. Because of this, it is necessary to support maternity concretely, as well as to guarantee to women who are engaged in a profession the possibility of combining family and work. Too many times, in fact, they are placed in the necessity of choosing between the two. The development of adequate policies of help, as well as of structures destined for children, such as nurseries, also those run by families, could help to make the child not to be seen as a problem, but as a gift and great joy. Moreover, because "openness to life is at the center of true development" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 28), the high number of abortions that are practiced in our Region cannot leave one indifferent. The Christian community, through numerous "Family Homes," "Center of Help to Life" and other similar initiatives, is committed to support and give sustenance to women who are in difficulty in accepting a new life. Public institutions are able to offer their support so that Family Consultants are able to help women to surmount the causes that can induce them to interrupt their pregnancy. To this end, I express my appreciation for the law in force in the Lazio region that provides the so-called "family quotient" and considers the conceived child as a component of the family, and I hope that this norm will be fully accomplished. I am happy that the city of Rome has already undertaken its commitment in this direction.

On the other side of life, the aging of the population poses new problems. The elderly are a great richness for society. Their knowledge, their experience and their wisdom are a patrimony for young people, who are in need of teachers of life. If many elderly are able to count on the support and closeness of their family, the number is growing of those who find themselves in fragile conditions because of their age or precarious health. While I rejoice over the existing synergy with the great Catholic health realities -- as, for example, in the field of children, between the "Bambino Gesu" Hospital and the public institutions -- I hope that these structures will be able to continue to collaborate with the local entities to ensure their service to all those who turn to them, I renew the invitation to promote a culture that respects life until its natural end, in the awareness that "the measure of humanity is determined essentially in the relationship with suffering and the one who suffers" (Encyclical "Spe Salvi," No. 38).

In these last times, the serenity of our families is threatened by the grave and persistent economic crisis, and many families can no longer guarantee a sufficient tenor of life to their children. Through Caritas, our parishes spend themselves to help these family nucleuses, alleviating, in so far as possible, the hardships, and addressing the primary needs. I trust that adequate provisions will be adopted, geared to supporting low income families, particularly those that are numerous, too often penalized. To this is added every day a more dramatic problem. I am referring to the serious question of work. Young people in particular, who after years of preparation do not see work openings and the possibility of social insertion and of projection of the future, often feel disappointed and are tempted to reject society itself. The prolonging of similar situations causes social tensions, which are exploited by criminal organizations by proposing illicit activities. Hence, it is urgent that, despite the difficult moment, every effort be made to promote occupational policies, which can guarantee work and dignified sustenance, indispensable condition to give life to new families.

Dear Authorities, many are the problems that require a solution. May your commitment as administrators, who make an effort to collaborate together for the good of the community, always be able to consider man as an end, so that he can live in a genuinely human way. Hence, as Bishop of this city I would like to invite you to find in the Word of God the source of inspiration for your political and social action, in the "search for the true good of all, in the respect and promotion of the dignity of every person" (Post-Synodal Apostolic "ExhortationVerbum Domini," No. 101).

I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, above all for those who today begin their service to the common good, and while I invoke on your commitment the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Salus Populi Romani, I impart to you my heartfelt Blessing, which a gladly extend to the inhabitants of Rome, of its Province and of the whole of Lazio.

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On St. Catherine of Genoa
"Love Itself Purifies [the Soul] From Its Dross of Sin"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his address, continuing the series of catecheses on the saints, he reflected on the figure of St. Catherine of Genoa, of the 15th century.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today I would like to speak about another saint who, like Catherine of Siena and Catherine of Bologna, is also called Catherine; I am speaking of Catherine of Genoa, who is best known for her visions of purgatory.

The text that tells us about her life and thought was published in the Ligurian city in 1551; it is divided in three parts: "Vita," (Life) on her life itself; "Dimostratione et dechiaratione del purgatorio" (Demonstration and Declaration of Purgatory) -- better known as "Trattato" (Treatise on Purgatory); and "Dialogo tra l’anima e il corpo" (Dialogues on the Soul and Body).[1] The compiler of Catherine's work was her confessor, the priest Cattaneo Marabotto.

Catherine was born in Genoa in 1447, the last of five children. She lost her father, Giacomo Fieschi, when she was very young. Her mother, Francesca di Negro, educated them in a Christian way, so much so that the elder of her two daughters became a religious. At 16, Catherine was married to Giuliano Adorno, a man who, after several experiences in the area of trade and in the military world in the Middle East, had returned to Genoa to get married. Their conjugal life was not easy, above all because of the husband's character [and his] affection for games of chance. Catherine herself in the beginning was induced to lead a worldly life, in which she did not find serenity. After 10 years, she had a feeling of profound emptiness and bitterness in her heart.

Her conversion began on March 20, 1473, thanks to an unusual experience. Catherine went to the church of St. Benedict and to the monastery of Our Lady of Graces for confession and, kneeling before the priest, "I received," as she herself writes, "a wound in my heart of the immense love of God," and such a clear vision of her miseries and defects, and at the same time of the goodness of God, that she almost fainted. She was wounded in her heart by the knowledge of herself, of the life she led and of the goodness of God. Born from this experience was the decision that oriented her whole life, which expressed in words was: "No more world, no more sin" (cf. Vita Mirabile, 3rv). Catherine then left, leaving her confession interrupted. When she returned home, she went to the most isolated room and thought for a long time. At that moment she was inwardly instructed on prayer and became conscious of God's love for her, a sinner -- a spiritual experience that she was unable to express in words (cf. Vita Mirabile, 4r). It was on this occasion that the suffering Jesus appeared to her, carrying the cross, as he is often represented in the iconography of the saint. A few days later, she returned to the priest to finally make a good confession. The "life of purification" began here, a life that for a long time caused her to suffer a constant pain for the sins committed and drove her to impose penances and sacrifices on herself to show her love of God.

On this path, Catherine became increasingly close to the Lord, until she entered what is known as the "unitive life," that is, a relationship of profound union with God. She wrote in her "Life" that her soul was guided and trained only by the gentle love of God, who gave her everything she needed. Catherine so abandoned herself in the Lord's hands that she lived, almost 25 years, as she wrote, "without the need of any creature, only instructed and governed by God" (Vita, 117r-118r), nourished above all on constant prayer and Holy Communion received every day, something unusual at that time. Only years later, the Lord gave her a priest to care for her soul.

Catherine was always reluctant to confide and manifest her experience of mystical communion with God, above all because of the profound humility she felt before the Lord's graces. Only in the perspective of giving him glory and being able to help others in their spiritual journey, was she convinced to recount what had happened at the moment of her conversion, which was her original and fundamental experience.

The place of her ascent to mystical summits was the hospital of Pammatone, the largest hospital complex in Genoa, of which she was director and leader. Thus, Catherine lived a totally active life, despite the profundity of her interior life. In Pammatone a group of followers, disciples and collaborators was formed around her, fascinated by her life of faith and her charity. She succeeded in having her husband himself, Giuliano Adorno, abandon his dissipated life, become a Franciscan tertiary and go to the hospital to help her. Catherine's participation in the care of the sick went on until the last days of her earthly journey, Sept. 15, 1510. From her conversion to her death, there were no extraordinary events; only two elements characterized her whole existence: on one hand, her mystical experience, that is, her profound union with God, lived as a spousal union, and on the other, care of the sick, the organization of the hospital, service to her neighbor, especially the most abandoned and needy. These two poles -- God and neighbor -- filled her life, which was spent practically within the walls of the hospital.

Dear friends, we must not forget that the more we love God and are constant in prayer, the more we will truly love those who are around us, those who are close to us, because we will be able to see in every person the face of the Lord, who loves without limits or distinctions. Mysticism does not create distances with others; it does not create an abstract life, but brings one closer to others because one begins to see and act with the eyes, with the heart of God.

Catherine's thought on purgatory, for which she is particularly known, is condensed in the last two parts of the book mentioned at the beginning: "Treatise on Purgatory" and "Dialogues on the Soul and Body." It is important to observe that, in her mystical experience, Catherine never had specific revelations on purgatory or on souls that are being purified there. However, in the writings inspired by our saint purgatory is a central element, and the way of describing it has original characteristics in relation to her era.

The first original feature refers to the "place" of the purification of souls. In her time [purgatory] was presented primarily with recourse to images connected to space: There was thought of a certain space where purgatory would be found. For Catherine, instead, purgatory is not represented as an element of the landscape of the core of the earth; it is a fire that is not exterior but interior. This is purgatory, an interior fire. The saint speaks of the soul's journey of purification to full communion with God, based on her own experience of profound sorrow for the sins committed, in contrast to the infinite love of God (cf. Vita Mirabile, 171v). We have heard about the moment of her conversion, when Catherine suddenly felt God's goodness, the infinite distance of her life from this goodness and a burning fire within her. And this is the fire that purifies, it is the interior fire of purgatory. Here also there is an original feature in relation to the thought of the era. She does not begin, in fact, from the beyond to narrate the torments of purgatory -- as was usual at that time and perhaps also today -- and then indicate the path for purification or conversion. Instead our saint begins from her own interior experience of her life on the path to eternity. The soul, says Catherine, appears before God still bound to the desires and the sorrow that derive from sin, and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the Beatific Vision of God. Catherine affirms that God is so pure and holy that the soul with stains of sin cannot be in the presence of the Divine Majesty (cf. Vita Mirabile, 177r). And we also realize how far we are, how full we are of so many things, so that we cannot see God. The soul is conscious of the immense love and perfect justice of God and, in consequence, suffers for not having responded correctly and perfectly to that love, and that is why the love itself of God becomes a flame. Love itself purifies it from its dross of sin.

Theological and mystical sources typical of the era can be found in Catherine's work. Particularly there is an image from Dionysius the Areopagite: that of the golden thread that unites the human heart with God himself. When God has purified man, he ties him with a very fine thread of gold, which is his love, and attracts him to himself with such strong affection that man remains as "overcome and conquered and altogether outside himself." Thus the human heart is invaded by the love of God, which becomes the only guide, the sole motor of his existence (cf. Vita Mirabile, 246rv). This situation of elevation to God and of abandonment to his will, expressed in the image of the thread, is used by Catherine to express the action of the divine light on souls in purgatory, light that purifies them and elevates them to the splendors of the shining rays of God (cf. Vita Mirabile, 179r).

Dear friends, the saints, in their experience of union with God, reach such profound "knowledge" of the divine mysteries, in which love and knowledge are fused, that they are of help to theologians themselves in their task of study, of "intelligentia fidei," of "intelligentia" of the mysteries of the faith, of real deepening in the mysteries, for example, of what purgatory is.

With her life, St. Catherine teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with him in prayer, the more he lets himself be known and enkindles our heart with his love. Writing on purgatory, the saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of the faith that becomes for us an invitation to pray for the deceased so that they can attain the blessed vision of God in the communion of saints (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1032). Moreover, the humble, faithful and generous service that the saint gave during her whole life in the hospital of Pammatone is a luminous example of charity for all and a special encouragement for women who give an essential contribution to society and to the Church with their precious work, enriched by their sensitivity and by the care of the poorest and neediest. Thank you.

NOTES

[1] cf. "Libro de la Vita mirabile et dottrina santa, de la beata Caterinetta da Genoa" (Book of the Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa), which contains a useful and Catholic demonstration and declaration of purgatory, Genoa, 1551.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Catherine of Genoa, a fifteenth-century saint best known for her vision of purgatory. Married at an early age, some ten years later Catherine had a powerful experience of conversion; Jesus, carrying his cross, appeared to her, revealing both her own sinfulness and God's immense love. A woman of great humility, she combined constant prayer and mystical union with a life of charitable service to those in need, above all in her work as the director of the largest hospital in Genoa. Catherine's writings on purgatory contain no specific revelations, but convey her understanding of purgatory as an interior fire purifying the soul in preparation for full communion with God. Conscious of God's infinite love and justice, the soul is pained by its inadequate response, even as the divine love purifies it from the remnants of sin. To describe this purifying power of God's love, Catherine uses the image of a golden chain which draws the soul to abandon itself to the divine will. By her life and teaching, Saint Catherine of Genoa reminds us of the importance of prayer for the faithful departed, and invites us to devote ourselves more fully to prayer and to works of practical charity.

I am pleased to greet the many university students present at today's Audience. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Finland, Malta, China, Indonesia and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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State of the World Address 2011
Benedict XVI, Monday, January 10, 2011
"These Inconsistencies Must End"

Delivered to a diplomatic corps now boasting full relations with 181 countries, here below the full English text of Benedict XVI's annual "State of the World" speech, given at the traditional New Year's "greeting" to the ambassadors earlier today -- its focus, as expected, on the imperative of religious freedom:

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, the distinguished representatives of so many countries, to this meeting which each year assembles you around the Successor of Peter. It is a deeply significant meeting, since it is a sign and illustration of the place of the Church and of the Holy See in the international community. I offer my greetings and cordial good wishes to each of you, and particularly to those who have come for the first time. I am grateful to you for the commitment and interest with which, in the exercise of your demanding responsibilities, you follow my activities, those of the Roman Curia and thus, in some sense, the life of the Catholic Church throughout the world. Your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, has interpreted your sentiments and I thank him for the good wishes which he has expressed to me in the name of all. Knowing how close-knit your community is, I am certain that today you are also thinking of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Baroness van Lynden-Leijten, who several weeks ago returned to the house of the Father. I prayerfully share your sentiments.

As a new year begins, our own hearts and the entire world continue to echo the joyful message proclaimed twenty centuries ago in the night of Bethlehem, a night which symbolizes humanity’s deep need for light, love and peace. To the men and women of that time, as to those of our own day, the heavenly hosts brought the good news of the coming of the Saviour: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Is 9:1). The mystery of the Son of God who became the son of man truly surpasses all human expectations. In its absolute gratuitousness this saving event is the authentic and full response to the deep desire of every heart. The truth, goodness, happiness and abundant life which each man and woman consciously or unconsciously seeks are given to us by God. In longing for these gifts, each person is seeking his Creator, for "God alone responds to the yearning present in the heart of every man and woman" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 23). Humanity throughout history, in its beliefs and rituals, demonstrates a constant search for God and "these forms of religious expression are so universal that one may well call man a religious being" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 28). The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man’s being and acting, the measure of the fulfilment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs. Consequently, when the individual himself or those around him neglect or deny this fundamental dimension, imbalances and conflicts arise at all levels, both personal and interpersonal.

This primary and basic truth is the reason why, in this year’s Message for World Day of Peace, I identified religious freedom as the fundamental path to peace. Peace is built and preserved only when human beings can freely seek and serve God in their hearts, in their lives and in their relationships with others.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence on this solemn occasion is an invitation to survey the countries which you represent and the entire world. In this panorama do we not find numerous situations in which, sadly, the right to religious freedom is violated or denied? It is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his relation with his Creator. Yet is this fundamental human right not all too often called into question or violated? It seems to me that society, its leaders and public opinion are becoming more and more aware, even if not always in a clear way, of this grave attack on the dignity and freedom of homo religiosus, which I have sought on numerous occasions to draw to the attention of all.

I did so during the past year in my Apostolic Journeys to Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, the United Kingdom and Spain. Above and beyond the diversity of those countries, I recall with gratitude their warm welcome. The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican in October, was a moment of prayer and reflection in which our thoughts turned insistently to the Christian communities in that part of the world which suffer greatly because of their fidelity to Christ and the Church.

Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it? In the Middle East, Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties toward their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media" (Message to the People of God of the Special Asembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, 10). I appreciate the concern for the rights of the most vulnerable and the political farsightedness which some countries in Europe have demonstrated in recent days by their call for a concerted response on the part of the European Union for the defence of Christians in the Middle East. Finally, I would like to state once again that the right to religious freedom is not fully respected when only freedom of worship is guaranteed, and that with restrictions. Furthermore, I encourage the accompaniment of the full safeguarding of religious freedom and other humans rights by programmes which, beginning in primary school and within the context of religious instruction, will educate everyone to respect their brothers and sisters in humanity. Regarding the states of the Arabian Peninsula, where numerous Christian immigrant workers live, I hope that the Catholic Church will be able to establish suitable pastoral structures.

Among the norms prejudicing the right of persons to religious freedom, particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in Pakistan: I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities. The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction: the worship of God furthers fraternity and love, not hatred and division. Other troubling situations, at times accompanied by acts of violence, can be mentioned in south and south-east Asia, in countries which for that matter have a tradition of peaceful social relations. The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated. In this regard, it is important for interreligious dialogue to favour a common commitment to recognizing and promoting the religious freedom of each person and community. And, as I remarked earlier, violence against Christians does not spare Africa. Attacks on places of worship in Nigeria during the very celebrations marking the birth of Christ are another sad proof of this.

In a number of countries, on the other hand, a constitutionally recognized right to religious freedom exists, yet the life of religious communities is in fact made difficult and at times even dangerous (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 15) because the legal or social order is inspired by philosophical and political systems which call for strict control, if not a monopoly, of the state over society. Such inconsistencies must end, so that believers will not find themselves torn between fidelity to God and loyalty to their country. I ask in particular that Catholic communities be everywhere guaranteed full autonomy of organization and the freedom to carry out their mission, in conformity with international norms and standards in this sphere.

My thoughts turn once again to the Catholic community of mainland China and its pastors, who are experiencing a time of difficulty and trial. I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to the authorities of Cuba, a country which in 2010 celebrated seventy-five years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations with the Holy See, that the dialogue happily begun with the Church may be reinforced and expanded.

Turning our gaze from East to West, we find ourselves faced with other kinds of threats to the full exercise of religious freedom. I think in the first place of countries which accord great importance to pluralism and tolerance, but where religion is increasingly being marginalized. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society. Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals.

In this context, one can only be gratified by the adoption by the Council of Europe last October of a resolution protecting the right to conscientious objection on the part of medical personnel vis-à-vis certain acts which gravely violate the right to life, such as abortion.

Another sign of the marginalization of religion, and of Christianity in particular, is the banning of religious feasts and symbols from civic life under the guise of respect for the members of other religions or those who are not believers. By acting in this way, not only is the right of believers to the public expression of their faith restricted, but an attack is made on the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations. Last year, a number of European countries supported the appeal lodged by the Italian government in the well-known case involving the display of the crucifix in public places. I am grateful to the authorities of those nations, as well as to all those who became involved in the issue, episcopates, civil and religious organizations and associations, particularly the Patriarchate of Moscow and the other representatives of the Orthodox hierarchy, as well as to all those – believers and non-believers alike – who wished to show their sympathy for this symbol, which bespeaks universal values.

Acknowledging religious freedom also means ensuring that religious communities can operate freely in society through initiatives in the social, charitable or educational sectors. Throughout the world, one can see the fruitful work accomplished by the Catholic Church in these areas. It is troubling that this service which religious communities render to society as a whole, particularly through the education of young people, is compromised or hampered by legislative proposals which risk creating a sort of state monopoly in the schools; this can be seen, for example, in certain countries in Latin America. Now that many of those countries are celebrating the second centenary of their independence – a fitting time for remembering the contribution made by the Catholic Church to the development of their national identity – I exhort all governments to promote educational systems respectful of the primordial right of families to make decisions about the education of their children, systems inspired by the principle of subsidiarity which is basic to the organization of a just society.

Continuing my reflection, I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education which allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

on this solemn occasion, allow me to state clearly several principles which inspire the Holy See, together with the whole Catholic Church, in its activity within the intergovernmental International Organizations for the promotion of full respect for the religious freedom of all. First, the conviction that one cannot create a sort of scale of degrees of religious intolerance. Unfortunately, such an attitude is frequently found, and it is precisely acts of discrimination against Christians which are considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion. At the same time, there is a need to reject the dangerous notion of a conflict between the right to religious freedom and other human rights, thus disregarding or denying the central role of respect for religious freedom in the defence and protection of fundamental human dignity. Even less justifiable are attempts to counter the right of religious freedom with other alleged new rights which, while actively promoted by certain sectors of society and inserted in national legislation or in international directives, are nonetheless merely the expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature. Finally, it seems unnecessary to point out that an abstract proclamation of religious freedom is insufficient: this fundamental rule of social life must find application and respect at every level and in all areas; otherwise, despite correct affirmations of principle, there is a risk that deep injustice will be done to citizens wishing to profess and freely practise their faith.

Promoting the full religious freedom of Catholic communities is also the aim of the Holy See in signing Concordats and other agreements. I am gratified that states in different parts of the world, and of different religious, cultural and juridical traditions, choose international conventions as a means of organizing relations between the political community and the Catholic Church, thus establishing through dialogue a framework of cooperation and respect for reciprocal areas of competence. Last year witnessed the signing and implementation of an Agreement for the religious assistance of the Catholic faithful in the armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and negotiations are presently under way with different countries. We trust that they will have a positive outcome, ensuring solutions respectful of the nature and freedom of the Church for the good of society as a whole.

The activity of the Papal Representatives accredited to states and international organizations is likewise at the service of religious freedom. I would like to point out with satisfaction that the Vietnamese authorities have accepted my appointment of a Representative who will express the solicitude of the Successor of Peter by visiting the beloved Catholic community of that country. I would also like to mention that in the past year the diplomatic presence of the Holy See was expanded in Africa, since a stable presence is now assured in three countries without a resident Nuncio. God willing, I will once more travel to that continent, to Benin next November, in order to consign the Apostolic Exhortation which will gather the fruits of the labours of the second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

Before this distinguished assembly, I would like once more to state forcefully that religion does not represent a problem for society, that it is not a source of discord or conflict. I would repeat that the Church seeks no privileges, nor does she seek to intervene in areas unrelated to her mission, but simply to exercise the latter with freedom. I invite everyone to acknowledge the great lesson of history: "How can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties. Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs" (Message for the Celebration of World Peace Day, 1 January 2011, 7).

A clear example of this was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: the centenary of her birth was celebrated at Tirana, Skopje and Pristina as well as in India, and a moving homage was paid to her not only by the Church but also by civil authorities and religious leaders, to say nothing of people of all religions. People like her show the world the extent to which the commitment born of faith is beneficial to society as a whole.

May no human society willingly deprive itself of the essential contribution of religious persons and communities! As the Second Vatican Council recalled, by guaranteeing just religious freedom fully and to all, society can "enjoy the benefits of justice and peace which result from faithfulness to God and his holy will" (Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, 6).

For this reason, as we exchange good wishes for a new year rich in concord and genuine progress, I exhort everyone, political and religious leaders and persons of every walk of life, to set out with determination on the path leading to authentic and lasting peace, a path which passes through respect for the right to religious freedom in all its fullness.

On this commitment, whose accomplishment calls for the involvement of the whole human family, I invoke the blessing of Almighty God, who has reconciled us with himself and with one another through his Son Jesus Christ our peace (Eph 2:14).

A Happy New Year to all!

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On Baptism: Gift and Responsibility
"I Would Like to Encourage All of the Faithful to Rediscover the Beauty of Being Baptized"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church celebrates the baptism of the Lord, the feast that concludes the liturgical season of Christmas. This mystery of the life of Christ visibly shows that his coming in the flesh is the sublime act of love of the three divine Persons. We can say that from this solemn event the creative, redemptive and sanctifying action of the Most Holy Trinity will become increasingly manifest in Jesus’ public mission, in his teaching, miracles, in his passion, death and resurrection. We read, in fact, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew that “Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. And behold a voice from heaven saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (3:16-17).

The Holy Spirit “settles” upon the Son and witnesses to his divinity, while the voice of the Father, coming from the heavens, expresses the communion of love. “The conclusion of the baptismal scene tells us that Jesus has received this true ‘anointing,’ that he is the awaited ‘Anointed One’ [the Christ]” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” San Francisco, 2008), in confirmation of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” (Isaiah 42:1). He is truly the Messiah, the Son of the Most High who, coming out of the waters of the Jordan, establishes regeneration in the Spirit and opens, to those who desire it, the possibility of becoming sons of God.

It is not by chance, in fact, that every baptized person acquires the character of son from the name Christian, indisputable sign that the Holy Spirit brings man to be born “again” from the womb of the Church. Blessed Anotonio Rosmini says that “the baptized person undergoes a secret but most powerful operation by which he is raised up to the supernatural order, he is placed in communication with God” (“Del principio supremo della metodica,” Torino, 1857, n. 331). All of this was again fulfilled this morning during the Eucharistic celebration in the Sistine Chapel, where I conferred the sacrament of baptism on 21 newborns.

Dear friends, baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life, which finds its fullness through the Church. In the propitious moment of the sacrament, while the ecclesial community prays and entrusts a new child to God, the parents and godparents commit to welcome the newly baptized person supporting him in Christian formation and education. This is a great responsibility, which comes from a great gift! Thus, I would like to encourage all of the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and belonging to the great family of God, and to giving a joyous witness to their own faith so that they might bear the fruits of goodness and concord. We ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to whom we entrust the parents who are preparing their children for baptism and catechists as well. May the whole community share in the joy of being reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit!

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

In the context of the Marian prayer, I would like to offer a special thought for the people of Haiti, one year after the terrible earthquake, which has unfortunately been followed by a grave cholera epidemic. Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” is traveling to the Caribbean island today to express my constant concern and that of the whole Church.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all the visitors and pilgrims present for this Angelus prayer. Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord and contemplates once more the revelation of God who is close to humanity, who visits his people in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to set them free from the tyranny of sin and death. May we open the doors of our hearts to Christ and welcome him into the world of today. God’s abundant blessings be upon all of you!
© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily on the Baptism of the Lord
"He, Who Is Without Sin, Lets Himself Be Treated as a Sinner"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI today during Mass for the Baptism of the Lord. The Pope celebrated the Mass in the Sistine Chapel, baptizing 21 infants during the celebration.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to give you a cordial welcome, especially you parents and godparents of the 21 infants to whom, in a moment, I will have the joy of administering the sacrament of baptism. As has become tradition, this rite takes place again this year during the Holy Eucharist in which we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. This is the feast that, on the First Sunday after Epiphany, concludes the Christmas season with the manifestation of the Lord at the Jordan.

According to the story of the Evangelist Matthew (3:13-17), Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John; in fact, all of Palestine flocked to hear the preaching of this great prophet, the announcement of the advent of the Kingdom of God, and to receive baptism, that is, to submit themselves to this sign that called to conversion from sin. Although it is called “baptism,” it did not have the sacramental value of the rite that we celebrate today; as you well know, it is in fact by his death and resurrection that Jesus instituted the sacraments and brings about the birth of the Church. [The baptism] administered by John was rather a penitential act, a gesture that invited people to humility before God, for a new beginning: Plunging into the water, the penitent acknowledged having sinned, he implored God to purify him of his sins and he was sent forth to change his erroneous behavior.

So, when the Baptist saw Jesus, in line with sinners, having come to be baptized, he is stunned; recognizing him as the Messiah, the Holy One of God, he who is without sin, John shows his confusion: He himself, the baptizer wanted to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus tells him not to resist, to agree to carry out this act, to do what is proper to "fulfill all justice." With this expression, Jesus shows that he came into the world to do the will of him who sent him, to do everything that the Father asks him; it is in obedience to the Father that he has agreed to become man. This gesture reveals first of all who Jesus is: He is the Son of God, true God like the Father; it is he who "humbled himself" to become one of us, he who became man and agreed to humble himself to the point of death on the cross (cf. Philippians 2:7).

The baptism of Jesus, which we recall today, fits into this logic of humility: It is the gesture of one who wants to be one of us in everything and gets in line with sinners; he, who is without sin, lets himself be treated as a sinner (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21), to carry on his shoulders the burden of guilt of all humanity. He is the "servant of Yahweh" whom the prophet Isaiah spoke to us about in the first reading (cf. 42:1). His humility is determined by a desire to establish full communion with humanity, by the desire to achieve a true solidarity with man and his condition. Jesus' gesture anticipates the cross, the acceptance of death for man’s sins. This act of abasement, with which Jesus wants to conform totally to the Father's plan of love, manifests the total harmony of will and purpose that exists between persons of the Most Holy Trinity. For this act of love, the Spirit of God manifests himself as a dove and descends upon him, and in that moment a voice from above, which all hear, testifies to the love that unites Jesus to the Father for those present at the baptism. The Father openly reveals to men the profound communion uniting him to the Son: The voice that resounds from above attests that Jesus is obedient to the Father in all things and that this obedience is an expression of love that unites them. This is why the Father delights in Jesus, because he sees in the Son’s action the desire to follow his will in everything: "This is my Son, the beloved, in him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). And this word of the Father also alludes, in anticipation, to the victory of the Resurrection.

Dear parents, baptism, which you ask for your children today, inserts them into this reciprocal exchange of love that exists in God between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; by this gesture that I am going to perform, the love of God is poured out upon them, inundating them with his gifts. By being bathed in the water, your children are inserted into the life itself of Jesus, who died on the cross to free us from sin, and rising, conquered death. So, spiritually immersed in his death and resurrection, [these children] are freed from original sin and in them the life of grace begins, which is the very life of the risen Jesus. "He,” said St. Paul, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and form for himself a pure people who belong to him, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).

Dear friends, giving us the faith, the Lord gave us that which is most precious in life, that is, the truest and most beautiful reason to live: It is by grace that we believe in God, that we have known his love by which he wants to save us and deliver us from evil. Now you, dear parents and godparents, are asking the Church to accept these children into her bosom, to give them baptism, and you make this request because of the gift of faith that you yourselves have, in turn, received. With the prophet Isaiah, every Christian can repeat: "The Lord has shaped me his servant from the womb of my mother" (cf. 49:5); thus, dear parents, your children are a precious gift of the Lord, whose heart he has reserved for himself, to be able to fill with his love. Today through the sacrament of baptism he consecrates them and calls them to follow Jesus, through the realization of their personal vocation according to the particular design of love that the Father has in mind for each of them; the goal of this earthly pilgrimage will be the full communion with him in eternal happiness.

Receiving baptism, these children are granted an indelible spiritual seal, the "character" that marks forever their belonging to the Lord and makes them living members of his mystical body, which is the Church. While entering to be part of the People of God, for these children there starts today a path of holiness and conformity to Jesus, a reality that is placed in them as the seed of a splendid tree, which must be made to grow. Thus, understanding the magnitude of this gift from the earliest centuries, [the Church] has been concerned to give baptism to newborn children. Certainly, there will also be the need of a free and conscious adherence to this life of faith and love, and that is why it is necessary that after baptism they are educated in faith, instructed according to the wisdom of sacred Scripture and the Church's teachings, so that the seeds of faith that they receive today can grow, and they can reach full Christian maturity. The Church, who welcomes them among her children, is responsible, together with the parents and godparents, for accompanying them on this path of growth. The collaboration between the Christian community and the family is much needed in the current social context in which the institution of the family is threatened from many sides and finds itself faced with many difficulties in its mission to teach the faith. The disappearance of stable cultural references and the rapid transformation that society continually undergoes, make the educational task truly difficult. Therefore, it is necessary that parishes increasingly strive to support families, the little domestic Churches, in their work of passing on the faith.

Dear parents, I thank the Lord with you for the gift of the baptism of these your children; in lifting up our prayer for them, we invoke the abundant gift of the Holy Spirit, who today consecrates them in the image of Christ as priest, prophet and king. Entrusting them to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, we ask for them life and health so that they can grow and mature in the faith, and bear, with their lives, the fruits of holiness and love. Amen!

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2010 Dec. 31: Papal Homily at Vespers, Mary Mother of God
"I Feel More Strongly in My Heart the Need to Raise Our 'Thanks' to Him"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2011- Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI on Dec. 31 at vespers for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

At the conclusion of a year, we find ourselves this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and raise a hymn of thanksgiving to God for the many graces that he has granted us, but also and above all for Grace in person, that is, for the living and personal gift of the Father, who is his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is precisely this gratitude for the gifts received from God in the time that is given us to live that helps us to discover a great good that is inscribed in time: marked in its yearly, monthly, weekly and daily rhythms, it is inhabited by the love of God, by his gifts of grace: it is time of salvation. Yes, the eternal God entered into and remains in the time of man. He entered here and remains here in the person of Jesus, the Son of God made man, the Savior of the world. This is what the Apostle Paul pointed out to us in the brief reading that was just proclaimed: "In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son ... we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

So, the Eternal enters into time and renews it at the root, freeing man from sin and making him a son of God. Already “in the beginning,” that is, with the creation of the world and man in the world, the eternity of God blossomed in time. From it human history flows, from generation to generation. Now, with the coming of Christ and his redemption, we are in “the fullness” of time. As St. Paul reveals, with Jesus time becomes full, it reaches its perfection, acquiring that meaning of salvation and grace for which it was willed by God before the creation of the world. Christmas recalls us to this “fullness” of time, that is, to the renewing salvation brought by Jesus to all men. We are called back to it and, mysteriously, but really, it is always given to us again. Our human experience is so full of evils, of suffering, of dramas of every kind -- from those caused by the wickedness of men to those resulting from unfortunate natural events -- but it now holds in a permanent and indestructible way the joyful and liberating newness of Christ the Savior. Precisely in the Child of Bethlehem, we can contemplate in a particularly luminous and eloquent way the meeting of eternity with time, as the Church's liturgy likes to put it. Christmas brings us God in the humble and weak flesh of a child. Is there not perhaps an invitation here to rediscover God's presence and his love that gives salvation even in the short and strenuous hours of our daily lives? Is it not an invitation to discover that our human time -- even in difficult and burdensome moments -- is incessantly enriched by the Lord’s grace, the Grace that is indeed the Lord Himself?

At the end of this year 2010, before handing over the days and hours to God and to his just and merciful judgment, I feel more strongly in my heart the need to raise our "thanks" to him and to his love for us. In this climate of gratitude, I would like to extend a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, to the priests, to the consecrated persons, as also to the many lay faithful gathered here. I greet the lord mayor and the authorities present. A special thought goes out to those who are in trouble and spend these festive days in distress and suffering. To each and everyone I assure my affectionate thoughts, which I accompany with prayer.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Church of Rome is committed to helping all the baptized to live faithfully the vocation they have received and to witness the beauty of faith. To be authentic disciples of Christ, we must have recourse to daily meditation on the Word of God which, as I wrote in my recent apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini,” "is the basis of every authentic Christian spirituality" (No. 86). Thus, I encourage everyone to cultivate a close relationship with it, especially through “lectio divina,” to have that light that is needed to discern the signs of God in the present time and to proclaim the Gospel effectively. Even in Rome, in fact, there is an increasing need for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel so that the hearts of the inhabitants of our city open to meeting that Child, who was born for us, in Christ, the Redeemer of man. Since, as the Apostle Paul observes, "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17), a useful aid in this work of evangelization can come -- as was already seen during the City Mission in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000 -- from "Centers of listening to the Gospel,” which I encourage to be re-established or revitalized not only in apartment buildings, but also in hospitals, workplaces and in those places where new generations are being formed and culture is developed. The Word of God, in fact, was made flesh for all, and his truth is accessible to every man and every culture. I was happy to learn of the subsequent work of the Vicariate in organizing "Dialogues in the Cathedral," which will take place in the Basilica of St. John Lateran: Such significant events express the Church's desire to meet all those who are seeking answers to great questions of human existence.

The privileged place for hearing the Word of God is the celebration of the Eucharist. Last June’s diocesan conference, in which I participated, intended to highlight the centrality of Holy Mass in the life of every Christian community and gave indications about how the beauty of the divine mysteries can shine more in the act of celebration and in the spiritual fruits that derive from them. I encourage pastors and priests to implement what was indicated in the pastoral program: the formation of a liturgical group that animates the celebration, and a catechesis that helps everyone to understand better the Eucharistic mystery from which flows the witness of charity. Nourished by Christ, we too are drawn into the same act of total gift that moved the Lord to give his own life, thereby revealing the immense love of the Father. The witness of charity possesses, therefore, an essential theological dimension and is profoundly united to the proclamation of the Word. In this celebration of thanksgiving to God for the gifts received during the year, I particularly remember the visit I made to the Caritas hostel at the Termini Train Station, where, through the service and selfless dedication of many volunteers, many men and women can touch the love of God with their hands. The present moment still generates concern about the precarious situation into which many families have fallen and prevails upon the entire diocesan community to be close to those living in poverty and hardship. May God, who is infinite love, inflame the heart of each of us with that love that prompted him to give us his only begotten Son.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are invited to look to the future and to look upon it with that hope that is the final word of the “Te Deum”: “In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum!” -- “In thee, O Lord, I have hoped. Let me never be confounded!” It is always Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God who gives us Christ, our Hope. As she already did to the shepherds and the magi, her hands, and still more her heart, continue to offer the world Jesus, her Son and our Savior. In him is all our hope, because from him salvation and peace came to every man. Amen!

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Papal Homily on World Day of Peace
We Pray "So the Peace the Angels Proclaimed to the Shepherds on Christmas Eve Can Reach Everywhere"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2011 .- Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI during Mass on Jan.1, Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace. The Mass was celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Still enveloped in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have contemplated the mystery of the birth of Christ, today we celebrate with the same sentiments the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God, in that she gave flesh to the Son of the eternal Father. The biblical readings of this solemnity focus primarily on the Son of God made man and on the "name" of the Lord. The first reading presents to us the solemn blessings that the priests pronounced on the Israelites in the great religious feasts: It is marked precisely by the name of the Lord, repeated three times, as though expressing the fullness and force that derives from that evocation. This text of liturgical blessing, in fact, evokes the wealth of grace and peace that God gives to man, with a benevolent disposition toward him, and which is manifested in the "radiance" of the divine face and is "directed" toward us.

The Church hears these words again today, while asking the Lord to bless the new year which has just begun, with the awareness that in face of the tragic events that mark history, in face of the logic of war that unfortunately is still not surmounted altogether, only God can touch the human soul in its depth and assure hope and peace to humanity. It is already a consolidated tradition, in fact, that on the first day of the year, the Church spread throughout the world raises a joint prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stage of the journey placing oneself decidedly on the path of peace. Today we wish to take up the cry of so many men, women, children and elderly victims of war, which is the most horrendous and violent face of history. We pray today so the peace the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas Eve can reach everywhere: "super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis" (Luke 2:14). That is why, especially with our prayer, we wish to help every man and all peoples, in particular all those who have the responsibility of government, to walk ever more decidedly on the path of peace.

In the second reading, St. Paul summarizes in filial adoption the work of salvation carried out by Christ, in which the figure of Mary is set. Thanks to her the Son of God, "born of woman" (Galatians 4:4), was able to come to the world as true man, in the fullness of time. This fulfillment, this plenitude, refers to the past and to the Messianic expectations, which are fulfilled but, at the same time, it refers also to plenitude in the absolute sense: In the Word made flesh, God has said his last and definitive Word. On the threshold of a new year, the invitation thus resounds to walk with joy toward the light of the "day that shall dawn upon us from on high" (Luke 1:78), as in the Christian perspective, all time is inhabited by God, there is no future that is not directed to Christ, and there is no plenitude outside that of Christ.

