Benedict XVI's visit to the United States (April 2008)


Benedict XVI's Message to the United States
"I Am Coming, Sent by Jesus Christ, to Bring You His Word of Life"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2008 - Here is the text of the video-message that Benedict XVI sent to the people of the United States on the occasion of his imminent visit to Washington, D.C., and New York. His visit will take place April 15-20.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.

At this point I should like to add some words of thanks, because I am conscious that many people have been working hard for a long time, both in Church circles and in the public services, to prepare for my journey. I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavours would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.

Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: "Christ our hope". Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world.

Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This "golden rule" is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.

Click on centre arrow to play video

 


[The Pope continued in Spanish]

I direct a cordial greeting to Spanish-speaking Catholics and manifest my spiritual closeness, in particular to the youth, the ill, the elderly and those who are in moments of difficulty of feel themselves in need. I express my heartfelt desire to be with you soon in this beloved nation. In the meantime, I encourage you to pray intensely for the pastoral fruits of my imminent apostolic trip and to keep high the flame of hope in the resurrected Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga. [May the Virgen Mary accompany and protect you. May God bless you.]

May God bless you all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
"He Represents Values That Are Important for the Health of the Country"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 13, 2008.- Here is a transcription of the interview held by EWTN anchor Raymond Arroyo with U.S. President George Bush on Friday. Arroyo spoke with the president leading up to Benedict XVI's April 15-20 visit to the United States. The interview can be viewed at EWTN's Web site.

* * *

Q Mr. President, this is the first head of state, Pope Benedict the XVI, you will ever greet on a tarmac. I was stunned to learn this. Why are you going and greeting him at an airstrip? Usually the heads of states come here.

THE PRESIDENT: Because he is a really important figure in a lot of ways. One, he speaks for millions. Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith. And, three, that I so subscribe to his notion that there are -- there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies, that I want to honor his convictions, as well.

Q You read his book on Europe, I'm told.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I read parts of it, yes.

Q What do you take generally from his appraisal of Europe and the world? And why is this relationship between the United States and the Holy See so important to you?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, it's important to me because the Holy Father represents and stands for some values that I think are important for the health of the country, and when he comes to America, millions of my fellow citizens will be hanging on his every word. And that's why it's important.

I really don't want to get into -- spend time being critical of Europe. My main objective is to make sure our country is strong and solid and remains in the lead. One of the tenets of my foreign policy is that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom. And, you know, His Holiness speaks with that kind of clarity.

I'm also, as you know, a believer in the value of human life for the -- whether it's -- you know, the most vulnerable amongst us. And he speaks clearly to that, as well.

Q Yes, I want to talk about that a little bit later, because you -- you know, he has commended, and no doubt will again, for your bold stance on pro-life issues. I want to touch on some of the points he will no doubt raise.

One of them is Africa. I watched with great interest your visit to Africa. You looked like the Pope of Tanzania when you arrived. (Laughter.) I mean, the whole town erupted. People I don't think have given you just desserts or credit for what you've done there. You've quadrupled aid to Africa. Your President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is now treating 1.4 million people. The malaria treatment is unbelievable -- something like 50 million people now being helped. When you look at that -- I was told by a group of people who came here to meet you at the White House, you said, to whom much is given, much is expected.

Is there a compulsion of faith here, personally --

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.

Q -- with this aid?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a combination of faith and practicality. From the practical perspective, hopelessness is the only way for ideologues who murder the innocent to be able to recruit their followers. No one who's got a vision as dark and dim as al Qaeda can possibly say to somebody, follow me, my vision is hopeful or positive. Its like, you're so hopeless, this is your only out. And therefore, dealing with disease and hunger and despair helps defeat this -- these bunch of ideologues.

And then, secondly, I believe it's in our individual and collective interests to use our great blessings to help others, whether it be at home or abroad. And so, "to whom much is given, much is required" is a part of my belief. And I say to people all the time that it's in our national -- it's in our moral interests. It invigorates our soul to know that we have saved a baby that could be dying of a mosquito bite.

And I'm looking forward to talking to His Holy Father, and I will remind him this isn't a George W. Bush deal; this is America. This is

America at its best. But, yes, it was amazing to see the great appreciation that the citizens share for -- with us -- or about us.

Q Let's talk a moment about Iraq. The Pope will no doubt raise this.

THE PRESIDENT: Sure.

Q I think his perspective is going to be very different from what we're reading in the newspapers this week. I think what he'll primarily talk about, and if my sources at the Vatican can be believed, he will probably talk about the 40 bombed churches --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- 40 percent of the refugees being Christian --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- he's very concerned about that Christian minority in Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.

Q When he spoke to you in 2007 he raised this. What is the administration prepared to do for this fledgling remnant of Christianity -- an ancient community there?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, absolutely. You know, it's something we have been doing all along, is urging the government to understand that minority rights are a vital part of any democratic society. And by the way, my concern isn't just for minority rights in Iraq; it's for minority rights throughout the Middle East.

And I have dealt with the Holy Father about -- with not only the issue of Iraq, but also the issue of Catholics in -- and Christians in the Holy Land. I can remember very well, early in my presidency, I think it was Cardinal Egan or maybe Cardinal McCarrick came to see me about the mosque encroaching on the Catholic -- the great Catholic Church, and would I use my influence with the Israelis to convince them to be mindful of the need for minority rights? And I said, absolutely. In my visit to the Holy Land, this recent time, there's a lot of concern about the kind of, the -- I guess, non-acceptance. I met Sisters that were in the Galilean area that were just serving mankind so beautifully, and yet their leadership was concerned about minority rights.

So my view is like -- Iraq is important, but I've used our influence all throughout the region. And I've used our influence all

throughout the world to promote rights for all religious minorities, including China.

Q. We saw that Archbishop Rahho, he was murdered in Iraq. This past weekend --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes.

Q -- an Orthodox priest slain on the doorstep of his home. Is the administration -- do you believe that this is religiously motivated violence?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. I believe they're -- I believe what they're trying to do is trying to send messages -- "they" being the killers -- trying to send messages that it's not worth your time, that you must abandon the efforts of helping this free society deliver. I don't think this is government-sponsored. I think these are a bunch of thugs and killers who have this kind of dark, dim view of the world, and are willing to kill anybody who's willing to stand up to them.

And it's not just these religious figures. There are a lot of innocent men, women and children who are being killed by them, as well. This is their techniques, this is their tactics, and it's the same type of mentality that caused people to fly airplanes into our buildings to kill 3,000 of our citizens.

Q What can we tangibly do? What can the administration tangibly plead with the Iraqi government to do to protect this fledgling minority? Is there anything we can do --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing we can do is to keep our troops there long enough to have a civil society emerge, and go after them, and go after these killers, and bring them to justice so they quit killing people, including our own troops, because this is a war.

Q Would you commit our troops to protecting those communities where they're endangered?

THE PRESIDENT: I commit our troops to helping the Iraqis provide safety for all innocent Iraqis. In other words, I -- you got to

understand that what you're witnessing is not just an assault on innocent Christians; you are witnessing assault on innocent people of all faiths by a group of cold-blooded killers who want to drive the United States out of the Middle East because they hate free societies.

Q Even here on Capitol Hill, we're hearing talk of withdrawals.

They want this drawdown. General Petraeus is at this very hour saying we shouldn't be doing this, we should have a pause. What is your take? Now, even members of your own administration in the Defense Department are saying we might not be able to respond to other events if we have our troops spread this thin.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I disagree with those people. There's nothing -- the real threat for the 21st century is dealing with these thugs and killers. They're the ones who attacked us. We got to defeat them overseas so we don't face them here. And our people are very well trained to take on these threats.

And so, therefore, my answer is, is that whatever it takes to help succeed. And to answer your question, the best thing we can do for minorities, particularly Christian minorities, in Iraq, or any minority in Iraq, is to help this society develop into a peaceful society, where minority rights are respected.

Q Even your critics say they are amazed by you, and baffled by you, because you remain so positive, so upbeat -- (laughter) -- so on point. How much of that is a function of your faith?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's a very good question. You know, I don't think you can disassociate your faith with how you live your life. I mean, I think it's all engrained. And I am optimistic because I happen to believe in certain universal principles, and I do believe that freedom is universal, and if just given a chance, people will live in a -- will self-govern and live in a peaceful, free society.

And history is my witness. I mean, after all, one of my best buddies in the international community was Prime Minister Koizumi. My dad fought the Japanese. Prime Minister Koizumi and I worked to keep the peace. It's an amazing -- it's one of the great ironies.

And my faith has -- you know, my faith has been so sustaining in the midst of -- in the midst of what is a pretty hectic life, full of flattery and criticism. And faith keeps a person grounded. Faith reminds people that there's something a lot more important than you in life.

I've been inspired by the prayers from ordinary citizens. And I have come to realize one -- more clearly the story of the calm in the rough season.

Q Let's talk for a moment. You had Cardinal Zen, who is a freedom fighter --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- in Hong Kong. You invited him to a private meeting here at the White House, which was totally unexpected. You are now planning on going to the Olympics there in --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- to be at the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. You just said earlier, freedom is a gift from the Almighty. Considering the human rights record --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- of that regime, how can you in good conscience go to that ceremony, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Because I -- you know, I'm going to the Olympics, for starters. And I've -- my plans aren't -- haven't changed. And the reason why is because I can talk to him about religious freedom prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics and after the Olympics -- which I have done. I don't need the Olympics to express my position to the Chinese leadership on freedom. I just don't need them -- because that's all I have been doing as your President. In other words -- if people say, well, you need to express yourself clearly about freedom of religion, my answer is, what do you think I've been doing?

Q Angela Merkel boycotted it --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think she boycotted it, necessarily.

Q She's not attending the Opening Ceremonies, it appears.

THE PRESIDENT: She's not attending the games, period. She's not going to -- I don't think she's going to Beijing at all, at least that's what she told me. But, look, I hear all this rhetoric. I want to be an effective President. And I don't think it -- as I say, I'm going to Beijing. And I'm -- we're talking about the Chinese people, as well. And the question is, does the American President take [sic] decisions that will enable the next President to be effective or not -- because I've made my case; these Chinese leaders know exactly my position. I've talked about freedom of religion every time I visited with them. I've talked about Darfur. I've talked about Burma. I've talked about the Dalai Lama. As a matter of fact, I'm the only President to ever stand up in public with the Dalai Lama here in the United States. So they know my position.

And my question that I think about is, if I politicize the Olympic Games, will that make it less effective for me to deal with them, or more effective? But nobody needs to call old -- tell old George Bush what to -- that he needs to bring religious freedom to the doorstep of the Chinese, because I've done that now for -- I'm on my eighth year doing it.

Q This stick-to-it-iveness that I just saw in your eyes here I think animated this stem cell decision that you looked at, prayed over, spent a long time considering with experts from across the field. In 2001 you met with then-Pope John Paul II; he encouraged you not to endorse federal funding. You didn't; you restricted the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

Q As a result of that move, alternative technologies were analyzed; adult stem cells have now produced 80 -- cures for 80 different diseases. Do you feel vindicated?

THE PRESIDENT: That's an interesting question. I don't take these things personally, nor am I that concerned about my own personal standing based upon an issue. I feel like it was the right decision to begin with, and we'll let history judge whether or not vindication is the right word.

Q Or confirmed in your decision, certainly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, yes, I do feel -- I feel like it was the right decision then, and obviously the data has now shown that -- I hope it shows to people it's the right decision. But, you know, I think it's going to be -- by the way, I think this is the beginning of what is a very interesting debate that future Presidents are going to have to deal with, and that is science versus ethics, the value of life versus saving life -- supposedly. And it's -- I believe -- I've obviously drawn the line in the sand that honoring life in all forms is a touchstone for good science.

Q Do you think in your lifetime you might see a pro-choice Republican nominee for President?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. That's an interesting question. No telling what you'll see in my lifetime when it comes to American politics -- from both sides.

Q Do you think it's important, though, to have a pro-life President on the Republican ticket? What might be the ramifications?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it's important for people to understand that a culture of life is in our national interests and that -- it's also important to understand that the politics of abortion isn't going to change until people's hearts change, and fully understand the meaning of life and what it means for a society to value life in all forms -- whether it be the life of the unborn, or the life of the elderly; whether it be the life of the less fortunate among us, or the life of the rich guy. I mean, it's a moral touchstone, I think, that will speak to a healthy society in the long run.

And I don't know what's going to happen in American politics, I really don't. I do know that in order for a President to be effective he better bring a set of principles from which he will not deviate, and articulate them as clearly as he can -- or she can -- and then not worry about immediate popularity, because popularity comes and goes, but what doesn't change are solid principles. And I'm going to remind His Holy Father how important his voice is in making it easier for politicians like me to be able to kind of stand and defend our positions that are, I think, very important positions to take.

Q Mr. President, final question.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir.

Q You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?

THE PRESIDENT: God.

Q Good way to end the interview.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.

Q Thank you, sir. My pleasure.

[Text provided by EWTN]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


BENEDICT XVI BEGINS HIS APOSTOLIC TRIP TO THE U.S.A.

 VATICAN CITY, 15 APR 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father departed from Rome 's Fiumicino airport. Following a flight of more than 7,000 kilometres , his plane is due to land at 4 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Rome ) at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C. This is the Benedict XVI's eighth apostolic trip outside Italy and his first to the U.S.A. as Pope.

   U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Nancy will welcome the Pope as he descends from his aircraft. No speeches are scheduled for this first meeting and the welcome ceremony proper will take place tomorrow at 10.30 a .m. local time (4.30 p.m. in Rome ) at the White House, official residence of the U.S. president.

  After landing, Benedict XVI will travel by car to the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C where he will spend the rest of the day.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Press Conference Aboard Papal Flight
"I Go to the United States With Joy"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2008 - Here is a translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave on the plane en route to the United States on Tuesday.

The transcription was provided today by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office. Father Lombardi acted as a moderator during the press conference.

* * *

Father Lombardi: Your Holiness, welcome! On behalf of all my colleagues here present, I thank you for your very kind availability in coming to greet us and also for giving us some indications and ideas for following this trip. This is your second intercontinental trip, your first as Holy Father to America, to the United States and the United Nations. An important and very awaited trip. To begin with, would you like to tell us something about your sentiments, the hopes with which you face this journey and what is your fundamental objective, from your point of view?

Benedict XVI: My trip has above all two objectives. The first objective is the visit to the Church in America, in the United States. There is a particular motive: The Diocese of Baltimore, 200 years ago, was elevated to the status of metropolis and at the same time, four other dioceses were born -- New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisville. So it is a great jubilee for this nucleus of the Church in the United States, a moment of reflection about the past and above all of reflection about the future, about how to respond to the great challenges of our time, in the present and with sights set on the future. And naturally, the interreligious encounter and the ecumenical encounter form part of this trip too, particularly also an encounter in the synagogue with our Jewish friends, on the eve of their feast of Passover. Therefore, this is the religious-pastoral aspect of the Church in the United States in this moment of our history, and the encounter with all the others in this common brotherhood that links us in a common responsibility.

I would like in this moment to also give thanks to President Bush, who will come to the airport, will set aside a lot of time for conversation and will receive me on the occasion of my birthday.

Second objective, the visit to the United Nations. Also here there is a particular motive: 60 years have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the anthropological base, the founding philosophy of the United Nations, the human and spiritual base on which it is constructed. Thus it is really a moment of reflection, a moment to again become aware of this important stage in history. In the Universal Declaration of Human Right, various cultural traditions have blended together, above all an anthropology that recognizes in man the subject of rights, coming before all institutions, with common values that must be respected by everyone. Therefore, this visit, which takes place precisely in a moment of a values crisis, seems to me important to reconfirm both that everything began in this moment and to recover it for our future.

Father Lombardi: Let us move now to the questions that you have turned in during these days and that some of you will ask the Holy Father. Let's begin with the question from John Allen, who I don't think needs an introduction because he is very well known as a Vatican commentator in the United States.

Q: Holy Father, I ask the question in English, if you allow me, and maybe, if it could be possible, if we could have a phrase, a word in English, we would be very thankful. The question: The Church that you will find in the United States is a large Church, a living Church, but also a Church that suffers, in a certain sense, above all because of the recent crisis due to sexual abuses. The American people are awaiting a word from you, a message from you about this crisis. What will be your message for this suffering Church?

Benedict XVI [in English]: It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general, for me personally, that this could happen. If I read the history of these events, it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible for priests to fail in this way the mission to give healing, to give God's love to these children. I am ashamed and we will do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future. I think we have to act on three levels: the first is at the level of justice and the political level. I will not speak at this moment about homosexuality: this is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry; it is absolutely incompatible and who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So at this first level we can do justice and help the victims, because they are deeply affected; these are the two sides of justice: one, that pedophiles cannot be priests and the other, to help in any possible way the victims.

Then, there's a pastoral level. The victims will need healing and help and assistance and reconciliation: this is a big pastoral engagement and I know that the bishops and the priests and all Catholic people in the United States will do whatever possible to help, to assist, to heal. We have made a visitation of the seminaries and we will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human and intellectual formation for the students. Only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood and only persons with a deep personal life in Christ and who have a deep sacramental life. So, I know that the bishops and directors of seminarians will do all possible to have a strong, strong discernment because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do and we have done and we will do in the future all that is possible to heal these wounds.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Another theme about which we've had many questions from our colleagues is that of immigration -- the presence in U.S. society of Spanish-speaking people as well. And because of this, the question will be asked by our colleague Andrés Leonardo Beltramo Álvarez, who is from an information agency of Mexico.

Q: Your Holiness, I will ask the question in Italian, and then if you want, you can make your comments in Spanish. ... A greeting, just a greeting. ... There is an enormous growth in Hispanic presence also in the Church in the United States in general: The Catholic community is becoming ever more bilingual and ever more bicultural. At the same time, there exists in the society an increasing anti-immigration movement. The situation of the immigrants is characterized by unstable situations and discrimination. Do you intend to speak of this problem and to invite America to welcome immigrants, many of whom are Catholic?

Benedict XVI: I cannot speak in Spanish but mis saludos y mi bendición para todos los hispánicos [my greetings and my blessing for the Hispanic people.] I certainly will touch on this point. I have received various "ad limina" visits from the Central American bishops and also from South America, and I have seen the amplitude of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. And this is truly dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric of these countries. Nevertheless, one must differentiate between measures that must be adopted right away and long-term solutions.

The fundamental solution is that there would no longer exist the need to emigrate because there would be in one's own country sufficient work, a sufficient social fabric, such that no one has to emigrate. Therefore we should all work for this objective, for a social development that permits offering citizens work and a future in their land of origin. And also about this point, I would like to speak with the president, because above all the United States should help with the aim that these countries can develop in this way. This is in the interest of everyone, not just of these countries, but of the world, and also of the United States.

