The Pope's
to groups of bishops

Pope Francis's Message to Cameroon Bishops on Their 'Ad Limina' Visit
"To develop the dialogue of life with Muslims, in a spirit of mutual trust is indispensable today to maintain a climate of peaceful coexistence, and to discourage the development of violence."

VATICAN CITY, September 09, 2014  - On Sept. 6, the Holy Father received in audience, in the Clementine Hall, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, on the occasion of their visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.”

Here is a translation of the text of the address the Pope gave to the Prelates in the course of the meeting.



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I give you my welcome. I am very happy to meet with you on the occasion of your visit ad limina! I thank Monsignor Samuel Kleda, President of your Episcopal Conference, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf. I ask you to transmit my warm greetings to all your diocesans, in particular to the priests, the men and women religious, the laity engaged in pastoral service as well as all the inhabitants of Cameroon. I also address a fraternal greeting to Cardinal Christian Tumi. May your prayer at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul comfort you in faith and perseverance for the exercise of your pastoral charge, at the service of the people entrusted to you. They are for us the models we must follow in the total gift that they have made of themselves – to the price of their blood – to Christ and to his Gospel.

Your visit gives me the occasion to renew to you my encouragement and my confidence, and to stress the spirit of communion that you have at heart to keep with the Apostolic See. For the Gospel to touch and convert hearts profoundly, we must in fact remember that it is only by being united in love that we can give witness in a genuine and effective way. Unity and diversity are for you realities to maintain firmly connected to do justice to the human and spiritual richness of your dioceses, which is expressed in many ways. Moreover, I hope that the good collaboration between the Church, the State and the Cameroonian society as a whole, which was manifested recently by the signing of an Agreement

-Framework between the Holy See and the Republic of Cameroon, will bear abundant fruits. I invite you to put that Agreement to work concretely, as the juridical recognition of numerous ecclesial institutions will give them greater influence, for the benefit not only of the Church , but of the whole of Cameroonian society.

In this connection, I wish to greet the considerable engagement of your local Churches in a great number of social works. This engagement in educational, health, and charitable areas is recognized and appreciated by the Civil Authorities; it must be the place of a fruitful collaboration between the State and the Church, in full respect of the latter. Engagement in social works is an integral part of evangelization, as there is a profound connection between evangelization and human promotion. The latter must be expressed and developed in all evangelizing action (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 178). Therefore, I encourage you to persevere in the care you give to the weak, by supporting materially and spiritually all those who consecrate themselves there, in particular the members of the religious Institutes and the associated laymen. My heartfelt thanks to them all for the dedication and genuine witness they give of the love of Christ for all men.

Your evangelizing action will be rendered that much more effective, so that the Gospel is really lived by those who have received it and professed it. Found there is the means to attract to Christ those who still do not know him, by showing them the strength of his love which is capable of transforming and illumining men’s life. It is only in this way that we can face, in vigilance but with serenity, the development of many new propositions that seduce spirits without renewing hearts profoundly. Moreover, the important presence of Muslims in certain of your dioceses, is a pressing invitation to witness courageously and joyfully faith in the Risen Christ. To develop the dialogue of life with Muslims, in a spirit of mutual trust is indispensable today to maintain a climate of peaceful coexistence, and to discourage the development of violence of which Christians are victims in certain regions of the Continent.

It seems to me essential, then, as a priority, to pursue your action aimed at implanting and strengthening the faith in the hearts of the faithful. Formation is an essential element in the development of the People of God, particularly in these times when relativism and secularization are beginning to take root in Africa. Very many lay persons are involved in their parishes and in movements, and they are indeed vital to the handing on of the faith. Their formation must be solid and ongoing. I ask you to convey to these lay faithful and to all involved in this work of formation my appreciation and my warmest encouragement.

Families, equally, must continue to be the focus of your particular care, especially today as they experience grave hardships – be they poverty, displacement of peoples, lack of security, the temptation to return to ancestral practices incompatible with the Christian faith, or even new lifestyles proposed by a secularized world. I invite you to take full advantage of the tenth Plenary Assembly of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa held in the Congo, in whose work you took part, and which – I have no doubt – will bear abundant fruit.

Moreover, it is essential that the clergy give witness of a life inhabited by the Lord, coherent with the exigencies and principles of the Gospel. I wish to express to all the priests my thanks for the apostolic zeal of which they make proof, often in difficult and precarious conditions, and I assure them of my closeness and my prayer. It is appropriate, nevertheless, to remain vigilant in the discernment and support of priestly vocations – thanks be to God, numerous in Cameroon – and also to support the permanent formation and the spiritual life of priests for whom you are attentive fathers, while the temptations of the world are numerous, in particular those of power, of honors and of money. On this last point in particular, the adverse witness that could be given by bad management of goods, personal enrichment or waste would be particularly scandalous in a region where many people lack the necessary.

Moreover, the unity of the clergy is an indispensable element of witness rendered to the Risen Christ: “that they may all be one, so that the world will believe” (John 17:21); it is a question of the unity of Bishops, often confronted by the same challenges and called to contribute common and concerted solutions, or of the unity of the presbyterium which the Lord calls to build each day overlooking the prejudices, notably the ethnic.

Finally, consecrated life calls for such support, so that, rooted in Christ at the service of the Kingdom, it remains always a prophetic witness and a model in the matter of reconciliation, of justice and of peace (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 117). I invite you to contribute your support to the religious Institutes in their efforts of human and spiritual formation, and to accept and support, with prudent discernment, new initiatives.

Dear brothers, may the courageous efforts of evangelization that you deploy in your pastoral ministry bear numerous fruits of conversion. I invite you to render thanks without ceasing and to renew the gift of yourselves to Christ and to the people entrusted to you. Without fearing the difficulties, you will go forward courageously, with a renewed missionary spirit, in order to take the Good News to all those that still await it or who are in greatest need of it. I entrust you all, as well as your dioceses, to the intercession of Saint John Paul II, who visited your country twice, and to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. May God bless you!


Pope Francis's Letter to Bishops of Cuba on Patroness' Feast Day
"If we imitate Mary, we cannot remain listless, just lamenting ourselves, or perhaps letting the burden slip from our hands so that others will do what is our responsibility."

VATICAN CITY, September 09, 2014  - Here below is a translation of a letter that the Holy Father sent to Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santiago de Cuba, President of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (C.O.C.C.), on the occasion of the Nativity of Mary, feast of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, observed on September 8.



To His Excellency Monsignor Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez

Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba

President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba

Vatican, September 8, 2014

Dear Brother,

A few days ago, the venerated image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre was placed in the Vatican Gardens. Her presence is an evocative reminder of the affection and vitality of the Church that pilgrims in those luminous lands of the Caribbean that, for more than four centuries, has addressed the Mother of God with that beautiful title. From the mountains of El Cobre, and now from the See of Peter, that small and blessed figure of Mary enlarges the soul of those who invoke her with devotion, as she leads us to Jesus, her divine Son.

Today, in which the feast is celebrated of Mary Most Holy, the Mambisa Virgin, I unite myself to all Cubans who fixed their eyes on her Immaculate Heart, to ask for favors, to entrust their dear ones and imitate her in her humility and dedication to Christ, of whom she was the first and best of his disciples.

Every time I read the Sacred Scriptures, my attention is caught by three verbs in the passages that speak of Our Lady. I would like to reflect on them, to invite the pastors and faithful of Cuba to put them into practice.

The first is to rejoice. It was the first word that the Archangel Gabriel addressed to the Virgin: ”Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). The life of one who has discovered Jesus is filled with such inner joy that nothing and no one can take away from him. Christ gives his own the necessary strength not to be sad or anxious, thinking that problems have no solution. Leaning on this truth, a Christian has no doubt that what is done with love engenders serene joy, sister of hope which breaks the barrier of fear and opens the doors to a promising future. “I am the Virgin of Charity,” is what the three Johns read in the small board that floated in the Bay of Nipe. How nice it would be if all Cubans, especially the young people, could say the same: “I am a man of charity”: I live to truly love, and thus not be trapped in the harmful trap of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What joy is felt by one who loves genuinely with daily deeds, and is not one of those who abound in empty words, which are gone with the wind.

The second verb is to arise, Saint Luke says that, with Jesus in her womb, Mary arose and went in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth, who was to be a mother in her old age (cf. Luke 1:39-45). She did God’s will, putting herself at the disposition of one in need. She did not think of herself, she surmounted the adversities and gave herself to others. The victory is of those who rise over and over again, without being discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot remain listless, just lamenting ourselves, or perhaps letting the burden slip from our hands so that others will do what is our responsibility. It is not about doing great things, but about doing things with tenderness and mercy. Mary was always with her people in favour of the little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile, and learned to create fraternity and to make any place where good germinated her home.  We pray that she may give us the soul of one who is poor, who has no pride, a pure heart that sees God in the face of the underprivileged, a strong patience that does not draw back in face of life’s difficulties.

The third verb is to persevere. Mary, who had experienced God’s goodness, proclaimed the great things He did for her (cf. Luke 1:46-55). She did not rely on her own strength, but on God, whose love is without end. So she stayed with her Son, whom all had abandoned; she prayed with the Apostles and other disciples without losing heart, so that they would not grow discouraged (cf. Acts 1:14). We are also called to remain in God’s love and to go on loving others. In this world, in which imperishable values are disdained and everything is changeable, in which using and discarding triumph, in which it seems that there is fear of life commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women who are constant in doing good, who keep their word, who are always faithful. And we do this because we trust God and put Him at the center of our life and of that of those whom we love.

To be joyful and to share this joy with those around us. To lift our heart and not to succumb in face of adversities, to remain on the path of goodness, tirelessly helping those who are oppressed by sorrows and afflictions: these are the important lessons that the Virgin of Charity of Cobre teaches us, useful to today and for tomorrow. I place in her maternal hands the pastors, religious communities and faithful of Cuba, that she may encourage their evangelizing commitment and their will to make love the foundation of the society. In this way there will be no lack of joy to live, will to serve and perseverance in good works.

I ask the children of the Church in Cuba, please, to pray for me as I need it.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you always.





Papal Address to Bishops From Mission Territories

"Look upon today's world with faith, to understand it in depth"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday when he received in audience recently appointed bishops heading Mission Territories, who took part in a course of formation organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Dear Brothers,

I am happy to meet with you, who are gathered in Rome for the course of formation for recently appointed bishops, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I cordially greet cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the dicastery, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me also in your name. I greet monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai and monsignor Protase Rugambwa, Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Congregation. To them and to all who contribute to the good outcome of the Seminary, I express my gratitude. This course is taking place in proximity of the Year of Faith, a precious gift of the Lord to his Church to help the baptized to be conscious of their faith and to communicate it to those who have yet to experienced its beauty.

The communities of which you are pastors in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania, although in difficult circumstances, are all involved in the first evangelization and in the endeavor of consolidating the faith. You perceive their joys and hopes, as well as their wounds and concerns, similarly to the Apostle Paul, who wrote: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Colossians 1:24). And he added: "For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me" (v. 29). May trust in the Lord always be firm in your heart; the Church is his, and it is He that guides her in difficult moments and in serenity. Your communities are almost all of recent foundation, and they present the merits and weaknesses connected with their brief history. They reflect a shared and joyful, lively and creative faith, but often not yet rooted. In them enthusiasm and apostolic zeal alternate with moments of instability and inconsistency. Emerging here and there are frictions and abandonments. However, they are Churches that are maturing thanks to pastoral action, but also to the gift of that communio sanctorum, which makes possible a true and proper osmosis of grace between the Churches of ancient tradition and those of recent constitution, as well as, and foremost, between the heavenly and the pilgrim Church. Registered for some time is a decrease of missionaries, balanced, however, by the increase of the diocesan and Religious clergy. The numerical growth of native priests also produces a new form of missionary cooperation: some young Churches have begun to send their priests to sister Churches deprived of clergy in the same country or in nations of the same Continent. It is a communion that must always animate the evangelizing action.

Therefore, the young Churches are a sign of hope for the future of the universal Church. In this context, dear Brothers, I encourage you not to spare effort and courage for a diligent pastoral work, remembering the gift of grace that was sown in you in your episcopal ordination, and which can be summarized in the tria munera of teaching, sanctifying and governing. Have at heart the missio ad gentes, the inculturation of the faith, the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the care of the diocesan clergy, of men and women Religious, and of the laity. The Church is born from the mission and grows with the mission. Make your own the interior appeal of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2 Corinthians 5:14). A correct inculturation of the faith will help you to incarnate the Gospel in the cultures of the peoples and to assume the good that lives in them. It is a long and difficult process which in no way must compromise the specificity and integrity of the Christian faith (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, 52). The mission requires pastors configured to Christ by their sanctity of life, prudence and farsightedness, ready to spend themselves generously for the Gospel and to carry in their heart concern for all the Churches.

Watch over the flock, having a special attention for the priests. Guide them with your example, live in communion with them, be willing to listen to them and to receive them with paternal benevolence, appreciating their different capacities. Commit yourselves to ensuring to your priests specific and periodic meetings of formation. Make it so that the Eucharist is at the heart of their existence and the raison d’etre of their ministry. Look upon today’s world with faith, to understand it in depth, and have a generous heart, ready to enter into communion with the women and men of our time. Do not fail in your primary responsibility of men of God, called to prayer and to the service of his Word for the benefit of the flock. May it also be said of you what the priest Onias affirmed of the prophet Jeremiah: "This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city" (2 Maccabees 15:14). Keep your sight fixed on Jesus, the Pastor of pastors: today’s world needs persons who speak to God to be able to speak of God. Only in this way will the Word bear fruit (cf. Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, October 15, 2011).

Dear Brothers, your Churches know well the context of instability that affects in a worrying way the daily life of the people. The food, health and educational emergencies challenge the ecclesial communities and involve them in a direct way. Indeed, their attention and work are appreciated and praised. Added to natural calamities are cultural and religious discriminations, intolerance and factiousness, fruit of fundamentalisms that reveal erroneous anthropological views that lead to underestimate, if not ignore, the right to religious liberty, respect of the weakest, especially children, women and bearers of handicaps. Heavy, finally, are the <re-emerging> contrasts between ethnic groups and castes, which cause unjustifiable violence. Put your trust in the Gospel, in its renewing strength, in its capacity to reawaken consciences and to cause from within the rescue of persons and the creation of a new fraternity. The diffusion of the Word of the Lord makes the gift of reconciliation blossom and fosters the unity of peoples.

In the Message for the next World Mission Day I wish to remind that faith is a gift to be received in the heart and in life, and for which we must always thank the Lord. However faith is given so that it is shared; a talent given so that it bears fruit; a light which must not be kept hidden. Faith is the most important gift that has been given to us in life: we cannot keep it only for ourselves! "All have the right to know the value of such gift and to access it," says John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptoris missio (11). Reaffirming the priority of evangelization, the Servant of God Paul VI said: "Men will be able to save themselves also by other paths, thanks to the mercy of God, even if we do not proclaim the Gospel to them; however, will we be able to be saved if, because of negligence, fear, shame or in consequence of false ideas, we neglect to proclaim it?" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). May this question resound in our heart as an appeal to feel the absolute priority of the task of evangelization. Dear Brothers, I entrust you and your communities to Mary Most Holy, first disciple of the Lord and first evangelizer, having given to the world the Word of God made flesh. May she, the Star of evangelization, always

guide your steps. In this connection, I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Greeting to Metropolitan Archbishops
The Church is "called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he had imposed the pallium on Friday, and their delegations.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to greet all of you, who have come to Rome, to the tomb of the Apostles, with your metropolitan archbishops, upon whom I had the joy to bestow the pallium yesterday in the Vatican Basilica during the course of a solemn celebration commemorating the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In this meeting of ours we wish, as it were, to continue the climate of profound ecclesial communion, which we experienced yesterday. In fact, the presence of the metropolitan archbishops, who come from different parts of the world, manifests the visible universality of the Church, called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages.

I greet each of you with affection, venerable and esteemed metropolitan brothers, and with you I greet your relatives, friends and the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, who are your crown in these significant days. I also greet the dioceses from which you hail.

[Following this general greeting the Holy Father then addressed each group in the appropriate language. In English he said:]

My thoughts turn in the first place to you, dear pastors of the Church

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I conferred the Pallium yesterday. From the United States of America: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver. From Papua New Guinea: Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul. From the Philippines: Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, Archbishop Jose Advincula of Capiz, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, Archbishop John Du of Palo. From Bangladesh: Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka. From the Antilles: Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain. From Zambia: Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama. From India: Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta. From Pakistan: Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi. From Australia: Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane. From Korea: Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo Jung of Seoul. From Nigeria: Archbishop Alfred Martins of Lagos. I also welcome their family members, their relatives, friends and the faithful of their respective Archdioceses who have come to Rome to pray with them and to share their joy.

[Concluding the audience in Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, bring back to your communities the experience of intense spirituality and authentic evangelical unity of these days so that it touch the heart of believers and reverberate through the whole society, leaving traces of good. May the intercession of the heavenly Mother of God and the Apostles Peter and Paul obtain for the Christian people the capacity to make the words of truth that the Lord Jesus left us as a gift shine in the world through the tenacious and limpid witness of individuals. With these sentiments I bestow from my heart the Apostolic Benediction.


Pope's Homily on Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Friday, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica concelebrated with 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he imposed the pallium.

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Your Eminences,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered around the altar for our solemn celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal Patrons of the Church of Rome. Present with us today are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, who have just received the Pallium, and to them I extend a particular and affectionate greeting. Also present is an eminent Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and I welcome them with fraternal and heartfelt gratitude. In an ecumenical spirit, I am also pleased to greet and to thank the Choir of Westminster Abbey, who are providing the music for this liturgy alongside the Cappella Sistina. I also greet the Ambassadors and civil Authorities present. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and your prayers.

In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as is well known, there are two imposing statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, easily recognizable by their respective attributes: the keys in the hand of Peter and the sword held by Paul. Likewise, at the main entrance to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, there are depictions of scenes from the life and the martyrdom of these two pillars of the Church. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians.

In the passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession of faith in Jesus, acknowledging him as Messiah and Son of God. He does so in the name of the other Apostles too. In reply, the Lord reveals to him the mission that he intends to assign to him, that of being the "rock", the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (cf. Mt 16:16-19). But in what sense is Peter the rock? How is he to exercise this prerogative, which naturally he did not receive for his own sake? The account given by the evangelist Matthew tells us first of all that the acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity made by Simon in the name of the Twelve did not come "through flesh and blood", that is, through his human capacities, but through a particular revelation from God the Father. By contrast, immediately afterwards, as Jesus foretells his passion, death and resurrection, Simon Peter reacts on the basis of "flesh and blood": he "began to rebuke him, saying, this shall never happen to you" (16:22). And Jesus in turn replied: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me ..." (16:23). The disciple who, through God’s gift, was able to become a solid rock, here shows himself for what he is in his human weakness: a stone along the path, a stone on which men can stumble – in Greek, skandalon. Here we see the tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities; and in this scene between Jesus and Simon Peter we see anticipated in some sense the drama of the history of the papacy itself, characterized by the joint presence of these two elements: on the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history; on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.

And in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: "the gates of the underworld", that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, "non praevalebunt". One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: "Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you - non praevalebunt -, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!" (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the "gates of the underworld", from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.

Let us move on now to the symbol of the keys, which we heard about in the Gospel. It echoes the oracle of the prophet Isaiah concerning the steward Eliakim, of whom it was said: "And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Is 22:22). The key represents authority over the house of David. And in the Gospel there is another saying of Jesus addressed to the scribes and the Pharisees, whom the Lord reproaches for shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people (cf. Mt 23:13). This saying also helps us to understand the promise made to Peter: to him, inasmuch as he is the faithful steward of Christ’s message, it belongs to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to judge whether to admit or to refuse (cf. Rev 3:7). Hence the two images – that of the keys and that of binding and loosing – express similar meanings which reinforce one another. The expression "binding and loosing" forms part of rabbinical language and refers on the one hand to doctrinal decisions, and on the other hand to disciplinary power, that is, the faculty to impose and to lift excommunication. The parallelism "on earth ... in the heavens" guarantees that Peter’s decisions in the exercise of this ecclesial function are valid in the eyes of God.

In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, dedicated to the life of the ecclesial community, we find another saying of Jesus addressed to the disciples: "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18:18). Saint John, in his account of the appearance of the risen Christ in the midst of the Apostles on Easter evening, recounts these words of the Lord: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23). In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s mystery and ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I mentioned at the beginning, the iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this was the instrument with which he was killed. Yet as we read the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we discover that the image of the sword refers to his entire mission of evangelization. For example, when he felt death approaching, he wrote to Timothy: "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim 4:7). This was certainly not the battle of a military commander but that of a herald of the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to which he gave himself completely. And that is why the Lord gave him the crown of glory and placed him, together with Peter, as a pillar in the spiritual edifice of the Church.

Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, the Pallium that I have conferred on you will always remind you that you have been constituted in and for the great mystery of communion that is the Church, the spiritual edifice built upon Christ as the cornerstone, while in its earthly and historical dimension, it is built on the rock of Peter. Inspired by this conviction, we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and "symphonic", and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit. May the Holy Mother of God guide and accompany us always along the path of faith and charity. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Colombia on Ad Limina Visit
"... to recover in the baptized a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a first group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:

I receive you with great joy, Pastors of the Church of God that journeys in Colombia, who have come to Rome for your ad limina visit and thus tighten the bonds that unite you to this Apostolic See. As Successor of Peter, this is a precious opportunity to reiterate to you my affection and cordiality. I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me in your name by monsignor Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogota and president of the Episcopal Conference, presenting me with the realities that concern you, as well as the challenges that the communities over which you preside in the faith must face. I know the efforts you have made in recent years, both within the Episcopal Conference as well as in your particular Churches, to implement initiatives geared to fomenting a current of renewed and fruitful evangelization. In fact, Colombia is not a stranger to the consequences of forgetfulness of God. Whereas years ago it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural fabric, widely accepted in its reference to the content of the faith and all that was inspired in it, today it does not seem to be so in vast sectors of the society, given the crisis of spiritual and moral values which negatively affects many of your compatriots. Hence, it is indispensable to revive in all the faithful their awareness of being disciples and missionaries of Christ, nourishing the roots of their faith, strengthening their hope and invigorating their testimony of charity.

To this effect, you have molded your evangelizing desires on the Global Plan of the Episcopal Conference (2012-2020), the result of a conscious discernment of the hour the Church is living in Colombia. I want to encourage you to continue following, with tenacity and perseverance, the guidelines set out in it. Do so by strengthening the communion to which Bishops are called in the exercise of their mission as, by agreeing on pastoral approaches and uniting wills, the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to you will bear copious fruits. With this same objective, take advantage of the reflections of the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as well as the proposals of the “Year of Faith” which I have called, to illustrate your teaching with them and to irrigate your apostolate beneficially.

Growing religious pluralism is a factor that calls for serious consideration. The ever more active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, not only in Colombia, but also in many regions of Latin America, cannot be ignored or underestimated. In this connection, it is evident that the people of God are called to purify themselves and to revitalize their faith, allowing themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to thus give new thrust to your pastoral action, as “many times sincere people who leave our Church do not do so because of what ‘non-Catholic’ groups believe but, fundamentally, because of what they live; not for doctrinal but for existential reasons; not for strictly dogmatic but for pastoral reasons; not because of theological but methodological problems of our Church” (5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, Conclusive Document, n. 225). Hence, it is about being better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no one will feel distant or excluded. Catechesis must be promoted, giving special attention to young people and adults; homilies must be carefully prepared, as well as promoting the teaching of Catholic doctrine in schools and universities. And all this to recover in the baptized a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ and of being members of his Mystical Body.

It is also important to appeal to the ecclesial tradition, to promote Marian spirituality and to take care of the rich devotional diversity. To facilitate a serene and open exchange with other Christians, without losing one’s own identity, can also help to improve relations with them and to overcome mistrust and unnecessary confrontations. Moved by apostolic zeal and looking to the common good, do not fail to individualize all that hinders the right progress of Colombia, going out to meet those who are deprived of liberty because of the iniquitous violence. Contemplation of the lacerated face of Christ on the Cross will drive you also to redouble measures and programs tending to support lovingly and to assist all those who are being tried, particularly all those who are victims of natural disasters, the poorest, peasants, the sick and afflicted, multiplying solidaristic initiatives and works of love and mercy in their favor. Do not forget either those who must emigrate from their homeland, because they have lost their work or are keen to find it; those who see their fundamental rights trampled and are forced to leave their homes and abandon their families under the threat of the dark hand of terror and criminality; or those who have fallen into the ill-fated trade of drugs and arms. I wish to encourage you to continue on this path of generous and fraternal service, which is not the result of human calculation but is born of the love of God and of one’s neighbor, source where the Church finds her strength to carry out her task, giving to others what she herself has learned from the sublime example of her Founder.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, if the grace of God does not precede and sustain him, man soon weakens in his objectives to transform the world. Hence, for the light from on High to continue to make fruitful the prophetic and charitable commitment of the Church in Colombia, you must insist on fostering in your faithful their personal encounter with Jesus Christ, so that they pray without faltering, meditate assiduously on the Word of God and participate more worthily and fervently in the sacraments, celebrated in keeping with the canonical norms and liturgical books. All this will be a propitious way for an ideal itinerary of Christian Initiation, inviting all to conversion and sanctity and will cooperate towards the very necessary ecclesial renewal.

On ending this meeting, I pray to the Almighty that the Name of Our Lord Jesus is glorified in you, and you in Him (cf. 2 TSs1:12). While placing you under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, heavenly Patroness of Colombia, I am happy to impart the implored Apostolic Blessing, as pledge of peace and joy in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of man.


Papal Greeting to Bishops of Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea
"When the Church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, and I thank Archbishop John Ribat for his kind words on behalf of the whole of the Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. This gathering is a privileged opportunity to express our communion in the one Church of Christ. Through you I send warm greetings to the priests, the men and women religious and all those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their continued growth in faith, hope and charity.

I would like to commend your efforts to "tend the flock of God that is your charge" (1 Pet 5:2). The attention you give to those under your pastoral care has been particularly noteworthy in the way you provide for the basic needs of the poor, the marginalized and the sick – especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS – through the work of your diocesan agencies. Another important part of your pastoral ministry is exercised when you speak publicly as an objective moral voice on behalf of those in need. When the Church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good, not proposing concrete political solutions, but rather helping to "purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles" (Address at Westminster Hall, 17 September 2010). Such principles are accessible to all through right reason and are necessary for the just ordering of civil society. In view of this, I encourage you to continue to dialogue and to work with the civil authorities so that the Church may be free to speak and to provide services for the common good in a manner fully consonant with Gospel values.

I note from your reports that you are initiating various pastoral efforts which have as their common element the evangelization of culture. This is of great importance since the human person can "achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture" (Gaudium et Spes, 53). We also observe the essential role of culture in salvation history, since the Triune God gradually revealed himself in time, culminating in the sending of his only Son, who himself was born into a particular culture. On the other hand, while acknowledging the respective contribution of each culture and at times calling upon its resources in fulfilling her mission, the Church has been sent to preach the Gospel to all nations, transcending man-made boundaries. In the work of evangelization then, my Brother Bishops, continue to apply the eternal truths of the Gospel to the customs of the people whom you serve, in order to build upon the positive elements already present and to purify others when necessary. In this way, you play your part in the Church’s mission to lead people of every nation, race and language to Jesus Christ the Saviour in whom we find revealed the fullness and truth of humanity (cf. ibid).

When speaking about this aspect of evangelization, the family has a key role to play, since it is the basic unit of human society and the first place where faith and culture are appropriated. Although society has recognized the important role of the family throughout history, particular attention needs to be given at the present time to the religious, social and moral goods of fidelity, equality and mutual respect that must exist between husband and wife. The Church tirelessly proclaims that the family is based on the natural institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and in the case of baptized Christians, it is a covenant which has been raised by Christ to the supernatural level of a sacrament, through which husband and wife participate in the love of God as they become one flesh, pledging to love and respect each other while remaining open to God’s gift of children. In this regard, I commend your efforts to give pastoral priority to the evangelization of marriage and the family in accordance with Catholic moral teaching. As you continue the centenary celebrations of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot, who shed his blood in defence of the sanctity of marriage, I encourage all married couples to look to his example of courage and thus help others to see the family as a gift from God and the privileged environment where children "are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner" (Homily, 9 July 2006).

The work of evangelization involves all members of the Church of Christ. Mindful that Bishops, like the Apostles, "are sent to their Dioceses as the prime witnesses to the Risen Christ" (Ecclesia in Oceania, 19), make every effort to provide proper formation and catechetical programmes for the clergy, men and women religious, and the lay faithful so that they may be strong and joyful witnesses of the faith they profess as members of the Catholic Church. A properly catechized laity and well formed clergy and religious, "like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Mt 7:24), will be equipped to resist the temptations of the secular world and will be wise enough not to be deceived by attempts to convert them to overly simplistic versions of Christianity that are often based solely on false promises of material prosperity. While recognizing the importance of developing and maintaining formal programmes, I encourage you to remember that a key element for effective formation and catechetical programmes is the example of holy witnesses who, by "doing the will of God in everything ... wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of neighbour" (Lumen Gentium, 40). These witnesses and those they teach, with your guidance and support, will help to ensure that the Church in your countries will continue to be an effective instrument of evangelization, attracting those who do not yet know Christ and inspiring those who have become lukewarm in their faith.

Finally, my Brother Bishops, it is my hope that your visit to the Successor of Peter and to the tombs of the Apostles will strengthen your resolve to be protagonists of the new evangelization, especially during the upcoming Year of Faith. I also pray that your efforts will bear fruit, so that the kingdom of God may continue to grow in the portion of the Lord’s vineyard entrusted to your pastoral care. Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and your people, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to General Assembly of Italian Bishops
"The New Evangelization needs adults who are mature in the faith and witnesses of humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language address delivered today to the 64th General Assmebly of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

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Venerable and Dear Brothers,

Your annual gathering in Assembly is a moment of grace, in which you live a profound experience of encounter, sharing and discernment on your common journey, animated by the Spirit of the Risen Lord. It is a moment of grace that manifests the nature of the Church. I thank Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco for the cordial words with which he received me, making himself interpreter of your sentiments: to you, Eminence, I address best wishes for your renewed confirmation as head of the Italian Episcopal Conference. May the collegial affection that animates you nourish increasingly your collaboration at the service of ecclesial communion and the common good of the Italian nation, in the fruitful interlocution with its civil institutions. In this new five-year period, continue together the ecclesial renewal entrusted to you by the Vatican II Ecumenical Council. May the 50th anniversary of its beginning, which we will celebrate in the Fall, be a reason to reflect further on the texts, the condition of a dynamic and faithful reception. “What interests the Council most is that the sacred deposit of the Christian doctrine be protected and taught more effectively,” affirmed Blessed Pope John XXIII in his opening address. And it is worthwhile to meditate and read these words. The Pope exhorted the Fathers to reflect further and to present this perennial doctrine in continuity with the age-old tradition of the Church: “to transmit the doctrine pure and integral, without attenuations or distortions,” but in a new way, “according to what is required by our times.” (Address at the Solemn Opening of Vatican II Ecumenical Council, October 11, 1962). With this key of reading and application – certainly not from the point of view of an “unacceptable hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture, but of a hermeneutics of continuity and reform – to listen to the Council and to make our own the authoritative indications, is the way to identify the way with which the Church can offer a meaningful answer to the great social and cultural transformations of our time, which have visible consequences also on the religious dimension.

Scientific rationality and the technical culture, in fact, not only tend to make the world uniform, but often cross over the respective specific areas, with the pretext of delineating the perimeter of the certainties of reason solely with the empirical criterion of their own conquests. Thus the power of human capacities ends by restraining the measure of acting, free from every moral norm. Precisely in this context, there is no lack of re-emergence, at times in a confused way, of a singular and growing question of spirituality and of the supernatural, sign of a “concern that shelters in the heart of the man who does not open himself to the transcendent horizon of God. This situation of secularism characterizes above all the society of ancient Christian tradition and erodes that cultural fabric that, up to the recent past, was a unifying reference, capable of embracing the whole of human existence and of articulating the most significant moments, from birth to the passage to eternal life. The spiritual and moral patrimony in which the West sinks its roots and which constitutes its vital lymph, today is no longer understood in its profound value, to the point that it no longer grasps the urgency of truth. Thus even fecund earth risks becoming an inhospitable desert and the good seed is suffocated, trampled upon and lost.

It is a sign of the lessening of religious practice, visible in the participation in the Eucharistic liturgy and, even more so, in the Sacrament of Penance. So many of the baptized have lost their identity and membership: they do not know the essential contents of the faith or think they can cultivate it without ecclesial mediation. And while many look with doubt at the truths taught by the Church, others reduce the Kingdom of God to some great values, which certainly have something to do with the Gospel, but which again have no concern with the central nucleus of the Christian faith. The Kingdom of God is a gift that transcends us. As Blessed John Paul II affirmed: “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio [December 7, 1990], 18). Unfortunately, it is God Himself who is excluded from the horizon of so many persons, and when the discourse on God does not meet with indifference, closure or rejection, it is nevertheless relegated to the subjective realm, reduced to an intimate and private event, marginalized from the public conscience. The heart of the crisis that wounds Europe passes through this abandonment, this lack of openness to the Transcendent. It is a spiritual and moral crisis: man pretends to have an identity fulfilled simply in himself.

In this context, how can we correspond to the responsibility which has been entrusted to us by the Lord? How can we sow with trust the Word of God, so that every man can find the truth about himself, his own authenticity and hope? We are aware that new methods of the Gospel proclamation or pastoral actions to make the Christian proposal meet with greater reception and sharing, are not enough. In the preparation of Vatican II, the prevailing question to which the conciliar Assembly intended to give an answer was: “Church, what do you say of yourself?” Reflecting on this question, the conciliar Fathers were, so to speak, led back to the heart of the answer: it was about beginning again from God, celebrated, professed and witnessed. Externally, seemingly at random, but fundamentally not at random, in fact, the first Constitution approved was that of the Sacred Liturgy: divine worship orientates man to the future City and restores to God his primacy, molds the Church, incessantly convoked by the Word, and shows the world the fecundity of the encounter with God. In turn, while we must cultivate a grateful look for the growth of the good seed even in a terrain that is often arid, we perceive that our situation requires a renewed impulse, which will point to what is essential of the faith and of Christian life. At a time in which God has become for many the great unknown and Jesus simply a great personality of the past, there will be no new thrust of the missionary action without the renewal of the quality of our faith and our prayer; we will not be able to give adequate answers without a new reception of the gift of Grace; we will not know how to win men over to the Gospel if we ourselves do not first have a profound experience of God.

Dear brothers, our first, true and only task remains that of committing our life to what has worth and remains, to what is really reliable, necessary and ultimate. Men live from God, of Him who often unwittingly or only tentatively they seek to give full meaning to existence: we have the task of proclaiming it, of showing it, of leading to the encounter with Him. However, it is always important for us to remember that the first condition to speak about God is to speak with God, to become increasingly men of God, nourished by an intense life of prayer and molded by his Grace. Saint Augustine, after an anxious but sincere search for truth, finally succeeded in finding it in God. Then he became aware of a singular aspect that filled his heart with wonder and joy: he understood that throughout his long journey it was truth that was seeking him and had found him. I would like to say to each one: we must let ourselves be found and seized by God, to help every person we meet to be reached by Truth. It is from the relationship with Him that our communion is born and that the ecclesial community is generated, which embraces all times and all places to constitute the one People of God.

That is why I wished to proclaim a Year of Faith, which will begin next October 11, to rediscover and receive again this precious gift that is faith, to know more profoundly the truths that are the lymph of our life, to lead the man of today, often, distracted, to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ “Way, Life and Truth.”

In the midst of transformations that interested ample strata of humanity, the Servant of God Paul VI indicated clearly as task of the Church that of “affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi [December 8, 1975[], 19). I would like to recall here how, on the occasion of the first visit of the Pontiff to his native land, Blessed John Paul II visited an industrial quarter of Krakow conceived as a sort of “city without God.” Only the obstinacy of the workers had led to the erection first of a cross and then of a church. In those signs, the Pope recognized the beginning of what he defined for the first time as “New Evangelization,” explaining that “evangelization of the new millennium must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It must be, as that Council taught, a work shared by bishops, priests, religious and laity, by parents and young people.” And he concluded: “You have built the church; build your lives with the Gospel.” (Homily in the Shrine of the Holy Cross, Mogila, June 9, 1979).

Dear brothers, the old and new mission that is before us is that of introducing men and women of our time to the relationship with God, to help them to open their mind and heart to that God who seeks them and wants to be close to them, to lead them to understand that to do his will is not a limitation of liberty, but it is to be truly free, to realize the true good of life. God is the guarantor, not the counter-current of our happiness, and where the Gospel enters – and hence the friendship of Christ – man experiences his being the object of a love that purifies, warms and renews, and renders us capable of loving and serving man with divine love.

As the main topic of your Assembly evidences opportunely, the New Evangelization needs adults who are “mature in the faith and witnesses of humanity.” Attention to the world of adults manifests your awareness of the decisive role of those who are called, in the different realms of life, to assume an educational responsibility in addressing the new generations. Watch and work so that the Christian community will be able to form adult persons in the faith because they have encountered Jesus Christ, who has become the fundamental reference of their life; persons who know Him because they love Him and they love Him because they have known Him; persons capable of giving solid and credible reasons of life. Particularly important, in this formative journey – 20 years after its publication – is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, precious aid for an organic and complete knowledge of the contents of the faith and to lead to the encounter with Christ. Also thanks to this instrument, may the assent of faith become criterion of intelligence and action that involves the whole of existence.

Finding ourselves in the novena of Pentecost, I would like to conclude these reflections with a prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Spirit of Life, which in the beginning hovered over the abyss,

Help humanity of our time to understand

That the exclusion of God leads to being lost in the desert of the world.

And that only where faith enters, do dignity and liberty flourish

And the whole society is built on justice.

Spirit of Pentecost, which makes of the Church one Body,

Restore in the baptized an authentic experience of communion;

Render yourself a living sign of the presence of the Risen One in the world,

Community of saints that lives in the service of charity.

Holy Spirit, which trains to the mission,

Make us recognize that, also in our time,

So many persons are in search of the truth about their existence and the world.

Make us collaborators of their joy with the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

Grain of the wheat of God, which renders good the terrain of life and assures the abundance of the harvest.



Papal Address to US Bishops
"The truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2012 - Here is a text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to U.S. bishop of Regions 14 and 15, in Rome for their ad limina visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection in the Lord. Our meeting today concludes the series of quinquennial visits of the Bishops of the United States of America ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, over these past six months I have wished to reflect with you and your Brother Bishops on a number of pressing spiritual and cultural challenges facing the Church in your country as it takes up the task of the new evangelization.

I am particularly pleased that this, our final meeting, takes place in the presence of the Bishops of the various Eastern Churches present in the United States, since you and your faithful embody in a unique way the ethnic, cultural and spiritual richness of the American Catholic community, past and present. Historically, the Church in America has struggled to recognize and incorporate this diversity, and has succeeded, not without difficulty, in forging a communion in Christ and in the apostolic faith which mirrors the catholicity which is an indefectible mark of the Church. In this communion, which finds its source and model in the mystery of the Triune God (cf.Lumen Gentium, 4), unity and diversity are constantly reconciled and enhanced, as a sign and sacrament of the ultimate vocation and destiny of the entire human family.

Throughout our meetings, you and your Brother Bishops have spoken insistently of the importance of preserving, fostering and advancing this gift of Catholic unity as an essential condition for the fulfillment of the Church’s mission in your country. In this concluding talk, I would like simply to touch on two specific points which have recurred in our discussions and which, with you, I consider crucial for the exercise of your ministry of guiding Christ’s flock forward amid the difficulties and opportunities of the present moment.

I would begin by praising your unremitting efforts, in the best traditions of the Church in America, to respond to the ongoing phenomenon of immigration in your country. The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families. A particular sign of this is the long-standing commitment of the American Bishops to immigration reform. This is clearly a difficult and complex issue from the civil and political, as well as the social and economic, but above all from the human point of view. It is thus of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.

In our day too, the Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America’s many immigrant groups, including not only those of your own rites, but also the swelling numbers of Hispanic, Asian and African Catholics. The demanding pastoral task of fostering a communion of cultures within your local Churches must be considered of particular importance in the exercise of your ministry at the service of unity (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 63). This diaconia of communion entails more than simply respecting linguistic diversity, promoting sound traditions, and providing much-needed social programs and services. It also calls for a commitment to ongoing preaching, catechesis and pastoral activity aimed at inspiring in all the faithful a deeper sense of their communion in the apostolic faith and their responsibility for the Church’s mission in the United States. Nor can the significance of this challenge be underestimated: the immense promise and the vibrant energies of a new generation of Catholics are waiting to be tapped for the renewal of the Church’s life and the rebuilding of the fabric of American society.

This commitment to fostering Catholic unity is necessary not only for meeting the positive challenges of the new evangelization but also countering the forces of disgregation within the Church which increasingly represent a grave obstacle to her mission in the United States. I appreciate the efforts being made to encourage the faithful, individually and in the variety of ecclesial associations, to move forward together, speaking with one voice in addressing the urgent problems of the present moment. Here I would repeat the heartfelt plea that I made to America’s Catholics during my Pastoral Visit: "We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ" and thus embrace "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" (Homily in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, 19 April 2008).

In our conversations, many of you have spoken of your concern to build ever stronger relationships of friendship, cooperation and trust with your priests. At the present time, too, I urge you to remain particularly close to the men and women in your local Churches who are committed to following Christ ever more perfectly by generously embracing the evangelical counsels. I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms. The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life, to pray for religious vocations and to promote them actively, while strengthening existing channels for communication and cooperation, especially through the work of the Vicar or Delegate for Religious in each Diocese.

Dear Brother Bishops, it is my hope that the Year of Faith which will open on 12 October this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council, will awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to reappropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith. With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly, the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.

Now, at the conclusion of these meetings, I willingly join all of you in thanking Almighty God for the signs of new vitality and hope with which he has blessed the Church in the United States of America. At the same time I ask him to confirm you and your Brother Bishops in your delicate mission of guiding the Catholic community in your country in the ways of unity, truth and charity as it faces the challenges of the future. In the words of the ancient prayer, let us ask the Lord to direct our hearts and those of our people, that the flock may never fail in obedience to its shepherds, nor the shepherds in the care of the flock (cf. Sacramentarium Veronense, Missa de natale Episcoporum). With great affection I commend you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to US Bishops
"Providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to a group of US bishops in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with affection in the Lord and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for a grace-filled pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum. In the course of our meetings I have been reflecting with you and your Brother Bishops on the intellectual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization in the context of contemporary American society. In the present talk, I wish to address the question of religious education and the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in your country.