The passage of the Gospel ends today with the imposition of the name of Jesus, while Mary participates in silence, meditating in her heart on the mystery of this Son of hers, who in such a singular way is a gift of God. However, the evangelical life that we have heard puts in particular evidence the shepherds, who returned "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen " (Luke 2:20). The angel had announced to them that in the city of David, namely, in Bethlehem, the Savior was born and that they would have found the sign: a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (cf. Luke 2:11-12). Leaving hastily, they found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Let us observe how the evangelist speaks of Mary's maternity beginning from the Son, from that "child wrapped in swaddling clothes," because it is he -- the Word of God (John 1:14) -- who is the point of reference, the center of the event that is taking place and it is he who makes Mary's maternity to be described as "divine." This greater attention that today's readings dedicate to the "Son," to Jesus, does not reduce the role of the Mother; on the contrary, it places her in the correct perspective: Mary, in fact, is true Mother of God precisely in virtue of her total relationship to Christ. Hence, by glorifying the Son, the Mother is honored, and by honoring the Mother, the Son is glorified. The title "Mother of God" that the liturgy highlights today underlines the unique mission of the Holy Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that is at the base of the cult and devotion that the Christian people reserve to her. Mary, in fact, did not receive God's gift for herself, but to bring it to the world: In her fecund virginity, God gave men the goods of eternal salvation (cf. Collect). And Mary offers continually her mediation to the People of God, she continues giving divine life to men, which is Jesus himself and his Holy Spirit. Because of this she is considered mother of each man born of grace and at the same time is invoked as Mother of the Church.

It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of men, that since Jan 1, 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated throughout the world. Peace is the gift of God, as we heard in the first reading: "the Lord ... give you peace" (Numbers 6:26). This is the Messianic gift par excellence, the first fruit of the charity that Jesus has given us; it is our reconciliation and pacification with God. Peace is also a human value to be realized in the social and political sphere, but which sinks its roots in the mystery of Christ (cf. Vatican Council II, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 77-90).

In this solemn celebration, on the occasion of the 44th World Day of Peace, I am happy to address my deferent greeting to the illustrious Ambassadors to the Holy See, with my best wishes for their mission. A fraternal and cordial greeting goes, also, to my Secretary of State and the other heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with a particular thought to the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and his collaborators. I wish to manifest to them my heartfelt gratitude for their daily commitment in favor of peaceful coexistence among peoples and the ever more solid formation of a conscience of peace in the Church and in the world. In this perspective, the ecclesial community is increasingly committed to work, according to the indications of the magisterium, to offer a spiritual patrimony certain of the values and principles of the continuous search for peace.

I wished to remind in my message for today's Day, with the title "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace" that "The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels." (No. 15). Therefore, I have underlined that religious freedom "is an essential element of a constitutional state; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone (No. 5)".

Humanity cannot be resigned to the negative force of egoism and violence; it must not be accustomed to conflicts that cause victims and put the future of peoples at risk. Given the threatening tensions of this moment, especially in face of discriminations, abuses and religious intolerance, which today affect Christians in a particular way (cf. Ibid., 1), I address once more an urgent invitation not to yield to discouragement and resignation. I exhort everyone to pray so that the efforts undertaken by many parties to promote and build peace in the world will come to a good end. For this difficult task, words are not sufficient, the concrete and constant commitment is necessary of leaders of nations, and it is necessary that each person be animated by a genuine spirit of peace, which must always be implored again in prayer and which must be lived in daily interaction, in every environment.

In this Eucharistic celebration we have before our eyes, for our veneration, the image of Our Lady of the Sacred Mount of Viggiano, so loved by the people of Basilicata. The Virgin Mary gives us her Son, shows us the face of her Son, Prince of Peace: May she help us to remain in the light of this face, which shines over us (cf. Numbers 6:25), to rediscover all the tenderness of God the Father; may she sustain us in invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew the face of the earth and transform hearts, undoing their hardness before the disarming goodness of the Child, who was born for us. May the Mother of God accompany us in this new year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace. Amen.

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Jan. 5 Audience: On the Today of the Nativity
"The Liturgical Celebration of Christmas … Is Not Only a Memory But Also a Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Wednesday during the general audience in Paul VI Hall, in which he reflected on the liturgical season of Christmas.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to welcome you to this first general audience of the new year and with all my heart I offer you and your families fervent good wishes. May the Lord of time and history guide our steps on the way of goodness and grant each one an abundance of grace and prosperity.

Still surrounded by the light of holy Christmas that invites us to joy over the coming of the Savior, we are today on the eve of the Epiphany, in which we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord to all peoples. The feast of Christmas still enthralls people today as it always has, more than the Church's other great feasts; it captivates people because everyone in some way intuits that Jesus' birth has something to do with the most profound aspirations and hopes of man. Consumerism can distract from this interior longing, but if in the heart there is a desire to welcome that Child who brings the novelty of God, who came to give us life in fullness, then even the lights of the Christmas decorations can become a reflection of the Light that was lit with the Incarnation of God.

In the liturgical celebrations of these holy days we lived in a mysterious but real way the entrance of the Son of God into the world and we were illumined once again by the light of his brilliance. Each celebration is an actual presence of the mystery of Christ and in it is prolonged the history of salvation. Regarding Christmas, Pope St. Leo the Great affirmed: "Even if the succession of corporal actions is now passed, as was ordained beforehand in the eternal plan ... we still continually adore the same birth-giving of the Virgin that produces our salvation" (Sermon on the Lord's Birth 29, 2), and he specifies: "Because that day is not passed in such a way that the power of the work that was revealed then is also passed" (Sermon on the Epiphany 36, 1). To celebrate the events of the Incarnation of the Son of God is not simply to remember events of the past, but to render present these salvation-bearing mysteries.

In the liturgy, in the celebration of the sacraments, those mysteries are rendered present and become efficacious for us today. Again St. Leo the Great affirms: "All that the Son of God did and taught in order to bring reconciliation to the world, we know not only in the telling of things that happened in the past, but rather, we are under the effect of the dynamism of these present actions" (Sermon 52, 1).

In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council underlines how the work of salvation carried out by Christ continues in the Church through the celebration of the holy mysteries, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Already in the Old Testament, in the journey toward the fullness of faith, we have testimonies of how the presence and the action of God was mediated through signs, for example, that of fire (cf. Exodus 3:2ff; 19:18). But beginning with the Incarnation, something overwhelming happens: The mode of salvific contact with God is radically transformed and flesh becomes the instrument of salvation: "Verbum caro factum est," the Word became flesh, writes the Evangelist John, and a Christian writer of the third century, Tertullian, affirms: "Caro salutis est cardo," the flesh is the foundation of salvation (De carnis resurrectione, 8,3: PL 2,806).

Christmas is already the first fruit of the "sacramentum-mysterium paschale," that is to say, it is the beginning of the central mystery of salvation that culminates in the passion, death and resurrection, because Jesus begins to offer himself out of love from the first instance of his human existence in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The night of Christmas is therefore profoundly linked to the great nocturnal vigil of Easter, when redemption is accomplished in the glorious sacrifice of the Lord dead and risen.

The crib itself, as an image of the Incarnation of the Word, in light of the evangelical account, already alludes to Easter. It is interesting to see how in some icons of the nativity in the Eastern tradition, the Child Jesus is represented wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a sepulcher-shaped manger -- an allusion to the moment in which he will be taken down from the cross, wrapped in a cloth and placed in a sepulcher hewn from rock (cf. Luke 2:7; 23, 53). Incarnation and Easter are not next to one another, but are the two inseparable key points of the one faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnated and redeemer. The cross and Resurrection presuppose the Incarnation. Only because truly the Son, and in him, God himself, "descended" and "was made flesh," are the death and resurrection of Jesus events that are contemporary for us and concern us, snatching us from death and opening us to a future in which this "flesh" -- earthly and transitory existence -- will enter into the eternity of God. In this unitary perspective of the mystery of Christ, the visit to the crib orients one to the visit to the Eucharist, where we find present in a real way the crucified and risen Christ, the living Christ.

The liturgical celebration of Christmas, then, is not only a remembrance but is above all a mystery; it is not only a memory but also a presence. To appreciate the meaning of these two indissoluble aspects, one must live intensely the whole Christmas season as the Church presents it. If we consider it in a broad sense, it extends for 40 days, from Dec. 25 to Feb. 2, from the celebration of Christmas Eve to Mary's Maternity, to the Epiphany, to the Baptism of Jesus, to the wedding of Cana, to the Presentation in the Temple, precisely in analogy with Eastertide, which forms a unity of 50 days, until Pentecost. The manifestation of God in the flesh is the event that revealed Truth in history. In fact, the date Dec. 25, linked with the idea of the appearance of the sun -- God who appears as a light that doesn't set on the horizon of history -- reminds us that this is not just an idea: that God is the fullness of light, but rather a reality for us men that is already fulfilled and always present. Today, as then, God reveals himself in the flesh, namely, in the "living body" of the Church journeying in time, and, in the sacraments, he gives us salvation today.

The symbols of the Christmas celebration, recalled in the readings and the prayers, give the liturgy of this season a profound sense of God's "epiphany" in his incarnate Christ-Word, that is, the "manifestation" that also has an eschatological meaning, it orients, that is, to the end times. Already in Advent the two comings -- the historical one and the one at the end of time -- were directly linked; but it is in particular in the Epiphany and in the baptism of Jesus that the Messianic manifestation is celebrated in the perspective of the eschatological expectation: the Messianic consecration of Jesus, incarnate Word, through the effusion of the Holy Spirit in visible form, brings to fulfillment the time of the promises and inaugurates the end times.

It is important to rescue this Christmas time from an overly moralistic and sentimental mask. The celebration of Christmas does not propose to us only examples to imitate, such as the humility and poverty of the Lord, and his benevolence and love for men; but it is rather an invitation to allow oneself to be totally transformed by him who entered into our flesh. St. Leo the Great exclaims: "The Son of God ... joined himself to us and joined us to himself in such a way that the abasement of God to the human condition became a raising of man to the heights of God" (Sermon on the Lord's Birth 27,2). God's manifestation has its purpose in our participation in divine life, in the realization in us of the mystery of his Incarnation. This mystery is the fulfillment of man's vocation. Again St. Leo the Great explains the Christmas mystery's concrete and always present importance for Christian life: "The words of the Gospel and of the Prophets ... inflame our spirit and teach us to understand the Lord's nativity, this mystery of the Word made flesh, not so much as a memory of a past event, but as an event that unfolds before our eyes ... it is as if it was proclaimed again in today's solemnity: 'I give you the announcement of a great joy, which will be for all the people: today, in the city of David, a Savior is born for you who is Christ the Lord'" (Sermon on the Lord's Birth 29,1). And he adds: "Recognize, O Christian, your dignity, and, made participant of the divine nature, be careful not to fall again, with unworthy conduct, from such greatness into primitive baseness" (Sermon 1 on the Lord's Birth, 3).

Dear friends, let us live this Christmastide with intensity: After having adored the Son of God made man and placed in the manger, we are called to pass to the altar of the Sacrifice, where Christ, the living Bread come down from heaven, offers himself to us as true nourishment for eternal life. And what we have seen with our eyes, at the table of the Word and of the Bread of Life, what we contemplated, what our hands have touched, that is the Word made flesh, let us proclaim him with joy to the world and witness to him generously with all our life. I renew to all from my heart, and to your dear ones, my heartfelt best wishes for the New Year and I wish you a happy celebration of Epiphany.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this first Audience of the New Year, on the eve of the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, I offer my prayerful best wishes to you and your families. The Church's celebration of these days of Christmas is not only a remembrance of things past, but a joyful experience of Christ's enduring presence in our lives and in our world. In Jesus, the Word Incarnate, our salvation is accomplished in the flesh. Jesus' humbling of himself, beginning with his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, will find its fullest expression in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. Our appreciation of the deep bond uniting the Incarnation and the Redemption naturally draws us from the contemplation of the Child Jesus in the Crib to the adoration of the real presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The liturgical celebrations of this holy season, from Christmas through the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord, challenge us to be completely transformed by the Son of God who became man so that we might attain our ultimate human fulfilment by sharing in his glorious divine life.

I am pleased to greet the students and professors from the University of Helsinki. My warm greetings also go to the seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace today and throughout the coming year!

©Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he greeted the youth, sick and newlyweds present:]

Finally I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. Tomorrow, the solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany, we will recall the journey of the Magi to Christ, guided by the light of the star. May their example, dear young people, nourish in you the desire to encounter Jesus and to transmit to all the joy of his Gospel; may it lead you, dear sick, to offer to the Child of Bethlehem, your pains and sufferings rendered precious by the faith; may it constitute for you, dear newlyweds, a constant stimulus to make your families "domestic churches," welcoming the mysterious signs of God and of the gift of life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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On the Holy Family
"That Every Child Coming Into the World Be Welcomed by the Warmth of a Family"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 26 before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel according to Luke recounts that when the shepherds of Bethlehem had received the Angel's announcement of the Messiah's birth "they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger" (2:16). The first eyewitnesses of Jesus' birth therefore beheld a family scene: a mother, a father and a newborn son. For this reason the Liturgy has us celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on the First Sunday after Christmas. This year it occurred the very day after Christmas, and, taking precedence over the Feast of St Stephen, invites us to contemplate this "icon" in which the little Jesus appears at the centre of his parents' affection and care.

In the poor grotto of Bethlehem -- the Fathers of the Church wrote -- shines a very bright light, a reflection of the profound mystery which envelopes that Child, which Mary and Joseph cherish in their hearts and which can be seen in their expression, in their actions, and especially in their silence. Indeed, they preserve in their inmost depths the words of the Angel's Annunciation to Mary: "the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1:35).

Yet every child's birth brings something of this mystery with it! Parents who receive a child as a gift know this well and often speak of it in this way. We have all heard people say to a father and a mother: "this child is a gift, a miracle!". Indeed, human beings do not experience procreation merely as a reproductive act but perceive its richness and intuit that every human creature who is born on earth is the "sign" par excellence of the Creator and Father who is in Heaven.

How important it is, therefore, that every child coming into the world be welcomed by the warmth of a family! External comforts do not matter: Jesus was born in a stable and had a manger as his first cradle, but the love of Mary and of Joseph made him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. Children need this: the love of their father and mother. It is this that gives them security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth went through many trials, such as the "massacre of the innocents" -- as recounted in the Gospel according to Matthew -- which obliged Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt (cf. 2:13-23). Yet, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and guaranteed Jesus a serene childhood and a sound upbringing.

Dear friends, the Holy Family is of course unique and unrepeatable, but at the same time it is a "model of life" for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it. Let us therefore entrust all families to Our Lady and to St Joseph, so that they do not lose heart in the face of trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and devote themselves with trust to the service of life and education.

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]

Over this Christmas period, the desire and calls for the gift of peace have become more intense. Yet our world continues to be marked by violence, especially against the disciples of Christ. I learned with great sadness of the attack on a Catholic church in the Philippines during the celebration of the Christmas liturgy, as well as attacks against Christian churches in Nigeria. The earth has also been stained with blood in other parts of the world, such as Pakistan. I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the victims of this absurd violence, and I once again reiterate my appeal to abandon the path of hatred in order to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and bring security and tranquillity to those dear people. On this day in which we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, who underwent the dramatic experience of having to flee into Egypt because of the murderous fury of Herod, let us remember all those, especially families, who are forced to abandon their homes because of war, violence and intolerance. I invite you, therefore, to join me in praying fervently that the Lord may touch people's hearts and bring hope, reconciliation and peace

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

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer on the Feast of the Holy Family. Reflecting on the love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for one another, we see that Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover the life of Christ and to understand his Gospel. May the peace of the Holy Family always be in your homes and fill you with gladness. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the New Year
"Religious Liberty Is the Privileged Way to Build Peace"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2011  - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and the 44th World Day of Peace, before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this first Angelus of 2011, I address to all my good wishes for peace and goodness entrusting them to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who today we celebrate as Mother of God. At the beginning of a new year, the Christian People gather spiritually before the cave of Bethlehem, where the Virgin Mary has given birth to Jesus. Let us ask the Mother for a blessing, and she blesses us showing us the Son: in fact, he is the Blessing in person.

Giving us Jesus, God has given us everything: his love, his life, the light of truth, the forgiveness of sins; he has given us peace. Yes, Jesus Christ is our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14). He brought to the world the seed of love and of peace, stronger than the seed of hatred and violence; stronger because the Name of Jesus is superior to any other name, it contains all the lordship of God, as the prophet Micah announced: "But you, O Bethlehem, ... from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler .... He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God ... He himself will be peace!" (5:1-4).

Because of this, before the icon of the Virgin Mother, the Church on this day invokes from God, through Jesus Christ, the gift of peace: it is the World Day of Peace, propitious occasion to reflect together on the great challenges that our era poses to humanity. One of these, dramatically urgent in our days, is that of religious liberty; because of this, this year I have wished to dedicate my Message to this topic: "Religious Liberty, Way for Peace."

We are witnessing today two opposed tendencies, two extremes both negative: on one hand laicism that, in an often deceitful way, marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere; on the other fundamentalism, which instead would like to impose itself on all with force. In reality, "God calls humanity to himself with a plan of love that, while it involves the whole person in his natural and spiritual dimension, requires that he correspond in terms of liberty and responsibility, with his whole heart and with his whole being, individual and communal" (Message, 8). Wherever religious liberty is recognized effectively, the dignity of the human person is respected at its roots and, through a sincere search for the true and the good, the moral conscience is consolidated and the institutions themselves and civil coexistence are reinforced (cf. Ibid., 5). Because of this, religious liberty is the privileged way to build peace.

Dear friends, let us turn our gaze again to Jesus, in the arms of Mary, his Mother. Looking at Him, who is the "Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:5), we understand that peace is not attained with arms, or with economic, political, cultural or media power. Peace is the work of consciences that open to truth and to love. May God help us to progress on this way in the new year that He gives us to live.


[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Message for today's Day of Peace I was able to underline how the great religions can constitute an important factor of unity and peace for the human family, and I reminded, to this end, that in this year of 2011 will be observed the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace that the Venerable John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986. Because of this, in the forthcoming month of October, I will go as a pilgrim to the city of St. Francis, inviting Christian brothers of different confessions, exponents of religious traditions of the world and, ideally, all men of good will, to join in this journey to recall that historic gesture willed by my predecessor and to renew solemnly the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as service for the cause of peace. Whoever is journeying towards God cannot but transmit peace, whoever builds peace cannot but be close to God. I invite you to support this initiative from now on with your prayer.

In this context, I wish to greet and encourage all those who, from yesterday evening and during the whole of today, in the whole Church are praying for peace and for religious liberty. In Italy, the traditional march promoted by CEI, Pax Christi and Caritas took place in Ancona, city that will host next September the National Eucharistic Congress. Here in Rome, and in other cities of the world, Sant'Egidio Community has again proposed the initiative "Peace in All Lands": my heartfelt greeting to all those who took part. I also greet the adherents of the Family Love Movement, who this evening watched in St. Peter's Square and in the dioceses of L'Aquila praying for peace in families and in nations.

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

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. On the first day of the year the Church pays special honour to the Mother of God, recalling how in humble obedience to the Lord's will she bore in her womb and gave birth to him who is the Light of the World. On this day, too, we pray especially for peace throughout the world, and I invite all of you to join in heartfelt prayer to Christ the Prince of Peace for an end to violence and conflict wherever they are found. Upon all of you, and upon your loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings for the year that lies ahead. Happy New Year!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Letter at End of Compostelan Holy Year
"The Pilgrims Will Return to Their Homes ... Joyful and Grateful"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2011 - Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on the occasion of the closing of the 2010 Compostelan Holy Year. The Vatican press office published the letter Dec. 31.
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To the Venerable Brother, Monsignor Julián Barrio Barrio,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela

1. On the occasion of the solemn closing of the Compostelan Holy Year of 2010, I again think with emotion about the House of St. James, which I visited recently with profound interior joy. I wish to join in thanksgiving to God for the gifts that his goodness has shed over these months on the multitude of persons who journeyed to that holy place with living faith, renewing their firm adherence to the message transmitted by the Apostles and living with a spirit of conversion the encounter with the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. On greeting affectionately the pastors, religious, seminarians and faithful gathered in that circumstance, evoking the unforgettable moments that we lived beside the tomb of the Protomartyr Apostle, I would like to address to you a word of encouragement, so that the fruits of Christian life and ecclesial renewal harvested copiously in the Holy Year will stimulate those who reached Santiago de Compostela to be witnesses of the Risen Christ.

2. In fact, on the way, they shared concerns, hopes and challenges with the brothers who were by their side, seeking to hear God who speaks to us and dwells in our interior, to come out of themselves and open themselves to others. On arriving at the Door of Glory, they were awaited by the loving and welcoming majesty of Christ, in whose light man can find the authentic meaning of his existence and paths for a peaceful and constructive coexistence among peoples. Under the serene look of the apostle, they renewed their profession of faith, intoned their praise and made humble confession of their sins. The profession of faith was followed by the reception of forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance and the encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist.

3. This meeting cannot leave them indifferent. The pilgrims will return to their homes as the disciples of Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, who conversed with Jesus on the way and recognized him in the breaking of bread. Joyful and grateful they went to the Holy City to communicate to all that he had risen and had appeared to them alive. Thus they became joyful and confident messengers of the living Christ, who is balm for our sorrows and foundation of our hope (cf. Luke 24:13-35). Also now, on leaving Compostela after having experienced the love of the Lord who came out to meet us, the longing will be felt to fulfill the charge of the Apostle Peter: "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" (a Peter 3:15). It requires the resolution to strengthen our faith every day, participating assiduously in the mysteries of grace entrusted to the Church and giving effective and concrete example of charity. We will not be credible witnesses of God if we are not faithful collaborators and servants of men. This service to a profound comprehension and to a courageous defense of man is an exigency of the Gospel and an essential contribution to the society of our Christian condition.

4. With these sentiments, I would now like to address in particular young people, whom I will have the good fortune of meeting next year in Madrid for the celebration of World Youth Day. I invite them to allow themselves to be interpellated by Christ, establishing with Him a frank and deliberate dialogue and also asking themselves: will the Lord count on me to be his apostle in the world, to be a messenger of his love? May generosity not be lacking in responding, nor that fearlessness which led James to follow the Master without sparing sacrifices. Likewise, I encourage seminarians to identify increasingly with Jesus, who calls them to work in his vineyard (cf. Matthew 20:3-4). The vocation to the priesthood is an admirable gift of which one must be proud, because the world needs persons dedicated completely to making Jesus Christ present, configuring all their life and their task with Him, repeating daily with humility his words and gestures, to be his transparency in the midst of the flock that has been entrusted to them. Here is the fatigue and also the glory of presbyters, whom I would like to remind with Saint Paul that nothing and no one in this world will be able to wrench from the love of God manifested in Christ (cf. Romans 8:39).

5. Keeping in my soul the memory of my pleasant stay in Compostela, I ask the Lord that the forgiveness and the aspiration to holiness that have germinated in this Compostelan Holy Year may help to make more present, under the guidance of James, the redeeming Word of Jesus Christ in that particular Church and in all the villages of Spain, and that his light may be perceived equally in Europe, as an incessant invitation to invigorate its Christian roots and thus empower its commitment to solidarity and the firm defense of the dignity of man.

6. To the loving protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, to whose maternal heart the Apostle James confided his sorrows and joys, according to venerable tradition, I entrust all the sons and daughters of those noble lands and impart to them the apostolic blessing, sign of consolation and of constant divine assistance.

Vatican, December 18, 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Epiphany
"To All Those Who Seek Truth, We Must Offer the Word of God"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today, the solemnity of the Epiphany, before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to all peoples, represented by the Magi, who arrived in Bethlehem from the East to pay tribute to the King of the Jews, whose birth they learnt about by the appearance of a new star in the sky (cf. Matthew 2:1-12). In fact, before the arrival of the Magi, knowledge of this event was little known beyond the family circle: in addition to Mary and Joseph, and probably other relatives, it was known by the shepherds of Bethlehem, who, hearing the joyful announcement, went to see the baby while he was still laying in the manger. The coming of the Messiah, awaited by the people as foretold by the prophets, remained thus initially in concealment.

Until, in fact, those mysterious personages -- the Magi -- arrived in Jerusalem to ask news about the "king of the Jews," born a short time ago. Obviously, as it was about a king, they went to the royal palace where Herod resided. But he did not know anything about this birth and, very worried, he immediately convoked the priests and scribes who, based on the famous prophecy of Micah (cf. 5:1), affirmed that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. And in fact, going out again in that direction, the Magi saw the star again, which led them to the place where Jesus was. Having entered, they prostrated themselves and adored him, offering him symbolic gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. See the epiphany, the manifestation: the coming and the adoration of the Magi is the first sign of the singular identity of the son of God, who is also son of the Virgin Mary. From now on the question began to be propagated that would accompany the whole life of Christ, and which in different ways goes across the centuries: who is this Jesus?

Dear friends, this is the question that the Church wishes to awaken in the hearts of all men: who is Jesus? This is the spiritual longing that drives the mission of the Church: to make Jesus known, his Gospel, so that every man can discover in his human face the face of God, and be illumined by his mystery of love. Epiphany pre-announces the universal opening of the Church, her call to evangelize all peoples. But Epiphany also tells us in what way the Church carries out this mission: reflecting the light of Christ and proclaiming his Word. Christians are called to imitate the service that the star gave the Magi. We must shine as children of the light, to attract all to the beauty of the Kingdom of god. And to all those who seek truth, we must offer the Word of God, which leads to recognizing in Jesus "the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).

Once again, we feel in ourselves a profound gratitude to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is the perfect image of the Church which gives the world the light of Christ: she is the Star of evangelization. "Respice Stellam," Saint Bernard says to us: look at the Star, you who go in search of truth and peace; turn your gaze to Mary, and She will show you Jesus, light for every man and for all peoples.

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

I address my heartfelt greeting and most fervent wishes to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches that tomorrow celebrate Holy Christmas. May the goodness of God, appearing in Jesus Christ, incarnate Word, reinforce in all faith, hope and charity, and give comfort to the communities that are being tested.

I remind then that Epiphany is the Missionary Day of Children, proposed by the Pontifical Work of Holy Childhood. So many children and youngsters, organized in parishes and schools, form a spiritual and solidaristic network to help their contemporaries in greatest difficulty. It is very beautiful and important that children grow with a mentality open to the world, with sentiments of love and fraternity, overcoming egoism and consumerism. Dear children and youngsters, with your prayer and your commitment you collaborate with the mission of the Church. I thank you for this and I bless you!


[In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. On this, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Church rejoices in the revelation of Jesus Christ as the light of all peoples. May the light of Christ's glory fill you and your families with joy, strengthen Christians everywhere in their witness to the Gospel, and lead all mankind to the fullness of truth and life which God alone can give. Upon all of you, and in a special way upon the children present, I invoke the Lord's abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Mystery of the Incarnation
"The Word Is a Living Reality"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday, Jan. 2, before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I renew to you all my good wishes for the New Year and I thank all those who have sent me messages of spiritual closeness.

This Sunday's Liturgy proposes anew the Prologue of the Gospel according to St John, solemnly proclaimed on Christmas Day. This wonderful text expresses the mystery of the Incarnation, preached by eyewitnesses, the Apostles, and in particular by John whose feast -- not by chance -- is celebrated on Dec. 27. St Chromatius of Aquileia said that "John was the youngest of all the Lord's disciples; the youngest in age, but already old in faith" (Sermo II, 1 De Sancto Iohanne Evangelista, CCL 9a, 101).

When we read: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1), the Evangelist, traditionally compared with an eagle - soars above human history, scrutinizing God's depths; but very soon, following his Teacher, he returns to the earthly dimension, saying: "and the Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14).

The Word is "a living reality: a God who... communicates himself by making himself man (J. Ratzinger, Teologia della liturgia, LEV, 209 10, 618). In fact, John testifies that he "dwelt among us" and "we have beheld his glory" (Jn 1:14).

"He lowered himself to assume the humility of our condition", St Leo the Great comments, "without this diminishing his majesty" (Tractatus XXI, 2, CCL 138, 86-87). Further, we read in the Prologue: "From his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace" (Jn 1:16). "What is the first grace that we have received?", St Augustine asks and answers, "it is faith". The second grace, he immediately adds, is "eternal life" (In evangelium Johannis tractatus III, 8.9, CCL 36, 24.25).

I now address in Spanish the thousands of families meeting in Madrid for an important demonstration. I greet with affection the many Pastors and faithful who are gathered in Plaza de Colón, Madrid, in order to celebrate joyfully the value of marriage and the family, on the theme: "The Christian family, hope for Europe".

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be strong in love and to contemplate with humility the Mystery of Christmas that continues to speak to the heart and to become a school of family and fraternal life. The motherly gaze of the Virgin Mary, the loving protection of St Joseph and the sweet presence of the Baby Jesus are a clear image of what every Christian family must be: an authentic sanctuary of fidelity, respect and understanding in which faith is passed on, hope is strengthened and love is kindled.

I encourage one and all to live the Christian vocation in your homes with renewed enthusiasm, as genuine servants of the love that welcomes, accompanies and protects life. Make your home a real nursery of virtues and a serene and luminous place of trust, in which, guided by God's grace, it is possible to discern wisely the call of the Lord who continues to invite people to follow him.

With these sentiments I fervently commend to the Holy Family of Nazareth the resolutions and fruit of this meeting, so that there may be an increasing number of families in which joy, mutual giving and generosity hold sway. May God always bless you. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, whom the Lord entrusted as Mother to "the disciple whom Jesus loved", for the strength to behave as children "who were born ... of God" (cf. Jn 1:13), accepting one another and thereby expressing brotherly love.

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]

Yesterday morning we learned with sorrow the news of the serious attack on the Christian Coptic community in Alexandria, Egypt. This despicable act of death, like the current trend of setting bombs close to the homes of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and the whole of humanity which, only yesterday was praying for peace and began a New Year with hope.

In the face of this strategy of violence that is targeting Christians with consequences on the entire population, I pray for the victims and their relatives and I encourage the ecclesial communities to persevere in faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel.

I am also thinking of the numerous pastoral workers killed in 2010 in various parts of the world: we likewise address to them our affectionate remembrance before the Lord. Let us remain united in Christ, our hope and our peace!

[He then greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today we continue to contemplate the divine mystery of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the Word of God made flesh for our salvation, the Wisdom of God who has come to enlighten us. Let us always cherish this presence of Jesus who brings us grace and truth! I wish you all a pleasant Sunday and renew my good wishes for a Happy New Year!

[In Italian, he said:]

On this first Sunday of the year: many good wishes to everyone for peace and good in the Lord.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Homily for Feast of Three Kings
"They Were Men 'in Search' of Something More"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered today, the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, during the Mass he presided over in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the solemnity of the Epiphany the Church continues to contemplate and to celebrate the mystery of the birth of Jesus the Savior. In particular, today's feast underlines the destiny and universal meaning of this birth. Becoming man in the womb of Mary, the Son of God came not only for the people of Israel, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, but also for the whole of humanity, represented by the Magi. And it is precisely on the Magi and on their journey in search of the Messiah (cf. Matthew 2:1-12) that the Church invites us today to meditate and to pray. In the Gospel we heard that they, arriving in Jerusalem from the East, asked: "Where is he who is born, the king of the Jews? We saw his star arise and we have come to adore him" (v. 2). What kind of persons were they and what kind of star was that? They were probably wise men who scrutinized the sky but not to try to "read" the future in the stars, eventually to extract some gain; rather, they were men "in search" of something more, in search of the true light, which would be able to indicate the way to follow in life. They were persons who were certain that in creation there is what we could define as the "signature" of God, a signature that man can and must try to discover and decipher. Perhaps the way to know these Magi better and to take up their desire to let themselves be guided by God's signs is to pause to consider what they found, on their way, in the great city of Jerusalem.

First of all they found king Herod. He certainly was interested in the child of whom the Magi spoke; not, however, for the purpose of adoring him, as he, lying, wished to make understood, but to do away with him. Herod was a man of power, who in the other sees only a rival to combat. At bottom, if we reflect well, even God seems a rival to him, in fact a particularly dangerous rival, who wished to deprive men of the vital space, of their autonomy, of their power; a rival who indicates the way to follow in life and thus impedes one's doing whatever one wishes. Herod hears from his experts in the Sacred Scriptures the words of the prophet Micah (5:1), but his only thought is the throne. Hence God himself must be obfuscated and persons must be reduced to being simple pawns to be moved in the great chess-board of power. Herod is not a likable personality, someone whom we instinctively judge in a negative way because of his brutality. But we must ask ourselves: is there perhaps something of Herod also in us? Perhaps we too at times see God as a sort of rival? Perhaps we too are blind before his signs, deaf to his words, because we think he puts limits on our life and does not allows us to dispose of our existence as we please? Dear bothers and sisters, when we see God in this way we end up by feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, because we do not let ourselves be guided by Him who is the foundation of everything. We must remove from our mind and heart the idea of rivalry, the idea that to give space to God is to limit ourselves; we must open ourselves to the certainty that God is the omnipotent love that does not take anything away, does not threaten, rather, He is the only One capable of giving us the possibility of living in fullness, of experiencing true joy.

The Magi then meet with the scholars, the theologians, the experts that know everything about the Sacred Scriptures, who know the possible interpretations, who are able to recite by heart every passage and hence are a precious help to those who wish to follow the way of God. But, Saint Augustine affirms, they love to be guides for others, showing the way, but they do not walk, they remain immobile. For them the Scriptures become a sort of atlas to read with curiosity, an ensemble of words and concepts to examine and to discuss learnedly. But again we can ask ourselves: is there not also in us the temptation to hold the Sacred Scriptures, this very rich and vital treasure for the faith of the Church, more as an object for study and the discussions of specialists, than as the Book that indicates to us the way to reach life? I think that, as I indicated in the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," the profound disposition must always be reborn in us to see the word of the Bible, read in the living Tradition of the Church (No. 18), as the truth that tells us what man is and how he can realize himself fully, the truth that is the way to follow daily, together with others, if we wish to build our existence on a rock and not on sand.

And thus we come to the star. What type of star was that which the Magi saw and followed? Throughout the centuries this question has been the object of discussions among astronomers. Kepler, for example, held that it was a "nova" or a "supernova," that is, one of those stars that normally emanate a weak light, but which can have unexpectedly a violent internal explosion that produces an exceptional light. Certainly, interesting things, but which do not lead us to what is essential in order to understand that star. We must return to the fact that those men were seeking the traces of God; they were seeking to read his "signature" in creation; they knew that "the heavens tell the glory of God" (Psalm 19:2); they were certain, namely, that God can be perceived in creation. But, from wise men they also knew that it is not with any telescope but with the profound eyes of reason in search of the ultimate meaning of reality and with the desire of God moved by faith, that it is possible to find him, more than that, rendered possible is that God comes close to us. The universe is not the result of chance, as some would have us believe. Contemplating it, we are invited to read in it something profound: the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible imagination of God, his infinite love for us. We must not let our minds be limited by theories which come only to a certain point and that -- if we look well -- are not in fact in concurrence with the faith, but do not succeed in explaining the ultimate meaning of reality. In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its grandeur and its rationality we cannot but read the eternal rationality, and we cannot but let ourselves be guided by it to the one God, creator of heaven and earth. If we have this look, we will see that He who has created the world is he who is born in a cave in Bethlehem and continues to dwell in our midst in the Eucharist, it is the same living God who interpellates us, loves us, and wishes to lead us to eternal life.

Herod, the experts of Scripture, the star, but we follow the way of the Magi who arrive in Jerusalem. The star disappears over the great city, it is no longer seen. What does it mean? Also in this case we must read the sign in depth. For those men it was logical to seek the new king in the royal palace, where the wise counselors of the court were found. But, probably to their astonishment, they would have seen that the newborn was not found in the places of power and culture, even if in those places they were given precious information about him. They realized, instead, that, at times, power, including that of learning, bars the way to the encounter with that Child. Hence, the star guided them to Bethlehem, a small city, it guided them among the poor, the humble, to find the King of the world. God's criteria are different from those of men; God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but in the humility of his love, that love which asks our liberty to be heard to transform us and make us capable of coming to Him who is Love. However even for us things are not as diverse as they were for the Magi. If we were asked our opinion as to how God should have saved the world, perhaps we would have answered that he should have manifested all his power to give the world a more just economic system, in which everyone could have what he wanted. In reality, this would be a sort of violence to man, because it would deprive him of fundamental elements that characterize him. In fact, neither our liberty nor our love would have been called into question. God's power is manifested in an altogether different way: in Bethlehem, where we find the apparent impotence of his love. And it is there that we must go, and it is there that we again find God's star.

Thus a last important element of the event of the Magi appears very clear to us: the language of creation enables us to follow a good portion of the way to God, but it does not give us the definitive light. In the end, for the Magi it was indispensable to hear the voice of the Sacred Scriptures: they alone could indicate the way to them. It is the Word of God that is the true star, that, in the uncertainty of human discourses, offers us the immense splendor of the divine truth. Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be guided by the star, which is the Word of God, let us follow it in our life, walking with the Church, where the Word has pitched its tent. Our way will always be illumined by a light that no other sign can give us. And we too will be able to become stars for others, reflection of that light that Christ made to shine over us. Amen.

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Papal Letter on Financial Transparency
"Concerning the Prevention and Countering of the Laundering"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's apostolic letter issued "motu proprio" on the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the financial and monetary sectors.

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The Apostolic See has always raised its voice to exhort all men and women of good will, and especially the leaders of nations, to commit themselves to building -- also through just and lasting peace in all parts of the world - the universal city of God, towards which the history of peoples and nations progresses [Benedict XVI, Enc. Let. 'Caritas in veritate' (29 June 2009), 7: AAS 101/2009, 645]. Unfortunately, peace in our time and in an increasingly globalised society is threatened by various causes, among them the inappropriate use of the market and the economy, as well as the terrible destruction of terrorist violence, which causes death, suffering, hatred and social instability.

Quite rightly, the international community is increasingly equipping itself with juridical principles and instruments that enable it to prevent and contrast the phenomena of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The Holy See approves this commitment and intends to adopt these rules in its own use of the material resources it needs to carry out its mission, and to carry out the tasks of Vatican City State.

In this context, also in implementation of the Monetary Convention of 17 December 2009 between Vatican City State and the European Union, I have approved for Vatican City State the publication of the Law of 30 December 2010 concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism, which is being promulgated today.

With this Apostolic Letter in the form of "Motu Proprio":

(a) I decree that the abovementioned Law of Vatican City State, and its future modifications, is also valid for the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and for all Institutions and Entities dependent on the Holy See, when they undertake the activities defined in article 2 of the said Law.

(b) I establish the "Autorita di Informazione Finanziaria" (AIF), as indicated in article 33 of the Law concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism, as an Institution connected with the Holy See in accordance with articles 186 and 190-191 of the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus", conferring thereon public juridical canonical status and Vatican civil status, and approving its Statute which is attached to this Motu Proprio.

(c) I decree that the "Autorita di Informazione Finanziaria" (AIF) is to exercise its functions in relation to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and in relation to all the Institutions and Entities mentioned in paragraph (a) above.

(d) I delegate the competent judicial bodies of Vatican City State to exercise their penal jurisdiction - only as concerns the crimes conjectured in the abovementioned Law - in relation to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and in relation to all the Institutions and Entities mentioned in paragraph (a) above.

I order that what has thus been established is to have full and stable validity as of today's date, notwithstanding any dispositions to the contrary, though worthy of special mention.

I decree that this Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio is to be published in the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis".

Published in Rome, from the Apostolic Palace, 30 December of the year 2010, sixth of the Pontificate.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Vatican Statement on New Financial Laws
"Part of the Apostolic See’s Efforts to Build a Just and Honest Social Order"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 - Here is the communiqué of the Vatican Secretariat of State regarding the new legislation for the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the financial and monetary sectors.