Besides this, short-term measures: It is very important to help the families above all. In the light of the conversations that I have had with the bishops, the principal problem is that there be protection for the families, that they not be destroyed. What can be done should be done. In the same way, naturally, all that is possible must be done to work against the instability of the situations and against all the violations, and to help so that they can have a truly dignified life where they find themselves in this moment.

I would like to also say that there are many problems, many sufferings, but there is also a lot of hospitality! I know that above all the American episcopal conference collaborates a lot with the Latin American episcopal conferences in the face of needed help. With all the sorrowful things, let's not forget also so much true humanity, so many positive actions that also exist.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now a question that refers to American society: precisely about the role of religious values in American society. We give the floor to our colleague Andrea Tornielli, who is a Vatican reporter for an Italian newspaper:

Q: Holy Father, when you received the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, [she] mentioned as a positive value the public recognition of religion in the United States. I would like to ask you if you consider it as a possible model also for secularized Europe, or if you think that there can also be the risk that religion and the name of God can be used to justify certain policies, or even war.

Benedict XVI: Certainly in Europe, we cannot simply copy the United States: We have our history. But all of us should learn from each other. What I find fascinating in the United States is that they began with a positive concept of secularism, because this new people was formed by communities and people who had fled from the state churches and wanted to have a lay state, secular, that would open possibilities to all confessions, for all the types of religious exercise. In this way, an intentionally secular state was born: They were against a state church.

But the state should be secular precisely out of love for religion in its authenticity, which can be lived only with liberty. And in this manner we find this mix of a state that is intentionally and decidedly secular, but precisely because of a religious will, to give authenticity to religion. We already know that Alexis de Tocqueville, studying America, saw that the secular institutions live with a moral consensus that exists in fact among the citizens.

This seems to me a fundamental and positive model. One must consider that in Europe, meanwhile, 200 years have passed, more than 200 years, with a lot of developments. Now there exists also in the United States the assault of a new secularism, of everything being diverse, and therefore, before, the problem was the immigration, but the situation has become more complicated and diverse over the course of history. But the basis, the fundamental model, seems to me all the same today, worthy of having it present also in Europe.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. And now a last theme regarding your visit to the United Nations, and this last question falls to John Thavis, who is the Rome director of the Catholic news agency of the United States.

Q: Holy Father, the Pope is frequently thought of as the conscience of humanity, and also because of this your address at the United Nations is much awaited. I would like to ask: Do you think that a multilateral institution like the United Nations can safeguard the
principles takes as "non-negotiables" by the Catholic Church, that is, the fundamental principles of natural law?

Benedict XVI: That is precisely the objective of the United Nations: that it safeguard the common values of humanity, upon which the peaceful coexistence of the nations is based: the observance of justice and the development of justice. I have already briefly mentioned that it seems to me very important that the basis of the United Nations be precisely the idea of human rights, of the rights that express non-negotiable values, that come before all institutions and are the basis of all institutions. And it is important that there exist this convergence between cultures that have found a consensus on the fact that these values are fundamental, that they are inscribed in the very being of the human [person]. To renew this awareness that the United Nations, with its peacemaking function, can work only if has the common basis of the values that are expressed afterward in "rights" that should be observed by everyone; to confirm this fundamental idea and to actualize it as much as possible is one objective of my mission.

Finally, given that at the beginning Father Lombardi asked me about my sentiments, I want to say "I go to the United States with joy!" I have been in the United States various times before; I am familiar with this great country; I am familiar with the great vivacity of the Church despite all the problems and I am content to be able to meet, in this historical moment both for the Church and for the United Nations, this great people and this great Church. Thank you to everyone!

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness, on behalf of all of us. We truly renew our desires for this trip: that it may have all the fruits you hope for, and that we also, together with you, await. Thank you and have a good trip!


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Pontiff's Address at White House
"Faith Sheds New Light on All Things"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 16, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today at the welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, on the first full day of his apostolic trip to the United States.

* * *

Mr. President,

Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese -- Baltimore -- to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.

 From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.

In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country. Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and
ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience -- almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity.

The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.

For well over a century, the United States of America has played an important role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world’s peoples. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God’s bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish -- a world where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are cherished, protected and effectively advanced.

Mr. President, dear friends: as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bush's Welcome to Benedict XVI
"We Need Your Message That 'God Is Love'"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address U.S. President George Bush gave today upon welcoming Benedict XVI to the White House.

* * *

Holy Father, Laura and I are privileged to have you here at the White House. We welcome you with the ancient words commended by Saint Augustine: "Pax Tecum." Peace be with you.

You've chosen to visit America on your birthday. Well, birthdays are traditionally spent with close friends, so our entire nation is moved and honored that you've decided to share this special day with us. We wish you much health and happiness -- today and for many years to come. (Applause.)

This is your first trip to the United States since you ascended to the Chair of Saint Peter. You will visit two of our greatest cities and meet countless Americans, including many who have travelled from across the country to see with you and to share in the joy of this visit. Here in America you'll find a nation of prayer. Each day millions of our citizens approach our Maker on bended knee, seeking His grace and giving thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon us. Millions of Americans have been praying for your visit, and millions look forward to praying with you this week.

Here in America you'll find a nation of compassion. Americans believe that the measure of a free society is how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us. So each day citizens across America answer the universal call to feed the hungry and comfort the sick and care for the infirm. Each day across the world the United States is working to eradicate disease, alleviate poverty, promote peace and bring the light of hope to places still mired in the darkness of tyranny and despair.

Here in America you'll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square. When our Founders declared our nation's independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the "laws of nature, and of nature's God." We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.

Here in America, you'll find a nation that is fully modern, yet guided by ancient and eternal truths. The United States is the most innovative, creative and dynamic country on earth -- it is also among the most religious. In our nation, faith and reason coexist in harmony. This is one of our country's greatest strengths, and one of the reasons that our land remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions across the world.

Most of all, Holy Father, you will find in America people whose hearts are open to your message of hope. And America and the world need this message. In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that "God is love." And embracing this love is the surest way to save men from "falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism."

In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that "each of us is willed, each of us is loved" -- (applause) -- and your message that "each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary."

In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this "dictatorship of relativism," and embrace a culture of justice and truth. (Applause.)

In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but "in a spirit of mutual support."

Holy Father, thank you for making this journey to America. Our nation welcomes you. We appreciate the example you set for the world, and we ask that you always keep us in your prayers. (Applause.)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joint Vatican-US Statement on Pope
WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 16, 2008 - Here is the final statement released jointly by the Vatican and the United States, after Benedict XVI and President George Bush met today at the White House.

* * *

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush met today in the Oval Office of the White House.

President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his Apostolic Journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope’s upcoming visit to “Ground Zero” in New York.

During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States’ substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.

The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.

The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

JOINT U.S. - HOLY SEE COMMUNIQUE

 VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2008 (VIS) - At the end of the private meeting between the Holy Father Benedict XVI and U.S. President George W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House, the Holy See and the Office of the President of the United States of America released a joint declaration, the text of which is given below:

   "President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his apostolic journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope's upcoming visit to 'Ground Zero' in New York.

   "During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defence and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States ' substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.

   "The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.

   "The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a co-ordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the wellbeing of their families".

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops
"The People of This Country Are Known for Their Great Vitality and Creativity"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 16, 2008 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. At the end he answers three questions posed to him by the prelates.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to greet you today, at the start of my visit to this country, and I thank Cardinal George for the gracious words he has addressed to me on your behalf. I want to thank all of you, especially the Officers of the Episcopal Conference, for the hard work that has gone into the preparation of this visit. My grateful appreciation goes also to the staff and volunteers of the National Shrine, who have welcomed us here this evening. American Catholics are noted for their loyal devotion to the see of Peter. My pastoral visit here is an opportunity to strengthen further the bonds of communion that unite us. We began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States.

For the Catholic communities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, this is a year of particular celebration, as it marks the bicentenary of the establishment of these local Churches as Dioceses. I join you in giving thanks for the many graces granted to the Church there during these two centuries. As this year also marks the bicentenary of the elevation of the founding see of Baltimore to an Archdiocese, it gives me an opportunity to recall with admiration and gratitude the life and ministry of John Carroll, the first Bishop of Baltimore - a worthy leader of the Catholic community in your newly independent nation. His tireless efforts to spread the Gospel in the vast territory under his care laid the foundations for the ecclesial life of your country and enabled the Church in America to grow to maturity. Today the Catholic community you serve is one of the largest in the world, and one of the most influential. How important it is, then, to let your light so shine before your fellow citizens and before the world, "that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

Many of the people to whom John Carroll and his fellow Bishops were ministering two centuries ago had travelled from distant lands. The diversity of their origins is reflected in the rich variety of ecclesial life in present-day America. Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (cf. Sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made her own.

Of those who came to build a new life here, many were able to make good use of the resources and opportunities that they found, and to attain a high level of prosperity. Indeed, the people of this country are known for their great vitality and creativity. They are also known for their generosity. After the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, and again after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Americans displayed their readiness to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in need. On the international level, the contribution made by the people of America to relief and rescue operations after the tsunami of December 2004 is a further illustration of this compassion. Let me express my particular appreciation for the many forms of humanitarian assistance provided by American Catholics through Catholic Charities and other agencies. Their generosity has borne fruit in the care shown to the poor and needy, and in the energy that has gone into building the nationwide network of Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools and universities. All of this gives great cause for thanksgiving.

America is also a land of great faith. Your people are remarkable for their religious fervor and they take pride in belonging to a worshipping community. They have confidence in God, and they do not hesitate to bring moral arguments rooted in biblical faith into their public discourse. Respect for freedom of religion is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness - a fact which has contributed to this country's attraction for generations of immigrants, seeking a home where they can worship freely in accordance with their beliefs.

In this connection, I happily acknowledge the presence among you of Bishops from all the venerable Eastern Churches in communion with the Successor of Peter, whom I greet with special joy. Dear Brothers, I ask you to assure your communities of my deep affection and my continued prayers, both for them and for the many brothers and sisters who remain in their land of origin. Your presence here is a reminder of the courageous witness to Christ of so many members of your communities, often amid suffering, in their respective homelands. It is also a great enrichment of the ecclesial life of America, giving vivid expression to the Church's catholicity and the variety of her liturgical and spiritual traditions.

It is in this fertile soil, nourished from so many different sources, that all of you, Brother Bishops, are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel today. This leads me to ask how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the call to "make all things new in Christ, our hope"? How can he lead his people to "an encounter with the living God", the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks (cf. Spe Salvi, 4)? Perhaps he needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter. While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.

For an affluent society, a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30). People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with "Christ Jesus, our hope" (1 Tim 1:1).

In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear towards them. This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church (cf. Spe Salvi, 13-15), giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love - for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God (cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.

Here in America, you are blessed with a Catholic laity of considerable cultural diversity, who place their wide-ranging gifts at the service of the Church and of society at large. They look to you to offer them encouragement, leadership and direction. In an age that is saturated with information, the importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded. The many generous men and women who devote themselves to charitable activity need to be helped to renew their dedication through a "formation of the heart": an "encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others" (Deus Caritas Est, 31). At a time when advances in medical science bring new hope to many, they also give rise to previously unimagined ethical challenges. This makes it more important than ever to offer thorough formation in the Church's moral teaching to Catholics engaged in health care. Wise guidance is needed in all these apostolates, so that they may bear abundant fruit; if they are truly to promote the integral good of the human person, they too need to be made new in Christ our hope.

As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to shape cultural attitudes. In a context where free speech is valued, and where vigorous and honest debate is encouraged, yours is a respected voice that has much to offer to the discussion of the pressing social and moral questions of the day. By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the world.

Clearly, the Church's influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a "leaven" in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church's teaching on today's key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.

In this regard, a matter of deep concern to us all is the state of the family within society. Indeed, Cardinal George mentioned earlier that you have included the strengthening of marriage and family life among the priorities for your attention over the next few years. In this year's World Day of Peace Message I spoke of the essential contribution that healthy family life makes to peace within and between nations. In the family home we experience "some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them" (no. 3). The family is also the primary place for evangelization, for passing on the faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious practice and Sunday observance. How can we not be dismayed as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society? Divorce and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or to forego it altogether. To some young Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person. Hence we have an alarming decrease in the number of Catholic marriages in the United States together with an increase in cohabitation, in which the Christ-like mutual self-giving of spouses, sealed by a public promise to live out the demands of an indissoluble lifelong commitment, is simply absent. In such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the community are to be maintained.

As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II taught, "The person principally responsible in the Diocese for the pastoral care of the family is the Bishop ... he must devote to it personal interest, care, time, personnel and resources, but above all personal support for the families and for all those who … assist him in the pastoral care of the family" (Familiaris Consortio, 73). It is your task to proclaim boldly the arguments from faith and reason in favor of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today, because it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved "yes" to life, a "yes" to love, and a "yes" to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the Lord.

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of the prayerful support of God's people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was "sometimes very badly handled". Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.

If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task - not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.

Priests, too, need your guidance and closeness during this difficult time. They have experienced shame over what has occurred, and there are those who feel they have lost some of the trust and esteem they once enjoyed. Not a few are experiencing a closeness to Christ in his Passion as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the crisis. The Bishop, as father, brother and friend of his priests, can help them to draw spiritual fruit from this union with Christ by making them aware of the Lord's consoling presence in the midst of their suffering, and by encouraging them to walk with the Lord along the path of hope (cf. Spe Salvi, 39). As Pope John Paul II observed six years ago, "we must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community", leading to "a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate and a holier Church" (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002, 4). There are many signs that, during the intervening period, such purification has indeed been taking place. Christ's abiding presence in the midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light: all things are indeed being made new in Christ Jesus our hope.

At this stage a vital part of your task is to strengthen relationships with your clergy, especially in those cases where tension has arisen between priests and their bishops in the wake of the crisis. It is important that you continue to show them your concern, to support them, and to lead by example. In this way you will surely help them to encounter the living God, and point them towards the life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks. If you yourselves live in a manner closely configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, you will inspire your brother priests to rededicate themselves to the service of their flocks with Christ-like generosity. Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God's work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand. Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never "be anxious how to speak or what to say" (Mt 10:19).

As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son. My dear Brother Bishops, I assure each of you here present of my deep friendship and my participation in your pastoral concerns. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

* * *

1. The Holy Father is asked to give his assessment of the challenge of increasing secularism in public life and relativism in intellectual life, and his advice on how to confront these challenges pastorally and evangelize more effectively.

I touched upon this theme briefly in my address. It strikes me as significant that here in America, unlike many places in Europe, the secular mentality has not been intrinsically opposed to religion. Within the context of the separation of Church and State, American society has always been marked by a fundamental respect for religion and its public role, and, if polls are to be believed, the American people are deeply religious. But it is not enough to count on this traditional religiosity and go about business as usual, even as its foundations are being slowly undermined. A serious commitment to evangelization cannot prescind from a profound diagnosis of the real challenges the Gospel encounters in contemporary American culture.

Of course, what is essential is a correct understanding of the just autonomy of the secular order, an autonomy which cannot be divorced from God the Creator and his saving plan (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). Perhaps America's brand of secularism poses a particular problem: it allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the Churches, but at the same time it can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator. Faith becomes a passive acceptance that certain things "out there" are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life: living "as if God did not exist". This is aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to "thinking with the Church", each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3). We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.

On a deeper level, secularism challenges the Church to reaffirm and to pursue more actively her mission in and to the world. As the Council made clear, the lay faithful have a particular responsibility in this regard. What is needed, I am convinced, is a greater sense of the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and the natural law on the one hand, and, on the other, the pursuit of authentic human good, as embodied in civil law and in personal moral decisions. In a society that rightly values personal liberty, the Church needs to promote at every level of her teaching - in catechesis, preaching, seminary and university instruction - an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life. In a word, the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems. The "dictatorship of relativism", in the end, is nothing less than a threat to genuine human freedom, which only matures in generosity and fidelity to the truth.

Much more, of course, could be said on this subject: let me conclude, though, by saying that I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history, is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets any number of recipes for human fulfillment. I think in particular of our need to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness and truth. Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and catechesis in parishes and schools, if the new evangelization is to bear fruit for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.

2. The Holy Father is asked about "a certain quiet attrition" by which Catholics are abandoning the practice of the faith, sometimes by an explicit decision, but often by distancing themselves quietly and gradually from attendance at Mass and identification with the Church.

Certainly, much of this has to do with the passing away of a religious culture, sometimes disparagingly referred to as a "ghetto", which reinforced participation and identification with the Church. As I just mentioned, one of the great challenges facing the Church in this country is that of cultivating a Catholic identity which is based not so much on externals as on a way of thinking and acting grounded in the Gospel and enriched by the Church's living tradition.

The issue clearly involves factors such as religious individualism and scandal. Let us go to the heart of the matter: faith cannot survive unless it is nourished, unless it is "formed by charity" (cf. Gal 5:6). Do people today find it difficult to encounter God in our Churches? Has our preaching lost its salt? Might it be that many people have forgotten, or never really learned, how to pray in and with the Church?

Here I am not speaking of people who leave the Church in search of subjective religious "experiences"; this is a pastoral issue which must be addressed on its own terms. I think we are speaking about people who have fallen by the wayside without consciously having rejected their faith in Christ, but, for whatever reason, have not drawn life from the liturgy, the sacraments, preaching. Yet Christian faith, as we know, is essentially ecclesial, and without a living bond to the community, the individual's faith will never grow to maturity. Indeed, to return to the question I just discussed, the result can be a quiet apostasy.

So let me make two brief observations on the problem of "attrition", which I hope will stimulate further reflection.

First, as you know, it is becoming more and more difficult, in our Western societies, to speak in a meaningful way of "salvation". Yet salvation - deliverance from the reality of evil, and the gift of new life and freedom in Christ - is at the heart of the Gospel. We need to discover, as I have suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring. It is in the Church's liturgy, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist, that these realities are most powerfully expressed and lived in the life of believers; perhaps we still have much to do in realizing the Council's vision of the liturgy as the exercise of the common priesthood and the impetus for a fruitful apostolate in the world.

Second, we need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian societies. As you know, I have pointed to this problem in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Suffice it to say that faith and hope are not limited to this world: as theological virtues, they unite us with the Lord and draw us toward the fulfillment not only of our personal destiny but also that of all creation. Faith and hope are the inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.

Let me conclude by stating the obvious. The fields are still ripe for harvesting (cf. Jn 4:35); God continues to give the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). We can and must believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86). What is needed above all, at this time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing (cf. Ez 34:16). And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking based on a sound diagnosis of today's challenges and a commitment to unity in the service of the Church's mission to the present generation.

