Pope Benedict's Visit to Mexico and Cuba    March 2012

 

On the Trip to Mexico and Cuba
"When God is excluded, the world becomes a place inhospitable to man"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. He offered a review of his recent apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba, as well as giving a reflection on the Sacred Triduum.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The emotions evoked within me during my recent Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba are still alive, and today I wish to focus upon this journey. Thanksgiving to the Lord arises spontaneously from my soul: in His providence, He willed that I should go for the first time as the Successor of Peter to these two countries, which indelibly preserve the memory of the visits of Blessed John Paul II. The bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico and of other Latin American countries, the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See, and the fourth centenary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in the Republic of Cuba served as the occasions for my pilgrimage. Through it, I wanted to embrace the entire Continent, inviting everyone to live together in hope and in the concrete commitment to journey united toward a better future. I am grateful to the Presidents of Mexico and Cuba, who welcomed me with deference and courtesy, as well as to the other authorities. I offer heartfelt thanks to the Archbishops of León, Santiago de Cuba and Havana and to the other venerable brothers in the episcopate who received me with great affection, as well as to their collaborators and all those who so generously gave their very best for this, my pastoral visit. They were unforgettable days of joy and hope that will remain impressed upon my heart!

The first stop was León, in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico’s geographic centre. Here a large and jubilant crowd gave me an extraordinary and lively welcome as a sign of the warm embrace of an entire people. From the outset of the welcoming ceremony, I was able to grasp the faith and warmth of the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. In the presence of members of the Institutions, of numerous Bishops and representatives of society, I recalled the need to recognize and protect the fundamental rights of the human person, among which religious freedom stands out in a particular way, and I assured my closeness to all those who suffer due to social ills, old and new conflicts, and corruption and violence.

With deep gratitude, I remember the endless lines of people along the streets who accompanied me with enthusiasm. In those hands outstretched as a sign of their greeting and affection, in those happy faces, and in those shouts of joy I grasped the tenacious hope of Christians in Mexico, a hope still burning in their hearts despite difficult moments of violence, which I did not fail to grieve over, and to whose victims I addressed my heartfelt thoughts, some of whom I was able personally to comfort. The same day, I met with many children and adolescents, who are the nation’s and the Church’s future. Their inexhaustible happiness, expressed in loud songs and music as well as in their looks and gestures, expressed the deeply felt desire of all the youth of Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean to be able to live in peace, serenity and harmony, in a more just and reconciled society.

The disciples of the Lord must augment the joy of being Christians, the joy of belonging to His Church. This joy gives rise to the energies needed to serve Christ in situations of difficulty and suffering. I recalled this truth before the immense crowd that gathered for the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in León’s Bicentenario Park. I exhorted everyone to trust in the goodness of Almighty God, who is able to change unbearable and dark situations from within, from their heart. The Mexican people responded with their ardent faith, and yet again I recognized consoling signs of hope for the Continent in their firm commitment to the Gospel.

The final event of my Visit to Mexico, which also took place in Leon, was the celebration of Vespers in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Light with bishops of Mexico and representatives from the Episcopate of [Latin] America. I expressed my closeness to their commitment amid the various challenges and difficulties, as well as my gratitude to all those who sow the Gospel in situations that are complex and often beset by limitations. I encouraged them to be zealous pastors and sure guides, by arousing everywhere a sincere communion and a heartfelt adherence to the teaching of the Church. I then left the beloved Mexican land, where I experienced a special devotion and affection for the Vicar of Christ. Before departing, I urged the Mexican people to remain faithful to the Lord and to His Church, firmly anchored to their Christian roots.

The following day, the second leg of my apostolic journey began with the arrival in Cuba, where I went especially to support the mission of the Catholic Church, committed to the joyful proclamation of the Gospel despite the poverty of resources and the difficulties still to be overcome in order that religion might carry out its own proper spiritual and formative service within society’s public square. I wished to emphasize this upon my arrival in Santiago de Cuba, the Island’s second city, not failing however to highlight the good relations existing between the State and the Holy See, which aim at serving the living and constructive presence of the local Church. I also assured them that the Pope carries the concerns and aspirations of all Cubans in his heart, especially of those who suffer from limitations placed upon their freedom.

The first Holy Mass that I had the joy of celebrating on Cuban soil was placed within the context of the fourth centenary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba. It was a moment of great spiritual intensity, with the attentive and prayerful participation of thousands of persons -- a sign of a Church that comes from difficult situations, but with a lively witness of charity and of active presence in people’s lives. I invited Cuban Catholics, who with the entire population hope for a better future, to give renewed vigor to their faith, and to contribute -- with the courage of forgiveness and understanding -- to the building up of an open and renewed society, where there is always space for God, because when God is excluded, the world becomes a place inhospitable to man.

Before leaving Santiago de Cuba, I went to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity in El Cobre, so dear to the Cuban people. The pilgrimage to the image of Our Lady of Charity gave rise to great spiritual enthusiasm in the families of the Island, representing a significant event in the New Evangelization and an occasion to rediscover the faith. I especially recommended to the Holy Virgin all those who suffer and young Cubans.

The second leg of Cuba was Havana, the island’s capital. Young people, in particular, were the main participants in the exuberant welcome I received en route to the Nunciature, where I had the opportunity to meet with the country’s bishops in order to speak about the challenges the Cuban Church is called to face, in the awareness that people look to her with growing confidence. The following day, I presided over the Holy Mass in Havana’s main square, which was filled with people. I reminded everyone that Cuba and the world are in need of change, but these changes will occur only if each person opens himself to the integral truth about man -- which is the essential prerequisite for attaining freedom -- and decides to sow reconciliation and fraternity to those around him, by founding his life upon Jesus Christ: He alone is able to dispel the darkness of error, by helping us to defeat evil and all that oppresses us. I also wished to reiterate that the Church does not seek privileges, but asks rather to be able to proclaim and to celebrate the faith, also publicly, by bringing the Gospel’s message of hope and peace to every sphere of society. While appreciating the steps taken thus far in this direction by the Cuban authorities, I stressed the need to continue on this path of increasingly greater religious freedom.

Upon leaving Cuba, tens of thousands of Cubans came to greet me along the way, despite the heavy rain. During the farewell ceremony, I recalled that, in the present hour, the various sectors of Cuban society are called to a sincere collaborative effort and to a patient dialogue for the good of the country. In this perspective, my presence on the Island as a witness of Jesus Christ was intended to encourage people to open the doors of their hearts to Him, who is the source of hope and power for good. Therefore, I said farewell to the Cubans by exhorting them to revive the faith of their fathers and to build a better future.