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1. Today, in implementation of the Monetary Convention of 17 December 2009 (2010/C 28/05) between Vatican City State and the European Union, four new Laws were adopted:

- the "Law concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism";

- the "Law on fraud and counterfeiting of Euro banknotes and coins";

- the "Law concerning the size, specifications, reproductions, substitutions of and withdrawals from use of Euro banknotes and concerning the implementation of measures to be taken against the irregular reproduction of Euro banknotes and the substitution of and withdrawal from use of Euro banknotes"; and the "Law regarding the face, unitary value and technical specifications, as well as the copyright of the designs of the national faces of the Euro coins destined for circulation".

The process of drafting the above-mentioned Laws was conducted with the assistance of the Mixed Committee, established in Art.11 of the Monetary Convention, composed of representatives of Vatican City State and of the European Union. The European Union delegation is composed of representatives of the Commission and of the Republic of Italy as well as representatives of the Central European Bank.

The Law concerning the prevention and countering of money laundering and of the financing of terrorism is published together with this Communiqué, while the others will be published on the website of Vatican City State, at www.vaticanstate.va

2. The Law concerning the prevention of money laundering and of the financing of terrorism contains the following in a single piece of legislation:

- specification of criminal activities which comprise the laundering of money, self money-laundering, and the so-called "predicate crimes" (that is, the criminal activities which generate incomes, that are subsequently laundered), for which penal fines are foreseen;

- specification of activities with a more administrative content related to international cooperation, but also to prevention, for which pecuniary administrative fines are foreseen.

The above Law is based on the following main obligations:

- "adequate verification" of the counterpart;

- registration and conservation of data concerning ongoing relations and operations;

- reporting of suspicious transactions.

The structure of this Law, while taking into account the specificity of the Vatican legal system into which it is inserted, conforms to the principles and rules in force throughout the European Union and is therefore in conformity with the norms of other nations which have more developed rules in this regard. This is seen in the provisions concerning, among other things, self money-laundering, the controls on cash entering or leaving Vatican City State, the obligations regarding the transfer of funds, and the heavy administrative sanctions that are applicable not only to legal persons and entities but also to the physical persons who act on their behalf, by means of the binding recourse action.

3. In conformity with what is found in the most recent norms of the European Union, the Law on fraud and counterfeiting responds to the need to adopt a solid network of legal protection of Euro banknotes and coins from counterfeiting. This requires procedures of withdrawal from circulation of counterfeited banknotes and coins, the reinforcing of penal sanctions, as well as various forms of European and international cooperation.

4. The Laws concerning the Euro banknotes and coins contain the following for those Banknotes and coins:

- norms for the protection of the copyright of the designs;

- rules regarding size, technical characteristics, circulation and substitution;

- the prospective application of administrative pecuniary fines for violation of any of these Laws.

5. The drafting of the Laws that are adopted today does not involve Vatican City State alone. The Holy See, which is legally distinct from Vatican City State and which directs entities and institutions active in various areas, has adopted as its own the "Law concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism". The adoption of this Law was accomplished by means of the "Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio for the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the area of monetary and financial dealings".

With that Apostolic Letter, which is also published today and signed by the Supreme Pontiff Pope Benedict XVI:

- it is also established that the Law of Vatican City State and its future modifications apply as well to the "Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and for each and every institution or entity dependent on the Holy See", among which the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) is included, so as to confirm the latter’s firm intention to operate according to principles and criteria which are internationally recognized;

- the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria (AIF) is established, an autonomous and independent body with the specific task of preventing and countering the laundering of money and the financing of terrorism with respect to each subject, both legal and physical, entity and institution of whatever nature, of Vatican City State, of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of all the other institutions and entities dependent on the Holy See;

- the competent judicial authorities of Vatican City State are henceforth delegated to exercise penal jurisdiction in regard to the above-mentioned institutions, in the case of crimes related to money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The Apostolic Letter is published on the Holy See’s website, at www.vatican.va

6. The AIF, whose President and members of the Governing Council are appointed by the Pope, is charged with the task of adopting the complex and delicate norms of implementation which are indispensable in ensuring that the subjects of the Holy See and of Vatican City State – from 1 April 2011 – will respect these new and important obligations aimed at countering the laundering of money and the financing of terrorism. On 1 April 2011, the "Law concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism" will enter into force.

7. Experience will help to refine and integrate the new norms concerning the prevention and countering of money-laundering and the financing of terrorism in accordance with the principles and the standards in force in the international community; such need might derive from the Holy See’s and Vatican City State’s openness to deal with competent international instances in countering both money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

8. These new Laws are part of the Apostolic See’s efforts to build a just and honest social order. At no time may the great principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility be neglected or weakened (cf. BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 36).

30 December 2010

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On St. Catherine of Bologna
"She Identifies Seven Weapons in the Fight Against Evil"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 15, 2011- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 29 during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his address, continuing the series of catecheses on the saints, he reflected on the figure of St. Catherine of Bologna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In a recent Catechesis I spoke of St Catherine of Siena. Today I would like to present to you another less well known Saint who has the same name: St Catherine of Bologna, a very erudite yet very humble woman. She was dedicated to prayer but was always ready to serve; generous in sacrifice but full of joy in welcoming Christ with the Cross.

Catherine was born in Bologna on 8 September 1413, the eldest child of Benvenuta Mammolini and John de' Vigri, a rich and cultured patrician of Ferrara, a doctor in law and a public lector in Padua, where he carried out diplomatic missions for Nicholas III d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara.

Not much information about Catherine's infancy and childhood is available and not all of it is reliable. As a child she lived in her grandparents' house in Bologna, where she was brought up by relatives, especially by her mother who was a woman of deep faith.

With her, Catherine moved to Ferrara when she was about 10 years old and entered the court of Nicholas III d'Este as lady-in-waiting to Margaret, Nicholas' illegitimate daughter. The Marquis was transforming Ferrara into a fine city, summoning artists and scholars from various countries. He encouraged culture and, although his private life was not exemplary, took great care of the spiritual good, moral conduct and education of his subjects.

In Ferrara Catherine was unaware of the negative aspects that are often part and parcel of court life. She enjoyed Margaret's friendship and became her confidante. She developed her culture by studying music, painting and dancing; she learned to write poetry and literary compositions and to play the viola; she became expert in the art of miniature-painting and copying; she perfected her knowledge of Latin.

In her future monastic life she was to put to good use the cultural and artistic heritage she had acquired in these years. She learned with ease, enthusiasm and tenacity. She showed great prudence, as well as an unusual modesty, grace and kindness in her behaviour.

However, one absolutely clear trait distinguished her: her spirit, constantly focused on the things of Heaven. In 1427, when she was only 14 years old and subsequent to certain family events, Catherine decided to leave the court to join a group of young noble women who lived a community life dedicating themselves to God. Her mother trustingly consented in spite of having other plans for her daughter.

We know nothing of Catherine's spiritual path prior to this decision. Speaking in the third person, she states that she entered God's service, "illumined by divine grace... with an upright conscience and great fervour", attentive to holy prayer by night and by day, striving to acquire all the virtues she saw in others, "not out of envy but the better to please God in whom she had placed all her love" (Le sette armi necessarie alla battaglia spirituali, [The seven spiritual weapons], VII, 8, Bologna 1998, p. 12).

She made considerable spiritual progress in this new phase of her life but her trials, her inner suffering and especially the temptations of the devil were great and terrible. She passed through a profound spiritual crisis and came to the brink of despair (cf. ibid., VII, 2, pp. 12-29). She lived in the night of the spirit, and was also deeply shaken by the temptation of disbelief in the Eucharist.

After so much suffering, the Lord comforted her: he gave her, in a vision, a clear awareness of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, an awareness so dazzling that Catherine was unable to express it in words (cf. ibid., VIII, 2. pp. 42-46).

In this same period a sorrowful trial afflicted the community: tension arose between those who wished to follow the Augustinian spirituality and those who had more of an inclination for Franciscan spirituality.

Between 1429 and 1430, Lucia Mascheroni, in charge of the group, decided to found an Augustinian monastery. Catherine, on the other hand chose with others to bind herself to the Rule of St Clare of Assisi. It was a gift of Providence, because the community dwelled in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Spirit, annexed to the convent of the Friars Minor who had adhered to the movement of the Observance.

Thus Catherine and her companions could take part regularly in liturgical celebrations and receive adequate spiritual assistance. They also had the joy of listening to the preaching of St Bernardine of Siena (cf. ibid., VII, 62, p. 26). Catherine recounts that in 1429 - the third year since her conversion - she went to make her confession to one of the Friars Minor whom she esteemed, she made a good Confession and prayed the Lord intensely to grant her forgiveness for all her sins and the suffering connected with them.

In a vision God revealed to her that he had forgiven her everything. It was a very strong experience of divine mercy which left an indelible mark upon her, giving her a fresh impetus to respond generously to God's immense love (cf. ibid. IX, 2, pp. 46-48).

In 1431 she had a vision of the Last Judgement. The terrifying spectacle of the damned impelled her to redouble her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. The devil continued to assail her and she entrusted herself ever more totally to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary (cf. ibid., X, 3, pp. 53-54).

In her writings, Catherine has left us a few essential notes concerning this mysterious battle from which, with God's grace, she emerged victorious. She did so in order to instruct her sisters and those who intend to set out on the path of perfection: she wanted to put them on their guard against the temptations of the devil who often conceals himself behind deceptive guises, later to sow doubts about faith, vocational uncertainty and sensuality.

In her autobiographical and didactic treatise, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, Catherine offers in this regard teaching of deep wisdom and profound discernment. She speaks in the third person in reporting the extraordinary graces which the Lord gives to her and in the first person in confessing her sins. From her writing transpires the purity of her faith in God, her profound humility, the simplicity of her heart, her missionary zeal, her passion for the salvation of souls. She identifies seven weapons in the fight against evil, against the devil:

1. always to be careful and diligently strive to do good; 2. to believe that alone we will never be able to do something truly good; 3. to trust in God and, for love of him, never to fear in the battle against evil, either in the world or within ourselves; 4. to meditate often on the events and words of the life of Jesus, and especially on his Passion and his death; 5. to remember that we must die; 6. to focus our minds firmly on memory of the goods of Heaven; 7. to be familiar with Sacred Scripture, always cherishing it in our hearts so that it may give direction to all our thoughts and all our actions. A splendid programme of spiritual life, today too, for each one of us!

In the convent Catherine, in spite of being accustomed to the court in Ferrara, served in the offices of laundress, dressmaker and breadmaker and even looked after the animals. She did everything, even the lowliest tasks, with love and ready obedience, offering her sisters a luminous witness. Indeed she saw disobedience as that spiritual pride which destroys every other virtue. Out of obedience she accepted the office of novice mistress, although she considered herself unfit for this office, and God continued to inspire her with his presence and his gifts: in fact she proved to be a wise and appreciated mistress.

Later the service of the parlour was entrusted to her. She found it trying to have to interrupt her prayers frequently in order to respond to those who came to the monastery grill, but this time too the Lord did not fail to visit her and to be close to her.

With her the monastery became an increasingly prayerful place of self-giving, of silence, of endeavour and of joy.

Upon the death of the abbess, the superiors thought immediately of her, but Catherine urged them to turn to the Poor Clares of Mantua who were better instructed in the Constitutions and in religious observance.

Nevertheless, a few years later, in 1456, she was asked at her monastery to open a new foundation in Bologna. Catherine would have preferred to end her days in Ferrara, but the Lord appeared to her and exhorted her to do God's will by going to Bologna as abbess. She prepared herself for the new commitment with fasting, scourging and penance.

She went to Bologna with 18 sisters. As superior she set the example in prayer and in service; she lived in deep humility and poverty. At the end of her three-year term as abbess she was glad to be replaced but after a year she was obliged to resume her office because the newly elected abbess became blind. Although she was suffering and was afflicted with serious ailments that tormented her, she carried out her service with generosity and dedication.

For another year she urged her sisters to an evangelical life, to patience and constancy in trial, to fraternal love, to union with the divine Bridegroom, Jesus, so as to prepare her dowry for the eternal nuptials.

It was a dowry that Catherine saw as knowing how to share the sufferings of Christ, serenely facing hardship, apprehension, contempt and misunderstanding (cf. Le sette armi spirituali, X, 20, pp. 57-58).

At the beginning of 1463 her health deteriorated. For the last time she gathered the sisters in Chapter, to announce her death to them and to recommend the observance of the Rule. Towards the end of February she was harrowed by terrible suffering that was never to leave her, yet despite her pain it was she who comforted her sisters, assuring them that she would also help them from Heaven.

After receiving the last Sacraments, she give her confessor the text she had written: The Seven Spiritual Weapons, and entered her agony; her face grew beautiful and translucent; she still looked lovingly at those who surrounded her and died gently, repeating three times the name of Jesus. It was 9 March 1463 (cf. I. Bembo, Specchio di illuminazione, Vita di S. Caterina a Bologna, Florence 2001, chap. III). Catherine was to be canonized by Pope Clement XI on 22 May 1712. Her incorrupt body is preserved in the city of Bologna, in the chapel of the monastery of Corpus Domini.

Dear friends, with her words and with her life, St Catherine of Bologna is a pressing invitation to let ourselves always be guided by God, to do his will daily, even if it often does not correspond with our plans, to trust in his Providence which never leaves us on our own. In this perspective, St Catherine speaks to us; from the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives.

She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord's hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.

So it is that she also tells us: take heart, even in the night of faith, even amidst our many doubts, do not let go of the Lord's hand, walk hand in hand with him, believe in God's goodness. This is how to follow the right path!

And I would like to stress another aspect: her great humility. She was a person who did not want to be someone or something; she did not care for appearances, she did not want to govern. She wanted to serve, to do God's will, to be at the service of others. And for this very reason Catherine was credible in her authority, because she was able to see that for her authority meant, precisely, serving others.

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Benedict XVI's Christmas Message
"May the Birth of the Savior Open Horizons of Lasting Peace"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he gave today at noon from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, and before he imparted his traditional blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world).

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Verbum caro factum est" – "The Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14).

Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is "Emmanuel", God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus.

This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth! Being in his presence, observing his works and hearing his words, they recognized in Jesus the Messiah; and seeing him risen, after his crucifixion, they were certain that he was true man and true God, the only-begotten Son come from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14).

"The Word became flesh". Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love. Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ.

God in fact does not change: he is faithful to himself. He who created the world is the same one who called Abraham and revealed his name to Moses: "I am who I am … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ex 3:14-15; 34:6). God does not change; he is Love, ever and always. In himself he is communion, unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space.

"The Word became flesh". The light of this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history. In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the "yes" of our hearts.

And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.

"The Word became flesh". The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. "Emmanuel", God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

May the birth of the Savior open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

May the birth of the Savior strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of "God-with-us" grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

Dear brothers and sisters, "the Word became flesh"; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Christmas Eve Homily
"In the Weakness of Infancy, He Is the Mighty God"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at tonight's Christmas Eve Mass, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

"You are my son, this day I have begotten you" – with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel. The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the "Son of God" through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being. The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel: "To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:6). Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God’s personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God. It is God’s eternal Word that unites humanity with divinity. To this child belong those titles of honour which Isaiah’s coronation song attributes to him: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Yes, this king does not need counsellors drawn from the wise of this world. He bears in himself God’s wisdom and God’s counsel. In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God and he shows us God’s own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.

Truly, the words of Israel’s coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. In all of them, those words about divine sonship, about installation into the heritage of the peoples, about making the ends of the earth their possession (Ps 2:8) were only pointers towards what was to come – as it were signposts of hope indicating a future that at that moment was still beyond comprehension. Thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. It is greater in the sense that this child is truly the Son of God, truly "God from God, light from light, begotten not made, of one being with the Father". The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. God has not only bent down, as we read in the Psalms; he has truly "come down", he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel – God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth. He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God’s own peace. This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the "rod of his oppressor" is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the "garment rolled in blood" (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that "of peace there will be no end" (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world – the "kingdom of righteousness, love and peace".

"Mary gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel’s history had pointed. Luke calls the child the "first-born". In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, "first-born" does not mean the first of a series of children. The word "first-born" is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow or not. So Israel is designated by God in the Book of Exodus (4:22) as "my first-born Son", and this expresses Israel’s election, its singular dignity, the particular love of God the Father. The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus "the first-born", simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy. The first-born belongs to God in a special way – and therefore he had to be handed over to God in a special way – as in many religions – and he had to be ransomed through a vicarious sacrifice, as Saint Luke recounts in the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. Saint Paul amplified and deepened the idea of Jesus as first-born in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians: Jesus, we read in these letters, is the first-born of all creation – the true prototype of man, according to which God formed the human creature. Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. Finally, it is said to us that he is the first-born of many brothers. Yes indeed, now he really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood – not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are God’s own family. This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. Let us pray to him: Lord Jesus, who wanted to be born as the first of many brothers and sisters, grant us the grace of true brotherhood. Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family.

At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lk 2:14). The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God’s glory – "we praise you for your glory". We praise you for the beauty, for the greatness, for the goodness of God, which becomes visible to us this night. The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. God’s glory, from which all beauty derives, causes us to break out in astonishment and joy. Anyone who catches a glimpse of God experiences joy, and on this night we see something of his light. But the angels’ message on that holy night also spoke of men: "Peace among men with whom he is pleased". The Latin translation of the angels’ song that we use in the liturgy, taken from Saint Jerome, is slightly different: "peace to men of good will". The expression "men of good will" has become an important part of the Church’s vocabulary in recent decades. But which is the correct translation? We must read both texts together; only in this way do we truly understand the angels’ song. It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if he had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.

Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: "Glory to God in the highest" (Lk 2:13f.). But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God’s heavenly glory. So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves. Thus, down the centuries, the angels’ song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's "Thought for the Day"
God "Often Surprises Us in the Way He Fulfills" His Promises

LONDON, DEC. 24, 2010 - Here is a transcription provided by BBC of Benedict XVI's "Thought for the Day." The Pope participated today in the Radio 4 program, which broadcasts three-minute reflections of a religious character from various personalities.

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Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

“God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.”

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days. I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful joyful Christmas. May God bless all of you!

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On Christmas: Where Everything Began
"May the Christ Child Find All of Us Spiritually Prepared"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 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,

With this last audience before the Christmas celebrations, tremulous and full of astonishment, we approach the "place" where everything began for us and for our salvation, where everything found its fulfillment, where the hopes of the world and of the human heart met and interlaced with the presence of God.

We can already have a foretaste of the joy awakened by the little light that is perceived, which from the grotto of Bethlehem begins to radiate in the world. In the Advent journey, which the liturgy has invited us to live, we have been prepared to receive readily and gratefully the great event of the coming of the Savior, to contemplate in wonder his entrance in the world.

Joyful hope, characteristic of the days that precede Holy Christmas, is certainly the essential attitude of the Christian who desires to live fruitfully the renewed encounter with him who comes to dwell in our midst: Christ Jesus, the Son of God made man. We find this disposition of the heart again, and make it our own, in those who first welcomed the coming of the Messiah: Zachariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, the simple folk, and especially Mary and Joseph, who themselves felt the tremor, but above all the joy over the mystery of this birth.

The whole of the Old Testament is one great promise, which would be realized with the coming of a powerful Savior. The book of the Prophet Isaiah is a particular witness of this, as it speaks to us of the sufferings of history and of the whole of creation for a redemption destined to give back new energies and a new orientation to the whole world. Thus, next to the expectation of the personalities of sacred Scripture, our hope also finds space and meaning through the centuries, a hope which we are experiencing these days and which keeps us going during the whole of our life's journey. In fact, the whole of human existence is animated by this profound sentiment, by the desire that what is most true, most beautiful and greatest, which we have perceived and intuited with our mind and heart, can come to meet us and become concrete before our eyes and raise us again.

"Behold, the omnipotent Lord is coming: He will be called Emmanuel, 'God-with-us'" (Entrance Antiphon, Holy Mass of Dec. 21). During these days, we repeat these words often. In the time of the liturgy, which again actualizes the Mystery, he who is coming to save us from sin and death is already at the door, he who, after Adam's and Eve's disobedience, embraces us again and opens to us access to true life.

St. Irenaeus explains it in his treatise "Against the Heresies," when he states: "The Son of God himself descended 'in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8:3) to condemn sin and, after having condemned it, exclude it completely from the human race. He called man to likeness with himself, he made him imitator of God, he set him on the path indicated by the Father so that he could see God, and give him as gift to the Father himself" (III, 20, 2-3).

We see some of St. Irenaeus' favorite ideas, that God with the Child Jesus calls us to likeness with himself. We see how God is, and are thus reminded that we should be like God. That we must imitate him. God has given himself, God has given himself into our hands. We must imitate God. And finally, the idea that in this way we can see God. A central idea of St. Irenaeus: Man does not see God, he cannot see him, and so he is in darkness about the truth of himself. However man, who cannot see God, can see Jesus, and so he sees God, and begins to see the truth and thus begins to live.

Hence the Savior comes to reduce to impotence the work of evil and all that which can still keep us away from God, to restore to us the ancient splendor and primitive paternity. With his coming among us, he indicates to us and also assigns to us a task: precisely that we be like him and that we tend toward true life, to come to the vision of God in the face of Christ. St. Irenaeus affirms again: "The Word of God made his dwelling among men and made himself Son of man, to accustom man to understand God and to accustom God to dwell in man according to the will of the Father. That is why God gave us as 'sign' of our salvation him who, born of the Virgin, is the Emmanuel" (ibid.). Here also there is a very beautiful central idea of St. Irenaeus: We must accustom ourselves to perceive God. God is generally distant from our lives, from our ideas, from our action. He has come to us and we must accustom ourselves to be with God. And, audaciously, Irenaeus dares to say that God must also accustom himself to be with us and in us. And that God perhaps should accompany us at Christmas, accustom ourselves to God, as God must accustom himself to us, to our poverty and frailty. Hence, the coming of the Lord can have no objective other than to teach us to see and love events, the world, and everything that surrounds us with the very eyes of God. The Word-become-a-child helps us to understand God's way of acting, so that we will be capable of allowing ourselves to be transformed increasingly by his goodness and his infinite mercy.

In the night of the world, we must let ourselves be amazed and illumined by this act of God, which is totally unexpected: God becomes a Child. We must let ourselves be amazed, illumined by the Star that inundated the universe with joy. May the Child Jesus, in coming to us, not find us unprepared, busy only in making the exterior reality more beautiful and attractive. May the care we give to making our streets and homes more resplendent impel us even more to predispose our soul to encounter him who will come to visit us. Let us purify our conscience and our life of what is contrary to this coming: thoughts, words, attitudes and deeds -- impelling us to do good and to contribute to bring about in our world peace and justice for every man and thus walk toward our encounter with the Lord.

A characteristic sign of Christmastide is the nativity scene. Also in St. Peter's Square, in keeping with custom, it is almost ready and appears ideally over Rome and over the whole world, representing the beauty of the Mystery of God who became man and dwelt among us (cf. John 1:14). The crib is an expression of our expectation that God will come close to us, that Jesus will come close to us, but also thanksgiving for him who decided to share our human condition, in poverty and simplicity. I am happy because the tradition of preparing the crib in homes, in workplaces, in meeting places, remains alive and is even being rediscovered. May this genuine witness of Christian faith be able to offer also today for all men of good will an eloquent icon of the infinite love of the Father for us all. May the hearts of children and adults still be able to be amazed before him.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph help us to live the Mystery of Christmas with renewed gratitude to the Lord. In the midst of the frenetic activity of our days, may this time give us some calm and joy and enable us to touch with our hand the goodness of our God, who became a Child to save us and to give new encouragement and light on our journey. This is my wish for a holy and happy Christmas: I address it affectionately to all of you here present, to your families, in particular to the sick and the suffering, as well as to your communities and your loved ones.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

In these last days before Christmas, the Church invites us to contemplate the mystery of Christ's Birth and to receive the gift of his presence, which is the fulfillment of humanity's deepest hopes and expectations. We share in the quiet joy which filled the hearts of Mary and Joseph, and all those who first welcomed the promised Savior, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us. By taking our flesh, the Lord saved us from the sin of our first parents; now he bids us to become like him, to see the world through his eyes and to let our hearts be transformed by his infinite goodness and mercy. This Christmas, may the Christ Child find all of us spiritually prepared for his coming. The traditional Christmas crib, which families prepare in these days, is an eloquent sign of our expectation of the Lord who comes. May the wonderment that the crib evokes in children and adults alike bring us closer to the mystery of God's love revealed in the incarnation of his beloved Son. Let us ask the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph to help us contemplate this great mystery with renewed joy and gratitude.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. To all of you, and especially the children, I offer my heartfelt wishes for a serene and joy-filled Christmas!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he greeted the youth, sick and newlyweds present:]

I wish, then, to greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. Just a few days before the solemnity of Christmas, may the love that God manifests to humanity in the birth of Christ, make grow in you, dear young people, the desire to serve your brothers generously. May it be for you, dear sick, a source of comfort and serenity because the Lord is coming to visit you, bringing consolation and hope. May it inspire you, dear newlyweds, to consolidate your promise of love and mutual fidelity.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Andorran Ambassador
"Harmony Is Possible Within Countries and Between Peoples"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Miquel Àngel Canturri Montanya, the new ambassador from Andorra to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador

I am delighted to receive Your Excellency and to accredit you in your capacity of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Principality of Andorra to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me and in turn, I wish to transmit through you my cordial greetings to the two co-princes, the archbishop of Urgell and the president of the French Republic. Through you, I also greet the government, the authorities and the Andorran population.

The principality, going back to Charlemagne, is ruled by the pariage. The co-lordship approved by the Holy See at the time, converted into co-sovereignty, which you evoked in your address, is the legacy resulting from an historical evolution that has taken into account the legitimate interests of the Andorran people and has guaranteed its sovereignty. This original and unique system of its kind enables the population to live in peace, far from conflicts. It is true that the institutional solution that your country has found cannot be applied in other places, yet it is appropriate to draw a lesson from it. Harmony is possible within countries and between peoples. Juridical inventiveness and good will often enable numerous problems to be solved which, unfortunately, arise between peoples, and favor the much desired international concord.

In this context, I wish to point out the excellence of relations between the principality and the Holy See. These relations, which are situated in an historical continuity of entity and support -- you have pointed out moreover that the Holy See has always supported Andorra when its sovereignty was in danger -- have been consolidated in the first place by the establishment of diplomatic relations and later, two years ago, by the signing of a bilateral agreement. This agreement is the result and expression of a healthy and loyal collaboration between the Church and the state, which, with different titles, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of human persons. Yesterday as today, the cordial relations between the Church and Andorra serve these same persons more effectively for the benefit of all. This agreement is a supplementary stone contributed to the consolidation of relations between the principality and the Church.

In the words you addressed to me, you mentioned, Mr. Ambassador, the recent demographic evolution of your country. It shows the attraction it exercises over young generations. It is a question above all of young Andorrans who return to the country. Moreover, your nation also welcomes new populations. This openness entails a necessary awareness and responsibility on the part of institutions and of each one. In fact, social harmony, which could become unbalanced, is linked not only to a just and adapted legislative framework, but also to the moral quality of each citizen because "solidarity is seen ... under two complementary aspects: that of a social principle and that of a moral virtue" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 193).

Solidarity is raised to the rank of social virtue when it can lean at the same time on structures of solidarity, but also on the firm and persevering determination of each person to work for the common good, because we are all responsible for everyone. For its part, moral virtue is expressed through decisions and laws that are adjusted to ethical principles. These consolidate democracy and enable Andorrans to live according to age-old positive values, permeated by Christianity, and to cultivate and preserve its very marked identity.

To arouse the lasting sense of solidarity, which I have just mentioned, the education of young people is, undoubtedly, the best way. Whatever your level of responsibility, I encourage each one to show creativity in this realm, to invest the necessary means, and to sow generously for the future, being concerned to give them the necessary ethical bases. With education, it is also appropriate to give the family the support it deserves. Basic cell of society, the family fulfills its mission when it is fomented and promoted by the public powers as the first place of apprenticeship of life in society. Giving all the components of the family the necessary help, it will facilitate effectively social harmony and cohesion. The Church can make a positive contribution to the consolidation of the family, weakened by contemporary culture.

During my recent trip to Barcelona, I had the pleasure of seeing the presence of a beautiful delegation from your country. These faithful of all ages, but especially young people, went to express their adherence to the Successor of Peter. I would like to thank them for this warm presence and invite them, without wishing to abuse your intermediation, to the forthcoming World Youth Days.

I take advantage of the opportunity of this meeting, Mr. Ambassador, to greet warmly, through your mediation, your archbishop and his collaborators, as well as the whole of the Catholic faithful who live in your country. May they keep the desire to give witness of Christ and, in agreement of all Andorrans, to build a social life where each one can find the paths of personal and collective fulfillment! They will also give witness of the always timely fruitfulness of the Word of God.

At the moment you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I give you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the good fulfillmet of your mission. Be assured that you will always find in my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. The people of Andorra have a particular veneration for the Virgin Mary, the Virgin of Meritxell, patroness of the co-principality whose national feast is celebrated on Sept. 8, Marian solemnity.
I entrust the authorities of your country and the whole of the population to her maternal protection. On Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as on the whole of the Andorran people and its leaders, I invoke from my heart the abundance of divine blessings.

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Papal Address to Envoy From Seychelles
"Economic Development Must ... Respect the Integrity and Rhythms of Nature"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Vivianne Fock Tave, the new ambassador from Seychelles to the Holy See.

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Mrs. Ambassador,

I receive you with pleasure this morning in which you present the letters that accredit you in the capacity of ambassader extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Seychelles to the Holy See. I thank you for transmitting to me the greetings of Mr. James Alix Michel, president of the Republic, whom I had the honor of receiving during his recent visit to the Holy See. I would be very grateful if you would express to him my gratitude for the cordiality expressed during our meeting. Through you, I also greet the authorities, the different political leaders and the whole of the people of Seychelles.

Your country continues to progress and to affirm itself on the path of peace, prosperity and stability. Without a doubt, this is the result of the persistent efforts and of the generous contribution of all political and social spheres, of the public and private sectors. I am happy to congratulate the government and the people of Seychelles for having surmounted the challenge of the world economic crisis, confirmed by a renewal of tourism and of direct foreign investments, by an impulse of the national economy, giving favorable fiscal space to the reduction of the debt and priority expenses. However, the liberation of the economy preserving the social gains is a mutation which does not require a change in mentalities: It is a question of supporting this evolution to anticipate the effects that cannot always be controlled in time giving a necessary ethical base and playing the card of responsibility. "Everyone has the right to participate in economic life and the duty to contribute, each according to his own capacity, to the progress of his own country and to that of the entire human family" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 333).

The planning of economic development must also consider carefully the need to respect the integrity and rhythms of nature because natural resources are limited and some are not renewable. The solution of the ecological problem calls for economic activity that respects the environment more, conciliating the needs with environmental protection and "strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 50).

In this realm, I appreciate in particular the government's initiatives to restore and preserve the coral reef. This is the front line of defense in the rising of the level of the ocean and also continues to be an important habitat for the raising of fish -- principal contributor of protein of the country. It also provides income and employment in the areas of fishing and tourism. Hence, it is necessary that consumers and agents of industrial activities develop greater responsibility in their behavior.

To increase everyone's responsibility also entails an active and effective cooperation in respecting and protecting human dignity in face of every attempt to propose reductionist and deformed images, or the instrumentalization of each person. International tourism, notable factor of economic development and cultural growth, can become an occasion for exploitation and moral degradation (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," N. 61). Only acknowledgment of human dignity makes possible the common and personal growth of all (James 2:1-9).

To foster this integral human development and also to reinforce solidarity between generations, it is necessary to protect the family. Promoted and supported by the state and society, the family has a totally original and irreplaceable function in the education of children. With the family, your nation will continue building its future, giving an appropriate formation to its young generations so that they will be able to transcend the limits in which at times there is a desire to enclose them and giving them the concrete means to struggle against social evils, especially unemployment and drugs. From this point of view, I highlight and encourage once again the efforts made for a long time to develop an educational system of quality. It is also appropriate to support the most underprivileged and to fight against corruption by guaranteeing an objective equality before the law among the different social classes.

For her part, the local Church wishes to continue making a specific contribution to your nation, both in supporting the family, education, and the formation of young people as well as the integral human development of each person. This development implies spiritual growth and not just material growth whose criterion of orientation is found in the active force of charity in truth (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 76-77). The spiritual search that dwells in the heart of the people of Seychelles finds in Christ its meaning and plenitude; it dynamizes the whole of the society, with the capacity to breathe into it the force of reconciliation to promote justice, fraternity and to build prosperity and peace. With this objective, I encourage the continuation of that collaboration and I wish to greet warmly, through you, the bishop of Puerto Victoria and his collaborators, as well as the whole of the Catholic faithful present in your country.

At the time you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I wish to renew the expression of my satisfaction for the excellent relations maintained by the Republic of the Seychelles and the Holy See, and I address to you, Mrs. Ambassador, my best wishes for the fulfillment of your mission. Be assured that you will always find in my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. On Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as on the people of Seychelles, and on its leaders, I invoke from my heart abundant divine blessings.

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Doctrinal Congregation's Note on "Light of the World"
"The Thought of the Pope Has Been Repeatedly Manipulated"


VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 - Here is the note released today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "On the Trivialization of Sexuality: Regarding Certain Interpretations of 'Light of the World.'"

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Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words -- a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: To rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope -- which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. "Light of the World," pp. 117-119) -- do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his encyclical letter "Humanae Vitae," when he wrote that "also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation -- whether as an end or as a means." The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. "Light of the World," p. 147) -- humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.

On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes," No. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition – and indeed not only of the Christian tradition – to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: "Flee from fornication" (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.

In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution" to the problem of AIDS and also that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality" in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom "with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the "lesser evil." This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Veritatis splendor," No. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.

In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: "This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being" ("Light of the World," p. 119).

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Benedict XVI's Christmas Greeting to Curia
"For All Its New Hopes and Possibilities, Our World Is ... Troubled"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace during his traditional meeting with the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and members of the Roman Curia and of the Governorate of Vatican City State, in order to exchange Christmas greetings.

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Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you, dear Members of the College of Cardinals and Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governatorato, for this traditional gathering. I extend a cordial greeting to each one of you, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his sentiments of devotion and communion and for the warm good wishes that he expressed to me on behalf of all of you. Prope est jam Dominus, venite, adoremus! As one family let us contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, God-with-us, as the Cardinal Dean has said. I gladly reciprocate his good wishes and I would like to thank all of you most sincerely, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the able and generous contribution that each of you makes to the Vicar of Christ and to the Church.

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Repeatedly during the season of Advent the Church’s liturgy prays in these or similar words. They are invocations that were probably formulated as the Roman Empire was in decline. The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world. Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.

Excita

– the prayer recalls the cry addressed to the Lord who was sleeping in the disciples’ storm-tossed boat as it was close to sinking. When his powerful word had calmed the storm, he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (cf. Mt 8:26 et par.). He wanted to say: it was your faith that was sleeping. He will say the same thing to us. Our faith too is often asleep. Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains – that is, to order justly the affairs of the world.

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: amid the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year, this Advent prayer has frequently been in my mind and on my lips. We had begun the Year for Priests with great joy and, thank God, we were also able to conclude it with great gratitude, despite the fact that it unfolded so differently from the way we had expected. Among us priests and among the lay faithful, especially the young, there was a renewed awareness of what a great gift the Lord has entrusted to us in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in God’s name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life; we realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration, through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lord’s strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as one’s life task not this or that, but simply human life itself – helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God. We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.

In this context, a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen came to my mind, a vision which describes in a shocking way what we have lived through this past year. "In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’

And she continued: ‘I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.

For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.’

And I heard a voice from heaven which said: ‘This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to God’s people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15)" (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).

In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.

We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.

In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a "better than" and a "worse than". Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.

As my second point, I should like to say a word about the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. This began with my journey to Cyprus, where I was able to consign the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Bishops of those countries who were assembled there. The hospitality of the Orthodox Church was unforgettable, and we experienced it with great gratitude. Even if full communion is not yet granted to us, we have nevertheless established with joy that the basic form of the ancient Church unites us profoundly with one another: the sacramental office of Bishops as the bearer of apostolic tradition, the reading of Scripture according to the hermeneutic of the Regula fidei, the understanding of Scripture in its manifold unity centred on Christ, developed under divine inspiration, and finally, our faith in the central place of the Eucharist in the Church’s life. Thus we experienced a living encounter with the riches of the rites of the ancient Church that are also found within the Catholic Church. We celebrated the liturgy with Maronites and with Melchites, we celebrated in the Latin rite, we experienced moments of ecumenical prayer with the Orthodox, and we witnessed impressive manifestations of the rich Christian culture of the Christian East. But we also saw the problem of the divided country. The wrongs and the deep wounds of the past were all too evident, but so too was the desire for the peace and communion that had existed before. Everyone knows that violence does not bring progress – indeed, it gave rise to the present situation. Only in a spirit of compromise and mutual understanding can unity be re-established. To prepare the people for this attitude of peace is an essential task of pastoral ministry.

During the Synod itself, our gaze was extended over the whole of the Middle East, where the followers of different religions – as well as a variety of traditions and distinct rites – live together. As far as Christians are concerned, there are Pre-Chalcedonian as well as Chalcedonian churches; there are churches in communion with Rome and others that are outside that communion; in both cases, multiple rites exist alongside one another. In the turmoil of recent years, the tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown, with the result that we witness with increasing alarm acts of violence in which there is no longer any respect for what the other holds sacred, in which on the contrary the most elementary rules of humanity collapse. In the present situation, Christians are the most oppressed and tormented minority. For centuries they lived peacefully together with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours. During the Synod we listened to wise words from the Counsellor of the Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon against acts of violence targeting Christians. He said: when Christians are wounded, we ourselves are wounded. Unfortunately, though, this and similar voices of reason, for which we are profoundly grateful, are too weak. Here too we come up against an unholy alliance between greed for profit and ideological blindness. On the basis of the spirit of faith and its rationality, the Synod developed a grand concept of dialogue, forgiveness and mutual acceptance, a concept that we now want to proclaim to the world. The human being is one, and humanity is one. Whatever damage is done to another in any one place, ends up by damaging everyone. Thus the words and ideas of the Synod must be a clarion call, addressed to all people with political or religious responsibility, to put a stop to Christianophobia; to rise up in defence of refugees and all who are suffering, and to revitalize the spirit of reconciliation. In the final analysis, healing can only come from deep faith in God’s reconciling love. Strengthening this faith, nourishing it and causing it to shine forth is the Church’s principal task at this hour.

I would willingly speak in some detail of my unforgettable journey to the United Kingdom, but I will limit myself to two points that are connected with the theme of the responsibility of Christians at this time and with the Church’s task to proclaim the Gospel. My thoughts go first of all to the encounter with the world of culture in Westminster Hall, an encounter in which awareness of shared responsibility at this moment in history created great attention which, in the final analysis, was directed to the question of truth and faith itself. It was evident to all that the Church has to make her own contribution to this debate. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality of which I spoke earlier. In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.