3. The Holy Father is asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population, and on the reasons for hope offered by the personal qualities and the thirst for holiness which characterize the candidates who do come forward.

Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!

Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God's call.

It has been noted that there is a growing thirst for holiness in many young people today, and that, although fewer in number, those who come forward show great idealism and much promise. It is important to listen to them, to understand their experiences, and to encourage them to help their peers to see the need for committed priests and religious, as well as the beauty of a life of sacrificial service to the Lord and his Church. To my mind, much is demanded of vocation directors and formators: candidates today, as much as ever, need to be given a sound intellectual and human formation which will enable them not only to respond to the real questions and needs of their contemporaries, but also to mature in their own conversion and to persevere in life-long commitment to their vocation. As Bishops, you are conscious of the sacrifice demanded when you are asked to release one of your finest priests for seminary work. I urge you to respond with generosity, for the good of the whole Church.

Finally, I think you know from experience that most of your brother priests are happy in their vocation. What I said in my address about the importance of unity and cooperation within the presbyterate applies here too. There is a need for all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions, and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into a future of hope. Each of us knows how important priestly fraternity has been in our lives. That fraternity is not only a precious possession, but also an immense resource for the renewal of the priesthood and the raising up of new vocations. I would close by encouraging you to foster opportunities for ever greater dialogue and fraternal encounter among your priests, and especially the younger priests. I am convinced that this will bear great fruit for their own enrichment, for the increase of their love for the priesthood and the Church, and for the effectiveness of their apostolate.

Dear Brother Bishops. with these few observations, I once more encourage all of you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.

* * *

Before leaving, I would like to pause to acknowledge the immense suffering endured by the people of God in the Archdiocese of New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina, as well as their courage in the challenging work of rebuilding. I would like to present Archbishop Alfred Hughes with a chalice, which I hope will be accepted as a sign of my prayerful solidarity with the faithful of the Archdiocese, and my personal gratitude for the tireless devotion which he and Archbishops Philip Hannan and Francis Schulte showed toward the flock entrusted to their care.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's Homily at Nationals Stadium
"Americans Have Always Been a People of Hope"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2008 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today during Mass at Washington Nationals stadium.


* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season. Before all else, I thank God for the blessing of being in your midst. I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Wuerl for his kind words of welcome.

Our Mass today brings the Church in the United States back to its roots in nearby Maryland, and commemorates the bicentennial of the first chapter of its remarkable growth -- the division by my predecessor, Pope Pius VII, of the original Diocese of Baltimore and the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges -- challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears -- with the hope born of God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

The readings of today’s Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church’s expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom.

The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.

"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!" (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today’s Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God’s peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God’s gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!

Here I wish to offer a special word of gratitude and encouragement to all those who have taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization. I thank my brother Bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, parents, teachers and catechists. The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual "culture", which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.

Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to "Christ our Hope". Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope -- the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan -- that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.

It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children -- whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure -- can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.

Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in "groanings" (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ’s own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit’s gifts of joy and strength.

In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ’s grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

"In hope we were saved!" (Rom 8:24). As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God’s people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[The Pope continued in Spanish]

Dear Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters:

I want to greet you with the same words that the Risen Jesus spoke to his apostles, "Peace be with you" (John 20:19). May the joy of knowing that the Lord has triumphed over death and sin help you to be, wherever you are, witnesses of his love and sowers of the hope that he came to bring us and that never disappoints.

Do not allow yourselves to be overcome by pessimism, inertia or problems. Instead, faithful to the commitments you acquired in your baptism, go deeper each day in the knowledge of Christ and allow your hearts to be conquered by his love and pardon.

The Church in the United States, welcoming in its bosom so many of its immigrant children, has been growing also thanks to the vitality of the testimony of faith from Spanish-speaking faithful. For this, the Lord calls you to continue contributing to the future of the Church in this country and the spreading of the Gospel. Only if you are united to Christ and among yourselves, will your evangelizing testimony be credible and bloom with copious fruits of peace and reconciliation in the midst of a world many times marked by division and conflicts.

The Church hopes much from you. In your generous commitment, do not let it down. "What you have received freely, give freely" (Matthew 10:8).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Benedict XVI's Address to Catholic Educators
"Freedom Is Not an Opting out, it Is an Opting In"

 WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to a meeting of more than 400 Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America.
* * *

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,

"How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news" (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you -- bearers of wisdom -- and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O'Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community - faculty, staff and students - of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God's revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God's truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ's Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church's commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected -- in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church's involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church's activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God's desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from "I" to "we", leading the individual to be numbered among God's people.

This same dynamic of communal identity -- to whom do I belong? -- vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction -- do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self -- intellect and will, mind and heart -- to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary "crisis of truth" is rooted in a "crisis of faith". Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God's testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in -- a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God's active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ's "being for others" (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church's primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation's fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person's dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church's contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church's mission, in fact, involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God's creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data - "informative" - the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing - "performative" (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people - parents in particular - recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual's immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity". This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice "intellectual charity" upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience "in what" and "in whom" it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions - from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools - serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person's witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Papal Address to Interreligious Leaders
"A United Society Can Indeed Arise From a Plurality of Peoples"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to an interreligious meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. The theme of the meeting was "Peace Our Hope."

* * *

My dear friends,

I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you today. I thank Bishop Sklba for his words of welcome, and I cordially greet all those in attendance representing various religions in the United States of America. Several of you kindly accepted the invitation to compose the reflections contained in today's program. For your thoughtful words on how each of your traditions bears witness to peace, I am particularly grateful. Thank you all.

This country has a long history of cooperation between different religions in many spheres of public life. Interreligious prayer services during the national feast of Thanksgiving, joint initiatives in charitable activities, a shared voice on important public issues: these are some ways in which members of different religions come together to enhance mutual understanding and promote the common good. I encourage all religious groups in America to persevere in their collaboration and thus enrich public life with the spiritual values that motivate your action in the world.

The place where we are now gathered was founded specifically for promoting this type of collaboration. Indeed, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center seeks to offer a Christian voice to the "human search for meaning and purpose in life" in a world of "varied religious, ethnic and cultural communities" (Mission Statement). This institution reminds us of this nation's conviction that all people should be free to pursue happiness in a way consonant with their nature as creatures endowed with reason and free will.

Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and observer of American affairs, was fascinated with this aspect of the nation. He remarked that this is a country in which religion and freedom are "intimately linked" in contributing to a stable democracy that fosters social virtues and participation in the communal life of all its citizens. In urban areas, it is common for individuals from different cultural backgrounds and religions to engage with one another daily in commercial, social and educational settings. Today, in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society. May others take heart from your experience, realizing that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples -- "E pluribus unum": "out of many, one" -- provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

The task of upholding religious freedom is never completed. New situations and challenges invite citizens and leaders to reflect on how their decisions respect this basic human right. Protecting religious freedom within the rule of law does not guarantee that peoples -- particularly minorities -- will be spared from unjust forms of discrimination and prejudice. This requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children.

The transmission of religious traditions to succeeding generations not only helps to preserve a heritage; it also sustains and nourishes the surrounding culture in the present day. The same holds true for dialogue between religions; both the participants and society are enriched. As we grow in understanding of one another, we see that we share an esteem for ethical values, discernable to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill. The world begs for a common witness to these values. I therefore invite all religious people to view dialogue not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding, but also as a way of serving society at large. By bearing witness to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of goodwill, religious groups will exert a positive influence on the wider culture, and inspire neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens to join in the task of strengthening the ties of solidarity. In the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "no greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of faith".

A concrete example of the contribution religious communities make to civil society is faith-based schools. These institutions enrich children both intellectually and spiritually. Led by their teachers to discover the divinely bestowed dignity of each human being, young people learn to respect the beliefs and practices of others, thus enhancing a nation's civic life.

What an enormous responsibility religious leaders have: to imbue society with a profound awe and respect for human life and freedom; to ensure that human dignity is recognized and cherished; to facilitate peace and justice; to teach children what is right, good and reasonable!

There is a further point I wish to touch upon here. I have noticed a growing interest among governments to sponsor programs intended to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. These are praiseworthy initiatives. At the same time, religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence? Only by addressing these deeper questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family, for "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).

We are living in an age when these questions are too often marginalized. Yet they can never be erased from the human heart. Throughout history, men and women have striven to articulate their restlessness with this passing world. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Psalms are full of such expressions: "My spirit is overwhelmed within me" (Ps 143:4; cf. Ps 6:6; 31:10; 32:3; 38:8; 77:3); "why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me?" (Ps 42:5). The response is always one of faith: "Hope in God, I will praise him still; my Savior and my God" (Ps 42:5, 11; cf. Ps 43:5; 62:5). Spiritual leaders have a special duty, and we might say competence, to place the deeper questions at the forefront of human consciousness, to reawaken mankind to the mystery of human existence, and to make space in a frenetic world for reflection and prayer.

Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things. It is he whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue. The ardent desire to follow in his footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue (cf. Lk 10:25-37; Jn 4:7-26).

Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a "heavenly gift" that calls us to conform human history to the divine order. Herein lies the "truth of peace" (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace).

As we have seen then, the higher goal of interreligious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenets. In this regard, colleges, universities and study centers are important forums for a candid exchange of religious ideas. The Holy See, for its part, seeks to carry forward this important work through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, and various Pontifical Universities.

Dear friends, let our sincere dialogue and cooperation inspire all people to ponder the deeper questions of their origin and destiny. May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere. By giving ourselves generously to this sacred task -- through dialogue and countless small acts of love, understanding and compassion -- we can be instruments of peace for the whole human family.
Peace upon you all!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pontiff's Greeting to Jewish Community
"The Past 40 Years Has Fundamentally Changed Our Relationship for the Better"

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the greeting and message Benedict XVI gave today to the Jewish community.

* * *

My dear friends,

I extend special greetings of peace to the Jewish community in the United States and throughout the world as you prepare to celebrate the annual feast of Pesah. My visit to this country has coincided with this feast, allowing me to meet with you personally and to assure you of my prayers as you recall the signs and wonders God performed in liberating his chosen people. Motivated by our common spiritual heritage, I am pleased to entrust to you this message as a testimony to our hope centered on the Almighty and his mercy.

* * *

To the Jewish community on the Feast of Pesah

My visit to the United States offers me the occasion to extend a warm and heartfelt greeting to my Jewish brothers and sisters in this country and throughout the world. A greeting that is all the more spiritually intense because the great feast of Pesah is approaching. "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever" (Exodus 12: 14). While the Christian celebration of Easter differs in many ways from your celebration of Pesah, we understand and experience it in continuation with the biblical narrative of the mighty works which the Lord accomplished for his people.

At this time of your most solemn celebration, I feel particularly close, precisely because of what Nostra Aetate calls Christians to remember always: that the Church "received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles" (Nostra Aetate, 4). In addressing myself to you I wish to re-affirm the Second Vatican Council's teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church's commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better.

Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can rejoice together in the deep spiritual ethos of the Passover, a memorial (zikkarôn) of freedom and redemption. Each year, when we listen to the Passover story we return to that blessed night of liberation. This holy time of the year should be a call to both our communities to pursue justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow and orphan, as Moses commanded: "But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this" (Deuteronomy 24: 18).

At the Passover Sèder you recall the holy patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the holy women of Israel, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael and Leah, the beginning of the long line of sons and daughters of the Covenant. With the passing of time the Covenant assumes an ever more universal value, as the promise made to Abraham takes form: "I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing... All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you" (Genesis 12: 2-3). Indeed, according to the prophet Isaiah, the hope of redemption extends to the whole of humanity: "Many peoples will come and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'" (Isaiah 2: 3). Within this eschatological horizon is offered a real prospect of universal brotherhood on the path of justice and peace, preparing the way of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 62: 10).

Christians and Jews share this hope; we are in fact, as the prophets say, "prisoners of hope" (Zachariah 9: 12). This bond permits us Christians to celebrate alongside you, though in our own way, the Passover of Christ's death and resurrection, which we see as inseparable from your own, for Jesus himself said: "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4: 22). Our Easter and your Pesah, while distinct and different, unite us in our common hope centered on God and his mercy. They urge us to cooperate with each other and with all men and women of goodwill to make this a better world for all as we await the fulfillment of God's promises.

With respect and friendship, I therefore ask the Jewish community to accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of cooperation which we see before us as we contemplate the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular. May the memory of God's mercies, which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all those responsible for the future of that region-where the events surrounding God's revelation actually took place-to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new purification of hearts!

In my heart I repeat with you the psalm of the paschal Hallel (Psalm 118: 1-4), invoking abundant divine blessings upon you: "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. Let Israel say, 'His steadfast love endures forever.' . . . Let those who fear the Lord say, 'His steadfast love endures forever'."

From the Vatican, 14 April 2008

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

UN Secretary-General's Greeting to Pope
"In So Many Ways, Our Mission Unites Us With Yours"

NEW YORK, APRIL 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the speech given by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prior to Benedict XVI's address to the General Assembly.

* * *

Your Holiness,

Excellencies,

 I am deeply grateful to His Holiness for accepting my invitation to visit the United Nations -- home to all men and women of faith around the world. Your Holiness, welcome to our common home.

The United Nations is a secular institution, composed of 192 States. We have six official languages but no official religion. We do not have a chapel -- though we do have a meditation room.

But if you ask those of us who work for the United Nations what motivates us, many of us reply in a language of faith. We see what we do not only as a job, but as a mission. Indeed, mission is the word we use most often for our work around the world -- from peace and security to development to human rights.

Your Holiness, in so many ways, our mission unites us with yours.

You have spoken of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world's population, and how we cannot afford indifference and self-centred isolation.

You have encouraged the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and called for progressive and agreed-upon nuclear disarmament.

You have spelled out that those with greater power may not use it to violate the rights of others, and stated that peace is based on respect for the rights of all.

You have spoken of water resources and climate change as matters of grave importance for the entire human family.

You have called for an open and sincere dialogue, both within your Church and between religions and cultures, in search of the good of humankind.

Finally, you have called for trust in, and commitment to, the United Nations. As you have said, the UN is “capable of fostering genuine dialogue and understanding, reconciling divergent views, and developing multilateral policies and strategies capable of meeting the manifold challenges of our complex and rapidly changing world.”

Your Holiness, these are fundamental goals we share. We are grateful to have your prayers as we proceed on the path towards them.

Before leaving the UN today, you will visit the Meditation Room. My great predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, who created that room, put it well. He said of the stone that forms its centerpiece: “We may see it as an altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown God, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms.”

Excellencies,

Whether we worship one God, many or none -- we in the United Nations have to sustain and strengthen our faith every day. As demands on our Organization multiply, we need more and more of this precious commodity.

I am profoundly grateful to his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for bestowing some of his faith on us -- and for placing his trust in us. He possesses both of these in abundance. May we be strengthened by his visit today.

Thank you very much.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Benedict XVI's Address to United Nations
"Human Rights ... Must Be Respected As an Expression of Justice"

NEW YORK, APRIL 18, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the U.N. General Assembly. The Pope spoke first in French, then in English.

* * *

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin my address to this Assembly, I would like first of all to express to you, Mr President, my sincere gratitude for your kind words. My thanks go also to the Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, for inviting me to visit the headquarters of this Organization and for the welcome that he has extended to me. I greet the Ambassadors and Diplomats from the Member States, and all those present. Through you, I greet the peoples who are represented here. They look to this institution to carry forward the founding inspiration to establish a "centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends" of peace and development (cf. Charter of the United Nations, article 1.2-1.4). As Pope John Paul II expressed it in 1995, the Organization should be "a moral centre where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a ‘family of nations’" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 50th Anniversary of its Foundation, New York, 5 October 1995, 14).

Through the United Nations, States have established universal objectives which, even if they do not coincide with the total common good of the human family, undoubtedly represent a fundamental part of that good. The founding principles of the Organization -- the desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance -- express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideals which should underpin international relations. As my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II have observed from this very podium, all this is something that the Catholic Church and the Holy See follow attentively and with interest, seeing in your activity an example of how issues and conflicts concerning the world community can be subject to common regulation. The United Nations embodies the aspiration for a "greater degree of international ordering" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43), inspired and governed by the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules and through structures capable of harmonizing the day-to-day unfolding of the lives of peoples. This is all the more necessary at a time when we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.

 
Indeed, questions of security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet. I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization. In the context of international relations, it is necessary to recognize the higher role played by rules and structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, and therefore to safeguard human freedom. These regulations do not limit freedom. On the contrary, they promote it when they prohibit behaviour and actions which work against the common good, curb its effective exercise and hence compromise the dignity of every human person. In the name of freedom, there has to be a correlation between rights and duties, by which every person is called to assume responsibility for his or her choices, made as a consequence of entering into relations with others. Here our thoughts turn also to the way the results of scientific research and technological advances have sometimes been applied. Notwithstanding the enormous benefits that humanity can gain, some instances of this represent a clear violation of the order of creation, to the point where not only is the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and the family are robbed of their natural identity. Likewise, international action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.

Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.

The principle of "responsibility to protect" was considered by the ancient "ius gentium" as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples. Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom. The founding of the United Nations, as we know, coincided with the profound upheavals that humanity experienced when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. When this happens, it threatens the objective foundations of the values inspiring and governing the international order and it undermines the cogent and inviolable principles formulated and consolidated by the United Nations. When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining "common ground", minimal in content and weak in its effect.

This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of the responsibility to protect, leads us to the theme we are specifically focusing upon this year, which marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science. Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights.

[The Pope continued in English]

The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearly demonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow from them, are measures of the common good that serve to evaluate the relationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, security and conflict. The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security. Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace.

The common good that human rights help to accomplish cannot, however, be attained merely by applying correct procedures, nor even less by achieving a balance between competing rights. The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights. Today, though, efforts need to be redoubled in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity so as to facilitate a move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests. The Declaration was adopted as a "common standard of achievement" (Preamble) and cannot be applied piecemeal, according to trends or selective choices that merely run the risk of contradicting the unity of the human person and thus the indivisibility of human rights.

Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you "cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world" (De Doctrina Christiana, III, 14). Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As history proceeds, new situations arise, and the attempt is made to link them to new rights. Discernment, that is, the capacity to distinguish good from evil, becomes even more essential in the context of demands that concern the very lives and conduct of persons, communities and peoples. In tackling the theme of rights, since important situations and profound realities are involved, discernment is both an indispensable and a fruitful virtue.