This trip to Mexico and Cuba - thanks be to God - had the desired pastoral success. May the Mexican and Cuban people reap abundant fruits from it, to build -- in ecclesial communion and with evangelic courage -- a future of peace and fraternity.

Dear friends, tomorrow afternoon, with the Holy Mass in Coena Domini, we enter into the Easter Triduum -- the summit of the entire liturgical year -- in order to celebrate the central Mystery of the faith: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. In the Gospel of St. John, this culminating moment in Jesus’ mission is called his “hour” and opens with the Last Supper. The Evangelist introduces it in this way: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Jesus’ entire life is directed to this hour, which is characterized by two aspects that illuminate one another: it is the hour of “passage” (metabasis) and it is the hour of “love (agape) unto the end”. In fact, it is precisely divine love, the Spirit with which Jesus is filled, that makes Jesus himself “pass” through the abyss of evil and death into the new “space” of the Resurrection. It is agape, love, which brings about this transformation, such that Jesus passes beyond the limits of the human condition marked by sin, and overcomes the barrier that keeps man a prisoner, separated from God and from eternal life. In faithfully participating in the liturgical celebrations of the Easter Triduum, we are invited to live out this transformation actualized by agape. Each of us was loved by Jesus “to the end”; that is, to the total gift of Himself on the Cross, when he cried out: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Let us allow ourselves to be touched by this love, let us allow ourselves to be transformed, so that the Resurrection may truly be realized in us. Therefore, I invite you to live the Easter Triduum intensely, and I wish all of you a Holy Easter! Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba sought to confirm the people of those countries, and all the peoples of Latin America, in their faith and in the hope which makes it possible to build a just and harmonious social order. At the liturgies in León, marked by an outpouring of devotion and spiritual joy, I encouraged the Mexican people to let their deep Christian roots inspire their efforts to overcome violence and to work for a better future. In Cuba, I wished to reaffirm the Church in her public witness to the Gospel and to support the aspirations of all Cubans to a renewed, reconciled and free society. From Santiago de Cuba, I went as a pilgrim to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre and then to Havana, where I prayed for a rebirth of faith, openness to God’s love and respect for the truth about our human dignity and freedom revealed in Christ. In these days, as we prepare to celebrate the saving events of Christ’s Passover from death to life in the sacred Triduum, may we open our hearts to God’s reconciling love revealed on the Cross. Let us allow that love to transform our lives, and enable us to celebrate with joy the mystery of the resurrection.

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the student groups from England, Ireland and the United States of America. I also greet the participants in the International Gathering of University Students. May your pilgrimage to Rome bear spiritual fruit in a deeper love of Christ and his Church. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace. A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!

[The Pope offered the following appeal:]

Today marks the international Day to raise awareness regarding the problem of anti-personnel landmines, to whose victims and their families I express my closeness. I offer my encouragement to all those who work to free humanity from these terrible and treacherous devices, which - as Blessed John Paul II said on the occasion of the enforcement of the convention on their ban - “impede men from walking together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death” (Angelus, February 28, 1999).

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[He concluded with these greetings:]

Lastly, I offer my cordial greeting to the young, to the sick and to newlyweds. May the contemplation of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you increasingly steadfast in your Christian witness. May you, dear sick, draw from the Cross of Christ daily support to overcome moments of trial and distress. May you, dear newlyweds, receive from the Paschal Mystery, which we contemplate in these days, encouragement to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love.

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Exuberant Crowds Welcome Benedict to Mexico
Pope Expresses Wish to Confirm Believers in Their Faith

By Kathleen Naab

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, MARCH 23, 2012 .- Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico today to the sounds and scenes of an exuberant welcome, as wildly enthusiastic crowds cheered and chanted, "Se ve, se siente, el Papa está presente!" (we can see it, we can feel it, the Pope is here!).

Considering the time change and the 14-hour trip, it must have felt like a never-ending day for the elderly Pontiff, but he seemed to soak up the enthusiasm of the crowds, responding to President Felipe Calderón's welcome address with his own discourse on his hopes for Mexico.

Following his speech and individual greetings to Calderon's cabinet and local Church officials, the Pope took his time blessing, embracing and encouraging a long line of young people, some of them with disabilities, as Calderón's wife accompanied him, helping some of the children to reach the Holy Father. That was followed by a slow drive to the city in the Popemobile, more than 30 kilometers (some 20 miles) from the airport, as more cheering, flag-waving crowds lined virtually the entire path. By the time Benedict XVI was finally installed for the night, it was the wee hours of the morning in Rome.

First speech

Delivered in clear Spanish, though with his voice sounding a little dry, his discourse at the airport indicated some of the salient points of the message the Pontiff will leave in Mexico.

"I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love," the Holy Father said. "I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity."

Though Mexico's population is more than 80% Catholic, religious liberty in the country continues to face an echo of the restrictions that brought about the Cristero War in the 1920s.

Regarding the three-fold recipe for revitalizing the faith (coherence, sacraments and the Word of God), the Pope might have alluded in part to Mexico's cultural religiosity, which creates the phenomenon of many Catholics who celebrate popular religious feast days, such as Epiphany or All Souls' Day, but are irregular attendees of Sunday Mass, and poorly catechized.

Changing the world

Benedict XVI also spoke to Mexico, suffering the violent war on drugs, about hope.

"Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life," he said. "Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way. [...] This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world."

The Pope concluded with the promise of prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart," he said, as the crowd broke out in cheers. "I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it grow in harmony and in authentic integral development. Thank you!"

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Press Conference on the Plane to Mexico
"We must try not to lose the heart, but to link heart and reason"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MARCH 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave Friday on the flight from Rome to Mexico.

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Father Lombardi: Holiness, thank you for being among us, at the beginning of this beautiful and important journey. As you see, our traveling assembly is numerous: there are more than 70 journalists that follow it with attention, and the most important group -besides the Italians - are, of course, the Mexicans, which are a good group: there are at least 14 representatives of Mexican media who will follow and cover the whole trip.

There is also a good group from the United States, a good group from France and from other countries. As you can see, we are, hence, representatives of the whole world. As usual, in past days we collected different questions from journalists and we chose five, which are expressions, to a degree, of the general expectation. And this time, given that we have more space and a bit more time, I don't ask them, but the journalists themselves who formulated them will do so, which we have distributed among ourselves.