Finally I should like to recall once more the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Why was he beatified? What does he have to say to us? Many responses could be given to these questions, which were explored in the context of the beatification. I would like to highlight just two aspects which belong together and which, in the final analysis, express the same thing. The first is that we must learn from Newman’s three conversions, because they were steps along a spiritual path that concerns us all. Here I would like to emphasize just the first conversion: to faith in the living God. Until that moment, Newman thought like the average men of his time and indeed like the average men of today, who do not simply exclude the existence of God, but consider it as something uncertain, something with no essential role to play in their lives. What appeared genuinely real to him, as to the men of his and our day, is the empirical, matter that can be grasped. This is the "reality" according to which one finds one’s bearings. The "real" is what can be grasped, it is the things that can be calculated and taken in one’s hand. In his conversion, Newman recognized that it is exactly the other way round: that God and the soul, man’s spiritual identity, constitute what is genuinely real, what counts. These are much more real than objects that can be grasped. This conversion was a Copernican revolution. What had previously seemed unreal and secondary was now revealed to be the genuinely decisive element. Where such a conversion takes place, it is not just a person’s theory that changes: the fundamental shape of life changes. We are all in constant need of such conversion: then we are on the right path.

The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word "conscience" signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word "conscience" expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newman’s understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, "conscience" means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: "As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life - but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion". He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, "conscience" does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.

I must refrain from speaking of my remarkable journeys to Malta, Portugal and Spain. In these it once again became evident that the faith is not a thing of the past, but an encounter with the God who lives and acts now. He challenges us and he opposes our indolence, but precisely in this way he opens the path towards true joy.

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni.

We set out from this plea for the presence of God’s power in our time and from the experience of his apparent absence. If we keep our eyes open as we look back over the year that is coming to an end, we can see clearly that God’s power and goodness are also present today in many different ways. So we all have reason to thank him. Along with thanks to the Lord I renew my thanks to all my co-workers. May God grant to all of us a holy Christmas and may he accompany us with his blessings in the coming year.

I entrust these prayerful sentiments to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, and I impart to all of you and to the great family of the Roman Curia a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. Happy Christmas!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Holy Father's Address to Envoy of Mali
"Education Constitutes a Vital and Existential Necessity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Boubacar Sidiki Toure, the new ambassador from Mali to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive the letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Holy See. On this happy occasion, I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and thank you for the kind words, with which you expressed the respectful tribute of the President of the Republic and the Malian people. I would be grateful if in turn you would transmit to His Excellency Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure, Head of State, my sentiments of gratitude and respect and the guarantee of my prayers for his person and all Malians.

As a good number of African countries, Mali celebrated this year the 50th anniversary of its independence. The progress achieved is always accompanied by challenges to point out. I mention among others social peace, education and the right to nourishment. For the building of a peaceful and stable society, Mali can extract from its cultural patrimony which encloses human, intellectual and religious values. I want to encourage their preservation and transmission to the new generations, because a society served by persons gifted with a profound moral perspicacity, always promotes justice and peace. The leaders of such a society are able to transcend their own interests to be virtuous governors totally dedicated to the common good. They are also able to cultivate human relations animated by trust and solidarity, mutual respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I encourage the different Malian leaders to help their compatriots to be reconciled among themselves after the conflicts that have marked Mali's recent history. I also invite them to struggle against discrimination between ethnic groups and religions. In fact, it is legitimate that the identity of each ethnic or religious community be expressed visibly, in mutual respect, fostering peaceful coexistence at all levels of the national community (cf. Address to the Bishops of Mali, May 18, 2007).

Looking at the future, the Malian government has included among its priorities the formation of cadres capable of ensuring the development of your country. In a world characterized by the interdependence of peoples and the rapid spread of imitation of human behavior accompanied by growing individualism, education constitutes a vital and existential necessity. However, it could be reduced to an accumulation of intellectual knowledge or technical competence. Abilities should go hand in hand with knowing how to live and how to be so that, based on human wisdom and spiritual resources, they reflect better the essential truth of human existence. That is why, in the education of their children, Malian families are not content with the academic results achieved, to the neglect of human, cultural and religious virtues. They offer their children the reference values that will lead them to the truth about life, about the duty of solidarity and of dialogue, which are co-existential to human nature. It corresponds to the state to support families in their task of education, and to watch over the intellectual and human quality of the educational personnel. May Malian young people not let themselves be seduced by easy money that could incite them to pact with networks that lead to criminality or drug trafficking!

Your country is committed, Mr. Ambassador, on the path of harmonious development elaborating projects such as the new code of persons and the family. I harbor the great hope that it might help to reduce the inequalities between persons and social groups. This new code will contribute to social peace, if the leaders of your country also work to ensure the right to nourishment. Receiving with approval the efforts to increase the production of cotton and rice, I encourage your government to address the problem of food insecurity "eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development (...) by investing (...) in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources (...). All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 27).

As you can attest, Your Excellency, several executives of your country have been formed in Catholic schools. The Church's commitment in formation and education, as well as in the charitable, health and social realms, shows her willingness to collaborate with the state, preserving the particular nature of her structures. I take advantage of the occasion to acclaim the convention on health care, which was signed by the Episcopal Conference of Mali and the Ministry of Health of Mali, as well as this ministry's commitment to grant subsidies to ecclesial health structures.

To conclude, I greet warmly through you the Catholic community of Mali with its pastors, and I invite it to continue its courageous and joyful witness of the faith and of fraternal love taught by Christ. I also wish to encourage the efforts of the Episcopal Conference of Mali and of the government to consolidate the relations of mutual esteem between Mali and the Holy See. At the moment in which you begin your mission, I offer you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes, assuring you of the support of the different services of the Roman Curia for the fulfillment of your function. To this end, I am happy to invoke on you and your family, as well as on all your collaborators, abundant Divine Blessings.

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St. Joseph, Legal Father of Jesus
He "Looks to the Future With Confidence and Courage"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this fourth Sunday of Advent the Gospel of St. Matthew tells us how the birth of Jesus came about, taking the perspective of St. Joseph. He was the betrothed of Mary, who, "before they lived together, was found to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). The Son of God, realizing an ancient prophecy (cf. Isaiah 7:14), became man in the womb of a virgin, and such a mystery simultaneously manifests the love, wisdom and power of God on behalf of humanity wounded by sin. St. Joseph is presented as a "just man" (Matthew 1:19), faithful to God’s law, ready to do his will. On account of this he enters into the mystery of the Incarnation after an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and tells him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife with you. In fact the child that has been conceived in her comes from the Holy Spirit; she will give birth to a son and you will call him Jesus: he in fact will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21). Forgetting the thought of repudiating Mary in secret, he takes her in because his eyes now see the work of God in her.

St. Ambrose comments that "in Joseph there was amiability and the figure of a just man to make the quality of his witness more worthy" (Exp. Ev. sec. Lucam II, 5: CCL 14,32-33). "He," Ambrose continues, "could not have contaminated the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the Lord, the fruitful womb of the mystery" (ibid. II, 6: CCL 14, 33). Although he had been concerned, Joseph "did as the angel of the Lord ordered him," certain of doing the right thing. Also giving the name "Jesus" to that child who rules the entire universe, he enters into the ranks of the faithful and humble servants, like the angels and prophets, like the martyrs and the apostles -- in the words of ancient eastern hymns. St. Joseph proclaims the wonders of the Lord, witnessing Mary’s virginity, the gratuitous deed of God, and caring for the earthly life of the Messiah. So, we venerate the legal father of Jesus (Code of Canon Law, 532), because the new man takes form in him, who looks to the future with confidence and courage, does not follow his own project, but entrusts himself totally to the infinite mercy of him who fulfills the prophecies and inaugurates the season of salvation.

Dear friends, to St. Joseph, universal patron of the Church, I would like to entrust all pastors, exhorting them to offer "to faithful Christians and the whole world the humble and daily proposal of the words of Christ" (Letter Proclaiming the Year for Priests). May our life be evermore conformed to the person of Jesus, precisely because "the one who is himself the Word takes on a body, he comes from God as a man and draws the whole of man’s being to himself, bearing it into the Word of God" ("Jesus of Nazareth," San Francisco, 2008, 334). Let us invoke the Virgin Mary with confidence, the one who is full of grace, "adorned by God," so that at Christmas, which is already near, our eyes may open and see Jesus, and the heart rejoice in this wondrous encounter of love.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we are filled with joy because the Lord is at hand. We heard in today’s Gospel about the promise made to Joseph, that his wife Mary was to bear a child who would save his people from their sins. This child would be called Emmanuel, meaning that from now on, God is truly with us, he lives among us and shares our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our fears. As the great feast of Christmas draws near, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Message for 2011 World Day of the Sick
"The Cross Is God's 'Yes' to Mankind"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2010 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 19th World Day of the Sick, which will be observed Feb. 11, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vatican press office published the message Saturday.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Every year, on the occasion of the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, which is celebrated on Feb. 11, the Church proposes the World Day of the Sick. This circumstance becomes, as the venerable John Paul II desired, the propitious occasion to reflect on the mystery of suffering and, above all, to make our communities and civil society more sensitive to sick brothers and sisters. If every man is our brother, much more are the weak, the suffering and those needful of care, and they must be at the center of our attention, so that none of them feel forgotten or marginalized; in fact, "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society" ("Spe Salvi," No. 38). May the initiatives that individual dioceses promote on the occasion of this day be a stimulus to make care for the suffering more and more effective, also in view of the solemn celebration that will take place at the Marian shrine in Altötting in Germany.

1. I still have in my heart the moment when, during the course of the pastoral visit to Turin, I was able to pause in reflection and prayer before the sacred Shroud, before that suffering countenance, that invites us to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins. How many faithful over the course of history have passed before that sepulchral winding sheet, which covered the body of a crucified man, which in everything corresponds to what the Gospels transmit about the passion and death of Jesus! Contemplating him is an invitation to reflect on what St. Peter writes: "By his wounds we have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

The Son of God has suffered, he has died, but he is risen, it is precisely because of this that those wounds become the sign of our redemption, of our forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father; they become, however, a test for the faith of the disciples and our faith: every time that the Lord speaks of his passion and death, they do not understand, they reject it, they oppose it. For them as for us, suffering is always charged with mystery, difficult to accept and bear. Because of the events that had occurred in Jerusalem in those days the two disciples of Emmaus walk along sadly, and only when the Risen One walks along the road with them do they open up to a new vision (cf. Luke 24:13-31). Even the apostle Thomas manifests the difficulty of believing in the redemptive way of suffering: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

But before Christ who shows his wounds, his response is transformed into a moving profession of faith: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). What was at first an insurmountable obstacle, because it was the sign of Jesus’ apparent failure, becomes, in the encounter with the Risen One, the proof of victorious love: "Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith" (Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter 2007).

2. Dear sick and suffering ones, it is precisely through the sufferings of the Christ that we are able to see, with eyes of hope, all the maladies that afflict humanity. Rising, the Lord did not take away suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root. To the arrogance of Evil he opposed the omnipotence of his Love. He has shown us, then, that the way of peace and joy is Love: "As I have loved you, so must you love one another" (John 13:34). Christ, victor over death, is alive and in our midst. And while with St. Thomas we also say: "My Lord and my God!" we follow our Lord in readiness to spend our life for our brothers (cf. 1 John 3:16), becoming messengers of a joy that does not fear pain, the joy of the Resurrection.

St. Bernard said: "God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with." God, who is Truth and Love in person, wanted to suffer for us and with us; he became man to suffer with man, in a real way, in flesh and blood. Into every human suffering, then, there has entered One who shares suffering and endurance; he offers consolation in all suffering, the consolation of the participating love of God, which makes the star of hope rise (cf. "Spe salvi," 39).

I repeat this message to you, dear brothers and sisters, so that you become witnesses through your suffering, your life and your faith.

3. Looking forward to the meeting in Madrid, in August 2011, for World Youth Day, I would also like to address a special thought to young people, especially those who live the experience of sickness. Often, the Passion and the Cross of Jesus cause fear, because they seem to be the negation of life. In reality, it is exactly the contrary! The cross is God’s "yes" to mankind, the highest and most intense expression of his love and the source from which flows eternal life. From the pierced heart of Jesus this divine life flows. He alone is capable of liberating the world from evil and make his kingdom of justice, of peace and of love grow, the kingdom to which we all aspire (cf. Message for World Youth Day 2011, 3).

Dear young people, learn to "see" and to "meet" Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present for us in a real way, to the point of making himself food for the journey, but know how to recognize and serve him also in those brothers who are poor, sick, suffering and in difficulty, who have need of your help (cf. ibid., 4). To all of you young people, sick and healthy, I repeat the invitation to create bridges of love and solidarity, so that no one feels alone, but near to God and part of the great family of his children (cf. General Audience, November 15, 2006).

4. Contemplating Jesus’ wounds our gaze turns to his most sacred Heart in which God’s love manifests itself in the supreme way. The Sacred Heart is Christ crucified, with his side opened by the lance, from which blood and water flow (cf. John 19:34), "symbol of the sacraments of the Church, that all men, drawn to the Heart of the Savior, might drink from the perennial font of salvation" (Roman Missal, Preface for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus). Especially you, dear sick ones, should feel the nearness of this Heart full of love and draw from this font with faith and with joy, praying: "Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. In your wounds, hide me" (Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola).

5. At the end of this message of mine for the next World Day of the Sick, I would like to express my affection to each and every one, feeling myself a participant in the sufferings and hopes that you have daily in union with Christ crucified and risen, that he give you peace and healing of the heart. May the Virgin Mary keep watch over you together with him. We invoke her confidently under the titles Health of the Infirm and Consoler of the Suffering. At the foot of the cross there is realized through her Simeon’s prophecy: her Mother’s heart is pierced (cf. Luke 2:35). From the abyss of her pain, a participation in her Son’s, Mary is made capable of accepting her new mission: to become the Mother of Christ in his members. In the hour of the cross Jesus presents her to all of his disciples: "Behold your son" (cf. John 19:26-27). The maternal compassion for the Son becomes maternal compassion for each one of us in our daily sufferings (cf. Homily at Lourdes, Sept. 15, 2008).

Dear brothers and sisters, for this World Day of the Sick, I also invite the political authorities to invest more and more in health systems that are a help and a support for the suffering, above all the poorest and the most needy, and, addressing all the dioceses, I offer an affectionate to the bishops, the priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, health workers, volunteers and all of those who dedicate themselves with love to care for and sooth the wounds of every sick brother or sister, in hospitals or nursing homes, in families: in the faces of the sick know how to see always the face of faces -- that of Christ.

I assure everyone a remembrance in my prayer, while I impart to each of you a special apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, Nov. 21, 2010, Feast of Christ the King of the Universe

BENEDICTUS PP XVI


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Pope's Address to Envoys of Nepal, Zambia, Andorra, Seychelles and Mali
"Fraternity Finds a Concrete Expression in Gratitude and Respect"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to the new ambassadors of Nepal, Zambia, Andorra, the Seychelles and Mali to the Holy See, whom he received in the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of their Letters of Credence.

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Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

I am very happy to receive you this morning in the Apostolic Palace for the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Nepal, Zambia, the Principality of Andorra, the Republic of the Seychelles and Mali. You have addressed courteous words to me, on behalf of your Heads of State, for which I thank you. I would like to transmit in turn my deferent greetings and my respectful wishes for your persons and for the high mission you fulfill in the service of your country and your people. Through you, I also wish to greet all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as all your compatriots. My prayers and thoughts go, of course, also to the Catholic communities present in your countries. Living the Gospel, they are concerned to give witness of a spirit of fraternal collaboration.

Excellencies, I would like to speak of human fraternity. A heartfelt appeal has been made all this year to alleviate Haiti, first devastated by an earthquake and then by cholera. Other tragedies unfortunately have stricken other countries during this year. Your countries, the international community and the associative world have responded to the especially urgent appeals for help, aid which it would be appropriate to continue and to intensify. For her part, and through her different institutions, the Church makes a manifold contribution which she prolongs in the course of time.

The beautiful ideal of fraternity, which is found in the national emblem of many countries, has found in the development of philosophical and political thought less resonance compared with other ideals such as liberty, equality, progress and unity. It is a principle that to a large extent has remained a dead letter in modern and contemporary political societies, above all because of the influence exercised by individualist or collectivist ideologies (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 390). As you know, fraternity has a particular meaning for Christians due to God's design of fraternal love, of fraternity, hence, revealed by Christ. In my last encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," I certainly addressed extensively this indispensable topic for harmonious human coexistence.

To live worthily, every human being needs respect: he also needs justice to be done, and his rights recognized in a concrete way. However, this is not enough to lead a fully human life: in fact, a person also has need of fraternity. This is true not only in close relations but also on a global scale. However, although the process of globalization under way brings human beings closer to one another, it does not, because of this, make them brothers. It is an important problem because, as my predecessor Pope Paul VI revealed, "underdevelopment has as its profound cause the lack of fraternity" (cf. "Populorum Progressio," No. 66).

Human reason is capable of recognizing the equality of all men and the need to limit the excessive disparities among them, but it is incapable of instituting fraternity. This is a supernatural gift. For her part, the Church sees the realization of human fraternity on earth as a vocation contained in God's creative plan, who wishes that she be ever more faithfully the maker of that fraternity, both in the universal ambit and well as the local ambits as it is in the countries that you represent to the Holy See.

If, supporting the specifically spiritual mission that Christ has entrusted to her, the Church arouses among her disciples a particular proximity, she does not lessen her desire to make a sincere and strong contribution to the formation of a more fraternal community among all human beings. Because of this, she prohibits herself from acting as a lobby, concerned only with her interests, and yet she works under the gaze of Him who is the Creator of all men, wishing to honor the dignity of each one. Thus, she makes an effort to put love and peace at the base of the many human bonds that relate persons among themselves, as God has willed in his creative wisdom.

In daily life, fraternity finds a concrete expression in gratitude and respect. These are called to be manifested in all areas of human activity, including economic activity. Man's profound identity, his being-in-relation, is also expressed in his economic activity, which is one of the areas of greatest cooperation between men. Through my last Encyclical, I wished to make evident the fact that the economy is a place where the gift is also possible and even necessary (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 34-39).

Every form of gift is, in a word, a sign of the presence of God, because it leads to the fundamental discovery that, at the origin, everything is given. Such an awareness does not make man's conquests less beautiful, but liberates him from the first of all slaveries, that of wishing to create himself. On the contrary, in acknowledging what he is given, man can open himself to the action of grace and understand that he is called to develop himself, not against others or at their expense, but with them and in communion with them.

However, if fraternity lived among men can find a positive echo in terms of "social effectiveness," it must not be forgotten that it does not constitute a means, but is an end in itself (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 20). The Church believes in Christ who reveals to us that God is love (cf. John 4:8). She is also convinced that to all those who believe in divine charity, God gives the certainty that "the way of love is open to all men and that the effort directed to establishing a universal fraternity is not in vain" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 38).

As diplomats, you are interested without a doubt in a particular way, in the different aspects of socio-political life that I have just developed. During your mission to the Apostolic See, you will have the possibility, Excellencies, to discover more directly the actions and concerns of the Church in all the continents. You will find in my collaborators kind attention. On you, your families, the members of your diplomatic Missions and all the nations you represent, I invoke abundant Divine Blessings.

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Papal Address to Ambassador From Zambia
"Continue to Respect and Defend the Dignity of Every Human Life From Conception"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to the new ambassador from Zambia to the Holy See, Royson Mabuku Mukwena.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have brought from President Rupiah Bwezani Banda, and I gladly reciprocate with my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and for all the beloved people of Zambia.

The Holy See values its diplomatic relations with your country as an important instrument for achieving mutual cooperation for the spiritual, moral and material good of all Zambians. Indeed, with the cooperation of men and women of good will throughout Africa, the Church works for the promotion of a moral, legal and social equilibrium among the members of the human family. Through her various social, developmental and charitable works, she fosters a balanced realization of the rights and duties of individuals and of society as a whole. She seeks to draw attention to the need for justice, solidarity and harmony, always with a special care for the poorer and weaker members of society. The Church is therefore proud of the example of Christian men and women who bring honour to their country and its institutions by selflessly pursuing the common good and teaching others to do the same, rising above local, regional or ethnic concerns.

It is a source of particular satisfaction that Zambia’s laws continue to respect and defend the dignity of every human life from conception. Powerful influences, many from beyond Africa, seek to place limitations on the right to life, seeing it as somehow restricting the freedom of others. Yet, for her part, the Church affirms that the right to life of the innocent is inviolable, and must take precedence over all other supposed rights. In doing so, she draws attention to an objective moral principle, rooted in the natural law, the content of which is accessible to right reason and is not dependent upon political choices or social consensus (cf. Address to Representatives of British Society, London, 17 September 2010). It is greatly to be hoped, Mr Ambassador, that Zambia will continue to foster due respect for the rights of every human being without exception, in harmony with the duty to protect life from conception to natural death in the manner of a truly Christian country.

Turning to the question of economic development, presently there appear to be encouraging signs of improvement in your country, particularly in the agricultural sector. With economic growth, funds have become available for important development projects, particularly in the extension of adequate sanitary conditions. The nation has been making significant progress in this area, as reflected in lower infant and maternal mortality rates and other areas related to health. Improvements too in infrastructure, the availability of suitable housing, the struggle against corruption and the extension of educational opportunities are indispensable for the economic, social and cultural progress of your country. Likewise, due attention must always be given to the needs of the less fortunate. It is to be hoped that a diversified economic structure will be encouraged, as well as an increase in the number of small enterprises since, "alongside macro-projects, there is a place for micro-projects and above all there is need for the active mobilization of all the subjects of civil society" (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 47).

I am pleased to note that the Church in your country has been contributing positively in the fields of education, development and health care, especially in the struggle against malaria and HIV/AIDS. Be assured that she will continue to be actively involved in promoting the health of the population with a strong emphasis on prevention through education. Long-lasting health improvements will be achieved through formation in moral responsibility and solidarity, and in particular through faithfulness in marriage. In this way, the Church works to encourage a greater sense of integrity on the part of individuals and the building of a society which truly cherishes life, the family and the wider community.

Allow me to conclude these welcoming remarks by reiterating my good wishes and prayers for Zambia and her people. As you begin your mission, Mr Ambassador, I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be happy to assist you. Upon you and your family and upon all Zambia’s citizens I cordially invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Nepal Ambassador
"Continue to Be Supportive of the Church’s Presence in Health and Education"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to the new ambassador from Nepal to the Holy See, Suresh Prasad Pradhan.

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Mr Ambassador,

In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting your Letters of Credence as Ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal to the Holy See, I wish to express my satisfaction at the cordial relations which we continue to enjoy. I am grateful to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of your President, Mr Ram Baran Yadav, and in return I would ask you kindly to convey my own good wishes to him and to all the people of the Federal Democratic Republic.

Recent years have seen much change in your nation as Nepal’s leaders have sought to chart a new political course for the benefit of her people. In this regard, among the most important tasks is the drafting of a new Constitution. Ensuring the legal guarantees of civil and political rights, as well as guaranteeing those of an economic, social and cultural nature, is surely one of the most delicate and demanding undertakings in any nation’s political life. For this reason, the Holy See is hopeful that once present difficulties are overcome, the Constituent Assembly will be able to complete its work and contribute in this way to ensuring a stable, harmonious and prosperous future.

The Holy See is pleased to note the expressions of commitment to democratic ideals and norms found in the interim political arrangements currently in force in your country. These include the wish to promote competitive multi-party democracy, civil liberties and fundamental human rights, adult enfranchisement, periodic elections, press freedom, an independent judiciary and the rule of law. It is acknowledged that much still needs to be done to consolidate these good intentions, but the public expression of such a commitment by Nepal’s leaders already bodes well.

As Your Excellency is aware, of the over one million Christians in your country, the Catholic Church numbers very few souls and yet, through her institutions, she has sought to make a significant contribution to the well-being of all your citizens. The Church’s charitable agency Caritas runs a variety of projects in poorer areas and takes care of refugees. Spurred by the love of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15), the Church is always ready and willing to do whatever she can to help those in distress, irrespective of their race, colour or creed.

While the Catholic Church can trace her first contacts with Nepal back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, over the past seventy years she has been particularly active in the service of the people through her hospitals, welfare organizations and schools. I am pleased to note the freedom in which these important institutions operate and the respect in which they are held. It is greatly to be hoped that your Government will continue to be supportive of the Church’s presence in health and education and ensure that human rights in general and religious freedom in particular are duly respected.

In contrast to the Nepalese people’s long tradition of tolerance, a few regrettable incidents of violence against the lives of Catholics have occurred in recent years, as well as damage to church property. Let me express the hope that a spirit of tolerance will prevail, and that cooperation for the general good and reconciliation through dialogue will be strengthened and will continue to mark the brotherly relations between Nepalese Catholics and their fellow citizens of other religions.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, I am confident that the cordial relations already existing between the Holy See and Nepal will do much to promote such fraternity, respect and dialogue. In offering my good wishes at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador to the Holy See, I assure you of the readiness of the Roman Curia to assist you in your high office. Upon you and upon all the people of Nepal I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Pontifical Academies
"Mary ... Is the Sign of Sure Hope and Consolation for the People of God"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to Wednesday to the members of the Pontifical Academies during their 15th Public Session, which reflected on the topic: "The Assumption of Mary, Sign of Consolation and Sure Hope."

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To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

On the occasion of the 15th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, I am happy to give you my cordial greeting, which a gladly extend to the presidents and academics, in particular to you, Venerable Brother, who head the Council of Coordination. I also address my greeting to the Lord Cardinals, the bishops, the priests, the men and women religious, the gentlemen ambassadors and all the participants in this annual meeting.

Fifteen years ago, the Venerable John Paul II instituted the Council of Coordination and the Prize of the Pontifical Academies offering a significant encouragement and a consistent impulse to the development of their activities. Now, evaluating carefully all that has been done, it is opportune to foment from now on the renewal of each and all of the Pontifical Academies, so that they can offer their contribution, ever more effectively, to the Apostolic See and to the whole Church. Hence I ask you, Venerable Brother, to follow with particular care the course of each Institution, promoting, at the same time, a process of reciprocal support and growing collaboration.

The 15th Public Session was prepared by the International Pontifical Marian Academy and by the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, which very opportunely have desired that in this solemn meeting the 60th anniversary be recalled of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary, proposing the theme: "The Assumption of Mary, Sign of Consolation and Sure Hope." On Nov. 1, 1950, in fact, during a memorable Jubilee, the Venerable Pius XII, promulgating the apostolic constitution "Munificentissimus Deus," proclaimed this dogma solemnly in St. Peter's Square. A few years before, in 1946, Father Carlo Balic, O.F.M., had founded the International Marian Academy precisely to support and coordinate the Assumptionist movement.

In the difficult and delicate historical moment that followed the conclusion of World War II, with that solemn gesture, Pius XII wished to indicate not only to Catholics, but to all men and women of good will, the singular figure of Mary as model and paradigm of the new humanity redeemed by Christ: "It is to be hoped," he said, "that all those who will meditate the glorious examples of Mary will be persuaded increasingly of the value of human life [...] and that the luminous form be placed before everyone's eyes of the lofty end to which souls and bodies are destined; finally, that faith in the bodily Assumption of Mary to Heaven make faith in our resurrection more firm and active" ("Munificentissimus Deus," AAS 42, 1950, 753-771). I consider these hopes most timely, and I also invite you all to allow yourselves to be guided by Mary to be heralds and witnesses of the hope that springs from contemplation of the mysteries of Christ, dead and risen for our salvation.

Mary, in fact, as Vatican Council II teaches in the dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium," is the sign of sure hope and consolation for the People of God, pilgrim in history: "The mother of Jesus, now in heaven, glorified in body and soul, is the image and the first fruit of the Church which must have its fulfillment in the future age, and thus shines over the earth as a sign of sure hope and consolation for the People of God, journeying until it sees the day of the Lord (cf. 2 Peter 3:10)" (No. 68). In the encyclical letter "Spe Salvi," dedicated to Christian hope, I could not help but remind of the particular role of Mary in supporting and guiding the way of believers toward the Heavenly homeland. I addressed her, invoking her as a Star of Hope for the Church and for the whole of humanity (cf. No. 49). Mary is the shining star of light and beauty, who proclaims and anticipates our future.

St. John Damascene, who dedicated to Mary's Assumption three magnificent sermons, given in Jerusalem around the year 740, in the place tradition indicates as Mary's Tomb, said this: "Thy soul did not descend to Limbo, neither did thy flesh see corruption. Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God's true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone." (Homily I on the Dormition: PG 96, 719).

The "singer of Mary," St. Bernard of Clairvaux, along with many of the Latin West, echoes the previous voice of the Eastern Church, when St. Bernard evokes the Assumption thus: "Our Queen has preceded us; she has preceded us and has been received very festively, so that with confidence the servants can follow their Lady saying: Take us with you, we run in the odor of your perfumes (Ct 1,3). Our pilgrim humanity sent its Advocate ahead that, being Mother of the Judge and Mother of mercy, can treat with devotion and efficacy the cause of our salvation. Our earth has sent today to heaven a precious gift so that, giving and receiving, they join the human and the divine in a happy exchange of friendship, the earthly to the heavenly, the lowest to the highest [...] She is the Queen of Heaven, she is merciful, she is the Mother of the Only-begotten Son of God" (In assumptione B.M.V., Sermo I: PL 183,415).

Hence, following that via pulchritudinis that the Servant of God Paul VI indicated as fecund itinerary of theological and Mariological research, I would like to note the profound syntony between theological and mystical thought, the liturgy, Marian devotion and the works of art that, with the splendor of colors and shapes, sing the mystery of the Assumption of Mary and her heavenly glory together with her Son. Among the latter, I invite you to admire two of them that are particularly significant in Rome: the mosaics of the apse of the Marian Basilicas of St. Mary Major and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Theological and spiritual reflection, liturgy, Marian devotion, and artistic representation truly form a whole, a complete and effective message, capable of arousing the wonder of eyes, of touching the heart and of enticing the intelligence to a more profound understanding of the mystery of Mary in which we see our destiny reflected clearly and our hope proclaimed.

Therefore, I take advantage of this occasion to invite experts in theology and Mariology to follow the via pulchritudinis, and I hope that, also in our days, thanks to a greater collaboration between theologians, liturgists and artists, incisive and effective messages can be offered to the admiration and contemplation of all.

To encourage all those who wish to make their own contribution to the promotion and realization of a new Christian humanism, taking up the proposal formulated by the Council of Coordination, I am happy to assign ex aequo the Prize of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academies to the Marian Academy of India, young and active Marian-Mariological Society with headquarters in Bangalore, India -- represented by its president the Revd. Kulandaisamy Rayar -- and to professor Luis Alberto Esteves dos Santos Casimiro for his powerful doctoral dissertation entitled "A Anunciacao do Senhor na pintura quinhentista portuguesa (1500-1550): Analise geometrica, iconografica e significado iconologico."

Moreover, I wish that, as a sign of appreciation and encouragement, the Medal of the Pontificate be offered to the "Gen Verde" Group, expression of the Focolare Movement, for its artistic commitment strongly permeated by evangelical values and open to dialogue between peoples and cultures.

Wishing you, finally, an ever more passionate commitment in your respective fields of activity, I entrust each one of you and your work to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, the Tota Pulchra, the Star of Hope, and impart from my heart to you, Lord Cardinal, and to all those present a special Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, Dec. 15, 2010

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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Papal Thank You for Vatican Christmas Tree
"Brings a Message of Hope and Love"

ROME, DEC. 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, who donated to the Vatican the Christmas trees which will be placed in St. Peter's Square and in various areas of the Vatican.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Dear Friends!

I am happy to welcome all of you who are giving me your beautiful Christmas tree from Luson. I greet you all from my heart, beginning with Bishop Karl Golser, whom I thank for the affectionate words he addressed to me. Along with him, I greet the priests, religious, parish counselors and all the faithful of the cities, towns and valleys of your beautiful land, which is profoundly molded by the faith. I greet the president of the province that includes South Tyrol and the mayor of the city of Bressanone. I thank them for the beautiful words they addressed to me, which have truly transmitted to me the sensation of being at home in South Tyrol and of being surrounded and supported by their friendship.

I address a greeting also to the representatives of the city of Bressanone and of the municipality of Luson, of the circle of the Schutzen of Bressanone and of the community of the district of Valle Isarco. I address a particular "Grüß Gott" [a German greeting loosely translated as "May God greet you"] to the mayor of Natz-Schabs, who will confer on me honorary citizenship, in memory of my beloved grandmother on my mother's side, who was born in Raas, a fraction of that municipality. I address a cordial "Vergelt's Gott" [German for God bless you] for this lovely sign of your affection! In my greeting I also include all the other representatives of public life in addition to you all, that with your traditional dress, thought-provoking music and regional specialties have come to Rome to make the traditions of your splendid land known.

I know that this particular event has awakened interest and involved the whole population of the region. Above all, as I have learned, the women of Bressanone have worked in the preparation of the straw stars which are typical Christmas decorations of the German-speaking area. I thank all of you for the particular gift of this Norway Spruce, as well as for all the other Christmas trees, which will decorate the Apostolic Palace and the area of the Vatican, and which also make me feel the presence of South Tyrol in my apartment. May this generous initiative exhort all the inhabitants of South Tyrol to give witness in their own environment of the values of life, of love and of peace that, every year, Christmas commends to us.

This year the spruce tree in St. Peter's Square comes from picturesque Luson, not far from the Sass of Putia of the immense Dolomites. The extraordinary beauty of this scenery invites us to recognize the greatness of our Creator, whose love shines incessantly in his wonderful work of nature, also to illuminate man's heart and fill it with peace and joy.

Tonight, at the end of the ceremony of the official giving of the tree, in the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, the lights adorning the tree will be lit. The tree, taken from an altitude of almost 1,500 meters [4,921 feet] and cut without causing damage to the life of the forest, will remain next to the Nativity until the end of the Christmas celebrations, and will be admired by the numerous pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the world, as significant symbol of the light of Christ, which he brought to humanity with his birth. He, the Messiah, became man and came into our midst, to dissipate the darkness of error and sin, carrying out "in an unsurpassable way the condescension of God" ("Verbum Domini," No. 11). To have faith in him means to receive in oneself the light that is Christ Jesus.

The Christmas tree enriches the symbolic value of the nativity scene, which is a message of fraternity and friendship; an invitation to unity and peace, an invitation to make room, in our life and in society, for God, who offers us his omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a Child, because he wants us to respond freely to his love with our own love. Therefore, the nativity scene and the tree bring a message of hope and love, and help to create the propitious climate to live, in the correct spiritual and religious dimension, the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer.

Dear friends, I wish from my heart to all those present and to your fellow countrymen a Christmas of recollection and tranquility. I assure you that, next to the nativity scene, I will pray for you, for your families and for all persons in your region, and I impart to all the apostolic blessing.

A Holy Christmas to all!

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COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE: EIGHTH ASSEMBLY OF CHINESE CATHOLIC REPRESENTATIVES (BEIJING, 7-9 DECEMBER 2010)

1. With profound sorrow, the Holy See laments the fact that from 7 to 9 December 2010 there was held in Beijing the Eighth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. This was imposed on numerous Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. The manner in which it was convoked and its unfolding manifest a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China. The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China. On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength; of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom and to effective respect both of human dignity and of a correct distinction between the civil and religious spheres.

2. On several occasions the Holy See had let it be known, first and foremost to the Bishops, but also to all the faithful, and publicly, that they should not take part in the event. Each one of those who were present knows to what extent he or she is responsible before God and the Church. The Bishops in particular and the priests will also have to face the expectations of their respective communities, who look to their own Pastor and have a right to receive from him sure guidance in the faith and in the moral life.

3. It is known, moreover, that many Bishops and priests were forced to take part in the Assembly. The Holy See condemns this grave violation of their human rights, particularly their freedom of religion and of conscience. Moreover, the Holy See expresses its deepest esteem for those who, in different ways, have borne witness to their faith with courage and it invites the others to pray, to do penance and, through their works, to reaffirm their own will to follow Christ with love, in full communion with the universal Church.

4. Addressing those whose hearts are full of dismay and profound suffering, those who are wondering how it is possible that their own Bishop or their own priests should have taken part in the Assembly, the Holy See asks them to remain steadfast and patient in the faith; it invites them to take account of the pressures experienced by many of their Pastors and to pray for them; it exhorts them to continue courageously supporting them in the face of the unjust impositions that they encounter in the exercise of their ministry.

5. During the Assembly, among other things, the leaders of the so-called Episcopal Conference and of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association were appointed. Concerning these two entities, and concerning the Assembly itself, the words written by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 Letter to the Church in China continue to apply (cf. nos. 7 and 8). In particular, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine" Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine. It is deeply deplorable that an illegitimate Bishop has been appointed as its President. Furthermore, regarding the declared purpose to implement the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church, it should be remembered that this is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic". It is therefore lamentable also that a legitimate Bishop has been appointed President of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

6. This is not the path that the Church must follow in the context of a great and noble nation, which attracts the attention of world opinion for its significant achievements in so many spheres, but still finds it hard to implement the demands of genuine religious freedom, despite the fact that it professes in its Constitution to respect that freedom. What is more, the Assembly has rendered more difficult the path of reconciliation between Catholics of the "clandestine communities" and those of the "official communities", thereby inflicting a deep wound not only upon the Church in China but also upon the universal Church.

7. The Holy See profoundly regrets the fact that the celebration of the above-mentioned Assembly, as also the recent episcopal ordination without the indispensable Papal mandate, have unilaterally damaged the dialogue and the climate of trust that had been established in its relations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Holy See, while reaffirming its own wish to dialogue honestly, feels bound to state that unacceptable and hostile acts such as those just mentioned provoke among the faithful, both in China and elsewhere, a grave loss of the trust that is necessary for overcoming the difficulties and building a correct relationship with the Church, for the sake of the common good.

8. In the light of what has happened, the Holy Father’s invitation – addressed on 1 December 2010 to all the Catholics of the world to pray for the Church in China which is going through a particularly difficult time – remains pressing.

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Benedict XVI's to World Lutheran Federation
Let's "Reflect Anew on Where Our Journey Toward Unity Has Led Us"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 - Here is the text of the greeting Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience a delegation of the Lutheran World Federation, led by Bishop Munib Younan, its president, who is also the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land.

* * *

Dear Bishop Younan, dear Lutheran Friends,

I am happy to greet the representatives of the Lutheran World Federation on the occasion of your official visit to Rome. I offer my cordial best wishes to Bishop Munib Younan and the Reverend Martin Junge on their respective elections as President and General Secretary, together with my prayers for their term of service.

Five years ago, at the beginning of my pontificate, I had the joy of receiving your predecessors and expressing my hope that the close contacts and intensive dialogue which have characterized ecumenical relations between Catholics and Lutherans would continue to bear rich fruit. With gratitude we can take stock of the many significant fruits produced by these decades of bilateral discussions. With God’s help it has been possible slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical cooperation, especially at the level of local communities.

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which has proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion. In these years leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of the events of fifteen seventeen, Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey toward unity has led us and to implore the Lord’s guidance and help for the future. I am pleased to note that, for the occasion, the International Lutheran – Roman Catholic Commission on Unity is preparing a joint text which will document what Lutherans and Catholics are able to say together at this point regarding our closer relations after almost five centuries of separation. In order to clarify further the understanding of the Church, which is the main focus of ecumenical dialogue today, the Commission is studying the theme: Baptism and Growing Church Communion. It is my hope that these ecumenical activities will provide fresh opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to grow closer in their lives, their witness to the Gospel, and their efforts to bring the light of Christ to all dimensions of society.