Discernment, then, shows that entrusting exclusively to individual States, with their laws and institutions, the final responsibility to meet the aspirations of persons, communities and entire peoples, can sometimes have consequences that exclude the possibility of a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person. On the other hand, a vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help to achieve this, since recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favours conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism and war, and to promote justice and peace. This also provides the proper context for the inter-religious dialogue that the United Nations is called to support, just as it supports dialogue in other areas of human activity. Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which the various components of society can articulate their point of view and build consensus around the truth concerning particular values or goals. It pertains to the nature of religions, freely practised, that they can autonomously conduct a dialogue of thought and life. If at this level, too, the religious sphere is kept separate from political action, then great benefits ensue for individuals and communities. On the other hand, the United Nations can count on the results of dialogue between religions, and can draw fruit from the willingness of believers to place their experiences at the service of the common good. Their task is to propose a vision of faith not in terms of intolerance, discrimination and conflict, but in terms of complete respect for truth, coexistence, rights, and reconciliation.

Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom, understood as the expression of a dimension that is at once individual and communitarian – a vision that brings out the unity of the person while clearly distinguishing between the dimension of the citizen and that of the believer. The activity of the United Nations in recent years has ensured that public debate gives space to viewpoints inspired by a religious vision in all its dimensions, including ritual, worship, education, dissemination of information and the freedom to profess and choose religion. It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature. The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order. Indeed, they actually do so, for example through their influential and generous involvement in a vast network of initiatives which extend from Universities, scientific institutions and schools to health care agencies and charitable organizations in the service of the poorest and most marginalized. Refusal to recognize the contribution to society that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute – by its nature, expressing communion between persons – would effectively privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the person.

My presence at this Assembly is a sign of esteem for the United Nations, and it is intended to express the hope that the Organization will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family. It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference. In a manner that is consistent with her contribution in the ethical and moral sphere and the free activity of her faithful, the Church also works for the realization of these goals through the international activity of the Holy See. Indeed, the Holy See has always had a place at the assemblies of the Nations, thereby manifesting its specific character as a subject in the international domain. As the United Nations recently confirmed, the Holy See thereby makes its contribution according to the dispositions of international law, helps to define that law, and makes appeal to it.

The United Nations remains a privileged setting in which the Church is committed to contributing her experience "of humanity", developed over the centuries among peoples of every race and culture, and placing it at the disposal of all members of the international community. This experience and activity, directed towards attaining freedom for every believer, seeks also to increase the protection given to the rights of the person. Those rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world. Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened if we are to sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation, and guarantee of rights for future generations.

In my recent Encyclical, Spe Salvi, I indicated that "every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs" (no. 25). For Christians, this task is motivated by the hope drawn from the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is why the Church is happy to be associated with the activity of this distinguished Organization, charged with the responsibility of promoting peace and good will throughout the earth. Dear Friends, I thank you for this opportunity to address you today, and I promise you of the support of my prayers as you pursue your noble task.

Before I take my leave from this distinguished Assembly, I should like to offer my greetings, in the official languages, to all the Nations here represented.

Peace and Prosperity with God’s help!

[The Pope repeated the above greeting in French, Spanish, Arab, Chinese and Russian]

Peace and Prosperity with God’s help!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Papal Address to UN Staff
"I Would Like to Express My Personal Appreciation"

NEW YORK, APRIL 18, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to the staff of the United Nations.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here, within a small space in the busy city of New York, is housed an Organization with a worldwide mission to promote peace and justice.

I am reminded of the similar contrast in scale between Vatican City State and the world in which the Church exercises her universal mission and apostolate. The sixteenth-century artists who painted the maps on the walls of the Apostolic Palace reminded the Popes of the vast extent of the known world. In those frescoes, the Successors of Peter were offered a tangible sign of the immense outreach of the Church's mission at a time when the discovery of the New World was opening up unforeseen horizons.

Here in this glass palace, the art on display has its own way of reminding us of the responsibilities of the United Nations Organization. We see images of the effects of war and poverty, we are reminded of our duty to strive for a better world, and we rejoice in the sheer diversity and exuberance of human culture, manifested in the wide range of peoples and nations gathered together under the umbrella of the international community.

On the occasion of my visit, I wish to pay tribute to the invaluable contribution made by the administrative staff and the many employees of the United Nations, who carry out their duties with such great dedication and professionalism every day -- here in New York, in other UN centres, and at special missions all over the world. To you, and to those who have gone before you, I would like to express my personal appreciation and that of the whole Church. We remember especially the many civilians and peace-keepers who have sacrificed their lives in the field for the good of the peoples they serve -- in 2007 alone there were forty-two of them. We also remember the vast multitude who dedicate their lives to work that is never sufficiently acknowledged, often in difficult circumstances.

To all of you -- translators, secretaries, administrative personnel of every kind, maintenance and security staff, development workers, peace-keepers and many others -- thank you, most sincerely. The work that you do makes it possible for the Organization to continue exploring new ways of achieving the goals for which it was founded.

The United Nations is often spoken of as the "family of nations". By the same token, the headquarters here in New York could be described as a home, a place of welcome and concern for the good of family members everywhere. It is an excellent place in which to promote growth in understanding and collaboration between peoples. Rightly, the staff of the United Nations are selected from a wide range of cultures and nationalities. The personnel here constitute a microcosm of the whole world, in which each individual makes an indispensable contribution from the perspective of his or her particular cultural and religious heritage. The ideals that inspired the founders of this institution need to take shape here and in every one of the Organization's missions around the world in the mutual respect and acceptance that are the hallmarks of a thriving family.

In the internal debates of the United Nations, increasing emphasis is being placed on the "responsibility to protect". Indeed this is coming to be recognized as the moral basis for a government's claim to authority. It is also a feature that naturally appertains to a family, in which stronger members take care of weaker ones. This Organization performs an important service, in the name of the international community, by monitoring the extent to which governments fulfill their responsibility to protect their citizens. On a day-to-day level, it is you who lay the foundations on which that work is built, by the concern you show for one another in the workplace, and by your solicitude for the many peoples whose needs and aspirations you serve in all that you do.

The Catholic Church, through the international activity of the Holy See, and through countless initiatives of lay Catholics, local Churches and religious communities, assures you of her support for your work. I assure you and your families of a special remembrance in my prayers.

May Almighty God bless you always and comfort you with his grace and his peace, so that through the care you offer to the entire human family, you can continue to be of service to him.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

To other religious communities

Benedict XVI Address at the Ecumenical Prayer Service
by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

My heart abounds with gratitude to Almighty God – “the Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:6) – for this blessed opportunity to gather with you this evening in prayer.  I thank Bishop Dennis Sullivan for his cordial welcome, and I warmly greet all those in attendance representing Christian communities throughout the United States.  May the peace of our Lord and Savior be with you all!

Through you, I express my sincere appreciation for the invaluable work of all those engaged in ecumenism: the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, the Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and many others.  The contribution of Christians in the United States to the ecumenical movement is felt throughout the world.  I encourage all of you to persevere, always relying on the grace of the risen Christ whom we strive to serve by bringing about “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name” (Rom 1:5).

We have just listened to the scriptural passage in which Paul – a “prisoner for the Lord” – delivers his ardent appeal to the members of the Christian community at Ephesus.  “I beg you,” he writes, “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called … eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).  Then, after his impassioned litany of unity, Paul reminds his hearers that Jesus, having ascended into heaven, has bestowed upon men and women all the gifts necessary for building up the Body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:11-13).

Paul’s exhortation resounds with no less vigor today.  His words instill in us the confidence that the Lord will never abandon us in our quest for unity.  They also call us to live in a way that bears witness to the “one heart and mind”(Acts 4:32), which has always been the distinguishing trait of Christian koinonia (cf. Acts 2:42), and the force drawing others to join the community of believers so that they too might come to share in the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8; cf. Acts 2:47; 5:14).

Globalization has humanity poised between two poles.  On the one hand, there is a growing sense of interconnectedness and interdependency between peoples even when – geographically and culturally speaking – they are far apart.  This new situation offers the potential for enhancing a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of mankind.  On the other hand, we cannot deny that the rapid changes occurring in our world also present some disturbing signs of fragmentation and a retreat into individualism.  The expanding use of electronic communications has in some cases paradoxically resulted in greater isolation.  Many people – including the young – are seeking therefore more authentic forms of community.  Also of grave concern is the spread of a secularist ideology that undermines or even rejects transcendent truth.  The very possibility of divine revelation, and therefore of Christian faith, is often placed into question by cultural trends widely present in academia, the mass media and public debate.  For these reasons, a faithful witness to the Gospel is as urgent as ever.  Christians are challenged to give a clear account of the hope that they hold (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself.  Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called “prophetic actions” that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition.  Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of “local options”.  Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia – communion with the Church in every age – is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

Faced with these difficulties, we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the Trinitarian God.  In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus prayed to his Father that his disciples might be one, “just as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17:21).  This passage reflects the unwavering conviction of the early Christian community that its unity was both caused by, and is reflective of, the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This, in turn, suggests that the internal cohesion of believers was based on the sound integrity of their doctrinal confession (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11).  Throughout the New Testament, we find that the Apostles were repeatedly called to give an account for their faith to both Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:16-34) and Jews (cf. Acts 4:5-22; 5:27-42).  The core of their argument was always the historical fact of Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the tomb (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30).  The ultimate effectiveness of their preaching did not depend on “lofty words” or “human wisdom” (1 Cor 2:13), but rather on the work of the Spirit (Eph 3:5) who confirmed the authoritative witness of the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-11).  The nucleus of Paul’s preaching and that of the early Church was none other than Jesus Christ, and “him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).  But this proclamation had to be guaranteed by the purity of normative doctrine expressed in creedal formulae – symbola – which articulated the essence of the Christian faith and constituted the foundation for the unity of the baptized (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5; Gal 1:6-9; Unitatis Redintegratio, 2).

My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism.  Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is “objective”, relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling.  Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind.  This does not mean, however, that the “knowable” is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of “personal experience”.

For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes.  The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.

Even within the ecumenical movement, Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division.  Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching: a teaching which indeed underlies the inspired word of God and sustains the sacramental life of Christians today.

Only by “holding fast” to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world.  Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching.  This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us.  Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the “reasons for our hope”, so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ.  He alone is our hope!  God has revealed his love for all peoples through the mystery of his Son’s passion and death, and has called us to proclaim that he is indeed risen, has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed).

May the word of God we have heard this evening inflame our hearts with hope on the path to unity (cf. Lk 24:32).  May this prayer service exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8); for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul.  Let us give thanks to Almighty God for the progress that has been made through the work of his Spirit, as we acknowledge with gratitude the personal sacrifices made by so many present and by those who have gone before us. 

By following in their footsteps, and by placing our trust in God alone, I am confident that – to borrow the words of Father Paul Wattson – we will achieve the “oneness of hope, oneness of faith, and oneness of love” that alone will convince the world that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father for the salvation of all.

I thank you all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To the disabled

Benedict XVI Meeting with Young People Having Disabilities
by Pope Benedict XVI

Your Eminence,
Bishop Walsh,
Dear Friends,

I am very happy to have this opportunity to spend a brief moment with you.  I thank Cardinal Egan for his welcome and especially thank your representatives for their kind words and for the gift of the drawing.  Know that it is a special joy for me to be with you.  Please give my greetings to your parents and family members, and your teachers and caregivers.

God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts.  Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways.  While some people’s contributions seem great and others’ more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.

Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured.  Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does.  God’s unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life.  Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love (cf. Jn 12:32) and in so doing shows us the way ahead - the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.

Dear friends, I encourage you all to pray every day for our world.  There are so many intentions and people you can pray for, including those who have yet to come to know Jesus.  And please do continue to pray for me.  As you know I have just had another birthday.  Time passes!

Thank you all again, including the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Singers and the members of the Archdiocesan Deaf Choir.  As a sign of strength and peace and with great affection in our Lord, I impart to you and your families, teachers and caregivers my Apostolic Blessing.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To Young people and seminarians

Benedict XVI Meeting with Young People and Seminarians
by Pope Benedict XVI

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Young Friends,

“Proclaim the Lord Christ … and always have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Pet 3:15). With these words from the First Letter of Peter I greet each of you with heartfelt affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his kind words of welcome and I also thank the representatives chosen from among you for their gestures of welcome. To Bishop Walsh, Rector of Saint Joseph Seminary, staff and seminarians, I offer my special greetings and gratitude.

Young friends, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you. Please pass on my warm greetings to your family members and relatives, and to the teachers and staff of the various schools, colleges and universities you attend. I know that many people have worked hard to ensure that our gathering could take place. I am most grateful to them all. Also, I wish to acknowledge your singing to me Happy Birthday! Thank you for this moving gesture; I give you all an “A plus” for your German pronunciation! This evening I wish to share with you some thoughts about being disciples of Jesus Christ ? walking in the Lord’s footsteps, our own lives become a journey of hope.

In front of you are the images of six ordinary men and women who grew up to lead extraordinary lives. The Church honors them as Venerable, Blessed, or Saint: each responded to the Lord’s call to a life of charity and each served him here, in the alleys, streets and suburbs of New York. I am struck by what a remarkably diverse group they are: poor and rich, lay men and women - one a wealthy wife and mother - priests and sisters, immigrants from afar, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior father and Algonquin mother, another a Haitian slave, and a Cuban intellectual.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela: any one of us could be among them, for there is no stereotype to this group, no single mold. Yet a closer look reveals that there are common elements. Inflamed with the love of Jesus, their lives became remarkable journeys of hope. For some, that meant leaving home and embarking on a pilgrim journey of thousands of miles. For each there was an act of abandonment to God, in the confidence that he is the final destination of every pilgrim. And all offered an outstretched hand of hope to those they encountered along the way, often awakening in them a life of faith. Through orphanages, schools and hospitals, by befriending the poor, the sick and the marginalized, and through the compelling witness that comes from walking humbly in the footsteps of Jesus, these six people laid open the way of faith, hope and charity to countless individuals, including perhaps your own ancestors.

And what of today? Who bears witness to the Good News of Jesus on the streets of New York, in the troubled neighborhoods of large cities, in the places where the young gather, seeking someone in whom they can trust? God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way. The path of that journey twists and turns ? just as it did for our saints ? through the joys and the trials of ordinary, everyday life: within your families, at school or college, during your recreation activities, and in your parish communities. All these places are marked by the culture in which you are growing up. As young Americans you are offered many opportunities for personal development, and you are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness. Yet you do not need me to tell you that there are also difficulties: activities and mindsets which stifle hope, pathways which seem to lead to happiness and fulfillment but in fact end only in confusion and fear.

My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds! (cf. Prayer at the Lighting of the Easter Candle).

What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ? a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness? Let us again turn to the saints. How did their witness truly free others from the darkness of heart and mind? The answer is found in the kernel of their faith; the kernel of our faith. The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope – Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

At times, however, we are tempted to close in on ourselves, to doubt the strength of Christ’s radiance, to limit the horizon of hope. Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints. The diversity of their experience of God’s presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity. Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

Dear friends, the example of the saints invites us, then, to consider four essential aspects of the treasure of our faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations.

What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies. Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path (cf. Spe Salvi, 33). As the saints teach us so vividly, prayer becomes hope in action. Christ was their constant companion, with whom they conversed at every step of their journey for others.

There is another aspect of prayer which we need to remember: silent contemplation. Saint John, for example, tells us that to embrace God’s revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard and seen (cf. 1 Jn 1:2-3; Dei Verbum, 1). Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.

In the liturgy we find the whole Church at prayer. The word liturgy means the participation of God’s people in “the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). What is that work? First of all it refers to Christ’s Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension – what we call the Paschal Mystery. It also refers to the celebration of the liturgy itself. The two meanings are in fact inseparably linked because this “work of Jesus” is the real content of the liturgy. Through the liturgy, the “work of Jesus” is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them. Here we catch another glimpse of the grandeur of our Christian faith. Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the sacraments, Jesus is at work. Through the Holy Spirit, he draws you to himself, into his sacrificial love of the Father which becomes love for all. We see then that the Church’s liturgy is a ministry of hope for humanity. Your faithful participation, is an active hope which helps to keep the world – saints and sinners alike – open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

Your personal prayer, your times of silent contemplation, and your participation in the Church’s liturgy, bring you closer to God and also prepare you to serve others. The saints accompanying us this evening show us that the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity. Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form. We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 12). The opportunities to make this journey are abundant. Look about you with Christ’s eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind. Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice? Many of the examples of the suffering which our saints responded to with compassion are still found here in this city and beyond. And new injustices have arisen: some are complex and stem from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation. We must listen deeply. We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds. In this way, we ensure that our works of mercy and justice become hope in action for others.

Dear young people, finally I wish to share a word about vocations. First of all my thoughts go to your parents, grandparents and godparents. They have been your primary educators in the faith. By presenting you for baptism, they made it possible for you to receive the greatest gift of your life. On that day you entered into the holiness of God himself. You became adoptive sons and daughters of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ. You were made a dwelling place of his Spirit. Let us pray for mothers and fathers throughout the world, particularly those who may be struggling in any way – socially, materially, spiritually. Let us honor the vocation of matrimony and the dignity of family life. Let us always appreciate that it is in families that vocations are given life.

Gathered here at Saint Joseph Seminary, I greet the seminarians present and indeed encourage all seminarians throughout America. I am glad to know that your numbers are increasing! The People of God look to you to be holy priests, on a daily journey of conversion, inspiring in others the desire to enter more deeply into the ecclesial life of believers. I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Talk heart to heart with him. Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit. Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 33). Dear seminarians, I pray for you daily. Remember that what counts before the Lord is to dwell in his love and to make his love shine forth for others.

Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests contribute greatly to the mission of the Church. Their prophetic witness is marked by a profound conviction of the primacy with which the Gospel shapes Christian life and transforms society. Today, I wish to draw your attention to the positive spiritual renewal which Congregations are undertaking in relation to their charism. The word charism means a gift freely and graciously given. Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes Congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage. The wondrous array of charisms proper to each Religious Institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury. Indeed, the history of the Church is perhaps most beautifully portrayed through the history of her schools of spirituality, most of which stem from the saintly lives of founders and foundresses. Through the discovery of charisms, which yield such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, I am sure that some of you young people will be drawn to a life of apostolic or contemplative service. Do not be shy to speak with Religious Brothers, Sisters or Priests about the charism and spirituality of their Congregation. No perfect community exists, but it is fidelity to a founding charism, not to particular individuals, that the Lord calls you to discern. Have courage! You too can make your life a gift of self for the love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family (cf. Vita Consecrata, 3).

Friends, again I ask you, what about today? What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you? The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ. The saints show us the selfless love of his way. As disciples of Christ, their extraordinary journeys unfolded within the community of hope, which is the Church. It is from within the Church that you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. Nourished by personal prayer, prompted in silence, shaped by the Church’s liturgy you will discover the particular vocation God has for you. Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today. Shine his light upon this great city and beyond. Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free. With these sentiments of great hope in you I bid you farewell, until we meet again in Sydney this July for World Youth Day! And as a pledge of my love for you and your families, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

Queridos Seminaristas, queridos jóvenes:

Es para mí una gran alegría poder encontrarme con todos ustedes en este día de mi cumpleaños. Gracias por su acogida y por el cariño que me han demostrado.