Before all else, I would acknowledge the great progress that has been made in recent years in improving catechesis, reviewing texts and bringing them into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Important efforts are also being made to preserve the great patrimony of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, which have been deeply affected by changing demographics and increased costs, while at the same time ensuring that the education they provide remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status. As has often been mentioned in our meetings, these schools remain an essential resource for the new evangelization, and the significant contribution that they make to American society as a whole ought to be better appreciated and more generously supported.

On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel. Yet much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines. The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country. The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church. It is gratifying to realize that, in our day too, the Christian vision, presented in its breadth and integrity, proves immensely appealing to the imagination, idealism and aspirations of the young, who have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.

Here I would simply propose several points which I trust will prove helpful for your discernment in meeting this challenge.

First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of the Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.

It follows that the question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus. All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education. The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support. In every aspect of their education, students need to be encouraged to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue. As ever, an essential role in this process is played by teachers who inspire others by their evident love of Christ, their witness of sound devotion and their commitment to that sapientia Christiana which integrates faith and life, intellectual passion and reverence for the splendor of truth both human and divine.

In effect, faith by its very nature demands a constant and all-embracing conversionto the fullness of truth revealed in Christ. He is the creative Logos, in whom all things were made and in whom all reality "holds together" (Col 1:17); he is the new Adam who reveals the ultimate truth about man and the world in which we live. In a period of great cultural change and societal displacement not unlike our own, Augustine pointed to this intrinsic connection between faith and the human intellectual enterprise by appealing to Plato, who held, he says, that "to love wisdom is to love God" (cf. De Civitate Dei, VIII, 8). The Christian commitment to learning, which gave birth to the medieval universities, was based upon this conviction that the one God, as the source of all truth and goodness, is likewise the source of the intellect’s passionate desire to know and the will’s yearning for fulfilment in love.

Only in this light can we appreciate the distinctive contribution of Catholic education, which engages in a "diakonia of truth" inspired by an intellectual charity which knows that leading others to the truth is ultimately an act of love (cf. Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, 17 April 2008). Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledgeprovides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue; in this sense, Catholic institutions have a specific role to play in helping to overcome the crisis of universities today. Firmly grounded in this vision of the intrinsic interplay of faith, reason and the pursuit of human excellence, every Christian intellectual and all the Church’s educational institutions must be convinced, and desirous of convincing others, that no aspect of reality remains alien to, or untouched by, the mystery of the redemption and the Risen Lord’s dominion over all creation.

During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I spoke of the need for the Church in America to cultivate "a mindset, an intellectual culture which is genuinely Catholic" (cf. Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008). Taking up this task certainly involves a renewal of apologetics and an emphasis on Catholic distinctiveness; ultimately however it must be aimed at proclaiming the liberating truth of Christ and stimulating greater dialogue and cooperation in building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America’s civic and cultural heritage. At the present moment of your nation’s history, this is the challenge and opportunity awaiting the entire Catholic community, and it is one which the Church’s educational institutions should be the first to acknowledge and embrace.

In concluding these brief reflections, I wish to express once more my gratitude, and that of the whole Church, for the generous commitment, often accompanied by personal sacrifice, shown by so many teachers and administrators who work in the vast network of Catholic schools in your country. To you, dear Brothers, and to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.


Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops
"There is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of bishops from the United States, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, this year I wish to reflect with you on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment.

In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, andthe widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). Indeed, "the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing "apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom" (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that "if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great" (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.


Pope's Address to European, African Bishops
"May the Family Be at the Center of Your Attention as Pastors"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday when he received participants in the Second Symposium of European and African Bishops, which began Monday. The prelates examined the theme of "Evangelization today: pastoral communion and cooperation between Africa and Europe." The symposium concluded today with a pilgrimage to the Italian shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

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Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to receive you at the end of the Symposium of Bishops of Africa and Europe and I greet you all with great affection, in particular Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, president of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, thanking them for the kind expressions with which they opened our meeting. I express my heartfelt appreciation to all those who promoted the days of study, during which you addressed the topic of evangelization today in your lands, in the light of the reciprocal communion and pastoral collaboration that was established during the first symposium in the year 2004.

With you I thank God for the spiritual fruits that have flowed from the relationships of friendship and cooperation between the ecclesial communities of your Continents in the course of these years. Beginning from different cultural, social and economic environments, you have valued the common apostolic tension to proclaim to your people Jesus Christ and his Gospel, in the style of "exchange of gifts." Continue on this fruitful path of active fraternity and unity of intentions, widening ever more the horizons of evangelization. For the Church in Europe, in fact, the meeting with the Church in Africa is always a moment of grace because of the hope and joy with which the African ecclesial communities live and communicate the faith, as I have been able to see in my apostolic journeys. Moreover, it is beautiful to see how the Church in Africa, though living amid so many difficulties and with the need of peace and reconciliation, is willing to share her faith.

In the relations between the Church in Africa and the Church in Europe, you must take care to have present the fundamental bond between faith and charity, so that they illumine one another in their truth. Charity fosters openness and encounter with the man of today, in his concrete reality, to take to him Christ and his love for every person and every family, especially for those who are poorest and alone. "Caritas Christi urget nos"(2 Corinthians 5:14); it is in fact the love of Christ that fills hearts and drives to evangelize. The divine Teacher, today as then, sends his disciples on the roads of the world to proclaim his message of salvation to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7).

The challenges you have before you today are demanding. I am thinking, in the first place, of religious indifference, which leads many people to live as if God does not exist or to be content with a vague religiosity, incapable of contending with the question of truth and the duty of coherence. Today, above all in Europe, but also in some parts of Africa, the weight is felt of the secularized environment, often hostile to the Christian faith. Another challenge for the proclamation of the Gospel is hedonism, which has contributed to making the crisis of values penetrate daily life, the structure of the family, and the very way of interpreting the meaning of existence. Symptom of a situation of grave social unease is also the spread of phenomena such as pornography and prostitution. You are well aware of these challenges, which stir your pastoral conscience and your sense of responsibility. They must not discourage you but, rather, constitute an occasion to renew your commitment and hope, hope that is born from the awareness that the night is far gone, the day is at hand (cf. Romans 13:12), because the Risen Christ is always with us. In the societies of Africa and Europe not a few good forces are present, many of which lead to the parishes and are distinguished for their commitment to personal holiness and the apostolate. I hope that, with your help, they will be able to become increasingly living and vital cells of the New Evangelization.

May the family be at the center of your attention as Pastors: it, the domestic Church, is also the most solid guarantee for the renewal of society. In the family, which guards usages, traditions, customs, rites permeated by faith, the most adequate terrain is found for the flowering of vocations. Today's consumerist mentality can have negative repercussions on the awakening and care of vocations; hence the need to pay particular attention to the promotion of priestly vocations and special consecrations. The family is also the formative fulcrum of youth. Europe and Africa need generous young people, who are able to take responsible charge of their future, and all the Institutions must have very present that the future is enclosed in these young people and that it is important to do everything possible so that their path is not marked by uncertainty and darkness. Dear Brothers, follow with special care their human and spiritual growth, encouraging also initiatives of volunteer work that can have educational value.

The cultural dimension assumes an important role in the formation of the new generations. You know well how much the Church esteems and promotes every genuine form of culture, to which she offers the richness of the Word of God and of the grace that flows from the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Church respects every discovery of truth, because all truth comes from God, but she knows that the gaze of faith fixed on Christ opens the mind and heart of man to the First Truth, which is God. Thus culture nourished by faith leads to true humanization, whereas false cultures end by leading to de-humanization: we have had sad examples in Europe and Africa. Culture, therefore, must be a constant concern in your pastoral action, always having very present that the light of the Gospel is inserted in the cultural fabric elevating it and making it fertilize the riches.

Dear friends, your Symposium has offered you the occasion to reflect on the problems of the Church in the two Continents. They are certainly never lacking and at times considerable; but, on the other hand, they are also the proof that the Church is alive, that she is growing, and is not afraid to fulfill her evangelizing mission. Because of this, she is in need of prayer and of the commitment of all the faithful; in fact, evangelization is an integral part of the vocation of all the baptized, which is a vocation to holiness. Christians who have a lively faith are open to the action of the Holy Spirit becoming witnesses with the word and life of the Gospel of Christ. Entrusted to Pastors, however, is a particular responsibility. Hence, "Your own holiness must be outstanding, to the benefit of those entrusted to your pastoral care, those whom you must serve. Your life of prayer will nourish your apostolate from within. The bishop must be someone in love with Christ. The moral authority and the prestige that uphold the exercise of your juridical power can only come from the holiness of your life" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus, 100).

I entrust your spiritual proposals and your pastoral projects to the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization, while imparting from my heart to you, to the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Europe and to all your priests and faithful, a special Apostolic Blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit
"The Legitimate Separation of Church and State Cannot Be Taken to Mean That the Church Must Be Silent"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Washington, D.C., and surrounding regions, who are at the Vatican for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Dear Brother Bishops, in these brief remarks I have wished to touch upon some of the pressing issues which you face in your service to the Gospel and their significance for the evangelization of American culture. No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these "signs of the times" give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to New Zealand, Pacific Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit
"Christian Faith Provides a Surer Basis for Life Than the Secular Vision"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the bishops of New Zealand and to the episcopal representatives of the Pacific Islands, in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. This gathering is a tangible sign of our communion in faith and charity in the one Church of Christ. I wish to thank Archbishop Dew and Bishop Mafi for the kind words offered on your behalf. My cordial greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their growth in holiness and of my affection for them in the Lord.

With gratitude to Almighty God, I note from your reports the many blessings which the Lord has bestowed upon your Jurisdictions. I am also aware of the challenges to the Christian life which are common to all of you, in spite of the many social, economic and cultural contexts in which you work. You have mentioned in particular the challenge set before you by the secularism characteristic of your societies, a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family. In such a context, the struggle to lead a life worthy of the our baptismal calling (cf. Eph. 4:1) and to abstain from the earthly passions which wage war against ours souls (cf. 1 Pet 2:11) becomes ever more challenging. Yet we know that, ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision; for "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Thus, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was recently established. Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church. You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples. By strengthening the visible bonds of ecclesial communion, build among yourselves an ever stronger sense of faith and charity, so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the Church and in the civil arena.

As you face this historic challenge, you must do so under the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who also calls forth, consecrates and sends priests as "co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God" (Rite of Ordination of Priests). Dear Brother Bishops, I encourage you to have a special care for your priests. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests and to their sanctification, especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests. Be a father who guides them on the path to holiness, so that their lives may also attract others to follow Christ. We know that good, wise and holy priests are the best promoters of vocations to the priesthood. With the confidence that comes from faith, we can say that the Lord is still calling men to the priesthood, and you are aware that encouraging them to consider dedicating their lives fully to Christ is among your top priorities. In our day young people need more assistance with spiritual discernment so that they may know the Lord’s will. In a world affected by a "profound crisis of faith" (Porta Fidei,2), ensure too that your seminarians receive a well-rounded formation that will prepare them to serve the Lord and love his flock according to the heart of the Good Shepherd.

In this context, I wish to acknowledge the significant contribution to the spread of the Gospel made by the men and women religious present throughout your region, including those active in pastoral, catechetical, and educational fields. Together with those living a contemplative life, may they remain faithful to the charisms of their founders, which are always united with the life and discipline of the entire Church, and may their witness to God continue to be a beacon that points towards a life of faith, love and right living.

Likewise, the lay faithful’s role in the well-being of the Church is essential, since the Lord does not expect pastors "to undertake by themselves the entire saving mission of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, 30). I understand from your reports that your task of spreading the Gospel often depends on the assistance of lay missionaries and catechists. Continue to ensure that a sound and ongoing formation be afforded them, especially within the context of their associations. In so doing, you will equip them for every good work in the building up of the body of Christ (cf. 2 Tim 3:17; Eph 4:12). Their zeal for the faith under your continued leadership and support will surely bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

My dear Brother Bishops and Priests, as I have had this opportunity to discuss with you the New Evangelization, I do so mindful of the recently proclaimed Year of Faith, which "is intended to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves" (Homily, 16 October 2011). May this privileged time serve as an inspiration as you join the entire Church in the ongoing efforts of the New Evangelization, for although you are spread among many islands and we are separated by great distances, together we profess "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Eph 4:5-6). May you continue to be united among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter. Commending you to the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

[Original language: French and English; translation provided by the Vatican]

Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to New York Bishops
"We Ourselves Are the First to Need Re-evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to a group of U.S. bishops who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visits.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet you all with affection in the Lord and, through you, the Bishops from the United States who in the course of the coming year will make their visits ad limina Apostolorum.

Our meetings are the first since my 2008 Pastoral Visit to your country, which was intended to encourage the Catholics of America in the wake of the scandal and disorientation caused by the sexual abuse crisis of recent decades. I wished to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made both to ensure the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise. It is my hope that the Church’s conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.

A second, equally important, purpose of my Pastoral Visit was to summon the Church in America to recognize, in the light of a dramatically changing social and religious landscape, the urgency and demands of a new evangelization. In continuity with this aim, I plan in the coming months to present for your consideration a number of reflections which I trust you will find helpful for the discernment you are called to make in your task of leading the Church into the future which Christ is opening up for us.

Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularized society. I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes. Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis. The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.

At the same time, the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that "quiet attrition" from the Church which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit. Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. Evangelization thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth. Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.

Here I cannot fail to express my appreciation of the real progress which the American Bishops have made, individually and as a Conference, in responding to these issues and in working together to articulate a common pastoral vision, the fruits of which can be seen, for example, in your recent documents on faithful citizenship and on the institution of marriage. The importance of these authoritative expressions of your shared concern for the authenticity of the Church’s life and witness in your country should be evident to all.

In these days, the Church in the United States is implementing the revised translation of the Roman Missal. I am grateful for your efforts to ensure that this new translation will inspire an ongoingcatechesis which emphasizes the true nature of the liturgy and, above all, the unique value of Christ’s saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. America has a proud tradition of respect for the sabbath; this legacy needs to be consolidated as a summons to the service of God’s Kingdom and the renewal of the social fabric in accordance with its unchanging truth.

In the end, however, the renewal of the Church’s witness to the Gospel in your country is essentially linked to the recovery of a shared vision and sense of mission by the entire Catholic community. I know that this is a concern close to your own heart, as reflected in your efforts to encourage communication, discussion and consistent witness at every level of the life of your local Churches. I think in particular of the importance of Catholic universities and the signs of a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission, as attested by the discussions marking the tenth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and such inititiatives as the symposium recently held at Catholic University of America on the intellectual tasks of the new evangelization. Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church’s teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message, so that they in turn can instill in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church.

Dear Brother Bishops, I am conscious of the many pressing and at times apparently insoluble problems which you face daily in the exercise of your ministry. With the confidence born of faith, and with great affection, I offer you these words of encouragement and willingly commend you and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses to the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.


Papal Address to Soldiers' Bishops
"There Are Many Men and Women in Uniform Full of Faith in Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Saturday to participants in an International Meeting of Military Ordinariates, held at the Vatican.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Friends,

I am happy to receive you on the occasion of the 6th International Congress of Military Ordinariates and of the third International Course of formation for military chaplains in humanitarian law, promoted jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. On greeting you all cordially, I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet for the courteous words he addressed to me in your name.

These initiatives of yours assume particular importance, because they are placed -- as already mentioned -- in the context of the 25th anniversary of the apostolic constitution Spirituali militum curae, promulgated by John Paul II, whose liturgical memorial we celebrate today. Through legislative procedures, an attempt is made to give military ordinariates the possibility to promote an ever more appropriate and better organized pastoral ministry for an important portion of the People of God, namely, military personnel and their families, with their institutions such as barracks, military schools and hospitals. Twenty-five years after the document, it is necessary to affirm that the military ordinariates, in general, have demonstrated their having adopted an increasingly evangelical style, adapting pastoral structures to the urgent needs of the new evangelization.

Ideally, in these days of study, you hope to review the historical and juridical path of military ordinariates, their ecclesial mission, as it is delineated by Spirituali militum curae, separating the common paths for ministry to military personnel and reflecting further on the most important current problems. In expressing my cordial encouragement, I want to call your attention to the need to guarantee to men and women of the armed forces a spiritual assistance that responds to all the needs of a coherent and missionary Christian life. An attempt is made to form Christians to have profound faith, to live their religious practice with conviction, and to be genuine witnesses of Christ in their environments. To achieve this objective, it is necessary that military bishops and chaplains feel that they are responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments where military personnel and their families are present.

If the challenge of military ordinariates is to evangelize the military world, making possible an encounter with Jesus Christ and the holiness to which all men are called, it seems evident that the priests who are committed in this ministry must have a solid human and spiritual formation, constant attention to their own interior life and, at the same time, be ready to listen and to dialogue, to be able to accept the personal and environmental difficulties of the individuals entrusted to them. These people, in fact, need constant support along their journey of faith, given that the religious dimension has special meaning also in the life of a soldier. The reason for the existence of military ordinariates, that is, spiritual assistance to faithful in the armed forces and the police, makes reference to the solicitude with which the Church has wished to offer military faithful and their families all the means of salvation to give them ordinary pastoral attention and the specific help they need to develop their mission with the style of Christian charity. A Christian’s military life, in fact, is placed in relation to the first and greatest commandment, that of love of God and of neighbor, because the Christian military man is called to realize a synthesis that makes it possible to be a military man out of love, fulfilling the ministerium pacis inter arma.

I am referring, especially, to charity exercised by soldiers who rescue earthquake and flood victims, and also fugitives, putting their courage and competence at the disposal of the weakest. I am thinking of the exercise of charity of soldiers involved in de-activating mines, with the personal danger and risk involved in this, in areas which have been the scene of wars, as well as of soldiers who, in the realm of peace missions, patrol cities and territories so that brothers will not kill one another. There are many men and women in uniform full of faith in Jesus, who love the truth, who want to promote peace and who commit themselves as true disciples of Christ, in the service of their nation, fostering the promotion of the fundamental human rights of nations.

Inserted in this context is the relation between humanitarian law and military chaplains, given that a collaboration between humanitarian organizations and religious leaders develops fruitful energies directed to alleviating the sufferings of conflicts. In the devastating wounds caused by wars and, before the eyes of all, human dignity is often abused and peace destroyed. However, the dynamic of law alone is not enough to re-establish the lost balance: It is necessary to undertake the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. So wrote Blessed John Paul II in the Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, which followed the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: "True peace therefore is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and legal guarantee which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities, and the just distribution of benefits and burdens. But because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations from their foundations" (No. 3).

Dear friends, also in the light of these considerations, the pastoral motivations that are the basis of the identity of the military ordinariate are of great current importance. The work of evangelization in the military world calls for a growing assumption of responsibilities, so that, in this ambit, there is always a new, convinced and joyful proclamation of Jesus Christ, the only hope of life and peace for humanity. In fact, He said: "Without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). May your particular mission and your ministry and that of your collaborators, presbyters and deacons, foster a general renewal of hearts, the premise of universal peace to which the whole world aspires. With these sentiments I assure you of my prayer and accompany you with my blessing, which I impart from my heart to you and to those entrusted to your pastoral care.


Pope's Address to Ambassador From the Netherlands
"Christianity Has Always Pointed to Reason and Nature"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2011 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address today to Joseph Weterings, the new ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See, I wish first of all to express my gratitude to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, and I would ask you kindly to reciprocate and to convey, in turn, my good wishes to her, as well as my appreciation of the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and your country.

Bilateral relations between a nation-state and the Holy See are clearly of a different character from those between nation-states. The Holy See is not an economic or military power. Yet as you yourself have indicated, its moral voice exerts considerable influence around the world. Among the reasons for this is precisely the fact that the Holy See's moral stance is unaffected by the political or economic interests of a nation-state or the electoral concerns of a political party. Its contribution to international diplomacy consists largely in articulating the ethical principles that ought to underpin the social and political order, and in drawing attention to the need for action to remedy violations of such principles. It does so, evidently, from the standpoint of the Christian faith, but as I observed in my recent address to the German Parliament, Christianity has always pointed to reason and nature as the sources of the norms on which a state of law should be built (Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011). Hence the diplomatic dialogue in which the Holy See engages is conducted neither on confessional nor on pragmatic grounds but on the basis of universally applicable principles that are as real as the physical elements of the natural environment.

In acting as a voice for the voiceless and defending the rights of the defenceless, including the poor, the sick, the unborn, the elderly, and the members of minority groups who suffer unjust discrimination, the Church seeks always to promote natural justice as it is her right and duty to do. While recognizing with humility that her own members do not always live up to the high moral standards that she proposes, the Church cannot do other than continue to urge all people, her own members included, to seek to do whatever is in accordance with justice and right reason and to oppose whatever is contrary.

On this basis, I have no doubt that the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have many areas of shared concern. Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of the need to promote global peace through just resolution of conflicts and through opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. You underlined the need to foster development and to promote self-reliance in emerging countries. You mentioned the generous humanitarian response of the Dutch people when emergency aid is needed around the world. And you spoke of the need to defend human dignity. These and many other areas of international policy will continue to provide opportunities for fruitful exchanges between your country and the Holy See.

I am heartened also by your words about the Dutch Government's intention to promote freedom of religion which, as you know, is a matter of particular concern to the Holy See at the present time. It is threatened not only by legal constraints in some parts of the world, but by an anti-religious mentality within many societies, even those where freedom of religion enjoys the protection of law. It is therefore greatly to be hoped that your Government will be vigilant, so that the freedom of religion and freedom of worship will continue to be protected and promoted, both at home and abroad.

I am likewise encouraged by the steps that the Dutch Government has taken to discourage drug abuse and prostitution. While your nation has long championed the freedom of individuals to make their own choices, nevertheless, those choices by which people inflict harm on themselves or others must be discouraged, for the good of individuals and society as a whole. Catholic social teaching, as you know, places great emphasis on the common good, as well as the integral good of individuals, and care is always needed to discern whether perceived rights are truly in accordance with those natural principles of which I spoke earlier.

With these sentiments, Your Excellency, I offer my best wishes for the success of your mission, and I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.


Pope's Address to Australia Bishops on 5-Yearly Visit

"The Holy Spirit Never Ceases to Awaken in Young Hearts the Desire for Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2011 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today for the five-yearly ad limina visits that the bishops of Australia are completing.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. This pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul provides you with an important occasion to strengthen the bonds of communion in the one Church of Christ. This moment is therefore a privileged opportunity to reaffirm our unity and the fraternal affection which must always characterize relations in the College of Bishops, with and under the Successor of Peter. I wish to thank Archbishop Wilson for his kind words on your behalf. My cordial greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and lay faithful of Australia, and I ask you to assure them of my prayers for their peace, prosperity and spiritual well-being.

As His Grace pointed out in his address, the church in Australia has been marked by two special moments of grace in recent years. Firstly, World Youth Day was blessed with great success and, together with you, I saw how the Holy Spirit moved the young people gathered on your home soil from all over the world. I have also learned from your reports of the continued impact of that celebration. Not just Sydney but Dioceses throughout the country welcomed the world’s young Catholics as they came to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ along with their Australian sisters and brothers. Your clergy and faithful saw and experienced the youthful vitality of the Church to which we all belong and the perennial relevance of the Good News which must be proclaimed afresh to every generation. I understand that one of the outstanding consequences of the event is still to be seen in the numbers of young people who are discerning vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. The Holy Spirit never ceases to awaken in young hearts the desire for holiness and apostolic zeal. You should therefore continue to foster that radical attachment to the person of Jesus Christ, whose attraction inspires them to give their lives completely to him and to the service of the Gospel in the Church. By assisting them, you will help other young people to reflect seriously upon the possibility of a life in the priesthood or the religious life. In so doing, you will strengthen a similar love and single-minded fidelity among those men and women who have already embraced the Lord’s call.

The canonization last year of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop is another great event in the life of the Church in Australia. Indeed, she is an example of holiness and dedication to Australians and to the Church throughout the world, especially to women religious and to all involved in the education of young people. In circumstances that were often very trying, Saint Mary remained steadfast, a loving spiritual mother to the women and children in her care, an innovative teacher of the young and an energetic role model for all concerned with excellence in education. She is rightly considered by her fellow Australians to be an example of personal goodness worthy of imitation. Saint Mary is now held up within the Church for her openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and for her zeal for the good of souls which drew many others to follow in her footsteps. Her vigorous faith, translated into dedicated and patient action, was her gift to Australia; her life of holiness is a wonderful gift of your country to the Church and to the world. May her example and prayers inspire the actions of parents, religious, teachers and others concerned with the good of children, with their protection from harm and with their sound education for a happy and prosperous future.

Saint Mary MacKillop’s courageous response to the difficulties she faced throughout her life can also inspire today’s Catholics as they confront the new evangelization and serious challenges to the spread of the Gospel in society as a whole. All the members of the Church need to be formed in their faith, from a sound catechesis for children, and religious education imparted in your Catholic schools, to much-needed catechetical programmes for adults. Clergy and religious must also be assisted and encouraged by an ongoing formation of their own, with a deepened spiritual life in the rapidly secularizing world around them. It is urgent to ensure that all those entrusted to your care understand, embrace and propose their Catholic faith intelligently and willingly to others. In this way, you, your clergy and your people will give such an account of your faith by word and example that it will be convincing and attractive. People of good will, seeing your witness, will respond naturally to the truth, the goodness and the hope that you embody.

It is true that yours is a pastoral burden which has been made heavier by the past sins and mistakes of others, most regrettably including some clergy and religious; but the task now falls to you to continue to repair the errors of the past with honesty and openness, in order to build, with humility and resolve, a better future for all concerned. I therefore encourage you to continue to be pastors of souls who, along with your clergy, are always prepared to go one step further in love and truth for the sake of the consciences of the flock entrusted to you (cf. Mt 5:41), seeking to preserve them in holiness, to teach them humbly and to lead them irreproachably in the ways of the Catholic faith.

Finally, as Bishops, you are conscious of your special duty to care for the celebration of the liturgy. The new translation of the Roman Missal, which is the fruit of a remarkable cooperation of the Holy See, the Bishops and experts from all over the world, is intended to enrich and deepen the sacrifice of praise offered to God by his people. Help your clergy to welcome and to appreciate what has been achieved, so that they in turn may assist the faithful as everyone adjusts to the new translation. As we know, the sacred liturgy and its forms are written deeply in the heart of every Catholic. Make every effort to help catechists and musicians in their respective preparations to render the celebration of the Roman Rite in your Dioceses a moment of greater grace and beauty, worthy of the Lord and spiritually enriching for everyone. In this way, as in all your pastoral efforts, you will lead the Church in Australia towards her heavenly home under the sign of the Southern Cross.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem, and I commend all of you to the intercession of Saint Mary MacKillop. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord. Thank you.


Pope's Address at Opening of Domus Australia
"The Gospel Has Spread to the Very Furthest Regions of the World"

ROME, OCT. 20, 2011 - Here is the text of the greeting Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at the celebration of the opening of Domus Australia.

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Dear Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you for these celebrations to mark the opening of the Domus Australia, the Australian Pilgrimage Centre in Rome. On this occasion, I recall with particular gratitude the warmth of the hospitality that was extended to me when I visited your country for World Youth Day in 2008, and now I have the opportunity to reciprocate by welcoming all of you to Rome. I thank Cardinal Pell for inviting me to join you this evening, and for his kind words. I also thank Saint Mary's Cathedral Choir for their praise of God in song.

In addition to greeting my brother Bishops, here for their Ad Limina visit, I would like to greet His Excellency Timothy Fischer, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, and the other Ambassadors present. I am pleased to salute the Rector of the Domus, Father Anthony Denton, and Mr Gabriel Griffa and his staff. I am also happy to greet all the people of Australia and to acknowledge the support and assistance of so many of them for this project which, along with your new Embassy, has brought a little corner of Australia to the ancient city of Rome. May the Domus now be blessed by the passage of many pilgrims!

Almost exactly one year ago, the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop, was raised to the altars, and I join all of you in giving thanks to God for the many blessings he has already poured out upon the Church in your land through her example. I pray that Saint Mary will continue to inspire many Australians to follow in her footsteps by living lives of holiness, in the service of God and neighbour. The Lord sent his Apostles out into the whole world, to proclaim the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15). This evening's event speaks eloquently of the fruits of the Church's missionary endeavours, by which the Gospel has spread to the very furthest regions of the world, has taken root there and has given birth to a living and thriving Christian community. Like all Christian communities, the Church in Australia is conscious of being on a journey whose ultimate destination lies beyond this world: as Saint Paul expressed it, "our commonwealth is in heaven" (Phil 3:20). Our earthly lives are spent journeying towards that ultimate goal, where "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). Here on earth, the Church's long tradition of pilgrimage to holy places serves to remind us that we are heavenward bound, it refocuses our minds on the call to holiness, it draws us ever closer to the Lord and strengthens us with spiritual food for the journey.

Many generations of pilgrims have made their way to Rome from all over the Christian world, in order to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and thereby to deepen their communion in the one Church of Christ, founded on the Apostles. In so doing, they strengthen the roots of their faith; and roots, as we know, are the source of life-giving sustenance. In that sense, pilgrims to Rome should always feel at home here, and the Domus Australia will play an important part in creating a home for Australian pilgrims in the city of the Apostles. Yet roots are only a part of the story. According to a saying attributed to a great poet from my own country, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, there are two things that children should receive from their parents: roots and wings. From our holy Mother, the Church, we too receive both roots and wings: the faith of the Apostles, handed down from generation to generation, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, conveyed above all through the sacraments of the Church. Pilgrims to this city return to their homelands renewed and strengthened in their faith, and borne aloft by the Holy Spirit in the journey onward and upward to their heavenly home.

My prayer today is that the pilgrims who pass through this house will indeed return to their homes with firmer faith, more joyful hope and more ardent love for the Lord, ready to commit themselves with fresh zeal to the task of bearing witness to Christ in the world in which they live and work. And I pray too that their visit to the See of Peter will deepen their love for the universal Church and unite them more closely with Peter's Successor, charged with feeding and gathering into one the Lord's flock from every corner of the world. Commending all of them, and all of you, to the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Saint Mary MacKillop, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of the joys that await us in our eternal home.


Papal Address to Leader of Syro-Malabar Church
"You Provide an Eloquent Sign of the Hierarchical Communion"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2011 - Here is Benedict XVI's statement from Monday when he was visited by Archbishop George Alencherry, the leader of the Syro-Malabar Church.

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Your Beatitude,

I am pleased to greet you and the members of the Permanent Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church who have travelled to Rome in an expression of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I thank you for your kind words on their behalf and in your own name. This visit is a significant one, as it comes not long after your election as Major Archbishop. By coming here, you provide an eloquent sign of the hierarchical communion that you formally expressed in your recent letter to me requesting confirmation of your election.

Your predecessor, the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, has left a legacy upon which you and your brother Bishops will surely wish to build. In this context, I would like to recall the example of the two holy patrons of the Syro-Malabar Church, Saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, who were beatified by Blessed John Paul II, during his visit to Kerala twenty-five years ago. Later, the grace fell to me to canonize Saint Alphonsa in 2008. At home, the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala continues to enjoy the respect of the local community for its work in education and for its social and charitable institutions at the service of the whole community. I know that life for Christians has been complicated by sectarian mistrust and even violence, but I would urge you to continue to work with people of good will of all religions in the area, in order to maintain the peace and harmony of the region, for the good of the Church and that of all citizens.

Within the Church itself, there are encouraging signs of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life which will help you to maintain your pastoral outreach. To be kept in mind are the ongoing challenges in the formation of the clergy and religious, in Christian family life and in the pastoral care of your faithful. I commend you for your efforts to maintain the strength of your family structures, the quality of Catholic education and catechesis at every level, and your pastoral work with youth. I also encourage you to continue your good work in fostering vocations among young men and women.

In fidelity to the Gospel and to the grace bestowed upon us by Christ our Lord, you and your faithful have flourished at home and abroad in union with the universal Church. By fostering your own authentic liturgical tradition, your faithful have been nourished by word and sacrament in accordance with what was handed down to you by your fathers in the faith. I am also aware of pastoral initiatives in favour of Syro-Malabar Catholics scattered throughout the world. As I did during your Ad Limina Visit in April, allow me again to encourage you in this important task and, especially with regard to your pastoral outreach to Syro-Malabar Catholics living beyond your homeland, I ask you to do so always mindful of the essential need for cooperation with Catholic Bishops and pastors of other rites.

Your Beatitude, dear Brothers Bishops, with these few thoughts I commend you to the intercession of Saint Thomas, the great Apostle of India, Saint Alphonsa and Blessed Kuriakose. I assure you of my affection and prayers and I willingly impart to you, your clergy and religious and all those entrusted to your care, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Indonesia
"The Missionary Impulse Remains Essential to the Church's Life"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Friday upon receiving in audience the bishops of Indonesia, at the end their five-yearly "ad limina" visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a privileged opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion that exists in the one Church of Christ, and a moment to deepen our bonds of unity in the apostolic faith. I wish to thank Bishop Situmorang for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women religious, and laity whom you shepherd. Please assure them of my prayers for their sanctification and well-being.

Christ’s message of salvation, forgiveness and love has been preached in your country for centuries. Indeed, the missionary impulse remains essential to the Church’s life, and finds expression not only in the preaching of the Gospel, but also in the witness of Christian charity (cf. Ad Gentes, 2). In this regard, I appreciate the intense efforts made by numerous individuals and agencies in the name of the Church to bring the tender compassion of God to many members of Indonesian society. This is the hallmark of every movement, action and expression of the Church, in all of her sacramental, charitable, educational and social endeavors, so that in everything her members may strive to make the Triune God known and loved through Jesus Christ. This will not only contribute to the spiritual vitality of the Church as she grows in confidence through humble yet courageous witness; it will also strengthen Indonesian society by promoting those values that your fellow citizens hold dear: tolerance, unity and justice for all citizens. Appropriately, Indonesia’s constitution guarantees the fundamental human right of freedom to practice one’s religion. The freedom to live and preach the Gospel can never be taken for granted and must always be justly and patiently upheld. Nor is religious freedom merely a right to be free from outside constraints. It is also a right to be authentically and fully Catholic, to practice the faith, to build up the Church and to contribute to the common good, proclaiming the Gospel as Good News for all, and inviting everyone to intimacy with the God of mercy and compassion made manifest in Jesus Christ

A significant amount of the charitable and educational work within your Dioceses is done under the aegis of religious men and women. Their consecration to Christ and their lives of deep prayer and genuine sacrifice continue to enrich the Church and to render God’s presence visible and active in your nation. I wish to express my gratitude to the many priests and men and women religious who offer glory to the Lord through countless good works which benefit their Indonesian brothers and sisters. Their labors are an indispensable expression of the Church’s commitment to humanity, and in particular to the most needy.

For this reason, I ask you, dear Brother Bishops, to continue to ensure that the formation and education that seminarians and men and women religious receive will always be adequate to the mission entrusted to them. Amid the growing complexities of our world and the rapid transformation of Indonesian society, the need for well-prepared religious men and women is all the more urgent. In concert with their local Superiors, ascertain that they have received what is necessary for them to live lives filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, and to bear fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9,10). I can only encourage you in your continuing efforts to promote and sustain interreligious dialogue in your nation. Your country, so rich in its cultural diversity and possessed of a large population, is home to significant numbers of followers of various religious traditions. Thus, the people of Indonesia are well-placed to make important contributions to the quest for peace and understanding among the peoples of the world. Your participation in this great enterprise is decisive, and so I urge you, dear brothers, to ensure that those whom you shepherd know that they, as Christians, are to be agents of peace, perseverance and charity.

The Church is called to follow her Divine Master, who unites all things in himself, and to witness to that peace which only he can give. This is the precious fruit of charity in him who, suffering unjustly, gave us his life and taught us to respond in all situations with forgiveness, mercy and love in truth. Believers in Christ, rooted in charity, ought to be committed to dialogue with other religions, respecting mutual differences. Common endeavors for the upbuilding of society will be of great value when they strengthen friendships and overcome misunderstanding or distrust.

I have confidence that you and the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses will continue to bear witness to the image and likeness of God in each man, woman and child, regardless of their faith, by encouraging everyone to be open to dialogue in the service of peace and harmony. By doing everything possible to ensure that the rights of minorities in your country are respected, you further the cause of tolerance and mutual harmony in your country and beyond.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. Your country is composed of thousands of islands; so too the Church in Indonesia is made up of thousands of Christian communities, "islands of Christ’s presence". May you always be united in faith, hope and love among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Prelates of India
"The Catholic Church Is the Friend of the Poor"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 19, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he addressed a group of prelates in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. The bishops represented Agra, New Delhi and Bhopal, as well as the apostolic vicariate of Nepal.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a joyful opportunity to strengthen the bonds of communion shared between the Church in India and the See of Peter. I wish to thank the Most Reverend Vincent Concessao for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women religious, and laity of your various Dioceses. Please assure them of my prayers and spiritual solicitude.

The most significant concrete resources of the Churches that you lead are not to be found in their buildings, schools, orphanages, convents or rectories, but in the men, women and children of the Church in India who bring the faith to life, who bear witness to the loving presence of God through lives of holiness. As part of its ancient and rich heritage, India has a long and distinguished Christian presence which has contributed to Indian society and benefited your culture in innumerable ways, enriching the lives of countless fellow citizens, not just those who are Catholic. The enormous blessing of faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ, to which the members of the Church bear witness in your country, motivates them to acts of selflessness, kindness, love and charity (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). Most importantly, the Church in India proclaims its faith and love to society at large, and puts these into action through a concern for all people, in every aspect of their spiritual and material lives. Whether her members be rich or poor, old or young, male or female, of ancient Christian heritage or newly welcomed into the faith, the Church cannot but see in the faith of her members, individually and collectively, a great sign of hope for India and for its future.

In particular, the Catholic Church is the friend of the poor. Like Christ, she welcomes without exception all who approach her to hear the divine message of peace, hope and salvation. Moreover, in obedience to the Lord, she continues to do so without regard for "tribe and tongue and people and nation" (cf. Rev 5:9), for in Christ, we "are one body" (cf. Rom 12:5). It is thus imperative that the clergy, religious and catechists in your dioceses be attentive to the diverse linguistic, cultural and economic circumstances of those whom they serve.

Furthermore, if the local churches ensure that an appropriate formation is given to those who, genuinely motivated by a love of God and neighbour, wish to become Christians, they will remain faithful to Christ’s command to "make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19). Even though you, dear brothers, must take into account the challenges that the missionary nature of the Church entails, you must always be prepared to spread the Kingdom of God and to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who was himself misunderstood, despised, falsely accused and who suffered for the sake of truth. Do not be deterred when such trials arise in your own ministry, and in that of your priests and religious. Our belief in the certainty of Christ’s Resurrection gives us confidence and courage to face all that may come and to press forward, building the Kingdom of God, aided as always by the grace of the sacraments and through prayerful meditation on the Scriptures. God welcomes everyone, without distinction, into union with him through the Church. So too, I pray that the Church in India will continue to welcome everyone, above all the poor, and to be an exemplary bridge between men and God.

Finally, my dear brother Bishops, I note with gratitude the various efforts the local churches in India have made in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Apostolic Visit of Pope John Paul II to your country. During those memorable days, he had several notable encounters with leaders of other religious traditions. Manifesting his personal respect for his interlocutors, this blessed Pope gave an authentic witness to the value of interreligious dialogue. I renew the sentiments he expressed so well, "To work for the attainment and preservation of all human rights, including the basic right to worship God according to the dictates of an upright conscience and to profess that faith externally, must become ever more a subject of interreligious collaboration at all levels" (John Paul II,Meeting with Representatives of the different religious and cultural traditions and with the youth at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, 2 February 1986). I encourage you, dear brothers, to carry forward the Church’s efforts to promote the well-being of Indian society through continued attention to the promotion of basic rights – rights shared by all humanity – and by inviting your fellow Christians and the followers of other religious traditions to take up the challenge of affirming the dignity of each and every human person. This dignity, expressed in respect for and promotion of the innate moral, spiritual and material rights of the person, is not merely a concession granted by any earthly authority. It is the gift of the Creator, and stems from the fact that we are created in his image and likeness. I pray that the followers of Christ in India will continue to be promoters of justice, bearers of peace, people of respectful dialogue, and lovers of the truth about God and about man.

With these thoughts, dear brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. I commend all of you to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul, who surely brings his affection for India before the throne of our heavenly Father. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Newly Ordained Bishops
"The Bishop ... Has the Duty of Unifying and Harmonizing Charismatic Diversity"

ROME, SEPT. 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of some 100 newly ordained bishops upon receiving them in audience this morning in the apostolic palace in Castel Gandolfo. The bishops are taking part in an annual course organized jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Eastern Churches.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!

As Cardinal Ouellet mentioned, for the past 10 years newly appointed bishops have gathered in Rome to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter and to reflect on the primary commitments of the episcopal ministry. This meeting, organized by the Congregations for Bishops and by the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is an addition to the initiatives for the permanent formation prescribed by the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" (No. 24). You are invited to renew your profession of faith and your trusting adherence to Jesus Christ at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, showing the same impulse of love as Peter himself, and strengthening your ties of communion with his Successor and with your brother bishops.

Together with this central aspect of the initiative is a strong experience of affective collegiality. The bishop, as you well know, is not alone, but rather he is part of that "corpus episcoporum" that dates back to its apostolic roots and extends to our times, bringing us together in Christ, "Shepherd and bishop of our souls" (Roman Missal, Preface after the Ascension). May the episcopal fraternity that you are living in these days be lived out in your daily service, helping you to act always in communion with the Pope and with your brothers in the episcopate, and to cultivate friendships with your fellow bishops and with your priests. In this spirit of communion and friendship, I receive you, bishops of the Latin and Eastern rites, with great affection, greeting through each one of you the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care, with a particular thought for those that, especially in the Middle East, are suffering. I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf, and for the book, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

This annual meeting with the bishops attending this course has given me the possibility to highlight some aspects of the episcopal ministry. Today I would like to reflect briefly with you on the importance of acceptance, on the part of the bishop, of the charisms that the Spirit arouses for the edification of the Church. Episcopal consecration has conferred on you the plenitude of the sacrament of holy orders that, in the ecclesial community, is placed at the service of the common priesthood of the faithful, of their spiritual growth and their sanctity. The ministerial priesthood, as you know, has the objective and mission to make the faithful live out the priesthood in which they participate, through baptism and in their way, in the one priesthood of Christ, as the conciliar constitution "Lumen Gentium" states: "Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ" (No. 10).