In these days of joyful preparation for the celebration of Christmas, let us entrust one another, and our common quest for Christian unity to the Lord, who is himself the genuine newness which surpasses all our human expectations (cf. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 34, 1).

May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be with you all!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Lutheran Federation's Greeting to Benedict XVI
"We Are Called ... to Our Common Vocation of Witnessing to the World"
GENEVA, Switzerland, DEC. 16, 2010  - Here is the text of the message delivered today to Benedict XVI by Bishop Munib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land. The Pope received in audience today the bishop and a delegation of the Lutheran federation.

* * *

Your Holiness:

On behalf of The Lutheran World Federation, I greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We thank you for receiving us this morning, in this holy season of Advent. Advent is both earnest and festive; it holds together memory and hope. Thus it is a fitting time for us to meet together and to hold one another in our prayers.

In this season of renewal and beginning, we are here today as the new leadership of our LWF communion of churches. I was elected President in July at our Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany. With me are the Vice Presidents from Africa, Central Eastern Europe, and the Nordic countries, and also our new General Secretary, Rev. Martin Junge, who began his term of office last month. Our delegation represents each region of our global communion.

As we begin our new roles, we welcome the opportunity for this audience. It is for us a sign which honors the remarkable developments between our churches during recent years, and a sign of our hope for what lies ahead. Within our own lifetimes, the climate of relations between Lutherans and Catholics has warmed dramatically – and this climate change has been for the good! Around the world our churches live in a new ecology of relationship. We too celebrated last month, when the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity observed its fiftieth anniversary. Today we want to assure you of the strength of our commitment to
continue deepening our life together.

We rejoice because of the ways in which we have reached new levels of theological understanding and agreement, notably in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This is a landmark ecumenical accomplishment: its implications are still being explored in many local contexts around the world and in our international theological dialogue.

We rejoice also because of the many ways in which we can work together in diakonia and advocacy. I would mention especially two:

First, we are united in commitment to address the injustices and idolatries exposed by the continuing global financial crisis. Your Holiness, we are grateful for the moral leadership you have provided consistently on these challenges. For our General Secretary also, this is a signature issue, with special attention to addressing the unfair burdens of illegitimate debt. Our witness will be stronger if we will work together on these problems. Thus we look forward to forging multiple cooperations with our Catholic sisters and brothers at all levels, locally as well as globally.

Second, an issue especially dear to my own heart, of course, is our common vision for a just peace in the Holy Land. Like you, we Lutherans have supported a two-state solution and a shared Jerusalem. Even when outward signs are discouraging, both of us will continue to work toward resolution of conflicts, which have persisted too long and extracted too great a cost. A just peace is possible in the Middle East. This fall I was pleased to participate in the Synod of Bishops devoted to the Christians in the Middle East. It is vital to have a coordinated effort for Christians in the Middle East. What is the Holy Land without indigenous Christians?

Our Stuttgart Assembly this past summer gave The Lutheran World Federation other directions which also are promising for our common witness to the gospel.
Prominent among these was movement toward reconciliation. At this Assembly, our Communion took a memorable action to ask forgiveness from Anabaptists for the legacies of persecutions in the sixteenth century. In preparing for this act, we were especially mindful of those traditions, including Catholics, who also had been persecutors. As Cardinal Kasper said to us, healing of memories with Mennonites is a common task for our communities. Then, with other ecumenical guests, he stood in solemn solidarity with the action. This was a moment when the Spirit of God could be felt in the Assembly. We believe that we took this action on behalf of the whole body of Christ. We pray that this spirit of repentance, reconciliation and renewal will continue to grow among us.

Above all, this was a praying Assembly. The theme itself was a prayer, “Give us today our daily bread.” The theme of bread unfolded to embrace the dimensions of care for the hungry; hunger for justice; and hunger for the Bread of Life. This Bread of Life appears in this small gift, which I have brought from the Holy Land for Your Holiness. It depicts a meal shared with the One who taught us to pray for daily bread. But of course first of all it calls to mind that Eucharistic meal at which the host is himself the Bread offered to us.

Each of us can bear witness to the importance of this sacramental meal in nurturing our own Christian lives. Each of us also knows the yearning for the time when we will be able to celebrate this feast together.

Today we want to reaffirm our commitment to moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the “summa evangelii.” This is a commitment of our prayers, and also of our actions. While we rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.

I emphasize this hope especially because we Lutherans already look toward 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation movement. We recognize that this will be a test case for ecumenical relations. For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the Reformers, and we will celebrate that. At the same time, we intend our anniversary to be ecumenically accountable: to recognize both damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress since the last major Reformation anniversary. But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. We are called,
both Lutherans and Catholics, to our common vocation of witnessing to the world for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.

In love, we ask God to bless your distinctive ministry, and the entire Catholic Church. We ask that you remember in your prayers The Lutheran World Federation and our 145 member churches, even as we continue to remember you in our petitions to the God who comes to us anew this Advent. As we approach Christmas, I would greet you with the words from John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

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Papal Message for 2011 Peace Day
"Religious Freedom Expresses What Is Unique About the Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 - Here is the the text of Benedict XVI's message for the 44th World Day of Peace, which will be observed Jan. 1. The theme for the day will be: "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace." The Vatican press office released the message today.

* * *

1. at the beginning of the new year I offer good wishes to each and all for serenity and prosperity, but especially for peace. Sadly, the year now ending has again been marked by persecution, discrimination, terrible acts of violence and religious intolerance.

My thoughts turn in a special way to the beloved country of Iraq, which continues to be a theatre of violence and strife as it makes its way towards a future of stability and reconciliation. I think of the recent sufferings of the Christian community, and in particular the reprehensible attack on the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad, where on 31 October two priests and over fifty faithful were killed as they gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass. In the days that followed, other attacks ensued, even on private homes, spreading fear within the Christian community and a desire on the part of many to emigrate in search of a better life. I assure them of my own closeness and that of the entire Church, a closeness which found concrete expression in the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod encouraged the Catholic communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East to live in communion and to continue to offer a courageous witness of faith in those lands.

I offer heartfelt thanks to those Governments which are working to alleviate the sufferings of these, our brothers and sisters in the human family, and I ask all Catholics for their prayers and support for their brethren in the faith who are victims of violence and intolerance. In this context, I have felt it particularly appropriate to share some reflections on religious freedom as the path to peace. It is painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s religion freely except at the risk of life and personal liberty. In other areas we see more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility towards believers and religious symbols. At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith. Many Christians experience daily affronts and often live in fear because of their pursuit of truth, their faith in Jesus Christ and their heartfelt plea for respect for religious freedom. This situation is unacceptable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.[1]

Religious freedom expresses what is unique about the human person, for it allows us to direct our personal and social life to God, in whose light the identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood. To deny or arbitrarily restrict this freedom is to foster a reductive vision of the human person; to eclipse the public role of religion is to create a society which is unjust, inasmuch as it fails to take account of the true nature of the human person; it is to stifle the growth of the authentic and lasting peace of the whole human family.

For this reason, I implore all men and women of good will to renew their commitment to building a world where all are free to profess their religion or faith, and to express their love of God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind (cf. Mt 22:37). This is the sentiment which inspires and directs this Message for the XLIV World Day of Peace, devoted to the theme: Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace.

A sacred right to life and to a spiritual life

2. The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person,[2] whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked. God created man and woman in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27). For this reason each person is endowed with the sacred right to a full life, also from a spiritual standpoint. Without the acknowledgement of his spiritual being, without openness to the transcendent, the human person withdraws within himself, fails to find answers to the heart’s deepest questions about life’s meaning, fails to appropriate lasting ethical values and principles, and fails even to experience authentic freedom and to build a just society.[3]

Sacred Scripture, in harmony with our own experience, reveals the profound value of human dignity: "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than God, and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet" (Ps 8:3-6).

Contemplating the sublime reality of human nature, we can experience the same amazement felt by the Psalmist. Our nature appears as openness to the Mystery, a capacity to ask deep questions about ourselves and the origin of the universe, and a profound echo of the supreme Love of God, the beginning and end of all things, of every person and people.[4] The transcendent dignity of the person is an essential value of Judeo-Christian wisdom, yet thanks to the use of reason, it can be recognized by all. This dignity, understood as a capacity to transcend one’s own materiality and to seek truth, must be acknowledged as a universal good, indispensable for the building of a society directed to human fulfilment. Respect for essential elements of human dignity, such as the right to life and the right to religious freedom, is a condition for the moral legitimacy of every social and legal norm.

Religious freedom and mutual respect

3. Religious freedom is at the origin of moral freedom. Openness to truth and perfect goodness, openness to God, is rooted in human nature; it confers full dignity on each individual and is the guarantee of full mutual respect between persons. Religious freedom should be understood, then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one’s own choices in accordance with truth.

Freedom and respect are inseparable; indeed, "in exercising their rights, individuals and social groups are bound by the moral law to have regard for the rights of others, their own duties to others and the common good of all".[5]

A freedom which is hostile or indifferent to God becomes self-negating and does not guarantee full respect for others. A will which believes itself radically incapable of seeking truth and goodness has no objective reasons or motives for acting save those imposed by its fleeting and contingent interests; it does not have an "identity" to safeguard and build up through truly free and conscious decisions. As a result, it cannot demand respect from other "wills", which are themselves detached from their own deepest being and thus capable of imposing other "reasons" or, for that matter, no "reason" at all. The illusion that moral relativism provides the key for peaceful coexistence is actually the origin of divisions and the denial of the dignity of human beings. Hence we can see the need for recognition of a twofold dimension within the unity of the human person: a religious dimension and a social dimension. In this regard, "it is inconceivable that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights".[6]

The family, the school of freedom and peace

4. If religious freedom is the path to peace, religious education is the highway which leads new generations to see others as their brothers and sisters, with whom they are called to journey and work together so that all will feel that they are living members of the one human family, from which no one is to be excluded.

The family founded on marriage, as the expression of the close union and complementarity between a man and a woman, finds its place here as the first school for the social, cultural, moral and spiritual formation and growth of children, who should always be able to see in their father and mother the first witnesses of a life directed to the pursuit of truth and the love of God. Parents must be always free to transmit to their children, responsibly and without constraints, their heritage of faith, values and culture. The family, the first cell of human society, remains the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international. Wisdom suggests that this is the road to building a strong and fraternal social fabric, in which young people can be prepared to assume their proper responsibilities in life, in a free society, and in a spirit of understanding and peace.

A common patrimony

5. It could be said that among the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in the dignity of the person, religious freedom enjoys a special status. When religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root, and the ethos and institutions of peoples are strengthened. On the other hand, whenever religious freedom is denied, and attempts are made to hinder people from professing their religion or faith and living accordingly, human dignity is offended, with a resulting threat to justice and peace, which are grounded in that right social order established in the light of Supreme Truth and Supreme Goodness.

Religious freedom is, in this sense, also an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture. It is an essential good: each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances. There should be no obstacles should he or she eventually wish to belong to another religion or profess none at all. In this context, international law is a model and an essential point of reference for states, insofar as it allows no derogation from religious freedom, as long as the just requirements of public order are observed.[7] The international order thus recognizes that rights of a religious nature have the same status as the right to life and to personal freedom, as proof of the fact that they belong to the essential core of human rights, to those universal and natural rights which human law can never deny.

Religious freedom is not the exclusive patrimony of believers, but of the whole family of the earth’s peoples. It is an essential element of a constitutional state; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone. It is "the litmus test for the respect of all the other human rights".[8] While it favours the exercise of our most specifically human faculties, it creates the necessary premises for the attainment of an integral development which concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.[9]

The public dimension of religion

6. Religious freedom, like every freedom, proceeds from the personal sphere and is achieved in relationship with others. Freedom without relationship is not full freedom. Religious freedom is not limited to the individual dimension alone, but is attained within one’s community and in society, in a way consistent with the relational being of the person and the public nature of religion.

Relationship is a decisive component in religious freedom, which impels the community of believers to practise solidarity for the common good. In this communitarian dimension, each person remains unique and unrepeatable, while at the same time finding completion and full realization.

The contribution of religious communities to society is undeniable. Numerous charitable and cultural institutions testify to the constructive role played by believers in the life of society. More important still is religion’s ethical contribution in the political sphere. Religion should not be marginalized or prohibited, but seen as making an effective contribution to the promotion of the common good. In this context mention should be made of the religious dimension of culture, built up over centuries thanks to the social and especially ethical contributions of religion. This dimension is in no way discriminatory towards those who do not share its beliefs, but instead reinforces social cohesion, integration and solidarity.

Religious freedom, a force for freedom and civilization:
dangers arising from its exploitation

7. The exploitation of religious freedom to disguise hidden interests, such as the subversion of the established order, the hoarding of resources or the grip on power of a single group, can cause enormous harm to societies. Fanaticism, fundamentalism and practices contrary to human dignity can never be justified, even less so in the name of religion. The profession of a religion cannot be exploited or imposed by force. States and the various human communities must never forget that religious freedom is the condition for the pursuit of truth, and truth does not impose itself by violence but "by the force of its own truth".[10] In this sense, religion is a positive driving force for the building of civil and political society.

How can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties.

Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs. The exclusion of religion from public life deprives the latter of a dimension open to transcendence. Without this fundamental experience it becomes difficult to guide societies towards universal ethical principles and to establish at the national and international level a legal order which fully recognizes and respects fundamental rights and freedoms as these are set forth in the goals – sadly still disregarded or contradicted – of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

An issue of justice and civility:
fundamentalism and hostility to believers
compromise the positive secularity of states

8. The same determination that condemns every form of fanaticism and religious fundamentalism must also oppose every form of hostility to religion that would restrict the public role of believers in civil and political life.

It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity. Both absolutize a reductive and partial vision of the human person, favouring in the one case forms of religious integralism and, in the other, of rationalism. A society that would violently impose or, on the contrary, reject religion is not only unjust to individuals and to God, but also to itself. God beckons humanity with a loving plan that, while engaging the whole person in his or her natural and spiritual dimensions, calls for a free and responsible answer which engages the whole heart and being, individual and communitarian. Society too, as an expression of the person and of all his or her constitutive dimensions, must live and organize itself in a way that favours openness to transcendence. Precisely for this reason, the laws and institutions of a society cannot be shaped in such a way as to ignore the religious dimension of its citizens or to prescind completely from it. Through the democratic activity of citizens conscious of their lofty calling, those laws and institutions must adequately reflect the authentic nature of the person and support its religious dimension. Since the latter is not a creation of the state, it cannot be manipulated by the state, but must rather be acknowledged and respected by it.

Whenever the legal system at any level, national or international, allows or tolerates religious or antireligious fanaticism, it fails in its mission, which is to protect and promote justice and the rights of all. These matters cannot be left to the discretion of the legislator or the majority since, as Cicero once pointed out, justice is something more than a mere act which produces and applies law. It entails acknowledging the dignity of each person[11] which, unless religious freedom is guaranteed and lived in its essence, ends up being curtailed and offended, exposed to the risk of falling under the sway of idols, of relative goods which then become absolute. All this exposes society to the risk of forms of political and ideological totalitarianism which emphasize public power while demeaning and restricting freedom of conscience, thought and religion as potential competitors.

Dialogue between civil and religious institutions

9. The patrimony of principles and values expressed by an authentic religiosity is a source of enrichment for peoples and their ethos. It speaks directly to the conscience and mind of men and women, it recalls the need for moral conversion, and it encourages the practice of the virtues and a loving approach to others as brothers and sisters, as members of the larger human family.[12]

With due respect for the positive secularity of state institutions, the public dimension of religion must always be acknowledged. A healthy dialogue between civil and religious institutions is fundamental for the integral development of the human person and social harmony.

Living in love and in truth

10. In a globalized world marked by increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies, the great religions can serve as an important factor of unity and peace for the human family. On the basis of their religious convictions and their reasoned pursuit of the common good, their followers are called to give responsible expression to their commitment within a context of religious freedom. Amid the variety of religious cultures, there is a need to value those elements which foster civil coexistence, while rejecting whatever is contrary to the dignity of men and women.

The public space which the international community makes available for the religions and their proposal of what constitutes a "good life" helps to create a measure of agreement about truth and goodness, and a moral consensus; both of these are fundamental to a just and peaceful coexistence. The leaders of the great religions, thanks to their position, their influence and their authority in their respective communities, are the first ones called to mutual respect and dialogue.

Christians, for their part, are spurred by their faith in God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, to live as brothers and sisters who encounter one another in the Church and work together in building a world where individuals and peoples "shall not hurt or destroy … for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is 11:9).

Dialogue as a shared pursuit

11. For the Church, dialogue between the followers of the different religions represents an important means of cooperating with all religious communities for the common good. The Church herself rejects nothing of what is true and holy in the various religions. "She has a high regard for those ways of life and conduct, precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women".[13]

The path to take is not the way of relativism or religious syncretism. The Church, in fact, "proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6); in Christ, in whom God reconciled all things to himself, people find the fullness of the religious life".[14] Yet this in no way excludes dialogue and the common pursuit of truth in different areas of life, since, as Saint Thomas Aquinas would say, "every truth, whoever utters it, comes from the Holy Spirit".[15]

The year 2011 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by Pope John Paul II. On that occasion the leaders of the great world religions testified to the fact that religion is a factor of union and peace, and not of division and conflict. The memory of that experience gives reason to hope for a future in which all believers will see themselves, and will actually be, agents of justice and peace.

Moral truth in politics and diplomacy

12. Politics and diplomacy should look to the moral and spiritual patrimony offered by the great religions of the world in order to acknowledge and affirm universal truths, principles and values which cannot be denied without denying the dignity of the human person. But what does it mean, in practical terms, to promote moral truth in the world of politics and diplomacy? It means acting in a responsible way on the basis of an objective and integral knowledge of the facts; it means deconstructing political ideologies which end up supplanting truth and human dignity in order to promote pseudo-values under the pretext of peace, development and human rights; it means fostering an unswerving commitment to base positive law on the principles of the natural law.[16] All this is necessary and consistent with the respect for the dignity and worth of the human person enshrined by the world’s peoples in the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, which presents universal values and moral principles as a point of reference for the norms, institutions and systems governing coexistence on the national and international levels.

Beyond hatred and prejudice

13. Despite the lessons of history and the efforts of states, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the many men and women of good will who daily work to protect fundamental rights and freedoms, today’s world also witnesses cases of persecution, discrimination, acts of violence and intolerance based on religion. In a particular way, in Asia and in Africa, the chief victims are the members of religious minorities, who are prevented from freely professing or changing their religion by forms of intimidation and the violation of their rights, basic freedoms and essential goods, including the loss of personal freedom and life itself.

There also exist – as I have said – more sophisticated forms of hostility to religion which, in Western countries, occasionally find expression in a denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens. Often these forms of hostility also foster hatred and prejudice; they are inconsistent with a serene and balanced vision of pluralism and the secularity of institutions, to say nothing of the fact that coming generations risk losing contact with the priceless spiritual heritage of their countries.

Religion is defended by defending the rights and freedoms of religious communities. The leaders of the great world religions and the leaders of nations should therefore renew their commitment to promoting and protecting religious freedom, and in particular to defending religious minorities; these do not represent a threat to the identity of the majority but rather an opportunity for dialogue and mutual cultural enrichment. Defending them is the ideal way to consolidate the spirit of good will, openness and reciprocity which can ensure the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in all areas and regions of the world.

Religious freedom in the world

14. Finally I wish to say a word to the Christian communities suffering from persecution, discrimination, violence and intolerance, particularly in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, a place chosen and blessed by God. I assure them once more of my paternal affection and prayers, and I ask all those in authority to act promptly to end every injustice against the Christians living in those lands. In the face of present difficulties, may Christ’s followers not lose heart, for witnessing to the Gospel is, and always will be, a sign of contradiction.

Let us take to heart the words of the Lord Jesus: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied … Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Mt 5:4-12). Then let us renew "the pledge we give to be forgiving and to pardon when we invoke God’s forgiveness in the Our Father. We ourselves lay down the condition and the extent of the mercy we ask for when we say: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us’ (Mt 6:12)".[17] Violence is not overcome by violence. May our cries of pain always be accompanied by faith, by hope and by the witness of our love of God. I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values and principles expressed in the Gospel. May Europe rather be reconciled to its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past, present and future role in history; in this way it will come to experience justice, concord and peace by cultivating a sincere dialogue with all peoples.

Religious freedom, the path to peace

15. The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.

Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed. A society reconciled with God is closer to peace, which is not the mere absence of war or the result of military or economic supremacy, much less deceptive ploys or clever manipulation. Rather, peace is the result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human dignity is fully respected. I invite all those who wish to be peacemakers, especially the young, to heed the voice speaking within their hearts and thus to find in God the stable point of reference for attaining authentic freedom, the inexhaustible force which can give the world a new direction and spirit, and overcome the mistakes of the past. In the words of Pope Paul VI, to whose wisdom and farsightedness we owe the institution of the World Day of Peace: "It is necessary before all else to provide peace with other weapons – different from those destined to kill and exterminate mankind. What are needed above all are moral weapons, those which give strength and prestige to international law – the weapon, in the first place, of the observance of pacts".[18] Religious freedom is an authentic weapon of peace, with an historical and prophetic mission. Peace brings to full fruition the deepest qualities and potentials of the human person, the qualities which can change the world and make it better. It gives hope for a future of justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and moral poverty. May all men and women, and societies at every level and in every part of the earth, soon be able to experience religious freedom, the path to peace!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2010

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

NOTES

[1] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 29, 55-57.

[2] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 2.

[3] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 78.

[4] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, 1.

[5] ID., Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 7.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (18 April 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 337.

[7] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 2.

[8] JOHN PAUL II, Address to Participants in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (10 October 2003), 1: AAS 96 (2004), 111.

[9] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 11.

[10] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 1.

[11] Cf. CICERO, De Inventione, II, 160.

[12] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to Representatives of Other Religions in the United Kingdom (17 September 2010): L’Osservatore Romano (18 September 2010), p. 12.

[13] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, 2.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Super Evangelium Joannis, I, 3.

[16] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in Cyprus (4 June 2010): L’Osservatore Romano (6 June 2010), p. 8; INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION, The Search for Universal Ethics: A New Look at Natural Law, Vatican City, 2009.

[17] PAUL VI, Message for the 1976 World Day of Peace: AAS 67 (1975), 671.

[18] Ibid., p. 668.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Cardinal Turkson's Comments on Papal Peace Message
"Religious Freedom ... Has Come Under Great Stress and Threat"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the comments made today by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at a press conference for the presentation of Benedict XVI's message for the 44th World Day of Peace, which will be celebrated Jan. 1.

The theme of this day is "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace."

* * *

1. INTRODUCTION

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will celebrate the XLIV World Day of Peace next year (2011) with a message on religious freedo m. The message consists of a New Year Greeting, an introductory reference to the attack on Christians in Iraq, the main body of the message, which presents the sense of religious freedom and the various ways in which it fashions peace and experiences of peace, and a concluding reflection on peace as a gift of God and at the same the work of men and women of goodwill, and , especially, of believers.

Religious Freedom is the theme of the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Peace not only because that subject matter is central to Catholic social doctrine; it is also because the living of religious freedom -- a basic vocation of man and a fundamental, inalienable and universal human right, and key to peace – has come under great stress and threat:

-- from raging secularism, which is intolerant of God and of any form of expression of religion;

-- from religious fundamentalism, the politicization of religion and the establishment of state religions;

-- from the growing cultural and religious pluralism that is being made ever more present and pressing in our day by globalization (which heightens interdependence and fashions new forms of relations) and the increased mobility of people (who run into new cultures and religions). Thus, differences which should enrich human culture are increasingly being exploited, especially in the area of religion, to achieve the opposite effect of impoverishing human culture through intolerance, denial and negation of the right of religious freedo m.

The Holy Father, in his Message, sees the safeguarding of religious freedom in our multi-cultural, multi-religious and secularized world as one of the ways to safeguard its peace.

2. CONTEXT

As you may recall, one of the important tasks that our world set for itself following the 2nd World War was the formulation, adoption and promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 1948). Against the background of intolerant totalitarian ideologies, injustices and evils of war (hatred), the Universal Declaration was a human rights agenda (a magna carta) for ensuring tolerance, mutual respect, justice, peace and the common good of humanity. The 18th Article of the Declaration enshrines religious freedom: “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, a right which “includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest [one’s] religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”!

Pope Benedict XVI praised the Universal Declaration for “enabling different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values and hence of rights”, but, he also worried about the increasing instances of the denial of the universality of these rights in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks.[1]

Consider the Lautsi case here in Italy and the Crucifix case in the EU Court of Human Rights, the case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, the case of Southern Sudan, Christians in the Middle East, Doctors who are denied license because they will not terminate pregnancies, denial of aid-packages to developing countries who object to aid-conditions on religious-moral grounds, and so on.

So, the Message of Peace of the Holy Father for the year 2011 is set within this context, and it addresses incidents of the denial of the universal right of Religious Freedom in the name of culture, religion, politics and State policies even by nations which are party to the Declaration. These denials obscure the truth about the human person, disregard people’s dignity, badly compromise the respect for the other rights, and ultimately threaten the peace of the world.

3. PRINCIPAL THEMES OF THE MESSAGE

3.1. The Nature of religious freedom. Religious freedom is a “way to peace” because of what it is essentially. Rooted in the dignity of the human person (body and spirit), with a vocation to transcendence, religious freedom expresses that capacity and longing in every person to seek to realize oneself fully in relationship, opening up to God and to others. It expresses the search for meaning in life and for the discovery of values and principles which make life, alone and in community, meaningful. Religious freedom, ultimately, is the expression of man’s capacity to seek the truth of God and the truth about himself, as “a maker of an earthly city which anticipates the heavenly city” of justice, peace and happiness.

3.2. The right to religious freedo m. Religious freedom is not considered a human right just because the Universal Declaration affirms it. Religious freedom is not a right granted by a State. Its foundation is not to be found in the subjective disposition of the person.[2] With the other rights of man, the right of religious freedom is derived, as Pope John XXIII and subsequent Church doctrines have taught, from natural law and from the dignity of the person which are rooted in creation. Rather, the State and other public institutions, as Pope Benedict XVI recalls in par. 8 of his Message, need to recognize it as intrinsic to the human person and in its expressions, as indispensable for its integrity and peace.

3.3. Religious freedom is a duty of public authority (par.10). Although religious freedom does not need the State or even the Universal Declaration to establish it, it is not an unlimited right. To ensure that religious freedom makes for peace and is not abused, as in the case of Pastor Jim Jones who led a group of believers to their death in Guyana , “the just limits of the exercise of religious freedom must be determined in each social situation with political prudence, according to the requirements of common good.”[3] Cfr. Message no. 10.

3.4. Religious freedom and the search for truth. Religious freedom then, as the Holy Father recalls in his Message (par. 3), is freedom from coercion and freedom for the truth: the (religious) truth of seeking the God of man’s creation, “for what does the soul desire more strongly than the truth?”[4] It is the absolute truth of God, the longing of man’s soul; and it is this truth which calls forth the expression of freedom in man (his freewill) to respond to it. Thus religious freedom does not refer, first and foremost, to man’s decision or his choice between one and the other religion, although this can be an expression of it (as in the Universal Declaration). Religious freedom refers primarily to man’s freedom to express his being capax Dei: his freedom to respond to the truth of his nature as created by God and created for life with God without coercion or impediments.[5] It is in this that man finds his peace, and from there becomes an instrument of peace.

3.5. Religious freedom and identity. Religious freedom does not imply that all religions are equal. Nor is it a reason for religious relativism or indifferentism.[6] Religious freedom is compatible with defense of one’s religious identity against relativism, syncretism and fundamentalism: all abused forms of religious freedo m.

3.6. Communal dimension of religious freedom. Religious freedom is also an expression of a person that is at once individual and communitarian (cfr. Message no. 6). Religious freedom is not limited to the free exercise of worship. There is a public dimension to it, which grants believers the chance of making their contribution in building the social order. Let us recall here the four faith-filled founders/architects of the European Union (Adenauer, De Gasperi, Schuman and Monnet), the centers of learning and culture of the Church, the very many developmental, health-care and educational projects of the Church in mission countries, and so on.

As Pope Benedict XVI would say, the Church’s social doctrine came into being in order to claim citizenship status for the Catholic religion. Denying the right to profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truth of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development.[7] Similarly, “refusal to recognize the contribution to society that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute – by its nature, expressing communion between persons – would effectively privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the person.”[8]

The exercise of the right of religious freedom as a way to peace thus implies the recognition of the harmony that must exist between the two areas and forms of life: private and public, individual and community, person and society. A Catholic (believer) therefore is not only a subject of religious freedom, but also a member of a “body”. Submitting, therefore, to that body is not a loss of freedo m. It becomes an expression of fidelity to the “body”; and fidelity is the development of freedo m.

Furthermore, there is a unity of reciprocal relationship between the individual and one’s community, a person and one’s society. A person is born and lives in relationships, and the purpose of community is to promote the life of a person. Accordingly, the development and the exercise of one’s religious freedom, is also the task of one’s community. Families and schools (places of formation) are often the primary agents of formation in religious freedo m. In multi-cultural and multi-religious communities, schools and institutions are also the privileged places of training in tolerance and dialogue in the exercise of religious freedom for peaceful coexistence.[9]

3.7. Religious freedom and dialogue. For Benedict XVI, religious dialogue, conducted according to charity and truth, is a resource for the common good (cfr. Message no. 11). Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which various bodies can articulate their points of view and build consensus around the truth concerning particular values or goals. It pertains to the nature of religions, freely practiced, that they can autonomously conduct a dialogue of thought and life with view to placing their experiences at the service of the common good.[10] Precisely this dialogue is the objective of the official dialogue groups in the Church, and even of a small initiative like the Cardinal Lüstiger Foundation for dialogue with Judais m. [11] The same objective can inspire an active dialogue between the free practice of one’s religion and unbelievers, between faith and reason. “Fruitful dialogue between faith and reason cannot but render the work of charity more effective within society, and it constitutes the most appropriate framework for promoting fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers in their shared commitment to working for justice and the peace of the human family.”[12]

3.8. Religious freedom and the State (protection). Although religious freedom is not established by the State, it (the State) nevertheless, needs to recognize it as intrinsic to the human person and in its public and communitarian expressions. This recognition of religious freedom and a respect for the innate dignity of every person also imply the principle of the responsibility to protect on the part of the community, society and the State. “Every State has the primary duty to protect its population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, …. If States are not able to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the UN Charter and in other international instruments.”[13]

3.9. Religious freedom is motivated by Solidarity and not Reciprocity. The Church’s appeals for religious freedom are not based on a claim of reciprocity, whereby one group respects the rights of others only if the latter respect the rights of the group. Rather, the appeals for religious freedom are based on the dignity of persons. We respect the rights of others because it is the right thing to do, not in exchange for its equivalent or for a favour granted. At the same time, when others suffer persecution because of their faith and religious practice, we offer them compassion and solidarity.

3.10. Conclusion: Religious freedom and the Missionary Charge. The missionary charge of Jesus to his apostles to go preach his Gospel to the whole world brings us back to consider the nexus between freedom and truth in the exercise of religious freedo m. The observation was made above, referring to St. Augustine , that there is nothing which the soul desires more strongly than the truth. It was then observed that true freedom desires the truth, God. All proclamation of the Gospel, as the good news of Jesus Christ, is an effort to awaken the freedom (religious freedom) of man to desire and to embrace the truth of the Gospel. This truth of the Gospel, however, is unique, because it is truth that saves (Mk.16:15-16). It is different from all other truths, arrived at as a fruit of the cognitive activity of man. It is as such an offer of unique saving truth that the Gospel is preached to all creation.

Evangelization and the carrying out of the missionary charge, then, do not contradict and oppose the sense of religious freedo m. Rather evangelization stirs up the religious freedom of every person and drives it towards the truth that saves, in the hope that persons in their religious freedom would desire it and embrace it. In the embrace of the truth that saves, all religious freedom enjoys the peace that, on earth, is bestowed “on all on whom his favour rests”!

[1] UN Address, 2008.

[2] Dignitatis Humanae, #2.

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #422.

[4] “Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem?” St. Augustine : Tractatus in Io 26,5.

[5] Cfr. Dignitatis Humanae.

[6] Caritas in veritate, #55.

[7] Caritas in veritate, #56.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, UN Address, 2008.

[9] Cfr. P. Turkson, “The Role of Education in a Multi-Ethnic and a Multi-Religious Society,” Oasis 6:11, June 2010, pp. 5-9.

[10] Pope Benedict XVI, UN Address, 2008.

[11] New York , March 2009.

[12] Caritas in veritate. #57.

[13] UN Address, 2008.

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On St. Veronica Giuliani
"She Interpreted Everything in a Key of Love"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to present a mystic who is not of the Medieval Age; it is St. Veronica Giuliani, a Capuchin Poor Clare. The reason is that Dec. 27 is the 350th anniversary of her birth. Citta di Castello, the place where she lived the longest and where she died, as well as Mercatello -- her native country -- and the Diocese of Urbino celebrate this event joyfully.

Veronica was born precisely on Dec. 27, 1660, in Mercatello, in the valley of Metauro, to Francesco Giuliani and Benedetta Mancini. She was the last of seven sisters, an additional three of whom embraced the monastic life. She was given the name Ursula. She lost her mother at 7, and her father moved to Piacenza as superintendent of customs of the duchy of Parma. In this city, Ursula felt a growing desire to dedicate her life to Christ. The call was ever more pressing, so much so that at 17 she entered the strict cloister of the monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares of Citta di Castello, where she would remain the whole of her life.

There she received the name Veronica, which means "true image," and, in fact, she would become a true image of Christ Crucified. A year later she made her solemn religious profession. The journey began for her configuration to Christ through much penance, great suffering and certain mystical experiences linked with the Passion of Jesus: the crowning of thorns, the mystical espousal, the wound in her heart and the stigmata. In 1716, at 56, she became abbess of the monastery and was confirmed in this role until her death, which occurred in 1727, after a most painful agony of 33 days that culminated in a profound joy, so much so that her last words were: "I have found Love, Love has allowed Himself to be seen! This is the cause of my suffering. Tell it to everyone, tell it to everyone!" (Summarium Beatificationis, 115-120).

She left her earthly dwelling on July 9 for her encounter with God. She was 67 years old; 50 of those years she spent in the monastery of Citta di Castello. She was proclaimed a saint on May 26, 1893, by Pope Gregory XVI.

Veronica Giuliani wrote much: letters, autobiographical reports, poems. However, the main source to reconstruct her thought is her "Diary," begun in 1693: a good 22,000 handwritten pages, which cover an expanse of 34 years of cloistered life. The writing flows spontaneously and continuously. There are no cancellations or corrections, punctuation marks or distribution of the material in chapters or parts according to a pre-established plan. Veronica did not wish to compose a literary work; instead, she was obliged to put her experiences into writing by Father Girolamo Bastianelli, a religious of the Filippini, in agreement with the diocesan bishop Antonio Eustachi.

St. Veronica has a markedly Christ-centered and spousal spirituality: Hers is the experience of being loved by Christ, the faithful and sincere Spouse, and of wanting to correspond with an ever more involved and impassioned love. She interpreted everything in a key of love, and this infuses in her a profound serenity. Everything is lived in union with Christ, for love of him, and with the joy of being able to demonstrate to him all the love of which a creature is capable.

The Christ to whom Veronica is profoundly united is the suffering Christ of the passion, death and resurrection; it is Jesus in the act of offering himself to the Father to save us. From this experience derives also the intense and suffering love for the Church, and the twofold way of prayer and offering. The saint lived from this point of view: She prays, suffers, seeks "holy poverty," as "dispossessed," loss of self (cf. ibid., III, 523), precisely to be like Christ, who gave his whole self.

In every page of her writings Veronica entrusts someone to the Lord, strengthening her prayers of intercession with the offering of herself in every suffering. Her heart dilated to all "the needs of the Holy Church," living with longing the desire of the salvation of "the whole world" (ibid., III-IV, passim).

Veronica cried out: "O sinners ... come to Jesus' heart; come to the cleansing of his most precious blood ... he awaits you with open arms to embrace you" (Ibid., II, 16-17). Animated by an ardent charity, she gave care, understanding and forgiveness to the sisters of the monastery. She offered her prayers and sacrifices for the Pope, her bishop, priests and for all needy persons, including the souls in Purgatory. She summarized her contemplative mission in these words: "We cannot go preaching around the world to convert souls, but we are obliged to pray continually for all those souls who are offending God ... particularly with our sufferings, that is with a principle of crucified life" (Ibid., IV, 877). Our saint conceived this mission as a "being in the middle" between men and God, between sinners and Christ Crucified.

Veronica profoundly lived participation in the suffering love of Jesus, certain that "to suffer with joy" is the "key of love" (cf. ibid., I, 299.417; III, 330.303.871;IV, 192). She evidences that Jesus suffers for men's sins, but also for the sufferings that his faithful servants had to endure in the course of the centuries, in the time of the Church, precisely because of their solid and coherent faith. She wrote: "The Eternal Father made him see and feel at that point all the sufferings that his elect would have to endure, his dearest souls, that is, those who would know how to benefit from his Blood and from all his sufferings" (ibid., II, 170). As the Apostle Paul says of himself: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Colossians 1:24).

Veronica even asks Jesus to be crucified with him. "In an instant," she wrote, "I saw issue from his most holy wounds five shining rays; and all came to my face. And I saw these rays become as little flames. In four of them were the nails; and in one of them was the lance, as of gold, all red hot: and it pierced my heart, from one side to the other ... and the nails went through the hands and feet. I felt great pain; but, in the very pain I saw myself, I felt myself all transformed in God" (Diary, I, 897).

The saint was convinced she was participating already in the Kingdom of God, but at the same time she invoked all the saints of the Blessed Homeland to come to her aid on the earthly journey of her self-giving, while awaiting eternal blessedness; this was the constant aspiration of her life (cf. ibid., II, 909; V, 246). In regard to preaching of the time, not rarely centered on "saving one's soul" in individual terms, Veronica shows a strong "sense of solidarity," a sense of communion with all brothers and sisters on the way to heaven, and she lives, prays and suffers for all. The earthly, penultimate things, instead, although appreciated in the Franciscan sense as gift of the Creator, were always relative, altogether subordinate to the "taste" of God and under the sign of a radical poverty. In the communio sanctorum, she clarifies her ecclesial donation, as well as the relationship between the pilgrim Church and the heavenly Church. "All the saints," she wrote, "are up there through the merits and the Passion of Jesus; but they cooperated with all that the Lord did, so that their life was all ordered ... regulated by (his) very works" (ibid., III, 203).

In Veronica's writings we find many biblical quotations, at times indirectly, but always precise: She shows familiarity with the sacred text, from which her spiritual experience is nourished. Revealed, moreover, is that the intense moments of Veronica's mystical experience are never separated from the salvific events celebrated in the liturgy, where the proclamation and hearing of the Word of God has a particular place. Hence, sacred Scripture illumines, purifies and confirms Veronica's experience, rendering it ecclesial. On the other hand, however, precisely her experience, anchored in sacred Scripture with an uncommon intensity, guides one to a more profound and "spiritual" reading of the text itself, to enter into the hidden profundity of the text. She not only expresses herself with the words of sacred Scripture, but she also really lives from these words, they become life in her.