Les animo a abrirle al Señor su corazón para que Él lo llene por completo y con el fuego de su amor lleven su Evangelio a todos los barrios de Nueva York.

La luz de la fe les impulsará a responder al mal con el bien y la santidad de vida, como lo hicieron los grandes testigos del Evangelio a lo largo de los siglos. Ustedes están llamados a continuar esa cadena de amigos de Jesús, que encontraron en su amor el gran tesoro de sus vidas. Cultiven esta amistad a través de la oración, tanto personal como litúrgica, y por medio de las obras de caridad y del compromiso por ayudar a los más necesitados. Si no lo han hecho, plantéense seriamente si el Señor les pide seguirlo de un modo radical en el ministerio sacerdotal o en la vida consagrada. No basta una relación esporádica con Cristo. Una amistad así no es tal. Cristo les quiere amigos suyos íntimos, fieles y perseverantes.

A la vez que les renuevo mi invitación a participar en la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud en Sidney, les aseguro mi recuerdo en la oración, en la que suplico a Dios que los haga auténticos discípulos de Cristo Resucitado. Muchas gracias.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Translation by ZENIT]

Dear seminarians, Dear young people:

It gives me great joy to be able to meet with all of you on my birthday. Thank you for your welcome and for the affection you have shown me.

I encourage you to open your heart to the Lord so that he can fill it completely, and the with the fire of his love bring the Gospel to all the neighborhoods of New York.

The light of faith will impel you to respond to evil with good and a holy life, as it did to the great witnesses of the Gospel throughout the centuries. You are called to continue this chain of friends of Christ, who found in his love the great treasure of their lives. Cultivate this friendship through prayer, both personal and liturgical, and through works of charity and the commitment to help those who are most in need.

If you haven't done so, seriously ask yourself if Lord is asking you to follow him in a radical way through the priestly ministry or consecrated life. It is not enough to have a sporadic relationship with Christ. A friendship like that isn't friendship. Christ wants you as one of his intimate friends, faithful and perseverant.

I would also like to renew my invitation to participate in the World Youth Day in Sydney, I assure you that I remember you in my prayers, in which I ask God that he make you authentic disciples of the resurrected Christ. Thank you very much.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Benedict XVI Votive Mass for the Universal Church at St. Patrick's Cathedral
by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you, who represent the Bishops, priests and deacons, the men and women in consecrated life, and the seminarians of the United States.  I thank Cardinal Egan for his warm welcome and the good wishes which he has expressed in your name as I begin the fourth year of my papal ministry.  I am happy to celebrate this Mass with you, who have been chosen by the Lord, who have answered his call, and who devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness, the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Church in faith, hope and love.

Gathered as we are in this historic cathedral, how can we not think of the countless men and women who have gone before us, who labored for the growth of the Church in the United States, and left us a lasting legacy of faith and good works?  In today’s first reading we saw how, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works to people of every nation and tongue.  In this country, the Church’s mission has always involved drawing people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5) into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts.  As we give thanks for these precious past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!

In this morning’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that spiritual unity – the unity which reconciles and enriches diversity – has its origin and supreme model in the life of the triune God.  As a communion of pure love and infinite freedom, the Blessed Trinity constantly brings forth new life in the work of creation and redemption.  The Church, as “a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Spirit” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4), is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life.  Here in this cathedral, our thoughts turn naturally to the heroic witness to the Gospel of life borne by the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor.  The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization.  For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift.

This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts.  Saint Irenaeus, with great insight, understood that the command which Moses enjoined upon the people of Israel: “Choose life!” (Dt 30:19) was the ultimate reason for our obedience to all God’s commandments (cf. Adv. Haer. IV, 16, 2-5).  Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and “institutional” to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.

I am particularly happy that we have gathered in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  Perhaps more than any other church in the United States, this place is known and loved as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (cf. Is 56:7; Mk 11:17).  Each day thousands of men, women and children enter its doors and find peace within its walls.  Archbishop John Hughes, who – as Cardinal Egan has reminded us – was responsible for building this venerable edifice, wished it to rise in pure Gothic style.  He wanted this cathedral to remind the young Church in America of the great spiritual tradition to which it was heir, and to inspire it to bring the best of that heritage to the building up of Christ’s body in this land.  I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.

The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light.  From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary.  But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor.  Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself.  It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit.  It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, “from the outside”: a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the Church.  Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members.  It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality.  You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future.  In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33).

Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world.  “O Lord, my God,” the Psalmist sings, “when you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).  These words evoke the first creation, when the Spirit of God hovered over the deep (cf. Gen 1:2).  And they look forward to the new creation, at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and established the Church as the first fruits of a redeemed humanity (cf. Jn 20:22-23).  These words summon us to ever deeper faith in God’s infinite power to transform every human situation, to create life from death, and to light up even the darkest night.  And they make us think of another magnificent phrase of Saint Irenaeus: “where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace” (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1).

This leads me to a further reflection about the architecture of this church.  Like all Gothic cathedrals, it is a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation.  Medieval artists often portrayed Christ, the creative Word of God, as a heavenly “geometer”, compass in hand, who orders the cosmos with infinite wisdom and purpose.  Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God’s eternal plan?  This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring “a fresh, spiritual way of thinking” (cf. Eph 4:23).  It also calls for the cultivation of those virtues which enable each of us to grow in holiness and to bear spiritual fruit within our particular state of life.  Is not this ongoing “intellectual” conversion as necessary as “moral” conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission?

For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family.  We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ!  In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions.  Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or older than ourselves, and ultimately hear “what the Spirit is saying” to us and to the Church (cf. Rev 2:7).  In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

Was not this unity of vision and purpose – rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice – the secret of the impressive growth of the Church in this country?  We need but think of the remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus, or of the legacy of the generations of religious and priests who quietly devoted their lives to serving the People of God in countless schools, hospitals and parishes.

Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and cooperation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering.  I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful.  Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents.  I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing.  And I also encourage you to cooperate with your Bishops who continue to work effectively to resolve this issue.  May our Lord Jesus Christ grant the Church in America a renewed sense of unity and purpose, as all – Bishops, clergy, religious and laity – move forward in hope, in love for the truth and for one another.

Dear friends, these considerations lead me to a final observation about this great cathedral in which we find ourselves.  The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven.  Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose.  Here too we see our need to acknowledge and reverence the gifts of each and every member of the body as “manifestations of the Spirit given for the good of all” (1 Cor 12:7).  Certainly within the Church’s divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made between hierarchical and charismatic gifts (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4).  Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church’s mission.  You, dear priests, by sacramental ordination have been configured to Christ, the Head of the Body. You, dear deacons, have been ordained for the service of that Body.  You, dear men and women religious, both contemplative and apostolic, have devoted your lives to following the divine Master in generous love and complete devotion to his Gospel.  All of you, who fill this cathedral today, as wells as your retired, elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, who unite their prayers and sacrifices to your labors, are called to be forces of unity within Christ’s Body.  By your personal witness, and your fidelity to the ministry or apostolate entrusted to you, you prepare a path for the Spirit.  For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

So let us lift our gaze upward!  And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world.  If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance.  Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention.  Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth.  In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles (cf. 1 Tim 6:20), let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!

Dear brothers and sisters, in the finest traditions of the Church in this country, may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer.  Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and his Church.  I make this plea in a particular way to the many seminarians and young religious present.  All of you have a special place in my heart.  Never forget that you are called to carry on, with all the enthusiasm and joy that the Spirit has given you, a work that others have begun, a legacy that one day you too will have to pass on to a new generation.  Work generously and joyfully, for he whom you serve is the Lord!

The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God.  As we celebrate this Eucharist, let us thank the Lord for allowing us to know him in the communion of the Church, to cooperate in building up his Mystical Body, and in bringing his saving word as good news to the men and women of our time.  And when we leave this great church, let us go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us.  In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb (Rev 21:23).  For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life.  Amen.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At Ground Zero

God of Peace, Bring Your Peace to Our Violent World
by Pope Benedict XVI

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here –
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.

Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.

Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.

Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.

Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Homily at Yankee Stadium

Look to the Future With Hope
by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells his Apostles to put their faith in him, for he is "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom. Let us take the Lord at his word! Let us renew our faith in him and put all our hope in his promises!

With this encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32; Mt 16:17), I greet all of you with great affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his cordial words of welcome in your name. At this Mass, the Church in the United States celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore. The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the fifty states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

Our celebration today is also a sign of the impressive growth which God has given to the Church in your country in the past two hundred years. From a small flock like that described in the first reading, the Church in America has been built up in fidelity to the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith and, through her many educational, charitable and social works, has also contributed significantly to the growth of American society as a whole.

This great accomplishment was not without its challenges. Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community. At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness. Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Church’s unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is God’s indefectible gift to his Church.

The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church’s unity is "apostolic". It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call "the obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

"Authority" … "obedience". To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a "stumbling stone" for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – "the way and the truth and the life" – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. "In his will is our peace".

Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on "the mind of Christ" (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the "apostolate" of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

This magnificent vision of a world being transformed by the liberating truth of the Gospel is reflected in the description of the Church found in today’s second reading. The Apostle tells us that Christ, risen from the dead, is the keystone of a great temple which is even now rising in the Spirit. And we, the members of his body, through Baptism have become "living stones" in that temple, sharing in the life of God by grace, blessed with the freedom of the sons of God, and empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to him (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). And what is this offering which we are called to make, if not to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of God’s Kingdom? Only in this way can we build with God, on the one foundation which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11). Only in this way can we build something that will truly endure. Only in this way can our lives find ultimate meaning and bear lasting fruit.

Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth. In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly. We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America. We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, healthcare and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land. We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him. How many "spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God" have been offered up in these two centuries! In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works" (1 Pet 2:9). These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity which is ours by God’s grace; they also challenge us to an ever greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18). They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises. They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in God’s word, and trust in his promises.

Each day, throughout this land, you and so many of your neighbors pray to the Father in the Lord’s own words: "Thy Kingdom come". This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation. It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities. It needs to create new "settings of hope" (cf. Spe Salvi, 32ff.) where God’s Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.

Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, "there is no human activity – even in secular affairs – which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion" (Lumen Gentium, 36). It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today. As "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land! Past generations have left you an impressive legacy. In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst. On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise!

Yesterday, not far from here, I was moved by the joy, the hope and the generous love of Christ which I saw on the faces of the many young people assembled in Dunwoodie. They are the Church’s future, and they deserve all the prayer and support that you can give them. And so I wish to close by adding a special word of encouragement to them. My dear young friends, like the seven men, "filled with the Spirit and wisdom" whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you! May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, "the same, yesterday, and today and for ever" and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8). These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world – including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb. In a world where, as Pope John Paul II, speaking in this very place, reminded us, Lazarus continues to stand at our door (Homily at Yankee Stadium, October 2, 1979, No. 7), let your faith and love bear rich fruit in outreach to the poor, the needy and those without a voice. Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lord’s call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life. Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13)?

In today’s Gospel, the Lord promises his disciples that they will perform works even greater than his (cf. Jn 14:12). Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States. Yet Christ’s promise fills us with sure hope. Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Father’s house. And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom.

"Happy are you who believe!" (cf. 1 Pet 2:7). Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[The Pope continued in Spanish:]

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

I greet you with affection and I am happy to celebrate this holy Mass in thanksgiving to God for the bicentennial of the moment in which the Catholic Church in this nation began to develop. Upon looking at the path of faith taken in these years, not without difficulties, we praise the Lord for the fruits that the Word of God has given these lands and shows to him our desire that Christ, the way, the truth and the life, be know and love more each day.

Here, in this country of freedom, I want to proclaim with strength that the Word of Christ does not eliminate our aspirations to a full and free life, but rather in it we discover our true dignity as sons of God and it encourages us to fight against all that enslaves us, beginning with our own egotism and whims. At the same time, it encourages us to manifest our faith through our life of charity and make our ecclesial lives be each day more welcoming and fraternal.

Above all to the youth I entrust you to take on the great challenge that comes with believing in Christ, and to manifest your faith through closeness to the poor, and through generous responses to the calls that he continues to make to leave everything and begin a life of total consecration to God and the Church, in the priestly or religious life.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to look to the future with hope, allowing Jesus to enter into your lives. Only he is the path that leads to the happiness that never ends, the truth that satisfies the noblest human aspirations, and the life overflowing with joy for the good of the Church and the world.

May God bless you.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Promote Peaceful Co-Existence between Nations
by Pope Benedict XVI

Mr. Vice-President,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country. These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome. It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here. It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you. I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.

Once again I offer prayerful good wishes to the representatives of the see of Baltimore, the first Archdiocese, and those of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, in this jubilee year. May the Lord continue to bless you in the years ahead. To all my Brother Bishops, to Bishop DiMarzio of this Diocese of Brooklyn, and to the officers and staff of the Episcopal Conference who have contributed in so many ways to the preparation of this visit, I extend my renewed gratitude for their hard work and dedication. With great affection I greet once more the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States, and I encourage you to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.

One of the high-points of my visit was the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and I thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his kind invitation and welcome. Looking back over the sixty years that have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I give thanks for all that the Organization has been able to achieve in defending and promoting the fundamental rights of every man, woman and child throughout the world, and I encourage people of good will everywhere to continue working tirelessly to promote justice and peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations.

My visit this morning to Ground Zero will remain firmly etched in my memory, as I continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001. For all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world, I pray that the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

With these words, I take my leave, I ask you to remember me in your prayers, and I assure you of my affection and friendship in the Lord. May God bless America!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      
Aftermath


On the Trip to the UN and the US
"I Have Had the Joy of Announcing 'Christ Our Hope'"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Even if a few days have already passed since my return, I would like to dedicate the catechesis of today, as I normally do, to the apostolic trip that I made to the United Nations and the United States of America this past April 15 to 21. Before all, I renew my most cordial appreciation to the U.S. episcopal conference, as well as President Bush, for having invited me and for the warm welcome they have given me. And I would like to extend my thanks to all those in Washington and New York who came to greet me and manifest their love for the Pope, or who have accompanied and supported me with prayer and with the offering of their sacrifices.

As we know, the occasion of my trip was the bicentennial of the elevation of the country's first diocese, Baltimore, to a metropolitan see, and the foundation of the sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. On this characteristically ecclesial anniversary, I have had the joy of personally visiting, for the first time as the Successor of Peter, the dear people of the United States of America, to confirm the Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to everyone the message of "Christ Our Hope," as the theme of the trip said.

In the meeting with the president, in his residence, I was able to pay homage to this great country, which from the beginning has been constructed based on a pleasing joining together of religious, ethical and political principles, and continues to be a valid example of healthy secularism, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as the "soul" of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of the rights and duties of the human being.

In this context, the Church can carry out its mission of evangelization and human promotion with freedom and commitment and, at the same time, can be a stimulus for a country such as the United States, to which everyone looks as one of the principal agents on the international scene, so that it is oriented toward global solidarity, ever more necessary and urgent, and toward the patient exercise of dialogue in international relations.

Naturally, the mission and the role of the ecclesial community were at the center of the meeting with the bishops that took place in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington. In the liturgical context of vespers, we praised the Lord for the path traveled by the people of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and for the fervor and the generosity of its faithful, which is manifested with a high esteem and openness to the faith, and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and outside it.

At the same time, I was able to support my brothers in the episcopate in their difficult task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by many contradictions, which threaten the coherence of the faithful and of the clergy themselves. I encouraged them to raise their voices on current moral and social questions and to form the lay faithful so that they be good "leaven" in the civil community, starting from the fundamental cell that is the family. In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the sacrament of matrimony as a gift and indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment for the welcoming and education of children. The Church and the family, together with schools, especially those of Christian inspiration, should cooperate to offer youth a solid moral education, but in this task the agents of communication and entertainment also have a great responsibility.

Thinking of the sorrowful situation of the sexual abuse of minors committed by ordained ministers, I wanted to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the commitment to heal the wounds and to reinforce their relationships with their priests. Responding to some questions asked by the bishops, I highlighted a few important aspects: the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and "natural law"; the healthy concept of freedom, which is understood and fulfilled in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the demand to announce in new ways, especially to youth, "salvation" as the plenitude of life, and to educate them in prayer, from which sprouts the generous response to the call of the Lord.

In the great and festive Eucharistic celebration in Nationals Park stadium in Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the United States of America, so that firmly rooted in the faith transmitted by its fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it will face present and future challenges with courage and hope -- that hope that "does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).

One of these challenges is certainly that of education, and for this reason, in the Catholic University of America, I met with rectors of universities and Catholic educational centers, with the diocesan leaders responsible for teaching, and with representatives of professors and students. The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the U.S. Church community has always been very committed in this field, offering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire country. It is important that this can continue. And it is in the same way important to take care of the quality of the Catholic centers of education so that in them, [students] are formed truly according to "the extent of the full stature" of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:13), joining together faith and reason, truth and liberty. With joy, therefore, I have confirmed the formators in their precious commitment to intellectual charity.

In a country like the United States of America, with a multicultural vocation, the meetings with representatives of other religions have taken on special importance: in Washington, in the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York, the visit to the synagogue. Moments, especially this latter one, which were very cordial, which have confirmed the common commitment to dialogue and the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values. In [a country] that can consider itself the homeland of religious liberty, I wanted to recall that this should always be defended with a joint effort, so as to avoid any kind of discrimination or prejudice. And I stressed the great responsibility of the religious representatives, both in teaching respect and nonviolence, and in nourishing the deepest questions of human consciousness. The ecumenical celebration, in the parish church of St. Joseph, was also characterized by great cordiality. Together, we asked the Lord that he increase in Christians the capacity of giving reasons, also with an ever greater unity, for their unique hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) based in a common faith in Jesus Christ.

The other principal objective of my tripe was the visit to the central offices of the United Nations Organization: the fourth visit of a Pope, after that of Paul VI in 1965 and the two visits of John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995. In the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence permitted me to confirm, in the most great and authoritative supranational assembly, the value of this declaration, recalling its universal basis, that is, the dignity of the human person created by God in his image and likeness to cooperate in the world with his great design of life and peace.

Respect for human rights is rooted, as well as in peace, in "justice," that is, in an ethical order valid in all times and for all peoples, which can be summarized in the famous maxim: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you," or, expressed positively in the words of Jesus, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12). Upon this base, which constitutes the characteristic contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations Organization, I renewed and I renew again today, the commitment of the Catholic Church in contributing to strengthen international relations, characterized by the principles of responsibility and solidarity.

