Pope  Benedict XVI Visit to Czech Republic September 2009

 

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

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

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Dear brothers and sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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

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

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

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



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Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

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



* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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

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



* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



* * *

Dear Young Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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VATICAN CITY, 28 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At 8.15 a.m. today the Pope left the apostolic nunciature in Prague and travelled 35 kilometres by car to the church of St. Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav. The church, which stands on the site of the saint's martyrdom, is considered to be the symbolic site of the birth of the Czech nation and is the focus of a national pilgrimage which takes place every year on 28 September.

Wenceslas was born around the year 907 and ascended the throne in 925. According to tradition he was a highly cultured and religious king, a man of justice and a benefactor to the poor. He was killed for political reasons by his brother Boleslav in 935 and in 938 his remains were translated to Prague cathedral. Ever since the tenth century he has been venerated as a saint.

Arriving at the church the Holy Father was greeted by the religious and civil authorities. Having paused in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he descended to the crypt of the Mausoleum of the Czech Nation where the relics of the saint are exposed. Before leaving the building the Pope greeted a group of twenty elderly priests who reside in a house belonging to the episcopal conference. He then travelled by popemobile to the nearby esplanade of Melnik where he celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas, feast day of the Czech Republic.

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VATICAN CITY, 28 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. today the Pope travelled by car from the apostolic nunciature in Prague, Czech Republic, to the city's Stara Ruzyne airport. There he bid farewell to the president of the Republic, and to the civil, military and religious authorities, before boarding his return flight to Rome .

The Holy Father thanked the Czech people for their hospitality and for the success of his visit: "I shall treasure the memory of the moments of prayer that I was able to spend together with the bishops, priests and faithful of this country", he said.

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Summary by Phil Lawler

In Czech Republic, Pope Benedict's powerful challenge to secularism (Subscribe to RSS Feed)

Sep. 28, 2009 (CWNews.com) -

During a weekend visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) surveyed the damage done to that nation by generations of Communist rule, and warned the Czech people against socialist materialism with secular materialism. "Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions", the Pontiff insisted.

In an unusual number of public speeches crowded into a 3-day schedule, the Pope repeatedly challenged the people of the Czech Republic to follow the example set by the great saints of their past history, revive a precious Christian heritage, and bring help to a society that is longing for true freedom but does not know how to find it.

The Pope began his trip-- the 13th foreign voyage of his pontificate-- on Saturday morning, and arrived in Prague shortly before noon. He was greeted at the airport by Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

During the welcoming ceremony the Pope outlined the theme that he would continue to develop, from different perspectives, throughout his stay. The Czech Republic, he said, has a deeply rooted Christian culture that can be traced back to the evangelization of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Their country "has been a meeting point for different peoples, traditions and cultures," and consequently has played an important part in European history-- "sometimes as a battleground, more often as a bridge."

The recent history of the Czech people is clouded by the years of Communist rule, and "the cost of 40 years of political repression is not to be underestimated," the Pope continued. The atheistic regime strove to silence the voice of the Church, but brave Christians "kept the flame of faith alive." Now that religious freedom has been restored, the Church should be a powerful witness in a secular society.

The Pope's challenge was directed at a Czech population that has become thoroughly secularized, with religious influence dwindling in the past generation. But the huge throngs who greeted the Pope demonstrated that the flame of faith is still alive. On Saturday afternoon the Pope visited one of the centers of that enduring faith, the shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague. As he venerated the famous statue the Pope prayed for the welfare of troubled families.

Later in the afternoon the Pontiff traveled to Prague Castle for a formal meeting with President Havel, followed by talks with other political leaders. In an address there the Pope remarked that 20 years have now passed since the "Velvet Revolution" that swept the Communist government from power, and "the process of healing and rebuilding continues." The Czech people still seek true freedom, he said, and that freedom can only be attained through a recognition of truth. The truth about European society, he continued, cannot be understood apart from a recognition of that society's Christian heritage.

Prague, the Pope reminded the Czech political leaders, is often called "the heart of Europe." He asked them to consider how they could understand this "heart," and suggested that "a clue is found in the architectural jewels that adorn this city." The architecture confirms the Christian heritage, he observed. "The creative encounter of the classical tradition and the Gospel gave birth to a vision of man and society attentive to God's presence among us."

On Saturday evening, at he led a Vespers service in the city's cathedral, the Pope delivered the same message in even stronger form. "Society continues to suffer from the wounds caused by atheist ideology, and it is often seduced by the modern mentality of hedonistic consumerism amid a dangerous crisis of human and religious values and a growing drift towards ethical and cultural relativism," he said. Catholics must take the lead in guiding society back toward a model of Christian humanism.

Pope Benedict flew from Prague to Brno on Sunday morning, and celebrated an outdoor Mass there for a congregation of about 120,000. Again he lamented the development of a secular materialism in which Christian faith and hope "have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere." An intense public focus on economic and scientific progress has produced very mixed results, he reminded the congregation. Christians must provide the necessary counterpoint, constantly reminding their neighbors that reality is not confined to the visible, material world.

In the afternoon the Pope met with the Czech bishops, and renewed his warning against the forces in society that seek "to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life" and the "artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life." The Church, Pope Benedict said, must show "a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths" that bring hope to the world.

Returning to Prague Castle on Sunday evening, the Pope gave an address to Czech university faculty and students, delivering a message that reminded many listeners of the Pontiff's famous lecture at the University of Regensburg. The scholarly world, he reminded his audience, "is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university." For decades, the aspirations that fuel university life were suppressed by an ideology that stunted the human spirit. But the quest for truth and for freedom "can never be eliminated, and as history has shown, it is denied at humanity's own peril."

There is still enough risk, the Pope said, that academic life will be stunted by "the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth." A spirit of dogmatic relativism, he said, "provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk." Again the net result is deadly to the scholarly enterprise, the Pope said: "An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs."

September 28 is the feast of St. Wenceslas, and the Pope traveled to the church of St. Wenceslas in Stara Boleslav, outside Prague, to join in an annual pilgrimage to the site of the 10th-century martyr's death. There the Pontiff again celebrated an outdoor Mass, and in his homily exhorted the Czech faithful to imitate the virtue of St. Wenceslas, a generous king who gave first priority to the welfare of his people and to his own spiritual growth. "Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory?" the Pope asked. "Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?"

Once more the Pope referred to the end of the Communist era, pointing out that with the fall of that regime, the members of the political elite were suddenly ousted from power. They had been affluent, comfortable, and confident, the Pope said. "Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are." Christians must learn from St. Wenceslas, he said-- and pass the message along to others-- to have "the courage to prefer to kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power."

After the Mass, the Pope offered a special word of advice to the young people in the congregation. "In every young person there is an aspiration toward happiness," he said. That aspiration is fundamentally healthy, but it can be manipulated and exploited by secularism and materialism "in false and alienating ways." The Pope encouraged young people to preserve their aspirations, take them seriously, and continue in the pursuit of true and lasting happiness until they discover, as St. Augustine discovered, "that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person's desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value."

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