For example, our saint often quotes the expression of the Apostle Paul: "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31; cf. Diary, I, 714; II, 116.1021; III, 48). In her, the assimilation of this Pauline text, her great trust and profound joy, becomes a fait accompli in her very person: "My soul," she wrote, "was connected to the divine will and I was truly established and fixed in the will of God. It seems to me that I could never again be separated from this will of God and turn to myself with these precise words: nothing will be able to separate me from the will of God, not anxieties, or sorrows, or toil, or contempt, or temptations, or creatures, or demons, or darkness, and not even death itself, because, in life and in death, I will everything and in everything, the will of God" (Diary, IV, 272). Thus we have the certainty that death is not the last word, we are fixed in the will of God and so, really, in everlasting life.

In particular, Veronica shows herself to be a courageous witness of the beauty and the power of Divine Love, which draws, pervades and inflames her. It is crucified Love that imprinted itself on her flesh, as in that of St. Francis of Assisi, with the stigmata of Jesus. "My Bride," the crucified Christ whispers to me, "the penances you do for those who are in my disgrace are dear to me ... Then, detaching an arm from the cross, he made a sign to me to draw near to his side ... and I found myself in the arms of the Crucified. What I experienced at that point I cannot recount: I would have liked to remain always in his most holy side" (ibid.., I, 37). This is also an image of her spiritual journey, of her interior life: to be in the embrace of the Crucified and thus to be in Christ's love for others.

Also with the Virgin Mary, Veronica lived a relationship of profound intimacy, attested by the words she heard Our Lady say one day and which she reports in her Diary: "I will make you rest on my breast, you are united with my soul, and from it you were taken as in flight to God" (IV, 901).

St. Veronica Giuliani invites us to make our Christian life grow, our union with the Lord in being for others, abandoning ourselves to his will with complete and total trust, and to union with the Church, Bride of Christ; she invites us to participate in the suffering love of Jesus Crucified for the salvation of all sinners; she invites us to fix our gaze on Paradise, the goal of our earthly journey, where we will live together with so many brothers and sisters the joy of full communion with God; she invites us to nourish ourselves daily from the Word of God to warm our hearts and give direction to our life. The last words of the saint can be considered the synthesis of her passionate mystical experience: "I have found Love, Love has let himself be seen!" Thank you.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Veronica Giuliani, a Capuchin Poor Clare and mystic who was born three hundred and fifty years ago this month. Saint Veronica, true to the name she took in religion, became a "true image" of Christ crucified; her configuration to the Lord was accompanied by profound mystical experiences such as her crowning with thorns and the stigmata. Veronica's spirituality, as revealed above all in her Diary, is Christ-centred and spousal: she saw all things in the light of Christ's love, manifested in his Passion, and she united herself to his self-oblation to the Father for the salvation of souls. Her love of the Scriptures was deeply linked to her love of the Church and her strong sense of the communion of the saints. Veronica's passionate mystical experience can be summed up in the words she spoke on her deathbed: "I have found Love." May the life and teaching of Saint Veronica Giuliani inspire us to grow in union with the Lord and his Church, and to share in Christ's loving concern for the salvation of sinners.

I extend a warm welcome and prayerful good wishes to the priest alumni of the Pontifical North American College celebrating their fortieth anniversary of priestly ordination. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Ireland and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Message to Santiago de Compostela
Thanks Archdiocese for Warm Welcome

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain, DEC. 14, 2010 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Archbishop Julián Barrio of Santiago de Compostela after the Pontiff returned from his Nov. 6-7 trip to Spain. The note was published today by the Archdiocese of Compostela.

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To the Venerable Brother
Monsignor Julian Barrio Barrio
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela

Upon returning to Rome, after the joyful ecclesial and spiritual experience of my pastoral visit to Santiago de Compostela, where, in this Holy Year, I wished to include myself among the pilgrims who present themselves at the feet of the Apostle to allow themselves to be transformed by the witness of his faith and the fire of his love for Christ, I wish to express to Your Excellency my most heartfelt gratitude for the exquisite reception, pleasing hospitality and happy stay in that beautiful city. I ask you also to communicate my gratitude to all your collaborators, as well as to the civil authorities, the security forces, and the numerous volunteers, for their generous cooperation in the preparation, development and execution of this beloved initiative.

I reciprocate these noble and eloquent gestures, asking God to enrich all the children of those noble lands with the abundance of the gifts of his love and mercy, may they serve as help in carrying out their personal, family and social duties.

With these sentiments, and at the same time entrusting to the Apostle James, friend of the Lord, the priests, religious communities, seminarians and faithful of that beloved archdiocese, I impart from my heart the apostolic blessing, pledge of copious divine favors.

Vatican, Nov. 9, 2010
Benedict XVI

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On the Third Sunday of Advent
"The Word of the Lord Does Not Pass"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Third Sunday of Advent the liturgy proposes a passage from the Letter of St. James that opens with this exhortation: "Be constant, my brothers, until the coming of the Lord" (James 5:7). It seems to me more important than ever in our days to underscore the importance of constancy and patience, virtues that belonged to the generation of our fathers but which are less popular today in a world that instead exalts change and the capacity always to adapt to new situations. Without taking anything away from these latter, which are also qualities of the human being, Advent calls us to strengthen that interior tenacity, that resistance of the soul that permits us not to despair in waiting for some good thing that is late in coming, but to expect it, indeed, to prepare for its arrival with an active confidence.

"Learn from the farmer," St. James writes, "he awaits with constancy the precious fruit of the earth until it has received the first and the last rains. You too must be constant, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near" (James 5:7-8). The comparison with the farmer is quite expressive: He who has sown seeds in the field has before him some months of patient and constant expectation, but he knows that in the meantime the seed goes through its cycle thanks to the autumn and spring rains. The farmer is not a fatalist, but is the model of a mentality that unites faith and reason in a balanced way because, on one hand, he knows the laws of nature and does his work well, and, on the other hand, he trusts in Providence, because certain basic things are not in his hands but in God's hands. Patience and constancy are precisely the synthesis between human effort and trust in God.

"Strengthen your hearts," Scripture says. How can we do that? How can we strengthen our hearts, which are already rather fragile, and made more unstable by the culture in which we are immersed? We do not lack help: The Word of God is there. Indeed, while everything passes and changes, the Word of the Lord does not pass. If the vicissitudes of life make us feel lost and every certainty seems to crumble, we have a compass for finding direction, we need not fear being adrift. And here the model that is offered to us by the prophets, that is, the model of those persons whom God called to speak in his name. The prophet finds his joy and his strength in the power of the Lord's Word and, while men often seek happiness along paths that turn out to be mistaken, he announces the true hope, the one that doesn't delude because it is founded on the fidelity of God. Every Christian, in virtue of his baptism, has received the prophetic dignity. May every Christian rediscover it and develop it with an assiduous listening to the Divine Word. May the Virgin Mary, whom the Gospel calls blessed because she believed that the Lord's words would be accomplished (cf. Luke 1:45), obtain this for us.

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Diocesan Parish
"Try to Grow Evermore in Communion With Everyone"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2010 - Here is the translation of a homily given today by Benedict XVI during a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe of the Diocese of Rome.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of San Massimiliano Kolbe! Live this personal and communal path of following the Lord in a committed way. Advent is a powerful invitation to everyone to allow God to enter more and more into our life, into our houses, into our neighborhoods, into our communities, to have a light in the midst of many shadows, the many daily toils.

Dear Friends, I am very happy to be among you today to celebrate the Lord's Day, the Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday of joy. I cordially greet the cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishop of the sector, your parish priest, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me in the name of all of you, and the parish vicar. I greet those who are active in the parish: the catechists, the members of various groups, along with the numerous members of the Neocatechumenal Way. I greatly appreciate the decision to give a place to Eucharistic adoration, and I thank you for your prayers that you offer for me before the Blessed Sacrament. My thoughts are with all the inhabitants of this quarter, especially the elderly, the sick, the people are alone and in difficulty. I remember all and each in this Mass.

Together with all of you I admire this new church and the parish buildings and with my presence I desire to encourage you to realize in an ever better way the Church of living stones that you yourselves are. I know the many and significant efforts at evangelization that you are engaged in. I exhort all of the faithful to make your own contribution to the building up of the community, in particular in the field of catechesis, the liturgy and charity -- pillars of the Christian life -- in communion with the whole Diocese of Rome. No community can live as a cell that is isolated from the diocesan context; it must rather be a living expression of the beauty of the Church that, under the bishop's leadership -- and in the parish, under the pastor's leadership -- walks in communion toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

I address a special thought to families; I accompany them with the wish that they may fully realize their vocation of love with generosity and perseverance. Even when difficulties in conjugal life and in the relationships with their children present themselves, the spouses must never cease to remain faithful to that fundamental "yes" that they pronounced before God and each other on their wedding day, recalling that faithfulness to their vocation demands courage, generosity and sacrifice.

Your community includes within it many families who have come from central and southern Italy in search of work and better conditions of life. With the passing of time the community has grown and it has changed in part with the arrival of many people from Eastern Europe and other countries. Precisely starting from this concrete situation of the parish you must try to grow evermore in communion with everyone: it is important to create occasions of dialogue and to promote mutual understanding between persons from different cultures, models of life and social conditions. But it is above all necessary to help them become involved in the Christian life through care that is attentive to the real needs of each person. Here, as in every parish, it is necessary to leave those who are "near" to reach out to those who are "far away," to bring an evangelical presence to the realms of life and work. All must be able to find in the parish adequate paths of formation and experience that communal dimension that is a fundamental characteristic of Christian life. In this way they are encouraged to rediscover the beauty of Christ and of being part of his Church.

Know, then, how to form a community with everyone, united in listening to the Word of God and in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. In this respect the diocesan pastoral verification that is underway on the theme "Sunday Eucharist and the Witness of Charity" is a propitious occasion to reflect upon and better live these two fundamental components of the life and mission of the Church and of every individual believer, that is, the Sunday Eucharist and the practice of charity. Gathered around the Eucharist we more easily feel that the mission of every Christian community is that of bringing the message of God's love to all men. This is why it is important that the Eucharist always be at the heart of the life of the faithful.

I would like to offer a special word of affection and friendship to you, dear young people who are listening to me and to your peers who live in this parish. The Church expects much from you, from your enthusiasm, from your capacity to look ahead and from your desire for radicality in the choices of life. Feel that you are true protagonists in the parish, putting all of your fresh energies and your life at the service of God and the brothers.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, along with the invitation to joy, today's liturgy -- with the words of St. James that we have heard -- tells us also to be constant and patient in waiting for the Lord who comes, and to be this together, as a community, avoiding complaining and judging others (cf. James 5:7-10).

We have heard in the Gospel the question of the Baptist who finds himself in prison; the Baptist announced the coming of the Judge who changes the world, and now it feels as if the world has stayed the same. He makes his disciples ask Jesus: "Are you the one who must come? Or must we look for another? Are you he or must we look for another?" In the last two or three centuries many have asked: "But are you really the one? Or must the world be changed in a truly radical way? Are you not doing it?" And many prophets, ideologies and dictators have come and said: "It isn't him! He didn't change the world! We are the ones!" And they created their empires, their dictatorships, their totalitarianism that was supposed to change the world. And they changed it, but in a destructive way. Today we know that of these great promises there has only remained a great void and great destruction. They were not the ones.

And so we must again see Christ and ask Christ: "Are you the one?" The Lord, in the silent way that is characteristic of him, answers: "See what I have done. I did not start a bloody revolution, I did not change the world by force, but I lit many lights that form, in the meantime, a great path of light through the centuries."

Let us begin here, in our parish: St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered to starve to death to save the father of a family. What a great light he became! What light has come from this figure and encouraged others to give themselves, to be near to the suffering, to the oppressed! Let us think of Damien de Veuster who was a father to the lepers. He lived and died with and for the lepers and thus brought light into this community. Let us think of Mother Teresa, who gave so much light to people, who, after a life without light, died with a smile, because they were touched by the light of God's love.

We could go on and we would see how the Lord said in his answer to John, that it is not the violent revolution in the world, it is not the great promises that change the world, but it is the silent light of the truth, of the goodness of God that is the sign of his presence and that gives us the certainty that we are loved completely and that we are not forgotten, we are not a product of chance, but of a will of love.

In this way we can live, we can feel God's nearness. "God is near," today's first reading tells us, he is near, but we are often far away. Let us draw near, let us go to the presence of his light, we pray to the Lord and in the contact of prayer we ourselves become light for others.

And this is precisely also the meaning of the parish Church: Enter here, enter into dialogue, into contact with Jesus, with the Son of God, so that we ourselves become one of those little lights that he has lit and carry light into the world that feels that it has been redeemed.

Our spirit must open up to this invitation and thus we walk with joy to meet Christmas, imitating the Virgin Mary, who waited in prayer, with intimate and joyous trepidation, the birth of the Redeemer. Amen!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Immaculate Conception
"Grace Is Greater Than Sin ... God's Mercy Is More Powerful Than Evil"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today our meeting on the occasion of the prayer of the Angelus acquires a special light, in the context of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the liturgy of this feast, the Gospel of the Annunciation is proclaimed (Luke 1:26-38), which presents, precisely, the dialogue between the angel Gabriel and the Virgin.

"Rejoice! Full of grace, the Lord is with three," says God's messenger, and in this way reveals Mary's most profound identity, the "name" so to speak with which God himself knows her: "full of grace."

This expression, which is so familiar to us from our childhood, as we say it every time we pray the Hail Mary, explains to us the mystery that we celebrate today. In fact, from the moment she was conceived by her parents, Mary was the object of a singular predilection on the part of God, who in his eternal plan chose her to be the mother of his Son made man and, hence, preserved her from original sin. For this reason, the angel addresses her with this name, which implicitly signifies: "ever full of the love of God," of his grace.

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is source of interior light, of hope and of consolation. In the midst of life's trials, and especially of the contradictions man experiences in his interior and around him, Mary, Mother of Christ, tells us that Grace is greater than sin, that God's mercy is more powerful than evil, and it is able to transform it into goodness.

Unfortunately, we experience evil every day, which manifests itself in many ways in relations and events, but which has its root in man's heart, a wounded, sick heart, incapable of curing itself. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that at the origin of all evil is disobedience to the will of God, and that death has prevailed because human liberty has yielded to the temptation of the Evil One. However, God does not fail in his plan of love and life: through a long and patient path of reconciliation, he has prepared the new and eternal Covenant, sealed with the blood of his Son, who to offer himself in expiation "was born of woman" (Galatians 4:4).

This woman, the Virgin Mary, benefited in advance from the redeeming death of her Son and from conception was preserved from the contagion of guilt. Because of this, with her immaculate heart, she says to us: Trust Jesus, he saves you.

Dear friends, this afternoon I will renew the traditional homage to the Immaculate Virgin, before the monument dedicated to her, in Piazza di Spagna. With this act of devotion I make myself interpreter of the love of the faithful of Rome and of the whole world for the Mother that Christ has given us. I entrust to her intercession the most urgent needs of the Church and of the world. May she help us above all to have faith in God, to believe in his Word, to always reject evil and choose the good.

[In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today the Church joyfully celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By her prayers, may our hearts and minds be kept free from sin, so that like Mary we may be spiritually prepared to welcome Christ. Let us turn to her, the Immaculate, who brought Christ to us, and ask her now to bring us to Him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address Upon Visiting Marian Statue in Piazza di Spagna
"Her 'Message' Is None Other Than Jesus, Who Is Her Whole Life"
ROME, DEC. 8, 2010 - 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 di Spagna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Also this year we have made an appointment here, in Piazza di Spagna, to render homage to the Immaculate Virgin, on the occasion of her solemn feast. To all of you, who have come in great numbers, as well as all those taking part through radio and television, I address my cordial greeting. We are gathered around this historic monument, which today is all surrounded by flowers, sign of the love and devotion of the Roman people for the Mother of Jesus. And the most beautiful gift, and most pleasing to her, that we offer is our prayer, the one we bear in our hearts and which we entrust to her intercession. They are invocations of gratitude and supplication: of gratitude for the gift of faith and for all the good that we receive daily from God; and supplication for our different needs, for the family, health, work, for every difficulty that life has us encounter.

But when we come here, especially on this feast of Dec. 8, much more important is what we receive from Mary, in comparison to what we offer her. In fact, she gives a message destined to each one of us, to the city of Rome and to the entire world. Also I, who am bishop of this city, come to listen, not only for myself but for all. And what does Mary say to us? She speaks to us with the Word of God, which became flesh in her womb. Her "message" is none other than Jesus, who is her whole life. It is thanks to Him and because of Him that she is Immaculate. And as the Son of God became man for us, so she too, the Mother, was preserved from sin for us, for all, in anticipation of God's salvation for every man. Thus Mary says to us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be able to reach, our final destination, to be immaculate, fully and definitively free of evil. She says so with her sanctity itself, with a look full of hope and compassion, which evokes words such as these: "Fear not, son, God loves you! He loves you personally; he thought of you before you came into the world and called you into existence to fill you with love and life; and because of this, he has come to meet you, he made himself like you, he became Jesus, God-Man, in everything similar to you, but without sin; he gave himself for you, to the point of dying on the cross, and thus has given you a new life, free, holy and immaculate" (cf. Ephesians 1:3-5).

Mary gives us this message and when I come here, on this feast, it strikes me, because I feel it is addressed to the whole city, to all men and women who live in Rome: also those who are not thinking, who today do not even remember that it is the feast of the Immaculate, and who feel alone and abandoned. Mary's look is God's look on each one of us. She looks at us with the very love of the Father and blesses us. She behaves as our "advocate" -- and we invoke her thus in the Salve, Regina: "our advocate." Even if everyone spoke evil of us, she, the Mother, would say the good, because her immaculate heart is attuned to God's mercy. Thus she sees the city: not as an anonymous agglomeration, but as a constellation where God knows everyone personally by name, one by one, and calls us to shine with his light. And those that in the eyes of the world are the first, for God they are the last; those who are little, are great for God. He recognizes in each one the likeness with his Son Jesus, even if we are so different! But who more than she knows the power of Divine Grace? Who better than she knows that nothing is impossible for God, capable in fact of drawing good from evil?

Dear brothers and sisters, the message we receive here, at the feet of Mary Immaculate, is a message of trust for every person of this city and of the whole world. A message of hope not made of words, but of her own history: she is one of us, who gave birth to the Son of God and has shared all her own existence with him! And today she says to us: this is also your destiny, yours, the destiny of all: to be saints as our Father, to be immaculate as our Brother Jesus Christ, to be loved children, all adopted to form a great family, without limits of nationality, colour, language, because God is one, Father of every man.

Thank you, O Mary Immaculate, for always being with us! Always watch over our city: comfort the sick, encourage young people, sustain families. Infuse the strength to reject evil, in every form, and to choose the good, even when it costs and entails going against the current. Give us the joy of feeling loved by God, blessed by Him, predestined to be his children.

Immaculate Virgin, our sweetest Mother, pray for us!

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On St. John the Baptist
"A Star That Shines Before the Rising of the Sun"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel of this second Sunday of Advent (Matthew 3:1-12) presents to us the figure of St. John the Baptist, who, according to a celebrated prophecy of Isaiah (cf. 40:3), went out into the desert of Judea and, with his preaching, called the people to covert and prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah. St. Gregory the Great comments that the Baptist "preaches the right faith and good works … so that the power of grace penetrate, the light of the truth shine, the roads to God be made straight and that the words that are born in the soul after hearing the Word guide to the good" (Hom. in Evangelia, XX, 3, CCL 141, 155). The precursor of Jesus, situated between the Old and the New Covenants, is like a star that shines before the rising of the Sun, of Christ, of him, that is, upon whom -- according to Isaiah's prophecy -- "the Spirit of the Lord will come to rest, the a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2).

In the time of Advent, we too are called to listen to God's voice, which resounds in the desert of the world through the sacred Scriptures, especially when they are preached with the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith, in fact, is fortified the more that it is illuminated by the divine Word, by "all that which," as the Apostle Paul reminds us, "was written previously … for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The Virgin Mary is the model of listening: "As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. Every Christian believer, St. Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Verbum Domini," No. 28).

Dear friends, "our salvation rests on a coming," Romano Guardini wrote ("La santa note: Dall'Avvento all'Epifania," Brescia 1994, p. 13). "The Savior came from the freedom of God … Thus the decision of faith consists … in welcoming him who draws near to us" (p. 14). "The Redeemer," he adds, "comes to each man: in his joys and anxieties, in his clear knowing, in his perplexities and temptations, in everything that constitutes the nature of his life" (p. 15).

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, in whose womb the Son of the Most High dwelt, and for whom on Wednesday, Dec. 8 we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to sustain us in this spiritual journey, to welcome the coming of the Lord with faith and with love.

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]

In this Advent season in which we are called to nourish our expectation of the Lord and to welcome him in our midst, I invite you to pray for all the situations of violence, of intolerance, of suffering that there are in the world, so that the coming of Jesus brings consolation, reconciliation and peace. I think of the many difficult situations such as the continuing attacks in Iraq against Christians and Muslims, of the conflicts in Egypt in which there have been deaths and injuries, of the victims of traffickers and criminals such as the drama of the Eritrean hostages and the hostages of other nationalities in the desert of Sinai. The respect for the rights of all is the presupposition of civil coexistence. Our prayer to the Lord and our solidarity can bring hope to those who are suffering.

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Benedict XVI Remembers Cardinal Navarrete
"One of the Faithful Disciples That the Father Gave to Christ"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the discourse Benedict XVI gave Nov. 24 in St. Peter's Basilica at the end of funeral Mass of Jesuit Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, the former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University. The cardinal had died Nov. 22 at the age of 90.

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"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dn 12:2).

The words of the Prophet Daniel that we have just heard are a clear Biblical testimony to faith in the resurrection of the dead. The prophetic vision looks to the end of time: after a period of great anguish God will save his People. Nevertheless, salvation will only be for those whose names are written in "the book of life".

The horizon which Daniel describes is that of the people of the Covenant who, in times of difficulty, trial and persecution, must take their place before God, standing firm in the faith of the Fathers or renouncing it. The Prophet announces a twofold destiny, proclaiming that some will reawaken to "everlasting life" and others to "everlasting disgrace". God's justice is therefore emphasized; it does not permit those who have given their life to God to lose it forever.

This is Jesus' teaching: those who accept to put the Kingdom of God first, who can leave their home, father or mother for it and are prepared to lay down their life for this precious treasure will inherit eternal life (cf. Mt 19:29, Lk 9:24).

Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, all the faithful, in the light of Christ, our Life and Resurrection, today we are celebrating the Funeral Mass of dear and venerable Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, who completed his long and fruitful earthly pilgrimage last Monday, at the age of 90. He belongs, as we like to think, to the throng of those who spent their days without reservation for the Kingdom of God, and for this reason we are confident that his name is now written in "the book of life".

"And those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever" (Dn 12:3).

With a moved and grateful spirit, I desire at this moment to remember the late Cardinal as a "teacher of justice". The meticulous study and passionate teaching of canon law were a central element in his life. Teaching, especially the younger generations, about the true justice of Christ and of the Gospel: this is the ministry which Cardinal Navarrete exercised throughout his life. He generously dedicated himself to this, giving himself with humble willingness in the various situations in which obedience and God's Providence had placed him: from university classrooms, in particular as an expert in matrimonial law, to the office of Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, to the important and responsible office of Rector Magnificent of the same athenaeum. I am likewise keen to underline his attention to important ecclesial events including the Diocesan Synod in Rome and the Second Vatican Council, as well as his competent scientific contribution to the revision of the Code of Canon Law and his fruitful collaboration with various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in the capacity of a valued consultor.

Regarding his priestly and religious vocation, Cardinal Navarrete said with simplicity in a recent interview: "I have never doubted my decision. Nor have I ever had doubts that this was not my path, not even in moments of strife" or difficulty. This affirmation sums up the generous fidelity of this servant of the Church to the call of the Lord and to the will of God. With his characteristic poise he used to say that there were three fundamental principles which guided him in his studies: great love for the past, for tradition, because someone in the scientific and particular in the ecclesiastical field who does not love the past is like a child without parents; secondly, his sensibility to problems, requirements, challenges of the present, where God has placed us; lastly, his capacity for looking out and opening himself to the future without fear but with the hope that comes with faith. This profoundly Christian vision guided his commitment to God and to the Church, in teaching and in his works.

"But God, who is rich in mercy... made us alive together with Christ" (Ep 2:4).

Illuminated by St Paul's words which we have heard in the Second Reading, we turn our gaze to the mystery of the Incarnation, Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ, where our authentic justice lies, a gift of God's. Divine grace poured out abundantly for us through the saving blood of the crucified Christ, who cleanses us from our sins, frees us from death and opens the gates of eternal life. The Apostle forcefully repeats: "by grace you have been saved" (Ep 2:5), by the gift of abundant love of the Father who sacrificed his Son. In Christ, man finds the way of salvation and human history receives its point of reference and its profound meaning. Today we remember Cardinal Urbano Navarrete in this horizon of hope. He fell asleep in the Lord at the end of an active life, in which he ceaselessly professed faith in this mystery of love, proclaiming to all with the word and with life: "by grace you have been saved" (ibid).

"Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me" (Jn 17:24).

Christ's ardent and salvific will illumines life after death. Jesus wants those whom God gave to him to be with him and to contemplate his glory. Therefore, there is a destiny of happiness, of full union with God, which leads to the faithfulness with which we are united with Jesus Christ on our earthly journey. It will mean entering into the Communion of Saints where they reign in peace and joy, taking part together in Christ's glory.

The shining truth of faith in eternal life comforts us every time we offer our final farewell to a deceased brother. Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, a spiritual son of St Ignatius of Loyola, is one of the faithful disciples that the Father gave to Christ "so that they may be with him", he was "with Jesus" in the course of his long life and knew his Name (cf. Jn 17:26).

He loved living in intimate union with him, especially in prolonged moments of prayer in which he drew from the source of salvation the strength to be faithful to God's will in every circumstance, even the most adverse. He learned this at home as a child, thanks to the luminous example of his parents, especially his father. His parents knew how to provide an atmosphere of profound Christian faith in their family, fostering in their six children, two Jesuits and three religious, the courage to witness to their faith, preferring nothing to the love of Christ and doing everything for the greater glory of God.

Dear friends, it is this gaze of faith that sustained the long life of our venerable Brother and it is this faith that he preached. Let us turn to God, rich in mercy, so that Cardinal Urbano Navarrete's faith may now become a vision, a face-to-face encounter with him, in whose love he cold recognize and seek the fulfilment of every law.

Let us entrust his soul to the intercession of the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. We may be certain that she, Speculum iustitiae, will welcome him, to introduce him into God's Heaven where he will enjoy for ever the fullness of peace. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pontiff's Address to Theological Commission Members
"Rooted in Sacred Scripture ... Theology Can Be School of Sanctity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience members of the International Theological Commission at the close of the commission's plenary assembly.

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Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Illustrious Professors and Dear Collaborators!

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual plenary session. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude for the words of homage that, on behalf of all, Your Eminence, in his capacity of president of the International Theological Commission, addressed to me. The work of this eighth "quinquennium" of the commission, as you recalled, addresses the following very weighty topics: theology and its methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic religions; the integration of the social doctrine of the Church in the wider context of Christian doctrine.

"For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). How can we not make our own this beautiful reaction of the Apostle Paul to his encounter with the risen Christ? In fact this experience is at the root of the three important topics on which you reflected in your plenary session that has just ended.

Whoever has discovered in Christ the love of God, infused by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, wishes to know better the one who loves him and whom he loves. Knowledge and love sustain one another in turn. As the Fathers of the Church affirmed, whoever loves God is impelled to become, in a certain sense, a theologian, one who speaks with God, who thinks of God and seeks to think with God, while the professional work of the theologian is for some a vocation of great responsibility before Christ and before the Church. To be able to study God himself professionally and to be able to speak with him -- "contemplari et contemplata docere" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., book 3 d. 35 q. 1 a.3 qc. 1 arg.3) -- is a great privilege. Your reflection on the Christian vision of God can be a valuable contribution both for the life of the faithful as well as for our dialogue with believers of other religions and also with nonbelievers.

In fact, the word itself "theo-logy" reveals this communicative aspect of your work -- in theology we seek to communicate, through the "logos," what we have seen and heard" (1 John 1:3). However, we know well that the word "logos" has a much wider meaning, which includes also the sense of "ratio," "reason." And this fact leads us to a second very important point. We can think of God and communicate what we think because he has gifted us with a reason in harmony with his nature. It is no accident that John's Gospel begins with the affirmation "In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was God" (John 1:1). To receive this Logos -- this divine thought -- is in the end also a contribution to peace in the world. In fact, to know God in his true nature is also the sure way to ensure peace. A God who is not perceived as the source of forgiveness, justice and love, could not be light on the path of peace.

Just as man always tends to connect his knowledge with the knowledge of others, knowledge of God is also organized systematically. However, no theological system can subsist if it is not permeated by the love of its divine "Object," which in theology must necessarily be "Subject," who speaks to us and with whom we are in a relationship of love. Thus theology must always be nourished by dialogue with the divine Logos, Creator and Redeemer. Moreover, no theology is such if it is not integrated in the life and reflection of the Church through time and space. Yes, it is true that, to be scientific, theology must argue in a rational way, but it must also be faithful to the nature of the ecclesial faith; centered on God, rooted in prayer, in communion with the other disciples of the Lord guaranteed by communion with the Successor of Peter and the whole episcopal college.

This reception and transmission of the Logos also has as a consequence that the rationality itself of theology helps to purify human reason, freeing it from certain prejudices and ideas that can exercise a strong influence on the thought of every age. Moreover, it must be highlighted that theology always lives in continuity and in dialogue with believers and theologians who came before us; because ecclesial communion is diachronic, and so is theology. The theologian never begins from zero, but considers as teacher the fathers and theologians of the whole Christian tradition. Rooted in sacred Scripture, read with the fathers and doctors, theology can be school of sanctity, as attested by Blessed John Henry Newman. To discover the permanent value of the richness transmitted from the past is no small contribution of theology to the concert of the sciences.

Christ died for all, though not all know it and accept it. Having received the love of God, how can we not love those for whom Christ gave his live? "He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren" (1 John 3:16). All this leads us to service of others in the name of Christ; in other words, the social commitment of Christians stems necessarily from the manifestation of divine love. Contemplation of the revealed God and charity for our neighbor cannot be separated, even if they are lived according to different charisms. In a world that often appreciates many gifts of Christianity -- as, for example, the idea of democratic equality -- without understanding the roots of its ideals, it is particularly important to show that the fruits die if the roots of the tree are severed. Indeed there is no justice without truth, and justice does not develop fully if its horizon is limited to the material world. For us Christians social solidarity always has a perspective of eternity.

Dear theologian friends, our meeting today manifests in a beautiful and singular way the indispensable unity that must reign between theologians and pastors. One cannot be a theologian in solitude: Theologians have need of the ministry of the pastors of the Church, as the magisterium has need of theologians who thoroughly fulfill their service, with all the ascesis which that implies. Through your commission I wish therefore to thank all theologians and encourage them to have faith in the great value of their commitment. In expressing my best wishes for your work, I impart affectionately my blessing.

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Pope's Words at Prayer Vigil for Unborn Life
"Respect, Protect, Love and Serve Life, Every Human Life"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening in St. Peter's Basilica at the celebration of first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. This year the celebration was preceded by a prayer vigil for unborn life and by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this evening celebration the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new Liturgical Year, starting with its first season: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord.

In this Advent Season we shall be granted once again to experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and who cared for us to the point of deigning to become a man.

This great and fascinating mystery of the God-with-us, indeed, of the God who becomes one of us, is what we shall celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church which takes us by the hand and - in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her motherhood, enabling us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts look forward to the annual celebration of Christ's Birth, the Church's Liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord who will come in the splendour of glory. For this reason in every Eucharist we "announce his death, proclaim his Resurrection until he comes again", we watch in prayer. The Liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole of Sacred Scripture ends, on the last page of the Revelation to St John: "Come, Lord Jesus" (22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our gathering this evening for the beginning of the journey through Advent is enriched by another important reason: together with the whole Church we wish to celebrate a solemn prayer vigil for unborn life. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have accepted this invitation and to those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in its various situations of frailty, especially when it is newly conceived and in its early stages. Precisely, the beginning of the Liturgical Year helps us live anew the expectation of God who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself little, who becomes a child; it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is close, who chose to experience human life from the very beginning in order to save it totally, in its fullness. And so the mystery of Lord's Incarnation and the beginning of human life are closely and harmoniously connected and in tune with each other in the one saving plan of God, the Lord of the life of each and everyone.

The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in a surprising way, that every human life has a very lofty and incomparable dignity.

In comparison with all the other living beings that populate the earth man has an unmistakable originality. He is presented as the one unique being, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as consisting of material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in both the spiritual and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First Letter to the Thessalonians that has just been proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself", St Paul writes, "sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23).

We are therefore spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limitations of our material condition, while at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome him within us. We are active in earthly realities and through them we are able to perceive God's presence and to reach out to him, Truth, Goodness and absolute Beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and yearn for complete fulfilment.

God loves us deeply, totally and without making distinctions. He calls us to friendship with him, he makes us part of a reality beyond every imagination and every thought and word: his divine life itself. With feeling and gratitude, let us be aware of the value of every human person's incomparable dignity and of our great responsibility to all. "Christ, the final Adam", the Second Vatican Council states, "by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear… by his Incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man". (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means seeing man in a new way, with trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and right reason testify that the human being is capable of understanding and of wanting, conscious of himself and free, unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly realities, and who demands to be recognized as a value in himself and deserves always to be accepted with respect and love. He is entitled not to be treated as an object to be possessed or a thing to be manipulated at will, and not to be exploited as a means for the benefit of others and their interests.

The human person is a good in himself and his integral development must always be sought. Love for all, moreover, if it is sincere, tends spontaneously to become preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. This explains the Church's concern for the unborn, the frailest, those most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences. The Church continually reasserts what the Second Vatican Council declared against abortion and against every violation of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care" (ibid., n. 51). Cultural trends exist that seek to anaesthetize consciences with spurious arguments.

With regard to the embryo in the mother's womb, science itself highlights its autonomy, its capacity for interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. It is not an accumulation of biological material but rather of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is what Jesus was in Mary's womb; this is what we all were in our mother's womb. We may say with Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer: "the one who will be a man is one already" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception. Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to neglect, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence and exploitation. The many violations of their rights sorrowfully wound the conscience of every person of good will.

In the face of the sad view of injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make my own Pope John Paul II's passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: "respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!" (Encyclical Evangelium vitae, n. 5). I urge politicians, leaders of the economy and of social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture ever respectful of human life, to obtain favourable conditions and support networks for the acceptance and development of life.

Let us entrust our prayers and our commitment to unborn life to the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with her faith, with her maternal womb, with her attentive care, with her nurturing support, vibrant with love. Let us do so in the Liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - adoring the divine Eucharist in which we contemplate Christ's Body, that Body which took flesh from Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit, and was born of her in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Homily at Mass for Manuela Camagni
"She Entered the Lord's Celebration as a Prudent and Wise Virgin"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel during a Mass for the repose of the soul of Manuela Camagni, 56, a member of the association of Memores Domini who formed part of a team of women who look after the papal apartments. She was killed last week in Rome when she was struck by a car.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last days of her life, our dear Manuela spoke of the fact that on Nov. 29 she would have belonged to the Memores Domini community for 30 years. And she said it with great joy, preparing herself -- that was the impression -- for an interior celebration of this 30-year journey toward the Lord, in communion with the friends of the Lord. The celebration, however, was other than the one foreseen: In fact, on Nov. 29 we took her to the cemetery, we sang that the angels might accompany her to paradise, we guided her to the definitive celebration, to the great celebration of God, to the marriage of the Lamb.

Thirty years journeying toward the Lord, entering the celebration of the Lord. Manuela was a "wise, prudent virgin," she carried oil in her lamp, the oil of faith, a lived faith, a faith nourished by prayer, by conversation with the Lord, by meditation on the Word of God, by communion in friendship with Christ. And this faith was hope, wisdom, and the certainty that faith opens the true future. And her faith was charity, giving herself to others, living in the service of the Lord for others. I personally must be grateful for her willingness to put forth her effort to work in my house, with this spirit of charity, of hope that comes from faith.

She entered the Lord's celebration as prudent and wise virgin, because she lived not in the superficiality of those who forget the grandeur of our vocation, but in the great vision of eternal life, and thus she was prepared for the Lord's arrival.

Thirty years Memores Domini. St. Bonaventure says the memory of the Creator is inscribed in the depths of our being. And precisely because this memory is inscribed in our being, we can recognize the Creator in his creation, we can remember him, see his traces in this cosmos created by him. St. Bonaventure says, moreover, that this memory of the Creator is not only a memory of the past because the source is present, it is also a memory of the presence of the Lord; it's also a memory of the future, because it is certain that we come from the goodness of God and are called to strive for the goodness of God. So an element of joy is present in this memory, the joy that our origin is in God and our call to strive for the great joy. And we know that Manuel was a person deeply penetrated with joy, that joy that comes from the memory of God.

But St. Bonaventure adds also that our memory, as all our existence, is wounded by sin: hence our memory is obscured, covered by other superficial memories, and we can no longer go beyond these other superficial memories, to get to the bottom, to the true memory that sustains our being. Hence, because of this forgetfulness of God, this forgetfulness of the essential memory, our joy is also covered, darkened. Yes, we know that we are created for joy, but we no longer know where joy is, and we seek it in different places. Today we see this desperate search for joy that increasingly moves away from its true source, the true joy. Forgetfulness of God, forgetfulness of our true memory: Manuela was not one who lost her memory, she lived in the living memory of the Creator. In the joy of his relationship, seeing the transparency of God in all creation, even in the daily events of our lives, she understood that joy comes from this memory.

Memores Domini. The Memores Domini know that Christ, on the eve of his Passion, renewed, and more than that, he elevated our memory. "Do this in memory of me," he said, and he thus gave us the memory of his presence, the memory of the gift of himself, of the gift of his Body and his Blood, and in this gift of his Body and Blood, in this gift of his infinite love, we come into contact once again with our memory of the stronger presence of God, his gift of himself. As a Memor Domini, Manuela experienced this living memory, which the Lord gives with his body, and thus renews our knowledge of God.

In the controversy with the Sadducees about the resurrection, the Lord says to those, who do not believe in it: but God calls himself "God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob." The three are part of God's name, they are inscribed in God's name, they are in God's name, in God's memory, and so the Lord says: God is not a God of the dead, He is a God of the living and those who are part of the name of God, who live in memory of God are alive, unfortunately, we humans can retain only a shadow of people we loved in our memory. But the memory of God not only preserves the shadows, it is the origin of life: here the dead live, in His life and with His life they have entered the memory of God who is life. This is what the Lord says to us today: You are inscribed in God's name, you live in God with the true life, you live from the true source of life.

So, in this moment of sadness, we are consoled. And the liturgy renewed after the Council dares to teach us to sing "Alleluia" even in the Mass for the Dead. This is audacious! We feel above all the pain of the loss, we feel above all the absence, the past, but the liturgy knows that we are in the Body itself of Christ and that we live from the memory of God, which is our memory. In this intertwining of his memory and of our memory we are together, we are living. We pray to the Lord that we may feel increasingly this communion of memory, that our memory of God in Christ may become ever more alive, and thus be able to feel that our true life is in him and in him we all rest united. In this sense, we sing "Alleluia," certain that the Lord is life and his love is never ending. Amen.