Now, we begin with a question that is posed by Mrs. Maria Collins for "Univision" television, which is one of the television stations that is following this trip; she is a Mexican who will ask the question in Spanish and then I will repeat it in Italian for everyone.

1st Question: Holy Father, Mexico and Cuba are lands in which the trips of your Predecessor made history. With what spirit and with what hopes do you follow today in his footsteps?

Holy Father: Dear friends, first of all I would like to say: welcome and thank you for your accompaniment on this trip, which we hope will be blessed by the Lord. On this trip, I feel totally in continuity with Pope John Paul II. I remember his first trip to Mexico very well, which was really historic. In a juridical situation which was still very confused, he opened the doors, he began a new phase of collaboration between the Church, society and State. And I also remember well his historic trip to Cuba. Therefore, I try to follow in his footsteps and to continue what he began. From the beginning, for me, there was a desire to visit Mexico. As a cardinal I was in Mexico with excellent memories and every Wednesday I hear the applause, the joy of the Mexicans. Now that I am Pope here, it is a great joy and answers a desire that I have had for a long time. To tell what sentiments touch me, there come to mind the words of Vatican II "Gaudium et spes, luctus etangor," joy and hope, but also mourning and anguish. I share the joys and hopes, but also the mourning and difficulties of this great country. I am going to encourage and to learn, to comfort in faith, hope and charity, and to comfort in the commitment for the good and the commitment in the struggle against evil. We hope the Lord will help us!

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. And now we give the word to Dr. Javier Alatorre Soria, who represents Tele Azteca, one of the great Mexican television stations that will follow us during these days:

2nd Question: Holiness, Mexico is a country with marvelous resources and possibilities, but in these years we know that it is also a land of violence because of the problem of drug trafficking. There is talk of 50,000 dead over the last five years. How does the Catholic Church address this situation? Will you have words for those responsible and for the traffickers that at times profess themselves to be Catholics or even benefactors of the Church?

Holy Father: We know very well the beauties of Mexico, but also this great problem of drug trafficking and violence. It is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church in a country with 80% of Catholics. We must do everything possible against this evil, destructive of humanity and of our young people. I would say that the first act is to proclaim God: God is the judge, God who loves us, but he loves us to draw us to the good, to the truth against the evil. Therefore, it is a great responsibility of the Church to educate consciences, to educate to moral responsibility and to unmask the evil, to unmask this idolatry of money, which enslaves men only for this thing; to unmask also the false promises, lies, fraud that is behind drugs. We must see that man has need of the infinite. If God is not there, the infinite creates its own paradises, an appearance of "infinitude" which can be only a lie. Because of this, it is very important that God be present, accessible; it is a great responsibility before God who guides us, who draws us to the truth and the good, and in this sense the Church must unmask the evil, render the goodness of God present, render his truth present, the true infinite for which we thirst. It is the great duty of the Church. Let us all together do what is possible, always more.

Father Lombardi: Holiness, the third question is posed by Valentina Alazraki for Televisa, one of the veterans of our trips, whom you know well and who is so happy that you can finally go also to her country.

3rd Question: Holiness, we really give you our welcome to Mexico: we are all happy that you are going to Mexico. The question is the following: Holy Father, from Mexico you have said that you wish to address the whole of Latin America in the bicentenary of its Independence. Despite its development, Latin America continues to be a great region of social contrasts, where the very rich are found next to the very poor. At times it seems that the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraging and committed in this field. Can we continue to speak of "theology of liberation" in a positive way, after certain excesses -- on Marxism or violence -- have been corrected?

Holy Father: Naturally the Church must always ask if she is doing enough for social justice in this great continent. This is a question of conscience that we must always ask ourselves. We must ask: what can and must the Church do, what can she not and must not do. The Church is not a political power, she is not a party, but a moral reality, a moral power. In regard to politics, she must be, fundamentally, a moral reality; in this line she has, fundamentally, something to do with politics. I repeat what I have already said: the first thought of the Church is to educate consciences and thus create the necessary responsibility; to educate consciences be it in individual ethics, be it in public ethics. And here, perhaps, there is a lack. One sees in Latin America, but also elsewhere, in not a few Catholics, a certain schizophrenia between individual and public morality: personally, in the individual sphere, they are Catholics, believers, but in public life they follow other ways that do not correspond to the great values of the Gospel, which are necessary for the foundation of a just society. Hence, it is necessary to educate to surmount this schizophrenia, to educate not only to an individual morality, but to a public morality, and we try to do this with the Social Doctrine of the Church, because, naturally, this public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and to be shared also with non-believers, a morality of the reason. Of course, in the light of faith we can see so many things better that reason can also see, but, in fact, faith serves also to liberate the reason from false interests and from the darkening of interests, and thus create in the social doctrine substantial models for political collaboration, above all for the surmounting of these social, anti-social divisions which, unfortunately, exist. We want to work in this sense. I don't know if the word "theology of liberation", which can also be interpreted very well, would help us much. What is important is the common rationality to which the Church offers a fundamental contribution and must always help in the education of consciences, be it for public life, be it for private life.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. And now a fourth question. This is made by one of our "deans" of these trips, but always young, Paloma Gomez Borrero, who also represents Spain on this trip, which of course is also of great interest for the Spanish.

4th Question: Holiness, we look at Cuba. We all remember John Paul II's famous words: "May Cuba open to the world and may the world open to Cuba." Fourteen years have passed, but it seems that these words are still timely. As you know, while awaiting your trip, many voices of opponents and supporters of human rights made themselves heard. Holiness, are you thinking of taking up John Paul II's message, thinking either of the internal or the international situation of Cuba?

Holy Father: As I have already said, I feel in absolute continuity with the words of the Holy Father John Paul II which are still very timely. This visit of the Pope opened a way of collaboration and of constructive dialogue; a way that is long and calls for patience, but it goes forward. Today it is evident that the Marxist ideology as it was conceived, no longer responds to the reality: thus one can no longer respond and build a society; new models must be found, with patience and constructively. In this process, which calls for patience but also determination, we wish to help in a spirit of dialogue, to avoid traumas and to help the way towards a fraternal and just society as we desire for the whole world and we want to collaborate in this sense. It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of liberty: liberty of conscience, liberty of religion. In this sense we contribute; in fact, simple faithful contribute on this way to go forward.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness, as you can imagine, there will be great attention on the part of us all to your addresses in Cuba. And now, for the fifth question we give the word to a Frenchman, because in fact there are other peoples who are present. Jean Louis de La Vaissiere is the correspondent of France Press in Rome and he has asked us several interesting questions for this trip, so it was right that he should also interpret our questions and our expectations.