Because of this, bishops have the task of watching and working to ensure that the baptized increase in grace, in accordance with the charisms the Holy Spirit causes to arise in their hearts and communities. Vatican II recalled that the Holy Spirit, while unifying in the communion and ministry of the Church, provides and directs her with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts and embellishes her with their fruits (cf. ibid., 4). The recent World Youth Day in Madrid showed, once again, the fecundity of the charisms of the Church, concretely today, and the ecclesial unity of all the faithful gathered around the Pope and the bishops. This is a vitality that reinforces the work of evangelization and the presence of Christ in the world. We are able to see -- and we can almost touch -- that the Holy Spirit is still present in the Church today, and that He creates charisms and unity.

The fundamental gift you are called to cherish in the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care is that of divine filiation; in other words, the fact that everyone participates in Trinitarian communion. Baptism, which makes men and women "children in the Son" and members of the Church, is the root and source of all other charismatic gifts. Through your ministry of sanctification, you educate the faithful to participate with increasing intensity in the priestly, prophetic and regal office of Christ, helping them to build the Church, actively and responsibly, according to the gifts they have received from God. In fact, always bear in mind the fact that the gifts of the Spirit -- be they extraordinary or simple and humble -- are always given freely for the edification of all. The bishop, as a visible sign of the unity of his particular Church, has the duty of unifying and harmonizing charismatic diversity, favoring reciprocity between the hierarchical and the baptismal priesthood.

Accept, therefore, the charisms with gratitude for the sanctification of the Church and the vitality of the apostolate! And this acceptance and gratitude to the Holy Spirit, who also works among us today, are inseparable from the discernment that is proper to the mission of the bishop. Vatican Council II said as much when it gave pastoral ministry the task of judging the genuineness of charisms and their proper use, not extinguishing the Spirit but testing and retaining what is good (cf. Ibid., No. 12). This seems important to me: On one hand, not to extinguish but, but on the other, to distinguish, order and keep in mind through examining. Therefore, it must always be clear that no charism can dispense from deferring and submitting to the pastors of the Church (cf. apostolic exhortation "Christifidelis Laici," No. 24). By accepting, judging and ordering the different gifts and charisms, the bishop carries out a great and valuable service to the priesthood of the faithful and to the vitality of the Church, which will shine as the Lord's Bride, clothed in the sanctity of her children.

This articulated and delicate ministry requires the bishop to nourish his own spiritual life with care. Only in this way does the gift of discernment grow. As the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" affirms, the bishop becomes "father" given that he is fully a "son" of the Church (No. 10). Moreover, in virtue of the plenitude of the sacrament of Holy Orders, he is teacher, sanctifier and pastor who acts in the name and in the person of Christ. These two inseparable aspects call him to grow as son and as pastor as he follows Christ, in order that his personal sanctity may be an expression of the objective sanctity he received through episcopal consecration.

Hence, I exhort you, dear brothers, to remain always in the presence of the Good Shepherd and to assimilate increasingly his sentiments and his human and priestly virtues, through personal prayer, which must accompany your difficult apostolic days. In intimacy with the Lord you will find consolation and support for your committed ministry. Do not be afraid to entrust to the heart of Jesus Christ all your concerns, certain that he looks after you, as he already admonished the Apostle Peter (cf. 1 Peter 5:6). May your prayer always be nourished by meditation on the Word of God, by personal study and just rest, so that you will be able to listen and accept with serenity "what the Spirit says to the Churches" (Revelation 2:11) and lead all to the unity of faith and love.

The sanctity of your lives and your pastoral charity will be an example and support to your priests, your main and irreplaceable collaborators. It will be your urgency to make them grow in co-responsibility as wise guides of the faithful, who are also called to build the community with their gifts, charisms and the witness of their lives, so that the choral communion of the Church may bear witness to Jesus Christ, that the world may believe. And this closeness with priests, yet today, with all their problems, is of very great importance.

Entrusting your ministry to Mary, Mother of the Church, who shines before the People of God full of gifts of the Holy Spirit, I impart with affection to each one of you, to your dioceses and particularly to your priests, the apostolic blessing. Thank you.


Papal Address to Latin Rite Bishops From India
"Religious ... Are the Often Unsung Heroes of the Church's Vitality"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received in audience a group of bishops from India at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. The bishops represented Bombay, Nagpur, Goa e Damão, Gandhinagar and Bangalore, and are in Italy for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a further occasion to deepen the communion that exists between the Church in India and the See of Peter, and an opportunity to rejoice in the universality of the Church. I wish to thank Cardinal Oswald Gracias for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women Religious, and laity whom you shepherd. Please assure them of my prayers and solicitude.

The Church in India is blessed with a multitude of institutions which are intended to be expressions of the love of God for humanity through the charity and example of the clergy, religious and lay faithful who staff them. By means of her parishes, schools and orphanages, as well as her hospitals, clinics and dispensaries, the Church makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being not only of Catholics, but of society at large. Among these institutions in your region, a special place is held by the schools which are an outstanding witness to your commitment to the education and formation of our dear young people.

The efforts made by the whole Christian community to prepare the young citizens of your noble country to build a more just and prosperous society have long been a hallmark of the Church in your Dioceses and throughout India. In helping the spiritual, intellectual and moral faculties of their students to mature, Catholic schools should continue to develop a capacity for sound judgment and introduce them to the heritage bequeathed to them by former generations, thus fostering a sense of values and preparing their pupils for a happy and productive life (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, 5). I encourage you to continue to pay close attention to the quality of instruction in the schools present in your Dioceses, to ensure that they be genuinely Catholic and therefore capable of passing on those truths and values necessary for the salvation of souls and the up-building of society.

Of course, Catholic schools are not the only means by which the Church seeks to instruct and to edify her people in intellectual and moral truth. As you know, all of the Church’s activities are meant to glorify God and fill his people with the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32). This saving truth, at the heart of the deposit of faith, must remain the foundation of all the Church’s endeavours, proposed to others always with respect but also without compromise. The capacity to present the truth gently but firmly is a gift to be nurtured especially among those who teach in Catholic institutes of higher education and those who are charged with the ecclesial task of educating seminarians, religious or the lay faithful, whether in theology, catechetical studies or Christian spirituality. Those who teach in the name of the Church have a particular obligation faithfully to hand on the riches of the tradition, in accordance with the Magisterium and in a way that responds to the needs of today, while students have the right to receive the fullness of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of the Church.

Having received the benefits of a sound formation and dedicated to charity in truth, the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the Christian community will be better able to contribute to the growth of the Church and the advancement of Indian society. The various members of the Church will then bear witness to the love of God for all humanity as they enter into contact with the world, providing a solid Christian testimony in friendship, respect and love, and striving not to condemn the world but to offer it the gift of salvation (cf. Jn 3:17). Encourage those involved in education, whether priests, religious or laity, to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Enable them to reach out to their neighbours that, by their word and example, they may more effectively proclaim Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6).

A significant role of witness to Jesus Christ is carried out in your country by men and women religious, who are the often unsung heroes of the Church’s vitality locally. Above and beyond their apostolic labours, however, religious and the lives they lead are a source of spiritual fruitfulness for the entire Christian community. As they open themselves to the grace of God, religious men and women inspire others to respond with trust, humility and joy to the invitation of the Lord to follow him.

In this regard, my Brother Bishops, I know that you are aware of the many factors which inhibit spiritual and vocational growth, particularly among young people. Yet we know that it is Jesus Christ alone who responds to our deepest longings, and who gives true meaning to our lives. Only in him can our hearts truly find rest. Continue, therefore, to speak to young people and to encourage them to consider seriously the consecrated or priestly life; speak with parents about their indispensible role in encouraging and supporting such vocations; and lead your people in prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send many more labourers into this harvest (cf. Mt 9:38).

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to India's Episcopal Group IV
"You Are Called to Teach, Sanctify and Govern the Local Churches"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Group IV of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India at the end of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome all of you on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a privileged time in which to deepen the bonds of fraternity and communion between the See of Peter and the particular Churches that you lead. I wish to thank Archbishop Malayappan Chinnappa for the cordial sentiments that he expressed on your behalf and in the name of those whom you shepherd. My warm greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my solicitude and my prayers.

Continuing these reflections on the life of the Church in India, I would like to address a word to you, dear brother Bishops, concerning your responsibilities towards the clergy and the men and women religious of the country. By the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, you are set over God’s people as Pastors, and you are called to teach, sanctify and govern the local Churches. You do this through your preaching of the Gospel, your celebration of the Sacraments, and your care for the sanctity and effective pastoral action of the clergy. Through them you are able to reach out more effectively to the religious and lay people in your care. You are also called to govern in charity by means of a prudent vigilance in your legislative, executive and judicial capacities (cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 384-394).

In this delicate and demanding role, the Bishop, as pastor and father, should so unite and mould his flock into one family that all, conscious of their duties, will wish to live and act as one in charity (cf. Christus Dominus, 16). Promoting the charism of unity, which is a powerful testimony to the oneness of God and a mark of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, is among the most important responsibilities of the Bishop. In the many tasks which require your prayerful attention, dear Bishops, you recognize the presence of the Spirit of the Lord who is active in the Church. The Spirit, promised to all in Baptism and poured out upon God’s people to guide and sanctify them in Confirmation, longs to unite all Christians in bonds of faith, hope and charity.

By your ministry, you are called to strengthen the people whom God has chosen to be his own, to serve them and to build them into a unified temple, a worthy dwelling-place for the Spirit, whether they be young or old, male or female, rich or poor. The Lord, by shedding his blood, has ransomed people of every tribe and tongue, of every people and nation (cf. Rev 5:9). Therefore, I encourage you to continue to be at the service of unity and, leading by example, to draw the people that you shepherd into deeper communion, fraternity and peace.

One of the ways in which the communion of the Church is most clearly manifested is in the particularly important relationship that exists between you and your priests, whether diocesan or religious, who share and exercise with you the one priesthood of Christ. Together in your Dioceses, you form one priestly body and one family, of which you are the father (cf. Christus Dominus, 29). Thus, you are to be supportive of your priests, your closest collaborators, and to be attentive to their needs and aspirations, showing solicitude for their spiritual, intellectual and material well-being. They, as sons and co-workers, are called in turn to respect your authority, working cheerfully, humbly and with complete dedication to the good of the Church, but always under your direction. The bonds of fraternal love and mutual concern which you foster with your priests will become the basis for overcoming any tensions that may arise, and will promote those conditions which are most propitious for the service of the people of God, edifying them spiritually, leading them to know their worth and to assume the dignity which is theirs as children of God.

Moreover, the witness of the reciprocal love and service between you and your priests – without regard for caste or ethnicity but focussed upon the love of God, the spread of the Gospel and the sanctification of the Church – is earnestly desired by the people you serve. They look to you and your priests for a model of holiness, friendship and harmony that speaks to their hearts and teaches by example how to live the new commandment of love.

Religious men and women also look to you for guidance and support. The witness of your own deep love for Jesus Christ and his Church will serve to inspire them as they devote themselves with perfect poverty, chastity and obedience to the life to which they have been called. They will be confirmed in their selfless dedication by your faith, example and trust in God. In this way, in union with them, you will bear ever greater witness before the men and women of our day to the fact that, while the form of this world is passing away (cf. 1 Cor 7:31), whoever does the will of God abides forever (cf. 1 Jn 2:17).

The radiant witness of consecrated life is of course a treasure not only for those graced with a vocation to it, but also for the entire Church. Through close cooperation with religious Superiors, continue to ensure that the members of Religious Institutes in your Dioceses live their particular charisms in their fullness and in harmony with the priests and lay faithful. In addition to ensuring that they receive a solid human, spiritual and theological foundation, see that they are provided with a thorough ongoing formation that will help them mature in all aspects of consecrated life. Because of the unique contribution made by all Religious, women and men, contemplative and active, to the mission of the Church, and because of their role as protagonists of evangelization through prayer and supplication, education, health care, charity and other apostolates, their charisms will surely continue to strengthen the entire ecclesial community and enrich wider society.

In a particular way, I wish to express the Church’s appreciation of the many women Religious of the Church in India. They bear witness to its holiness, vitality and hope. They offer countless prayers and perform innumerable good works, often hidden, but nevertheless of great value to the up-building of God’s kingdom. I ask you to encourage them in their vocation, and to invite young women to consider a similar life of fulfilment through love of God and service to others.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I express my fraternal affection and esteem. Invoking upon all of you the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Indian Bishops on 5-Yearly Visit
"Love Is God's Gift to Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to the Indian bishops of Group III, who are concluding their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a particular moment of grace and a sign of the communion that exists between the Church in India and the See of Peter. I wish to thank Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam for the devoted sentiments and the promise of prayers which he has voiced on your behalf and in the name of all those whom you serve. Please take with you my affectionate greeting to the priests, the men and women religious, and the laity entrusted to your pastoral care.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us that, among the more important responsibilities of Bishops, the proclamation of the Gospel is pre-eminent (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). For the Church, the Body of Christ, proclaims the word of God which is at work in the hearts of those who believe (cf. 1 Thess 2:13) and she grows by constantly hearing, celebrating and studying that word (cf. Verbum Domini, 3). It is a source of satisfaction that the proclamation of God’s word is bearing rich spiritual fruit in your local Churches, especially through the spread of small Christian communities in which the faithful come together for prayer, reflection on the Scriptures and fraternal support. I encourage you, through your priests and with the help of qualified lay leaders, to ensure that the fullness of God’s word, which comes to us in the sacred Scriptures and the Church’s apostolic tradition, is made readily available to those who seek to deepen their knowledge and love of the Lord and their obedience to his will. Every effort should be made to stress that individual and group prayer is, by its very nature, born of, and leads back to, the wellspring of grace found in the Church’s sacraments and her entire liturgical life. Nor can it be forgotten that the word of God not only consoles but also challenges believers, as individuals and in community, to advance in justice, reconciliation and peace among themselves and in society as a whole. Through your personal encouragement and oversight, may the seeds of God’s word presently being sown in your local Churches bear abundant fruit for the salvation of souls and the growth of God’s kingdom.

In fidelity to the new commandment to love one another as the Lord has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34), Christians of all times and places have striven to serve their fellow human beings selflessly and to love them with all their heart. After all, love is God's gift to humanity, it is his promise and it is our hope (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 2). This selfless love finds practical expression in service to others and to the wider community. In this light, I am pleased to note the impressive signs of the Church’s charity in many fields of social activity, a service borne in a particular way by her priests and religious. Through their witness to Christian charity, the Church’s schools prepare young people of all faiths and none to build a more just and peaceful society. Church agencies have been instrumental in the promotion of microcredit, helping the poor to help themselves. In addition, they promote the Church’s healing and charitable mission through clinics, orphanages, hospitals and innumerable other projects aimed at promoting human dignity and well-being, assisting the poorest and the weakest, the lonely and the elderly, the abandoned and the suffering, helping all of them because of the dignity which is their due as human beings, and for no other motive than the love of Christ which impels us (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). I encourage you to persevere in this positive and practical witness, in fidelity to the Lord’s command and for the sake of the least of our brothers and sisters. May Christ’s faithful in India continue to assist all those in need in the communities around them, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or social status, out of the conviction that all have been created in God’s image and all are due equal respect.

As that gift of God’s "unconditional love" which gives ultimate meaning to our lives (cf. Spe Salvi, 26), charity is first experienced by most of us in the family home. The recent Synod on the Word of God recalled that the Church, by her proclamation of the Gospel, reveals to Christian families their true identity in accordance with God’s plan (cf. Verbum Domini, 85). Families in your dioceses, which are "domestic churches", are to be examples of that mutual love, respect and support which ought to animate human relations at every level. Insofar as they are attentive to prayer, meditate on the Scriptures, and participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church, they will help nourish that "unconditional love" among themselves and in the life of their parishes, and will be a source of great good for the wider community. Many of you have spoken to me about the grave challenges which threaten to undermine the unity, harmony and sanctity of the family, and about the work which must be done to build a culture of respect for marriage and family life. A sound catechesis which appeals especially to those preparing for marriage will do much to nourish the faith of Christian families and will assist them in giving a vibrant, living witness to the Church's age-old wisdom regarding marriage, the family, and the responsible use of God’s gift of sexuality.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Assuring you of my continued prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Risen Lord.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address at Rosary With Italian Bishops
Mary's Life "Is a Call to Turn From What We Are to Hear and Accept the Word"

ROME, MAY 27, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Thursday at the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The Pope met there with bishops of Italy to pray the rosary, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

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Venerable and dear brothers,

You have come to this splendid basilica -- a place where spirituality and art come together in a centuries-old union -- to share an intense moment of prayer, by which we entrust to the maternal protection of Mary, Mater Unitatis, the whole Italian nation, 150 years after the political union of the country. It is significant that this initiative was prepared by similar meetings in the dioceses: also in this way you express the solicitude of the Church in making herself close to the destiny of this beloved nation.

We, in turn, feel in communion with every community, including the smallest, in which the tradition of dedicating May to Marian devotion is alive. This tradition is expressed in many signs: shrines, chapels, works of art and, above all, in the prayer of the holy rosary, with which the People of God give thanks for the good they receive incessantly from the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, and pray to her for their many needs.

Prayer -- which has its summit in the liturgy, whose form is guarded by the living tradition of the Church -- is always leaving space for God: his action makes us participants in the history of salvation. This afternoon, in particular, in the school of Mary we have been invited to share in Jesus' steps: to go down with him to the Jordan River, so that the Spirit will confirm in us the grace of baptism; to sit at the banquet of Cana, to receive from him the "good wine" of the celebration; to enter the synagogue of Nazareth, as poor ones to whom is addressed the joyful message of the Kingdom of God; also to go up Mount Tabor, to receive the cross in the paschal light; and finally, to participate in the Cenacle in the new and eternal sacrifice that, anticipating the new heavens and the new earth, regenerates the whole of creation.

This basilica is the first dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God in the West. On entering it, my thoughts went back to the first day of the year 2000, when Blessed John Paul II opened the Holy Door, entrusting the Jubilee Year to Mary, so that she would watch over the path of all those who acknowledged themselves pilgrims of grace and mercy. We ourselves today do not hesitate to feel like pilgrims, desirous of crossing the threshold of that Most Holy Door that is Christ, and we want to ask the Virgin Mary to support our path and to intercede for us. As he is Son of God, Christ is the form of man: He is man's most profound truth, the sap that gives life to a history that otherwise would be irremediably impaired. Prayer helps us to recognize in him the center of our life, to remain in his presence, to conform our will to his, to do "what he tells us" (John 2:5), certain of his fidelity. This is the essential task of the Church, crowned by him as Mystical Bride, as we contemplate her in the splendor of the apse. Mary constitutes her model: she is the one who presents to us the mirror in which we are invited to recognize our identity. Her life is a call to turn from what we are to hear and accept the Word, being able in faith to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, before which our only possible greatness is that expressed in filial obedience: "Be it done unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38). Mary trusted: she is the "blessed one" (cf. Luke 1:42), who is blessed for having believed (cf. Luke 1:45), to the point of having been clothed in Christ to such a degree that she enters in the "seventh day," a participant in God's rest. The dispositions of her heart -- listening, acceptance, humility, fidelity, praise and waiting -- correspond to the interior attitudes and to the gestures that mold Christian life. The Church is nourished by them, conscious that they express what God expects from her.

Engraved on the bronze of this basilica's Holy Door is a representation of the Council of Ephesus. The building itself, whose original nucleus dates back to the 5th century, is linked to that ecumenical summit held in the year 431. In Ephesus the united Church defended and confirmed for Mary the title Theotokos, Mother of God: a title with Christological content, which refers to the mystery of the Incarnation and which expresses the unity of the human nature with the divine in the Son. Moreover, it is the person and the experience of Jesus of Nazareth that illumines the Old Testament and Mary's face itself. Understood clearly in her is the unitary design that intertwines the two Testaments. In her personal life is the synthesis of the history of a whole nation, which places the Church in continuity with ancient Israel. Within this perspective individual histories receive meaning, beginning with those of the great women of the Old Covenant, in whose life is represented a humiliated, defeated and deported people. However, they are also the same ones who personify hope; they are the "holy remnant," a sign that God's plan does not remain an abstract idea, but finds correspondence in a pure answer, in a liberty that gives itself without holding anything back, in a yes that is full acceptance and perfect gift. Mary is the highest expression of it. Upon her, Virgin, descends the creative power of the Holy Spirit, the same who "in the beginning" hovered over the shapeless abyss (cf. Genesis 1:1) and thanks to which God called being from nothing; the Spirit gives life to and molds creation. Opening to his action, Mary engenders the Son, the presence of God who comes to inhabit history and opens it to a new and definitive beginning, which is the possibility for every man to be reborn from on high, to live in the will of God and thus to be completely fulfilled.

Faith, in fact, is not alienation: the experiences that contaminate man's dignity and the quality of social coexistence [are not the experiences of faith]! In every historical period the encounter with the ever new Word of the Gospel was a source of civilization; it built bridges between peoples and enriched the fabric of our cities, expressing itself in culture, in the arts and, not last, in the thousand forms of charity. No wonder Italy, celebrating the 150 years of its political unity, can be proud of the presence and action of the Church. She does not pursue privileges or desire to substitute the responsibilities of the political institutions; respectful of the legitimate secularity of the state, she is attentive in supporting the fundamental rights of man. Among these are first of all the ethical demands and, therefore, openness to transcendence, which are values that precede any state jurisdiction, inasmuch as they are inscribed in the very nature of the human person. In this perspective, the Church -- strong because of collegial reflection and because of direct experience on the spot -- continues offering her own contribution to the building of the common good, reminding each one of his duty to promote and protect human life in all its phases and to support the family with deeds; the family continues to be, in fact, the first reality in which free and responsible persons can grow, formed in those profound values that open to fraternity and which also enable one to address the adversities of life. Not in the last place, there is today difficulty in accessing full and fitting employment; hence, I join all those who appeal to politics and to the business world to make every effort to surmount the widespread precariousness of labor, which in young people compromises the serenity of a plan for family life, with grave harm to an authentic and harmonious development of society.

Dear brothers, the anniversary of the founding event of the unitary state has found you diligent in recalling fragments of a shared memory, and sensible in pointing out the elements of a future perspective. Do not hesitate to stimulate the lay faithful to overcome every spirit of narrow-mindedness, distraction and indifference, and to participate personally in public life. Encourage initiatives of formation inspired in the social doctrine of the Church, so that whoever is called to political and administrative responsibilities is not a victim of the temptation to exploit his position for personal interests or because of thirst for power. Support the vast network of aggregations and associations that promote endeavors of a cultural, social and charitable character. Renew the occasions of encounter, in the sign of reciprocity, between North and South. Help the North to recover the original motivations of that vast cooperative movement of Christian inspiration which animated a culture of solidarity and economic development. Likewise, invite the South to put in circulation for the benefit of all the resources and qualities it possesses and those features of reception and hospitality that characterize it. Continue cultivating a spirit of sincere and loyal cooperation with the state, knowing that this relationship is beneficial both for the Church as well as for the whole country. May your words and action be encouragement and thrust for all those called to manage the complexity that characterizes the present time. It is a time when an appeal arises ever more strongly for solid spiritual references; be able to articulate to all what is peculiar to the Christian experience: God's victory over evil and death, as a horizon that casts a light of hope on the present. Assuming education as the theme of the pastoral commitment of this decade, you wished to express the certainty that Christian existence -- the good life of the Gospel -- is precisely the demonstration of a fulfilled life. On this path you ensure not only a religious and ecclesial but also a social service, contributing to build the city of man. Therefore, courage! Despite all the difficulties, "nothing is impossible for God" (Luke 1:37), for him who continues doing "great things" (Luke 1:49) through all those who, like Mary, are able to give themselves to him with unconditional availability.

We place the whole Italian nation under the protection of the Mater Unitatis, so that the Lord will grant it the inestimable gifts of peace and fraternity and, hence, of development in solidarity. May she also help the political forces to live the anniversary of unity as an occasion to reinforce the national bond and to surmount every harmful opposition: may the various and legitimate sensibilities, experiences and perspectives come together again in a wider picture to seek together what truly contributes to the good of the country. May Mary's example open the way to a more just, mature and responsible society, capable of rediscovering the profound values of the human heart. May the Mother of God encourage young people, sustain families, comfort the sick, implore upon each one a renewed effusion of the Spirit, helping us to recognize and also to follow the Lord in this time, who is the true good of life, because he is Life itself.

From my heart I bless you and your communitie


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of India
"Christ's Saving Power Is Also Proclaimed in the Lives of the Saints"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received in audience Indian bishops of the Latin rite who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum during this Easter season. Through you I extend my greetings to all the faithful in your care, and I thank Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he has expressed on your behalf.

The Risen Christ’s presence among his disciples was a source of deep consolation for them, confirming them in their faith and deepening their love for him; and at his Ascension, he commissioned them, saying, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). This command impelled your own great patron Saint Thomas, the other Apostles and those who followed them, to preach the Gospel among the nations; and through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, the divine life of the Blessed Trinity has been passed on to many Christian souls.

Today, as in every age, the apostolic mandate finds its source and its central focus in the proclamation of the Incarnate Son of God, who is the fullness of divine revelation and "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). The Saviour of all creation, he is the bearer of Good News for all and the fulfilment of man’s deepest yearnings. The definitive revelation of God which comes to us in Jesus Christ and which believers throughout the world joyfully proclaim is expressed in a particular way in the sacred Scriptures and in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ’s saving power is also proclaimed in the lives of the saints who have wholeheartedly taken up the Gospel message and lived it faithfully among their brothers and sisters. Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God’s grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God.

Within the Church, believers’ first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service. Some of you have told me of the challenges you face in this regard, and I support you in your commitment to provide quality formation in this area. Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation, priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself. This is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments.

In relation to the wider world, the Christian commitment to live and to bear witness to the Gospel offers distinct challenges in every time and place. This is certainly true of your country, which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity. The Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one’s own beliefs, and respect for those of one’s neighbour. The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation. This is an undertaking which respects and maintains the uniqueness and integrity of the divine revelation given to the Church as her inheritance, while showing that it is intelligible and attractive to those to whom it is proposed. The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News. As you strive to meet the challenging circumstances of proclaiming that message in the various cultural settings in which you find yourselves, you, my dear brother Bishops, are called to oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit. Combine that fidelity with sensitivity and creativity, so that you may give a convincing account of the hope that is within you (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

With regard to interreligious dialogue, I am aware of the challenging circumstances many of you face as you develop a dialogue with those of other religious beliefs, all the while encouraging an atmosphere of tolerant interaction. Your dialogue should be characterized by a constant regard for that which is true, in order to foster mutual respect while avoiding semblances of syncretism.

Moreover, as Indian Christians strive to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other beliefs, your prudent leadership will be crucial in the civil and moral task of working to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship. As you know, these rights are based upon the common dignity of all human beings and are recognized throughout the concert of nations. The Catholic Church strives to promote these rights for all religions throughout the world. I encourage you, therefore, to work patiently to establish the common ground necessary for the harmonious enjoyment of these basic rights in your communities. Even if he encounters opposition, the Christian’s own charity and forbearance should serve to convince others of the rightness of religious tolerance, from which the followers of all religions stand to gain. My prayers accompany you as you continue to address this sensitive and important question.

My brothers in the Episcopacy, I am grateful for this opportunity to renew our bonds of communion. May Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whose patient, personal service to her neighbour was motivated by the love of Christ, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to ensure the spiritual fruitfulness of your pastoral work. I assure you and all whom you serve of a constant remembrance in my prayers, and I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope to Maronite Patriarch
"You Have an Immense Mission … to Announce the Good News"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, 71. The Pope affirmed his communion with the new patriarch of the Maronite Church, who is the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. He succeeded Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, who resigned at age 90.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Sons and Daughters of the Maronite Church,

This first visit to the Successor of Peter, after your election to the Patriarchal See of Antioch of the Maronites, is a privileged moment for the universal Church. I rejoice to receive you here, with the Maronite bishops, the priests, the consecrated persons and the faithful, to solemnize the "Ecclesia Communio" which I made known to you by letter last March 24. Your election which occurred a few days after the closure of the Holy Year, promulgated to celebrate the 1,600 anniversary of the death of St. Maron, seems the most eminent fruit of numerous graces that he obtained for his Church.

I greet all of you warmly, you who have come to surround your Patriarch for this great moment of fraternal communion and of unshakeable unity of the Maronite Church with the Church of Rome, thus underlining the importance of the visible unity of the Church in her catholicity. In the absence of Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, I take the liberty to express to him my affection and my gratitude for having consecrated 25 years of his life to lead the Maronite Church as Patriarch amid the upheavals of history.

Soon, this ecclesiastical communion will find its most authentic expression in the Divine Liturgy where the one Body and Blood of Christ will be shared. It is there that the plenitude of communion is manifested between the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and the 77th successor of St. Maron, father and head of the Church of Antioch of the Maronites, that very prestigious Apostolic See where the faithful of Christ received for the first time the name of "Christians!" Your Patriarchal Church, her rich spiritual, liturgical and theological tradition, the tradition of Antioch, always adorns the entire Church with that treasure.

Because you are in the heart of the Middle East, you have an immense mission with regard to humanity, to whom the Love of Christ urges to announce the Good News of Salvation. Since the recent Synod that I convoked in October of 2010, the urgency has been recalled numerous times to propose the Gospel again to persons who know it little or who are estranged from the Church. With all the living forces present in Lebanon and in the Middle East, I know, Beatitude, that you will have at heart to proclaim, to witness and to live in the communion of this Word of life in order to rediscover the ardor of the first faithful who "devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). This region of the world that the patriarchs, the prophets, the Apostles and Christ himself blessed by their presence and by their preaching, aspires to this durable peace that the Word of Truth, received and lived, has the capacity to establish.

You pursue this task through a human and spiritual, moral and intellectual education of young people thanks to your school and catechetical network, whose quality I know. I ardently wish that your role in their formation will always be better recognized by society, so that the fundamental values will be transmitted, without discrimination. So that in this way the young people of today will become responsible men and women in their families and in society, to build greater solidarity and greater fraternity among all the components of the nation. Transmit to young people all my esteem and affection while reminding them that the Church and society have need of their enthusiasm and their hope. To effect this, I invite you to intensify the formation of priests and of numerous young people that the Lord is calling in your eparchies and in your religious congregations. That by their teaching and by their life, they may be genuine witnesses of the Word of God to help the faithful to ground their lives and missions in Christ!

Beatitude, I address to you fraternal wishes that the Holy Spirit may assist you in the exercise of your charge. May he console you in difficulties and procure for you the joy of seeing your Church grow in fervor and in number! At the dawn of your ministry, I wish to repeat those words of Christ to the disciples: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). While I address to all the Lebanese people my warm greetings, I entrust you in an altogether special way to the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, given that Your Beatitude is a son of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also of St. Maron and of all the Lebanese saints and blessed. And I give you my big-hearted apostolic blessing, as well as to the bishops and priests, to the men and women religious and to all the faithful of your patriarchate.


Papal Address to Syro-Malabar Bishops
"Each Bishop ... Is Called to Be a Minister of Unity"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience prelates of the Syro-Malabar Church of India, who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit "ad Limina Apostolorum" a moment which is now sadly marked by the death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil. Before you all, I wish again to give thanks to God for his able and willing service over many years to the whole of the Church in India. May our loving Saviour welcome his noble soul into paradise, and may he rest in peace in communion with all the saints.

Thank you for the sentiments of respect and esteem offered by Mar Bosco Puthur on your behalf and in the name of those whom you shepherd. Your presence is an eloquent expression of the deep spiritual bonds which unite the Syro-Malabar Church to the Church universal, in fidelity to Christ’s prayer for all his disciples (cf. Jn 17:21). You bring to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul the joys and hopes of the entire Syro-Malabar Church, which my predecessor the Venerable John Paul II happily raised to the status of a Major-Archiepiscopal Church in 1992.My greetings go to the priests, the women and men religious, the members of the lay movements, the families and in particular the young people who are the hope of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council taught that "Bishops have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the Apostles as pastors of souls and, together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor" (Christus Dominus, 1). Today’s encounter thus forms an essential part of your pilgrimage "ad Limina Apostolorum"; it is also an occasion to intensify the awareness of the divine gift and responsibility received in the ordination by which you became members of the College of Bishops. I join you in seeking the intercession of the Apostles for your ministry. They, who were the first to receive the charge of caring for Christ’s flock, continue to guide and watch over the Church from their place in heaven and remain a model and inspiration to all Bishops by their holiness of life, teaching and example.

Your visit also provides a precious opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion in the apostolic faith and in the life of the Spirit which unites you among yourselves and with your people. With divine inspiration and grace on the one hand, and with humble prayers and efforts on the other, this precious gift of fellowship with the Triune God and with one another will grow ever richer and deeper. Each Bishop, for his part, is called to be a minister of unity (cf. ibid., 6) in his particular church and within the universal Church. This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions. I encourage you to do all you can to continue to foster the communion between yourselves and all Catholic Bishops throughout the world, and to be the living expression of that fellowship among your priests and faithful. Let the gentle command of Saint Paul continue to guide your hearts and your apostolic endeavours: "Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honour. Live in harmony with one another" (Rom 12:9-10,16). Thus will the unity of the Triune God be proclaimed and lived in the world, and thus will our new life in Christ be experienced always more profoundly, to the benefit of the entire Catholic Church.

Within this mystery of loving communion, a privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life. The rapid and dramatic changes which are a part of contemporary society throughout the world bring with them not only serious challenges, but new possibilities to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel message to transform and elevate all human relationships. Your support, dear Brother Bishops, and that of your priests and communities for the sound and integral education of young people in the ways of chastity and responsibility will not only enable them to embrace the true nature of marriage, but will also benefit Indian culture as a whole. Unfortunately, the Church can no longer count on the support of society at large to promote the Christian understanding of marriage as a permanent and indissoluble union ordered to procreation and the sanctification of the spouses. Have your families look to the Lord and his saving word for a complete and truly positive vision of life and marital relations, so necessary for the good of the whole human family. Let your preaching and catechesis in this field be patient and constant.

At the heart of many of the works of education and charity exercised in your Eparchies are the various communities of men and women religious who devote themselves to the service of God and their neighbour. I wish to express the Church’s appreciation for the charity, faith and hard work of these religious, who by professing and living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience offer an example of complete devotion to the divine Master and thus help considerably to equip your faithful for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:17). The vocation to religious life and the pursuit of perfect charity is attractive in every age, but it should be nourished by a constant spiritual renewal which is to be fostered by superiors who devote great care to the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of their fellow religious (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 11). The Church insists that preparation for religious profession is to be marked by long and careful discernment with the goal of ensuring, before final vows are made, that each candidate is firmly rooted in Christ, solid in his or her capacity for genuine commitment and joyful in the gift of self to Jesus Christ and his Church.

Furthermore, by its nature, formation is never completed, but is ongoing and must be an integral part of the daily life of each individual and community. Much needs to be done in this area, utilizing the many resources available in your Church, above all through deeper training in the practice of prayer, the particular spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Syro-Malabar rite, and the intellectual demands of a solid pastoral practice. I encourage you, in close collaboration with religious superiors, to plan effectively for such a solid ongoing formation, so that religious men and women continue to be powerful witnesses to the presence of God in the world and to our eternal destiny, so that the complete gift of self to God through religious life may shine with all its beauty and purity before men.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I once again express my fraternal affection and esteem. Commending you to the intercession of Saint Thomas, Apostle of India, I assure you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care. To all I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Letter to Family Meeting of Latin American Bishops
"Encourage Parents in Their ... Obligation to Educate the New Generations"

BOGOTA, Colombia, MARCH 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to participants in a meeting of bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean responsible for the pastoral care of families and life. The five-day meeting, which ends Friday in Bogota, is sponsored by the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM) and the Pontifical Council for the Family.

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To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Ennio Antonelli
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

I am pleased to greet cordially Your Eminence as well as the other cardinals, bishops and priests taking part in the meeting of persons in charge of the episcopal commissions for family and life of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is taking place in Bogota.

As the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean has reiterated, the family is the most beloved value of the peoples of this noble region. For this reason, the pastoral care of families has a primary place in the evangelizing action of each of the different particular Churches, promoting the culture of life and working so that the rights of families are recognized and respected.

We witness with sorrow, however, how homes suffer increasingly adverse situations caused by rapid cultural changes, social instability, migratory flows, poverty, programs of education that trivialize sexuality and false ideologies. We cannot remain indifferent in face of these challenges. In the Gospel we find light to respond to them without being discouraged. With his grace, Christ stimulates us to work diligently and enthusiastically to support each of the members of families in the discovery of the plan of love that God has for the human person. Hence, no effort will be useless in working so that every family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, will carry out its mission to be a living cell of society, seedbed of virtues, school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, instrument of concord, and privileged realm in which human life will be received and protected, in a joyful and responsible way, from its beginning to its natural end. It is also worthwhile to continue to encourage parents in their right and fundamental obligation to educate the new generations in the faith and in the values that dignify human existence.

I do not doubt that the continental mission promoted in Aparecida, which is awakening so many hopes everywhere, will serve to revive in the beloved Latin American and Caribbean countries the matrimonial and family ministry. The Church counts on Christian homes, calling them to be a real subject of evangelization and apostolate and inviting them to become conscious of their valuable mission in the world.

Hence, I encourage all the participants in this significant reunion to develop in their reflections the great pastoral lines marked out by the episcopates gathered in Aparecida, thus fostering the family's ability to live a profound encounter with Christ through listening to his word, prayer, the sacramental life and the exercise of charity. In this way they will be helped to put into practice a solid spirituality which fosters in all its members a determined aspiration to sanctity, without fear of showing the beauty of the high ideals and ethical and moral demands of life in Christ. To promote this, it is necessary to enhance the formation of all those who, in one way or another, are dedicated to the evangelization of families. Likewise, it is important to trace paths of collaboration with all men and women of good will to continue to intensely protect human life, marriage and the family in the whole region.

I conclude expressing my affection and solidarity to all the families of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular those who find themselves in situations of difficulty, while commending at the same time to the powerful protection of the most Holy Virgin Mary the fruits of this laudable initiative, I impart from my heart the apostolic blessing, which I am pleased to extend to all those who are involved in the evangelization and promotion of the good of families.

Vatican, March 28, 2011



Papal Address to Bishops of Syro-Malankara Church
"Seek to Form Your People in a Deeper Knowledge and Love of the Faith"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2011- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience a group of bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.
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Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome all of you here today on the occasion of your pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum. I thank His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis for the devoted sentiments which he has addressed to me in your name. Through you, I extend greetings to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your eparchies, and I wish to assure them of my prayers for their spiritual and material well-being. This time together is a privileged occasion to deepen the bonds of fraternity and communion between the See of Peter and the Syro-Malankara Church, happily promoted to Major Archiepiscopal Church by the Venerable John Paul II in 2005.

The apostolic traditions which you maintain enjoy their full spiritual fruitfulness when they are lived in union with the Church universal. In this sense, you rightly follow in the footsteps of the Servant of God Mar Ivanios, who led your predecessors and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church. Like your forefathers, you too are called, within the one household of God, to continue in firm fidelity to that which has been passed down to you.

All Catholic Bishops share a proper concern for faithfulness to Jesus Christ and are desirous of that unity which he willed for his disciples (cf. John 17:11), while preserving their legitimate diversity. So it is that "the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular Church or rite to remain whole and entire, and she likewise wishes to adapt her own way of life to the various needs of time and place" ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum," 2). Each generation must confront the challenges to the Church in accordance with its capacities and in harmony with the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ. I encourage you, therefore, to foster an affection among your priests and people for the liturgical and spiritual heritage that has come down to you, while steadfastly building upon your communion with the See of Peter.

The deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles and faithfully transmitted to our times is a precious gift from the Lord. It is that message of salvation which has been revealed in the person of Jesus whose Spirit unites believers of every time and place, giving us fellowship with the Father and with his Son so that our joy may be complete (cf. 1 John 1:1-4). You and your priests are called to promote this fellowship through word and sacrament, and to strengthen it by a sound catechesis, so that the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, and the gift of divine life - communion with him - may be known throughout the world (cf. "Verbum Domini," 2).

Due to its ancient roots and distinguished history, Christianity in India has long made its proper contribution to culture and society, and to its religious and spiritual expressions. It is through a determination to live the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Romans 1:16), that those whom you serve will make a more effective contribution to the entire body of Christ and to Indian society, to the benefit of all. May your people continue to flourish by the preaching of God’s word and by the promotion of a fellowship based on the love of God.

I note the particular challenges to many of your parishes in providing proper pastoral care and mutual support, especially when there is not always a parish priest at hand. And yet, smaller parishes, bearing in mind the social reality Christians face in the broader cultural context, present their own opportunities for truly fraternal upbuilding and assistance. Small Christian communities have often, as you know, given outstanding witness in the history of the Church. Just as in apostolic times, the Church in our age will surely thrive in the presence of the living Christ, who has promised to be with us always (cf. Matthew 28:20) and to sustain us (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8).

It is this divine presence which must remain at the centre of your people’s life, faith and witness, and which you their Pastors are called to watch over so that, even if they must live far from their community, they will not live far from Christ. Indeed, it is important to remember that Christian communities are "the proper setting where a personal and communal journey based on the word of God can occur and truly serve as the basis for our spiritual life" ("Verbum Domini," 72).

One of the ways in which you exercise your role as teachers of the faith to the Christian community is through the catechetical and faith formation programmes taking place under your direction. Since "instruction should be based on holy scripture, tradition, liturgy, and on the teaching authority and life of the Church" ("Christus Dominus," 14), I am pleased to note the variety and number of programmes that you currently employ. Along with the celebration of the sacraments, such programmes will help ensure that those in your care will always be able to give an account of the hope which is theirs in Christ. Indeed, catechesis and spiritual development are among the most important challenges which pastors of souls face, and so I warmly encourage you to persevere along the path you have chosen as you seek to form your people in a deeper knowledge and love of the faith, aided by God’s grace and by your humble trust in his providence.

With these thoughts, I renew my sentiments of fraternal affection and esteem for you. Invoking the intercession of Saint Thomas the Apostle, India’s great patron, I assure you of my prayers and willingly impart to you and to those entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Filipino Bishops
"The Greatest Good We Can Offer Those Whom We Serve Is … the Eucharist"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered upon receiving in audience bishops from the Philippines who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

It is with joy that I welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I extend my cordial greetings through you to the priests, religious, and faithful of your various dioceses. Our meeting today affords me the opportunity to thank you collectively for the pastoral work you carry out with love for Christ and for his people. As Saint Paul says, "Let us not grow weary of doing good; if we do not relax our efforts, in due time we shall reap our harvest" (Gal 6:9). With these words, the Apostle encourages his readers to do good to all, but especially to those of the household of the faith. He presents us with a double imperative, one which is most appropriate to your ministry as bishops in the central and southern islands of the Philippine archipelago. You must labor in doing good among Christians and non-Christians alike.