Other moments of my stay in New York have remained firmly etched in my spirit. In St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan, truly a "house of prayer for all peoples," I celebrated holy Mass for the priests and consecrated persons who had come from all parts of the country. I will never forget the warmth with which they congratulated me for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter. It was a moving moment, in which I experienced in a tangible way all of the support of the Church for my ministry. I could say the same about my meeting with youth and seminarians, which was held precisely in the diocesan seminary, preceded by a very significant meeting with handicapped boys and girls and their families.

I proposed to youth -- who by their nature are thirsting for truth and love -- some figures of men and women who have given an exemplary testimony of the Gospel in the lands of the United States, the Gospel of the truth that frees in love, in service, in life given for others. In seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives, youth can find in the saints the light that dissipates it: the light of Christ, hope for all men.

This hope, stronger than sin and death, motivated the emotion-swelled moment that I spent in silence at the crater of ground zero where I lit a candle, praying for all the victims of that terrible tragedy. Finally, my visit culminated with the celebration of the Eucharist in Yankee Stadium in New York: I still carry in my heart that festival of faith and brotherhood, with which we celebrated the 200 years of the oldest dioceses of North America. The original little flock has progressed enormously, enriching itself with the faith and the traditions of successive waves of immigration. To this Church, which now faces the challenges of the present, I have had the joy of announcing anew "Christ Our Hope" of yesterday, today and forever.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to unite yourselves with me in thanksgiving for the encouraging results of this apostolic trip and in the supplication to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it produces abundant fruits for the Church in the United States and in all parts of the world.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

My recent Apostolic Journey to the United Nations and the United States of America was inspired by the theme, "Christ our Hope". I am most grateful to all who helped in any way to make the Journey a success. My visit was meant to encourage the Catholic community in America, especially our young people, to bear consistent witness to the faith, and to carry on the Church's mission, especially with regard to education and concern for the poor. American society traditionally values religious freedom and the need for faith to play its part in building a sound civic life. In my meetings with President Bush, and with Christian leaders and representatives of other religions, I reaffirmed the Church's commitment to cooperation in the service of understanding, peace and spiritual values. My address to the United Nations stressed the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grounds respect for human dignity in a universally valid ethical order. In a particular way, my visit to Ground Zero, charged with sober silence and prayer, was a moving testimony to the hope which is stronger than evil and death. I ask all of you to join me in praying that this Visit will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the growth of the faith in America and for the unity and peace of the whole human family.

I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the third Christian-Buddhist Symposium, meeting in Castel Gandolfo during these days. Upon all of you and upon the English-speaking pilgrims from England, Ireland, Scandinavia, Malta, South Africa, Korea, Thailand, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

       
Bush: Privilege to Welcome the Pope
President Addresses 2,000 Catholics at Prayer Breakfast

By Carrie Gress

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 18, 2008 - It was a privilege to welcome Benedict XVI to the United States, President George Bush told the crowd at the 5th Annual Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

The president said this today to the sold-out crowd of 2,000. This year's theme was "A Celebration of Benedict XVI in America," since the event coincided with the U.S. papal visit.

When asked about the timing of the event, Austin Ruse, vice president of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, told ZENIT, "It is actually a miracle. We picked our date a year ago."

Bush, after greeting the many dignitaries present, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, spoke about the Holy Father's visit to Washington and the White House.

"This has been a joyous week," he said. "It's been a joyous time for Catholics -- and it wasn't such a bad week for Methodists, either. The excitement was just palpable. The streets were lined with people that were so thrilled that the Holy Father was here. And it was such a privilege to welcome this good man to the United States."

"For those of you on the South Lawn -- who saw the South Lawn ceremony live," the president continued, "it was just such a special moment. And it was a special moment to be able to visit with the Holy Father in the Oval Office. He is a humble servant of God. He is a brilliant professor. He is a warm and generous soul. He is courageous in the defense of fundamental truths."

"His Holiness believes that freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man, woman and child on earth. He understands that every person has value, or to use his words, 'each of us is willed, each of us is loved, [and] each of us is necessary,'" Bush continued, receiving a standing ovation for underlining the value of every human life.

The event's keynote speaker was Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri. Other speakers included theologian Michael Novak and EWTN host Marcus Grodi.

Logan Gage, a policy analyst at the Discovery Institute, attended the breakfast even though he is Presbyterian. He told ZENIT, "It is fun to celebrate this with my good Catholic friends. I love the Pope and I think President Bush said it well when he talked about Pope Benedict's commitment to a few core truths. I think many of us who are not Catholic really appreciate that and his commitment to those truths."

Joseph Cella, the founder and president of the annual Catholic prayer breakfast, said the success of the Washington event has inspired other states and cities to hold their own prayer breakfasts, including two in California and one in Chicago. Others are in the works, he said: "We are talking with six foreign countries to hold Catholic prayer breakfasts, including Indonesia, Singapore, India, Hong Kong and a few others."

As for Europe, Cella says they have Poland and Italy in mind for the future. "The Holy Spirit is upon it and we pray it continues to grow."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Michael Novak on Pope's U.S. Visit
Interview With Theologian and Author

By Carrie Gress

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 22, 2008 - The United States gave a warm welcome to Benedict XVI when he arrived to the nation, and it must have been a little bit of a surprise for the Pope, says Michael Novak.

Novak is a theologian, former ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and author of nearly 30 books, including the forthcoming "No One Sees God."

In part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, Novak discusses the Pope's reception in the United States, his comments on the sexual abuse crisis, and his address to Catholic educators.

Part 2 will appear Wednesday.

Q: What were your general impressions about the Pope's reception to the United States?

Novak: It must have surprised the Pope and his secretary and others what a tremendously warm welcome Washington and New York gave him.

You can know the Church in America abstractly, but when you compare it with other industrial nations, the people here are so religious that the churches are still full and the loyalty to the Holy See is very, very strong. 80% of Catholics in a Pew poll taken before Pope Benedict arrived said he was doing a good or a very good job. They approved him, they like him. I don't think it is like that in most of Europe.

I was at the arrival ceremony at the White House. The warmth of feeling for the Pope was tangible, and so was the good chemistry between the Pope and President George Bush. The warm feeling was very powerful. Both President and Pope looked very happy. I thought the Pope probably had never met an evangelical Protestant from Texas before, and I think he was getting a big kick out of it--the brashness, straightforwardness, and directness.

And then there is the manifest respect and love that President Bush has for the Pope. They are palpable.

President Bush has been grateful for the support of prayers from Catholics. He has done his best to soak up Catholic wisdom and Catholic ways of thinking about things. I don't think we are ever going to get a more Catholic president. Even the "Washington Post" said the other day that he is the "first Catholic president."

It seemed to me, though I don't see him everyday, that the Pope was overjoyed by the reception of the crowds. I wonder if Europeans expected this outpouring of love and affection from the people of America. People around the world portray Americans to be more secular, more detached, more modern, and perhaps more decadent. To the European mind, 'Modern' means 'secular.' But in the American case, that's false. Here, modern means religious, not secular.

Q: What did you think about the Pope's repeated mentioning of the abuse crisis that has plagued the Church in America?

Novak: The headline of the "Washington Times" on Monday, April 21, was "Pope visit soothes abuse crisis." Journalists are full of praise for the deft and serious way in which Benedict XVI expressed his shame, repentance and love regarding this issue.

At first, like many others, I was surprised that Benedict brought up the abuse crisis on the airplane. Then he brought it up in practically every venue thereafter.

The title of the Pope's pilgrimage was titled "Christ Our Hope," and he was calling us to renewal. For renewal to take effect, the right thing to do is begin with the confession of sin. I think it is true that we were all ashamed. I can't think of anything in my lifetime that shamed me more than the behavior of priests, almost always with young men.

Q: The Holy Father, with the heart of a teacher, addressed Catholic college and university presidents. What did you think of his address to them?

Novak: A Catholic college president judged the Pope's talk to be a very good mixture of the encouragement, "You are doing a lot of good," and of quiet, indirect accusation: "Look, you have to take the faith seriously." The Pope seemed to be saying: If you are a Catholic school, then your first task is to provide for all who live and study there an experience of the living God. You have to live up to what "Catholic" means.

The Pope has a quite wonderful teaching method. He speaks the harsh truth, and then turns you in a hopeful direction. Which really is the whole meaning of Christianity, to take evil and transform it into good.

The Pope used this method with the university presidents, saying roughly: "There are some bad things to call attention to, and we have to do better than that. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you and strengthen you because what you are doing -- in your more than 200 Catholic universities -- is unparalleled in the world, and you do so many things well. Be encouraged, be hopeful."

Q: What was your reaction to the Pope's address to the United Nations?

Novak: Part of his statement was standard, and repetitive of past statements, but part was very original and penetrating. The Pope emphasized that what is crucial for the United Nations and the world of the future is the protection of religious liberty. Religious liberty is the most basic of all liberties because it protects the precious conscience of every person. He spoke of the need to protect religious minorities. Implicitly, he defended the concept of equality before the law, and his comments relied on the establishment of the rule of law -- and probably also, of pluralistic democracies, of the sort that respect human rights.

But he did not stop at religious liberty. The United Nations, he said, must work to create room for religious people to speak of their faith and to argue from their faith in the public square. The public square does not belong only to secular people.

These passages brought to mind his exchange of letters with then president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, in a volume called in English "Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam." There, the Pope pointed out that in America the separation of church and state is not negative, but positive. For example, the state does not try to control the public square, but it allows room for religious people to fully express themselves in the religious sphere. While church and state are separate in their functions, in actual life there can be no separation of religion and the political dimension of life. Each human person is at the same time a religious and a political being.

In those essays, he also distinguished the American idea of the separation of church and state from the European idea, which is very negative. What the Europeans do is give the state all the power and try to drive religion out, limiting it to the domain of private conscience. It has been rare for Europeans to see the difference between Europe and America so clearly, and at least in this one respect, to command the American side of the argument. That was the spirit that seemed to animate many of his remarks in America.

At one point at the White House, the President quoted St. Augustine and Pope Benedict. And for his part, the Holy Father quoted George Washington. It was rather nice. I don't remember a Pope analyzing an American text in such a scholarly but easily understandable way. One hasn't often heard the Vatican make such distinctions.

John Paul II was very pro-American. He loved America. He didn't mind chastising us when he thought we were wrong, but he really appreciated "the phenomenology of America." He really appreciated the sense of the whole, as well as some of the details. But Benedict has asked more carefully the question -- with the famous German capacity for analytic work -- "What is it that makes this country different? What is it that makes liberty work better here? What is it that creates a public square in which both religion and politics live fully together, and in which the faith of billions still thrives?"

In the White House, among journalists, and in many other places, Benedict XVI must have seen how many Catholics are present in important positions in the public square. He must also have seen how vital certain Catholic ideas such as "the culture of life," "subsidiarity," "the common good," an awareness of "human weakness and sin," and opposition to abortion have become. Twice at the Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York the crowd erupted in powerful applause during his sermon when the Pope spoke directly against abortion; pro-life sentiment is unusually powerful in America.

At the United Nations, one point Pope Benedict made is that it is not enough to mean by religious liberty the right of individuals to worship as they please, or to follow their conscience. Religious liberty also means a public space for religious activities.

In other places, the Pope praised all the public good that Catholics in America serve. There are some 220 Catholic universities, and those are public. He pointed to the huge Catholic hospital system, and the many Catholic missionaries working with the poor in Latin America and Africa. These are all public services. A good state has to allow scope for religious people to supply all these goods.

Q: The youth were always so loyal to John Paul II -- even known as the "JPII Generation." How do you think they have received Benedict XVI?

Novak: Peggy Noonan wrote the other day in the Wall Street Journal that Pope John Paul was the perfect Pope for the television age, because he was so dramatic and had such a winning face, gestures, wit, he was so quick on his feet. He radiated affection the way a good actor should. But, she said, Benedict is the best Pope for the Internet age. The blogs go on and on about what he meant by this, and what he meant by that. The discussion goes on for months.

The argument about what Benedict XVI said and did at Regensburg, for example, is still not finished; it is still being plumbed and argued over.

I think the Holy Father has claimed the "JPII generation" as his own. It is now the JPII/Benedict generation. There is not a break between them.

Benedict used to meet every Friday for an hour or two of discussion with John Paul II. They were on the same track philosophically and theologically, and they basically strengthened one another. Looked at wryly, this is the 29th year of John Paul II's pontificate.

Benedict XVI is a different man with a different style, with a different set of priorities and a different manner of acting, but in him, all this is perfectly becoming. Many commentators in America praised his sincerity and authenticity. He seems content to be who he is, and not to try to be someone else. One tough-guy journalist said to Peggy Noonan, as after a few days he nodded toward the Pope: "He's a good guy!" Americans admire authenticity. Benedict XVI has a right to be different from John Paul while continuing in the same line of renewal and re-evangelization. I think we are enjoying the best of both worlds, two in one.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Shadow of Peter Fell on America Last Week
Pope Brought Words of Hope and Healing

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, APRIL 23, 2008 - Last week Benedict XVI made his first visit as Pope to the United States of America, and many were concerned about the impact the German Pontiff would have on a rather beleaguered Church.

They asked if Benedict XVI would be able to “connect” with people as his predecessor Pope John Paul II had done. After all, Benedict XVI arrived in America at age 80 while John Paul II was a mere 59 when he visited for the first time in 1979.

Up until last week many people both within and outside the Church in North America simply didn’t know Joseph Ratzinger, and some didn’t want to know him. They knew only half-truths about a former Vatican watchdog who was often portrayed as a strict, scholarly bookworm who lacked the charisma and flair of his predecessor on the throne of Peter. Last week something changed significantly in peoples’ perception of Benedict XVI.

The carefully orchestrated American pilgrimage was replete with a White House royal welcome for his 81st birthday on Wednesday, a major lecture to Catholic university presidents and educators, a private and very moving meeting with victims of clergy sex abuse at the Vatican embassy in Washington, an address to leaders of many faith traditions, and a mega Mass at Washington Nationals Stadium.

Moving over to the Big Apple for the final leg of the journey, the Pontiff gave a major address to the U.N. General Assembly only to be followed by another major address to the people behind the scenes at the United Nations: secretaries, janitors, interns and the support staff. (Not many political leaders acknowledge the little people who make the big organizations work!)

The German Pope also visited a Manhattan synagogue on the eve of the first day of Passover. He celebrated mass marking the third anniversary of his election as Pope on April 19 in what many consider the symbolic seat of Catholicism in the United States -- New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

"New spring"

During that Mass he issued a rallying cry for the “new spring” in a Church that he said was so divided and wounded in many ways, especially by the clergy sex-abuse scandal. As our Salt and Light cameras covered the event, we saw many priests and religious men and women in tears during that Mass.

At the end of Mass celebrated on the Pope’s third anniversary of election, he spoke personal and unscripted words: “At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter.”

On Saturday evening the grandfatherly Benedict XVI stunned the world, and even himself, with a grand performance of humanity, compassion, conviction, sheer joy and very stirring words at the youth events at New York’s seminary in Yonkers. Prior to entering the World Youth Day atmosphere outside, the Pope met with dozens of disabled children in the seminary chapel -- most of them in wheelchairs. The Pope walked slowly down the aisle, along which the children were lined up. He took each by the hands, or kissed a child on the head. Parents and caregivers nearby wept openly.

At the outdoor rally for nearly 30,000 young people, Benedict XVI made a rare reference to his upbringing in Nazi Germany. “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew -- infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion -- before it was fully recognized for the monster it was,” said the Pope, who deserted the German army near the end of World War II.

Throughout the week the Vatican took great care in articulating the Pope’s immigration position, stating the need to protect family unity and the human rights of immigrants, but pointedly avoiding any specifics of the American immigration debate, such as the issue of whether to grant legal status to illegal immigrants. For sure, Benedict XVI’s words last week stirred the crosscurrents of the debate at the heart of a presidential election in the United States.

There is the Church

An ancient Latin expression, first used by St. Ambrose in the fourth century, came to my mind last week during several moments of the historic papal visit to the United States: “Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia,” which is translated, “Wherever Peter is, there is the Church.”

Peter was in America last week, on the South Lawn of the White House, and at the Catholic University of America. Peter’s great smile and obvious serenity ignited a nation, a Church and a continent with hope in the midst of cynicism and despair, and while many would like to hasten death for a Church that is alive and young. Peter’s words addressed to representatives of more than 190 member nations of the United Nations spoke of human rights, dignity, dialogue and peace to a world at war in so many places. Peter’s eloquent silence, prayer and gestures at ground zero brought healing and peace to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on a nation.

The New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles tells us “that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed."

Benedict XVI came to America last week to bring healing and hope. His words and simple gestures were desperately needed in a nation torn apart by terrorism and wars, and in a Church split by many divisions. Only time, reflection and prayer will reveal if the healing of U.S. Catholics, begun last week, will bear fruit for the Church in America.

One thing is certain, however: Last week the shadow of Peter fell on millions of people in America and far beyond. And many received hope and experienced healing from our many diseases. And one more thing happened last week: Joseph Ratzinger came into his own.

Though elected and installed as Pope three years ago, I think his Papacy really began in the minds and hearts of North Americans last week when “Peter was among us.”

* * *

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network. He is also a member of the General Council of the Congregation of St. Basil. He can be reached at rosica@saltandlighttv.org.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From The Tablet:   Benedict XVI wins friends and influences people

James Roberts

In terms of winning hearts and minds, a survey of Tablet readers suggests that the Pope's US visit was a remarkable success. More than 55 per cent of respondents said they felt more sympathetic towards the Pope after the visit, while 40 per cent said their feelings were unchanged. When Americans were separated out, the proportions (54 per cent and 41 per cent) were almost the same. Among women, too, the proportions (51 per cent and 44 per cent) were similar.

Forty per cent of all respondents were from the US, 30 per cent from the United Kingdom, and the remaining readers were from other countries across of the world.

The Pope's manner of dealing with many of the key issues facing the Church won widespread approval. Fifty-five per cent of respondents thought that he dealt well with the US sex-abuse crisis (51 per cent of Americans), although there were significant differences here between men and women, with more than 60 per cent of men believing he handled it "very well indeed" (27 per cent "satisfactorily"), while only 41 per cent of women thought he handled it "very well indeed" (37 per cent "satisfactorily").

There was a little less satisfaction with the manner in which the Pope pointed the way forward for the US Church, with 36 per cent feeling he did this "very well indeed" (US 34 per cent) and 36 per cent (US 37 per cent) feeling he did this "satisfactorily". A significant minority (18 per cent, both US respondents and all respondents) thought he did "not very well" on this question and 5 per cent (8 per cent in the US) thought he did poorly.