5th Question: Holiness, after the Conference of Aparecida, there has been talk of a "continental mission" of the Church in Latin America; in a few months the Synod on the New Evangelization will take place and the Year of Faith will begin. In Latin America there is also the challenges of secularization, of sects. In Cuba there are the consequences of a long propaganda of atheism; Afro-Cuban religiosity is very widespread. Do you think that this trip is an encouragement for the "New Evangelization" and what are the points that are closest to your heart in this perspective?

Holy Father: The period of the New Evangelization began with the Council. This was essentially the intention of Pope John XXIII. It was greatly stressed by Pope John Paul II and its necessity, in a world that is in great change, becomes ever more evident. Necessity in the sense that the Gospel must be expressed in new ways; necessity also in the other sense, that the world is in need of a word in the confusion, in the difficulty of orienting oneself today. It is a common situation of the world, there is secularization, the absence of God, the difficulty in finding access to him, of seeing him as a reality that concerns my life. And on the other hand, there are specific contexts; you have referred to those of Cuba with Afro-Cuban syncretism, with so many other difficulties, but every country has its specific cultural situation. And, on one hand, we must begin from the common problem: as today, in this context of our modern rationality, we can rediscover God again as the fundamental orientation of our life, the fundamental hope of our life, the foundation of values that really build a society, and to proclaim a God who responds to our reason, because we see the rationality of the cosmos, we see that that there is something behind, but we do not see how close this God is, how he concerns me and this synthesis of the great and majestic God of the small God who is close to me, orients me, shows me the values of my life which is the nucleus of the evangelization. Hence an essential Christianity, where the fundamental nucleus is really found to live today with all the problems of our time. And on the other hand, to take into account the concrete reality. In Latin America, in general, it is very important that Christianity is never so much something of reason but of the heart. Our Lady of Guadalupe is known and loved by all, because they understand that she is a Mother for all and has been present from the beginning in this new Latin America, after the arrival of the Europeans. And also in Cuba we have Our Lady of Cobre, who touches hearts and all know intuitively that it is true, that this Our Lady helps us, that she exists, that she loves and helps us. But this intuition of the heart must be linked with the rationality of the faith and with the profundity of the faith that goes beyond reason. We must try not to lose the heart, but to link heart and reason, so that they cooperate, because only thus will man be complete and really be able to help and to work for a better future.

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Telegrams From Papal Plane
To the US: "the Assurance of My Prayers That Almighty God Will Grant Prosperity and Every Blessing"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MARCH 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Following tradition, Benedict XVI today issued telegrams to the leaders of the countries he passed over while flying to Mexico. The telegrams were all to English-speaking countries, except those to France and Italy. The texts of the English-language telegrams are below:

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HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
BUCKINGHAM PALACE
LONDON

AS MY JOURNEY TO MEXICO AND CUBA TAKES ME OVER THE UNITED KINGDOM I AVAIL MYSELF OF THE OCCASION TO SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR MAJESTY AND TO ASSURE YOU AND ALL THE BRITISH PEOPLE OF A SPECIAL REMEMBRANCE IN MY PRAYERS.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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HIS EXCELLENCY MICHAEL HIGGINS
PRESIDENT OF IRELAND
DUBLIN

AS I PASS OVER IRELAND ON MY WAY TO MEXICO AND CUBA I GREET YOUR EXCELLENCY AND ASSURE YOU OF MY PRAYERS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND UPON WHOM I INVOKE GOD’S BLESSINGS OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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HER MAJESTY MARGRETHE II
QUEEN OF DENMARK
AMALIENBORG PALACE
COPENHAGEN

AS MY JOURNEY TO MEXICO AND CUBA TAKES ME OVER GREENLAND, I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR MAJESTY AND I ASSURE YOU OF MY PRAYERS AND GOOD WISHES FOR THE PEOPLES OF YOUR REALM.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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HIS EXCELLENCY
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE DAVID JOHNSTON
GOVERNOR GENERAL
OTTAWA

AS I TRAVEL OVER CANADA TO MEXICO AND CUBA, I AM PLEASED TO GREET YOUR EXCELLENCY AND TO ASSURE YOU OF MY PRAYERS AND GOOD WISHES FOR YOU AND YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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THE HONORABLE BARACK OBAMA
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WASHINGTON

AS I PASS OVER THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ON MY JOURNEY TO MEXICO AND CUBA I OFFER YOU GREETINGS AND THE ASSURANCE OF MY PRAYERS THAT ALMIGHTY GOD WILL GRANT PROSPERITY AND EVERY BLESSING TO ALL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Benedict XVI Arrives in Mexico as a Pilgrim of Faith, Hope and Love

Mister President,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
Beloved People of Guanajuato and of Mexico,

I am very happy to be here, and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time, to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known. I say this here, considered to be the geographical centre of your land, which my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, wanted to visit during his first Apostolic Journey. Although he was not able to come, on that occasion he left a message of encouragement while flying over its airspace. I am happy to repeat his words here on land among you: “I am grateful”, he said in the message, “to the faithful of El Bajío and Guanajuato for your affection towards the Pope and your faithfulness to the Lord. May God be with you always” (cf. Telegram, 30 January 1979).

With this in mind, I offer my thanks to you, Mister President, for your warm welcome and I respectfully greet your wife and the rest of the civil authorities who have honoured me by their presence. I offer a special greeting to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, and to the Most Reverend Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla and President of the Mexican Episcopal Conference and the Latin America Episcopal Council. With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the nations and peoples of Latin America, represented here by many Bishops. Our meeting in this place, where the majestic monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive his constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.

Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence. There have been many religious celebrations in thanksgiving to God for this important and significant moment. During these celebrations, as in the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.

I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.

As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of Saint Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life. Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). Hope points to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), that is already making visible some of its reflections. Moreover, when it takes root in a people, when it is shared, it shines as light that dispels the darkness which blinds and takes hold of us. This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world. As I said in Rome, “continue progressing untiringly in the building of a society founded upon the development of the good, the triumph of love and the spread of justice” (Homily, 12 December 2011).

Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ – indeed the whole Church – lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.

Mister President, my dear friends: in these days I will pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions. I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart. I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see its growth in harmony and in authentic integral development. Thank you!