Regarding "those of the household of the faith" who require your apostolic care, the Church in your respective regions naturally shares many of the pastoral challenges confronting the rest of the country. Among them, one of the most important is the task of ongoing catechetical formation. The deep personal piety of your people needs to be nourished and supported by a profound understanding of and appreciation for the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Indeed, these elements are required in order for the human heart to give its full and proper response to God. As you continue to strengthen catechesis in your dioceses, do not fail to include in it an outreach to families, with particular care for parents in their role as the first educators of their children in the faith. This work is already evident in your support of the family in the face of influences which would diminish or destroy its rights and integrity. I appreciate that providing this kind of catechetical formation is no small task, and I take the opportunity to salute the many religious sisters and lay catechists who assist you in this important work.

Indeed, as diocesan bishops you never face any challenge alone, being assisted first and foremost by your clergy. Along with you, they have devoted their lives to the service of God and his people, and require in their turn your fatherly care. As you are aware, you and your fellow bishops have a particular duty to know your priests well and to guide them with sincere concern, while priests are always to be prepared to fulfill humbly and faithfully the tasks entrusted to them. In such a spirit of mutual cooperation for the sake of the Kingdom of God, surely "in due time we shall reap our harvest" of faith.

Many of your dioceses already have in place programs of continuing formation for young priests, assisting them in their transition from the structured schedule of the seminary to the more independent setting of parish life. Along these lines, it is also helpful for them to be assigned mentors from among those older priests who have proven themselves to be faithful servants of the Lord. These men can guide their younger confrères along the path toward a mature and well-balanced way of priestly living.

Moreover, priests of all ages require ongoing care. Regular days of recollection, yearly retreats and convocations, as well as programs for continuing education and assistance for priests who may be facing difficulties, are to be promoted. I am confident that you will also find ways to support those priests whose assignments leave them isolated. It is gratifying to note how the Second National Congress for the Clergy, held during the Year for Priests, was just such an occasion for renewal and fraternal support. In order to build upon this momentum, I encourage you to profit from the yearly celebration of Holy Thursday, during which the Church commemorates the priesthood in a special way. In accordance with their solemn promises at ordination, remind your priests of their commitment to celibacy, obedience, and an ever greater dedication to pastoral service. In living out their promises, these men will become true spiritual fathers with a personal and psychological maturity that will grow to mirror the paternity of God.

With respect to Saint Paul's command to do good to those not of the household of the faith, dialogue with other religions remains a high priority, especially in the southern areas of your country. While the Church proclaims without fail that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (cf. Jn 14:6), nevertheless she respects all that is true and good in other religions, and she seeks, with prudence and charity, to enter into an honest and amicable dialogue with the followers of those religions whenever possible (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2). In doing so, the Church works toward mutual understanding and the advancement of the common good of humanity. I commend you for the work you have already done and I encourage you, by means of the dialogue that has been established, to continue to promote the path to true and lasting peace with all of your neighbors, never failing to treat each person, no matter his or her beliefs, as created in the image of God.

Finally, as we strive not to "grow weary of doing good," we are reminded that the greatest good that we can offer those whom we serve is given to us in the Eucharist. In the Holy Mass, the faithful receive the grace needed to be transformed in Jesus Christ. It is heartening that many Filipinos attend Sunday Mass, but this does not leave room for complacency on your part as shepherds. It is your task, and that of your priests, never to grow weary in pursuing the lost sheep, making sure that all the faithful draw life from the great gift given to us in the Sacred Mysteries.

Dear Brother Bishops, I thank the Lord for these days of your visit to the City of Peter and Paul, during which God has strengthened our bonds of communion. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the good Lord bring your work to completion. I assure you of a remembrance in my prayers and willingly impart to you and to the faithful entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Letter Accepting Resignation of Maronite Cardinal
"It's With the Ardent Desire for Peace … That You Have Guided This Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI addressed to Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir in which the Pontiff accepts the cardinal's resignation as the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. The letter is dated Feb. 26.

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To His Most Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir,
Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites,

The year dedicated to the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Marone is reaching its conclusion: During this exceptional jubilee, the Maronite Church was granted a time of grace. It is also the crowning of her service for the greater glory of God and the good of all her faithful.

God, in his unfathomable love, has molded and marked it with his own indelible sign for a particular election to his service. This secret choice has found a confirmation in your free and enthusiastic response following the example of the Mother of God: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Last year, you were able to celebrate the 60th anniversary of priesthood: testimony of fidelity and of love for Jesus Christ, High Priest. In the forthcoming month of July, you will again have the occasion to elevate a thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity for the fulfillment of 50 years of episcopate.

For almost 25 years, you collaborated with your two predecessors in the See of Antioch, before being chosen by the synod as their successor on April 19, 1986: an important moment that puts you today at the threshold of the silver jubilee in this office.

You began the noble ministry of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in the storm of the war that bloodied Lebanon for too long. It is with the ardent desire for peace for your country that you have guided this Church and traveled over the world to console your people constrained to emigrate. Finally, peace returned, always fragile, but always opportune.

Pope John Paul II, who I will have the joy of beatifying next May 1, called you to be part of the College of Cardinals on Nov. 26, 1994, which placed you in more profound communion with the universal Church. The visit of my venerable predecessor to Beirut in 1997, to sign the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "A New Hope for the Lebanon" has marked again the constant bond of your Church with the Successor of Peter.

When I convoked the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in September 2009, I appointed you president delegate ad honorem to underscore the importance of the ecclesial service that you have carried out in the name of Christ.

In recent days I blessed the statue of St. Marone, placed in a niche of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the jubilee year, and I was then able to greet you, as well as the president of Lebanon and numerous bishops and faithful.

You have chosen to resign from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in this very particular circumstance. I now accept your free and generous decision, which is an expression of great humility and profound detachment. I am certain that you will always support the journey of the Maronite Church with your prayer, your wise counsel and sacrifices.

I pray to God Almighty, through the intercession of St. Marone and of Our Lady of the Lebanon, to fill her with his blessings. With my whole heart I impart to you the apostolic blessing, and also to the bishops, to the priests and to the consecrated persons, as well as to all the faithful of the Maronite Church and to the beloved Lebanese nation.

From the Vatican, Feb. 26, 2011
Benedict XVI


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

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

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My dear Brother Bishops,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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

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

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vatican, January 21, 2011



Benedict XVI's Address to Filipino Bishops
"A Unified and Positive Voice Needs to Be Presented to the Public"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience a group of bishops from the Philippines at the end of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to extend to all of you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I thank Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales for the kind words that he has addressed to me on your behalf, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for yourselves and for all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care. Your presence here in Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the Catholic community in the Philippines and the See of Peter, a communion which stretches back over four centuries to the first offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice upon your shores. As this communion of faith and sacrament has nourished your people for many generations, I pray that it may continue to serve as a leaven in the broader culture, so that current and future generations of Filipinos will continue to encounter the joyful message of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be such a leaven, the Church must always seek to find her proper voice, because it is by proclamation that the Gospel brings about its life-changing fruits (cf. Mk 16:15-16). This voice expresses itself in the moral and spiritual witness of the lives of believers. It also expresses itself in the public witness offered by the Bishops, as the Church’s primary teachers, and by all who have a role in teaching the faith to others. Thanks to the Gospel’s clear presentation of the truth about God and man, generations of zealous Filipino clergymen, religious and laity have promoted an ever more just social order. At times, this task of proclamation touches upon issues relevant to the political sphere. This is not surprising, since the political community and the Church, while rightly distinct, are nevertheless both at the service of the integral development of every human being and of society as a whole. For her part, the Church contributes most toward the building of a just and charitable social order when, "by preaching the truths of the Gospel, and bringing to bear on all fields of human endeavour the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, she respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens" (Gaudium et Spes, 76).

At the same time, the Church’s prophetic office demands that she be free "to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine ... and also to pass moral judgments in those matters which regard public order whenever the fundamental human rights of a person or the salvation of souls requires it" (ibid.). In the light of this prophetic task, I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defence of the integrity of marriage and the family. In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will. I also note with appreciation the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty in your country.

A specific area in which the Church must always find her proper voice comes in the field of social communications and the media. The task set before the whole Catholic community is to convey a hope-filled vision of faith and virtue so that Filipinos may find encouragement and guidance on their path to a full life in Christ. A unified and positive voice needs to be presented to the public in forms of media both old and new, so that the Gospel message may have an ever more powerful impact on the people of the nation. It is important that the Catholic laity proficient in social communications take their proper place in proposing the Christian message in a convincing and attractive way. If the Gospel of Christ is to be a leaven in Filipino society, then the entire Catholic community must be attentive to the force of the truth proclaimed with love.

A third aspect of the Church’s mission of proclaiming the life-giving word of God is in her commitment to economic and social concerns, in particular with respect to the poorest and the weakest in society. At the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the Church in your nation took a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor. It is heartening to see that this undertaking has borne fruit, with Catholic charitable institutions actively engaged throughout the country. Many of your fellow citizens, however, remain without employment, adequate education or basic services, and so your prophetic statements and your charitable action on behalf of the poor continue to be greatly appreciated. In addition to this effort, you are rightly concerned that there be an on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land.

Dear Brother Bishops, as my predecessor Pope John Paul II rightly noted, "You are Pastors of a people in love with Mary" (14 January 1995). May her willingness to bear the Word who is Jesus Christ into the world be for you a continuing inspiration in your apostolic ministry. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Message to Italian Bishops' Plenary Assembly
"I Wish to Make Myself Spiritually a Pilgrim in Assisi"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly being held through Thursday in Assisi. The text was published today by the Vatican press office.

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To the Venerable Brother,
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco,
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference:

With this message, which I send you on the occasion of the 62nd General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, I wish to make myself spiritually a pilgrim in Assisi, to be present and to arrive personally where you and each one of the bishops are gathered, solicitous pastors of the beloved particular Churches that are in Italy. Your solicitude and commitment are manifested in the responsible governance of the diocese and in the paternal closeness to the priests and parish communities. Eloquent sign of this is the attention to the topic of education, which you have assumed as priority in the decade about to begin. The pastoral guidelines published recently are the expression of a Church that, in the school of Jesus Christ, wishes to take seriously the entire life of every man and, with this objective, seeks "in the daily experiences, the alphabet to compose the words which represent to the world the infinite love of God" ("Educare alla vita buona del Vangelo," No. 3).

1. You have met these days in Assisi, the city in which "a sun was born to the world" (Dante, "Paradiso," Canto XI), and who was proclaimed by the Venerable Pius XII as patron of Italy: St. Francis, who keeps intact his freshness and timeliness -- the saints never have a sunset! -- due to his having been conformed totally to Christ, of which he was a living icon.

As our own, the time in which St. Francis lived was also marked by profound cultural transformations, fostered by the birth of universities, by the growth of municipalities and by the spread of new religious experiences.

Precisely in that time, thanks to the work of Pope Innocent III -- the one from whom the Poverello of Assisi obtained the first canonical recognition -- the Church undertook a profound liturgical reformation. Eminent expression of this is the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which counts among its fruits the "Breviary." This book of prayer includes in itself the richness of theological reflection and of the praying experience of the previous millennium. Adopting it, St. Francis and his friars made their own the liturgical prayer of the Supreme Pontiff: In this way, the saint listened to and meditated assiduously on the Word of God, to make it his own and then transmit it in the prayers of which he was author, as in general in all his writings.

The Fourth Lateran Council itself, considering with particular attention the sacrament of the altar, inserted in the profession of faith the term "transubstantiation," to affirm the presence of the real Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice: "His Body and Blood are truly contained in the Sacrament of the altar, under the species of bread and wine, as the bread is transubstantiated into the Body and the wine into the Blood by the divine power" (DS, 802).

From attendance at Mass and reception with devotion of Holy Communion springs the evangelical life of St, Francis and his vocation to follow the way of the Crucified Christ: "The Lord -- we read in the Testament of 1226 -- gave me so much faith in the churches, which prayed simply thus and said: We adore you, Lord Jesus, in all the churches that are in the whole world and we bless you, because with your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world" (Franciscan Sources, No. 111).

Found also in this experience is the great deference that he had toward priests and the instruction to the friars to respect them always and in every case, "because of the Most High Son of God I do not see anything else physically in this world, but his Most Holy Body and Blood which they alone consecrate and they alone administer to others" (Franciscan Sources, No. 113).

Given this gift, dear brothers, what responsibility of life issues for each one of us! "Take care of your dignity, brother priests," recommended Francis, "and be holy because He is holy" (Letter to the General Chapter and to all the friars, in Franciscan Sources, No. 220). Yes, the holiness of the Eucharist exacts that this mystery be celebrated and adored conscious of its greatness, importance and efficacy for Christian life, but it also calls for purity, coherence and holiness of life from each one of us, to be living witnesses of the unique Sacrifice of love of Christ.

The saint of Assisi never ceased to contemplate how "the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, humbled himself to the point of hiding himself, for our salvation, in the meager appearance of bread" (ibid., No. 221), and with vehemence he requested his friars: "I beg you, more than if I did so for myself, that when it is appropriate and you regard it as necessary, that you humbly implore priests to venerate above all the Most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy names and words written of Him that consecrate the Body" (Letter to all the Custodians, in Franciscan Sources, No. 241).

2. The genuine believer, in every age, experiences in the liturgy the presence, the primacy and the work of God. It is "veritatis splendor" ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 35), nuptial event, foretaste of the new and definitive city and participation in it; it is link of creation and of redemption, open heaven above the earth of men, passage from the world to God; it is Easter, in the Cross and in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; it is the soul of Christian life, called to follow, to reconciliation that moves to fraternal charity.

Dear brothers in the episcopate, your meeting puts at the center of the works of the Assembly the examination of the Italian translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. The correspondence of the prayer of the Church (lex orandi) with the rule of the faith (lex credendi) molds the thought and the feelings of the Christian community, giving shape to the Church, Body of Christ and Temple of the Spirit. No human word can do without time, even when, as in the case of the liturgy, it constitutes a window that open beyond time. Hence, to give voice to a perennially valid reality calls for the wise balance of continuity and novelty, of tradition and actualization.

The missal itself is placed within this process. Every true reformer, in fact, is obedient to faith: He does not move arbitrarily, nor does he arrogate to himself any discretion about the rite; he is not the owner but the guardian of the treasure instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us. The whole Church is present in every liturgy: To adhere to its form is the condition of the authenticity of what is celebrated.

3. May this reason drive you, in the changing conditions of the time, to make ever more transparent and practicable that same faith that dates back to the age of the nascent Church. It is a very urgent task in a culture that -- as you yourselves say -- knows the "eclipse of the sense of God and the obfuscation of the dimension of interiority, the uncertain formation of personal identity in a plural and fragmented context, the difficulties of dialogue between generations, the separation between intelligence and affectivity" ("Educare alla vita buona del Vangelo," No. 9). These elements are the sign of a crisis of confidence in life, and influence in a considerable way the educational process, in which sure references become fleeting.

Contemporary man has invested much energy in the development of science and technology, attaining in these fields objectives that are undoubtedly significant and appreciable. This progress, however, has often taken place at the expense of the foundations of Christianity, in which is rooted the fecund history of the European Continent: the moral sphere has been confined to the subjective realm and God, when he is not denied, is nevertheless excluded from the public conscience. And yet, a person grows in the measure in which he experiences the good and learns to distinguish it from evil, beyond the calculation which considers only the consequences of an individual action or that uses as criterion of evaluation the possibility of carrying it out.

To change the direction a generic call to values is not sufficient, or an educational proposal that is content with purely functional and fragmentary interventions. Necessary instead is a personal relationship of fidelity between active subjects, protagonists of the relationship, capable of taking sides and of putting into play their own liberty (cf. ibid., No. 26).

Because of this, most opportune is your decision to call for mobilization on educational responsibility all those who give importance to the city of men and the good of the new generations. This indispensable alliance cannot but begin from a new proximity to the family, which recognizes and supports its educational primacy: It is within it that the face of a people is molded.

As the Church that lives in Italy, attentive to interpreting what happens in depth in today's world and, hence, to understanding man's questions and desires, renew the commitment to work willingly to listen and to dialogue, making available to all the Good News of the paternal love of God. You are encouraged by the certainty that "Jesus Christ is the way that leads each one to a complete fulfillment of himself according to the plan of God. It is the truth, which reveals man to himself and guides him on the way of growth in liberty. It is life, because in it every man finds the ultimate meaning of his existence and of his action: full communion of love with God for eternity" (ibid., No. 19).

4. On this way, I exhort you to appreciate the liturgy as perennial source of education to the good life of the Gospel. The latter introduces to the encounter with Jesus Christ, who with words and deeds constantly builds the Church, forming her in the depths of listening, of fraternity and of mission. The rites speak through their intrinsic rationality and educate to a conscious, active and fruitful participation (cf. "Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 11).

Dear brothers, let us lift our heads and let us allow Christ to look into our eyes, the only Teacher, Redeemer from whom proceeds all our responsibility to the communities that have been entrusted to us and to every man. May Mary Most Holy, with a Mother's heart, watch over our way and accompany us with her intercession.

On renewing my affectionate closeness and my fraternal encouragement, I impart to you, Venerable Brother, to the Bishops, to the collaborators and to all those present my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, Nov. 4, 2010



Pope's Address to German Envoy
"Marriage Is ... Between a Man and a Woman"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the letters of credence of Walter Jürgen Schmid, the new German ambassador to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to take advantage of the occasion of the solemn handing of the Letters of Credence that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See, to welcome you and to express my best wishes for your high mission. My heartfelt thanks for the kind words you addressed to me, also in the name of the federal president, Mr. Christian Wulff, and of the federal government. I am pleased to extend the greeting of blessing to the head of state, to the members of the government and to all the citizens of Germany, with the hope that the good relations between the Holy See and the Federal Republic of Germany will continue in the future and develop further.

Many Christians in Germany are looking forward with great attention to the imminent celebrations of the beatifications of several martyr priests of the time of the Nazi regime. This Sunday, Sept. 19, Gerhard Hirschfelder will be beatified in Munster. During the coming year ceremonies will follow for Georg Hafner in Wurzburg, in addition to those for Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange and Eduard Muller in Lubeck. Commemorated also with the chaplains of Lubeck will be Evangelical pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink. The attested friendship of the four ecclesiastics is an impressive testimony of the ecumenism of prayer and suffering, flowering in several places during the dark period of the Nazi terror. We can see these testimonies as luminous indications for a common ecumenical path.

Contemplating the figures of these martyrs, it seems ever clearer and exemplary how certain men are willing, given their Christian conviction, to give their own life for the faith, for the right to exercise freely their own creed and liberty of speech, for peace and human dignity. Today, fortunately, we live in a free and democratic society.

At the same time, however, we observe how among our contemporaries, there is no strong attachment to religion, as in the case of these witnesses of the faith. One might ask if there are today Christians that, without compromises, make themselves guarantors of their own faith. On the contrary, many show a general inclination toward permissive religious conceptions also for themselves. Instead of the Christian's personal God, who reveals himself in the Bible, they posit a supreme, mysterious and indeterminate being, who has only a vague relationship with the human being's personal life.

Such conceptions increasingly animate discussion within the society, especially in regard to the realm of justice and legislation. However, if one abandons faith in a personal God, the alternative arises of a "god" who does not know, does not listen and does not speak. And, more than ever before, does not have a will. If God does not have his own will, in the end good and evil are not distinguished, good and evil are no longer in contradiction to one another, but are in an opposition in which one is complementary of the other. Thus man loses his moral and spiritual strength, necessary for the complete development of the person. Social action is dominated increasingly by private interest or by the calculation of power, at the expense of society.

Instead, if God is a Person -- and the order of creation as well as the presence of Christians of conviction in society is a sign of this -- it follows that an order of values is legitimized. There are signs, which can also be found in recent times, that give proof of the development of new relations between the state and religion, also beyond the great Christian Churches which up to now were determinant. Hence, in this situation Christians have the task of following this development positively and critically, in addition to refining the senses for the fundamental and permanent importance of Christianity, in laying the bases and forming the structures of our culture.

However, the Church sees with concern the growing attempt to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is also directed to the transmission of human life. One of its conditions is the willingness of the spouses to relate one to the other forever. Necessary, because of this, is a certain maturity of the person and a fundamental existential and social attitude: a "culture of the person" as my predecessor John Paul II once said. The existence of this culture of the person depends also on social developments.

It can be seen that in a society the culture of the person is lowered; often it is derived, paradoxically, from the growth of the standard of life. In the preparation and support of the spouses, it is necessary to create the basic conditions to build-up and develop this culture. At the same time we must be aware that the success of marriages depends on all of us, on the personal culture of each citizen. In this connection, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply a reappraisal of alternative models of the life of a couple and of the family. These contribute to the weakening of the principles of the Natural Law and thus to relativizing the whole of legislation and also to confusion on the values in society.

It is a principle of the Christian faith, anchored in Natural Law, that the human person be protected precisely in a situation of weakness. The human being always has priority in regard to other objectives. The new possibilities of biotechnology and medicine often put us in difficult situations that seem to walk on the razor's edge. We have the duty to study diligently to what point these methods can be of help to man and where, instead, it is a question of the manipulation of man, of violation of his integrity and dignity. We cannot reject this progress, but we must be very diligent. Once one begins to distinguish -- and this now happens often in the maternal womb -- between a worthy life and a life unworthy of living, no other phase of life will be safe, and even less so old age and infirmity.

The construction of a human society requires fidelity to truth. In this context, lately, certain phenomena that are operating in the realm of the public media make one reflect: being in an ever greater competition, the media feel driven to arouse the greatest possible attention. In addition, there is the contrast made by the news in general, even if it goes against the veracity of the report. The subject becomes particularly problematic when authoritative persons take a public position in this respect, without being able to confirm the aspects adequately. The attempt of the federal government to be involved in these cases, in so far as possible, in a pondered and pacifying way, is received favorably.

Mr. Ambassador, you have my best wishes for your work and for the contacts you will have with representatives of the Roman Curia, with the diplomatic corps and also with priests, religious and lay faithful involved in ecclesial activities who live here in Rome. I implore from my heart for you, for your distinguished consort, for your men and women collaborators in the embassy an abundant divine blessing.


Papal Address to Evangelization Seminar
"In Every Task You Are Sustained by the Holy Spirit"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2010 Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the new bishops participating in a seminar on evangelization, organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am glad to welcome you and greet you with great affection on the occasion of the refresher course that the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has organized for you, recently appointed bishops. These days of reflection in Rome, to reflect on the tasks of your ministry and to renew the profession of your faith at the tomb of St. Peter, are also a singular experience of collegiality, founded on episcopal ordination and the hierarchical communion. May this experience of fraternity, of prayer and study at the Apostolic See increase in each one of you the communion with the Successor of Peter and with your confreres with whom you share solicitude for the whole Church. I thank Cardinal Ivan Dias for his cordial words and also Monsignor Secretary and Monsignor Adjunct Secretary who, together with their co-workers in the dicastery organized this symposium.

In you, dear brothers, called a short time ago to the episcopal ministry, the Church places no small amount of hope, and she follows you with prayer and affection. I too would like to assure you of my spiritual nearness in your daily service to the Gospel. I know the challenges that you must face, especially in the Christian communities who live their faith in difficult contexts, where, besides various forms of poverty, there are often various forms of persecution because of their Christian faith. You have the task of nourishing their hope, of sharing their difficulties, taking inspiration from the charity of Christ, which consists in attention, tenderness, compassion, acceptance, availability and interest in the problems of the people, for whom you are disposed to give your life (cf. Benedict XVI, "Message for World Missionary Day 2008," No. 2).

In every task you are sustained by the Holy Spirit, who in ordination configured you to Christ, the Eternal High Priest. In fact, the episcopal ministry can only be understood in Christ, the source of the one and supreme Priesthood in which the bishop participates. The bishop "will therefore strive to adopt a lifestyle which imitates the kenosis of Christ, the poor and humble servant, so that the exercise of his pastoral ministry will be a consistent reflection of Jesus, the Servant of God, and will help him to become, like Jesus, close to everyone, from the greatest to the least" (John Paul II, "Pastores Gregis," No. 11). But to imitate Christ it is necessary to dedicate an adequate amount of time to "being with him" and contemplating him in prayerful intimacy of a heart to heart conversation. Being frequently in the presence of God, being a man of prayer and adoration: the pastor is called to this first of all. Through prayer, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, he becomes victim and altar, for the salvation of the world (cf. 9:11-14). The life of the bishop must be a continual oblation to God for the salvation of his Church, and especially for the salvation of the souls that have been entrusted to him.

This pastoral sacrificial spirit also constitutes the true dignity of the bishop: it derives from making himself the servant of all to the point of giving up his life. The episcopate, in fact, must never be understood in worldly categories. It is a service of love. The bishop is called to serve the Church in the fashion of the God made man, becoming ever more fully the servant of the Lord and the servant of humanity. He is above all the servant and the minister of the Word of God, who is also his true strength. The primary duty of proclamation, accompanied by the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, flows from the mission received, as the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" emphasizes: "If the duty of proclaiming the Gospel is incumbent upon the whole Church and each of her children, it is particularly so upon bishops, who on the day of their sacred ordination, which places them in apostolic succession, assume as one of their principal responsibilities the proclamation of the Gospel 'with the courage imparted by the Spirit, they are to call people to faith and strengthen them in living faith'" (No. 26). The bishop must nourish himself abundantly with this Word of salvation, listening to it constantly, as St. Augustine says: "Even if we are shepherds ('pastori'), the shepherd hears with trembling not only what is said to the shepherds but what is addressed to the flock" (Sermon 47, No. 2). At the same time receptivity and the fruit of proclamation of the Good News are closely linked to the quality of faith and prayer. Those called to the ministry of proclamation must believe in the power of God that flows from the sacraments and that accompanies them in the task of sanctifying, governing and proclaiming; they must believe and live that they celebrate. In this regard the words of the Servant of God Paul VI are relevant: "The witness of life has become more than ever the essential condition for the profound effectiveness of preaching" ("Evangelii Nuntiandi," No. 76).

I know that the communities entrusted to you find themselves at the religious, anthropological and social "frontiers," so to speak, and in many cases they are a minority presence. In these contexts the bishop's mission is particularly demanding. But it is precisely in such circumstances that, through your ministry, the Gospel can show all of its salvific power. You must not give in to pessimism or discouragement, because it is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and gives her, with his mighty breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization to reach hitherto unexplored spheres. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive precisely because it responds to the deep need of human existence, announcing in a convincing way that Christ is the only Savior of the whole man and all men. This proclamation remains as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity, when the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel was undertaken.

Dear brothers in the episcopate! It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that you have the wisdom and the peace to make your Churches witnesses of salvation and peace. He will guide you along the path of your episcopal ministry, which I entrust to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of the Apostles. For my part I accompany you with prayer and an affectionate apostolic benediction, that I impart to each of you and to all the faithful of your communities.


Pope's Address to Brazil's Bishops
"Division ... Is In Opposition to the Will of the Lord"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, SEPT. 10, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Northeast region 3), on the occasion of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit to Rome.

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Esteemed Cardinal,
Beloved Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil:

I greet all of you cordially, on the occasion of your "ad limina" visit to Rome, where you have come to reinforce your bonds of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter and to be encouraged by him in leading the flock of Christ. I am grateful for the kind words that Father Ceslau Stanula, bishop of Itabuna, addressed to me in your name, and I assure you of my prayers for your intentions and for the beloved people of the Northeast, of your 3rd Northeastern Region.

More than five centuries ago, precisely in your region, the first Mass was celebrated in Brazil, making really present the Body and Blood of Christ for the sanctification of the men and women of this blessed nation which was born under the auspices of the Holy Cross. It was the first time that the Gospel of Christ was being proclaimed to this people, illumining their daily life. This evangelizing action of the Catholic Church was and continues to be fundamental in the constitution of the identity of the Brazilian people, characterized by harmonious coexistence between persons coming from different regions and cultures. However, whereas the values of the Catholic faith have molded Brazilian hearts and spirit, observed today is a growing influence of new elements of society, which a few decades ago were practically foreign. This causes a consistent abandonment by many Catholics of the ecclesial life and even of the Church, while witnessed in the religious picture of Brazil is the rapid expansion of Evangelical and neo-Pentecostal communities.

In a certain sense, the reasons that are at the root of the success of these groups are a sign of the widespread thirst for God among your people. It is also a sign of an evangelization, at the personal level, which at times is superficial; in fact, those who are baptized and who are not sufficiently evangelized, are easily influenced, as they have a fragile faith, and many times it is based on simple devotion, although, as I have said, they preserve an innate religiosity.

Emerging in this context, on one hand, is the clear necessity that the Catholic Church in Brazil commit herself to a new evangelization that spares no efforts in the search for lapsed Catholics, as well as for persons who know little or nothing of the evangelical message, leading them to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, living and active in his Church.

Moreover, with the growth of new groups that call themselves followers of Christ, though divided in different communities and confessions, all the more necessary, on the part of Catholic pastors, is the commitment to establish bridges of contact through a healthy ecumenical dialogue in truth.

That effort is necessary, first of all, because division between Christians is in opposition to the will of the Lord that "all be one" (John 17:21). Moreover, the lack of unity is cause of scandal that ends by undermining the credibility of the Christian message proclaimed in society. And today, its proclamation is, perhaps, more necessary than a few years ago, given, as your reports show, that even in the small cities of the interior of Brazil, one witnesses a growing negative influence of intellectual and moral relativism in people's life.

The search for Christian unity has not a few obstacles before it. In the first place, to be rejected is an erroneous view of ecumenism, which induces to a certain doctrinal indifference that attempts to level, in an a-critical Ireneism, all "opinions" in a sort of ecclesiological relativism. Together with this is the challenge of the incessant multiplication of new Christian groups, some of them using an aggressive proselytism, which shows how the landscape of ecumenism continues to be very differentiated and confused. In that context -- as I affirmed in 2007 in the Sé Cathedral in São Paulo, in the unforgettable meeting that I had with you, Brazilian bishops -- "indispensable is a good historical and doctrinal formation, which will allow the necessary discernment and help to understand the specific identity of each one of the communities, the elements that divide and those that help in the path of the construction of unity. The great common realm of collaboration should be the defense of the fundamental moral values, transmitted by biblical tradition, against their destruction in a relativist and consumerist culture; more than that, faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ, his incarnate Son" (No. 6).

For that reason, I encourage you to continue taking positive steps in this direction, as is the case of the dialogue with the ecclesial Churches and communities belonging to the National Council of Christian Churches, which, with initiatives such as the Campaign of Ecumenical Fraternity, help to promote the values of the Gospel in Brazilian society.

Esteemed brothers, the dialogue between Christians is an imperative of the present time and an irreversible option of the Church. However, as Vatican Council II reminds, at the heart of all efforts for unity must be prayer, conversion and sanctification of life (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 8). It is the Lord who gives unity, this is not a creation of men, it is up to pastors to obey the Lord's will, promoting concrete initiatives, free of any conformist reductionism, but carried out with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance which spring from faith in the providential action of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved and venerated brothers, I have attempted to show briefly in this meeting of ours some aspects of the great challenge of ecumenism entrusted to your apostolic solicitude. In taking leave of you, I reaffirm once again my esteem and the certainty of my prayers for all of you and your dioceses. In a particular way, I wish to renew here the expression of my paternal solidarity with the faithful of the diocese of Barreiras, recently deprived of the guidance of their first and diligent pastor, monsignor Ricardo Jose Weberberger, who left for the house of the Father, goal of the steps of all of us. May he rest in peace! Invoking the intercession of Our Lady Aparecida, I grant each one of you, and the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all the people entrusted to you, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Letter to Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Written After Pope's Trip to Cyprus

VATICAN CITY, JULY 12, 2010 - Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem after the Pope's apostolic visit to Cyprus. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem published the letter today.

* * *

For His Beatitude Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

I am writing to thank you sincerely for the warm welcome I received from you and from the flock entrusted to your care during my recent apostolic journey to the Republic of Cyprus.

With great personal satisfaction, I had the opportunity to know first hand how, under your pastoral care, many Latin Cypriots of ancient origin have shown themselves faithful to its rich patrimony. Please, express to them my paternal prayers and good wishes to their health and prosperity.

At the same time, it was very gratifying to know that the numbers of the Catholic community have increased due to the Latin residents and immigrants of other continents, including Europe, Africa and Asia. It is my fervent prayer that all Latin Catholics in the Holy Land, with their respective languages, customs and traditions, will make an effort to collaborate happily as brothers and sisters and will become a brilliant example of the unbreakable bonds of union in love which are the real signs of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

To you and to the faithful entrusted to your care I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing, as pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

From the Vatican, June 7, 2010
+Benedictus PP. XVI


Vatican Note on Cardinal Schönborn's Papal Audience
"Wished to Clarify the Exact Sense of His Recent Statements"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the communiqué issued today by the Vatican press office after Benedict XVI received in audience Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, to discuss statements made by the cardinal regarding his predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who resigned in 1995 amid allegations of sexual abuse.

* * *

1) The Holy Father received in audience today Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian episcopal conference. He had requested to be able to inform the Supreme Pontiff personally on the present situation of the Church in Austria. In particular, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wished to clarify the exact sense of his recent statements on some aspects of present ecclesiastical discipline, as well as certain evaluations of the attitude of the State Secretariat and in particular of the then Secretary of State of Pope John Paul II, of v.m., in regard to deceased Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.

2) Invited to the meeting subsequently were cardinals Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state.

In the second part of the audience, some widespread mistakes were clarified and resolved in part derived from some expressions of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who expressed his displeasure over the interpretations made.

In particular:

a) It is reminded that in the Church, when it is a question of accusations against a cardinal, the competence belongs only to the Pope; other entities can have a consultative function, always with due respect for the persons.

b) The word "chiacchiericcio" has been interpreted erroneously as a lack of respect for the victims of sexual abuses, for whom Cardinal Sodano has the same sentiments of compassion and condemnation of the evil, as he has expressed in several interventions of the Holy Father. That word, pronounced in Benedict XVI's Easter address, was taken literally from the papal homily of Palm Sunday and referred to the "courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevailing opinions."

3) Recalling with great affection his pastoral visit to Austria, the Holy Father sends through Cardinal Christoph Schönborn his greeting and encouragement to the Church in Austria and its pastors, entrusting to the celestial protection of Mary, so venerated in Mariazell, the path of a renewed ecclesial communion.

[Translation by ZENIT]


Papal Address at Rome's Diocesan Conference
"The Sunday Eucharist Is the Testimony of Charity"

ROME, JUNE 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Tuesday at the inauguration of the ecclesial convention of the Diocese of Rome, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The theme of the three-day convention, which ends today, is "'If They Opened Their Eyes, They Would Recognize Him and Proclaim Him.' The Sunday Eucharist Is the Testimony of Charity"

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Psalm says: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). It really is like this: it is a profound motive of joy for me to meet again with you and share the great good that the parishes and the other ecclesial realities of Rome have realized in this pastoral year. I greet with fraternal affection the cardinal vicar and I thank him for the courteous words he addressed to me and for the diligence he dedicates daily to the governance of the diocese, in supporting priests and the parish communities. I greet the auxiliary bishops, the entire presbyterate and each one of you. I address a cordial thought to all those who are sick and in particular difficulties, assuring them of my prayer.

As Cardinal Vallini recalled, we are engaged, since last year, in the verification of ordinary pastoral care. This evening we will reflect on two points of primary importance: "Sunday Eucharist and Testimony of Charity." I am aware of the great work that the parishes, the associations and the movements have realized, through meetings of formation and encounter, to deepen and live better these two fundamental components of the life and the mission of the Church and of every individual believer. This has also fostered that pastoral responsibility that, in the diversity of ministries and charisms, must be diffused ever more if we really want the Gospel to reach the heart of every inhabitant of Rome. So much has been done, and we thank the Lord; but still much remains to be done, always with his help.

Faith can never be presupposed, because every generation needs to receive this gift through the proclamation of the Gospel and to know the truth that Christ has revealed to us. The Church, therefore, is always engaged in proposing to all the deposit of the faith; contained in it also is the doctrine on the Eucharist -- central mystery in which "is enclosed all the spiritual good of the Church, namely, Christ himself, our Pasch" ("Presbyterorum Ordinis," No. 5) -- doctrine that today, unfortunately, is not sufficiently understood in its profound value and in its relevance for the existence of believers. Because of this, it is important that a more profound knowledge of the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord be seen as an exigency of the different communities of our diocese of Rome. At the same time, in the missionary spirit that we wish to nourish, it is necessary to spread the commitment to proclaim such Eucharistic faith, so that every man will encounter Jesus Christ who has revealed the "close" God, friend of humanity, and to witness it with an eloquent life of charity.

In all his public life, through the preaching of the Gospel and miraculous signs, Jesus proclaimed the goodness and mercy of the Father towards man. This mission reached its culmination on Golgotha, where the crucified Christ revealed the face of God, so that man, contemplating the Cross, be able to recognize the fullness of love (cf. Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est," No. 12). The sacrifice of Calvary is mysteriously anticipated in the Last Supper, when Jesus, sharing with the Twelve the bread and wine, transforms them into his body and his blood, which shortly after he would offer as immolated Lamb. The Eucharist is the memorial of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of his love to the end for each one of us, memorial that He willed to entrust to the Church so that it would be celebrated throughout the centuries. According to the meaning of the Hebrew word "zakar," the "memorial" is not simply the memory of something that happened in the past, but a celebration which actualizes that event, so as to reproduce its salvific force and efficacy. Thus, "the sacrifice that Christ offered to the Father, once and for all, on the Cross in favor of humanity, is rendered present and actual" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 280). Dear brothers and sisters, in our time the word sacrifice is not liked, rather it seems to belong to other times and to another way of understanding life. However, properly understood, it is and remains fundamental, because it reveals to us with what love God loves us in Christ.

In the offering that Jesus makes of himself we find all the novelty of Christian worship. In ancient times men offered in sacrifice to the divinity the animals or first fruits of the earth. Jesus, instead, offers himself, his body and his whole existence: He himself in person becomes the sacrifice that the liturgy offers in the Holy Mass. In fact, with the consecration of the bread and wine they become his true body and blood. Saint Augustine invited his faithful not to pause on what appeared to their sight, but to go beyond: "Recognize in the bread -- he said -- that same body that hung on the cross, and in the chalice that same blood that gushed from his side" (Disc. 228 B, 2). To explain this transformation, theology has coined the word "transubstantiation," word that resounded for the first time in this Basilica during the IV Lateran Council, of which in five years will be the 8th centenary. On that occasion the following expressions were inserted in the profession of faith: "his body and his blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar, under the species of bread and wine, because the bread is transubstantiated into the body, and the wine into the blood by divine power" (DS, 802). Therefore, it is essential to stress, in the itineraries of education of children in the faith, of adolescents and of young people, as well as in "centers of listening" to the Word of God, that in the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ is truly, really and substantially present.

The Holy Mass, celebrated in the respect of the liturgical norms and with a fitting appreciation of the richness of the signs and gestures, fosters and promotes the growth of Eucharistic faith. In the Eucharistic celebration we do not invent something, but we enter into a reality that precedes us, more than that, which embraces heaven and earth and, hence, also the past, the future and the present. This universal openness, this encounter with all the sons and daughters of God is the grandeur of the Eucharist: we go to meet the reality of God present in the body and blood of the Risen One among us. Hence, the liturgical prescriptions dictated by the Church are not external things, but express concretely this reality of the revelation of the body and blood of Christ and thus the prayer reveals the faith according to the ancient principle "lex orandi - lex credendi." And because of this we can say "the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself well celebrated" (Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 64). It is necessary that in the liturgy the transcendent dimension emerge with clarity, that of the mystery, of the encounter with the Divine, which also illumines and elevates the "horizontal," that is the bond of communion and of solidarity that exists between all those who belong to the Church. In fact, when the latter prevails, the beauty, profundity and importance of the mystery celebrated is fully understood. Dear brothers in the priesthood, to you the bishop has entrusted, on the day of your priestly Ordination, the task to preside over the Eucharist. Always have at heart the exercise of this mission: celebrate the divine mysteries with intense interior participation, so that the men and women of our City can be sanctified, put into contact with God, absolute truth and eternal love.

And let us also keep present that the Eucharist, joined to the cross and resurrection of the Lord, has dictated a new structure to our time. The Risen One was manifested the day after Saturday, the first day of the week, day of the sun and of creation. From the beginning Christians have celebrated their encounter with the Risen One, the Eucharist, on this first day, on this new day of the true sun of history, the Risen Christ. And thus time always begins again with the encounter with the Risen One and this encounter gives content and strength to everyday life. Because of this, it is very important for us Christians, to follow this new rhythm of time, to meet with the Risen One on Sunday and thus "to take" with us his presence, which transforms us and transforms our time. Moreover, I invite all to rediscover the fecundity of Eucharistic adoration: before the Most Holy sacrament we experience in an altogether particular way that "abiding" of Jesus, which He himself, in the Gospel of John, posits as necessary condition to bear much fruit (cf. John 15:5) and to avoid our apostolic action being reduced to sterile activism, but that instead it be testimony of the love of God.

Communion with Christ is always communion also with his body, which is the Church, as the Apostle Paul reminds, saying: "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Corinthians:16-17). It is, in fact, the Eucharist that transforms a simple group of persons into ecclesial community: the Eucharist makes the Church. Therefore, it is fundamental that the celebration of the Holy Mass be effectively the culmination, the "bearing structure" of the life of every parish community.

I exhort all to take better care, also through apposite liturgical groups, of the preparation and celebration of the Eucharist, so that all who participate can encounter the Lord. It is the Risen Christ, who renders himself present in our today and gathers us around himself. Feeding on Him we are freed from the bonds of individualism and, through communion with Him, we ourselves become, together, one thing, his mystical Body. Thus the differences are surmounted due to profession, to class, to nationality so that we discover ourselves members of one great family, that of the children of God, in which to each is given a particular grace for common usefulness. The world and men do not have need of a another social aggregation, but have need of the Church, which is in Christ as a sacrament, "which is sign and instrument of the profound union with God and of the unity of the whole human race" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 1), called to make the light of the Risen Lord shine on all people.

Jesus came to reveal to us the love of the Father, because "man cannot live without love" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Hominis," No. 10). Love is, in fact, the fundamental experience of every human being, what has given meaning to daily living. Nourished by the Eucharist we also, following the example of Christ, live for Him, to be witnesses of love. Receiving the Sacrament, we enter into communion of blood with Jesus Christ. In the Hebrew conception, blood indicates life; thus we can say that being nourished by the Body of Christ we receive the life of God and learn to look at reality with his eyes, abandoning the logic of the world to follow the divine logic of gift and gratuitousness.