There were significant differences between men and women assessing his performance on family issues. Forty-five per cent of men thought he conveyed the Catholic position on the crisis in the family "very well indeed" and 30 per cent "satisfactorily". Among women the figures were 28 per cent and 41 per cent, and among Americans 36 per cent and 40 per cent.

As a leader, 83 per cent of respondents found the Pope "very strong" or "strong". As a pastoral leader, on the other hand, 77 per cent found him "very good" or "good".

Between 70 and 80 per cent of respondents thought the Pope reached out "very well indeed" or satisfactorily" to non-Catholic Christians, to the faithful of other religions, and to the people of America as whole.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents thought that he highlighted the Catholic position on global poverty "very well indeed" and 33 per cent "satisfactorily". However, the highest approval rating from the respondents was achieved by America itself. Ninety per cent thought the welcome given by the US to the Pope was "suitably warm" (88 per cent in the US), 2 per cent "not warm enough" (US 1 per cent) and 7 per cent (US 7 per cent) "too warm".

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Feature Article, 26 April 2008

Special Report: Benedict XVI in the United States

Robert Mickens
   
Tens of millions across the United States were entranced by the visit of the Pope of ‘faith and reason' to their country and engaged by his frankness, especially over the matter of clerical sexual abuse. But there was as much unsaid as spoken

Pope Benedict XVI could not have hoped for a warmer reception than the one he got in the United States. If the headlines that described his six-day visit to the world's fourth-largest Catholic country were accurate, it would seem that the Americans fell head over heels in love with this Pope of "faith and reason", the same man many of them evidently believed was "God's Rottweiler" just three years ago.

The visit, which began with an unprecedented  White House ceremony led by President George W. Bush and ended at a raucous airport send-off last Sunday by Vice President Dick Cheney, further shattered the old stereotypes that once stuck to Joseph Ratzinger. But it may also have led to some new stereotypes - including some rather inane ones.

"Before he became Pope, Joseph Ratzinger was known as a very staunch Catholic," said one of New York's local TV personalities. The reporter said Benedict XVI had shown that "he really is a ‘people person', and that he is very open to change".

The "gentle Bavarian visitor" (as one Wall Street Journal commentator called him) charmed the fickle American media and even converted some of his longstanding critics within the Catholic Church during a dozen public events in Washington and New York City. Fr James Martin, acting publisher of the Jesuit magazine America, boldly confessed in the New York Times that he "was one of those (many) liberal Catholics who was disappointed by (Benedict's) election". But he said last week's visit left him "feeling real admiration - and even affection" for the Pope.

Whether or not it was a planned strategy, Benedict disarmed his critics. He coupled his preaching of the hard moral "truths" of conservative Catholicism with the Gospel message of love and hope. Even papal vestments and his softly spoken and distinctively accented English seemed to enhance his religious authority and impress ordinary Americans, most of whom were getting their first long look at the Pope. "Americans love anyone whose first name is ‘the'," said a former Washington priest who tried to explain the Pope's unexpected appeal.

But image was only part of the allure. Benedict XVI won points from nearly everyone for expressing "deep shame" over the clerical sex-abuse scandal and, even more dramatically, for meeting several of the victims - a private encounter that the Franciscan Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston helped arrange. The Pope admitted that the sex-abuse problem was "sometimes very badly handled" by the US bishops, though he later said they were now dealing with it "effectively".

The overall effect of his repeated references to the abuse crisis throughout his time in the United States was a sign for many Catholics that "the Pope gets it". Before the visit many wondered if he really did. Even leaders of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the group that has been most critical of church authorities for the way they have handled this issue, voiced appreciation for the Pope's words and gestures, while also demanding further action be taken against bishops who reassigned the abusing priests.

Americans of all faiths and walks of life - especially the more patriotic - gave the Pope high marks after he praised the founding ideals of liberty of this "great country" while speaking before several thousand people on the famed White House lawn. The event was said to be the grandest welcome in American history for a foreign dignitary. And the fact that the Pope turned 81 years old that same day gave the excited crowd the opportunity to offer him a cake and sing "Happy Birthday", all of which added a common touch - so valued by the American people - and helped cast this regal person in a familiar and sympathetic light. His meetings with Jews, non-Catholic Christians and leaders of other religions were seen as goodwill gestures. Little was reported of his actual words at those gatherings.

Pope Benedict's poignant moment of prayer at Ground Zero, the crater left by the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, was viewed as solidarity with all Americans who continue to feel particularly vulnerable in the high-security "post 9/11 world". One commentator called this America's "Golgotha" and said the Pope had hallowed it by his presence.

However, others found it disturbing and strange that, as an international "moral leader", the Pope never once mentioned the word "Iraq" or the spoke out against American soldiers who tortured terrorist suspects. Those who expected him to chide the United States directly on these points were left disappointed. Some observers noted that the Pope addressed the issue in his lengthy and philosophical speech to the United Nations. He said "multilateral consensus" continued to be "in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few".

But Pope Benedict's speech during his visit to the UN - the original purpose for going to America - was pitched high in the realm of philosophical principles. Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Pope professed his support and "esteem" for the UN. But he warned member states to resist "pressures to reinterpret the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity" by moving away from "the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests".

The Pope stressed his conviction that human rights remain based on "natural law" and urged leaders to reject a "relativistic conception" that would deny this. He also lamented "secular ideology" - a recurrent theme throughout his US visit - and argued for the "right of religious freedom" and the "possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order". Pope Benedict several times endorsed the principle of the "responsibility to protect", saying the international community "must intervene with juridical means" when states do not protect their citizens. This should include "pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue", he said. However, he did not indicate if military action was acceptable when diplomacy failed.

Such ambiguity was even more evident in his speech to several hundred Catholic academics. Speaking specifically of "faculty members at Catholic universities", the Pope said: "I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom." He then urged professors to "search for truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads" them. But in the next breath he set down restrictions. "Any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission," he warned.

The meeting with the academics was only one of several events that made up the specifically Church-focused aspect of the papal visit. Two outdoor Masses - at baseball stadiums in Washington and New York - were linked to bicentennial celebrations of the elevation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the original founding of dioceses in Bardstown (now Louisville), Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Pope Benedict also held a public prayer session, a meeting with the US bishops, a Mass with priests and Religious, and a gathering with seminarians and other young people. At all these events the Pope was praised for being gentle and soft-spoken.

His message even seemed to be well received in what was, perhaps, the trickiest part of the visit. While praising the Catholic Church in the country for its vast and vibrant network of schools, parishes and other institutions, the Pope also warned that believers had to do more to fight against the "increasingly secular and materialist culture" of America. He called for a return to the classic method of "apologetics" as a way of proclaiming the Church's truth. And he urged the formulation of a "religious culture" that would include "cultivating a Catholic identity which is based not so much on externals as on a way of thinking and acting".

One of the most pressing messages Pope Benedict handed to American Catholics was the need for greater unity among the members of his flock. At an "operatic" Mass in New York's St Patrick's Cathedral, the Pope said "division" within the Church was one of the "great disappointments" following the Second Vatican Council. He said Catholics needed to be more open "to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions" and "value the perspectives of others".

Understandably, perhaps, few people were willing to recall the major role Cardinal Ratzinger played during the post-conciliar period and how it may have contributed to, or healed, the divisions in the Church he spoke about. Neither did anyone publicly cite the tensions in the 1980s between the once-robust US bishops' conference and the Vatican - including the then Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - or that those tensions were resolved by the appointment of bishops more docile to Rome. Whether this was owing to collective amnesia or just a desire for a more serene period in the Church, the long-standing neuralgic issues such liturgical reform, women's ministry, contraception, human sexuality and lay authority were never seriously discussed during the papal visit. It would be a mistake to think these have been resolved. As one seasoned New York priest said: "It was like having your father-in-law over for a visit. You hide all the mess and then, after he leaves, you bring it all out again."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Sheila Gribben Liaugminas | Saturday, 26 April 2008
Pope Benedict at the UN: a moral grammar of rights
Sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the pope offers an interpretive key.

When a pope addresses the United Nations, he knows he is speaking to the world. John Paul II said as much when he went before the UN General Assembly on October 5, 1995 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. “In coming before this distinguished Assembly, I am vividly aware that through you I am in some way addressing the whole family of peoples living on the face of the earth,” he said in opening remarks. “My words…echo the voices of all those who see in the United Nations the hope of a better future for human society.”

His language was of human dignity and a universal moral law that protects all persons equally, words that echoed again when Pope Benedict XVI took to the floor of the UN General Assembly last week and spoke of the need for a “new humanism” that respects religious freedom and morally informed voices.

    “It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations.”

His address, marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was originally billed as the highlight of the US papal visit. It became one among many, but one featured prominently by all major media. The New York Times reported that the pope “presented the idea that there are universal values that transcend the diversity – cultural, ethnic or ideological – embodied in an institution like the United Nations…Those values are at the base of human rights, he said, as they are for religion.”

The Times and others also noted Benedict’s message that religion can’t be excluded from a body that exists for “a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person” and that a “vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help achieve this.” Furthermore: “Recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favors conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism, war, and to promote justice and peace.” This snip made it into most major media, many of which carried the Pope’s full transcript.

What most of them missed was the deeper message of the Pope’s elegant words. His opening remarks were in French, the language of the United Nations. By the second paragraph, he made an affirmation: “The United Nations embodies the aspiration for a ‘greater degree of international ordering’…inspired and governed by the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules…” And then he made a challenge: “This is all the more necessary at a time when we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.” The phrase “decisions of a few” is key to that thought, and he returns to it later.

Consensus versus truth

Consensus has replaced truth and right order, he goes on to say, in all kinds of areas, like “the way the results of scientific research and technological advances have sometimes been applied. Notwithstanding the enormous benefits that humanity can gain, some instances of this represent a clear violation of the order of creation, to the point where not only is the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and the family are robbed of their natural identity. Likewise, international action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.”

From that incisive statement, the media plucked the reference to the environment and made whole stories out of it. The larger message was missed. Benedict spoke firmly of the consistency of ethics, not their relative application. He continues: “Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect.”

That phrase grabbed the media spotlight as well, because of the pope’s attention to violations of rights and humanitarian crises. What they missed was the wider application to all humans and the sanctity of life. About the UN’s “responsibility to protect”, Benedict said “this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom.”

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights “was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science.”

However: “Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations.” That key line was lost on the mainstream media, especially since this was still the opening remarks in French. It was followed by this: “It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations.”

Sanctity of life

Benedict would only then begin the remainder of his address, in English. And he was only warming up to his challenge to protect the human family by promoting the sanctity of all life and the rights of every person. He referred to “competing rights” and the need to redouble efforts today “in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration” that compromise its intent and move it “away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests.” The UN Declaration of Human Rights, said Benedict, cannot be applied piecemeal “according to trends or selective choices” that actually compromise universal human rights.

Examples readily spring to mind. Some non-governmental groups have tried to write into the UN’s documents the language of “reproductive rights” in order to export contraception and abortion globally and tie it to international aid. The language of the right to end one’s life is similarly spreading euthanasia disguised as compassion. But Pope Benedict addressed those trends in more nuanced, elegant terms. “When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal.” Rights, he said, are deprived of their true function “in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective.”

Quoting his favourite, Augustine of Hippo, he reminded everyone of the Golden Rule: “[Augustine] taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you ‘cannot in any way vary according to the different understanding that have arisen in the world.’ Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.” In other words, might does not make right.

Religious freedom

Addressing religious freedom, the fundamental base of all human rights, Benedict called on the UN to ensure that public debate “gives space to viewpoints inspired by a religious vision in all its dimensions…It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.” The United Nations, he said, is “a privileged setting in which the Church is committed” to serving and protecting human rights “grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world.” Which is necessary, “to sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation and guarantee of rights for future generations.”

In his 1995 address to the United Nations, Pope John Paul II pointed out what the changes of the times meant “for the future of the whole human family.” Here’s one key remark:

“If we want a century of violent coercion to be succeeded by a century of persuasion, we must find a way to discuss the human future intelligibly. The universal moral law written on the human heart is precisely that kind of “grammar” which is needed if the world is to engage this discussion of its future.”

Last week, Pope Benedict continued that discussion by re-introducing moral grammar to the United Nations. Whether they understand the language will only become clearer in time, but they’re likely still trying to unpack the message. One week after his visit, however, the president and the press are still talking about the pope, and the impression he left of clarity with charity.

Sheila Gribben Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist who reported for Time magazine for more than 20 years. Until recently, she hosted the popular national radio shows The Right Questions and Issues and Answers on Relevant Radio. She blogs at InforumBlog.com.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope's New Name for Sovereignty
Interview With UN Permanent Observer Archbishop Migliore

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008- When speaking to the United Nations, it could be said Benedict XVI proposed a new name for sovereignty, says the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who hosted the Pope for three days during his stay in New York, said this in reference to the address the Holy Father gave April 18 to the U.N. General Assembly. The archbishop said the "responsibility to protect" mentioned by the Pontiff could be the new name for sovereignty, which is "not only a right, but above all a responsibility to protect and promote the populations in their daily lives."

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Migliore recounts his personal experience of the papal trip, and comments on the message Benedict XVI delivered to the United Nations.

Q: What was the moment of the Pope's visit that you will never forget?

Archbishop Migliore: There are many, as you can imagine. Americans were waiting to see and experience for themselves Benedict XVI’s spirituality, intellect and humanity that they were already seeing by way of the media. Upon his arrival they saw the Pope happy to be in the United States, happy and eager to meet Americans of all levels. All the events that he participated in were marked by festivity, warmth and mutual understanding.

And then, the profound empathy of the Pope with what remains the most vivid symbol for Americans, ground zero. The ceremony, expressed almost without words, spoken heart-to-heart, made the Pope seem like one of them, and at the same time invested with such authority to communicate his own message. By the same token, on two evenings the Pope went out of the residence in New York to greet the hundreds of people convened to sing and wish him a happy birthday.

On Saturday evening there were 50 children in the first row visibly affected from various types of cancer. The affection and the sense of profound dignity expressed by the Pope revealed his highest moral authority that can offer hope and confidence.

Q: Could you tell us what the Holy Father told you?

Archbishop Migliore: I had the privilege and great pleasure of spending three days with the Holy Father in the residence of his representative at the United Nations. During the meals we shared our sentiments, impressions and exchanges of information about the unfolding of the Papal visit and the warm welcome and reception he was receiving.

On the occasion of his third anniversary of his pontificate, it was Pope Benedict who offered us a wonderful gift: He wished to have all my collaborators at the table for dinner. This was the highlight for all of us who had an opportunity to share with the Holy Father the joys and burdens, as well as the funny moments of our activity at the United Nations.

Q: Do you have any reactions from the national delegations in the United Nations to the Pope's speech?

Archbishop Migliore: This is a time of difficulty and tension also for the United Nations. The Pope uplifted spirits. Knowing that the United Nations is not a bed of roses even for the Pope, I had the impression that many diplomats who heard him stress the most beautiful potential of the United Nations, felt comforted and encouraged to work for a United Nations which delivers.

No doubt it was the meeting with the staff that accounted for the most enthusiastic response throughout the United Nations. At many points in his address the Pope smiled and looked at the crowd. His warmth and comfort was echoed by the crowd’s response, in its excitement and cheers, and in the standing ovations they gave him. This festive reaction by the staff was not just stadium frenzy, but it was motivated also by the message he delivered to them.

Q: The Pope said he and the Church believe in the United Nations, and urged the institution to go back to the original principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How was his message received by members of the United Nations?

Archbishop Migliore: In particular, they had the impression that the Pope was reading their heart, their personal desire for justice and freedom. From what I hear from diplomats and officials at the United Nations, the words of the Pope will have an echo and a profound and studied following, especially with regard to the role of the United Nations and international law.

Q: How is the "responsibility to protect," mentioned by the Holy Father, a new principle for the international community? How would this differ from the international community's response to oppressive governments in the past?

Archbishop Migliore: He stated that the moral basis for a government’s claim to authority, to sovereignty, is its responsibility for, its willingness to, and effectiveness in protecting its populations from any kind of violation of human rights. While borrowing this expression from the Outcome Document adopted by Heads of State and Government in 2005, Pope Benedict outlined a broader concept: Responsibility to protect covers not only the so-called humanitarian -- military -- interventions, rather, it could be used as the new name for sovereignty, which is not only a right, but above all a responsibility to protect and promote the populations in their daily lives.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Zenit:  our Rome correspondent Carrie Gress,
who gave us complete on-the-ground coverage of the papal event from the Pope's arrival to his departure.

As there is always a story behind the story, I interviewed Gress on her experience being so close to the Holy Father during his papal journey, and asked her to give us the inside scoop on the Pontiff's impact on America.

Below I share her responses with you in this interview we are publishing exclusively as part of our donation campaign.

Q: You were the eyes for ZENIT's half million readers during Benedict XVI's trip to the United States. What was the most remarkable thing you saw?

Gress: The run up to the Holy Father's arrival included all sorts of speculation about what the Holy Father would talk about, including the abuse crisis. I'm not sure many people could have predicted how explosive the situation still is after lurking beneath the surface since 2002 and 2003, but it was clearly an open wound for the Church in America. The day before his arrival, I walked down to the White House, and a large and angry crowd had gathered protesting celibacy as the cause for the crisis.

What was so remarkable was how the Holy Father responded to this -- not avoiding the issue, but addressing it from the start on the flight to the United States. His meeting with some of the victims was also a surprising gesture that will hopefully do much to bring healing to the wound. Through his very fatherly response, the topic went from being one of deep rancor to something that seemed to melt away in the press coverage.

At Nationals Stadium, the Holy Father asked the faithful to "love their priests." This appeared to be another source of deep healing for the clergy, but was also a call of responsibility to the laity. The precious gift of the priesthood is not one to be taken for granted, but is a difficult road of service and sacrifice. A laity mindful of this can do a lot to help keep such abuses at bay.

Q: How did the people on the street and other reporters react to him?

Gress: At the beginning of the visit, there seemed to be some caution on the part of both Catholics and the press about this visit. People were concerned about whether or not it would be a "real event" given his temperament, so different from Pope John Paul II's. Some of the major news outlets didn't really even have a developed plan to cover it.

And yet, the first day at Andrews Air Force Base when the Pope arrived, it was clear that something big was happening. People really wanted to see this man, know this man, and be close to him.

At Nationals Stadium, I was awestruck by the number of young people and young families. One family I met had traveled from Idaho with five children just to attend the Mass of 46,000. It was certainly no private audience, and yet you could see how happy they were to be there -- to be a part of the event. This was an emotion felt by almost everyone involved. Even the press seemed to get caught up in it. Its not everyday that two seasoned journalists are stunned into silence. Wolf Biltzer of CNN and NBC's Tim Russert both had a semi-private audience with the Holy Father. "I must say, I don't often say it, but I truly feel blessed that I had this opportunity to do what I've just done," said Blitzer on CNN.