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Bishops: Stand Beside Those Who Are Marginalized

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to be able to pray with all of you in this Basilica-Cathedral of León, dedicated to our Lady of Light. In the lovely painting venerated in this basilica, the Blessed Virgin holds her Son in one hand with immense tenderness while extending her other hand to succour sinners. This is how the Church in every age sees Mary. We praise her for giving us the Redeemer and we put our trust in her as the Mother whom her divine Son bequeathed to us from the Cross. For this reason, we invoke her frequently as “our hope” because she has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. She does so simply, as a mother teaches her children at home.

A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets (cf. Acts 13:27). Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that.

Another of God’s great works is evoked in the second of the psalms which we recited: “the rock” turns into “a pool, and flint into a spring of water” (Ps 113:8). What might have been a stumbling block and a scandal has, by Jesus’ triumph over death, become a cornerstone: “This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes” (Ps 117:23). There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need.

I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the Pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ, who has entrusted you with the splendid duty of preaching the Gospel among these peoples of sturdy and deep-rooted Catholic faith. Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5).

I thank the Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, President of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference and the Latin American Episcopal Council, for the cordial welcome offered me in your name. I ask you, the various Pastors of the local churches that, on returning to your Dioceses, you bring to your faithful the warm affection of the Pope, who holds all their sufferings and aspirations deep in his heart.

In you I see reflected the concerns of the flocks which you shepherd, and I am reminded of the Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, where the participants applaud after an intervention by someone who exercises his ministry in particularly troubling situations for the Church’s life and mission. That applause is a sign of deep faith in the Lord and fraternity in the apostolate, as well as gratitude and admiration for those who sow the Gospel amid thorns, some in the form of persecution, others in the form of social exclusion or contempt. Neither are concerns lacking, for want of means and human resources, or for limitations imposed on the freedom of the Church in carrying out her mission.

The Successor of Peter shares these concerns and he is grateful for your patient and humble pastoral outreach. You are not alone amid your trials or in your successes in the work of evangelization. All of us are one in sufferings and in consolation (cf. 2 Cor 1:5). Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith (cf. Lk 22:31). He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way.

The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was an historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labours of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. This ideal of putting the Lord first and making God’s word effective in all, through the use of your own native expressions and best traditions, continues to provide outstanding inspiration for the Church’s Pastors today.

The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (cf. Rom 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death.

Dear Brother Bishops, amid the challenges now facing us in our pastoral care and our preaching of the Gospel, it is essential to show great concern for your seminarians, encouraging them humbly “to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). No less fundamental is the need to remain close to your priests; they must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their Bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes. Priests are your first co-workers in the sacramental communion of the priesthood, and you ought to show them a constant and privileged attention. The same should be said for the different forms of consecrated life, whose charisms need to be gratefully esteemed and responsibly encouraged, in a way respectful of the gift received. Greater attention is due to the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment. Their faith formation is critical if the Gospel is to become present and fruitful in contemporary society. It is not right for them to feel treated like second-class citizens in the Church, despite the committed work which they carry out in accordance with their proper vocation, and the great sacrifice which this dedication at times demands of them. In all of this, it is particularly important for Pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided.

With these heartfelt words of encouragement, I urge you to be vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind. Stand beside those who are marginalized as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor. The Church cannot separate the praise of God from service to others. The one God, our Father and Creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbour. Along this path, in union with the whole human family, the Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us.

Beloved Brother Bishops, the Church in Latin America, which has often been joined to Christ in his passion, must continue to be a seed of hope enabling the world to see how the fruits of the resurrection have come to enrich these lands.

May the Mother of God, invoked as Our Lady of Light, dispel the darkness of our world and illumine our path, so that we can confirm the faith of the people of Latin America amid their struggles and aspirations, with integrity, valour and firm faith in the One who can do all things and loves all men and women to the fullest. Amen.

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True Devotion to the Virgin Always Leads Us to Jesus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground, dies and bears much fruit. This is his response to some Greeks who approached Philip asking: “we would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). Today we invoke Mary Most Holy and we ask her: “show Jesus to us”.

As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world.

My predecessors on the Chair of Saint Peter honoured her with affectionate titles such as Our Lady of Mexico, Heavenly Patroness of Latin America, Mother and Empress of this continent. Her faithful children, in their turn, who experience her help, invoke her confidently with such affectionate and familiar names as the Rose of Mexico, Our Lady of Heaven, Virgin Morena, Mother of Tepeyac, Noble Indita.

Dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67). To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope. She is the Mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.

With these sentiments, I place once again this country, all of Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelization; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the Continental Mission which is now taking place across these noble lands. In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred. May Holy Mary of Guadalupe bless us and obtain for us the abundant graces that, through her intercession, we request from heaven.

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Human Strategies Will Not Suffice to Save Us, We Must Have Recourse to God

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very pleased to be among you today and I express my sincere gratitude to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, for his kind words of welcome. I greet the Mexican Bishops, and the Cardinals and other Bishops present here, and in a special way those who have come from Latin America and the Caribbean. I also extend a warm greeting to the authorities that are with us, as well as all who have gathered for this Holy Mass presided by the Successor of Peter.

We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” (Ps 50:12) during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation shows us how profoundly we must prepare to celebrate next week the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It also helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.

The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that he would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation. In this way recourse gained ground to the infinite mercy of the Lord who does not wish the sinner to die but to convert and live (cf. Ez 33:11). A pure heart, a new heart, is one which recognizes that, of itself, it is impotent and places itself in God’s hands so as to continue hoping in his promises. Then the psalmist can say to the Lord with conviction: “Sinners will return to you” (Ps 50:15). And towards the end of the psalm he will give an explanation which is at the same time a firm conviction of faith: “A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn” (v. 19).

The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel takes up the topic and shows us how this ancient desire for the fullness of life has actually been achieved in Christ. Saint John explains it in a passage in which the wish of some Greeks to see Jesus coincides with the moment in which the Lord is about to be glorified. Jesus responds to the question of the Greeks, who represent the pagan world, saying: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). This is a strange response which seems inconsistent with the question asked by the Greeks. What has the glorification of Jesus to do with the request to meet him? But there is a relation. Someone might think – says Saint Augustine – that Jesus felt glorified because the Gentiles were coming to him. This would be similar to the applause of the multitudes who give “glory” to those who are grand in the world, as we would say today. But this is not so. “It was convenient that, before the wonder of his glorification, should come the humility of his passion” (In Joannis Ev. 51:9: PL 35, 1766).