St. Augustine recalls that during a vision he thought he heard the voice of the Lord who said to him: "I am the nourishment of adults. Grow up, and you will eat me, without, because of this, my being transformed into you, as the nutriment of your flesh; but you are transformed into me" (cf. Confessions VII, 10, 16). When we receive Christ, the love of God expands in our innermost self, modifies our heart radically and makes us capable of gestures that, by the expansive force of good, can transform the life of those that are next to us. Charity is able to generate an authentic and permanent change of society, acting in the hearts and minds of men, and when it is lived in truth "it is the principal propelling force for the true development of every person and of the whole of humanity" (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, 1). For the disciples of Jesus, the testimony of charity is not a passing sentiment, but on the contrary it is what molds life in every circumstance. I encourage all, in particular the Caritas and Deacons, to be committed in the delicate and essential field of education to charity, as permanent dimension of personal and community life.

This City of ours asks of Christ's disciples, with a renewed proclamation of the Gospel, a clearer and more limpid testimony of charity. It is with the language of love, desirous of the integral good of man, that the Church speaks to the inhabitants of Rome. In these years of my ministry as your Bishop, I have been able to visit several places where charity is lived intensely. I am grateful to all those who are engaged in the different charitable structures, for the dedication and generosity with which they serve the poor and the marginalized. The needs and poverty of so many men and women interpellate us profoundly: it is Christ himself who every day, in the poor, asks us to assuage his hunger and thirst, to visit him in hospitals and prisons, to accept and dress him. A celebrated Eucharist imposes on us and at the same time renders us capable of becoming, in our turn, bread broken for brothers, coming to meet their needs and giving ourselves. Because of this, a Eucharistic celebration that does not lead to meet men where they live, work and suffer, to take to them the love of God, does not manifest the love it encloses. To be faithful to the mystery that is celebrated on the altars we must, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us, offer our bodies, ourselves, in spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God (cf. Romans 12:1) in those circumstances that require dying to our I and constitute our daily "altar." Gestures of sharing create communion, renew the fabric of interpersonal relations, marking them with gratuitousness and gift, and allowing for the construction of the civilization of love. In a time such as the present of economic and social crisis, let us be in solidarity with those who live in indigence to offer all the hope of a better tomorrow worthy of man. If we really live as disciples of the God-Charity, we will help the inhabitants of Rome to discover themselves brothers and children of the one Father.

The very nature of love requires definitive and irrevocable choices of life. I turn to you in particular, dearly beloved young people: do not be afraid to choose love as the supreme rule of life. Do not be afraid to love Christ in the priesthood and, if you perceive in your heart the call of the Lord, follow him in this extraordinary adventure of love, abandon yourselves with trust to him! Do not be afraid to form Christian families that live faithful, indissoluble love open to life! Give witness that love, as Christ lived it and as the magisterium of the Church teaches, does not take anything away from our happiness, but on the contrary it gives that profound joy that Christ promised to his disciples.

May the Virgin Mary accompany the path of our Church of Rome with her maternal intercession. Mary, who in an altogether singular way lived communion with God and the sacrifice of her own Son on Calvary, enable us to live ever more intensely, piously and consciously the mystery of the Eucharist, to proclaim with the word and life the love that God has for every man. Dear friends, I assure you of my prayer and impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you all. Thank you.


Pope's Address to Italian Episcopal Conference
"Take Upon Yourselves Without Hesitation the Commitment to Educate"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 27 upon receiving in audience at the Vatican the participants in the general assembly of the Italian episcopal conference.

* * *

Dear and Venerated Brothers,

In the Gospel proclaimed last Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost, Jesus promised: "The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14: 26). The Holy Spirit guides the Church through the world and through the course of history. Thanks to this gift of the Risen Christ, the Lord remains with us as events pass by; it is through the Spirit that we can recognise in Christ the meaning of human events. The Holy Spirit gives us the Church, communion and the community constantly convened, renewed, and sent forwards towards the accomplishment of the Kingdom of God. The origin and fundamental reason for your presence here and for my being once more, with joy, among you on the occasion of this annual appointment, lies in ecclesiastical communion. In this perspective I exhort you to consider the themes of your work, in which you are called upon to reflect: on the life and renewal of the pastoral activity of the Church in Italy. I am grateful to Cardinal Bagnasco for the strong and courteous words he has addressed to me, acting as the interpreter of your feelings: the Pope knows that he can always count on the Italian Bishops. Through you I greet the diocesan communities entrusted to your care, while I extend my thoughts and my spiritual closeness to all the people of Italy.

Sustained by the Spirit, and following the path indicated by the Second Vatican Council, and in particular the pastoral orientations of the decade which has just come to an end, you have chosen to take education as your principal theme for the next ten years. This time scale is appropriate for the radical and broad nature of the educational question. It seems to me that it is necessary to go to the deepest roots of this emergency in order to find the appropriate answers to this challenge. I see two above all. One essential root I think consists in a false concept of man's autonomy: man should develop on his own, without interference from others, who could assist his self-development but should not enter into this development. In reality, the essential fact is that the human person becomes himself only with the other. The "I" becomes itself only from the "thou" and from the "you". It is created for dialogue, for synchronic and diachronic communion. It is only the encounter with the "you" and with the "we" that the "I" opens to itself. Thus, the so-called antiauthoritarian education is not education but the rejection of education; thus what we are bound to impart to others is not imparted, meaning this "you" and "we" in which the "I" opens to itself. Therefore a first point seems to me to be this: to overcome this false idea of man's autonomy as a complete "I" in himself, whereas the "I" is fulfilled in the encounter with the "you" and "we".

I see the other root of the educational emergency in scepticism and relativism or, in simpler, clearer words, the exclusion of the two sources that orient the human journey. The first source would be nature according to Revelation. But today Nature is considered as a purely mechanical thing, which therefore does not contain any moral imperative in itself, any value orientation: it is purely a mechanical thing and orientation comes from being itself. Revelation is considered either as a moment in historical development, therefore relative like all historical and cultural development, or it is said perhaps there is Revelation but it does not contain content, only motivations. And if these two sources are silent, Nature and Revelation then, the third source, history, no longer speaks, because history too becomes only a conglomeration of occasional, arbitrary cultural decisions which have no value for the present nor for the future. It is fundamental to recover a true concept of Nature as the Creation of God that speaks to us; the Creator, through the book of Creation speaks to us and shows us the true values. And thus finding Revelation: recognizing that the book of Creation, in which God gives us the fundamental orientation, is deciphered in Revelation, is applied and becomes itself in cultural and religious history, not without mistakes, but in a substantially valid manner, to be further developed and purified anew. Thus, in this "concert" so to speak between Creation deciphered in Revelation, concretized in cultural history that moves ever forward and in which we always increasingly find the language of God, the indications for education also open, that are not an imposition but are really openness to the "I" to the "you", to the "we" and to the "You" of God.

Therefore the difficulties are great: to rediscover the sources, the language of the origins. While being aware of the weight of these difficulties, we must not give way to resignation and lack of confidence. It has never been easy to educate, but we must not surrender: we should fall short of the mandate that the Lord himself gave us, calling us to tend his flock with love. Let us rather reawaken in our communities that passion for teaching, which is a passion for the "I" for the "you", for the "we", for God, that is not fulfilled in didactics, in a collection of techniques and not even in the transmission of dry principles. Education means forming the new generations, so that they may know how to relate to the world, strong in a meaningful memory, that is not only occasional, but nurtured by the language of God that we find in Nature and in Revelation, in a shared interior patrimony, in that real knowledge which recognizes the transcendent purpose of life, and at the same time directs the thoughts, the affections and the judgement.

The thirst that young people carry in their hearts is a desire for meaning and authentic human relationships, that will help them not to feel alone before the challenges of life. It is a desire for a future rendered less uncertain by a sure and trustworthy companionship that stands at the side of each person with delicacy and respect, offering strong values from which to set out towards goals which are high, but not impossible to achieve. Our answer is the proclamation of God, the friend of man, who through Jesus became close to each one of us. The transmission of the faith is an inalienable part of the integral formation of the person, because in Jesus Christ the hope of a fulfilled life is realized: as the Second Vatican Council teaches, "whoever follows Christ the perfect man becomes himself more a man" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 41). The personal encounter with Jesus is the key to understanding the importance of God in our daily existence, the secret of how to live it in brotherly love, the condition that makes it possible to pick ourselves up after a fall and to move towards constant conversion.

The task of educating, that you have chosen as your priority, makes use of signs and traditions, in which Italy is rich. It has need of trustworthy references: the family above all, with its distinctive and inalienable role; the school, a common horizon beyond membership of any ideological choice; the parish, "the village fountain", a place and an experience which initiates the faith in the fabric of everyday relationships. The quality of our testimony remains a decisive factor in each of these areas, a privileged path for the ecclesiastical mission. The acceptance of the Christian proposal takes place, in fact, through relationships of closeness, loyalty and trust. In a time in which the great tradition of the past risks becoming a dead letter, we are called on to stand beside each young person with an ever new availability, accompanying him/her on the journey of discovery and the personal assimilation of the truth. By doing this we too can discover anew the fundamental realities in a new way.

The wish to promote a renewed season of evangelization does not hide the wounds that have marked the ecclesiastical community, caused by the weakness and sin of some of its members. This humble and painful admission must not make us forget, however, the selfless and passionate service of many believers, the priests above all. The special year dedicated to them was intended to provide an opportunity to encourage an interior renewal, as a condition for a more incisive evangelical and ministerial commitment. At the same time, it helps us to recognize the testimony of holiness of those who, after the example of the Curé d'Ars, devote themselves without stint to educating towards hope, faith and charity. In this light, what is a cause for scandal must be translated in us into a call for "a deep need to relearn penitence, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice" (Benedict XVI's interview with journalists during his flight to Portugal, 11 May 2009).

Dear Brothers, I encourage you to take upon yourselves without hesitation the commitment to educate. The Holy Spirit will help you never to lose faith in the young, it will help you to go forth to meet them, it will lead you to go to vital spheres, including that of the new communication technologies, which now permeate every expression of culture. This is not a question of adapting the Gospel to the world, but of drawing from the Gospel that everlasting newness that allows us in every age to discover the most fitting ways of spreading the Word that never dies, vitalizing and serving human life. So, let us once more propound to the young the high and transcendental dimension of life understood as a vocation: called to a consecrated life, whether to priesthood or to marriage, may they know how to respond with generosity to the call of the Lord, because only in this way will each person be able to gather what is essential for him/her. The frontiers of education provide space for a wide convergence of intentions: the formation of the new generations cannot but be close to the heart of all people of goodwill, calling upon the capacity of the whole of society to ensure reliable points of reference for the harmonious development of the individual.

In Italy, too, this period is marked by an uncertainty over values, which is evident from the difficulties many adults find in respecting the commitments they have undertaken: this is a symptom of a cultural and spiritual crisis, as serious as the economic one. It would be illusory I wish to emphasize this to think of confronting the one while ignoring the other. For this reason, while I renew my appeal to those responsible for public affairs and to businessmen to do whatever they can to lighten the effects of the employment crisis, I exhort everyone to reflect on the prerequisites of a good and meaningful life, which are the foundations of that authoritativeness that alone can educate and returns to the true source of the values. The Church, in fact, has the common good at heart, which commits us to share our economic and intellectual, moral and spiritual resources, learning how to face together in a context of reciprocity, the problems and the challenges of the country. This perspective, amply developed in our recent Document on the Church and the South, will be further examined during the next Italian Catholic Social Week due to be held in Reggio Calabria in October, where you will be able, together with the most qualified members of the Catholic laity, to draw up an agenda of hope for Italy, so as to understand the requirements of justice and to achieve them politically (cf. Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, n. 28). Your ministry, dear Brothers, and the vivacity of the diocesan communities whom you are called upon to guide, are the best assurance that the Church will continue responsibly to offer her contribution to the social and moral growth of Italy.

Called by grace to be the Pastor of the Universal Church and of the splendid City of Rome, I carry with me constantly your worries and expectations, which in these last days I have deposited, with those of all humanity, at the feet of the Madonna of Fatima. To her goes our prayer: Virgin Mother of God and our most dear Mother, "let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth in the desert of our loneliness, let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness, let it restore calm after the tempest, so that all mankind shall see the salvation of the Lord, who has the name and the Face of Jesus, who is reflected in our hearts, for ever united with yours! Amen!" (Act of Entrustment, Fatima, 12 May).

I thank you and Bless you with all my heart.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Belgian Bishops
"The Lay Faithful Are Called to Witness Openly to Their Faith"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2010 - Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 8 upon receiving in audience the bishops of Belgium, who were in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. The Pope delivered the address in French.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I wish you a very cordial welcome on the occasion of your visit "ad limina" Apostolorum which brings you on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This visit is a sign of the ecclesial communion that unites the Catholic Community of Belgium to the Holy See. It is also a good opportunity to strengthen this communion through mutual listening, common prayer and the charity of Christ, especially in these times when your own Church is tried by sin.

I warmly greet Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard for his words on your behalf and on behalf of your diocesan communities. It gives me pleasure to address a special thought to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who governed the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and your Bishops' Conference for more than 30 years.

In reading your reports on the situation of your respective dioceses, I have been able to take stock of the changes taking place in Belgian society. These are trends that many European countries have in common but that in your country have their own specific features. Some of them, already mentioned during your previous ad limina visit, have become more pronounced.

I am referring to the dwindling number of baptized people who witness publicly to their faith and to their membership in the Church, to the gradual increase in the average age of the clergy and of men and women religious, to the insufficient number of ordained or consecrated people involved in active pastoral work and in the fields of education and social assistance and to the limited number of candidates to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.

Christian formation, especially of the young generations, matters related to respect for life and to the institution of marriage and of the family constitute other sensitive issues. Further, one could mention the complex and often worrying situations linked to the financial crisis, unemployment, and the social integration of immigrants and the peaceful coexistence of the nation's different linguistic and cultural communities.

I have been able to note how aware you are of these situations and of the importance of insisting on a sounder and deeper religious formation. I have read your Pastoral Letter, La belle profession de la foi, [The Beautiful Profession of Faith] part of the series Grandir dans la foi [Growing in the Faith].

With this Letter you have wished to encourage the faithful overall to rediscover the beauty of the Christian faith. Thanks to prayers and reflection in common on the revealed truths expressed by the Creed, one rediscovers that faith does not consist solely in accepting a set of truths and values but first in entrusting oneself to Someone, to God, to listening to him, to loving him and to speaking to him, in order to engage in serving him (cf. p. 5).

A significant event, for the present and for the future, was the Canonization of Fr Damien de Veuster. This new Saint speaks to the consciences of Belgians. Has he not been designated the most outstanding son of the nation of all time? His greatness, lived in the total gift of himself to his brother lepers, to the point of catching the contagious disease and dying of it, lies in his inner wealth, his constant prayer and his union with Christ, whom he saw present in his brothers and sisters and to whom, as Christ did, he gave himself without reserve.

In this Year for Priests, it is right to hold up his example as a priest and a missionary. The fall in the number of priests must not be perceived as an inevitable process. The Second Vatican Council said forcefully that the Church cannot do without the ministry of priests.

It is therefore necessary and urgent to give the ministry of priests its right place and to recognize is irreplaceable sacramental character. This results in the need for a broad and serious vocations apostolate that is based on the exemplarity and holiness of priests, on attention to the seeds of a vocation present in many young people and on assiduous and trusting prayer, as Jesus recommended (cf. Mt 9: 37).

I address a cordial and grateful greeting to all priests and consecrated people, often overburdened by work and desirous of the support and friendship of their Bishop and their confreres, without forgetting the older priests who have devoted their whole life to serving God and their brethren.

Nor do I forget the missionaries as a whole. May all priests, men and women religious and lay people of Belgium receive my encouragement and the expression of my gratitude, and may they not forget that Christ alone calms every storm (cf. Mt 8: 25-26) and restores strength and courage (cf. Mt 11: 28-30 and Mt 14: 30-32) in order to lead a holy life in full fidelity to their ministry, to their consecration to God and to Christian witness.

The Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" stresses that it is in the Liturgy that the mystery of the Church is made manifest in its grandeur and its simplicity (cf. Introduction, No. 2).

Thus it is important that priests take care in liturgical celebrations, particularly the Eucharist, to ensure that they permit a profound communion with the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is necessary that celebrations take place with respect for the Church's liturgical tradition, with the active participation of the faithful, according to each one's specific role, uniting personally with Christ's Paschal Mystery.

In your reports you show that you are attending to the formation of lay people with a view to their increasingly effective incorporation in the animation of temporal realities. This is a praiseworthy programme that is born from the vocation of every baptized person, configured to Christ the priest, prophet and king. It is right to discern all the possibilities that stem from the common vocation to holiness and the apostolic commitment of lay people, with respect for the essential distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful.

All the members of the Catholic community, but in a particular way the lay faithful, are called to witness openly to their faith and to be leaven in society, while respecting both a healthy laicism in the public institutions and the other religious denominations.

This witness cannot be limited to the personal encounter alone but must also acquire the characteristics of a public proposal, respectful but legitimate, of the values inspired by Christ's Gospel message.

The brevity of this meeting does not permit me to treat other subjects dear to me and that you also mentioned in your reports.

I shall thus end by asking you to kindly convey to your communities, priests, men and women religious and all the Catholics of Belgium my affectionate greetings, assuring them of my prayers to the Lord for them.

May the Virgin Mary, venerated in so many shrines in Belgium help you in your ministry and protect you all by her motherly tenderness. To you and to all the Kingdom's Catholics, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to African Bishops
"Defend Your People Against Attempts to Introduce an Anti-birth Mentality"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2010 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to bishops of Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Liberia, The Gambia and Sierra Leone on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I am grateful for the sentiments of communion and affection expressed by Bishop Koroma on your behalf, and I ask you to convey my warm greetings and encouragement to your beloved people as they strive to lead a life worthy of their calling (cf. Eph 4:1).

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was a rich experience of communion and a providential occasion for renewing your own episcopal ministry and reflecting on its essential task, namely, "to help the People of God to give to the word of revelation the obedience of faith and to embrace fully the teachings of Christ" (Pastores Gregis, 31). I am pleased to see from your Quinquennial Reports that, while dedicated to the administration of your Dioceses, you personally strive to preach the Gospel at confirmations, in your visits to parishes, when meeting with groups of priests, religious or lay people and in your pastoral letters. Through your teaching the Lord preserves your people from evil, ignorance and superstition, and transforms them into children of his Kingdom. Strive to build vibrant and expansive communities of men and women strong in their faith, contemplative and joyful in the liturgy, and well instructed on "how to live in the way that pleases God" (1 Th 4:1). In an environment marked by divorce and polygamy, promote the unity and well-being of the Christian family built on the sacrament of marriage. Initiatives and associations dedicated to the sanctification of this basic community deserve your full support. Continue to uphold the dignity of women in the context of human rights and defend your people against attempts to introduce an anti-birth mentality disguised as a form of cultural progress (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 28). Your mission also requires that you give attention to the adequate discernment and preparation of vocations and to the ongoing formation of priests, who are your closest collaborators in the task of evangelization. Continue to lead them by word and example to be men of prayer, sound and clear in their teaching, mature and respectful in their dealings with others, faithful to their spiritual commitments and strong in compassion towards all in need. Likewise do not hesitate to invite missionaries from other countries to assist the good work being done by your clergy, religious and catechists.

In your countries the Church is held in high regard for her contribution to the good of society especially in education, development and health care, offered to all without distinction. This tribute speaks well of the vitality of your Christian charity, that divine legacy given to the Universal Church by her founder (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 27). I appreciate in a special way the assistance you offer to refugees and immigrants and I urge you to seek, when possible, pastoral cooperation from their countries of origin. The struggle against poverty must be carried out with respect for the dignity of all concerned by encouraging them to be the protagonists of their own integral development. Much good can be done through small-scale community engagements and microeconomic initiatives at the service of families. In developing and sustaining such strategies, improved education will always be a decisive factor. Hence I encourage you to continue providing school programmes that prepare and motivate new generations to become responsible citizens, socially active for the good of their community and their country. You rightly encourage people in positions of authority to lead in the struggle against corruption by calling attention to the gravity and injustice of such sins. In this regard, the spiritual and moral formation of lay men and women for leadership, through specialized courses in Catholic Social Doctrine, is an important contribution to the common good.

I commend you for your attention to the great gift which is peace. I pray that the process of reconciliation in justice and truth, which you have rightly supported in the region, may produce lasting respect for all God-given human rights and defuse tendencies to retaliation and vengeance. In your service to peace continue to promote dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam, so as to sustain the existing good relations and forestall any form of intolerance, injustice or oppression, detrimental to the promotion of mutual trust. Working together in the defence of life and in the struggle against disease and malnutrition will not fail to build understanding, respect and acceptance. Above all, a climate of dialogue and communion must characterize the local Church. By your own example, lead your priests, religious and lay faithful to grow in understanding and cooperation, in listening to one another and in sharing initiatives. The Church as the sign and instrument of the one Family of God must bear clear witness to the love of Jesus our Lord and Saviour that extends beyond ethnic frontiers and embraces all men and women.

Dear Brother Bishops, I know that you find inspiration and encouragement in the words of the Risen Christ to his Apostles: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21). On your return home to continue your mission as successors of the Apostles, please convey my affectionate and prayerful good wishes to your priests, religious, catechists and all your beloved people. To each of you, and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Scandinavian Bishops
"Commit Your Energies to Promoting a New Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2010 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Scandinavian episcopal conference who are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your visit "to the threshold of the Apostles" and I thank Bishop Arborelius for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf. You exercise pastoral governance over the Catholic faithful in the far north of Europe and you have travelled here to express and renew the bonds of communion between the people of God in those lands and the Successor of Peter at the heart of the universal Church. Your flock is small in number, and scattered over a wide area. Many have to travel great distances in order to find a Catholic community in which to worship. It is most important for them to realize that every time they gather around the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice, they are participating in an act of the universal Church, in communion with all their fellow Catholics throughout the world. It is this communion that is both exercised and deepened through the quinquennial visits of bishops to the Apostolic See.

I am pleased to note that a Congress on the Family is due to be held at Jönköping in May of this year. One of the most important messages that the people of the Nordic lands need to hear from you is a reminder of the centrality of the family for the life of a healthy society. Sadly, recent years have seen a weakening of the commitment to the institution of marriage and the Christian understanding of human sexuality that for so long served as the foundation of personal and social relations in European society. Children have the right to be conceived and carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to their own parents that they can discover their identity and achieve their proper human development (cf. Donum Vitae, 22 February 1987). In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is "the first and indispensable teacher of peace" (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace), the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life.

While the Catholic population of your territories constitutes only a small percentage of the total, it is nevertheless growing, and at the same time a good number of others listen with respect and attention to what the Church has to say. In the Nordic lands, religion has an important role in shaping public opinion and influencing decisions on matters concerning the common good. I urge you, therefore, to continue to convey to the people of your respective countries the Church's teaching on social and ethical questions, as you do through such initiatives as your 2005 pastoral letter "The Love of Life" and the forthcoming Congress on the Family. The establishment of the Newman Institute in Uppsala is a most welcome development in this regard, ensuring that Catholic teaching is given its rightful place in the Scandinavian academic world, while also helping new generations to acquire a mature and informed understanding of their faith. Within your own flock, pastoral care of families and young people needs to be pursued with vigour, and with particular care for the many who have experienced difficulties in the wake of the recent financial crisis. Due sensitivity should be shown to the many married couples in which only one partner is Catholic. The immigrant component among the Catholic population of the Nordic lands has needs of its own, and it is important that your pastoral outreach to families should include them, with a view to assisting their integration into society. Your countries have been particularly generous to refugees from the Middle East, many of whom are Christians from Eastern Churches. For your part, as you welcome "the stranger who sojourns with you" (Lev 19:34), be sure to help these new members of your community to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the faith through apposite programmes of catechesis -- in the process of integration within their host country, they should be encouraged not to distance themselves from the most precious elements of their own culture, particularly their faith.

In this Year for Priests, I ask you to give particular priority to encouraging and supporting your priests, who often have to work in isolation from one another and in difficult circumstances in order to bring the sacraments to the people of God. As you know, I have proposed the figure of Saint John Vianney to all the priests of the world as a source of inspiration and intercession in this year devoted to exploring more deeply the meaning and indispensable role of the priesthood in the Church's life. He expended himself tirelessly in order to be a channel of God's healing and sanctifying grace to the people he served, and all priests are called to do likewise: it is your responsibility, as their Ordinaries, to see that they are well prepared for this sacred task. Ensure too that the lay faithful appreciate what their priests do for them, and that they offer them the encouragement and the spiritual, moral and material support that they need.

I would like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that men and women religious have made to the life of the Church in your countries over many years. The Nordic lands are also blessed with the presence of a number of the new ecclesial movements, which bring fresh dynamism to the Church's mission. In view of this wide variety of charisms, there are many ways in which young people may be attracted to devote their lives to the service of the Church through a priestly or religious vocation. As you carry out your responsibility to foster such vocations (cf. Christus Dominus, 15), be sure to address yourselves to both the native and the immigrant populations. From the heart of any healthy Catholic community, the Lord always calls men and women to serve him in this way. The fact that more and more of you, the Bishops of the Nordic lands, originate from the countries in which you serve is a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is at work among the Catholic communities there. I pray that his inspiration will continue to bear fruit among you and those to whom you have dedicated your lives.

With great confidence in the life-giving power of the Gospel, commit your energies to promoting a new evangelization among the people of your territories. Part and parcel of this task is continued attention to ecumenical activity, and I am pleased to note the numerous tasks in which Christians from the Nordic lands come together to present a united witness before the world.

With these sentiments, I commend all of you and your people to the intercession of the Nordic saints, especially Saint Bridget, co-patron of Europe, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Ugandan Bishops
"Evangelization Gives Rise ... to a Deeper Catholic Culture"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2010 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience the Ugandan bishops who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to greet you, the Bishops of Uganda, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Bishop Ssekamanya for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he expressed on your behalf. I willingly reciprocate and assure you of my prayers and affection for you and for the People of God entrusted to your care. In a particular way my thoughts go to those who have been affected by the recent landslides in the Bududa region of your country. I offer prayers to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, that he may grant eternal rest to the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope to all who are suffering the consequences of this tragic event.

The recently celebrated Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was memorable in its call for renewed efforts in the service of a more profound evangelization of your continent (cf. Message to the People of God, 15). The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people’s lives by changing for the better the way they think and act. In the light of the Gospel message, you are aware of the need to encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life. I urge you to help them, priests as well as the lay faithful, to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries. Continue to call for lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. While promoting true ecumenism, be especially close to those who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects. Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power (cf. 1 Cor 1:17); in this way you will continue, as responsible Pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ. In this regard I am pleased to learn that your people find spiritual consolation in popular forms of evangelization such as the organized pilgrimages to the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo, where the active pastoral presence of Bishops and numerous priests guides the piety of the pilgrims towards renewal as individuals and communities. Continue to sustain all who with generous hearts assist displaced persons and orphans from war-torn areas. Encourage those who care for people afflicted by poverty, Aids and other diseases, teaching them to see in those whom they serve the suffering face of Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40).

Renewed evangelization gives rise in turn to a deeper Catholic culture which takes root in the family. From your Quinquennial Reports I am aware that programmes of education in parishes, schools and associations, and your own interventions on topics of common interest, are indeed spreading a stronger Catholic culture. Great good can come from well-prepared lay people who are active in the media, in politics and culture. Courses for their adequate formation, especially in Catholic Social Doctrine, should be provided, taking advantage of resources at Uganda Martyrs University or other institutions. Encourage them to be active and outspoken in the service of what is just and noble. In this way, society as a whole will benefit from trained and zealous Christians who take up leadership roles in the service of the common good. Ecclesial movements also deserve your support for their positive contribution to the life of the Church in many sectors.

Bishops, as the first agents of evangelization, are called to bear clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ. In a spirit of Christian charity Dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less. At the same time, all communities have a duty to strive for self-sufficiency. It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church.

Your priests, as committed ministers of evangelization, already benefit greatly from your fatherly concern and guidance. In this Year for Priests offer them your assistance, your example and your clear teaching. Exhort them to prayer and vigilance, especially with regard to self-centred, worldly or political ambitions, or excessive attachment to family or ethnic group. Continue promoting vocations, providing for due discernment of candidates and for their proper motivation and formation, especially their spiritual formation. Priests must be men of God, capable of guiding others, through wise counsel and example, in the Lord’s ways.

Religious men and women in Uganda are called to be an example and a source of encouragement to the whole Church. By your advice and prayers, assist them as they strive for the goal of perfect charity and bear witness to the Kingdom. Priests and religious require constant support in their lives of celibacy and consecrated virginity. By your own example, teach them of the beauty of this way of life, of the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator and Giver of all good gifts. Your catechists likewise are a great resource. Continue to be attentive to their needs and formation, and place before them, for their encouragement, the example of martyrs such as Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa.

Dear Brother Bishops, with the Apostle Paul, I exhort you: "always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2 Tim 4:5). In the Blessed Ugandan Martyrs you and your people have models of great courage and endurance in suffering. Count on their prayers and strive always to be worthy of their legacy. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I affectionately impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Bishops of Romania, Moldova
"God Does Not Cease to Call Men and Women to His Service"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Romania and Moldova in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Venerated brothers in the episcopate,

It is a source of great joy to me to meet with you in the course of the ad limina visit, to listen to you and to reflect together on the journey of the People of God entrusted to you. I greet each one of you affectionately and I thank Archbishop Ioan Robu, in particular, for the cordial words he addressed to me on your behalf. A special thought goes to His Beatitude Lucian Muresan, archbishop major of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. You are pastors of communities of different rites, who put the riches of your own long tradition at the service of communion, for the good of all. In you I greet the Christian communities of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova, sorely tested in the past, and pay tribute to those bishops and innumerable priests, men and women religious and faithful who, in the time of persecution, showed indomitable attachment to Christ and his Church, and kept their faith intact.

To you, dear brothers in the episcopate, I wish to express my gratitude for your generous commitment at the service of the rebirth and development of the Catholic community in your countries, and exhort you to continue being zealous pastors of Christ's flock, in belonging to the one Church and in respect of the different ritual traditions. To keep and transmit the patrimony of faith is a task of the whole Church, but particularly of bishops (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 25). The field of your ministry is vast and exacting; in fact, it is about proposing to the faithful an itinerary of mature and responsible Christian faith, especially through the teaching of religion, catechesis -- also for adults -- and the preparation of the sacraments. In this realm it is appropriate to promote a greater knowledge of sacred Scripture, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the documents of the magisterium, in particular, of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and of papal encyclicals. It is a difficult program, which requires the joint elaboration of pastoral plans geared to the bonum animarum of all Catholics of the different rites and ethnic groups. This calls for witnessing unity, sincere dialogue and active collaboration, not forgetting that unity is primarily the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22), who guides the Church.

In this Year for Priests, I exhort you to be always authentic fathers of your presbyters, the first and precious collaborators in the Lord's vineyard (cf. "Christus Dominus," 16.28); there is with them first of all a sacramental bond, which makes them uniquely participants in the pastoral mission entrusted to the bishops. Be determined in preserving communion among yourselves and with them in a climate of affection, care and respectful and fraternal dialogue; be interested in their spiritual and material conditions, in their theological and pastoral actualization. There is no lack of religious institutes in your dioceses committed to pastoral care. It will be your special care to give them due attention and provide them with every possible help so that their presence is increasingly significant and the consecrated can carry out their apostolate according to their charism and in full communion with the local Church.

God does not cease to call men and women to his service: We should be grateful to the Lord for this, intensifying prayer so that he will continue to send laborers to his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:37). A primary task of the bishops is to promote vocational pastoral care and the human, spiritual and intellectual formation of candidates to the priesthood in the seminaries and in the rest of the formative institutes (cf. "Optatam Totius," 2.4), guaranteeing them the possibility of acquiring a profound spirituality and a rigorous philosophical/theological and pastoral preparation, also through the careful selection of educators and docents. Similar care must be given to the formation of members of institutes of consecrated life, in particular, women's institutes.

The flowering of priestly and religious vocations depends to a large extent on the moral and religious health of Christian families. Unfortunately, not few in our time are the snares placed before the institution of the family in a secularized and disoriented society. The Catholic families of your countries, which during the time of trial gave witness, at times at a high price, of the fidelity of the Gospel, are not immune to the plague of abortion, corruption, alcoholism and drugs, or to birth control through methods contrary to the dignity of the human person. To combat these challenges, it is necessary to promote parish consultors who ensure adequate preparation for conjugal and family life in addition to organizing better youth ministry. Necessary above all is a determined commitment to foster the presence of Christian values in society, developing centers of formation where young people can learn authentic values embellished by the cultural genius of your countries, to be able to witness them in the environments where they live. The Church wants to give her determined contribution to the construction of a reconciled and solidary society, able to address the process of present-day secularization. The transformation of the industrial and agricultural system, the economic crisis, emigration abroad, have not favored the preservation of traditional values which, because of this, must be proposed and reinforced again.

In this context, of particular importance is the witness of fraternity between Catholics and Orthodox: It prevails over divisions and disagreements and opens hearts to reconciliation. I am aware of the difficulties that Catholic communities must face in this realm; I hope that adequate solutions can be found, in that spirit of justice and charity that must animate relations between brothers in Christ. In May of 2009, you recalled the 10th anniversary of the historic visit that the Venerable Pope John Paul II made to Romania. On that occasion, Divine Providence offered the Successor of Peter the possibility of undertaking an apostolic journey to a nation of Orthodox majority, where for centuries a significant Catholic community has been present. May the desire for unity aroused by that visit nourish prayer and the commitment to dialogue in charity and truth and to promote joint initiatives. A particularly important realm of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics today has to do with the defense of Europe's Christian roots and of Christian values, and with common witness on subjects such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology. Undivided determination on these arguments will offer an important contribution to the moral and civil growth of society. A constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics will not fail to be leaven of unity and concord not only for your countries, but also for the whole of Europe.

At the end of our meeting, my thoughts go out to your communities. Take to the priests, the men and women religious, to all the faithful of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova my greetings and encouragement, assuring them of my affection and prayer. While I invoke the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints of your lands, I impart from the heart my blessing to you and to all the members of the People of God entrusted to your pastoral solicitude.


Benedict XVI's Address to Scottish Bishops
"People of Faith Bear Witness to the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of bishops from Scotland who are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I extend a warm welcome to all of you on your ad Limina visit to Rome. I thank you for the kind words that Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien has addressed to me on your behalf, and I assure you of my constant prayers for you and for the faithful entrusted to your care. Your presence here expresses a reality that lies at the heart of every Catholic diocese -- its relationship of communion with the See of Peter, and hence with the universal Church. Pastoral initiatives that take due account of this essential dimension bring authentic renewal: when the bonds of communion with the universal Church, and in particular with Rome, are accepted joyfully and lived fully, the people's faith can grow freely and yield a harvest of good works.

It is a happy coincidence that the Year for Priests, which the whole Church is currently celebrating, marks the four hundredth anniversary of the priestly ordination of the great Scottish martyr Saint John Ogilvie. Rightly venerated as a faithful servant of the Gospel, he was truly outstanding in his dedication to a difficult and dangerous pastoral ministry, to the point of laying down his life. Hold him up as an example for your priests today. I am glad to know of the emphasis you place on continuing formation for your clergy, especially through the initiative "Priests for Scotland". The witness of priests who are genuinely committed to prayer and joyful in their ministry bears fruit not only in the spiritual lives of the faithful, but also in new vocations. Remember, though, that your commendable initiatives to promote vocations must be accompanied by sustained catechesis among the faithful about the true meaning of priesthood.

Emphasize the indispensable role of the priest in the Church's life, above all in providing the Eucharist by which the Church herself receives life. And encourage those entrusted with the formation of seminarians to do all they can to prepare a new generation of committed and zealous priests, well equipped humanly, academically and spiritually for the task of ministry in the twenty-first century.

Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest's role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council's vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation -- in the family, at home, at work -- they are actively participating in the Church's mission to sanctify the world.

A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society. That task requires a readiness to grapple firmly with the challenges presented by the increasing tide of secularism in your country. Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life. Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern. If the Church's teaching is compromised, even slightly, in one such area, then it becomes hard to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine in an integral manner. Pastors of the Church, therefore, must continually call the faithful to complete fidelity to the Church's Magisterium, while at the same time upholding and defending the Church's right to live freely in society according to her beliefs.

The Church offers the world a positive and inspiring vision of human life, the beauty of marriage and the joy of parenthood. It is rooted in God's infinite, transforming and ennobling love for all of us, which opens our eyes to recognize and love his image in our neighbour (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 10-11 et passim). Be sure to present this teaching in such a way that it is recognized for the message of hope that it is. All too often the Church's doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality, as we know, is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.

The Church in your country, like many in Northern Europe, has suffered the tragedy of division. It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland's Catholic past that occurred four hundred and fifty years ago. I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period, especially the sectarianism that has continued to rear its head even in recent times. Through your participation in Action of Churches Together in Scotland, see that the work of rebuilding unity among the followers of Christ is carried forward with constancy and commitment. While resisting any pressure to dilute the Christian message, set your sights on the goal of full, visible unity, for nothing less can respond to the will of Christ.

You can be proud of the contribution made by Scotland's Catholic schools in overcoming sectarianism and building good relations between communities. Faith schools are a powerful force for social cohesion, and when the occasion arises, you do well to underline this point. As you encourage Catholic teachers in their work, place special emphasis on the quality and depth of religious education, so as to prepare an articulate and well-informed Catholic laity, able and willing to carry out its mission "by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God" (Christifideles Laici, 15). A strong Catholic presence in the media, local and national politics, the judiciary, the professions and the universities can only serve to enrich Scotland's national life, as people of faith bear witness to the truth, especially when that truth is called into question.

Later this year, I shall have the joy of being present with you and the Catholics of Scotland on your native soil. As you prepare for the Apostolic Visit, encourage your people to pray that it will be a time of grace for the whole Catholic community. Take the opportunity to deepen their faith and to rekindle their commitment to bear witness to the Gospel. Like the monks from Iona who spread the Christian message throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, let them be beacons of faith and holiness for the Scottish people today.

With these thoughts, I commend your apostolic labours to the intercession of Our Lady, Saint Andrew, Saint Margaret and all the saints of Scotland. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Cardinal O'Brien's Address to Benedict XVI
"Your Visit to Scotland Later this Year Will Bring Us Renewed Encouragement"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2010 - Here is the address Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh, and president of the Scottish bishops' conference, delivered today upon being received in audience by Benedict XVI.

The meeting, which was attended by 11 bishops from Scotland, took place at the conclusion of the episcopal conference's five-yearly "ad limina" visit to the Vatican.

* * *

Most Holy Father,


The Bishops' Conference of Scotland is honoured to be received by Your Holiness on the occasion of our visit Ad Limina Apostolorum. We bring you the prayers and love of the Catholics of Scotland, and the good wishes of the whole Scottish people.

Each year, together with the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, we solemnly celebrate the anniversary of your election as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church. We are pleased to take that special annual opportunity to bring the Petrine Ministry of the Pope before the people of Scotland and their representatives, and to offer prayers that God may bless and protect you.

When in 1878 Pope Leo XIII re-established the Scottish hierarchy the Holy See acknowledged Scotland as a distinct nation, albeit within a Kingdom formed from the union of the Scottish and English crowns subsequent to the Reformation. As Scots Catholics we are proud of our nation's long relationship with the Holy See.

It has been a feature of Your Holiness' teaching to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture. In the same way, we as bishops have drawn the attention of the Scottish people to the fact that the human and democratic values of a modern and diverse Scotland can only be enhanced by continuing to draw upon its Christian foundation as the nation explores its own identity and charts a new future.

Your Holiness has let it be known that you will visit Great Britain in the autumn, and we are thrilled that your visit will include Scotland. We remember with joy the visit of your venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in 1982. We are certain that the Scottish people will give Your Holiness a heartfelt welcome. We hope that your visit to Scotland later this year will bring us renewed encouragement, vigour and joy as we seek to serve Christ in the circumstances of the present day.


Providentially, Your Holiness will visit Scotland in mid-September around the time of the feast of St. Ninian. St. Ninian, ordained a bishop in Rome, was the first to teach the message of Christ in Scotland and to begin to bind the Scottish people to the See of Peter. The relationship between the Catholic Church and education in Scotland was given an even more profound significance a thousand years later in the foundation by papal authority of three of our great Scottish universities at St. Andrews in 1413, Glasgow in 1451, and Aberdeen in 1495. Then, due to the arduous circumstances created by the Scottish Reformation, your predecessor, Pope Clement VIII established the Pontifical Scots College here in Rome in 1600 as a centre of education for young Scottish Catholic men. This college quickly became a house of formation for priests and has continued to serve the Catholic Church in Scotland as a seminary for more than 400 years.

Vocations to the priesthood and the formation of our seminarians together constitute a priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland. In terms of Scotland's young people as a whole, Catholic schools at primary and secondary level continue this fine tradition of Catholic education as a service not just to the Catholic community but to the wider Scottish society. As part of the public provision of education Catholic schools represent a special locus wherein the Catholic Church and the State are full partners.


Your Holiness, we have been inspired and enriched by the transparency and the profundity of your teaching, which has in turn inspired us in our duty as teachers of the faith. We note that many people of other Christian denominations and representatives of other faith traditions in our country actually look to our Church for leadership in the great religious, moral
and ethical issues of the time. They too welcome the prospect of a visit to our land from Your Holiness in the hope that they may gain a deeper appreciation of Jesus Christ and of the way in which faith and reason come together to shed God's light on the questions which both fascinate and trouble the human spirit. What does it mean to be a human person who is open to the transcendent mystery of God? How is this transcendence mediated definitively by Jesus Christ? How is human transcendence expressed in the moral and ethical choices we make about how we live and
how we die?


In your pontificate you have insisted on the importance of continuing to seek the unity for which Christ prayed. You yourself have offered the Church a particularly eloquent example of ecumenical openness by responding in such a singular way to certain Anglican groups who wish full communion with the See of Peter. For many reasons this period in history may be seen as a challenging time on the journey of Christian Unity.

Nonetheless we are committed to the ecumenical dimension of the life of the Catholic Church in Scotland, not least through our membership of the
ecumenical instrument known as Action of Churches Together in Scotland, or simply as ACTS. Later this year we will share in the centenary celebrations of the Edinburgh Missionary Congress of 1910 which is regarded as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement. This year also marks the 450th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. The Reformers insisted upon the primacy of the Sacred Scriptures. It is more important now than ever that Christians allow themselves to be renewed by the Word of God as indispensable for the unity of the Church. Ecumenical engagement must also extend to ensuring that the Christian tradition of faith and morals is articulated, promoted and defended.