"You know, I didn't ask him a question, and I listened carefully and Tim Russert, if you can believe it, was even more polite and even more stunned and silent than I was," Blitzer said, adding, "I think the two of us did not embarrass our profession, our news business. We just stood there and we watched, we did what we were told."

It's hard to think of more remarkable responses.

Q: What was your overall experience being there so close to the Holy Father? What was the closest you got to him?

Gress: One thing that was not easy to get a grasp of on TV or in print was the amount of security for the events. Six hours was not an uncommon time to wait. Despite this, there wasn't much complaining. The security, unfortunately, also dampened the numbers of people who wanted even just a glimpse of the Holy Father. Despite all this, the excitement people had about seeing him and the sacrifices they made to do it were simply infectious.

The closest I got was about 20 feet away from him at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The tight security and sectioned off areas made it difficult to get much closer.  Other times, I was near the back venues in designated press areas, or even outside an event, as with the Mass for clergy at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The trip has increased my own appreciation of living in Rome and the opportunities I have to see the Holy Father -- just to see the lengths other people have gone, even to get a glimpse of him in the popemobile, is a great reminder of the privilege it is to live near the Vatican.

Q: Do you think the Pontiff's trip to the United States was a success?

Gress: If success can be measured by how one brings Christ to others, I think it was a tremendous success. With Pope John Paul II, people flocked to him because of his personality, exuberance, charm and charisma. Even in his later years, there was still speculation that that was the draw for so many young people -- they wanted to be close to a celebrity.

But with Pope Benedict, the celebrity flash is just not there -- and yet, he drew people in with the same magnetism -- a magnetism that can only be attributed to Christ. From the president down to school children, everyone seemed to be caught up by his witness of hope.

* * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End of the Caricature
Americans got to see the real Pope Benedict, not the cartoon Rottweiler.
By George Weigel Posted: Monday, April 28, 2008

ARTICLE   Newsweek    Publication Date: April 25, 2008

Forty-eight hours into his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI had done something remarkable: he had successfully buried the cartoon Joseph Ratzinger, a nasty caricature created decades earlier by his theological enemies and subsequently marketed to the world press. From his first moments at Andrews Air Force Base, however, it was clear that this was no hard-edged theological enforcer, no Rottweiler. Instead of the cartoon Ratzinger, America was introduced to a modest, friendly man, a grandfatherly Bavarian with exquisite manners and a shock of unruly white hair, full of affection and admiration for the United States.

Nor was Ratzinger's cartoon image the only thing crumbling on the brilliant spring morning of April 16, when President George W. Bush formally welcomed the pope to America. Forty-five years before, a White House fearful of the political backlash from anti-Catholic prejudice insisted that a brief meeting in Rome between President Kennedy and Pope Paul VI be described as informal and unofficial. Now an evangelical Texas Methodist pulled out all the ceremonial stops to welcome the Bishop of Rome on the south lawn of the White House--and the Bishop of Rome, a former American POW, could be seen singing the refrain of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" along with the U.S. Army choir. It all seemed a very long way indeed from the days when the Know Nothings bludgeoned the marble sent by Pope Pius IX for the Washington Monument and threw the fragments into the Potomac. What historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr., used to call the deepest prejudice in American history--anti-Catholicism--was largely a thing of the past, save in the fever swamps where ancient bigotries and hatreds fester.

The transformation of the papal image was complete when Benedict XVI surprised everyone (including many senior churchmen) by meeting privately for conversation and prayer with five Boston-area victims of clergy sexual abuse. On the flight to America the pope had forthrightly seized control of this issue, speaking of his own "shame" over the behavior of priests who had abused the young; he later acknowledged the parallel and related disgrace of bishops who had failed in their duty to protect the flock. Still, it took that meeting with those who had suffered at the hands of something both they and he loved--the Catholic Church--to drive home the point that Benedict XVI was not just a friendly scholar. By meeting, praying and even crying with those who had been deeply hurt, Benedict made unmistakably plain what those who had known him already knew: that he is a man with a pastor's heart and a true priest's compassion.

That pastoral touch continued to be displayed throughout the six days of Benedict's visit to New York. His masterful sermon in St. Patrick's Cathedral--in which he used the building's stained glass, its symmetry, and the countervailing tensions in its stonework as metaphors for the life of the Church--was a brilliant, evocative exercise in the preacher's art and a useful reminder to pastors of all denominations that "preaching up," rather than "preaching down," is the way to inspire and nourish. The pope's reception by 25,000 young people at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers made clear that, while his is a different form of magic, he shares with the pyrotechnic John Paul II the capacity to call the younger generation to lives of spiritual and moral grandeur. Then there was Ground Zero, and the pope's prayer for the conversion of the hearts of the violent and wicked. Nothing maudlin, nothing artificial, a candle lit in memory, and words of compassion to those who bear the burden of survival.

This magnificent Catholic theater shouldn't have been a distraction from the substance of Benedict XVI's message, but it was, almost inevitably. A world of sound bites and rapidly shifting images does not take easily to Professor Ratzinger, the pope who answers questions in complete and coherent paragraphs and whose demeanor is not electric. And that, perhaps, explains some of the inattention to this very substantive man of ideas in the three years since his election. Yet there are ideas Benedict proposed that are very much worth pondering in the afterglow of his American media debut, ideas about the way the world works, ideas about interreligious dialogue and ideas about Christian ecumenism. The common thread among them was the Benedictine project of turning noise into conversation through the recovery of moral reason.

Human Rights: The World's Moral Vocabulary
The primary purpose of Benedict's transatlantic pilgrimage was to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. He did not blast the Bush administration for Iraq, as some uninformed sources had declared he would during the previsit spin games. Nor did he conduct the international tour d'horizon that the diplomats of the Vatican might have preferred. Rather, Benedict XVI put on Professor Ratzinger and gave the General Assembly a thoughtful lecture on how to turn noise into conversation.

Benedict XVI is profoundly aware of the world's dissonance, which to his mind is not simply a reflection of the world's plurality. In addition to the radically different political, religious, philosophical, and ideological claims being pressed in the global public square, there is the problem of a West that has lost its faith in reason--a West that has a very shaky hold on the conviction (fundamental to Western civilization from Socrates through the scientific revolution) that human beings can know the truth of things, including the moral truth of things. And that seems to Benedict not just a grave problem in itself, but a grave political problem. For how can the conversation, debate and argument that are the lifeblood of any humane politics happen when everyone is speaking a different language, no one can agree on a translator, and the very need for "translation" is regarded by the postmodern avant-garde as impossibly old hat? In these circumstances, conversation is impossible and noise dominates.

So Benedict came to the U.N. to suggest that noise could be transformed into a genuine engagement of differences through the moral reason that all human beings share in common, and through one of the lessons that moral reason teaches rational people about how they should treat with each other. We call that lesson, today, "human rights." Thus the notion of human rights as a global vocabulary that can turn noise into conversation (which was a leitmotif of John Paul II's remarks to the General Assembly in 1995) was the centerpiece of Benedict's U.N. address. Noting the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Benedict reminded his listeners that here, in fact, was noise turned into conversation. For "this document was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, science and religion." Then he drove the point home: "Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations."

How can we know that these "rights" exist, the pope asked. We can know them because "they are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations." Human rights, properly understood, are a universal moral patrimony; they are not benefices to be awarded by states for good behavior, nor are basic human rights a cultural imposition from the West on the rest. Human rights are built into us--Benedict would say by "God's creative design for the world and for history," which reaches its "high point" in the human person. Still, the pope's argument that universal human rights are the reflection of universal moral truths "built into" the human person is a claim that can be engaged by nonbelievers, as well as by believers of all religious traditions that cherish reason.

Voltaire must be spinning in his grave at the thought of the See of Peter as the defender of reason in the modern world. Yet Benedict, like John Paul II, has set his face, and his church, against the sundry irrationalities (including religious irrationalities) that now stalk the world, wreaking havoc with human affairs. Moreover, by suggesting that the United Nations' moral legitimacy derives not from the black letters on paper that are the U.N. Charter but from the United Nations' commitment to protecting and promoting basic human rights and its effectiveness in doing so, the pope has helped advance, however slightly, the cause of U.N. reform.

Truth-Centered Dialogue
The pope also had some important and challenging things to say about turning noise into conversation among religions, and within the fractured Christian household.

In a meeting with representatives of world religions in Washington, the pope previewed his U.N. address by summoning people of faith to put their moral convictions at the service of the defense of human rights, especially religious freedom. He then made clear that, in his mind, tolerance does not mean avoiding differences in an exchange of pleasantries and banalities; rather, he gently suggested, true dialogue means taking differences seriously and exploring them, within a bond of civility created by mutual respect in the quest for truth: "… Religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence. Only by addressing these questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family."

In other words, genuine interreligious dialogue, capable of turning noise into conversation, does not avoid the hard questions; it begins with the hard questions. It is not difficult to imagine that Benedict had in mind here the dialogue he has been slowly nurturing with Islam, a dialogue focused on religious freedom and the separation of spiritual and political authority in the state. Unlike those veterans of the Catholic-Islamic dialogue who have long preferred to avoid those questions, Benedict insists, quietly but firmly, on beginning with them. Whether his approach helps support those Islamic reformers working to build an Islam that can live with pluralism and political modernity is one of the great questions on which a lot of 21st-century history will turn.

Benedict was equally challenging in discussing the grand strategy of the intra-Christian ecumenical dialogue. At "just … the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel," Christians are deeply divided, the pope noted--a standard ecumenical lament. But then Benedict sharply raised the ecumenical ante by asking his fellow Christian leaders to consider whether those divisions did not reflect a "relativistic approach" to Christian doctrine and moral teaching strangely parallel to secularist critiques of Christianity: a "relativism" about the truth of Christian faith that is shaped by the assumption that "science alone is 'objective'," an assumption that relegates all religious conviction "to the subjective sphere of individual feeling." Benedict's personal answer to that question is, undoubtedly, yes. Which suggests that this man who once took a professor's post at Tubingen precisely to deepen his own theological dialogue with Lutheran colleagues now realizes that the real future of serious ecumenical conversation lies with the Catholic Church's encounter with those Christian communities (largely, but not exclusively, evangelical) that still believe that the Gospel and the creeds stand in judgment on our theological speculation, rather than vice versa. The Gospel and the creeds, the pope suggested, are the boundaries within which real conversation can grow from ecumenical noise.

The Intellectual as Pastor
For three years Benedict XVI has thought that his will be a relatively short pontificate. He was, after all, 78 when elected. Yet he also seemed quite energized during most of his U.S. visit, and that energy calls to mind a story about Pope Leo XIII, the inventor of the modern papacy as an office of moral persuasion, who died in 1903 at the age of 93. A few years before his death Leo received an American bishop in private audience. Toward the end of their meeting, the story goes, the bishop got a little emotional and, wiping away a tear, said, "Holy Father, I suppose this is the last time we shall see each other in this world." At which the nonagenarian pontiff reached over, took his visitor's hand, and replied, "My dear man, you didn't tell me you were feeling poorly."

No one, including Benedict XVI, knows whether he has another decade in the chair of St. Peter or whether he will ever visit the United States (a country he manifestly loves) again. Even if he never returns, however, he has given Americans of all faiths and no faith important things to think about. The American majority was reaffirmed in its conviction that religiously informed moral argument has a place in public life. The nonbelieving minority experienced a religious leader who took care to speak in a language nonbelievers could understand. In a season of increasingly adolescent political cantankerousness, it was refreshing to be in the presence of an adult--an adult who treated his hosts as adults by paying them the compliment of making serious, sustained arguments. Moreover, by showing his pastor's heart, one of the world's most learned men embodied a truth of which both he and John Paul II were firmly convinced: faith and reason go together. If Benedict XVI was received warmly in the United States, that may have had something to do with his ability to gently remind all Americans of one of the truths on which our democracy rests, and indeed has long rested.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nuncio: US Catholics Have New Concept of Pope
Reports Faithful Returning to Mass After April Visit

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2008 - American Catholics have changed their image of Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church after the Pope's April visit to the United States, says the Vatican nuncio in that country.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi told L'Osservatore Romano that the American people "discovered" the Holy Father during his visit, which they viewed in an overwhelmingly positive way.

"Benedict XVI was little and badly known in the United States," Archbishop Sambi said. "Those who expected an 'inflexible policeman of the Holy Office' have been conquered by the pastor, the father, the persuasive teacher.

"The Pope has been 'discovered' as an attentive expert on what happens in the heart of the man of today, as a bearer of substantial and life-giving answers, offered with clarity, with humility, almost with timidity."

And in response to this, the prelate affirmed, "the affection, attention, respect and love of a whole population has exploded."

From among the many details of the visit, Archbishop Sambi emphasized the Pontiff's visit to ground zero, which was "a moment of intense identification of the American people, regardless of their faith, with Benedict XVI."

"Even the press, which normally makes no secret of its sharpness with the Catholic Church, has written of and transmitted the visit of the Pope with interest, respect and liking," explained the nuncio. The secular press "defined the visit as 'an event that exceeded every expectation.' And, given the power and resonance of the U.S. mass media, a success here implies a success in the whole world."

Hope

Archbishop Sambi suggested that the Pope was able to connect with the American people because he spoke of hope.

He explained: "In the homily in Nationals Stadium in Washington, the Pontiff said, 'Americans have always been a people of hope [……] Hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character.' On Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were attacked, the American people, just like in all their difficult moments, headed to the churches and the temples, finding in God's presence trust, unity and courage.

"Speaking of hope, the Pope has touched on a theme that is profoundly rooted in the history and the culture of this people, and he has struck a particularly sensitive chord for these times.

"The success of the Pope can be explained by Benedict XVI's capacity to understand the motivations of the American people and to contribute, with humility, the answers they need."
Another important moment, according to the prelate, was the Pope's meeting with President George Bush -- as the Pontiff himself noted later at the general audience of April 30.

Also during that audience, Archbishop Sambi recalled, in which the Holy Father gave a review of the trip, he referred to the "healthy secularism" characteristic of American society, which "was built from the outset on the foundations of a felicitous combination of religious, ethical and political principles."

"The Pope spoke of the 'valid example of healthy secularism' in the United States, describing it as: '[W]here the religious dimension, with the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but appreciated as the nation's "soul" and a fundamental guarantee of human rights and duties' -- a description of 'healthy secularism' that deserves to be attentively studied," Archbishop Sambi affirmed.

Instilling courage

The nuncio said another effect of the trip was instilling new courage in American Catholics.

"On the Catholic radio of the Archdiocese of New York, the Pope said he had come to confirm them in their faith, 'but in reality it is you who have confirmed me, with your response, with your enthusiasm, with your affection.' These spontaneous words have touched the heart of American Catholics, and they have been perceived as appreciation and encouragement," the prelate said.

According to Archbishop Sambi, after the visit, "the Catholic Church has been renewed in courage. We are getting reports from parishes that many of the faithful who had for some time abandoned their religious practices, have returned to confession and Sunday Mass."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The pope

28 Apr 2008
Benedict and the Art of Avoiding Controversy

By Emily Maguire

Why have the media largely ignored Pope Benedict XVI's role in covering up sex abuse within the Catholic Church?
On Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to the US, he was treated better than God. The President personally met his plane, news stations played his speeches and prayers on a loop, and newspapers reprinted his every word and liberally quoted his adoring fans. Those criticisms that did appear in the press tended towards the apologetic.

Will the Australian media be any less starstruck when Benedict visits Sydney for World Youth Day in July? Going on the Aussie coverage of his US tour, I'd say, sadly, no.

The media here has mostly focused on the Pope's comments about sexual abuse in the American church. Fair enough, too - it's a huge story. According to Church commissioned research, around 4500 American Catholic priests and deacons have been accused of sexually abusing more than 13,000 children since 1950. Victim advocate groups claim the numbers are even higher, but all agree that the suffering has been immense and an acknowledgement from the head of the Church overdue.

So, when the Pope repeatedly expressed "shame" and "sorrow" over the abuse, the media rushed to report this long awaited apology. Unfortunately, few outlets bothered to include the protests of victim advocate groups who were unhappy that no commitments for action were made.

Similarly, while Benedict's admission that the sex abuse allegations were "badly handled" was widely reported, the fact that, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981-2005, he was the one responsible for handling them was barely mentioned. The West Australian did refer to claims of a Church cover-up, but provided no details. ABC Radio told listeners the Pope used to be in charge of investigating alleged abuse, but not about the 2001 letter he sent to all US bishops ordering them to report allegations directly to Rome and never speak of them again.

This is not a minor omission; it was under the authority of this letter that American bishops moved known child rapists from parish to parish, rather than reporting them to police.

Timid as it was, the critique of Benedict's contrition was downright fierce compared with that of his address to the United Nations. The Sydney Morning Herald's report reads like a Vatican press release, telling us that "Pope Benedict has used his moral authority to promote human rights..." Note that the man's "moral authority" is presented as fact with no acknowledgement that he has authority only over Catholics, and that his morality is widely disputed.

Thanks to Bill Leak

Many people reject, for example, his calls for women to be denied access to contraception and abortion, and many reject his calls for gay and lesbian people to be denied the right to marry and have children. Many find his hostility to liberation theology - the belief that Catholics are called to fight social injustice - objectionable, and many are horrified that he describes the conquest of Indigenous Americans as an act of "purification and civilisation". With the AIDS epidemic killing millions a year, a great many people consider it unspeakably immoral that he forbids his followers to use condoms.

To say, without providing context or background, that Benedict "promotes human rights", is to beg the question of if he really does. It also leaves readers with an incomplete understanding. Imagine reading that Sheik Al-Hilaly used his moral authority to promote women's rights. Would you not expect at least a mention of the uncovered meat controversy?

I know this article will be construed as an attack on Catholics, but it's really not. Catholics are of such diversity in views, behaviours and beliefs that speaking of them as a homogenous group - whether to praise or condemn - is absurd. I'm writing here about one man and the inappropriate reverence with which he is treated by the media.

It's true that World Youth Day has copped a heap of criticism, but it's all been about costs and inconveniences, not a word about the man presiding over it all. A man who, apart from anything else, meets the Department of Immigration's definition of a "controversial visa applicant", due to the "likelihood of ... part of the Australian community being vilified or defamed" if he starts mouthing off about homosexual people being "objectively disordered" and tending towards "intrinsic moral evil" again.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting he should be barred entry. Rather, I'm perplexed by the absence of the usual rowdy debate over the entrance of people of questionable character into Australia.

Come July, let's hope at least a few journos and editors remain immune to the pomp, ceremony and aura of claimed mystical power. Sure, the Pope is mega famous and has many fans, but he's just a man, and his words and actions are as deserving of analysis and criticism as those of any other public figure.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------