Jesus’ answer, announcing his imminent passion, means that a casual encounter in those moments would have been superficial and perhaps deceptive. The Greeks will see the one they wished to meet raised up on the cross from which he will attract all to himself (cf. Jn 12:32). There his “glory” will begin, because of his sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. They will find the one whom, unknown to them, they were seeking in their hearts, the true God who is made visible to all peoples. This was how Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to Saint Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by whom all live, the Creator of persons, of closeness and immediacy, of heaven and earth (cf. Nican Mopohua, v.33). At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Dear brothers and sisters, by coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. My venerable predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, although he ardently desired to do so, was unable on his several journeys to this beloved land to visit this site of such significance for the faith of the Mexican people. I am sure that in heaven he is happy that the Lord has granted me the grace to be here with you and that he has blessed the millions of Mexicans who have venerated his relics in every corner of the country. This monument represents Christ the King. But his crowns, one of a sovereign, the other of thorns, indicate that his royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power than wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness. This is his sovereignty which no one can take from him and which no one should forget. Hence it is right that this shrine should be above all a place of pilgrimage, of fervent prayer, of conversion, of reconciliation, of the search for truth and the acceptance of grace. We ask Christ, to reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility.

From this park, foreseen as a memorial of the bicentenary of the birth of the Mexican nation, bringing together many differences towards one destiny and one common quest, we ask Christ for a pure heart, where he as Prince of Peace may dwell “thanks to the power of God who is the power of goodness, the power of love”. But for God to dwell in us, we need to listen to him; we must allow his Word to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary (cf. Lk 2:51). In this way we grow in friendship with him, we learn to understand what he expects from us and we are encouraged to make him known to others.

At Aparecida, the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean saw with clarity the need to confirm, renew and revitalize the newness of the Gospel rooted deeply in the history of these lands “on the basis of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ which raises up disciples and missionaries” (Final Document, 11). The Continental Mission now taking place in the various dioceses of this continent has the specific task of transmitting this conviction to all Christians and ecclesial communities so that they may resist the temptation of a faith that is superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent. Here we need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at his disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort” (Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2011). This can be seen clearly in the saints who dedicated themselves fully to the cause of the Gospel with enthusiasm and joy without counting the cost, even of life itself. Their heart was centred entirely on Christ from whom they had learned what it means to love until the end.

In this sense the Year of Faith, to which I have convoked the whole Church, “is an invitation to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the only Saviour of the world […]. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (Porta Fidei 6, 7).

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts, especially in view of the coming Easter celebrations, that we may enter more deeply the salvific mystery of her Son, as she made it known in this land. And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity. Amen.

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Protect Children that They May Look to the Future with Confidence

Dear Young People,

I am happy to be able to meet with you and to see your smiling faces as you fill this beautiful square. You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart. And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months, because of drought, has made itself strongly felt in some regions. I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. Today we are full of jubilation, and this is important. God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.

This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: “la paz”, Peace. This is a gift which comes from on high. “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered his life.

The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations.

I have come that you may know my affection. Each one of you is a gift of God to Mexico and to the world. Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions.

That is why I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.

You, my dear young friends, are not alone. You can count on the help of Christ and his Church in order to live a Christian lifestyle. Participate in Sunday Mass, in catechesis, in apostolic works, looking for occasions of prayer, fraternity and charity. Blessed Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, lived this way, and knowing Jesus, during the time of the initial evangelization of Mexico, they discovered that there is no greater treasure than he. They were children like you, and from them we can learn that we are never too young to love and serve.

How I would like to spend more time with all of you, but the time has already come for me to go. We will remain close in prayer. So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families. Pray for everyone, and also for me. I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony. I bless all of you from my heart and I ask you to bring the affection and blessing of the Pope to your parents, brothers and sisters, and other loved ones. May the Virgin accompany you. Thank you very much, my dear young friends.

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Pope Leaves Mexico Reiterating His Call for Solidarity

Mr President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Mexican friends,

My brief but intense visit to Mexico is now coming to an end. Yet this is not the end of my affection and my closeness to a country so very dear to me. I leave full of unforgettable experiences, not the least of which are the innumerable courtesies and signs of affection which I have received. With all my heart I thank the President for his kind words to me, and for all that the authorities have done for this memorable Journey. And I thank the many people who have helped, even in the smallest details, to make the events of these days go smoothly. I beg the Lord that all these efforts may not be in vain, and that with his help, they may produce abundant and long-lasting fruits in the life of faith, hope and charity of León and Guanajuato, in Mexico and the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recognizing the faith in Jesus Christ which I have felt resounding in your hearts, and your affectionate devotion to his Mother, invoked here with beautiful titles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Light, a light I have seen reflected in your faces, I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigour a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the powers of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.

I have also seen for myself expressions of concern for various aspects of the life in this beloved country, some more recent and others longstanding, which continue to cause such great distress. I take them with me as well, as I share in the joys and the suffering of my Mexican brothers and sisters, so as to place them in prayer at the foot of the Cross, in the heart of Christ, from which flow the blood and water of redemption.

In these circumstances, I strongly urge Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always leads to the sacrifice of the weakest and most defenceless. I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is human promotion and a supreme expression of charity. For this reason, the Church exhorts all her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibility to be concerned for the good of all, both in their personal lives and throughout society.

Dear Mexican friends, I say to you “Adios!” in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, “Adios!”; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you! Thank you!

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Cuba
The True Face of the Church Is a Place Where God Draws Near and Encounters Humanity

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I give thanks to God who has allowed me to come to you and to make this much anticipated trip. I greet Bishop Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, and I thank him for his warm words of welcome offered on behalf of everyone. I greet the Bishops of Cuba and those who have come from elsewhere, and the priests, religious men and women, seminarians and lay faithful present for this celebration. I cannot forget all those who, for reasons of illness, advanced age or for other motives, are not able to join us. I also greet the civil Authorities who have graciously wished to join us.

This first Holy Mass which I have the joy of celebrating during my pastoral visit to this country, takes place in the context of the Marian Jubilee Year called to honour and to venerate Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, in this fourth centenary of the discovery and presence of her venerable statue in this blessed land. I cannot forget the sacrifices and the dedication with which this jubilee has been prepared, especially spiritually. I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been welcomed and invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island.

These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place. But, we ask, what is the meaning of this mystery? And, what importance does it have for our concrete lives?