Your Holiness, we once again thank you for receiving us today. With respectful anticipation we await your message, hoping for your guidance for our ministry as bishops. Holy Father, we ask your Apostolic Blessing for us, for our priests and our people, and for Scotland.


Benedict XVI's Message to Brazilian Bishops

"Authentic Social Life Begins in Each Conscience"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Saturday address to bishops of Southern Brazil, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Revered Cardinal,

Dear Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil,

In the midst of the ad limina Apostolorum visit you are fulfilling, you have come together today to go up to the house of the Successor of Peter, who welcomes all of you with open arms, esteemed pastors of the Southern Region 1, in the state of Sao Paulo. There is found that important center of hospitality and evangelization, the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where I had the joy of being able to visit in May of 2007 for the opening of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope that the seed sown then will bear true fruits for the spiritual and also the social good of the populations of that promising continent, of the dear Brazilian nation and of your federal state.

They "have the right to a full life, proper of the children of God, with more human conditions: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence (Opening Address 13/V/2007, n.4). Once again, I wish to express my gratitude for all that was done with such great generosity and renew my cordial greeting to you and to your dioceses, remembering in a special way the priests, the consecrated men and women and the lay faithful who help you in the work of evangelization and the Christian animation of society.

Your people harbor in their hearts great religious sentiments and noble traditions, rooted in Christianity, which are expressed in heartfelt and genuine religious and civil manifestations. It is a patrimony rich in values that you -- as the reporters show, and Father Nelson referred to in the affable greeting he just addressed to me in your name -- try to maintain, defend, extend, deepen and vivify. In rejoicing greatly over all this, I exhort you to continue this work of constant and methodical evangelization, conscious that the truly Christian formation of the conscience is decisive for a profound life of faith and also for social maturity and the true and balanced well-being of the human community.

In fact, to merit the title of community, a human group must correspond, in its organization and objectives, to the fundamental aspiration of the human being. That is why it is not exaggerated to affirm that an authentic social life begins in each one's conscience. Given that a well formed conscience leads to fulfilling the true good of man, the Church, specifying what this good is, enlightens man and, throughout the whole of Christian life, tries to educate his conscience. The teaching of the Church, due to its origin -- God --, to its content -- the truth -- and to its point of support -- the conscience -- finds a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of each person, whether or not a believer.

Concretely, "the question of life and of its defense and promotion is not only the prerogative of Christians. Even if it receives the light and extraordinary strength of faith, it belongs to every human conscience that aspires to truth and lives attentive and watchful of the destiny of humanity. (...)The 'people of life' rejoice to be able to share their commitment with many others, so that the 'people of life' will be ever more numerous, and the new culture of love and of solidarity can grow for the true good of the city of men" [Enc. Evangelium Vitae (25/III/1995), 101].

Venerable Brothers, speak to the heart of your people, awaken consciences, unite wills in a joint effort against the growing wave of violence and contempt for the human being. The latter, from gift of God received in the loving intimacy of marriage between a man and a woman, is now seen as a mere human product. "Today, a primary and crucial field of cultural strife between the absolutism of technology and man's moral responsibility is that of bioethics, where the possibility of integral human development is radically at stake. It is a most delicate and decisive realm, where the fundamental question of knowing whether man produces himself or depends on God bursts with dramatic intensity. The scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technical intervention seem so advanced that they impose a choice between these two conceptions: that of reason open to transcendence or that of reason enclosed in immanence" [Enc. Caritas in Veritate (29/VI/2009), 74].

In a provocative way, Job calls irrational beings to give their own testimony: "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:7-10). The conviction of right reason and the certainty of faith that the life of the human being, from conception until natural death, belongs to God and not to men, confers on it that sacred character and that personal dignity that arouses only one correct legal and moral attitude, that is, one of profound respect. Because the Lord of life said: "[f]or your life-blood I will surely require a reckoning (...) for God made man in his own image" (Genesis 9:5.6).

My dear and venerable brothers, we must never be discouraged in our appeal to conscience. We would not be faithful followers of our Divine Master, if we did not know in all situations, also in the most arduous, how to carry our hope "against all hope" (Romans 4:18). Continue to work for the triumph of God's cause, not with the sad spirit of one who only sees want and dangers, but with the firm confidence of one who knows he can count on Christ's victory. United to the Lord in an ineffable way is Mary, fully conformed to her Son, conqueror of sin and death. Through the intercession of Our Lady Aparecida, I implore from God the light, consolation, strength, intensity of resolutions and achievements for you and your most direct collaborators, while at the same time I grant you from my heart -- and extend to all the faithful of every diocesan community --, my particular Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to New Bishops
"Prayer Is the Soul of Pastoral Activity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday upon receiving in audience bishops who were ordained in the last year.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the episcopate!

My heartfelt thanks for your visit, on the occasion of the congress promoted for the bishops who have recently taken up their pastoral ministry. These days of reflection, prayer and updating are really propitious to help you, dear brothers, to familiarize yourselves better with the tasks that you are called to assume as pastors of diocesan communities; they are also days of friendly coexistence that constitute a singular experience of that "collegialitas affective" that unites all bishops in one apostolic body, together with the Successor of Peter, "perpetual and visible foundation of unity" (Lumen Gentium, 23).

I thank Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the courteous words he addressed to me in your name; I greet Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, and express my acknowledgment to all those who in different ways collaborate in the organization of this annual meeting.

This year, your congress is inserted in the context of the Year for Priests, proclaimed on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. As I wrote in the letter sent for the occasion to all priests, this special year is "meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world."

The imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd is, for every priest, the obligatory path for their own sanctification and the essential condition for exercising the pastoral ministry responsibly. If this is true for priests, it is even more so for us, dear brother bishops. What is more, it is important not to forget that one of the essential tasks of the bishop is precisely to help priests, by example and with fraternal support, to follow their vocation faithfully, and to work with enthusiasm and love in the Lord's vineyard.

In this connection, in the post-synodal exhortation "Pastores Gregis," my venerated predecessor John Paul II observed that the priest's gesture, when he puts his own hands in the hands of the bishop on the day of his priestly ordination, commits both of them: the priest and the bishop. The new priest chooses to entrust himself to the bishop and, for his part, the bishop commits himself to guard these hands (No. 47). Well seen, this is a solemn task that is configured for the bishop as paternal responsibility in the custody and promotion of the priestly identity of the presbyters entrusted to his pastoral care, an identity that unfortunately we see today subjected to a harsh test by growing secularization. Therefore the bishop -- continues "Pastores Gregis" -- "will always strive to relate to his priests as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being" (ibid., No. 47).

In a special way, the bishop is called to nourish the spiritual life in priests, to foster in them harmony between prayer and the apostolate, looking at the example of Jesus and of the Apostles, whom he called first of all "to be with him" (Mark 3:14). An indispensable condition to produce good fruits is, in fact, that the priest remain united to the Lord; herein lies the secret of the fecundity of his ministry: Only if he is incorporated with Christ, true Vine, will he bear fruit.

A presbyter's mission and, with greater reason, that of a bishop, entails today a lot of work that tends to absorb him continually and totally. The difficulties increase and the incumbencies multiply, also because we are faced with new realities and growing pastoral demands. Nevertheless, attention to the problems of every day and the initiatives directed to leading men on the way of God, must never distract us from our profound and personal union with Christ. To be available to people should not diminish or obfuscate our availability to the Lord. The time that the priest and bishop dedicate to God in prayer is always the best employed, because prayer is the soul of pastoral activity, the "lymph" that gives it strength, it is a support in moments of uncertainty and the inexhaustible source of missionary fervor and fraternal love toward all.

The Eucharist is at the center of priestly life. In the apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" I stressed how "Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest's configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation" (No. 80). Therefore, may the Eucharistic celebration illumine your day and that of your priests, imprinting its grace and spiritual influence in sad and joyful, agitated and peaceful moments of action and contemplation. A privileged way of prolonging in the day the mysterious sanctifying action of the Eucharist is to recite devoutly the Liturgy of the Hours, and also Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina and the contemplative prayer of the rosary. The holy Cure d'Ars teaches us how precious are the priest's empathy with the Eucharistic sacrifice and the education of the faithful in the Eucharistic presence and in communion. With the Word and the Sacraments -- I recalled in the Letter to Priests -- St. John Mary Vianney edified his people. At the time of appointing him parish priest of Ars, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Belley said: "There is not much love of God in that parish, but you will put it there!" And that parish was transformed.

Dear new bishops, thank you for the service you render the Church with dedication and love. I greet you with affection and assure you of my constant support joined to prayer so that "you will go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:16). For this I invoke the intercession of Mary Regina Apostolorum, and I impart from my heart to you, your priests and your diocesan communities a special apostolic blessing.


Papal Address to Eastern Patriarchs and Major Archbishops
"The Whole Church Is in Need of the Experience of Coexistence"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving in audience the Eastern Patriarchs and Major Archbishops.

* * *

Venerable Patriarchs and Major Archbishops!

I cordially greet you and thank you for having accepted the invitation to participate in this meeting: to each I give my fraternal embrace of peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, together with the secretary and other officials of the dicastery.

We thank God for this informal gathering that will allow us to listen to the voices of the Churches that you serve with admirable self-sacrifice, and to reinforce the bonds of communion that link them with the Apostolic See.

Today's meeting brings to my mind the one on April 24, 2005 at the tomb of St. Peter. Then, at the beginning of my pontificate I wanted to undertake an ideal pilgrimage in the heart of the Christian East: a pilgrimage that today knows another significant stage and which it is my intention to pursue. In different circumstances you solicited a more frequent contact with the Bishop of Rome to make the communion of your Churches with the Successor of Peter more and more firm and to examine together, on occasion, possible issues of special importance. This proposal was again renewed during the last plenary session of the dicastery for Oriental Churches and the general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

For my part, I feel that I have an important duty in promoting that synodality so dear to Eastern ecclesiology and noted with appreciation by the Second Vatican Council. I fully share the esteem that the conciliar assembly reserved for your Churches in the decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum," and that my venerable predecessor John Paul II reemphasized above all in this apostolic exhortation "Orientale Lumen" and wish to see the Eastern Catholic Churches "flourish" to accomplish "with new apostolic vigor … the task entrusted to them … of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in accordance with the principles of the decree, on ecumenism" ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum," Nos. 1, 24). The ecumenical horizon is often connected with the interreligious one. In these two spheres the whole Church is in need of the experience of coexistence that has ripened in your Churches from the first Christian millennium.

Venerable brothers, in this fraternal meeting, those issues that trouble you that could receive adequate orientations from those with the proper competence are certainly brought to light in your interventions. I would like to assure you that you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. In particular I do not forget the call for peace that you placed in my hands at the end of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops last October. And, in speaking of peace, our thought turns, in the first place, to the regions of the Middle East. For this reason I will take this occasion to announce the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East convoked by me and which will be held October 10-24, 2010, on the theme "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness: ‘The Multitude of Those Who Became Believers Were of One Heart and One Soul’ (Acts 4:32)."

While I wish that today’s gathering will bear the hoped for fruits, invoking the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, from my heart I bless you and all the Eastern Catholic Churches.


Papal Homily at Episcopal Ordination
"The Church Is Not Our Church, but God's Church."

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Saturday at an episcopal ordination celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We affectionately greet and cordially join in the joy of these five brother presbyters of ours that the Lord has called to be successors of the Apostles: Monsignor Giordano Caccia, Monsignor Franco Coppola, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli and Monsignor Giorgio Corbellini. I am grateful to each of them for the faithful service that they have rendered the Church, working in the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Governorate of Vatican City State, and I am certain that, with the same love for Christ and the same zeal for souls, they will carry out the ministry that is being entrusted to them today with episcopal ordination in new fields of pastoral action. According to the Apostolic Tradition, this sacrament is conferred through the imposition of hands and prayer. The imposition of hands happens in silence. The human word is inarticulate. The soul opens in silence to God, whose hand stretches out to man, who takes man for himself and, at the same time, covers him with his hand to protect him, so that consequently man becomes God's total property, belonging entirely to God and bringing others into God's hand. But, as the second fundamental element of the act of consecration, the prayer follows. Episcopal ordination is an event of prayer. No man can make another man a priest or bishop. It is the Lord himself who, through the word of prayer and the gesture of the imposition of hands, brings that man totally into his service, draws him into his own priesthood. He himself consecrates the elect. He himself, the only High Priest, who offered the one sacrifice for all of us, grants him participation in his priesthood, so that his word and his work are simultaneously present at all times.

The Church has developed an eloquent sign of this connection between Christ's prayer and action on man in its liturgy. During the prayer of ordination, the opened Book of the Gospels, the Book of God's Word, is placed upon the candidate. The Gospel must penetrate him, the living Word of God must, so to speak, pervade him. The Gospel, after all, is not just words -- Christ himself is the Gospel. Along with the Word, Christ's life itself must pervade that man, in such a way that he becomes wholly one with him, that Christ lives in him and gives his life form and content.

That which in today's readings appeared as the essence of Christ's sacerdotal ministry must be realized in him. The one who is consecrated must be filled with the Spirit of God and live from him. He must bring the glad tidings to the poor, the true freedom and hope that makes man alive and heals him. He must establish Christ's priesthood among men, the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, that is, the kingdom of justice and peace. Like the 72 disciples sent out by the Lord, he must be one who brings healing, who helps to bind up man's interior wounds, his distance from God. God's kingdom, about which today's Gospel passage speaks, is not something "next" to God, some condition of the world: It is simply the presence of God himself, who is in truth the healing power.

Jesus summed up all of these multiple aspects of his priesthood in the one phrase: "The Son of man has not come to be served but to serve and to his life for the ransom of many" (Mark 10:45). Serving, and in doing so, give yourselves; not being for yourselves, but for others, on God's behalf and in view of God: This is the most profound nucleus of Jesus Christ's mission and, together, the true essence of his priesthood. Thus, he has made the term "servant" his highest title of honor. With that he achieved a reversal of values, he has given us a new image of God and of man. Jesus does not come as one of the masters of this world, but he, who is the true Master, comes to serve. His priesthood is not domination, but service: this is the new priesthood of Jesus Christ according to the order of Melchizedek.

St. Paul formulated the essence of this apostolic and sacerdotal ministry in a very clear way. Faced with disputes in the Church at Corinth which invoked different Apostles, he asks: But what is an Apostle? What is Apollo? What is Paul? They are servants; each in the way that the Lord has given him to be (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5). "Let a man so account us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now, that which is required of stewards is that each be faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). In Jerusalem during the last week of his life, Jesus himself spoke in two parables about those servants to whom the master has entrusted his temporal goods, and revealed three characteristics of serving in the right way, in which the image of the priestly ministry is also concretized. Finally, let us take a brief look at these characteristics, to contemplate, with the eyes of Jesus himself, the task that you, dear friends, are now being called to take on.

The first characteristic that the Lord requires of the servant is fidelity. He is entrusted with a great good that does not belong to him. The Church is not "our" Church, but his Church, God's Church. The servant must give an account of the way that he has taken care of the goods that have been entrusted to him. We do not bind men to us; we do not seek power, prestige, esteem for ourselves.

We lead men to Jesus Christ and so to the living God. In doing this we introduce them to truth, and freedom, which comes from truth. Fidelity is altruism, and precisely in this way it is liberating for the ministry itself and for those to whom it is given. We know that things in civil society, and often in the Church too, go badly because those upon whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves and not the community, for the common good. With a few lines the Lord traces an image of the wicked servant, who begins to stuff himself and get drunk and beat his fellow servants, betraying the essence of his duty in this way. In Greek the word that indicates "fidelity" coincides with that which indicates "faith." The fidelity of the servant of Jesus Christ also consists precisely in the fact that he does not seek to adjust the faith to the fashions of the time. Christ alone has words of eternal life, and we must bring these words to people. They are the precious good that we have been given. Such a fidelity has nothing sterile and static about it; it is creative. The master reproaches the servant, who hid the good given to him in the earth to avoid taking any risk. In this apparent fidelity he has put the master's good aside to dedicate himself exclusively to his own affairs. Fidelity is not fear, but it is inspired by love and its dynamism. The master praises the servant who made his goods fruitful. Faith must be shared: it has not been given to us for ourselves alone, for the personal salvation of our soul, but for others, for this world and for our time. We must bring it to this world so that it becomes a living force, to make the presence of God in the world grow.

The second characteristic that Jesus requires of the servant is prudence. Here we must immediately eliminate a misunderstanding. Prudence is something different from cleverness. Prudence, according to the Greek philosophical tradition, it is the first of the cardinal virtues; it indicates the primacy of truth, that becomes the criterion of our conduct through "prudence." Prudence demands humble, disciplined and vigilant reason, [which can be] blinded by prejudices; it does not judge according to desires and passions, but it seeks the truth -- even uncomfortable truth. Prudence means engaging in the pursuit of truth and acting in a way that conforms to it. The prudent servant is above all a man of truth and of sincere reason.

God, through Jesus Christ, has thrown open the window to truth for us that, had it been left to our own powers, would have remained shut tightly and only partly transparent. He shows us in Sacred Scripture and in the faith of the Church the essential truth about man, which gives our action the right direction. Thus, the first cardinal virtue of the priest who is the minister of Jesus Christ consists in letting himself be formed by the truth that Christ shows us. In this way we become truly reasonable men, who judge on the basis of the whole and not according to accidental details. We do not let ourselves be guided by the little window of our personal cleverness, but by the big window, that Christ has opened up to the whole truth for us, we look upon the world and men and [from this truth] see what truly counts in life.

The third characteristic that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the servant is goodness: "Good and faithful servant ...enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21, 23). What is meant by the characteristic of "goodness" can be made clear to us, if we think about Jesus' encounter with the rich young man. This man turned to Jesus, calling him "Good Master," and received the surprising response: "Why call me good? No one is good but God" (Mark 10:17-18). Only God is good in the full sense. He is the Good, the Good par excellence, Goodness in person. In a creature -- in man -- being good is therefore necessarily based on a deep interior orientation to God. Goodness grows with interior unification with the living God. Goodness presupposes above all a living communion with God, the Good, a growing interior union with him. And in fact: from who else can one learn about true goodness if not from him who loved us to the end, to the extreme (cf. 13:1)? We become good servants through our living relationship with Jesus Christ. Only if our life unfolds in dialogue with him, only if his being, his characteristics penetrate us and form us, can we become truly good.

In the Church's calendar today we remember the Name of Mary. In her who was and is totally united to the Son, to Christ, men in the darkness and sufferings of this world found the faith of the Mother who gives us courage to go forward. In the western tradition the name "Mary" has been translated as "Star of the Sea." In this title is expressed this experience: how many times has the history in which we live appeared like a dark sea whose waves threateningly buffet the little ship of our life? Sometimes the night seems impenetrable. Often one can have the impression that only evil has power and God is infinitely far away. Often we can only glimpse from a great distance the great Light, Jesus Christ, who conquered death and evil. But now we see the light shining nearer to us when Mary says: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." We see the light of goodness that emanates from her. In the goodness with which she welcomed and ever again comes to meet the great and small aspirations of many men, we recognize the goodness of God himself in a very human way. He gave us his Mother as our Mother, so that we learn from her to say the "yes" that makes us good.

Dear friends, in this hour we pray to the Mother of the Lord for you, so that she will always guide you toward her Son, source of goodness. And we pray that you become faithful, prudent and good servants and so you can one day hear from the Lord of history: Good and faithful servant, share in the joy of your master. Amen.


Papal Address to Brazilian Bishops

"God Does Not See as Man Does"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Monday address to bishops of Western Brazil, in Italy for their five-yearly visit.

* * *

Dear brothers in the episcopate:

I welcome and greet each and every one of you with sentiments of profound joy and friendship, beloved pastors of western Regions 1 and 2 of the national bishops' conference of Brazil.

Your group initiates a long pilgrimage of the members of this episcopal conference on their "ad limina apostolorum" visit, which will give me the occasion to know better the reality of the respective diocesan communities. These will be days of fraternal sharing to reflect together on the issues that concern you -- a moment I have profoundly awaited since those unforgettable days of May 2007, in which during my visit to your country I was able to experience all the affection of the Brazilian people for the Successor of Peter and, in a special way, when I had the possibility to embrace with a glance the whole episcopate of this great nation during the meeting in the Catedral da Se in São Paulo.

In fact, only God's great heart can know, keep and govern the multitude of sons and daughters that he himself engendered in Brazil's immense vastness. In the course of our conversations these days, some of the challenges and problems you are facing have come to light, as the archbishop of Campo Grande mentioned at the beginning of our meeting. We are impressed by the distances that you yourselves, as well as your priests and other missionary agents, have to cover to serve and pastorally encourage your faithful, many of them affected by the problems proper to a relatively recent urbanization, in which the state does not always succeed in being an instrument for the promotion of justice and the common good. Do not be discouraged! Remember that the proclamation of the Gospel and adherence to Christian values, as I stated recently in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" "is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development."

I thank you, Archbishop Vitório Pavanello, for the kind words and delicate sentiments you addressed to me on behalf of all, to which I wish to respond with good wishes of peace and prosperity for the Brazilian people in this significant day of their national celebration.

As Successor of Peter and universal Pastor, I can assure you that my heart feels day by day your apostolic concerns and efforts, not ceasing to recall before God the challenges you face in the growth of your diocesan communities. In our days, and concretely in Brazil, the laborers in the Lord's field continue to be few for a harvest that is large (cf. Matthew 9:36-37). Despite the shortage we perceive, the adequate formation of those who are called to serve the people of God is truly essential. For this reason, in the context of the current Year for Priests, allow me to pause today to reflect with you, beloved bishops of Western Brazil, on the most important task of your episcopal ministry, which is fostering [the vocation] of new pastors.

Although God is the only one able to awaken in the human heart a call to the pastoral service of his people, all members of the Church should question if they see and feel the profound urgency of this mission and have a real commitment to it.

One day, when some of the disciples were hesitating, noting that there were "still four months to go" before the harvest, Jesus replied: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for the harvest" (John 4:35).

God does not see as man does! The haste of the good God is dictated by his desire that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). There are many who seem to want to live the whole of life in a minute, others who wander in tedium and inertia, or abandon themselves to violence of all sorts. Deep down, these are no more than desperate lives that look for hope, as demonstrated by an extended, though at times confused, need of spirituality, a renewed search for points of reference to take up again the journey of life.

Esteemed brothers, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization, perceiving there certain strong Christian values, such as equality, liberty, solidarity. They showed themselves ready to make concessions and discover areas of cooperation. We witnessed the interventions of some ecclesiastical officials in ethical debates, which responded to the expectations of public opinion, but which failed to speak of certain essential truths of the faith, such as sin, grace, theological life and the last things. Without realizing it, many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization. Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned. When our contemporaries come to us, they want to see something that they do not see elsewhere, namely, joy and the hope that springs from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.

At present there is a new generation born in this secularized ecclesial environment who, instead of looking for openness and consensus, see how the gap between society and the positions of the magisterium of the Church, especially in the ethical field, is ever greater. In this desert lacking God, the new generation feels a great thirst for transcendence.

It is the young men of this new generation who knock on the door of seminaries, and who need to find formators who are true men of God, priests totally dedicated to formation, who give witness of the gift of themselves to the Church, through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. Thus, these young men will learn to be sensitive to the encounter with the Lord, in daily participation in the Eucharist, loving silence and prayer, working first of all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Beloved brothers, as you know, it is the bishop's task to establish the essential criteria for the formation of seminarians and priests in fidelity to the universal norms of the Church: It is in this spirit that reflections on this topic should be developed, [which was] the objective of the plenary assembly of your episcopal conference last April.

Certain of being able to count on your zeal in regard to priestly formation, I invite all bishops, their priests and seminarians, to imitate in their lives the charity of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, as the holy Cure d'Ars did. And, with him, may they take as model and protection of their own vocation the Virgin Mother, who responded in a unique way to God's call, conceiving in her heart and flesh the Word made man to give him to humanity. To your dioceses, including the Diocese of Rondonopolis, whose pastor has been unable to make this visit, I send a cordial greeting in solidarity, and the certainty of my prayers, along with my paternal apostolic blessing.


Pope's Address at Audience With New Archbishops
"Carry Deeply in Your Hearts Your Priests"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered June 30 upon receiving the 34 archbishops on whom he had conferred the pallium the previous day.

The prelates were accompanied by their relatives, friends and diocesan faithful.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the celebrations for the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, it is a real pleasure for me to meet all of you, Metropolitan Archbishops who received the pallium yesterday in the Vatican Basilica, and your relatives and friends who have accompanied you to this special audience. Thus the joy of communion experienced on the feast of the two great Apostles on which I was able to confer upon you the pallium, a symbol of the unity that binds the Pastors of the particular Churches to the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome. I address my cordial welcome to each one of you, who come from every continent, significantly revealing the face of the Catholic Church, spread over all the earth.

I first address you, beloved Pastors of the Church in Italy. I greet Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Archbishop Salvatore Pappalardo of Siracusa and Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio of Lecce.

We are at the beginning of the Year for Priests: may you therefore take pains to be exemplary Pastors, zealous and full of love for the Lord and for your communities. You will thus be able to guide and firmly support in their pastoral ministry the priests, your first collaborators, and cooperate effectively in spreading the Kingdom of God in the beloved land of Italy.

I am pleased to meet the French-speaking pilgrims who are accompanying the new Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I have had the joy of conferring the pallium. I would like first of all to greet Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers, Algeria, Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski, Canada, Archbishop Joseph Aké Yapo of Gagnoa, Côte d'Ivoire, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Archbishop Philippe Ouédraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I also extend my warm greetings to the Bishops, priests and faithful of our countries, assuring them of my fervent prayers. The pallium is a sign of special communion with the Successor of Peter. May this sign also be for the priests and faithful of your dioceses an appeal to consolidate increasingly authentic communion with their Pastors and among all the members of the Church.

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I conferred the pallium yesterday: Archbishop Paul Mandla Khumalo of Pretoria, South Africa; Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, Canada; Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Detroit, U.S.A.; Archbishop Anicetus Bongsu Antonius Sinaga of Medan, Indonesia; Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale, Ghana; Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York, U.S.A.; Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster, U.K.; Archbishop Robert James Carlson of Saint Louis, U.S.A.; Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand; Archbishop George Joseph Lucas of Omaha, U.S.A.; Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond of New Orleans, U.S.A. and Archbishop Patebendige Don Albert Malcom Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I also welcome their family members, their relatives, friends and the faithful of their respective Archdioceses who have come to Rome to pray with them and to share their joy on this happy occasion. The pallium is received from the hands of the Successor of Peter and worn by the Archbishops as a sign of communion in faith and love and in the governance of God's People. It also recalls to Pastors their responsibilities as shepherds after the Heart of Jesus. To all of you I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops who have come to Rome for the solemn ceremony of the conferral of the pallium: Archbishop Domingo Díaz Martínez of Tulancingo; Manuel Felipe Díaz Sánchez of Calabozo; José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador; Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia; Víctor Sánchez Espinosa of Puebla de los Ángeles; Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla; Archbishop Ismael Rueda Sierra of Bucaramanga, and Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez Plaza of Toledo, as well as the relatives, friends, priests and faithful of their respective particular Churches who have accompanied them. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, may the black silk cross embroidered on the pallium remind you that you must be every day more closely configured to Jesus Christ. Following in his footsteps as the Good Shepherd, always be signs of unity among your faithful, strengthening your bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, with your suffragan Bishops and with all those who collaborate in your evangelizing mission. In this Year for Priests which has just began, carry deeply in your hearts your priests who expect of you kindly treatment as fathers and brothers who welcome them, listen to them and are concerned about them. I place you and your diocesan communities under the protection of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles, who is so widely venerated in the countries that you come from: Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Spain.

I welcome with joy the relatives and friends of the new Metropolitan Archbishops of Brazil who have accompanied them for the conferral of the pallium, a sign of profound communion with the Successor of Peter. In this communion I address a special greeting to Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha of Teresina; Archbishop Maurício Grotto de Camargo of Botucatu; Archbishop Gil António Moreira of Juiz de Fora; and Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. Please convey my greetings to the priests and to all the faithful of your Archdioceses, so that united in the same faith of Peter you may contribute to the evangelization of society. As a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord, I impart my Blessing to you all.

I greet you, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv for Latins, and all those who surround you at this moment of lively ecclesial communion. Once again, I am grateful for your service to the Church as my collaborator, and earlier, as that of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II. May the Spirit of the Lord accompany you in your pastoral ministry for the faithful entrusted to your care, to whom I send a cordial greeting.

I cordially greet the Poles present here. In particular, I greet Archbishop Andrzej Dziega, the new Metropolitan of Szczecin-Kamien who received the pallium yesterday, and the faithful who come from this Metropolis. In the Year for Priests may the pallium also be for priests a symbol and a challenge to build communion with their own Bishops, among themselves and also with the faithful. As I implore for all of you the gifts of God's charity, I cordially bless you. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters, may today's memorial of the Protomartyrs of Rome be a stimulus for each one of us to love Jesus Christ and the Church ever more intensely. May you be accompanied by the maternal assistance of Mary, Mother of the Church, by the Apostles Peter and Paul and by St John Mary Vianney. To each and every one of you I impart my Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Mass to Bestow Palliums to Archbishops
"In Seeing From God's Viewpoint, One Has an Overall Vision"

VATICAN CITY, JULY12, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, at the Mass during which he celebrated the 58th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood and conferred the pallium on 34 Metropolitan Archbishops.

* * *

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

I address my cordial greeting to you all with the words of the Apostle by whose tomb we stand: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you" (1 Pt 1: 2). I greet in particular the Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the numerous Metropolitans who will receive the pallium today. In the opening prayer of this solemn day we ask the Lord that the Church may always follow the teaching of the Apostles from whom she first received the announcement of the faith.

The request we address to God at the same time calls us into question: are we following the teaching of the great founder Apostles? Do we really know them? In the Pauline Year that ended yesterday, we endeavoured to listen anew to him, the "teacher of the Gentiles", hence to learn anew the alphabet of faith. We endeavoured to recognize Christ with Paul and through Paul, and thus to find the way to an upright Christian life. In the Canon of the New Testament, in addition to the Letters of St Paul, there are also two other Letters under the name of St Peter. The first ends with an explicit greeting from Rome, which, however, appears under the apocalyptic pseudonym of Babylon: "She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings" (1 Pt 5: 13).

By calling the Church of Rome "likewise chosen", he sets her within the great community of all the local Churches in the community of all those whom God has gathered, so that in the "Babylon" of this world's time they might build up his People and introduce God into history.

St Peter's First Letter is a greeting addressed from Rome to the Christendom of all epochs. It invites us to listen to "the teaching of the Apostles", which shows us the way to life.

This Letter is a very rich text that wells up from the heart and touches the heart. Its centre is and how could it be otherwise? the figure of Christ who is illustrated as the One who suffers and loves, as Crucified and Risen: "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten.... By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pt 2: 23f.).

Then starting from the centre that is Christ, the Letter is also an introduction to the fundamental Christian Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and a discourse addressed to priests in which Peter describes himself as a fellow priest with them. He speaks to Pastors of all generations as one who was personally made responsible by the Lord for tending his sheep and has thus received a specific priestly mandate.

So what does St Peter tell us precisely in the Year for Priests about the priest's task? First of all he understands the priestly ministry as being based totally on Christ. He calls Christ the "Shepherd and Guardian of... souls" (2: 25). Where the Italian [and the English] translation speak of "Guardian", the Greek text uses the word episcopos (bishop). A little further on, Christ is described as the chief Shepherd: archipoimen (5: 4). It is surprising that Peter should call Christ himself a Bishop, Bishop of souls. What did he mean by this? The Greek term "episcopos" contains the verb "to see"; for this reason it is translated as "guardian", in other words "supervisor". Yet external supervision, as might befit a prison guard, is certainly not what is meant here. Rather it means watching over, from above seeing from the lofty position of God.

Seeing from God's perspective is seeing with love that wants to serve the other, wants to help him to become truly himself. Christ is the "Bishop of souls", Peter tells us. This means: he sees us from the perspective of God. In seeing from God's viewpoint, one has an overall vision, one sees the dangers as well as the hopes and possibilities. From God's perspective one sees the essential, one sees the inner man. If Christ is the Bishop of souls, the objective is to prevent the human soul from becoming impoverished and to ensure that the human being does not lose his essence, the capacity for truth and love; to ensure that he becomes acquainted with God; that he does not get lost in blind alleys; that he does not end in loneliness but remains altogether open.

Jesus, the "Bishop of souls", is the prototype of every episcopal and presbyteral ministry. To be a Bishop, to be a priest, means in this perspective to assume the position of Christ. It means thinking, seeing and acting from his exalted vantage point. It means starting from Christ in order to be available to human beings so that they find life.

Thus the word "Bishop", is very close to the term "Shepherd"; indeed the two concepts become interchangeable. It is the shepherd's task to feed and tend his flock and take it to the right pastures. Grazing the flock means taking care that the sheep find the right nourishment, that their hunger is satisfied and their thirst quenched. The metaphor apart, this means: the word of God is the nourishment that the human being needs.

Making God's word ever present and new and thereby giving nourishment to people is the task of the righteous Pastor. And he must also know how to resist the enemies, the wolves. He must go first, point out the way, preserve the unity of the flock. Peter, in his discourse to priests, highlights another very important thing. It is not enough to speak. Pastors must make themselves "examples to the flock". (5: 3). When it is lived, the word of God is brought from the past into the present. It is marvellous to see how in saints the word of God becomes a word addressed to our time.

In such figures as Francis and then again, as Padre Pio and many others, Christ truly became a contemporary of their generation, he emerged from the past to enter the present. This is what being a Pastor means a model for the flock: living the word now, in the great community of holy Church.

Very briefly, I would like to call your attention further to two other affirmations in the First Letter of St Peter which concern us in a special way in our time.

There is first of all the sentence, today discovered anew, on the basis of which medieval theologians understood their task, the task of the theologian: "in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you". (3: 15). Christian faith is hope. It paves the way to the future. And it is a hope that possesses reasonableness, a hope whose reason we can and must explain. Faith comes from the eternal Reason that entered our world and showed us the true God.

Faith surpasses the capacity of our reason, just as love sees more than mere intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialectic confrontation can be a match for reason. It does not contradict it but keeps up with it and goes beyond it to introduce us into the greater Reason of God.

As Pastors of our time it is our task to be the first to understand the reason of faith. It is our task not to let it remain merely a tradition but to recognize it as a response to our questions.

Faith demands our rational participation, which is deepened and purified in a sharing of love. It is one of our duties as Pastors to penetrate faith with thought, to be able to show the reason for our hope within the debates of our time. Yet although it is so necessary thought alone does not suffice. Just as speaking alone does not suffice. In his baptismal and Eucharistic catechesis in chapter 2 of his Letter, Peter alludes to the Psalm used by the ancient Church in the context of communion, that is, to the verse which says: "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 34[33]: 8; 1 Pt 2: 3). Tasting alone leads to seeing.

Let us think of the disciples of Emmaus: it was only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord were they able to see. This applies to us all; over and above thinking and speaking, we need the experience of faith, the vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we encounter the Lord in the Sacrament, if we speak to him in prayer, if in the decisions of daily life we adhere to Christ then "we see" more and more how good he is; then we experience how good it is to be with him. Moreover the capacity to communicate faith to others in a credible way stems from this certainty lived. The Curé d'Ars was not a great thinker; but he "tasted" the Lord. He lived with him even in the details of daily life, as well as in the great demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became "one who sees". He had tasted so he knew that the Lord is good. Let us pray the Lord that he may grant us this ability to taste, and that we may thus become credible witnesses of the hope that is in us.

Lastly, I would like to point out another small but important statement of St Peter. Right at the beginning of his Letter he tells us that the goal of our faith is the salvation of souls (cf. 1: 9). In the world of language and thought of the Christianity of today this is a strange, and for some, perhaps even shocking assertion.

The word "soul" had fallen into discredit. It is said that this could lead to a division of man into spiritual and physical, body and soul, whereas in reality he would be an indivisible unit. In addition, "the salvation of souls" as a goal of faith seems to indicate an individualistic Christianity, a loss of responsibility for the world overall, in its corporeity and in its materiality. Yet none of this is found in St Peter's Letter. Zeal for the witness in favour of hope and responsibility for others characterizes the entire text. To understand what he says on the salvation of souls as a destination of faith, we must start from another angle. It remains true that the lack of care for souls, the impoverishment of the inner man, not only destroys the individual but threatens the destiny of humanity overall.

Without the healing of souls, without the healing of man from within there can be no salvation for humanity. To our surprise, St Peter describes the true ailment of souls as ignorance, that is, not knowing God. Those who are not acquainted with God, or at least do not seek him sincerely, are left outside true life (cf. 1 Pt 1: 14).

Yet another word from the Letter could be useful to understand better the formula "salvation of souls". "Purify your souls by obedience to the truth" (cf. 1: 22). It is obedience to the truth that purifies the soul and it is coexistence with falsehood that pollutes it. Obedience to the truth begins with the small truths of daily life that can often be demanding and painful. This obedience then extends to obedience without reservations before the Truth itself that is Christ. This obedience not only purifies us but above all also frees us for service to Christ and thus for the salvation of the world, which nevertheless always begins with the obedient purification of one's own soul through the truth.

We may point out the way towards the truth only if by obedience and patience we let ourselves be purified by the truth.

And now I address you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, who will shortly receive the pallium from my hands. It was woven from the wool of lambs which the Pope blesses on the Feast of St Agnes. In this way it also recalls the lambs and sheep of Christ, which the Risen Lord entrusted to Peter with the task of tending them (cf. Jn 21: 15-18). The pallium recalls the flock of Jesus Christ which you, dear Brothers, must tend in communion with Peter. It reminds us of Christ himself, who, as the Good Shepherd, took the lost sheep, humanity, on his shoulders to bring it home. It reminds us that he, the supreme Pastor, wanted to make himself the Lamb, to take upon himself from within the destiny of us all; to carry us and to heal us from within. Let us pray the Lord that he will grant us to be just Pastors following in his footsteps, "not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it... eagerly... examples to the flock" (1 Pt 5: 2f). Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Venezuelan Bishops
"Encourage a Profound Life of Faith and Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered June 8 upon receiving the bishops of Venezuela, who were in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I warmly welcome you Pastors of the Church of Venezuela to this meeting during your ad limina visit. As Successor of Peter, I thank the Lord for this opportunity to strengthen my brothers in the faith (cf. Lk 22: 32) and to share in their joys and worries, in their projects and their difficulties.

First of all I thank Archbishop Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera of Maracaibo, President of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, for h is words expressing your communion with the Bishop of Rome and the Head of the Episcopal College, as well as the challenges and hopes of your pastoral ministry.

In fact the challenges you must face in your pastoral work are ever more numerous and difficult, aggravated moreover as they have been recently by the serious global economic crisis. Yet, the present time also offers many true reasons to hope, that hope which can fill the hearts of all human beings "can only be God God who has loved us and who continues to love us "to the end'" (Spe Salvi, n. 27).

As he did with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24: 13-35), the Risen Lord also walks beside us, imbuing us with his spirit of love and fortitude so that we may open our hearts to a future of hope and of eternal life.

You have before you, dear Brothers, an exciting task of evangelization and you have begun the "Mission for Venezuela" in line with the Continental Mission p romoted by the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences at Aparecida. These are also times of grace for those who are dedicated to the Gospel cause without reserve. Trust in the Lord. He will make your self-giving and sacrifices fruitful.

I encourage you, therefore, to increase your initiatives to make Jesus Christ and his message known in their fullness and beauty. For this, in addition to the sound doctrinal formation of the entire People of God, it is important to encourage a profound life of faith and prayer. In the liturgy, in the intimate dialogue of personal or community prayer, the Risen Christ comes to meet us, transforming our hearts with his loving presence.

I would also like to remind you of the need of a spiritual life for Bishops. Configured fully to Christ the Head by the sacrament of Orders they are in a certain way a visible sign of the Lord Jesus (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 21). For this reason the pastoral m inistry must be a consistent reflection of Jesus, Servant of God, showing to everyone the capital importance of faith and likewise the need to give priority to the vocation to holiness (cf. John Paul ii, Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, n. 12).

Fruitful pastoral action requires close affective and effective communion among the Pastors of the People of God who "should appreciate that they are closely united to each other and should be solicitous for all the Churches" (Christus Dominus, n. 6). This unity, which today and always must be promoted and expressed in a visible manner, will be a source of comfort and apostolic effectiveness in the ministry entrusted to you.

The spirit of communion involves paying special attention to your priests. As the closest collaborators of the episcopal ministry, they must be the first recipients of your pastoral care and should be treated with closeness and brotherly friendship. This will help them to carry out wit h self-denial the ministry they have received and, when necessary, to accept advice in a filial spirit on some aspects they may need to improve or correct.

I therefore encourage you to redouble your efforts to give an impetus to the pastoral zeal of your priests, especially during this coming Year for Priests which I have chosen to declare.

In addition to this is the interest that must be shown to the Diocesan Seminary, in order to encourage a thorough and competent selection of those called to be pastors of the People of God, without economizing on the human or material means this may require.

The lay faithful, for their part, participate in their own specific way in the Church's saving mission (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 33). As disciples and missionaries of Christ they are called to illumine and to order temporal realities in such a way that they respond to God's loving plan (ibid., n. 31).

This requires a mature laity that bear a faith ful witness to their faith and feel the joy of belonging to the Body of Christ. Among other things lay people must be offered an adequate knowledge of the Church's social doctrine. In this regard I appreciate your work to make the light of the Gospel shine on the most important events that affect your country, with no other interest than to disseminate the most genuine Christian values, with a view to encouraging the search for the common good, harmonious coexistence and social stability.

I entrust the needy to you in particular. Continue to encourage the many charitable projects of the Church in Venezuela so that your neediest brothers and sisters may feel the presence among them of the One who on the Cross gave his life for every human being.

I end with a word of hope and encouragement to you in your task; you may always count on my support, concern and spiritual closeness. Please convey my affectionate greeting to all the members of your particular Church es; to the Bishops emeritus, the priests, the religious and the lay faithful, especially married couples, young people, the elderly and those who are suffering. With these sentiments and as I invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Coromoto, so deeply loved throughout Venezuela, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Italian Episcopal Conference
"Rediscover Both the Grace and the Duty of the Priestly Ministry"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2009 Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 28 to the members of the Italian episcopal conference on the occasion of their annual general assembly.

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Dear Italian Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to meet you once again all together on the occasion of this important annual event for which you gather at your Assembly to share the anxieties and joys of your ministry in the dioceses of the beloved Italian nation.

