Benedict XI's visit to France (September 2008)


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

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

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

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your Eminence,

Madam Minister of Culture,

Mr Mayor,

Mr Chancellor of the French Institute,

Dear Friends!

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dear Young Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Venerable Brother Cardinals,
Dear Brother Bishops,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Thank you.

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Very Holy Father,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You appealed to humanist Europe and to its Christian heritage.

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

Very Holy Father,

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

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

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

France sees you leave with emotion and gratitude.

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

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

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

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


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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lord Jesus, You are here!

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

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

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

We contemplate him.

We adore him.

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

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

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

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

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

My brothers, my sisters, my friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"No True Love Without Suffering"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I happily greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including pilgrims from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Burma, Japan, and the United States of America. God bless you all!
 
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