First of all, let us see what the Incarnation means. In the Gospel of Saint Luke we heard the words of the angel to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). In Mary, the Son of God is made man, fulfilling in this way the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God-with-us’” (Is 7:14). Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God-with-us, who has come to live among us and to share our human condition. The Apostle Saint John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. Mary did so as the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.

For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her so as to be filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), did the eternal Word of the Father began his human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of his infinite love; hence, to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in his determination to conform himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will (cf. Lectio Divina with the parish priests of Rome, 18 February 2010).

Dear brothers and sisters, today we praise the Most Holy Virgin for her faith, and with Saint Elizabeth we too say, “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). As Saint Augustine said, Mary conceived Christ by faith in her heart before she conceived him physically in her womb; Mary believed and what she believed was came to be in her (cf. Sermo 215, 4: PL 38, 1074). Let us ask the Lord to strengthen our faith, to make it active and fruitful in love. Let us implore him that, like her, we may welcome the word of God into our hearts, and carry it out with docility and constancy.

The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, boldness and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. It is worth the effort, dear brothers and sisters, to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person, to all our brothers and sisters. I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not fail to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.

The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.

Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. Amen.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Justice, Peace, Freedom and Reconciliation for Cuba

Mr President,
Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear People of Cuba,

Thank you, Mr President, for your welcome and your kind words, with which you also conveyed the sentiments of respect of the Cuban government and people for the Successor of Peter. I greet the civil authorities here present, as well as the members of the diplomatic corps. I cordially greet the President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba; the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, and my other Brother Bishops of Cuba, and I assure them of my deep spiritual closeness. Finally, I greet with heartfelt affection all the faithful of the Catholic Church in Cuba, the beloved people of this beautiful island, and all Cubans wherever they may be. You are always present in my heart and prayers, especially in the days preceding the much anticipated moment of my visit to you, which the grace and goodness of God has made possible.

Standing here among you, I cannot but recall the historic visit to Cuba of my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, who left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans. For many, whether believers or not, his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation. His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future. One of the important fruits of that visit was the inauguration of a new phase in the relationship in Cuba between Church and State, in a new spirit of cooperation and trust, even if many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society.

I am pleased to share your joy as you celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the holy statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation, especially since independence, for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people. Devotion to the Virgen Mambisa has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and its fundamental rights, and continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul. Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.

I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.

Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person.

Dear friends, I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the fine patrimony of spiritual and moral values which fashioned the nation’s true identity, and which stand out in the work and the life of many distinguished fathers of the country, like Blessed José Olallo y Valdés, the Servant of God Félix Varela, and the acclaimed José Martí. For her part, the Church too has diligently contributed to the cultivation of those values through her generous and selfless pastoral mission, and renews her commitment to work tirelessly the better to serve all Cubans.

I ask the Lord to bless abundantly this land and its children, in particular those who feel disadvantaged, the excluded and all those who suffer in body or spirit. At the same time, I pray that, through the intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, he will grant to all a future of hope, solidarity and harmony. Thank you.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily at Mass for 400th Anniversary of Our Lady of Charity
"When God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man"

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, MARCH 27, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday when celebrating Mass for the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago. He had arrived in Cuba just several hours before.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I give thanks to God who has allowed me to come to you and to make this much anticipated trip. I greet Bishop Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, and I thank him for his warm words of welcome offered on behalf of everyone. I greet the Bishops of Cuba and those who have come from elsewhere, and the priests, religious men and women, seminarians and lay faithful present for this celebration. I cannot forget all those who, for reasons of illness, advanced age or for other motives, are not able to join us. I also greet the civil Authorities who have graciously wished to join us.

This first Holy Mass which I have the joy of celebrating during my pastoral visit to this country, takes place in the context of the Marian Jubilee Year called to honour and to venerate Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, in this fourth centenary of the discovery and presence of her venerable statue in this blessed land. I cannot forget the sacrifices and the dedication with which this jubilee has been prepared, especially spiritually. I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been welcomed and invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island.

These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place. But, we ask, what is the meaning of this mystery? And, what importance does it have for our concrete lives?

First of all, let us see what the Incarnation means. In the Gospel of Saint Luke we heard the words of the angel to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1:35). In Mary, the Son of God is made man, fulfilling in this way the prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God-with-us’" (Is 7:14). Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God-with-us, who has come to live among us and to share our human condition. The Apostle Saint John expresses it in the following way: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). The expression, "became flesh" points to our human reality in most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy ofhumanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the "Yes" to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. Mary did so as the first fruit of believers with her unreserved "Yes" to the Lord.

For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her so as to be filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38), did the eternal Word of the Father began his human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double "Yes" to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of his infinite love; hence,to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in his determination to conform himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will (cf. Lectio Divina with the parish priests of Rome, 18 February 2010).

Dear brothers and sisters, today we praise the Most Holy Virgin for her faith, and with Saint Elizabeth we too say, "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45). As Saint Augustine said, Mary conceived Christ by faith in her heart before she conceived him physically in her womb; Mary believed and what she believed was came to be in her (cf. Sermo 215, 4: PL 38, 1074). Let us ask the Lord to strengthen our faith, to make it active and fruitful in love. Let us implore him that, like her, we may welcome the word of God into our hearts, and carry it out with docility and constancy.

The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, boldness and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. It is worth the effort, dear brothers and sisters, to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person, to all our brothers and sisters. I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not fail to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.

The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.

Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. Amen.

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Pontiff's Visit to Our Lady of Charity
"I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country"

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, MARCH 27, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the short discourse Benedict XVI gave today when he visited the statue of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have come as a pilgrim to the house of the blessed statue of Our Lady of Charity, la Mambisa as you call upon her with affection. Her presence in this town of El Cobre is a gift from heaven for all Cubans.

I am pleased to offer cordial greetings to everyone here present. Receive the affection of the Pope and carry it with you from this place, so that everyone can experience consolation and strength in faith. Let all those you meet know, whether near or far, that I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans. I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty. I have placed in her Immaculate Heart your young people, that they may be authentic friends of Christ and not succumb to things which bring sadness in their wake. Before Mary of Charity, I remember in a particular way Cubans who are the descendents of those who arrived here from Africa, and the nearby people of Haiti, who still suffer the consequences of the earthquake of two years ago. And I cannot forget the many country people and their families who wish to live the Gospel deeply in their homes and who offer their homes as mission centres for the celebration of Mass.

Following the example of the Most Holy Virgin, I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ, to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials. May nothing or no one take from you your inner joy which is so characteristic of the Cuban soul. May God bless you. Thank you very much.