Your Assembly, in fact, visibly expresses and promotes that communion by which the Church lives and which is also put into practice in the harmony of your pastoral initiatives and action.

I come in person to uphold with my presence that ecclesial communion which I have seen constantly growing and being reinforced. I thank in particular the Cardinal President who, on behalf of you all, has confirmed the fraternal adherence and cordial communion with the Magisterium and pastoral service of the Successor of Peter, thereby reaffirming the special unity that binds the Church in Italy to the Apostolic See.

In recent months I have truly received a great many moving testimonies of this adherence. I cannot but offer you my heartfelt thanks! In this atmosphere of communion it is possible to nourish profitably with the word of God and the grace of the sacraments the Christian people, deeply rooted in the land, who feel a keen sense of faith and a true sense of belonging to the ecclesial community.

This is all thanks to your pastoral guidance, your generous service to so many priests and deacons, religious and lay faithful who with assiduous dedication support the ecclesiastical fabric and the daily life of the numerous parishes scattered in every corner of the country.

Let us not conceal from ourselves the difficulties they encounter in our time in leading their members to adhere fully to the Christian faith. Indeed, in this perspective various sources are calling for the renewal of their lay members through increased cooperation and missionary co-responsibility.

For these reasons, in your pastoral action you have appropriately desired to implement the missionary commitment that has marked the Church's progress in Italy since the Council. You have done so by making the fundamental task of education the focus of your Assembly's reflection.

As I have had the opportunity to say on several occasions, this is a constitutive and ongoing requirement in the Church's life, which today is tending to acquire a character of urgency and even emergency.

In these days you have been able to listen, reflect and discuss the need to start an educational type of project that springs from a consistent and complete vision of man, which can only derive from the perfect image and fulfilment that we have in Jesus Christ.

He is the Teacher at whose school we must rediscover the educational task as a most lofty vocation to which every member of the faithful is called in different ways. At a time when relativist and nihilistic concepts of life exert a strong attraction and the very legitimacy of education is called into question, the first contribution we can offer is that of witnessing to our faith in life and in the human being, in human reason and in the human capacity to love.

This is not the fruit of an ingenuous optimism but comes to us from that "trustworthy hope" (Spe Salvi, n. 1) that is given to us in faith in the redemption brought by Jesus Christ. With reference to this well-founded act of love for man, an educational alliance can arise between all who have responsibility in this delicate context of social and ecclesial life.

Next Sunday, the conclusion of the three-year Agora of Italian Youth that has involved your Conference in a structured process for the animation of your youth ministry is an invitation to check the educational process under way. It also asks you to embark on new projects for a specific group, that of the new generations, extremely broad and significant for the educational responsibilities of our ecclesial communities and of society as a whole.

Furthermore, the task of formation, extends to adults who are not excluded from a real responsibility for continuing education. No one is excluded from the duty of taking care of his or her own growth and that of others until we all attain to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4: 13).

The difficulty of forming authentic Christians is intricate and merges with the complex task of helping men and women to grow more responsible and mature. Knowledge of truth and goodness and free adherence to them form the core of the educational project, which can give shape to a global growth process, duly prepared and accompanied.

For this, in addition to an adequate project that points to the goal of education in the light of the approved model to be followed, authoritative educators to whom the new generations can look with trust are essential.

In this Pauline Year, which we have lived by deepening our knowledge of the words and example of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, and which you have celebrated in various ways in your dioceses and, precisely yesterday, all together in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, his invitation rings out, especially effectively: "Be imitators of me" (1 Cor 11: 1).

These are courageous words. A true educator stakes himself first and is able to combine authority and exemplarity in the task of educating those entrusted to his care. We ourselves are aware of this, placed as we are as guides among the People of God, we to whom in turn the Apostle Peter addressed the invitation to tend God's flock by being "examples to the flock" (1 Pt 5: 3). These too are words on which to meditate.

The circumstance which, after the Year dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles, sees us prepared to celebrate a Year for Priests is therefore particularly fortunate.

We are called, together with our priests, to rediscover both the grace and the duty of the priestly ministry. This ministry is a service to the Church and to the Christian People that demands a profound spirituality. In response to the divine vocation, this spirituality must be nourished by prayer and by an intense personal union with the Lord in order to serve him among the brethren through preaching, the sacraments, an orderly community life and assistance to the poor.

Thus, throughout the priestly ministry the importance of the commitment to education stands out, in order to develop people who are free, truly free, and hence responsible, mature and aware Christians.

There is no doubt that the sense of solidarity profoundly rooted in Italian hearts draws vitality from the Christian spirit. Furthermore, it finds a way of expressing itself with particular intensity in certain dramatic circumstances in the country's life, the most recent of which was the devastating earthquake that hit some parts of the Abruzzo region.

As your President mentioned earlier, during my Visit to that tragically damaged region I was not only able to take stock personally of the bereavement, suffering and disastrous effects of that terrible quake but also and I found this most striking besides the strength of mind of those people, the prompt wave of solidarity that was organized from every single part of Italy.

Our communities responded with great generosity to the requests for aid from that region by supporting the initiatives promoted by the Bishops' Conference through Caritas. I would like to renew to the Bishops of Abruzzo and, through them, to the local communities, the assurance of my constant prayers and of my permanent affectionate closeness.

For months we have observed the effects of the heavy blow the financial and economic crisis has dealt, on a global scale and, if in varying degrees, to all countries.

Despite the measures implemented at various levels, the effects of the crisis on society are not failing to make themselves felt even acutely, especially by the more fragile social sectors of society and families.

Thus I would like to express my appreciation and encouragement of the initiative of the solidarity fund called "Prestito della speranza" [loan of hope] which next Sunday will be an opportunity to participate unanimously in the national collection which constitutes the basis of the fund. This renewed request for generosity, which comes in addition to the many projects implemented by numerous dioceses, in recalling the gesture of the collection organized by the Apostle Paul for the Church in Jerusalem, is an eloquent testimony of the mutual sharing of burdens.

In a difficult period, which is affecting above all those who have lost their jobs, sharing becomes a true act of worship that is born from the charity inspired by the Spirit of the Risen One in believers' hearts. It is an eloquent sign of the inner conversion generated by the Gospel and a touching manifestation of ecclesial communion.

An essential form of charity to which the Churches in Italy are deeply committed is also intellectual. A significant example of this is the endeavour to spread a mindset in favour of life in all its aspects and phases, with special attention to life scarred by conditions of great frailty and precariousness. This commitment is clearly witnessed by the manifesto: "Free to live. Loving life to the end", which sees the Italian Catholic laity working together to ensure that knowledge of the full truth about man and the promotion of the authentic good of people and of society is not lacking in Italy.

The "yeses" and "nos" that are expressed in the manifesto outline a true educational action and are an expression of strong, practical love for every person. My thoughts, therefore, return to the central theme of your Assembly the urgent duty of education which requires that the faithful be rooted in the word of God and spiritual discernment, cultural and social planning, and the witness of unity and of free giving.

Dear Brothers, there are only a few days to go before the Solemnity of Pentecost in which we shall be celebrating the gift of the Spirit who breaks down barriers and opens people to an understanding of the whole truth. Let us invoke the Consoler who does not abandon those who turn to him and entrust to him the journey of the Church in Italy and of every person who lives in this most beloved country. May the Spirit of Life come down upon all of us and kindle in our hearts the flame of his infinite love.

I warmly bless you and your communities!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Nigerian Bishops
"There Is No Place in the Church for Any Kind of Division"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received in audience bishops from Nigeria at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Nigeria, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. As the Successor of Peter I cherish this encounter which strengthens our bond of communion and fraternal love and allows us to renew together the sacred responsibility which we exercise in the Church. I thank Archbishop Job for the kind words which he addressed to me on your behalf. For my part, I am pleased to express my sentiments of respect and gratitude to you and to all the faithful of Nigeria.

Brothers, since your last Ad Limina visit Almighty God has blessed the Church in your country with generous growth. This is especially visible in the number of new Christians who have received Christ into their hearts and accept joyfully the Church as "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). The abundant priestly and religious vocations are also a clear sign of the work of the Spirit among you. For these graces I give thanks to God and express my appreciation to you and to the priests, religious and catechists who have laboured in the Lord's vineyard.

Expansion in the Church calls for special care in diocesan planning and the training of personnel through ongoing activities of formation in order to facilitate the necessary deepening of the faith of your people (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 76). From your reports I see that you are well aware of the basic steps involved: teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community. You yourselves, together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.

The celebration of the liturgy is a privileged source of renewal in Christian living. I commend you in your efforts to maintain the proper balance between moments of contemplation and external gestures of participation and joy in the Lord. To this end attention must be given to the liturgical formation of priests and the avoidance of extraneous excesses. Continue on this path keeping in mind that the dialogue of love and veneration of the Lord is greatly enhanced by the practice of Eucharistic adoration in parishes, religious communities and other suitable places (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 67).

The coming Synod of Bishops for Africa will address among other themes the topic of ethnic unrest. The marvelous image of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the gathering of innumerable men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who have been ransomed by the blood of Christ (cf. Rev 5:9), encourages you to confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church. I express my appreciation to those of you who have accepted a pastoral mission outside the limits of your own regional or linguistic group and I thank the priests and people who have welcomed and supported you. Your readiness to adapt to others is an eloquent sign that, as the new family of all who believe in Christ (cf. Mk 3:31-35) there is no place in the Church for any kind of division. Catechumens and neophytes must be taught to accept this truth as they make their commitment to Christ and to a life of Christian love. All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives.

Wise and discerning selection of seminarians is vital to the spiritual well-being of your country. Their personal formation must be assured through regular spiritual direction, sacramental reconciliation, prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture. In the word of God seminarians and priests will find the values that distinguish the good priest who is consecrated to the Lord in body and spirit (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). They will learn to serve with personal detachment and pastoral charity those entrusted to their care, strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Tim 2:1).

I would like to highlight the Bishop's task of sustaining the important social and ecclesial reality of marriage and family life. With the cooperation of well prepared priests and lay people, experts and married couples, you will exercise with responsibility and zeal your solicitude in this area of pastoral priority (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 73). Courses for engaged couples, and general and specific catechetical teaching on the value of human life, marriage and the family will strengthen your faithful people for the challenges presented to them by changes in society. Likewise do not fail to encourage associations or movements that validly assist married couples in living their faith and marriage commitments.

As an important service to the nation, you have shown your commitment to interreligious dialogue especially with Islam, where with patience and perseverance, strong relations of respect, friendship and practical cooperation are being forged with other religious people. Through your efforts as diligent and untiring promoters of goodwill, the Church will become a clearer sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1).

Your dedication to derive from Catholic principles enlightened comments on current national problems is greatly appreciated. The natural law, inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being (cf. World Day of Peace Message 2009, 8), and the Gospel, properly understood and applied to civic and political realities, do not in any way reduce the range of valid political options. On the contrary, they constitute a guarantee offered to all citizens of a life of freedom, with respect for their dignity as persons, and protection from ideological manipulation and abuse based on the law of the strongest (cf. Address to the Plenary Session of the International Theological Commission, 5 December 2008). With confidence in the Lord, continue to exercise your Episcopal authority in the struggle against unjust practices and corruption and against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping. By promoting Catholic Social Doctrine you offer your loyal contribution to your country and assist in the consolidation of a national order based on solidarity and a culture of human rights.

My dear Brother Bishops, I exhort you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong; let all that you do be done in love" (1 Cor 16:13-14). Please convey my greetings to your beloved people, especially to those many believers who bear witness to Christ in hope through prayer and suffering (cf. Spe Salvi, 35 and 36). My warm affection goes also to those who serve in the family, in parishes and mission stations, in education, health care and other spheres of Christian charity. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the prayers of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi and to the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words to Prelates of Hong Kong and Macao
"Christ Is Also for China a Teacher, Pastor and Loving Redeemer"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the bishops of the Chinese dioceses of Hong Kong and Macao at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30). With these words I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to you. I thank His Eminence Cardinal Zen for the kind words of filial devotion which he expressed on your behalf. Please be assured of my personal affection and my prayers for you and for all who have been entrusted to your pastoral care. I am thinking at this moment of the priests, the religious men and women and all the lay faithful of your two diocesan communities. This Ad Limina Apostolorum visit is an occasion to renew your commitment to make Jesus ever more visible in the Church and better known in society by bearing witness to his love and the truth of his Gospel.

As I wrote in my letter of 27 May 2007 to the Catholic Church in China, referring to the invitation Duc in altum (cf. Lk 5:4) which Jesus offered to Peter, to his brother Andrew and to the first disciples, "these words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13:8)" (cf. No. 3). Your two particular Churches are also called to be witnesses to Christ, to look forward in hope and to announce the Gospel facing up to the new challenges that the people of Hong Kong and Macao must embrace.

The Lord has given every man and woman the right to hear the proclamation that Jesus Christ "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Corresponding to this right is the duty to evangelize: "For I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16; cf Rom 10:14). All of the Church's activities are oriented towards evangelization and may not be separated from the commitment to assist everyone to encounter Christ in faith, which is the primary aim of evangelization: "Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little" (Benedict XVI Homily during Holy Mass at Munich's Neue Messe Esplanade [10 September 2006] AAS 98 [2006] 710).

The Church's mission is taking place today in the context of globalization. I observed recently that the forces generated by globalization hold humanity suspended between two poles. On the one hand are the many social and cultural bonds which tend to promote attitudes of world-wide solidarity and shared responsibility for the good of mankind. On the other hand, there are worrying signs of fragmentation and individualism dominated by secularism which pushes the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipses the very source of harmony and unity of the universe. The negative aspects of this cultural phenomenon draw attention to the need for a solid formation and call for concentrated efforts aimed at supporting the spiritual and moral ethos of your people.

I am aware that in both Dioceses, just as in the rest of the Church, an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is needed. Hence the invitation extended to you as Bishops who are responsible for your ecclesial communities, to give special attention to young priests confronted with new pastoral challenges arising from the task of evangelizing a society as complex as today's. Ongoing formation of the clergy "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom the priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that 'new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the Second Millennium" (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis [25 March 1992], 70: AAS [1992] 78). Your pastoral solicitude should embrace especially all consecrated men and women, called to render visible in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient.

Dear Brothers, as you know, Catholic schools offer an important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations. This crucial aspect of personal growth is what motivates Catholic parents, and those from other religious traditions, to seek out Catholic schools. In this regard I wish to send greetings to all the men and women who offer generous service to the Catholic schools of both Dioceses. They are called to be "witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world" and to posses "the courage of witnessing and the patience of dialogue" serving "human dignity, the harmony of creation, the existence of peoples and peace" (Consecrated Persons and their mission in schools, 1-2). It is therefore of great importance to be close to students and to their families, to watch over the formation of the young in the light of Gospel teaching and to follow closely the spiritual needs of all who form part of the school community. The Catholic schools of your two dioceses have given significant impulse to the social development and cultural growth of your people. Today these educational centres face new difficulties; be assured that I am with you, and I encourage you to ensure that this important service will never fall by the wayside.

In your mission as Pastors, draw confidence from the Paraclete who defends, counsels and protects (cf. Jn 14:16)! Encourage the faithful to welcome all to which the Spirit gives birth! I have recalled on different occasions that ecclesial movements and new communities are a "luminous sign of the beauty of Christ and of the Church his Bride" (cf. Message to the Participants in the Congress of 22 May 2006). Addressing them as my "dear friends of the movements", I encouraged them to act so that they would always be "schools of communion, journeying together and learning the truth and the love that Jesus has revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the great family of his disciples" (ibid.). I exhort you to support the movements with great love because they are one of the most important new realities fostered by the Spirit in the Church in order to put into practice the Second Vatican Council (cf. Address to the participants of a Seminar promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity [17 May 2008]). I pray too that the movements themselves will make every effort to harmonize their activities with the pastoral and spiritual programmes of the Dioceses.

I am personally grateful to you for the affection and devotion you have shown to the Holy See in different ways. As I congratulate you on the many achievements of your well organized Diocesan communities, I encourage you to even greater commitment in the search for adequate means of presenting the Christian message of love in a more comprehensible way to the world in which you live. By doing so you will effectively show to all your brothers and sisters the enduring youthfulness and inexhaustible capacity for renewal of the Gospel of Christ, and bear witness to the fact that one can be authentically Catholic and authentically Chinese at the same time.

I also encourage your Dioceses to continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China, both by offering personnel for formation purposes and by supporting initiatives in the field of human promotion and assistance. In this regard I cannot but recognize the invaluable service which the charitable organization Caritas of both Dioceses has offered to the needy with such generosity and professionalism. We must never forget however that Christ is also for China a Teacher, Pastor and loving Redeemer. The Church must never allow this good news to remain unspoken.

I hope and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your Brother Bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church. I willingly avail myself of the occasion to send to the Catholic community of China and to all the people of that vast country the assurance of my prayers and my affection.


Papal Address on Career of Cardinal Ruini
"An Example of Commitment to 'Thinking the Faith'"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2008 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon receiving Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, who retired today. Cardinal Ruini was accompanied by his successor, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and 400 representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

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

I am very happy to receive you and to offer each of you my cordial welcome. I address it in the first place and especially to you, dear Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whom today I wish to publicly thank, at the end of your long service as vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. I already had the occasion a few days ago to express my sentiments to you with a letter, in which I recalled the many aspects of such a long and appreciated ministry, begun in January 1991, when the Servant of God John Paul II called you to succeed Cardinal Ugo Poletti. Now I have the opportunity to renew to you the expression of my gratitude before the auxiliary bishops, prefects, parish priests, and the other representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

The closing years of last century, and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time, and all the more so for people who, such as us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor. He led the people of God through the historic finish of the year 2000 and, through the Great Jubilee, introducing it in the third millennium of the Christian era.

Collaborating closely with him, we were "drawn along" by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with his Most Holy Mother. John Paul II's missionary charisma had, as it should, a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000.

And this was directly evident in the Diocese of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators. As an example of this, I will limit myself to recall Rome's Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral. These were manifestations of a Church which, at the very moment in which it was gaining a greater awareness of its own diocesan identity and assuming progressively its physiognomy, opened itself decisively to a missionary mentality and a style consistent with it, a mentality and style destined to last not just the length of a season, but, as was often confirmed, to become permanent.

This, venerable brother, is a particularly important aspect, for which I wish to give you merit, to the extent that, as president of the episcopal conference, you promoted and cared for it, not only here in Rome, but also at the level of the entire Italian nation.

Solicitude for the mission was always accompanied and backed up by an outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection, which you manifested and exercised since your youthful years. The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions, which otherwise lapse into sterile activism.

And you, Cardinal, offered in this respect an outstanding contribution, putting at the service of the Holy Father, of the Holy See and of the whole Church your well-noted gifts of intelligence and wisdom. I witnessed this myself in my previous office, and even more so in these last years, in which I have been able to make use of your closeness in serving the Church in Italy, and particularly in Rome. I am pleased to recall in this respect our collaboration on the topics of diocesan ecclesial meetings, called to respond to the most urgent pastoral questions, while taking into account the social and cultural context of the city.

We all know that the "cultural project" is a special initiative of the Italian Church due to the zeal and farsightedness of Cardinal Ruini, but this expression, "cultural project," requires more attention generally and radically to the Church's place in society; in other words, the desire of the Christian community -- responding to the mission of its Lord -- to be present among men and women, and in history, with a plan for mankind, family and social relationships, inspired by the Word of God and expressed through dialogue with the culture of the time.

In this, dear cardinal, you have given an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to "thinking the faith" in absolute conformity to the magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society.

While I express my gratitude to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, I am happy to communicate that, in his place, as vicar for the Diocese of Rome, I have appointed Cardinal Agostino Vallini, until now Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature. I greet you with great affection and welcome you in the new office. I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great Archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality. At the same time I have appointed you archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Dear cardinal, from today my prayer for you will be particularly intense, so that the Lord will grant you all the graces necessary in this new office. I encourage you to express fully your pastoral zeal and wish you a serene and profitable ministry, in which -- I am sure -- you will be able to count on the constant and generous collaboration of the auxiliary bishops and priests, religious and laity that work in the Vicariate of Rome. I take advantage also of this happy circumstance, dear brothers and sisters, to express to all of you, who work in the central offices of the diocese, my heartfelt gratitude and my encouragement to do always better, for the good of the Church that is in Rome.

Dear cardinals, may God fill you with an abundance of his gifts. Recompense him who retires and sustain him who takes his place. May he multiply in all thanksgiving for his infinite goodness and always grant each one the joy of serving Christ by working humbly for his Church. May the Virgin Mary, "Salus Populi Romani," watch over us from heaven and accompany us. Invoking her intercession, I impart from my heart to all of you here present and to the entire city of Rome the apostolic blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to Pakistani Bishops
"The Centrality of the Eucharist Should Be Apparent in the Lives of Priests"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2008 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today to bishops of Pakistan in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Pakistan, as you make your quinquennial pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Grateful to Archbishop Saldanha for his kind words, I convey warm greetings to the priests, religious and laity of your dioceses, assuring them of my prayers for their well-being. May they never tire in giving thanks for having received the "first fruits" of the Holy Spirit, who is always with them to strengthen them and to intercede on their behalf (cf. Rom 8:23-27).

The seeds of the Gospel, sown in your region by zealous missionaries in the sixteenth century, continue to grow despite conditions that sometimes hinder their capacity to take root. Your visit to the See of Peter not only provides me with an opportunity to rejoice with you over the fruits of your labours, but to listen to your account of the hardships which you and your flock must endure for the sake of the Lord's name. Whenever we courageously shoulder the burdens placed upon us in circumstances often beyond our control, we encounter Jesus himself, who gives us a hope that surpasses the sufferings of the present because it transforms us from within (cf. Spe Salvi, 4).

Your priests, united by a special bond to Christ the Good Shepherd, are heralds of Christian hope as they proclaim that Jesus lives among his people to ease their anguish and strengthen them in their weakness (cf. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 75). I would ask you to assure your clergy of my spiritual closeness to them as they carry out this task. Just as the Lord continually gave to his Apostles signs of his love and solicitude for them, so should you strive to create a climate of affection and trust with your clergy who are your principal and irreplaceable co-workers. By looking upon you as a father and brother (cf. Pastores Gregis, 47) and hearing your words of encouragement for their pastoral initiatives, they will be inspired to unite their will to yours and dedicate themselves more completely to the spiritual good of God's people (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14-15).

The centrality of the Eucharist, both through the worthy celebration of the Lord's Supper and in silent adoration of the Sacrament, should be especially apparent in the lives of priests and Bishops. This will lead the laity to follow your example and come to a deeper appreciation for the Lord's abiding presence among them. As Bishops, you are the chief stewards of the mysteries of God and the main promoters of the liturgical life of your local Churches (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 22). In this regard, I am pleased to note the various programmes you have initiated to raise awareness of the radical change that becomes possible when Christians allow their entire life to take on a "eucharistic form" (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 70-83). The source and summit of the Church's life radically reorients the way Christians think, speak and act in the world and makes present the salvific meaning of Christ's death and resurrection, thus renewing history and vivifying all creation. The breaking of the bread reminds us again and again that the absurdity of violence never has the last word, for Christ has conquered sin and death through his glorious resurrection. The holy Sacrifice assures us that his wounds are the remedy for our sins, his weakness the power of God within us, and his death our life (cf. 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 13:4; 2 Cor 4:10). I am confident that the daily offering of the Mass by you and your priests will lead your people to give constant thanks and praise to God the Father for the graces granted us in his Son, through whom we have received the Spirit of filial adoption (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1110).

Eucharistic spirituality embraces every aspect of the Christian life (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 77). This is evident in the emerging vitality of ecclesial movements within your Dioceses. The charisms of these associations both reflect and meet the particular needs of our time. By exhorting the members of these movements and all the faithful to listen attentively to the word of God and to cultivate a habit of daily prayer, may your people foster genuine fellowship and create ever expanding networks of charitable solicitude for their neighbours.

My dear brothers, I join you in thanking God who calls forth men to serve as priests in your local Churches. The theologate in Karachi, the programme of philosophy in Lahore and your minor seminaries are vital institutions for the future of the Church in Pakistan. Never doubt that your investment of human and material resources will ensure a solid formation for your candidates for the priesthood. Generous collaborators are also to be found among members of religious orders who can help to enhance programmes of priestly formation and strengthen bonds of cooperation between religious and diocesan clergy. Of particular urgency at the present time is the task of preparing these men - and indeed all catechists and lay leaders - to become effective promoters of interreligious dialogue. They share a responsibility with all Christians in Pakistan to foster understanding and trust with members of other religions by constructing peaceful forums for open conversation.

Likewise, other Catholic institutions continue to serve the common good of the Pakistani people. They demonstrate that the love of Christ is no mere abstraction, but reaches out to every man and woman as it passes through real persons working in the Church's charitable institutions. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus cannot be loved in the abstract (cf. Mt 25:31-37). Those who serve in Catholic hospitals, schools, social and charitable agencies respond to the concrete needs of others, knowing well that they are ministering to the Lord himself through their particular acts of charity (cf. Mt 25:40). I encourage you to build on the noble example of service to neighbour etched in the history of these institutions. Priests, religious and the lay faithful in your Dioceses, by caring for the sick, helping young people grow in knowledge and virtue, and meeting the needs of the poor, reveal the human face of God's love for each and every person. May their encounter with the living Christ awaken in their hearts a desire to share with others the joy of living in God's presence (cf. Ps 73:25, 28). In imitation of Saint Paul, may they freely give to others what they themselves have received without cost (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 2 Cor 11:7; Mt 10:8).

My brothers in the Episcopate, you exercise a special mission as preachers of the Gospel and as agents of love and peace in the Church and in society. May you support one another in prayer and effective collaboration as you face the difficult tasks that lie ahead. Invoking upon you and your priests, religious and lay faithful the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.


Papal Address to Bangladesh Prelates
"Bishops Are Called to Be Patient, Mild and Gentle"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2008 - Here is the English-langauge address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving the bishops of Bangladesh, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.
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Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Bangladesh, on your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Archbishop Costa for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. Your generous love of God, your solicitude for the people entrusted to your care by the Lord Jesus, and your bond of unity in the Holy Spirit are for me a cause of profound joy and thanksgiving.

Personal integrity and holiness of life are essential components of a Bishop’’s witness since "before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop must be a hearer of the word" (cf. Pastores Gregis, 15). Again and again our Christian experience demonstrates the Gospel paradox that joy and fulfilment are to be attained through the complete gift of self for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom (cf. Mk 8:35). Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes. In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 5:1-12). Their personal witness of evangelical integrity is complemented and strengthened by the many fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful as they tend to the perfection of charity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39). For this reason, I join you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the growth and fervour of the Catholic community in Bangladesh, especially amid the daily challenges it faces. Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God (cf. Lk 6:22).

As successors of the Apostles, you are called in a special way to teach God’’s chosen people, availing yourselves of the many gifts God has granted his community for the effective transmission of the deposit of Faith. In this regard, I appreciate your efforts to ensure that your lay catechists are sufficient in number, well prepared and given due recognition by the faithful. I pray that their example and dedication will draw other lay men and women to a more active role in the Church’’s apostolates. As you know from your own pastoral experience, catechists play an integral role in preparing laypeople to receive the sacraments. This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the Sacrament of Matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness. I have often mentioned my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment (cf. Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, 16 April 2008) . There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel.

One clear sign of this radical commitment is seen in the many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing. I encourage your efforts to offer these candidates suitable formation that will bring forth abundant fruits. In this regard, I also wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the generous assistance offered by the Church in other countries, especially Korea, in the preparation of your seminarians and priests.

The Church is Catholic: a community embracing peoples of all races and languages, and not limited to any one culture or particular social, economic or political system (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 42). She is at the service of the entire human family, freely sharing her gifts for the well-being of all. This gives her a connatural ability to foster unity and peace. My dear brothers, you and your people, as promoters of harmony and peace, have much to offer the nation. In your love for your country you inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. By encouraging people who share important values to cooperate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country’’s stability and to maintain it for the future. These efforts, however subtle, give effective support to the majority of your fellow citizens who uphold the country’’s noble tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and social harmony. May you likewise continue to sustain and counsel Catholic lay people and all who wish to offer their service for the good of society in public office, social communications, in education, healthcare and social assistance. May they always rejoice in the knowledge that Christ accepts as a gesture of personal love whatever good is done to the least of his brothers (cf. Mt 25:40).

I am aware of recent initiatives you have taken in the field of interreligious dialogue, and I exhort you to persevere with patient dedication to this essential component of the Church’’s mission ad gentes (Ecclesia in Asia, 31). Indeed, much good can be accomplished when it is conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration in truth and freedom. All men and women have an obligation to seek the truth. When it is found, they are compelled to model their entire lives in accordance with its demands (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2). Consequently, the most important contribution we can bring to interreligious dialogue is our knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). Dialogue, based on mutual respect and truth, cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country. The delicacy of this task requires thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region.

At the end of this month, we will begin the celebration of the Pauline Year, which will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. Saint Paul was not ashamed to preach the Gospel; he saw in it the power of God to save (cf. Rom 1:16). I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you. Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it (cf. Acts 1:8). My prayers accompany you as you lead your priests, men and women religious and lay faithful along the path marked out by so many dedicated missionaries, beginning with Saint Francis Xavier, who brought the Gospel to your country. The Church you represent "proclaims the Good News with loving respect and esteem for her listeners" (Ecclesia in Asia, 20). Continue this task with goodness and simplicity, and with "creativity in charity" (cf. Pastores Gregis, 73), according to your talents, your specific graces and the means at your disposal. Have confidence in the Lord who opens the hearts of listeners to heed what is announced in his name (cf. Acts 16:14).

Dear brother Bishops, I know that you find great courage and inspiration in the words of Christ who commissioned you, "Behold I am with you always, unto the end of time" (Mt 28:20). As you return to your homeland, please convey my prayerful encouragement and affectionate good wishes to your priests, men and women religious, your catechists and all your beloved people. To each of you, and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Speech to Southeast Asian Bishops
"If the Faith Is to Flourish ... It Needs to Strike Deep Roots"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2008 ( Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,
I am pleased to welcome you on your ad Limina visit, as you renew the bonds of communion in faith and love between yourselves as Pastors of God's people in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and the Successor of Peter in the See of Rome. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Pakiam has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you the assurance of my prayers and good wishes for all of you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care.

By a happy coincidence, your visit to the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul comes at a time when the Church all over the world is preparing to celebrate a year dedicated to Saint Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, on the two-thousandth anniversary of his birth. I pray that you will draw inspiration from the example of this zealous apostle, outstanding teacher, and courageous witness to the truth of the Gospel. Through his intercession, may you experience renewed fervour in the great missionary task for which you, like Saint Paul, have been set apart and called (cf. Gal 1:15-16) –– that of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Echoing the words addressed by Saint Paul to the elders at Ephesus, I urge you to "take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).

"The Church's faith in Jesus is a gift received and a gift to be shared; it is the greatest gift which the Church can offer to Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia, 10). Happily, the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God (cf. ibid., 9). In handing on to them the message that you also received (cf. 1 Cor 15:3), you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground. If the faith is to flourish, however, it needs to strike deep roots in Asian soil, lest it be perceived as a foreign import, alien to the culture and traditions of your people. Mindful of the manner in which Saint Paul preached the Good News to the Athenians (cf. Acts 17:22-34), you are called to present the Christian faith in ways that resonate with the "innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul" (Ecclesia in Asia, 6), so that people will welcome it and make it their own.

In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment. On the contrary, by "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism. You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world. While resisting the "dictatorship of positivist reason" that tries to exclude God from public discourse, we should welcome the "true conquests of the Enlightenment" –– especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice (cf. Address to the Members of the Roman Curia at the Traditional Exchange of Christmas Greetings, 22 December 2006). By stressing the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God's image, you carry out an important task of evangelization, since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel. In so doing, you are following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, who knew how to express the essentials of Christian faith and practice in a way that could be assimilated by the Gentile communities to which he was sent.

This Pauline apostolate requires a commitment to interreligious dialogue, and I encourage you to carry forward this important work, exploring every avenue open to you. I realize that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools. Do not become disheartened, but continue to proclaim with conviction the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8), so that all may come to hear of the love of God made manifest in Jesus. In the context of open and honest dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other religions present in your respective countries, you assist your fellow citizens to recognize and observe the law "written on their hearts" (Rom 2:15) by clearly articulating the truth of the Gospel. In this way, your teaching can reach a wide audience and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This in turn should help to foster growth in religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community.

In terms of the pastoral care that you offer to your people, I would encourage you to show particular concern for your priests. Using the image evoked by Saint Paul in writing to the young Timothy, urge them to rekindle the gift of God that is within them through the laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6). Be a father, brother and friend to them, as Paul was to Timothy and to Titus. Lead them by example, showing them the way to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd. Saint Paul famously proclaimed "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). By modelling your whole life and conduct upon Christ, let your priests see what it is to live as alter Christus in the midst of your people. In this way, not only will you inspire them to offer their whole lives "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1), but more young people will aspire to this sublime life of priestly service.

I am aware that in the territories you represent there are some regions where it is rare for the people to see a priest and others where the people have not yet heard the Gospel. They too have a particular claim on your pastoral solicitude and your prayers. For "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10:14). Here the formation of the laity takes on added importance, so that through sound catechesis the scattered children of God can know the hope to which they have been called, "the riches of his glorious inheritance" (Eph 1:18). In this way they can be prepared to welcome the priest when he comes among them. Tell your catechists, both lay and religious, that I remember them in my prayers, and that I appreciate the enormous contribution they make to the life of the Christian communities in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Through their vital work, countless men, women and children are enabled "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" and so come to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).

Dear brother Bishops, I pray that, as you return to your respective countries, you will "rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess 5:16). Commending all of you and your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.


Pope's Address to Myanmar Bishops
"Universal Church Is Joined Spiritually With Those Who Mourn"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave today to the bishops of Myanmar, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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My dear brother Bishops,
I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Myanmar, who have come to the City of Rome to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles and to strengthen your communion with the Successor of Peter. Our encounter today bears witness to the unity, charity and peace that bind us together and animate our mission to teach, guide and sanctify the people of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 22). I am grateful for the kind greetings and the assurance of prayers which Archbishop Paul Grawng has expressed to me in your name and on behalf of the clergy, the Religious and laity of your respective Dioceses. I wish to reciprocate with my cordial greetings and sincere prayer that "the Lord may give you peace at all times and in all ways" (cf. 2 Thess 3:16).

The Church in Myanmar is known and admired for its solidarity with the poor and needy. This has been especially evident in the concern you have shown in the aftermath of the cyclone Nargis. The numerous Catholic agencies and associations in your land show that the people under your care have heeded the Baptist's cry: "Let he who has two coats share with him who has none; let he who has food do likewise!" (Lk 3:11). I am confident that under your guidance, the faithful will continue to demonstrate the possibility of establishing "a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity" (Deus Caritas Est, 30), so that others will "experience the richness of their humanity" and that "God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (ibid., 31; cf. 1 Pt 4:8-11).

During these difficult days, I know how grateful the Burmese people are for the Church's efforts to provide shelter, food, water, and medicine to those still in distress. I am hopeful that, following the agreement recently reached on the provision of aid by the international community, all who are ready to help will be able to furnish the type of assistance required and enjoy effective access to the places where it is needed most. At this critical time, I render thanks to Almighty God that he has brought us together "face to face" (1 Thess 2:17), for it gives me the occasion to reassure you that the universal Church is joined spiritually with those who mourn the loss of loved ones (cf. Rm 12:15), as she holds out to them the Lord's promise of comfort and consolation (cf. Mt 5:4). May God open the hearts of all so that a concerted effort may be made to facilitate and coordinate the ongoing endeavour to bring relief to the suffering and rebuild the country's infrastructure.

The Church's mission of charity shines forth in a particular way through the Religious life, by which men and women devote themselves with "undivided" heart to the service of God and neighbour (cf. 1 Cor 7:34; cf. Vita Consecrata, 3). I am pleased to note that an increasing number of women are responding to the call to consecrated life in your region. I pray that their free and radical acceptance of the evangelical counsels will inspire others to embrace the life of chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the Kingdom. Preparing candidates for this service of prayer and apostolic work requires an investment of time and resources. The formation courses offered by the Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar attest to the cooperation possible between different religious communities with due respect for the particular charism of each, and point to the need for sound academic, spiritual and human formation.

Similar signs of hope are seen in the rising number of vocations to the priesthood. These men are both "called together" and "sent out to preach" (cf. Lk 9:1-2) to be examples of faithfulness and holiness for the People of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit and led by your fatherly care, may priests perform their sacred duties in humility, simplicity and obedience (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 15). As you know, this requires a thorough formation that accords with the dignity of their priestly office. I therefore encourage you to continue making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that seminarians receive the integral formation that will enable them to become authentic heralds of the New Evangelization (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 2).

My dear brothers, the Church's mission to spread the Good News depends on a generous and prompt response from the lay faithful to become labourers in the vineyard (cf. Mt 20:1-16; 9:37-38). They too are in need of a robust and dynamic Christian formation which will inspire them to carry the Gospel message to their workplaces, families, and to society at large (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 22). Your reports allude to the enthusiasm with which the laity are organizing many new catechetical and spiritual initiatives, often involving great numbers of young people. As you foster and oversee these activities, I encourage you to remind those under your care to turn continually to the nourishment of the Eucharist through participation in the liturgy and silent contemplation (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 6). Effective programs of evangelization and catechesis also require clear planning and organization if they are to achieve the desired end of teaching Christian truth and drawing people into the love of Christ. It is desirable that they make use of appropriate aids, including booklets and audio-visual materials, to complement oral instruction and to provide common points of reference for authentic Catholic doctrine. I am certain that other local Churches throughout the world will do what they can to furnish materials whenever possible.

Your active participation in the First Asian Mission Congress has led to new initiatives for promoting goodwill with Buddhists in your country. In this regard, I encourage you as you develop ever better relations with Buddhists for the good of your individual communities and of the entire nation.

Finally, my dear brothers, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for your faithful ministry in the midst of difficult circumstances and setbacks often beyond your control. Next month, the Church inaugurates a special Jubilee year in honour of Saint Paul. This "Apostle to the Gentiles" has been admired through the centuries for his undaunted perseverance in trials and tribulations vividly recounted in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2 Tim 1:8-13; Acts 27:13-44). Paul exhorts us to keep our gaze fixed on the glory that awaits us so as never to despair in the pain and sufferings of today. The gift of hope which we have received-and in which we are saved (cf. Rom 8:24)-imparts grace and transforms our way of living (cf. Spe Salvi, 3). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to join Saint Paul in the sure confidence that nothing-neither distress, or persecution, or famine, nor things present, nor things to come-can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Rom 8:35-39).

Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your clergy, Religious and lay faithful.


Pope's Address to Bishops of the Antilles
"Be Audacious Witnesses to the Light of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience prelates from the Antilles Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their five-yearly visit.
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Dear Brother Bishops,

"What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord with ourselves as servants" (2 Cor 4:5). With these stirring words of Saint Paul I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of the Antilles. I thank Archbishop Burke for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf and I warmly reciprocate them and assure you of my prayers for yourselves and those entrusted to your pastoral care. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is an occasion to strengthen your commitment to make the face of Jesus increasingly visible within the Church and society through consistent witness to the Gospel.

The great ‘drama’ of Holy Week and the joyful liturgical season of Easter express the very essence of the hope which defines us as Christians. Jesus, who indicates to us the way beyond even death, is the one who shows us how to overcome trials and fear. He is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). Indeed, filled with the light of Christ we too illuminate the way which dispels all evil, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride (cf. Exsultet).

The image of the paschal light I trust, dear Brothers, will draw you forward as you engage with the considerable challenges you face. Your own reports articulate with frankness both the light and the shadows cast upon your Dioceses. Undoubtedly the religious soul of the peoples of your region is capable of great things! Generosity of heart and openness of mind attest to a spirit willing to be shaped by the truth and love of our Lord. Yet there is also much that seeks to quench the dimly burning wick (cf. Is 42:3). To varying degrees, your shores have been battered by negative aspects of the entertainment industry, exploitative tourism and the scourge of the arms and drugs trade; influences which not only undermine family life and unsettle the foundations of traditional cultural values, but tend to affect negatively local politics.

Brothers, against this disturbing backdrop, stand tall as heralds of hope! Be audacious witnesses to the light of Christ, which gives families direction and purpose, and be bold preachers of the power of the Gospel, which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour. I am confident that your lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2 Cor 1:20) will encourage your peoples to reject destructive social trends and to seek ‘faith in action’, embracing all that begets the new life of Pentecost!

Pastoral renewal is an indispensable task for each of your Dioceses. Already there are examples where this challenge has been embraced with enthusiasm; it must include priests, Religious and the lay faithful. Of vital importance is the tireless promotion of vocations together with the guidance and ongoing formation of priests. You are the primary formators of your priests and, supported by the laity, you bear the responsibility for assiduous and prudent encouragement of vocations. Your solicitude for the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of your seminarians and priests is a sure expression of your care and concern for the constant deepening of their pastoral commitment (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 2).

I encourage you to support attentively Saint John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs Seminary, to supervise in a fatherly way especially your young priests and to offer regular programmes of ongoing formation necessary for building priestly identity (cf. ibid., 71). In turn, your priests will surely nurture their parish communities with growing maturity and spiritual wisdom. The establishment of a francophone seminary in the region is a welcome sign of hope; please convey to its staff and seminarians the assurance of my prayers.

The contribution of Religious Brothers, Priests and Sisters to the mission of the Church and the building up of civil society has been of immeasurable worth to your countries. Innumerable boys, girls and families have benefited from the selfless commitment of Religious to spiritual guidance, education, and social and medical work. Of special value and beauty is the life of prayer found in the contemplative communities of the region. Your pastoral concern for the decline in Religious vocations exemplifies your deep appreciation of consecrated life. I too appeal to your Religious communities, encouraging them to reaffirm their calling with confidence and, guided by the Holy Spirit, to propose afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission; the spiritual treasures of their respective charisms splendidly illuminate the paths by which the Lord calls young people to the adventure of the life of love offered to him for every member of the human family (cf. Vita Consecrata, 3).

[The Pope continued in French]

Dear Brothers, each one of you feels the great responsibility to do everything possible to support marriage and family life, which is the primary source of cohesion in communities and hence of vital importance in the eyes of the government authorities. In this perspective, the great network of Catholic schools throughout your region can make a great contribution. Values rooted in the way of truth presented by Christ illuminate the spirit and heart of young people and encourage them to continue along the path of faithfulness, responsibility and real freedom. Good young Christians make good citizens. I am sure that everything will be done to encourage the Catholicity of your schools, which, for generations, have offered a remarkable service to your people. In this way, I do not doubt that the young adults of your dioceses will know to discern their return, in an urgent way, to contribute to the economic and social development of region, because it will be an essential dimension of their Christian witness.