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Papal Address to New Hungarian Envoy
"Faith ... Is a Purifying Force for Reason"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the new ambassador from Hungary to the Holy See, Gabor Gyorivanyi, who presented his letters of credence.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I welcome you with joy on this solemn occasion of the presenting the letters of credence that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words. I am grateful for the deferent greetings that you have given me on behalf of the president, Dr. Pal Schmitt, and of the government, which I am pleased to return. At the same time I would like to ask you to assure your fellow citzens of my sincere affection and benevolence.

After the renewal of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Hungary in 1990, it has been possible to develop new trust for an active and constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church. At the same time I cherish the hope that the profound wounds of that materialistic vision of man, which took hold of the hearts and of the community of citizens of your country for almost 45 years, can continue to be healed in a climate of peace, liberty and respect for the dignity of man.

Without a doubt the Catholic faith forms part of the fundamental pillars of the history of Hungary. When, in the distant year 1,000, the young Hungarian Prince Stephen received the royal crown that Pope Sylvester II sent him, joined to it was the mandate to give space and a homeland in that land to faith in Jesus Christ. The personal piety, sense of justice and human virtues of this great king are a lofty point of reference which serves as stimulus and imperative, today as then, to all those entrusted with a government post or other similar responsibility. Not expected, of course, is that the state impose a specific religion; rather, it should guarantee the liberty to profess and practice the faith. Still, politics and Christian faith touch one another. Of course, faith has its specific nature as encounter with the living God, which opens new horizons to us beyond the realm proper of reason. However, at the same time it is a purifying force for reason itself, enabling it to carry out its task better and to see better what is its own. It is not a question of imposing norms or ways of behavior on those who do not share the faith. It is simply about the purification of reason, which wishes to help to make what is good and just able, here and now, to be recognized, and then also realized (cf. encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," No. 28).

In the last years, little more than 20, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, an event in that Hungary had a prominent role, your country has had an important place in the community of nations. For six years now, Hungary has also been a member of the European Union. With this it makes an important contribution to the chorus of more voices of the States of Europe. At the beginning of next year, for the first time, it will be Hungary's turn to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Hungary is called in a particular way to be mediator between East and West. Already the Sacred Crown, legacy of King Stephen, in the union of the Greek circular crown with the Latin crown placed as an arch over it -- both bear the face of Christ and are crowned by the cross -- shows how East and West must support and enrich one another from the spiritual and cultural patrimony and the intense profession of faith. We can also understand this as a leitmotiv for your country.

The Holy See notes with interest of the efforts of the political authorities to elaborate a change in the Constitution. Expressed has been the intention to make reference in the preamble to the legacy of Christianity. Also desirable is that the new Constitution be inspired by Christian values, particularly in what concerns the position of marriage and the family in society and the protection of life.

Marriage and the family constitute the decisive foundation for a healthy development of the civil society of countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between man and woman and, at the same time, as basic cell of the state community, has also been molded by biblical faith. Thus marriage has given Europe its particular aspect and its humanism, also and precisely because it has had to learn to acquire continually the characteristic of fidelity and of renunciation traced by it. Europe will no longer be Europe if this basic cell of the social construction disappears or is substantially transformed. We all know how much risk marriage and the family run today -- on one hand, because of the erosion of its most profound values of stability and indissolubility, because of a growing liberalization of the right of divorce, and of the custom, increasingly widespread, of man and woman living together without the juridical form and protection of marriage, on the other, because of the different types of union which have no foundation in the history of the culture and of the law in Europe. The Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply a valuation of alternative models of the life of the couple and the family. These contribute to the weakening of the principles of the natural law and, hence, to the relativization of the whole of legislation, in addition to the awareness of values in society.

"As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers" (encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," No. 19). Reason is capable of guaranteeing equality between people and of establishing a civic coexistence, but in the end it is unable to found fraternity. This has its origin in a supernatural vocation of God, who created men out of love and taught us through Jesus Christ what fraternal charity is. Fraternity is, in a certain sense, the other side of liberty and equality. It opens man to altruism, to the civic sense, to care of the other. The human person, in fact, finds himself only when he overcomes the mentality centered on his own pretensions, and projects himself with an attitude of gratuitous gift and authentic solidarity, which responds much better to his community vocation.

The Catholic Church, as the other religious communities, has a not insignificant role in Hungarian society. She is committed on a large scale with her institutions in the field of school education and culture, in addition to social welfare and in this way contributes to the moral construction, truly useful, to your country. The Church trusts in being able to continue, with the support of the State, to carry out and intensify this service for the good of men and the development of your country. May collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in this field grow also in the future and bring profit for all.

Illustrious Mr. Ambassador, at the beginning of your noble task I wish you a mission full of success and assure you at the same time the support of my collaborators. May Mary Most Holy, the Magna Domina Hungarorum, stretch her protecting hand over your country. From my heart I implore for you, Mr. Ambassador, for your family and for your men and women collaborators in the embassy, and for all the Hungarian people, the abundant divine blessing.

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On Julian of Norwich
"God's Promises Are Always Greater Than Our Hopes"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am still remembering with great joy the journey I made to the United Kingdom last September. England is a land that has given birth to so many illustrious figures who with their testimony and their teaching have embellished the history of the Church. One of these, venerated both by the Catholic Church as well as the Anglican Communion, is the mystic Julian of Norwich, of whom I would like to speak this morning.

The information we have on her life -- not much -- is taken primarily from the book in which this kind and pious woman gathered the content of her visions, titled "Revelations of Divine Love." It is known that she lived from 1342 to about 1430, years of torment both for the Church, lacerated by the schism following the Pope's return from Avignon to Rome, as well as for the people suffering the consequences of a long war between the kingdom of England and that of France. God, however, even in times of tribulation, does not cease to raise figures such as Julian of Norwich, to call men back to peace, love and joy.

As she herself recounts, in May of 1373, probably on the 13th of that month, she was suddenly stricken by a very serious illness that in three days seemed to bring her to the point of death. When the priest who came to her bedside showed her the crucifix, Julian not only quickly recovered her health, but received 16 revelations that subsequently she reported in writing and commented in her book, "Revelations of Divine Love." And it was in fact the Lord who, 15 years after these extraordinary events, revealed to her the meaning of those visions. "Do you wish to know what your Lord intended and to know the meaning of this revelation? Know well: Love is what he intended. Who reveals this to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? Out of love ... So learn that love is our Lord's meaning" (Julian of Norwich, "Il Libro delle Rivelazioni," Chapter 86, Milan, 1997, p. 320).

Inspired by divine love, Julian made a radical choice. Like one of the ancient hermits, she chose to live in a cell, which was near a church dedicated to St. Julian, in the city of Norwich, at the time a very important urban center, near London. Perhaps she took the name Julian precisely from that saint to whom the church was dedicated and next to which she lived for so many years, until her death. We might be surprised and even perplexed by this decision to live as a "recluse," as this was called in her time. However, she was not alone in making this choice: During those centuries a considerable number of women opted for this kind of life, adopting rules elaborated purposefully for them, such as that composed by St. Aelred of Rievaulx. The anchorites or "recluses" dedicated themselves within their cells to prayer, meditation and study. In this way, they developed a very fine human and religious sensitivity, which made them venerated by the people. Men and women of every age and condition, in need of advice and comfort, sought them devotedly. Hence, it was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, what matured in her also was the capacity to be a counselor to many, to help those who lived in difficulty in this life.

We know that Julian also received frequent visitors, as attested in the autobiography of another fervent Christian woman of her time, Margery Kempe, who went to Norwich in 1413 to receive suggestions on her spiritual life. This is why when Julian was alive she was called, as is written on the funeral monument that houses her remains, "Mother Julian." She became a mother for many.

The women and men who withdraw to live in the company of God, precisely because of this decision, acquire a great sense of compassion for the sorrows and weaknesses of others. As friends of God, they have a wisdom that the world, from which they distance themselves, does not have. And with kindness, they share it with those who knock on their door. I am thinking, hence, with admiration and gratitude, of women's and men's cloistered monasteries that, today more than ever, are oases of peace and hope, precious treasures for the whole Church, especially in recalling the primacy of God and the importance of constant and intense prayer for the journey of faith.

It was precisely in the solitude inhabited by God that Julian of Norwich composed the "Revelations of Divine Love," of which we have two editions, a shorter one this is probably older, and a longer one. This book contains a message of optimism based on the certainty of being loved by God and of being protected by his Providence. In this book we read the following wonderful words: "I saw with absolute certainty ... that God, even before creating us loved us, with a love that has never failed, and will never vanish. And in this love he did all his works, and in this love he disposed that all things should be useful for us, and in this love our life lasts for ever ... In this love we have our beginning, and we see all this in God without end" (Ill libro delle rivelazioni, chapter 86, p. 320).

The subject of divine love returns often in the visions of Julian of Norwich who, with a certain audacity, does not hesitate to compare it also to maternal love. This is one of the most characteristic messages of her mystical theology. Tenderness, solicitude and the gentleness of God's goodness to us are so great that, to us pilgrims on earth, they evoke the love of a mother for her children. Indeed, at times the biblical prophets also used this language that recalls the tenderness, intensity and totality of the love of God, which manifests itself in creation and in the whole history of salvation and has its culmination in the incarnation of the Son. God, however, always surpasses every human love, as the prophet Isaiah says: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15).

Julian of Norwich understood the central message for the spiritual life: God is love and only when we open ourselves totally and with total trust to this love and allow it to become the sole guide of existence, is everything transfigured, true peace and true joy are found and one is able to spread this around.

I would like to stress another point. The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes up the words of Julian of Norwich when it gives the point of view of the Catholic faith on an issue that does not cease to constitute a provocation for all believers (cf. Nos. 304-314). If God is supremely good and wise, why does evil and the suffering of the innocent exist? Saints as well, precisely the saints, ask themselves this question. Enlightened by faith, they give us an answer that opens our heart to trust and hope: In the mysterious designs of Providence, even from evil, God draws a greater good, as Julian of Norwich writes: "I learned by the grace of God that I must remain firmly in the faith, and hence I must firmly and perfectly believe that all will end well" (Il libro delle rivelazioni, chapter 32, p. 173).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, God's promises are always greater than our hopes. If we entrust to God, to his immense love, the most pure and most profound desires of our heart, we will never be disappointed. "And all will be well," "everything will be for the good": This is the final message that Julian of Norwich transmits to us and that I also propose to you today. Thank you.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Julian of Norwich, an English mystic and anchoress of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Julian is best known for her book, Revelations of Divine Love, which recounts sixteen vision or "showings" which she received during a grave illness. The Revelations are centred on the love of Christ; in Julian's own words: "love is our Lord's meaning." They exude an optimism grounded in the certainty that we are loved by God and protected by his providence; as Julian says, in speaking of God's power to bring good out of evil: "all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well." Julian's mysticism echoes the prophet Isaiah in using the imagery of a mother's love to describe the affectionate care which God shows for his children, culminating in the incarnation of his Son and the fulfilment of his promises. Like so many holy women in every age, in spite of her withdrawal from the world, Julian became a much-sought spiritual guide. In our own lives, may we draw profit from her teaching that God is the love which transforms our lives, bringing joy and peace to our hearts and, through us, to those all around us.

I extend a warm welcome to the many student groups present at today's Audience. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Malaysia, Australia and the United States of America, I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Note to Bartholomew I on Feast of St. Andrew
"We Need to Continue Our Progress ... Toward Full Communion"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message Benedict XVI sent today to the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, on the occasion of today's feast of St. Andrew, patron of that patriarchate.

The message was delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who led a delegation from the Holy See to participate in the celebrations in Istanbul.

* * *

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

It is with great joy that I write this letter to you, to be delivered by my Venerable Brother Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter and Patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to wish Your Holiness and the Members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, the monks and all the faithful an abundance of heavenly gifts and divine blessings.

On this joyful feast-day, in union with all my Catholic brothers and sisters, I join you in giving thanks to God for the wonders he has worked, in his infinite mercy, through the mission and martyrdom of Saint Andrew. By generously offering their lives in sacrifice for the Lord and for their brethren, the Apostles proved the credibility of the Good News that they proclaimed to the ends of the known world. The Feast of the Apostle, which falls on this day in the liturgical calendars of both East and West, issues a strong summons to all those who by God’s grace and through the gift of Baptism have accepted that message of salvation to renew their fidelity to the Apostolic teaching and to become tireless heralds of faith in Christ through their words and the witness of their lives.

In modern times, this summons is as urgent as ever and it applies to all Christians. In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim with renewed conviction the truth of the Gospel and to present the Risen Lord as the answer to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our day.

If we are to succeed in this great task, we need to continue our progress along the path towards full communion, demonstrating that we have already united our efforts for a common witness to the Gospel before the people of our day. For this reason I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the generous hospitality offered last October on the island of Rhodes to the Delegates of the Catholic Episcopal Conferences of Europe who came together with representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe for the Second Catholic-Orthodox Forum on the theme "Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives".

Your Holiness, I am following attentively your wise efforts for the good of Orthodoxy and for the promotion of Christian values in many international contexts. Assuring you of a remembrance in my prayers on this Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, I renew my good wishes for peace, well-being and abundant spiritual blessings to you and to all the faithful.

With sentiments of esteem and spiritual closeness, I gladly extend to you a fraternal embrace in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ.

From the Vatican, 30 November 2010

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Message to Cor Unum Retreat
"Renew Your Commitment to Be of Service to Your Brothers and Sisters"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2010 - Here is the text of the message Benedict XVI sent Nov. 23, via Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, to Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, on the occasion of the spiritual exercises taking place at the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Poland.

The retreat, which is for leaders of the Church's charity organizations in Europe, began Sunday and ends Friday. The theme of the encounter is: "Here I Am."

* * *

Your Eminence,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was pleased to be informed of the spiritual exercises taking place at the Marian Shrine of Jasna Gora from Nov. 28 to Dec. 3, 2010, for people in positions of responsibility in Catholic charitable organizations throughout Europe, and he sends cordial greetings to all those taking part.

In view of the guiding theme of your meeting, the generous response of the prophet Isaiah to the call that he received from the Lord, the Holy Father prays that all of you will be moved by Christ's love to renew your commitment to be of service to your brothers and sisters in need. The "formation of the heart" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 31a), that these spiritual exercises are intended to foster, should enkindle within you the same sentiments of self-giving love that moved the Lord Jesus to bend down to wash the feet of his disciples and to lay down his life for his sheep (cf. ibid., No. 19).

With these sentiments, His Holiness assures all those present of his closeness in prayer. Commending them all to the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.

Offering my own prayerful good wishes for the occasion, I remain

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

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Cardinal Bertone's Homily at Kazakhstani Cathedral
"Faith Comes From Listening, and What Is Heard Is the Word of Christ"
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, NOV. 30, 2010 - Here is the homily delivered today by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, at a liturgical celebration held at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption of Astana for the feast of St. Andrew. The cardinal gave to the community a relic of the Apostle St. Andrew.

The cardinal is in Kazakhstan to represent the Holy See at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) summit, as well as to meet with government and religious authorities of the country.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to be in Astana, capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, this noble and vast country located in the heart of the Eurasian territory. I wish to express my profound joy at being able to visit your Cathedral of the Assumption, recently opened for worship. I greet everyone with affection, beginning with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander and, while I thank him for his fraternal reception, I bring to him and to all of you the cordial greeting of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, praying that it be transmitted to His Holiness Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and All Russias. I then greet the other religious (and civil) authorities, the priests, deacons and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan. May this fraternal meeting of ours inspire a renewed impetus to join forces, so that in a not distant future we, the disciples of Christ, can proclaim with one voice and one heart the Gospel, message of hope for the whole of humanity.

The occasion of this agreeable visit to Astana is the summit of heads of state and government of countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which will take place in the next few days. This circumstance suggested to the highest authorities of Kazakhstan to address to me a cordial invitation to visit your land. In willingly receiving this deferent and appreciated gesture, I immediately thought of the joy of being able to go to a country in which there are ample possibilities for a peaceful and profitable religious coexistence. In this context, for us Christians the duty of reciprocal love is all the more urgent: we are called, in fact, to give witness to all, with words and works, that God is Love. In this connection, my presence also intends to be an encouragement to continue on the way of great respect and affection, which I know exists between the Orthodox and Catholic communities of Astana, as well as of other cities. Propitious occasions are not lacking, dear friends, of mutual support and of deepening of friendship.

Today, in this welcome meeting with you, I have the special joy of fulfilling the lofty task entrusted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, of handing you a fragment of the distinguished relics of the Apostle St. Andrew, which are venerated in Italy, in the city of Amalfi. This assignment, which I am honored to effect in the hands of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander, comes in response to the devout request that his predecessor, Metropolitan Mefodji, and Archbishop Tomash Peta, Catholic Metropolitan, jointly addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontiff, gladly desiring to meet the ardent request, decided to send to the two respective Churches two fragments of the precious relics. This choice has a profound significance, in as much as is underlines the common veneration of the Apostles.

I am happy to stress that today's event of handing the relic of St. Andrew, who you venerate, coincides in fact with the day in which, according to the calendar of the Latin Church, his liturgical feast is celebrated. Andrew was born in Bethsaida, at first he was a disciple of John the Baptist and then he followed the Lord Jesus, to whom he also led his brother Peter. Together with Philip he presented Christ himself to the Gentiles and pointed out the boy who carried the fish and the loaves. According to tradition, after Pentecost, he preached in different areas and was crucified in Achaia, Greece. The Gospel narrates that Jesus, "passing along by the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'" (Mark 1:16-17). Andrew, hence, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Precisely on the basis of this fact, the Byzantine liturgy honors him with the name of Protoklitos, which means precisely, the first called.

The evangelical account continues specifying that "immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Mark 1:18). It is this quick adherence that allowed the Apostles to spread the Word, the "good news" of salvation. Faith comes from listening, and what is heard is the Word of Christ, which still today the Church spreads to the ends of the earth. This Word is the indispensable food of the soul. It is said in the book of the prophet Amos that God will put hunger in the world, not hunger for bread, but to hear his word (cf. Amos 8:11). This is a healthy hunger, because it makes us seek constantly and receive the Word of God, knowing that it must nourish us for the whole of life. Nothing in life can have consistency, nothing can really satisfy us if it is not nourished, penetrated, illumined, guided by the Word of the Lord. Moreover, an ever more profound commitment of radical adherence to this Word, together with the support of the Holy Spirit, constitute the strength to realize the aspiration of every Christian community and of every individual faithful to unity (cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation "Verbum Domini," No. 46).

From the Gospel of St. John, we gather another important particular regarding the Apostle Andrew: "He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ. He brought him to Jesus" (John 1:41-43), demonstrating immediately an unmistakable apostolic spirit. To this end, St. John Chrysostom comments: "Andrew's word is the word of one who anxiously awaited the coming of the Messiah, whose descent from heaven he awaited, who trembled with joy when he saw him arrive, and who hurried to communicate the great news to the others. See in what way he notifies what he had appreciated in a short time? Andrew, after having stayed with Jesus and having learned everything that Jesus taught him, did not keep the treasure to himself, but hurried to his brother to communicate to him the richness he had received. Look also at Peter's spirit, from the beginning docile and quick in faith: he runs immediately without being concerned about anything else" (Homily 19, 1; PG 59, 120).

In the beautiful icon donated by Patriarch Athenagoras I to Pope Paul VI on Jan. 5, 1964, the two Holy Apostles, Peter the Coryphaeus and Andrew the Protoklitos, embrace, in an eloquent language of love, beneath the glorious Christ. Andrew was the first to follow the Lord, Peter was called to confirm his brothers in the faith. Their embrace under the gaze of Christ is an invitation to continue the path undertaken, toward that goal of unity that we intend to reach together. Nothing must discourage us, but we must go forward with hope, supported by the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, as well as by the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and our Mother. Let us ask God with particular intensity for the precious gift of unity among all Christians, making our own the invocation that Jesus raised to the Father for his disciples: "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).

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Pope's Message for Funeral of Manuela Camagni
"Where No One Can Accompany Us, God Awaits Us"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent for the funeral of Manuela Camagni, 56, a member of the association of Memores Domini who formed part of a team of women who look after the papal apartments. She was killed Tuesday night in Rome when she was struck by a car.

Monsignor Georg Ganswein, the Pope's personal secretary, read the message at the funeral, held Monday in Bagno di Romagna, a city in Italy's northern region of Emilia–Romagna.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would willingly have presided over the funeral of dear Manuela Camagni, but -- as you can imagine -- it was not possible for me. However, communion in Christ allows us Christians a real spiritual closeness, in which we share the prayer and affection of the heart. In this profound bond I greet all of you, in particular Manuela's family, the diocesan bishop, the priests, the Memores Domini, and her friends.

I would like to give here very briefly my testimony of our sister, who has gone to heaven. Many of you knew Manuela for a long time. I was able to benefit from her presence and her service in the papal apartment, in the last five years, in a family dimension. Because of this I wish to thank the Lord for the gift of Manuela's life, for her faith, for her generous response to her vocation. Divine Providence led her to a discreet but precious service in the Pope's house. She was happy about this and took part joyfully in family moments: at Holy Mass in the morning, at vespers, at meals in common and in the various and significant happenings of the house.

Her departure, so sudden, and also the way in which she was taken, have given us great grief, which only faith can console. I find much support in thinking of the words that form the name of her community: Memores Domini. Meditating on these words, on the meaning, I find a sense of peace, because they call to a profound relationship that is stronger than death. Memores Domini means: "those who remember the Lord," namely, persons who live in the memory of God and Jesus, and in this daily remembrance, full of faith and love, they find the meaning of everything, from small actions to great choices, of work, study and fraternity. The memory of the Lord fills the heart with profound joy, as an ancient hymn of the Church says: "Jesu dulcis memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia" [Jesus sweet memory, that gives true joy to the heart].

Hence, because of this it gives me peace to think that Manuela is a "memor Domini," a person who lived in the memory of the Lord. This relationship with him is more profound than the abyss of death. It is a bond that nothing and no one can break, as St. Paul says: "[Nothing] can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). Yes, if we remember the Lord, it is because he first remembers us. We are "memores Domini" because he is "memor nostri," he remembers us with love of a parent, a brother, a friend, also at the moment of death. If at times it seems that at that moment he is absent, that he forgets us, in reality we are always present to him, we are in his heart. Wherever we fall, we fall into his hands. Precisely there, where no one can accompany us, God awaits us: He is our Life.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this faith full of hope, which is Mary's faith near the cross of Jesus, I celebrated the Mass for Manuela's soul the very morning of her death. And while I accompany with prayer the Christian rite of her burial, I impart with affection to her family, her fellow sisters and all of you my blessing.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Filipino Bishops
"A Unified and Positive Voice Needs to Be Presented to the Public"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience a group of bishops from the Philippines at the end of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to extend to all of you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I thank Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales for the kind words that he has addressed to me on your behalf, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for yourselves and for all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care. Your presence here in Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the Catholic community in the Philippines and the See of Peter, a communion which stretches back over four centuries to the first offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice upon your shores. As this communion of faith and sacrament has nourished your people for many generations, I pray that it may continue to serve as a leaven in the broader culture, so that current and future generations of Filipinos will continue to encounter the joyful message of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be such a leaven, the Church must always seek to find her proper voice, because it is by proclamation that the Gospel brings about its life-changing fruits (cf. Mk 16:15-16). This voice expresses itself in the moral and spiritual witness of the lives of believers. It also expresses itself in the public witness offered by the Bishops, as the Church’s primary teachers, and by all who have a role in teaching the faith to others. Thanks to the Gospel’s clear presentation of the truth about God and man, generations of zealous Filipino clergymen, religious and laity have promoted an ever more just social order. At times, this task of proclamation touches upon issues relevant to the political sphere. This is not surprising, since the political community and the Church, while rightly distinct, are nevertheless both at the service of the integral development of every human being and of society as a whole. For her part, the Church contributes most toward the building of a just and charitable social order when, "by preaching the truths of the Gospel, and bringing to bear on all fields of human endeavour the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, she respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens" (Gaudium et Spes, 76).

At the same time, the Church’s prophetic office demands that she be free "to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine ... and also to pass moral judgments in those matters which regard public order whenever the fundamental human rights of a person or the salvation of souls requires it" (ibid.). In the light of this prophetic task, I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defence of the integrity of marriage and the family. In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will. I also note with appreciation the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty in your country.

A specific area in which the Church must always find her proper voice comes in the field of social communications and the media. The task set before the whole Catholic community is to convey a hope-filled vision of faith and virtue so that Filipinos may find encouragement and guidance on their path to a full life in Christ. A unified and positive voice needs to be presented to the public in forms of media both old and new, so that the Gospel message may have an ever more powerful impact on the people of the nation. It is important that the Catholic laity proficient in social communications take their proper place in proposing the Christian message in a convincing and attractive way. If the Gospel of Christ is to be a leaven in Filipino society, then the entire Catholic community must be attentive to the force of the truth proclaimed with love.

A third aspect of the Church’s mission of proclaiming the life-giving word of God is in her commitment to economic and social concerns, in particular with respect to the poorest and the weakest in society. At the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the Church in your nation took a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor. It is heartening to see that this undertaking has borne fruit, with Catholic charitable institutions actively engaged throughout the country. Many of your fellow citizens, however, remain without employment, adequate education or basic services, and so your prophetic statements and your charitable action on behalf of the poor continue to be greatly appreciated. In addition to this effort, you are rightly concerned that there be an on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land.

Dear Brother Bishops, as my predecessor Pope John Paul II rightly noted, "You are Pastors of a people in love with Mary" (14 January 1995). May her willingness to bear the Word who is Jesus Christ into the world be for you a continuing inspiration in your apostolic ministry. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the First Sunday of Advent
"Man Is Alive So Long As He Waits"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new liturgical year, a new journey of faith that, on one hand, remembers the event of Jesus Christ and, on the other, opens onto its ultimate fulfillment. It is precisely in this double perspective that the season of Advent is situated, both looking to the first coming of the Son of God, when he was born of the Virgin Mary, and to his glorious return, when he will come "to judge the living and the dead," as we say in the "Credo." I would now like to reflect briefly on this suggestive theme of "waiting" (attesa), because it involves a profoundly human reality in which the faith becomes, so to say, completely one with our flesh and our heart.

Our whole personal, familial and social existence passes through this dimension of waiting. Waiting is something that is present in a 1,000 situations, from the smallest and most banal to the most important, which draw us in completely and in the deepest way. Among these, we think of a husband and wife waiting for a child; of waiting for a relative or friend who is coming from far away to visit us; we think of a young person waiting to know his grade on a major exam or the outcome of a job interview; in romantic relationships, of waiting to meet the beloved person, of waiting for a letter, or of receiving forgiveness... One could say that man is alive so long as he waits, so long as hope is alive in his heart. And man is able to recognize that what he waits for and what he hopes for discloses something about his moral and spiritual "stature."

Everyone of us, therefore, especially in this season in which we prepare for Christmas, can ask himself: What am I waiting for? For what, in this moment of my life, does my heart long? And this same question can be posed at the level of the family, of the community, of the nation. What are we waiting for, together? What unifies our aspirations, what do they have in common? In the time before Jesus' birth the expectation of the Messiah -- that is, of an Anointed one, a descendent of King David, who would have finally liberated the people from every moral and political slavery and have founded the Kingdom of God -- was very strong in Israel. But no one could have imagined that the Messiah would be born from a humble girl like Mary, the betrothed of the just man Joseph. Not even she could have thought of it, and yet in her heart the longing for the Savior was so great, her faith and hope were so ardent, that he was able to find in her a worthy mother. After all, God himself had prepared her before all time. There is a mysterious correspondence between the waiting for God and the waiting for Mary, the creature "full of grace," totally transparent to the plan of love of the Most High. Let us learn from her, the woman of Advent, to live with a new spirit in our daily gestures, with the sentiment of a profound expectation that only the coming of God can fulfill.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Union of Superiors General
"Consecrated Life Has its Origin in the Lord"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2010 - Here is an address given Friday by Benedict XVI in an audience with participants in a biannual general assembly of the Union of Superiors General of religious congregations.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the half-yearly assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which you are celebrating -- in continuity with that of last May -- on the theme of consecrated life in Europe. I greet the president Don Pascual Chávez, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me, and the executive council; a special greeting to the directive committee of the International Union of Superiors General and to the numerous superiors general. I extend my thoughts to all of the members of your orders and institutes throughout the world, especially those who suffer persecution for witness to the Gospel. I would like to express my sincere thanks for what you do in the Church and with the Church on behalf of evangelization and of man. I think of the multiple pastoral activities in the parishes, in the shrines and the centers of worship, for the catechesis and Christian formation of children, of young people and of adults, manifesting your passion for Christ and for humanity. I think of the great work in the field of education, in the universities and in the schools; of the multiple social works, through which you encounter the brothers who are most in need with God's love itself. I think also of the witness, at times dangerous, of the evangelical life in the missions "ad gentes," in often difficult circumstances.

Your last two assemblies have been dedicated to considering the future of consecrated life in Europe. This has meant rethinking the meaning of your vocation itself, which entails, first of all, seeking God, quaerere Deum: you are seekers of God by vocation. To this pursuit you consecrate the most precious energies of your life. You pass from secondary things to those that are essential, to what is truly important; you seek the definitive, you seek God, keeping your gaze fixed upon him. Like the first monks, you cultivate an eschatological orientation: Behind the provisory you seek what remains, what does not pass (Cf. Address at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris, September 12, 2008). You seek God in the confreres whom have been given to you, with whom you share the same life and mission. You seek him in the men and women of our time, to whom you have been sent to offer, with your life and with your words, the gift of the Gospel. You seek him especially in the poor, the first to hear the Good News (cf. Luke 4:18). You seek him in the Church, where the Lord is present, above all in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and in his Word, which is the master way of the pursuit of God; it leads us into conversation with him and it reveals to us his true face. Always be passionate pursuers and witnesses of God!

The profound renewal of the consecrated life begins with the centrality of the Word of God, and more concretely in the Gospel, supreme rule for all of you, as the Second Vatican Council affirms in the decree "Perfectae Caritatis" (cf. n. 2) and as your founders well understood: The consecrated life is a plant with a wealth of branches that has its roots in the Gospel. This is demonstrated by the history of your institutes, in which the firm will to live the message of Christ and configure your life to him, is and remains the fundamental criterion of vocational discernment and of your personal and communal discernment. The Gospel lived daily is the element that gives beauty to the consecrated life and presents you before the world as a trustworthy alternative. Contemporary society needs and the Church expects you to be a living Gospel.

Another fundamental aspect of the consecrated life that I would like to stress is fraternity: "confession Trinitatis" (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation "Vita Consecrata," 41) and parable of the Church as communion. The witness of your consecration passes through it. Fraternal life is one of the aspects greatly sought by young people when they draw near to your life; it is an important prophetic element that you offer to a fundamentally individualistic society. I know the efforts that you are making in this field, as I also know the difficulties that communal life has. There is need of serious and constant discernment to listen to what the Spirit says to the communities (cf. Revelation 2:7), to recognize what comes from the Lord and what is contrary to him (cf. "Vita Consecrata," 73). Without discernment accompanied by prayer and by reflection, the consecrated life runs the risk of accommodating itself to the criteria of this world: individualism, consumerism, materialism; criteria that eliminate fraternity and deprive consecrated life of what is striking and attractive about it. Be masters of discernment so that your brothers and sisters assume this "habitus" and your communities become an eloquent sign for the world of today. You who exercise the service of authority, and who have the task of leadership and planning for the future of your religious institutes, remember that an important part of the spiritual animation and government is the common pursuit of means to promote communion, mutual communication, warmth and truth in reciprocal relations.

A last element that I would like to highlight is mission. Mission is the Church's mode of being and, in it, of the consecrated life itself; it is part of your identity; it moves you to bring the Gospel to everyone, without limits. Mission, supported by a powerful experience of God, by a robust formation and by a fraternal life in community, is a key for understanding and revitalizing consecrated life. Go, then, and in creative fidelity make the challenge of the new evangelization your own. Renew your presence in the Areopaguses of today to proclaim, as St. Paul did in Athens, the "unknown" God (cf. Address at the Collège des Bernardins).

Dear Superiors General, for many institutes the present moment presents the datum of numeric diminishment, especially in Europe. The difficulties, however, must not make us forget that the consecrated life has its origin in the Lord: It is willed by him for the building up and the holiness of his Church, and thus the Church itself will never be deprived of it. As I encourage you to walk in faith and in hope, I ask you for a renewed effort in vocations work and in initial and permanent formation. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to your holy founders and patrons, while from my heart I impart to you my apostolic blessing, which I extend to your religious families.

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On St. Catherine of Siena
"We Can All ... Learn to Love Like Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 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 to you about a woman who has had an eminent role in the history of the Church. She is St. Catherine of Siena. The century in which she lived -- the 14th -- was a troubled time for the life of the Church and for the whole social fabric in Italy and Europe.

However, even in the moments of greatest difficulty, the Lord does not cease to bless his People, raising men and women saints who stir minds and hearts, bringing about conversion and renewal. Catherine is one of these and still today she speaks to us and pushes us to walk courageously toward sanctity to be disciples of the Lord in an ever fuller sense.

Born in Siena in 1347 to a very numerous family, she died in her native city in 1380. At 16, moved by a vision of St. Dominic, she entered the Dominican Third Order, in the feminine branch called the Mantellate. She stayed with her family and confirmed the vow of virginity she made privately when she was still an adolescent; she dedicated herself to prayer, penance, and works of charity, above all for the benefit of the sick.

When her fame for sanctity spread, she became the protagonist in an intense activity of spiritual counsel, dealing with all categories of persons: nobles and politicians, artists and ordinary people, consecrated persons, ecclesiastics, and including Pope Gregory XI, who at that time resided in Avignon and whom Catherine exhorted energetically and effectively to return to Rome. She traveled a lot to solicit the interior reform of the Church and to foster peace between states. For this reason also the Venerable John Paul II declared her co-patroness of Europe: so that the Old World would never forget its Christian roots that are at the base of its journey and continue to draw from the Gospel the fundamental values that ensure justice and concord.

Catherine suffered much, as have many saints. Some thought in fact that she should not be trusted, to the point that, in 1374, six years before her death, the general chapter of the Dominicans called her to Florence to question her. They assigned her a learned and humble friar, Raymond of Capua, future master-general of the order. Having become her confessor and also her "spiritual son," he wrote the first complete biography of the saint. She was canonized in 1461.

Catherine learned to read with effort and learned to write when she was already an adult. Her doctrine is contained in "The Dialogue of Divine Providence" or "Book of Divine Doctrine," a masterpiece of spiritual literature in a collection of letters and prayers. Her teaching is gifted with such richness that, in 1970, the Servant of God Paul VI declared her a doctor of the Church, a title that was added to that of co-patroness of the city of Rome, by the decision of Blessed Pius IX, and of patroness of Italy, by the decision of the Venerable Pius XII.

In a vision that never left Catherine's heart and mind, Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, saying to her: "I, your Creator and Savior, espouse you in the faith, which you will always keep pure until you celebrate with me in heaven your eternal nuptials" (Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 115, Siena 1998). That ring was visible only to her. In this extraordinary episode, we see the vital center of Catherine's religiosity and of every authentic spirituality: Christocentrism. Christ was for her a spouse, with whom she had a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness; he is the cherished good above any other good.

This profound union with the Lord is illustrated by another episode in the life of this famous mystic: the exchange of hearts. According to Raymond of Capua, who transmitted the confidences received by Catherine, the Lord Jesus appeared to her with a bright red human heart in his hand, opened her chest and placed it in her, and said: "Dearest daughter, as the other day I took your heart that you offered to me, behold now I give you mine, and henceforth it will be in the place that yours occupied" (ibid.). Catherine truly lived St. Paul's words, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

Like the Sienese saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed to the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and neighbor as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ, in a familiarity with him nourished by prayer, meditation on the Word of God and the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion.

Catherine also belongs to that rank of Eucharistic saints with which I concluded my apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" (cf. No. 94). Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, reinvigorate our hope, inflame our charity, to make us ever more like him.

A true and authentic spiritual family was built up around such a strong and genuine personality: people fascinated by the authoritative morality of this young woman of an elevated style of life, and at times impressed also by the mystical phenomena they witnessed, such as the frequent ecstasies. Many placed themselves at her service and above all considered it a privilege to be guided spiritually by Catherine. They called her "mamma," because as spiritual children they received the nourishment of the spirit.

Today also the Church receives great benefit from the spiritual maternity of so many women, consecrated and lay, who nourish in souls the thought of God, reinforce people's faith and orient Christian life toward ever higher summits. "Son I say to you and call you," wrote Catherine addressing one of her spiritual sons, the monk Giovanni Sabbatini, "inasmuch as I give you birth by continuous prayers and desire in the presence of God, just as a mother gives birth to a son" (Epistolario, Lettera n. 141: To don Giovanni de' Sabbatini). She would usually address the Dominican friar Bartolomeo de Dominici with these words: "Most beloved and very dear brother and son in Christ sweet Jesus."

Another trait of Catherine's spirituality is connected with the gift of tears. They express an exquisite and profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and tenderness. Not a few saints have had the gift of tears, renewing the emotion of Jesus himself, who did not hold back and hide his tears before the sepulcher of his friend Lazarus and the sorrow of Mary and Martha, and on looking at Jerusalem in his last days on earth. According to Catherine, the tears of saints are mixed with the blood of Christ, of which she spoke with very effective vibrant tones and symbolic images: "Remember Christ crucified, God and man (...). Put before you as object Christ crucified, hide in the wounds of Christ crucified, drown in the blood of Christ crucified" (Epistolario, Lettera n. 16: To one whose name is withheld).

Here we are able to understand why Catherine, though aware of the human defects of priests, always had great reverence for them: Through the sacraments and the Word they dispense the salvific strength of the blood of Christ. The Sienese saint always invited the sacred ministers, including the Pope, whom she called "sweet Christ on earth," to be faithful to their responsibility, moved always and only by their profound and constant love of the Church. Before dying she said: "Leaving the body I, in truth, have consumed and given my life in the Church and for the Holy Church, which is for me a most singular grace" (Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 363).

Hence, from St. Catherine we learn the most sublime science: to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church. In the "Dialogue of Divine Providence," she, with a singular image, describes Christ as a bridge flung between heaven and earth. It is made up of three steps constituted by the feet, the side and the mouth of Jesus. Raising itself by these steps, the soul passes through the three stages of every path of sanctification: detachment from sin, practice of the virtues and of love, sweet and affectionate union with God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from St. Catherine to love Christ and the Church with courage in an intense and sincere way. Hence, let us make our own the words of St. Catherine that we read in the "Dialogue of Divine Providence," at the end of the chapter that speaks of Christ-bridge: "Through mercy you have washed us in the blood, through mercy you wished to converse with creatures. O Madman of love! It was not enough for you to incarnate yourself, but you also wished to die! (...) O mercy! My heart drowns in thinking of you: for no matter where I turn to think I find only mercy" (chapter 30, pp. 79-80). Thank you


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Catherine of Siena, a Dominican tertiary, a woman of great holiness and a Doctor of the Church. Catherine's spiritual teachings are centred on our union with Christ, the bridge between earth and heaven. Her own virginal entrustment to Christ the Bridegroom was reflected in her celebrated visions. Catherine's life also shows us the importance of the spiritual maternity exercised by so many women in every age. From this great saint let us learn to grow in holiness, love for the Lord and fidelity to his body, the Church.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address on Romano Guardini
"He Aspired to the Truth of God and to the Truth About Man"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address, which he gave last month upon receiving in audience members of the "Romano Guardini" Foundation of Berlin, who were in Rome for a congress dedicated to the memory of the theologian, who was a teacher of Joseph Ratzinger himself.