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Papal Homily at Havana Mass
"Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus"

HAVANA, Cuba, MARCH 28, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at Mass in Havana.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Blessed are you, Lord God…, and blessed is your holy and glorious name" (Dan 3:52). This hymn of blessing from the Book of Daniel resounds today in our liturgy, inviting us repeatedly to bless and thank God. We are a part of that great chorus which praises the Lord without ceasing. We join in this concert of thanksgiving, and we offer our joyful and confident voice, which seeks to consolidate the journey of faith in love and truth.

"Blessed be God" who gathers us in this historic square so that we may more profoundly enter into his life. I feel great joy in being here with you today to celebrate Holy Mass during this Jubilee Year devoted to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

I greet with cordial affection Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and I thank him for the kind words which he has addressed to me on your behalf. I extend warm greetings to the Cardinals and to my brother Bishops of Cuba and other countries who wished to take part in this solemn celebration. I also greet the priests, seminarians, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful gathered here, as well as the civil authorities who join us.

In today’s first reading, the three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith. They experienced the strength to "give thanks, glorify and praise God" in the conviction that the Lord of the universe and of history would not abandon them to death and annihilation. Truly, God never abandons his children, he never forgets them. He is above us and is able to save us by his power. At the same time, he is near to his people, and through his Son Jesus Christ he has wished to make his dwelling place among us in.

"If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8:31). In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the one who alone can show us the truth and give genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among his hearers, and he accuses them of seeking to kill him, alluding to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross, already imminent. Even so, he exhorts them to believe, to keep his word, so as to know the truth which redeems and dignifies.

The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), proclaiming that man is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. They, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in "their truth", and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, "Crucify him!" (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each human being has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.

Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.

Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. The believer is called to offer that truth to his contemporaries, as did the Lord, even before the dark omen of rejection and the Cross. The personal encounter with the one who is Truth in person compels us to share this treasure with others, especially by our witness.

Dear friends, do not hesitate to follow Jesus Christ. In him we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our ambitions and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes a slave of sin and will never attain freedom (cf. Jn 8:34). Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us.

Convinced that it is Christ who is the true measure of man, and knowing that in him we find the strength needed to face every trial, I wish to proclaim openly Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life. In him everyone will find complete freedom, the light to understand reality more deeply and to transform it by the renewing power of love.

The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essentialmission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s Government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.

The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.

When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, mankind becomes more human and founds its consistency. This is why the Church seeks to give witness by her preaching and teaching, both in catechesis and in schools and universities. It is greatly to be hoped that the moment will soon arrive when, here too, the Church can bring to the arenas of knowledge the benefits of the mission which the Lord entrusted to her and which she can never neglect.

A shining example of this commitment was the outstanding priest Félix Varela, educator and teacher, an illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has taken his place in Cuban history as the first one who taught his people how to think. Father Varela offers us a path to a true social transformation: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on man’s spiritual life, in as much as "there is no authentic fatherland without virtue" (Letters to Elpidio, Letter 6, Madrid 1836, 220). Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity.

Invoking the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, let us ask that each time we participate in the Eucharist we will also become witnesses to that charity which responds to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:51), offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to the one who lovingly gave himself up for our sake. Let us walk in the light of Christ who alone can destroy the darkness of error. And let us beg him that, with the courage and strength of the saints, we may be able, without fear or rancour but freely, generously and consistently, to respond to God. Amen.

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Pope's Farewell to Cuba
"Cuba, look again to the faith of your elders"

HAVANA, Cuba, MARCH 28, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the discourse Benedict XVI gave today at the ceremony in which he bid farewell to Cuba and left for Rome.

* * *

Mr President, Your Eminences, my Brother Bishops, Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

I thank God for allowing me to visit this beautiful Isle which left so deep a mark on the heart of my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, when he came to these lands as a herald of truth and hope. I too greatly have wished to come among you as a pilgrim of charity, in order to thank the Virgin Mary for the presence of her venerable statue of the Sanctuary of El Cobre, whence for four centuries she has accompanied the journey of the Church in this nation and given encouragement to all Cubans so that, from the hand of Christ, they might discover the true meaning of the desires and aspirations found in the human heart and gain the strength needed to build a fraternal society in which no one feels excluded. “Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world, and he does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is somber and hopeless. He has conquered death – he is alive – and faith in him, like a small light, cuts through all that is dark and threatening” (Prayer Vigil with Young People, Freiburg, 24 September 2011). I thank the President and the other national authorities for the interest and generous cooperation which they have shown in the the preparation of this Journey. I am also deeply grateful to the members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, who spared no effort or sacrifice in this regard, and to all those who have helped in various ways, especially by their prayers.
I hold deep in my heart all the Cuban people, each and every one. You have surrounded me with prayer and affection, offered me cordial hospitality and shared with me your profound and rightful aspirations. I came here as a witness to Jesus Christ, convinced that, wherever he is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities. In Christ’s name, and as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I wished to proclaim his message of salvation and to strengthen the zeal and pastoral concern of the Cuban Bishops, the priests, the religious and all those preparing with enthusiasm for priestly ministry and the consecrated life. May this Journey also serve as a new impulse to all those who cooperate with perseverance and self-sacrifice in the work of evangelization, particularly the lay faithful. By intensifying their commitment to God at home and in the workplace, may they never tire of offering their responsible contribution for the good and the integral progress of their homeland.
The path which Christ points out to humanity, and to each particular individual and people, is not a source of constraint, but rather the primary and principal premise for their authentic development. The light of the Lord, has shone brightly during these days; may that light never fade in those who have welcomed it; may it help all people to foster social harmony and to allow the blossoming of all that is finest in the Cuban soul, its most noble values, which can be the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled. May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of limitations of his or her basic freedoms, or excused by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people. I now conclude my pilgrimage, but I will continue praying fervently that you will go forward and that Cuba will be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist in a climate of serene fraternity. Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country.
The present hour urgently demands that in personal, national and international co-existence we reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective. Possible discrepancies and difficulties will be resolved by tirelessly seeking what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, and a willingness to listen and accept goals which will bring new hope.
Cuba, look again to the faith of your elders, draw from that faith the strength to build a better future, trust in the Lord’s promises, and open your heart to his Gospel so as to renew authentically your personal and social life. As I bid you a heartfelt adios, I ask our Lady of Charity of El Cobre to protect all Cubans under her mantle, to sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire. Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. May God bless your future.

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