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Excellencies,
Most Illustrious President Professor von Pufendorf,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is a joy for me to be able to welcome all of you here, in the Apostolic Palace, who have come to Rome on the occasion of the congress of the Guardini Foundation on the theme "Spiritual and Intellectual Heritage of Romano Guardini." In particular, I thank dear Professor von Pufendorf, for the cordial words he addressed to me at the beginning of this meeting, in which he expressed all the present "struggle" that unites us to Guardini and, at the same time, calls us to carry forward his life's work.

In the thanksgiving address on the occasion of the celebration of his 80th birthday, in February 1965, at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Guardini described his life's task, as he understood it, as a way "of questioning oneself, in a continuous spiritual exchange, which means a Christian Weltanschauung" (Stationen und Ruckblicke, S. 41). The view, this joint look over the world, for Guardini was not a look from outside as a mere object of research. Nor did he pretend to the perspective of the history of the spirit, which examines and ponders what others have said or written on the religious way of an age. All these points of view were insufficient according to Guardini.

In notes on his life, he said: "What interested me immediately was not what someone said about Christian truth but what is true" (Berichte uber mein Leben, S. 24). And it was this approach of his teaching which impressed us young people, because we did not want to know the "pyrotechnic spectacle" of existing opinions in and outside of Christianity: We wanted to know what "is". And here there was one who without fear and, at the same time, with all the seriousness of critical thought, posed this question and helped us to think together.

Guardini did not want to know one or many things. He aspired to the truth of God and to the truth about man. For him the instrument to approach this truth was the Weltanschauung -- as it was called at the time -- which takes place in a lively exchange with the world and with men. What is specifically Christian consists in the fact that man knows himself in a relationship with God who precedes him and from whom he cannot subtract himself. Our thinking is not the principle that establishes the measure of things, but God who surpasses our measure and who cannot be reduced to any entity created by us.

God reveals himself as the truth, but the latter is not abstract, but on the contrary, is found in the concrete-living, in fine, in the form of Jesus Christ. However, whoever wishes to see Jesus, the truth, must "reverse his direction," must come out of the autonomy of arbitrary thought to the disposition to listen, which accepts what is. And this reversal, which he carried out in his conversion, molded all his thought and life as a continuous going out of autonomy to listening, to receiving. However, even in a genuine relationship with God, man does not always understand what God says. He needs a corrective, and this consists in the exchange with others, which in the living Church of all times has found its reliable form, which unites all with one another.

Guardini was a man of dialogue. His works arose, almost without exception, from a conversation, at least interior. The lessons of the professor of the philosophy of religion and of Christian Weltanschauung at the University of Berlin in the 20s represented above all meetings with personalities of the history of thought. Guardini read the works of these authors, listened to them, learned how they saw the world and entered into dialogue with them to develop, in conversation with them, what he, in so far as Catholic thinker, had to say to their thought. He continued this custom in Munich, and, in fact, it was also the peculiarity of the style of his lessons, being in dialogue with the Thinkers. His key word was "look," because he wanted to lead us to "see" and he himself was in a common interior dialogue with his listeners.

This was the novelty in regard to the rhetoric of old times: that he, in fact, did not seek any rhetoric, but spoke in a totally simple way with us and, at the same time, spoke with truth and induced us to dialogue with truth. And this was a wide spectrum of "dialogues" with authors such as Socrates, Saint Augustine or Pascal, with Dante, Holderlin, Morike, Rilke and Dostoyevsky. In them he saw living mediators, who discover the present in one word of the past, enabling one to see and live it in a new way. These give us a strength which can lead us back to ourselves.

From man's opening to truth issues, for Guardini, an ethos, a base for our moral behavior towards our neighbor, as an exigency of our existence. Given that man can find God, he can also act well. True for him is this primacy of ontology over ethos, of the being, of the very being of God correctly understood and heard, from which follows correct action. He said: "A genuine praxis, that is, correct action, arises from truth and must fight for it" (Ibid., S. 111).

Such yearning for truth and the tending toward what is original and essential, Guardini observed, above all, in young people. In his talks with youth, particularly in Rothenfels Castle, which at the time, thanks to Guardini, had become a center of the Catholic youth movement, the priest and educator carried forward the ideals of the youth movement such as self-determination, personal responsibility and the interior disposition to truth: he purified and deepened them.

Liberty, yes, but only he is free -- he told us -- who is "completely what he must be according to his nature. [...] Liberty is truth" (Auf dem Wege, S. 20). For Guardini the truth of man is essentialness and conformity to being. The path leads to truth when man exercises "the obedience of our being in regard to the being of God" (Ibid., S. 21). This happens ultimately in adoration, which for Guardini belongs to the realm of thought.

In supporting youth, Guardini also sought a new access to the liturgy. The rediscovery of the liturgy was for him a rediscovery of the unity between spirit and body in the totality of the unique human being, as the liturgical act is always at the same time a corporal and spiritual act. Prayer is dilated through corporal and community action, and thus reveals the unity of the whole of reality. The liturgy is symbolic acting. The symbol as quintessence of the unity between the spiritual and the material is lost when both are separated, when the world is fragmented in a dualistic way in spirit and body, in subject and object. Guardini was profoundly convinced that man is spirit in body and body in spirit and that, therefore, the liturgy and the symbol lead him to the essence of himself, in a word, lead him through adoration to the truth.

Among the great themes of Guardini's life, the relationship between faith and the world is of permanent timeliness. Guardini saw above all in the University the place of the search for truth. The University can be so, however, only when it is free of all instrumentalization and advantages for political ends or of another type. Today, in a world of globalization and fragmentation, it is even more necessary to carry this proposal forward, a proposal that is very important for the Guardini Foundation, and for whose realization the Guardini chair has been created.

Again I express my cordial gratitude to all those present for having come. May appealing frequently to Guardini's work refine sensibility to the Christian foundations of our culture and society. I impart willingly to you all the apostolic blessing.

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Papal Address to 24 New Cardinals
"I Encourage You to Continue in Your Spiritual and Apostolic Mission"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience in Paul VI Hall the 24 new cardinals who were created Saturday, as well as their friends and family.

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[In Italian]

Esteemed Cardinals
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate
Dear Friends!

Still alive in our minds and hearts are the feelings and emotions that we experienced yesterday and the day before, on the occasion of the creation of 24 new cardinals. They were moments of fervent prayer and profound communion, which today we would like to prolong with our spirits filled with gratitude to the Lord, who gave us the joy of living a new page in the history of the Church. Therefore, I am also happy to receive you today in this simple and family meeting, and to address by cordial greeting to the new cardinals, as well as to their relatives, friends and all those accompanying them in this very solemn and important circumstance.

I greet in the first place the dear Italian cardinals! I greet you Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes; I greet you, Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls; I greet you, Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary; I greet you, Cardinal Paolo Sardi, vice chamberlain of Apostolic Chamber; I greet you, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; I greet you, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; I greet you, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; I greet you, Cardinal Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Italy; I greet you, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; I greet you, Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, former director of the Pontifical Choir.

Dear and Venerable Brothers, through you, the Church that is in Italy has enriched the College of Cardinals with further pastoral wisdom and apostolic enthusiasm. I willingly extend my cordial greeting to all those who share with you the joy of this moment and exhort them to ensure the support of their prayer, so that you will be able to persevere faithfully in your respective tasks to the advantage of the Gospel and of the whole Christian people.

[In French]

I address my cordial greeting to the new French-speaking cardinals: the Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt Cardinal Antonios Naguib; the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah; the archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. I also greet with joy those near to you and all the persons that accompany you in these days of celebration that we have just experienced.

Dear friends, these celebrations call us to extend our look to the dimensions of the universal Church. I invite you to pray for the new cardinals so that in communion with the Successor of Peter they may work effectively for the unity and sanctity of the whole People of God. And you, yourselves, be ardent witnesses of the Gospel to give the world the hope of which it is in need and to contribute to the establishment of peace and fraternity everywhere.

[In English]

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking prelates whom I had the joy of raising to the dignity of cardinal in last Saturday's Consistory, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature; Cardinal Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, archbishop emeritus of Lusaka (Zambia); Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, archbishop of Washington (USA) and Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka).

I also welcome their family members and friends, and all the faithful who have accompanied them to Rome.

The College of Cardinals, whose origin is linked to the ancient clergy of the Roman Church, is charged with electing the Successor of Peter and advising him in matters of greater importance. Whether in the offices of the Roman Curia or in their ministry in the local Churches throughout the world, the cardinals are called to share in a special way in the Pope's solicitude for the universal Church. The vivid color of their robes has traditionally been seen as a sign of their commitment to defending Christ's flock even in the shedding of their blood. As the new cardinals accept the burden of his office, I am confident that they will be supported by your constant prayers and your cooperation in their efforts to build up the body of Christ in unity, holiness and peace.

[In German:]

I address a particular greeting to the new German-speaking cardinals. I begin with Cardinal Kurt Koch, whom I greet cordially together with his relatives, his friends and his guests from Switzerland, above all the representatives of the Diocese of Basle in which he has worked as bishop for many years, as well as the representatives of the Federal Council and of the Cantons. Unite yourselves to him in prayer and support him in his important task for the universal Church and as collaborator of the Pope at the service of Christian unity.

With joy I also extend my welcome to Cardinal Reinhard Marx and to his family, his guests and pilgrims of the Archdiocese of Munich und Freising, to the bishops, the collaborators in the different episcopal institutions, to the representatives of politics and public life and to believers of the Diocese of Trier and of his native Diocese of Paderborn.

Finally, I cordially greet Dardinal Walter Brandmuller, his relatives and friends of Rome, Augusta and Bamberg. Dear friends, the cardinals participate in a particular way in the solicitude of the Successor of Peter for the universal Church. The sign of this is the luminous red of the purple, which evidences the fact that they must be the ones that protect and defend the flock of Christ to the extreme consequences, to the gift of their own blood.

Support them in carrying out their task with your prayer and your commitment to the Church.

[In Spanish]

I greet affectionately the Spanish-speaking cardinals, accompanied by their relatives and so many bishops, priests, religious and laity who have come especially from Ecuador and Spain. The Church in Ecuador is rejoicing for Cardinal Raúl Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, retired archbishop of Quito, Ecuador, who with exemplary zeal and dedication has also carried out his episcopal ministry in Guayaquil, Azogues, and as Ordinary Military bishop.

The Church of Spain also congratulates Cardinal José Manuel Estepa Llaurens, retired archbishop of Spain's military, who rendered valuable service participating in the writing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I invite you all to support the new members of the College of Cardinals with your prayer and spiritual closeness so that, moved by intense love of Christ and united in close communion with the Successor of Peter, they may continue to serve the Church with fidelity.

[In Portuguese]

I greet Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, surrounded here by friendly persons, congratulating him for seeing his person more intimately associated with the Pope's ministry. Your presence reminds me of the hours of profound joy and great ecclesial hope lived in Aparecida, during my unforgettable visit to Brazil that, above all in that day, was extended to the whole Latin American Continent and the Caribbean, as your episcopate was meeting there in communion of faith, hope and love, under the maternal gaze of Mary, around the Successor of Peter.

Today with you I reiterate my affectionate trust to the cardinal archbishop of Aparecida and I pray to Our Lady to protect and assist you all, illuminating your way with hope, in union as your Pastor and friend, to establish all things in Christ.

[In Polish]

I address expressions of greeting to Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz and to his guests. The appointment of cardinal now obliges to solicitude not only for the local Church, but for the fortunes of the universal Church, as well as close collaboration with the Pope in carrying out the Petrine office. Because of this I implore for him all the necessary graces, and ask you all for constant prayer for the light and strength of the Holy Spirit -- Spirit of wisdom and counsel. May God bless you!

[In italian]

Dear and venerable brothers who have become part of the College of Cardinals! I renew to each one of you my cordial best wishes. Your ministry is enriched by a further commitment in supporting the Successor of Peter, in his universal service to the Church. I count so much on you, on your prayer and on your valuable help. With fraternal esteem, I encourage you to continue in your spiritual and apostolic mission, which has experienced a very important stage. Keep your look fixed on Christ, attributing to him every grace and spiritual comfort, on the luminous example of Holy cardinals, intrepid servants of the Church who in the course of the centuries have rendered glory to God with heroic exercise of the virtues and tenacious fidelity to the Gospel.

I invoke on you and on those present the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and of martyr St. Cecilia, whose memorial we celebrate today. May the patroness of music and bel canto accompany and support you in your commitment to be in the Church attentive listeners of the different voices, to render more profound the unity of hearts. With such sentiments I impart with affection to you and to all those present a special apostolic blessing.

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Pope's Homily at Ordinary Public Consistory
"Logic of the Cross ... Is at the Bottom of All Exercise of Authority"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2010 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered Saturday during the consistory in which 24 new cardinals were created.

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

Once again the Lord gives me the joy of carrying out this solemn act, in which the College of Cardinals is enriched with new members, chosen from different parts of the world: they are pastors who govern with zeal important diocesan communities, prelates assigned to dicasteries of the Roman Curia, or who have served the Church and the Holy See with exemplary fidelity. From today onward they become part of that "coetus peculiaris," which gives the Successor of Peter a more immediate and assiduous collaboration, supporting him in the exercise of his universal ministry. To them first of all, I address by affectionate greeting, renewing the expression of my esteem and of my heartfelt appreciation for the testimony that they render to the Church and to the world. In particular, I greet archbishop Angelo Amato and I thank him for the kind expressions he addressed to me. I then give my cordial welcome to the official delegations of several countries, to the representations of numerous dioceses, and to all those gathered here to take part in this event, during which these venerable and dear Brothers receive the sign of the cardinal's dignity with the imposition of the berretta and the assignment of the Title of a church of Rome.

The bond of special communion and affection, which links these new cardinals to the Pope, renders them singular and precious cooperators of the high mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, to feed his sheep (cf. John 21:15-17), to gather the people with the solicitude of the charity of Christ. It is precisely from this love that the Church was born, called to live and journey according to the commandment of the Lord, in which is summarized all the Law and the prophets. To be united to Christ in faith and in communion with Him means to be "rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17), the fabric that unites all the members of the Body of Christ.

In fact, the Word of God just proclaimed helps us to meditate on this very fundamental aspect. Placed before our eyes in the passage of the Gospel (Mark 10:32-45) is the icon of Jesus as the Messiah -- proclaimed ahead of time by Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 53) -- who did not come to be served, but to serve: his style of life becomes the basis of new relationships within the Christian community and a new way of exercising authority, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem and proclaims for the third time, indicating to his disciples the way by which he intends to fulfill the work entrusted to him by the Father: it is the way of the humble gift of self to the sacrifice of his life, the way of the Passion, the way of the Cross. And yet, even after this announcement, as happened with those who preceded, the disciples reveal all their effort to understand, to undertake the necessary "exodus" from a worldly mentality to God's mentality. In this case it is the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who ask Jesus for seats next to him in "glory", manifesting expectations and plans of greatness, authority, of honor according to the world. Jesus, who knows the human heart, is not disturbed by this request, but immediately brings to light the profound significance: "you do not know what you ask"; then he leads the two brothers to understand what it means to follow him.

What, then, is the way that must be followed by one who wishes to be a disciple? It is the way of the Master, it is the way of total obedience to God. Because of this Jesus asked James and John: are you ready to share and to fulfill to the end by choice the will of the Father? Are you prepared to follow this road that passes through humiliation, suffering and death out of love? The two disciples, with their sure answer, "we can," show once again that they did not understand the real meaning of what awaited their Master. And again Jesus, with patience, makes them understand a further step: not even experiencing the chalice of suffering and the baptism of death gives the right to the first places, because they are "for those from whom they have been prepared," it is in the hand of the heavenly Father; man must not calculate, he must simply abandon himself to God, without pretensions, conforming himself to his will.

The indignation of the other disciples becomes the occasion to extend the teaching to the whole community. First of all Jesus "called them to himself": it is the gesture of the original vocation, to which he invites them to return. Very significant is this reference to the constitutive moment of the vocation of the Twelve, to "being with Jesus" to be sent, because it reminds clearly that every ecclesial ministry is always a response to a call of God, it is never the fruit of one's own plan or of one's ambition, but it is to conform one's will to that of the Father who is in Heaven, as Christ at Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:42). No one is boss in the Church, but all are called, all are sent, all are gathered and guided by divine grace. And this is also our security. Only by listening again to the word of Jesus, who asks "come and follow me," only by returning to the original vocation is it possible to understand one's own presence and mission in the Church as genuine disciples.

James' and John's request and the indignation of the "other 10" Apostles raise a central question to which Jesus wishes to respond: who is great, who is "first" for God? First of all attention goes to the conduct that runs the risk of assuming it is "those that are considered the rulers of nations": "to dominate and oppress." Jesus points out to his disciples a completely different way: "Among you, however, it is not thus." His community follows another rule, another logic, another model: "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all." The criterion of greatness and primacy according to God is not dominion but service, diakonia is the fundamental law of the disciple and of the Christian community and it allows us to perceive something of the "Lordship of God." And Jesus also indicates the point of reference: the Son of man, who came to serve, summarizes his mission under the category of service, understood not in the generic sense, but in the concrete way of the Cross, of the total gift of life as "ransom," as redemption for many, and he indicates it as condition to follow him. It is a message that is true for the Apostles, for the whole Church, true above all for those who have tasks to guide the People of God. It is not the logic of dominion, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bending down to wash the feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross which is at the bottom of all exercise of authority. At all times the Church is committed to be conformed to this logic and to attest it to make the true "Lordship of God " shine, which is that of love.

Venerable brothers elected to the dignity of cardinal, the mission to which God calls you today and that equips you to an ecclesial service that is even more charged with responsibility, requires an ever greater willingness to assume the style of the Son of God, who came among us as one who serves (cf. Luke 22:25-27. It is a question of following him in giving his humble and total love to the Church his Bride, on the Cross: it is on that wood that the grain of wheat, dropped by the Father on the field of the world, dies to become a mature fruit. Because of this there must be an even more profound and solid rootedness in Christ. The profound relationship with Him, which increasingly transforms life so as to be able to say with Saint Paul "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20), constitutes the primary exigency, for our service to be serene and joyful and be able to give the fruit that the Lord expects from us.

Dear brothers and sisters, who today crown the new cardinals: pray for them. Tomorrow, in this Basilica, during the concelebration of the solemnity of Christ King of the universe, I will hand the ring to them. It will be a further occasion in which "to praise the Lord, who remains forever faithful" (Psalm 145), as we repeated in the Responsorial Psalm. May his Spirit support the new cardinals in the commitment of service to the Church, following the Christ of the Cross even, if necessary, "usque ad effusionem sanguinis," always ready -- as St. Peter said to us in the reading -- always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls us to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church, the new cardinals and their ecclesial service, so that with apostolic ardor, they may proclaim to all people the merciful love of God. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Message to Newman Conference

"He Was Always Honest in the Search for Truth"

ROME, NOV. 22, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the participants in the symposium organized in Rome by the "International Center of Newman Friends" on the topic: "The Primacy of God in the Life and Writings of Blessed John Henry Newman."

* * *

To the Reverend Father
Hermann Geisseler, F.S.O.
Director of the International Center of Newman Friends

While the joy is still very alive in me of having been able to proclaim as blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman during my recent trip to the United Kingdom, I address a cordial greeting to you, the illustrious relators, and to all the participants in the symposium organized in Rome by the International Center of Newman Friends. I express my appreciation for the topic chosen: "The Primacy of God in the Life and Writings of Blessed John Henry Newman." With it, in fact, is made rightly evident theocentrism as the essential perspective that characterized the personality and work of the great English theologian.

It is well know that young Newman, despite having been able to know, thanks to his mother, the "religion of the Bible," went through a period of difficulties and doubts. For 14 years, in fact, he was under the influence of philosophers such as Hume and Voltaire and, recognizing himself in their objections against religion, he pointed himself, in keeping with the humanist and liberal fashion of the time, to a sort of deism.

The following year, however, Newman received the grace of conversion, finding peace "in the thought of only two absolutely and luminously evident beings, myself and my Creator" (J.H. Newman, "Apologia pro Vita Sua," Milan, 2001, pp. 137-138). Hence, he discovered the objective truth of a personal and living God, who speaks to the conscience and reveals to man his condition of creature. He understood his own dependence on the being of him who is the principle of all things, thus finding in him the origin and meaning of his personal identity and singularity. It was this particular experience that constitutes the basis of the primacy of God in Newman's life.

After his conversion, he let himself be guided by two fundamental criteria -- taken from the book The Force of Truth, of Calvinist Thomas Scott -- which manifested fully the primacy of God in his life. The first -- "sanctity rather than peace" (ibid., p. 139) -- documents his firm will to adhere to the interior teacher with his own conscience, of abandoning himself confidently to the Father and of living in fidelity to the recognized truth. These ideals entailed immediately "a great price to be paid." In fact, Newman both as an Anglican as well as a Catholic, had to undergo many trials, disappointments and misunderstandings. Yet, he never lowered himself to false compromises or was content with easy consensus. He was always honest in the search for truth, faithful to the appeals of his conscience and reached out toward the ideal of sanctity.

The second motto chosen by Newman -- "growth is the only expression of life" (ibid.) -- expresses wholly his disposition to a continuous interior conversion, transformation and growth, always confidently leaning on God. Thus he discovered his vocation at the service of the Word of God and, turning to the Fathers of the Church to find greater light, proposed a true reform of Anglicanism, adhering finally to the Catholic Church. He recapitulated his own experience of growth, in fidelity to himself and to the will of the Lord, with the famous words: "Here on earth to live is to change, and perfection is the result of many transformations" (J.H. Newman, "The Development of Christian Doctrine," Milan, 2002, p. 75). And Newman was throughout his life one who was converted, who was transformed, and in this always remained himself, and always became increasingly himself.

The horizon of the primacy of God also marked profoundly Newman's numerous publications. In the mentioned essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, he writes: "There is a truth; there is only one truth; ... the search for truth must not be the extinguishing of curiosity; ... the acquisition of truth does not resemble at all the excitement of a discovery; our spirit is subjected to truth, it is not, therefore, superior to it and is held not so much to dissertate on it, but to venerate it" (pp. 344-345). The primacy of God is translated, hence, for Newman, in the primacy of truth, a truth that is sought above all by disposing one's inner self to acceptance, in an open and sincere confrontation with everyone, and which finds its culmination in the encounter with Christ, "Way, Truth and Life" (John 12:6). Because of this, Newman renders witness to truth also with his very rich literary production ranging from theology to poetry, from philosophy to pedagogy, from exegesis to the history of Christianity, from novels to meditations and prayers.

In presenting and defending the truth, Newman was always careful to find the appropriate language, the right form and appropriate tone. He sought not ever to offend and to render testimony to the gentle inner light ("kindly light"), making an effort to convince with humility, joy and patience. In a prayer addressed to St. Philip Neri he wrote: "May my countenance always be open and joyful, and my words gentle and pleasing, as is suitable for those who, no matter what the state of their life, enjoy the greatest of all goods, the favor of God and the expectation of eternal happiness" (J.H. "Newman, Meditations and Prayers," Milan, 2002, pp. 193-194).

To Blessed John Henry Newman, master in teaching us that the primacy of God is the primacy of truth and of love, I entrust the reflections and work of the present symposium, while, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, I am happy to impart to you and to all the participants the implored apostolic blessing, pledge of abundant heavenly favors.

From the Vatican, Nov. 18, 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Solemnity of Christ the King
"Jesus, From the Throne of the Cross Receives Every Man With Infinite Mercy"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

There has just concluded in the Vatican basilica the liturgy of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe, which was also concelebrated by the 24 new cardinals created yesterday in the consistory. The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pius IX in 1925 and, later, after the Second Vatican Council, it was linked to the end of the liturgical year. The Gospel of St. Luke presents, as in a great painting, the royalty of Jesus in the moment of his crucifixion. The leaders of the people and the soldiers deride "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15) and they test him to see if he has the power to save himself from death (cf. Luke 23:35-37). And precisely "on the cross Jesus is exalted to the very 'height' of God, who is love. It is there that he can be 'known.' [...] Jesus gives us 'life' because he gives us God. He can give him to us because he himself is one with God" (Benedict XVI, "Jesus of Nazareth," San Francisco, 2008, pp. 349 ff.). In fact, while the Lord finds himself between two criminals, one of them, aware of his own sins, opens himself to truth, arrives at faith and prays to "the king of the Jews": "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). From him who "is before all things and in whom all things exist" (Colossians 1:17) the so-called "good thief" immediately receives forgiveness and the joy of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. "In truth I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). With these words, Jesus, from the throne of the cross receives every man with infinite mercy. St. Ambrose comments that this "is a beautiful example of conversion to which one should aspire: forgiveness is quickly offered the thief and the grace is more abundant than the request; the Lord in fact," St. Ambrose says, "always give more than what is asked for [...] Life is being with Christ because where Christ is there is the Kingdom" (Expositio Ev. sec. Lucam X, 121: CCL 14, 379).

Dear Friends, in Christian art we can contemplate the way of love that the Lord reveals to us and that he invites us to follow. In fact, in the earliest times "in the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings [...] it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king -- the symbol of hope -- at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgment as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives" ("Spe salvi," 41): hope in the infinite love of God and commitment to order our life according to God's love. When we contemplate the depiction of Jesus inspired by the New Testament -- as an ancient council teaches -- we are led to "understand [...] the sublimity and the humiliation of the Word of God and [...] to recall his life in the flesh, his passion and salvific death, and the redemption that thus came to the world" (Council of Trullo [ca. 691 or 692], canon 82). "Yes, we need it, precisely to [...] become capable of recognizing in the pierced heart of the Crucified the mystery of God" (J. Ratzinger, "Teologia della liturgia: La fondazione sacramentale dell'esistenza cristiana," LEV 2010, p. 69).

To the Virgin Mary, in today's observance of her Presentation in the Temple, we entrust the new members of the College of Cardinals and our earthly pilgrimage toward eternity.

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

Following the invitation of the bishops, in Italy the ecclesial communities are praying for the Christians who are suffering persecutions and discrimination, especially in Iraq. I join this invocation of the God of life and peace, that in every part of the world religious freedom might be secured. I am near to these brothers and sisters through great witness of faith that they bear to God. In today's memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple the Church remembers cloistered men and women with particular affection: it is "Pro Orantibus Day" in which the invitation to concretely support these communities is renewed. To them I impart the apostolic blessing from my heart.

Today is also the "Day of the Victims of the Street." While I assure them a remembrance in prayer, I encourage work in prevention, which is having good results, recalling that prudence and respect for norms are always the first way to protect oneself and others.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English he said:]

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. I greet especially those who have traveled to Rome in order to be present for this weekend's Consistory, and to pray for the twenty-four new Cardinals. And I greet the groups of pilgrims from Saint Anne's parish, Orange, California, from Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, California, and Saint Patrick's Parish in London. On this feast of Christ the King, we ask the Lord to guide our efforts to proclaim the good news of his Kingdom to people everywhere. Upon all of you, and upon your families and love ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Statement on Pontiff's Words Regarding Condoms
"The Pope Does Not Reform or Change the Church's Teaching"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2010 - Here is a statement released today by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, regarding the words of Benedict XVI regarding condoms as recorded in a book, "Light of the World," scheduled for release on Tuesday.

On Saturday, L'Osservatore Romano published some quotes from this book, which drew public interest and prompted Father Lombardi to release a statement of clarification. ZENIT will publish excerpts from the English translation of the book over the next couple of days.

* * *

At the end of chapter 10 of the book "Light of the World" the Pope responds to two questions about the battle against AIDS and the use of condoms, questions that reconnect with the discussion that followed some statements that the Pope made on the theme during the course of his trip to Africa in 2009.

The Pope again clearly stresses that at that time he had not intended to take a position on the problem of condoms in general, but wanted to affirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention, education, help, counsel, being with people both to keep them from getting sick and in the case that they do get sick.

The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence -- Be Faithful -- Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and basic in the battle against AIDS, while condoms appear in the last place as a way out, when the other two are not there. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.

The Pope then broadens the perspective and insists on the fact that focusing only on condoms is equivalent to banalizing sexuality, which loses its meaning as an expression of love between persons and becomes a "drug." Fighting against banalization of sexuality is "part of the great effort to help sexuality be valued positively and have a positive effect on man in his totality."

In the light of this broad and profound vision of human sexuality and the contemporary discussion of it, the Pope reaffirms that "naturally the Church does not consider condoms as the authentic and moral solution" to the problem of AIDS.

In this the Pope does not reform or change the Church's teaching, but reaffirms it, placing it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of responsible love.

At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat for the life of another. In that case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection may be "a first act of responsibility," "a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality," rather than not using it and exposing the other to risking his life.

In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary change. Numerous moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have supported and support analogous positions; it is nevertheless true that we have not heard this with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even if it is in a informal and not magisterial form.

With courage Benedict XVI thus offers us an important contribution of clarification and reflection on a question that has long been debated. It is an original contribution, because on one hand it maintains fidelity to moral principles and demonstrates lucidity in refuting an illusory path like that of the "confidence is condoms"; on the other hand, however, it manifests a comprehensive and far-seeing vision, attentive to uncovering the small steps -- even if only initial and still confused -- of an often spiritually and culturally impoverished humanity, toward a more human and responsible exercise of sexuality.

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Pope Benedict's addresses from November 2006 to April 2007

Pope Benedict's addresses from May 2007 to November 2007

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 addresses from November 2009 to May 2010

Pope Benedict's addresses from May 2010 to November 2010

 

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

Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini (Sept 30, 2010)

 

Papal Words to Members of Christian Unity Council
"The Unity of Christians Is and Remains Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which ends Friday in Rome. The plenary, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the institution of the dicastery, is considering the theme: "Toward a New Stage of Ecumenical Dialogue."

* * *

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

It is a great joy for me to meet with you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during which you are reflecting on the theme: "Toward a New Stage of Ecumenical Dialogue." In addressing my cordial greeting to each one of you, I also wish to thank in a particular way the president, Archbishop Kurt Koch, for the warm expressions with which he interpreted your sentiments.

Yesterday, as Archbishop Koch has recalled, you celebrated with a solemn commemorative ceremony, the 50th anniversary of the institution of your dicastery. On June 5, 1960, eve of the Second Vatican Council, which indicated the ecumenical commitment as central for the Church, Blessed John XXIII created the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, called later, in 1988, Pontifical Council. It was an act that constituted a milestone for the ecumenical path of the Catholic Church. In the course of 50 years, it has covered much territory. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have given their service in the pontifical council, remembering first of all the presidents who succeeded one another: Cardinal Augustin Bea, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, and Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy; and I am especially pleased to thank Cardinal Walter Kasper, who led the dicastery, with competence and passion, over the last 11 years. I thank the members and consultors, officials and collaborators, those who have contributed to undertake theological dialogues and ecumenical meetings, and all those who have prayed to the Lord for the gift of visible unity between Christians. They are 50 years in which a truer knowledge and greater esteem have been acquired with the Churches and the ecclesial communities, overcoming prejudices cemented by history; there has been growth in the theological dialogue, but also in that of charity; several forms of collaboration have been developed, among which, in addition to those of the defense of life, the safeguarding of creation and the combating of injustice, important and fruitful has been that in the field of the ecumenical translations of sacred Scripture.

In these last years, then, the pontifical council has been committed, among other things, in a wide project, the so-called Harvest Project, to sketch an initial evaluation of the goals achieved in the theological dialogues with the principal ecclesial communities of Vatican II. It is a precious work that has made evident both the areas of convergence, as well as those in which it is necessary to continue and deepen reflection. Thanking God for the fruits already gathered, I encourage you to continue your efforts to promote a correct reception of the results attained and to make known with exactness the present state of theological research at the service of the path to unity. Today some think that this path, especially in the West, has lost its élan; noted now is the urgency to revive ecumenical interest and to give new incisiveness to the dialogues. Unheard of challenges, then, appear: the new anthropological and ethical interpretations, the ecumenical formation of the new generations, the further fragmentation of the ecumenical scene. It is essential to be aware of such changes and to identify the ways to proceed effectively in the light of the will of the Lord: "That they may all be one" (John 17:21).

Also with the Orthodox Churches and the Ancient Eastern Churches, with which "very close bonds" exist ("Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 15), the Catholic Church continues the dialogue with passion, seeking to deepen, in a serious and rigorous way, the common theological, liturgical and spiritual patrimony, and to address with serenity and commitment the elements that still divide us. With the Orthodox we have succeeded in touching a crucial point of encounter and reflection: the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church. And the ecclesiological question is also at the center of the dialogue with the Ancient Eastern Churches: Despite many centuries of misunderstanding and separation, witnessed with joy is our having kept a precious common patrimony.

Dear friends, despite the presence of new problematic situations or difficult points for the dialogue, the aim of the ecumenical path remains unchanged, as does the firm commitment in pursuing it. It is not, however, a commitment according to political categories, so to speak, in which the ability to negotiate or the greater capacity to find compromises come into play, from which could be expected, as good mediators, that, after a certain time, one will arrive at agreements acceptable to all. Ecumenical action has a twofold movement. On one hand there is the convinced, passionate and tenacious search to find full unity in truth, to excogitate models of unity, to illumine oppositions and dark points in order to reach unity. And this in the necessary theological dialogue, but above all in prayer and in penance, in that spiritual ecumenism which constitutes the throbbing heart of the whole path: The unity of Christians is and remains prayer, it resides in prayer. On the other hand, another operative movement, which arises from the firm awareness that we do not know the hour of the realization of the unity among all the disciples of Christ and we cannot know it, because unity is not "made by us," God "makes" it: it comes from above, from the unity of the Father with the Son in the dialogue of love which is the Holy Spirit; it is a taking part in the divine unity. And this should not make our commitment diminish, rather, it should make us ever more attentive to receive the signs of the times of the Lord, knowing how to recognize with gratitude that which already unites us and working to consolidate it and make it grow. In the end, also in the ecumenical path, it is about leaving to God what is only his and of exploring, with seriousness, constancy and dedication, what is our task, being aware that to our commitment belongs the binomial of acting and suffering, of activity and patience, of effort and joy.

We confidently invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will guide our way and that each one will feel with renewed vigor the appeal to work for the ecumenical cause. I encourage all of you to continue your work; it is a help that you render to the Bishop of Rome in fulfilling his mission at the service of unity. As a sign of affection and gratitude, I impart to you my heartfelt apostolic blessing.

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Pope's Message to Health Care Conference
"The Bond Between Justice and Charity ... Is Very Close"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to the 25th international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, which began today in Rome. The congress is considering the theme: "Caritas in Veritate -- For Equitable and Human Health Care." Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, delivered the address on behalf of the Pontiff.

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To the Venerable Brother
Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry

With joy I wish to add my cordial greeting to the participants in the 25th International Conference, which is rightly inserted in the celebratory year of the 25th anniversary of the institution of the dicastery, and offers a further reason to thank God for this precious instrument for the apostolate of mercy. A grateful thought to all those who do their utmost, in the different sectors of health pastoral care to live the diakonia of charity, which is central in the mission of the Church. In this connection, I am pleased to remember Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who over these 25 years led the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, and to address a particular greeting to the current president of the dicastery, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, as well as to the secretary, the undersecretary, the officials, the collaborators, the speakers of the Congress, and all those present.

The topic chosen by you this year "Caritas in Veritate -- For Equitable and Human Health Care," is of particular interest for the Christian community, in which the care of the human being is central, because of his transcendent dignity and inalienable rights. Health is a precious good for the person and society to promote, conserve and protect, dedicating the means, resources and energies necessary so that more persons can enjoy it. Unfortunately, the problem still remains today of many populations of the world that do not have access to the necessary resources to satisfy fundamental needs, particularly in regard to health. It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care. In our time we witness on one hand a care of health that risks being transformed into pharmacological consumerism, medical and surgical, becoming almost a cult of the body, and on the other, the difficulty of millions of persons to accede to conditions of minimal subsistence and indispensable medicines to be cured.

Important also in the field of health, integral part of each one's existence and of the common good, is to establish a true distributive justice that guarantees to all, on the basis of objective needs, adequate care. Consequently, the world of health cannot be subtracted from the moral rules that should govern it so that it will not become inhuman. As I stressed in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," the social doctrine of the Church has always evidenced the importance of distributive justice and of social justice in the different sectors of human relations (No. 35). Justice is promoted when one receives the life of the other and one assumes responsibility for him, responding to his expectations, because in him one grasps the face itself of the Son of God, who for us was made man. The divine image impressed in our brother is the foundation of the lofty dignity of every person and arouses in each one the need of respect, of care and of service. The bond between justice and charity, in the Christian perspective, is very close: "Charity exceeds justice, because to love is to give, to offer of my 'own' to the other; but it is never without justice, which induces to give the other what is 'his,' that which is due to him by reason of his being and his acting. [...] He who loves others with charity is first of all just to them. Not only is justice not foreign to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel way to charity: Justice is 'inseparable from charity,' intrinsic to it. Justice is the first way of charity" (Ibid., 6). In this connection, with a synthetic and incisive expression, St. Augustine taught that "justice consists in helping the poor" ("De Trinitate," XIV, 9: PL 42, 1045).

To bend down as the Good Samaritan to the wounded man abandoned on the side of the road is to fulfill that "greater justice" that Jesus asks of his disciples and acted in his life, because love is the fulfillment of the Law. The Christian community, following in the footsteps of its Lord, has carried out the mandate to go out into the world "to teach and cure the sick" and over the centuries "has strongly realized the service to the sick and suffering as an integral part of its mission" (John Paul II, motu proprio "Dolentium Hominum," No. 1), of witnessing integral salvation, which is health of soul and body.

The People of God, pilgrimaging on the torturous paths of history joins its efforts to those of so many other men and women of good will to give a truly human face to health systems. Health justice should be among the priorities of governments and international institutions. Unfortunately, next to positive and encouraging results, there are opinions and lines of thought that wound it: I am referring to questions such as those connected with so-called "reproductive health," with recourse to artificial techniques of procreation entailing the destruction of embryos, or with legalized euthanasia. Love of justice, the protection of life from conception to its natural end, respect for the dignity of every human being, are to be upheld and witnessed, even against the current: the fundamental ethical values are the common patrimony of universal morality and the basis of democratic coexistence.

What is necessary is the joint effort of all, but also necessary and above all is a profound conversion of the interior look. Only if one looks at the world with the look of the Creator, which is a look of love, humanity will learn to be on earth in peace and justice, allocating with equity the earth and its resources to the good of every man and every woman. Because of this, "I hope for [...] the adoption of a model of development founded on the centrality of the human being, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on the awareness of the necessary change of lifestyles and on prudence, virtue that indicates the actions to be carried out today, in expectation of what might happen tomorrow" (Benedict XVI, Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, 9).

To suffering brothers and sisters I express my closeness and also the appeal to live illness as an occasion of grace to grow spiritually and participate in the sufferings of Christ for the good of the world, and to all of you, committed in the vast field of health, I give my encouragement for your precious service. In praying for the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, "Salus infirmorum," I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing which I extend also to your families.

From the Vatican, Nov. 15, 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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