With fraternal affection I offer these reflections wishing to affirm you in your desire to intensify the summons to witness and evangelization which ensue from the encounter with Christ. United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, go forward in hope! Please assure all your seminarians and priests, Religious, and lay faithful -- including in a special way the considerable immigrant communities -- of my prayers and spiritual communion. To you all, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Message to Kenyan Bishops
"The Country Needs Peace Based on Justice and Brotherhood"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2008 - Here is a text of a message sent to the bishops of Kenya on behalf of Benedict XVI by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The note was addressed to Cardinal John Njue, the archbishop of Nairobi and president of the Kenyan episcopal conference.

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Your Eminence,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has followed with deep sorrow and concern the violence which has broken out in your country, and he has asked me to address this letter to you, in your capacity as the President of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, in order to express his unity and solidarity with your Brother Bishops and all your countrymen, and to assure you of his prayers that this great tragedy will soon come to an end.

The Pope is close in spirit to all the victims of this violence: the many persons who have lost their lives, often atrociously, the grieving members of their families, the wounded, those who are dispossessed or had to abandon their homes, and all those who are threatened and living in fear. Entrusting those who have died to the Lord's mercy, he invites you to reach out generously to all those in distress and need.

It is His Holiness's heartfelt hope that this beloved Nation, whose experience of social tranquility and development represents an element of stability in the entire troubled region, will banish as quickly as possible the threat of ethnic conflict which continues to result in so many crimes in certain parts of Africa.

His Holiness therefore associates himself with the Message My Peace I Give You, which the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Kenya addressed to Christians and to all the people of your country. He pleads for an immediate end to acts of violence and fratricidal conflict. Violence is futile as a means of resolving problems; it only exacerbates them and leads to unprecedented suffering!

The Pope also appeals to political leaders, who are responsible for the common good, and invites them to embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice, since the country needs peace that is based on justice and brotherhood. He encourages them to resolve the present difficulties through dialogue and democratic debate, heeding the practical suggestions which you offered in your Message.

Just a few days ago, at the beginning of the new year, the World Day of Peace was celebrated with the theme: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace". In this context the Holy Father expresses his hope that all Kenyans will work to make their country ever more like a family in which all see themselves as brothers and sisters whose relationships are marked by justice and love. He likewise asks believers to pray tirelessly to God for the great gift of peace. For these intentions he cordially imparts to you, Venerable Brothers, and to all the priests, men and women religious and the faithful a special Apostolic Blessing.

Joining His Holiness in expressing these sentiments, I take this occasion to offer you my warm and respectful greetings.

Yours sincerely in Christ,


Secretary of State

From the Vatican, 5 January 2008


Benedict XVI to Japanese Bishops
"Other Nations Can Learn From the Witness to Peace"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2007- Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today in English upon receiving in audience the bishops of Japan, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you on your ad Limina visit, as you come to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you my warmest good wishes and prayers for yourselves and all the people entrusted to your pastoral care. You have come to the city where Peter carried out his mission of evangelization and bore witness to Christ even to the shedding of his blood-and you have come to greet Peter's Successor. In this way you strengthen the apostolic foundations of the Church in your country and you express visibly your communion with all the other members of the College of Bishops and with the Roman Pontiff (cf. Pastores Gregis, 8). I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my sorrow at the recent passing of Cardinal Stephen Hamao, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants, and to express my appreciation for his years of service to the Church. In his person he exemplified the bonds of communion between the Church in Japan and the Holy See. May he rest in peace.

Last year the Church celebrated with great joy the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of Japan. I join you in giving thanks to God for the missionary work that he carried out in your land, and for the seeds of Christian faith that he planted at the time of Japan's first evangelization. The need to proclaim Christ boldly and courageously is a continuing priority for the Church; indeed it is a solemn duty laid upon her by Christ who enjoined the Apostles to "go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation" (Mk 16:16). Your task today is to seek new ways of bringing alive the message of Christ in the cultural setting of modern Japan. Even though Christians form only a small percentage of the population, the faith is a treasure that needs to be shared with the whole of Japanese society. Your leadership in this area needs to inspire clergy and religious, catechists, teachers, and families to offer an explanation for the hope that they possess (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). This in turn requires sound catechesis, based on the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium. Let the light of the faith so shine before others, that "they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

Indeed the world is hungry for the message of hope that the Gospel brings. Even in countries as highly developed as yours, many are discovering that economic success and advanced technology are not sufficient in themselves to bring fulfilment to the human heart. Anyone who does not know God "is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life" (Spe Salvi, 27). Remind people that there is more to life than professional success and profit. Through the practice of charity, in the family and in the community, they can be led towards "that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others" (Deus Caritas Est, 31). This is the great hope that Christians in Japan can offer their compatriots; it is not foreign to Japanese culture, but rather it reinforces and gives new impetus to all that is good and noble in the heritage of your beloved nation. The well-merited respect which the citizens of your country show towards the Church, on account of her fine contribution in education, health care and many other fields, gives you an opportunity to engage with them in dialogue and to speak joyfully to them of Christ, the "light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9). Young people especially are at risk of being deceived by the glamour of modern secular culture. Yet, like all the greater and lesser hopes that appear on first sight to promise so much (cf. Spe Salvi, 30), this turns out to be a false hope - and tragically, disillusion not infrequently leads to depression and despair, even to suicide. If their youthful energy and enthusiasm can be directed towards the things of God, which alone are sufficient to satisfy their deepest longings, more young people will be inspired to commit their lives to Christ, and some will recognize a call to serve him in the priesthood or the religious life. Invite them to consider whether this may be their vocation. Never be afraid to do so. Encourage your priests and religious likewise to be active in promoting vocations, and lead your people in prayer, asking the Lord to "send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38).

The Lord's harvest in Japan is increasingly made up of people of diverse nationalities, to the extent that over half of the Catholic population is formed of immigrants. This provides an opportunity to enrich the life of the Church in your country and to experience the true catholicity of God's people. By taking steps to ensure that all are made to feel welcome in the Church, you can draw on the many gifts that the immigrants bring. At the same time, you need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the liturgical and disciplinary norms of the universal Church are carefully observed. Modern Japan has wholeheartedly chosen to engage with the wider world, and the Catholic Church, with its universal outreach, can make a valuable contribution to this process of ever greater openness to the international community.

Other nations can also learn from Japan, from the accumulated wisdom of her ancient culture, and especially from the witness to peace that has characterized her stance on the world political stage in the last sixty years. You have made the voice of the Church heard on the enduring importance of this witness, all the greater in a world where armed conflicts bring so much suffering to the innocent. I encourage you to continue to speak on matters of public concern in the life of your nation, and to ensure that your statements are promoted and widely disseminated, so that they may be properly heard at all levels within society. In this way, the message of hope that the Gospel brings can truly touch hearts and minds, leading to greater confidence in the future, greater love and respect for life, increasing openness towards the stranger and the sojourner in your midst. "The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life" (Spe Salvi, 2).

In this regard, the forthcoming Beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs offers a clear sign of the strength and vitality of Christian witness in your country's history. From the earliest days, Japanese men and women have been ready to shed their blood for Christ. Through the hope of these people "who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope" (Spe Salvi, 8). I join you in giving thanks to God for the eloquent testimony of Peter Kibe and his companions, who have "washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb" and now serve God day and night within his temple (Rev 7:14f.).

In this Advent season, the whole Church looks forward eagerly to the celebration of our Saviour's birth. I pray that this time of preparation may be for you and for the whole Church in Japan an opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love, so that the Prince of Peace may truly find a home in your hearts. Commending all of you and your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Saint Francis Xavier and the Martyrs of Japan, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.


Benedict XVI's Address to Korean Bishops
"Asia Has Given the Church and the World a Host of Heroes"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2007 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the bishops of the Korean episcopal conference and Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16). With fraternal greetings I welcome you, the Bishops of Korea and the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, and I thank the Most Reverend John Chang Yik, President of the Episcopal Conference, for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude. As servants of the Gospel, you have come to see Peter (cf. Gal 1:18) and to strengthen the bonds of collegiality which express the Church's unity in diversity and safeguard the tradition handed down by the Apostles (cf. "Pastores Gregis," 57).

The Church in your countries has made remarkable progress since the arrival of missionaries in the region over four hundred years ago, and their return to Mongolia just fifteen years ago. This growth is due in no small part to the outstanding witness of the Korean Martyrs and others throughout Asia who remained steadfastly faithful to Christ and his Church. The endurance of their testimony speaks eloquently of the fundamental concept of communio that unifies and vivifies ecclesial life in all its dimensions.

The Evangelist John's numerous exhortations to abide in the love and truth of Christ evoke the image of a sure and safe dwelling place. God first loves us and we, drawn towards his gift of living water, "constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est," 7). Yet Saint John also had to urge his communities to remain in that love, for already some had been enticed by the distractions which lead to interior weakness and eventual detachment from the communio of believers.

This admonition to remain in Christ's love also has a particular significance for you today. Your reports attest to the lure of materialism and the negative effects of a secularist mentality. When men and women are drawn away from the Lord's dwelling place they inevitably wander in a wilderness of individual isolation and social fragmentation, for "it is only in the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" ("Gaudium et Spes," 22).

Dear Brothers, from this perspective it is evident that to be effective shepherds of hope you must strive to ensure that the bond of communion which unites Christ to all the baptized is safeguarded and experienced as the heart of the mystery of the Church (cf. "Ecclesia in Asia," 24). With their eyes fixed on the Lord, the faithful must echo anew the Martyrs' cry of faith: "we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). Such faith is sustained and nurtured by an ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ who comes to men and women through the Church: the sign and sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all people (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 1). The gateway to this mystery of communion with God is of course Baptism. This sacrament of initiation, far more than a social ritual or welcome into a particular community, is the initiative of God (cf. Rite of Baptism, 98). Those reborn through the waters of new life enter the door of the universal Church and are drawn into the dynamism of the life of faith.

Indeed, the profound importance of this sacrament underscores your growing concern that not a few of the numerous adults received into the Church in your region every year fail to maintain a commitment to "the full participation in liturgical celebrations which is ... a right and obligation by reason of ... Baptism" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," 14). I encourage you to ensure, especially through a joyous mystagogia, that the "flame of faith" is kept "alive in the hearts" (Rite of Baptism, 100) of the newly baptized.

The word communio also refers of course to the Eucharistic centre of the Church as Saint Paul eloquently teaches (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17). The Eucharist roots our understanding of the Church in the intimate encounter between Jesus and humanity and reveals the source of ecclesial unity: Christ's act of giving himself to us makes us his body. The commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection in the Eucharist is the "supreme sacramental manifestation of communio in the Church" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," 38) whereby local Churches allow themselves to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord and strengthened in unity within the one Body (cf. "Sacramentum Caritatis," 15).

Your programmes designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful. I join you in urging the laity -- and in a special way the young people in your region -- to explore the depth and breadth of our Eucharistic communion. Gathered every Sunday in the Lord's House, we are consumed by Christ's love and truth and empowered to bring hope to the world.

Dear Brothers, consecrated men and women are rightly recognized as "witnesses and artisans of that plan of communion which stands at the centre of history according to God" (Vita Consecrata, 39). Please assure the men and women Religious in your territories of my appreciation of the prophetic contribution they are making to ecclesial life in your nations. I am confident that, faithful to their essential nature and respective charisms, they will bear bold witness to the specifically Christian "gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family" (ibid., 3).

For your own part, I encourage you to ensure that Religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God's Kingdom. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Church's history is surely her schools of spirituality. By articulating and sharing these living treasures with the laity, Religious will do much to enhance the vibrancy of ecclesial life within your jurisdictions. They will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity as they witness to the vitality of the Holy Spirit enlivening the Church in every generation.

I wish to conclude by briefly reiterating the importance of the promotion of marriage and family life in your region. Your efforts in this field stand at the heart of the evangelization of culture and contribute much to the well-being of society as a whole. This vital apostolate, in which many priests and Religious are already engaged, rightly belongs also to the laity. The growing complexity of matters regarding the family -- including the advances in biomedical science about which I spoke recently to Korea's Ambassador to the Holy See -- raises the question of providing appropriate training for those committed to working in this area. In this regard, I wish to draw your attention to the valuable contribution made by the Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Life now present in many parts of the world.

Lastly, dear Brothers, I ask you to convey to your people my particular gratitude for their generosity to the universal Church. Both the growing number of missionaries and the contributions offered by the laity are an eloquent sign of their selfless spirit. I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the well-being of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God's providential care upon all North Koreans. Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith who are commemorated in the great song of praise: Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus. May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim. With fraternal affection I commend you to the intercession of Mary, model of all disciples, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses and Prefecture.


Pope's Address for Consistory of Cardinals
"Where Christ Is, There Is His Kingdom"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily of Benedict XVI for the Mass of the consistory for the elevation of new cardinals, held Nov. 25 in St. Peter's Basilica, the feast of Christ the King.

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

The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crown of the liturgical year, is enriched by the acceptance into the College of Cardinals of 23 new members whom, according to tradition, I have invited to concelebrate the Eucharist with me today. I address to each one of them my cordial greeting, which I extend with fraternal affection to all the Cardinals present. I am also pleased to greet the delegations from various countries and the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See; the numerous Bishops and priests, the men and women Religious and all the faithful, especially those from Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral guidance of some of the new Cardinals.

The liturgical Feast of Christ the King gives our celebration an especially significant background, outlined and illuminated by the Biblical Readings. We find ourselves as it were facing an imposing fresco with three great scenes: at the centre, the Crucifixion according to the Evangelist Luke's account; on one side, the royal anointing of David by the elders of Israel; on the other, the Christological hymn with which St Paul introduces the Letter to the Colossians. The whole scene is dominated by the figure of Christ, the one Lord before whom we are all brothers and sisters. The Church's entire hierarchy, every charism and ministry, everything and everyone are at the service of his Lordship.

We must begin from the central event: the Cross. Here Christ manifests his unique Kingship. On Calvary two opposite attitudes confront each other. Some figures at the foot of the Cross as well as one of the two thieves address the Crucified One contemptuously: If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, they say, save yourself by coming down from the cross. Jesus reveals instead his own glory by remaining there on the Cross as the immolated Lamb. The other thief unexpectedly sides with him, and he implicitly confesses the royalty of the innocent, just One and implores: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power" (Lk 23: 42). St Cyril of Alexandria comments: "You see him crucified and you call him King. You believe that he who bears scoffing and suffering will reach divine glory" (Comment on Luke, Homily 153). According to the Evangelist John, the divine glory is already present, although hidden by the disfiguration of the Cross. But also in the language of Luke, the future is anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23: 43). St Ambrose observes: "He prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord responded: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is his Kingdom" (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10, 121). The accusation: "This is the King of the Jews", written on a tablet nailed above Jesus' head thus becomes the proclamation of the truth. St Ambrose further notes: "The writing is correctly placed above the Cross, because even though the Lord Jesus was on the Cross, yet his royal majesty shone from the height of the Cross" (ibid., 10, 113).

The Crucifixion scene in the four Gospels constitutes the moment of truth when the "veil of the Temple" is torn and the Holy of Holies appears. The maximum revelation of God possible in this world occurs in Jesus Crucified, because God is love and the death of Jesus on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all of history. Well then, on the Cardinal's ring that I will consign in a few moments to the new members of the Sacred College is portrayed precisely the Crucifixion. This, dear new Cardinal-Brothers, will always be an invitation for you to remember of what King you are servants, on what throne he has been raised and how he has been faithful to the end in overcoming sin and death with the power of divine mercy. Mother Church, Spouse of Christ, gives you this symbol in memory of her Spouse, who loved her and gave himself up for her (cf. Eph 5: 25). Thus, wearing the Cardinal's ring, you are constantly called to give your life for the Church.

If we now cast a glance at the scene of the royal anointing of David presented in the First Reading, an important aspect on royalty strikes us, namely, its "corporative" dimension. The elders of Israel go to Hebron, they seal a covenantal pact with David, declaring to consider themselves united to him and wanting to be one only with him. If we relate Christ to this image, it seems to me that this same covenantal profession applies very well precisely to you, dear Cardinal-Brothers. You too who form the "senate" of the Church can say to Jesus: "Behold, we are your bone and flesh" (II Sam 5: 1). We belong to you, and we want to be one only with you. You are the Shepherd of the People of God, you are the Head of the Church (cf. II Sam 5: 2). In this solemn Eucharistic celebration we want to renew our pact with you, our friendship, because only in this intimate and profound relationship with you, Jesus, our King and Lord, does the dignity that has been conferred upon us and the responsibility it bears have sense and value.

There now remains for us to admire the third part of our "triptych" that the Word of God places before us: the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Colossians. First of all, we make the sentiments of joy and gratitude that pour forth from it our own, for the fact that the Kingdom of Christ, the "inheritance of the saints in light", is not only something seen from a distance but a reality in which we are called to partake, into which we have been "transferred", thanks to the redemptive action of the Son of God (cf. Col 1: 12-14). This graced action opens St Paul's soul to the contemplation of Christ and his ministry in its two principal dimensions: the creation of all things and their reconciliation. The first aspect of Christ's Lordship consists in the fact that "all things were created through him and for him... in him all things hold together" (Col 1: 16-17). The second dimension centres on the Paschal Mystery: through the Son's death on the Cross, God has reconciled every creature to himself, has made peace between Heaven and earth; raising him from the dead he has made him the firstborn of the new creation, the "fullness" of every reality and "head of the [mystical] body", the Church (cf. Col 1: 18-20). We find ourselves again before the Cross, the central event of the mystery of Christ. In the Pauline vision the Cross is placed within the entire economy of salvation, where Jesus' royalty is displayed in all its cosmic fullness.

This text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith so powerful that we cannot fail to remain in deep admiration of it. The Church is the trustee of the mystery of Christ: She is so in all humility and without a shadow of pride or arrogance, because it concerns the maximum gift that she has received without any merit and that she is called to offer gratuitously to humanity of every age, as the horizon of meaning and salvation. It is not a philosophy, it is not a gnosis, even though it also comprises wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ, it is Christ himself, the Logos incarnate, dead and risen, made King of the universe. How can one fail to feel a rush of enthusiasm full of gratitude for having been permitted to contemplate the splendour of this revelation? How can one not feel at the same time the joy and the responsibility to serve this King, to witness his Lordship with one's life and word? In a particular way this is our duty, venerable Cardinal-Brothers: to proclaim the truth of Christ, hope of every person and the entire human family. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, my Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, have been authentic heralds of Christ's royalty in today's world. And it is for me a motive of consolation to be able to always count on you, both collegially and individually, to bring to fulfilment with me the Petrine Ministry's fundamental duty.

In conclusion, I would like to mention an aspect that is strongly united to this mission and that I entrust to your prayer: peace among all Christ's disciples, as a sign of the peace that Jesus came to establish in the world. We have heard the great news of the Christological hymn: it pleased God to "reconcile" the universe through the Cross of Christ (cf. Col 1: 20)! Well then, the Church is that portion of humanity in whom Christ's royalty is already manifest, who has peace as its privileged manifestation. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect because it is yet a pilgrim in history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem. Lastly, we can here refer to the Responsorial Psalm 121, belonging to the so-called "Song of Ascents". It is a hymn of the pilgrims' joy who, going up toward the holy city and having reached its doors, address the peace-greeting to them: shalom! According to popular etymology Jerusalem is interpreted as a "city of peace", whose peace the Messiah, Son of David, would have established in the fullness of time. We recognize in Jerusalem the figure of the Church, sacrament of Christ and of his Kingdom.

Dear Cardinal-Brothers, this Psalm expresses well the ardent love song for the Church that you certainly carry in your hearts. You have dedicated your life to the Church's service, and now you are called to assume in her a duty of utmost responsibility. May the words of the Psalm find full acceptance in you: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"! (v. 6). Prayer for peace and unity constitutes your first and principal mission, so that the Church may be "solid and compact" (v. 3), a sign and instrument of unity for the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1). I place, or rather, let us all place your mission under the vigilant protection of the Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy. To her, united to her Son on Calvary and assumed as Queen at his right hand in glory, we entrust the new Cardinals, the College of Cardinals and the entire Catholic community, committed to sowing in the furrows of history Christ's Kingdom, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Kenya
"Society Greatly Benefits From Educated Catholics"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2007- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving prelates from the Kenya episcopal conference, who have just completed their five-yearly visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Kenya, on your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, a visit which serves to strengthen the bonds of fraternal love and communion between us. I thank Archbishop Njue for his kind words addressed to me on your behalf. Your solicitude for one another and for the people entrusted to your care, your love of the Lord and your devotion to the Successor of Peter are for me a source of profound joy and thanksgiving.

Every Bishop has a particular responsibility to build up the unity of his flock, mindful of our Lord’s prayer "that they may be one, even as you, Father, are in me and I in you" (Jn 17:21). United in one faith, sharing one Baptism and believing in the one Lord, (cf. Eph 4:5), the Church is one throughout the world, yet at the same time she is marked by a rich diversity of traditions and cultural expressions. In Africa, the colour and vibrancy with which the faithful manifest their religious sentiments has added a new dimension to the rich tapestry of Christian culture worldwide, while at the same time your people’s strong attachment to the traditional values associated with family life can help to express the shared faith which is at the heart of the mystery of the Church’s unity (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 63). Christ himself is the source and guarantee of our unity since he has overcome all forms of division through his death on the Cross and has reconciled us to God in the one body (cf. Eph 2:14). I thank you, dear Brothers, for preaching the love of Christ and exhorting your people to tolerance, respect and love of their brothers and sisters and of all persons. In this way you exercise the prophetic ministry that the Lord has entrusted to the Church, and in particular to the Successors of the Apostles (cf. Pastores Gregis, 26).

Indeed it is the Bishops who, as ministers and signs of communion in Christ, are pre-eminently called to make manifest the unity of his Church. The collegial nature of the episcopal ministry traces its origins to the Twelve Apostles, called together by Christ and given the task of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. Their pastoral mission is continued by the members of the episcopal College in such a way that "whoever listens to them is listening to Christ" (Lumen Gentium, 20). I urge you to continue your fraternal cooperation with one another in the spirit of the community of Christ’s disciples, united in your love for him and in the Gospel that you proclaim. While each of you has an individual contribution to make to the common collegial voice of the Church in your country, it is important to ensure that this variety of perspectives always serves to enrich the unity of the Body of Christ, just as the unity of the Twelve was deepened and strengthened by the different gifts of the Apostles themselves. Your dedication to working together on issues of ecclesial and social concern will bring great fruit for the life of the Church in Kenya and for the effectiveness of your episcopal ministry.

Within each diocese, the vibrancy and harmony of the presbyterate offers a clear sign of the vitality of the local Church. Structures of consultation and participation are necessary, but can be ineffective if the proper spirit is missing. As Bishops, we must constantly strive to build up the sense of community among our priests, united in the love of Christ and in their sacramental ministry. Life can be difficult for priests today. They can feel isolated or alone and overwhelmed by their pastoral responsibilities. We must be close to them and encourage them, in the first place, to remain firmly rooted in prayer, because only those who are themselves nourished are able to nourish others in turn. Let them drink deeply from the wells of Sacred Scripture and from the daily and reverent celebration of the most holy Eucharist. Let them give themselves generously to praying the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer that is made "in communion with all who pray throughout history, a prayer in communion with Jesus Christ" (Address to the priests and permanent deacons of Bavaria, 14 September 2006). By praying in this way they include and represent others who may lack the time or energy or capacity to pray, and thus the power of prayer, the presence of Jesus Christ, renews their priesthood and flows out into the world (cf. ibid.). Help your priests in this way to grow in solidarity with one another, with their people, and with you, as your consecrated co-workers. Respectful dialogue and closeness between Bishop and priests not only builds up the local Church but also edifies the entire community. Indeed, visible unity among the spiritual leaders can be a powerful antidote against division within the wider family of God’s people.

A key focus of unity in a community is the institution of marriage and family life, which the people of Africa hold in particular esteem. The devoted love of Christian married couples is a blessing for your country, expressing sacramentally the indissoluble covenant between Christ and his Church. This precious treasure must be guarded at all costs. All too often, the ills besetting some parts of African society, such as promiscuity, polygamy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, can be directly related to disordered notions of marriage and family life. For this reason it is important to assist parents in teaching their children how to live out a Christian vision of marriage, conceived as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman, essentially equal in their humanity (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 82) and open to the generation of new life.

While this understanding of Christian family life finds a deep resonance in Africa, it is a matter of great concern that the globalized secular culture is exerting an increasing influence on local communities as a result of campaigns by agencies promoting abortion. This direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances that may lead some to consider taking such a grave step. When you preach the Gospel of Life, remind your people that the right to life of every innocent human being, born or unborn, is absolute and applies equally to all people with no exception whatsoever. This equality "is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice" (Evangelium Vitae, 57). The Catholic community must offer support to those women who may find it difficult to accept a child, above all when they are isolated from their family and friends. Likewise, the community should be open to welcome back all who repent of having participated in the grave sin of abortion, and should guide them with pastoral charity to accept the grace of forgiveness, the need for penance, and the joy of entering once more into the new life of Christ.

The Church in Kenya is well known for the fine contribution made by its educational institutions in forming generations of young people in sound ethical principles and in opening their minds to engage in peaceful and respectful dialogue with members of other social or religious groups. At a time when a secularist and relativist mentality is increasingly asserting itself through global means of social communication, it is all the more essential that you continue to promote the quality and the Catholic identity of your schools, universities and seminaries. Take the steps necessary in order to affirm and clarify their proper institutional status. Society greatly benefits from educated Catholics who know and practise the Church’s social doctrine. Today there is a particular need for highly trained professionals and persons of integrity in the area of medicine, where advances in technology continue to raise serious moral questions. Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue likewise present major challenges that can only be addressed adequately on the basis of sound catechesis in the principles of Catholic doctrine, as expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I know that you will continue to be vigilant over the quality and content of teaching that is offered to young people through the Church’s educational institutions, so that the light of Christ’s truth may shine ever more brightly over the land and the people of Kenya.

My dear Brother Bishops, as you guide your people into the unity for which Christ prayed, do so with ardent charity and firm authority, unfailing in patience and in teaching (cf. 2 Tim 4:2). Please convey my affectionate greetings and my prayerful encouragement to your beloved people, and to all those who are active in the service of the Church, through prayer or in parishes and mission stations, in education, humanitarian activity and health care. To each of you and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops
"Never Cease Praying for New Vocations"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2007, ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when receiving in audience Saturday morning participants in the meeting of recently ordained bishops. The audience took place at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dearest brothers in the episcopate,

It has become a custom in the last few years for recently nominated bishops to come together to Rome for a meeting that is, in essence, a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter. I welcome you with special affection. This experience, besides inspiring you to reflect on the responsibilities and tasks of a bishop, enables you to revive in your souls the awareness that you are not alone in holding up God's Church, but that you have, together with the help of grace, the Pope's support and that of your brethren.

Being at the center of Catholicism, in this Church of Rome, opens your souls to a more vivid perception of the universality of God's people and develops in you a concern for the entire Church. I thank Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re for his greeting and I greet Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, while I greet each one of you and hold each one of your dioceses in my thoughts.

On the day of episcopal ordination, before the laying on of hands, the Church asks the candidate to assume certain tasks including, besides faithfully proclaiming the Gospel and safeguarding the faith, that of "preserving in prayer to the omnipotent God for the good of his holy people." I would like to focus with you in a special way on the apostolic and pastoral character of the "Bishop's Prayer."

Luke, the Evangelist, writes that Jesus Christ chose the Twelve Apostles after praying all night on the mountain (Luke 6:12); and Mark, the evangelist, specifies that the Twelve were chosen "so that they would be with him and that he could send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14). We too, like the Apostles, dearest brethren, as their successors, we were called above all to stay with Christ, to know him more deeply and to take part in his ministry of love and his relationship of full confidence in the Father. In the personal and intimate prayer of the bishop, like the faithful yet more so, is called to grow in a filial spirit toward God, learning from Jesus himself confidence, trust and faithfulness, Christ's own attributes in his relationship with the Father.

And the Apostles understood well that listening in prayer and then proclaiming what they heard must have first place among their many tasks, because, as they decided: "We dedicate ourselves to prayer and ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4). This apostolic program is still relevant today. Today, in the ministry of a bishop, the organizational aspects are absorbing, the commitments are numerous, the needs are many, but the first place in the life of a successor of the Apostles must be reserved for God. In this way, especially, we help our faithful. St. Gregory the Great in the "Pastoral Rule" said that the pastor "in a special way must be able to elevate himself above everyone in prayer and contemplation (II, 5). This is what tradition formulated into the famous expression "Contemplata aliis tradere" (cf. St. Thomas, "Summa Theologiae." IIa-IIae, q. 188, art. 6).

In the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," referring to the narration of the biblical story of Jacob's ladder, I wanted to show how through prayer the pastor becomes sensitive to the needs of others and merciful toward all (cf. No. 7). And I recalled the thought of St. Gregory the Great, who said the pastor rooted in contemplation knows how to welcome the needs of others, which become his own through prayer: "per piertatis viscera in se infirmitatem caeterorum transferat" ("Pastoral Rule," ibid.).

Prayer educates us to love and opens our hearts to pastoral charity to welcome all those who look to the bishop. Formed interiorly by the Holy Spirit, he consoles with the balm of divine grace, illuminates with the light of the word, reconciles and edifies in fraternal communion. In your prayer, dear brethren, your priests must occupy a special place so that they will persevere in their vocation and remain faithful to the priestly mission entrusted to them. It is greatly edifying for each priest to know that the bishop, from whom he received the gift of priesthood or who is at any rate his father and friend, is near to him in prayer, in affection and is always ready to welcome him, listen to him, support him and encourage him. In the same way the bishop must never cease praying for new vocations. These supplications must be offered up with persistence to God, until he calls "those that he wants" for the sacred ministry.

The "munus santificandi" that you received commits you to be promoters of prayer in society. In the cities in which you live and operate, often frenetic and noisy, where man runs and loses himself, where one lives as if God does not exist, may you be able to create places and occasions of prayer, where in silence, in listening to God through "lectio divina," in personal and communal prayer, man can meet God and have a living experience of Jesus Christ who reveals the true face of the Father.

Never tire of making sure that parishes and shrines, places of education and places of suffering, and also families become places of communion with the Lord. In a special way I exhort you to make the cathedral an exemplary house of prayer, above all of liturgical prayer, where the diocesan community gathered together with their bishop can praise and thank God for the work of salvation and intercede for all men.

St. Ignatius of Antioch reminds us of the strength of community prayer: "If the prayer of one or two has great strength, how much more that of the bishop and of the entire Church!" ("Letter to the Ephesians," No. 5).

In brief, dearest bishops, be men of prayer! The "spiritual fecundity of the ministry of the bishop depends on the intensity of his union with the Lord. It is from prayer that a bishop must draw light, strength, and comfort in his pastoral activity," as is written in the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops ("Apostolorum Succesores," No. 36).

Turn to God for yourselves and for your faithful with the trust of children, the audaciousness of a friend, the perseverance of Abraham, who was untiring in his prayer. Like Moses may you have your hands raised toward heaven, while your faithful fight the good fight of faith. Like Mary may you know how to praise God for the salvation he is carrying out in the Church and in the world, convinced that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

With these sentiments and Impart to each one of you, and to your priests, to the men and women religious, the seminarians and the faithful of your dioceses a special apostolic blessing.


Papal Address to Puerto Rican Bishops
"You Should Develop a Specific Vocations Apostolate"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 27, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 30 address to the bishops of Puerto Rico, who were in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with great joy, Pastors of God's pilgrim Church in Puerto Rico, who have come to Rome on your ad limina visit to strengthen the deep bonds that unite you with this Apostolic See. Through each one of you, I send my cordial greeting and express my affection and esteem to the priests, religious communities and lay faithful of your respective particular Churches.

I am grateful for the friendly words which Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves of San Juan de Puerto Rico, President of your Bishops' Conference, has expressed to me on behalf of all. He has explained the anxieties and hopes of your pastoral ministry, which aims to guide the People of God on the path of salvation by strongly proclaiming the Catholic faith for a better formation of the faithful.

The quinquennial reports demonstrate your anxiety about the challenges and problems which must be confronted at this time in history. Indeed, in recent years many things have changed in the social, economic and also religious contexts. These changes have sometimes led to religious indifference and a certain moral relativism which influence religious practice and indirectly affect the structures of society itself.

This religious situation calls you into question as Pastors. In addition, it requires that you remain united to make the Lord's presence more tangible among men and women through joint pastoral projects that respond better to the new reality.

It is fundamental to preserve and increase the gift of unity which Jesus implored from the Father for his disciples (cf. Jn 17:11). You are called to live and to bear witness to Christ's desire for his Church's unity in your respective dioceses.

Moreover, far from threatening this unity, the possible differences in local customs and traditions can contribute to enriching the common faith. And, as successors of the Apostles, you must be eager to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).

Therefore, I would like to recall that all, especially Bishops and priests, are called to an inalienable mission which strongly binds you to ensuring that the Church is a place where the mystery of divine love is taught and lived. Only an authentic spirituality of communion, visibly expressed in mutual collaboration and fraternal life, will make this possible.

Priests constitute a sector that demands your prime pastoral attention. They are in the front line of evangelization and are especially in need of your care and personal closeness. Your relationship with them must not be merely institutional. Rather, as your true sons, friends and brothers, it should be inspired above all by love (cf. I Pt 4:8) as an expression of episcopal fatherhood. This must be expressed in a special way to priests who are sick or elderly, as well as to those who are in difficult circumstances.

Priests, for their part, must remember that they are first and foremost men of God. Thus, they must nurture their own spiritual life and their continuing formation.

All their ministerial work "must begin effectively with prayer", as St Albert the Great said ("Commentary on Dionysius' Mystical Theology," 15). Every priest must find in this encounter with God the strength to exercise his ministry with greater devotion and dedication, setting an example of availability and detachment from all that is superfluous.

In thinking of future candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life, it is necessary to highlight the importance of ceaseless prayer to the Lord of the Harvest (cf. Mt 9:38), so that he will give many and holy vocations to the Church in Puerto Rico, especially in the present situation in which young people often find it difficult to respond to the Lord's call to the priestly or consecrated life.

Therefore, you should develop a specific vocations apostolate which will encourage those in charge of the pastoral care of youth to be daring mediators of the Lord's call.

Above all, you should not be afraid to suggest his call to young men and subsequently accompany them with assiduous care in both the human and spiritual environments, so that they may ever more clearly discern their vocational decision.

With regard to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, the Bishop must take the greatest pains to choose the most suitable and best qualified educators for this role.

Given the concrete circumstances and number of vocations in Puerto Rico, it might be possible to consider joining forces and pooling resources in a common agreement and with a spirit of unity in pastoral planning in order to obtain better and more satisfactory results. This would allow for a better choice of formation teachers and professors to help each seminarian to grow with a "mature and balanced personality... solid in the spiritual life, and in love with the Church" (cf. "Pastores Gregis," n. 48).

In this delicate task, all priests must feel co-responsible, promoting new vocations above all by their own example and without failing to support those that have developed in their own parish community or in some movement.

A mindset inspired by secularism is spreading in society in a more or less known form and is gradually leading to contempt or ignorance of all that is sacred, relegating faith to the merely private sphere. A correct concept of religious freedom is incompatible with this ideology, which is sometimes presented as the only rational voice.

The family is also a permanent challenge for you. It is threatened on all sides by the snares of the modern world such as the prevalent materialism, the search for instant pleasure and the lack of steadfast fidelity by couples who are constantly influenced by the media.

When marriage is not built on the rock of true love and mutual self-giving, it is easily swept away by the current of divorce and also looks askance at the value of life, especially that of unborn children.

This panorama reveals the need to intensify, as you are already doing, an effective family apostolate which helps Christian spouses to assume the fundamental values of the Sacrament they have received.

In this regard, faithful to Christ's teaching, through your magisterium you proclaim the truth about the family as a domestic Church and sanctuary of life in the face of certain trends in contemporary society that seek to eclipse or to confuse the one, irreplaceable value of marriage between a man and a woman.

The above-mentioned religious indifferentism and the easy temptation of lax morals, as well as the ignorance of the Christian tradition with its rich spiritual patrimony, exert a powerful influence on the new generations. Young people have the right, from the beginning of the process of their formation, to be educated in faith and sound morals. For this reason, the integral education of the youngest cannot omit religious teaching at school as well. A solid religious formation will also serve as an effective shield against the advance of sects or other religious groups widespread today.

The Catholic faithful, who are called to administer temporal realities to order them in accordance with the divine will, must bear a courageous witness to their faith in the different spheres of public life. Their participation in ecclesial life, moreover, is fundamental, and without their collaboration your apostolate as Pastors would sometimes not reach "all men, of every epoch and all over the earth" ("Lumen Gentium," n. 33).

On this topic, I would like to recall some important words spoken by my Predecessor, John Paul II, during his Pastoral Visit to Puerto Rico: "In the course of your ministry you will sometimes be faced with issues which involve specific choices of a political nature. In such situations you must be constant in proclaiming the moral principles which govern every field of human activity. But lay people with morally upright consciences are those best qualified for the ordering of temporal matters according to God's plan. Leave such matters to them. Your task is to foster communion and brotherhood; not to provoke discord in regard to matters where the faithful may legitimately choose between different courses of action" ("Address to Clergy and Religious of Puerto Rico," 12 October 1984; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 26 November, p. 11, n. 3).

Some sectors of your society have all they need in abundance while others suffer serious shortages which often verge on poverty. In this context, the generosity of Puerto Ricans, who respond with solidarity to the cries for help in certain tragedies in the world, is well known. It is to be hoped in this regard that this same generosity, coordinated by the services of the Puerto Rican Caritas, will also be forthcoming in those circumstances when local groups, individuals or families stand in need of real assistance.

Dear Brothers: in Puerto Rico evangelization and the practice of the faith have always gone hand in hand with filial love for the Virgin Mary. This is demonstrated by the churches, shrines and monuments, and also the devotional practices and popular celebrations in honour of the Mother of God. To her I entrust your intentions and your pastoral work.

I place under her motherly protection all the priests, religious communities, families, young people, sick and especially the most deprived. Please take back to everyone the Pope's greeting and deep affection, together with his Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to Bishops of Togo
"Visible Communion of Christ's Disciples Is Essential"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 22 address to the bishops of Togo, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Friday, 22 June 2007

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am happy to receive you while you are making your ad limina visit. Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles is a visible sign of your communion with the Successor of Peter and of the bonds that unite your particular Churches with the universal Church.

I thank Bishop Ambroise Djoliba of Sokodé, President of the Bishops' Conference of Togo, for his kind words on your behalf.

Through you, I address an affectionate greeting to the members of your Dioceses, the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all the lay faithful. May they be faithful in all circumstances to the Lord's commandment: "Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34)!

Likewise, please express to the entire Togolese People the Pope's cordial greetings and fervent good wishes that they may persevere ceaselessly in the endeavour to build a just and reconciled society in which each person may live in dignity.

Dear Brothers, I would like to express my gratitude to you for your perseverance and courage amid the numerous difficulties that your Country has experienced in these recent years. You have contributed on many occasions to the dialogue for national reconciliation, reminding everyone of the requirements of the common good, in fidelity to the truth of God and of man. I ask the Lord to bring these efforts to fruition so that your Country may know a prosperous life in fraternal harmony.

Nor has the life of the Church been exempt from distressing situations.

Your constant efforts to encourage the unity of your Bishops' Conference are the sign that in all circumstances charity must continue to be ever stronger, and that the visible communion of Christ's disciples is an essential reality to be preserved if the Church's witness is to be credible.

In this same perspective, an authentic brotherhood between the Bishops and priests, as well as among the priests themselves, is the hallmark of their full communion, indispensable for the fruitful accomplishment of their ministry. They then will all be able to work in truth for reconciliation within the Church and among the Togolese in general.

May all your diocesan priests, with whose generosity I am well acquainted, be faithful to their vocation in the total gift of themselves to their mission and in full communion with their Bishop (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," n. 97)!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you have the opportunity to carry out your pastoral ministry by participating in your own capacity in the life of the people entrusted to your care.

In fact, "as a body organized within the community and the nation, the Church has both the right and the duty to participate fully in building a just and peaceful society with all the means at her disposal" (ibid., n. 107).

I praise in particular your commitment to the protection of and respect for life which you have had the opportunity to express on numerous occasions, and quite recently demonstrating it once again in detail by your opposition to abortion.

Moreover, the promotion of the truth and dignity of marriage as well as the preservation of essential family values must feature among your principal priorities.

Pastoral care of the family is an essential element for evangelization and enables young people to discover what a commitment that is unique and faithful entails. I therefore urge you to pay special attention to the formation of couples and families.

Through her work of social assistance and her action in the health-care sector in which numerous competent men and women religious and lay people are involved, the Church also expresses God's loving presence to people suffering or in distress and contributes to the progress of justice and respect for human dignity.

In this same perspective, I encourage you to continue your efforts to promote Catholic schools, which provide an integral education at the service of families and of the transmission of faith. Their role, despite the great difficulties they can encounter, is essential to enabling young people to acquire a sound human, cultural and religious formation.

May educators and teachers themselves be models of Christian life for the young!

To succeed in establishing a fully reconciled society, it is of the utmost importance to start out afresh from Christ, who alone can definitively grant this grace to humankind. The work of evangelization is therefore urgently necessary.

Here, I would particularly like to greet with affection the catechists: in your Country, together with the priests and other pastoral workers, they make an effective and generous contribution to proclaiming the Word of God to their brothers and sisters.

In the face of the challenges to the Church's evangelizing mission posed by the contemporary world, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa continues to be a precious guide for your Dioceses and gives them the possibility of strengthening the faithful in the faith and helping them "to persevere in the hope which the Risen Christ gives, overcoming every temptation to discouragement" (n. 7).

The inculturation of the Gospel message, carried out in fidelity to the Church's teaching, contributes to rooting the faith effectively in your people, enabling them to accept the figure of Jesus Christ in all dimensions of their lives. Indeed, the faithful must allow themselves to be transformed by the grace of God who sets them free, banishing all fear from their hearts for "there is no fear in love" (I John 4: 18).

While respecting the rich traditions that are the vibrant expression of their people's soul, Christians must adamantly reject all that is in opposition to the liberating message of Christ and which encloses the human being and society in alienation. This requires that the formation of priests and of consecrated and lay people must have priority in the pastoral care of your Dioceses.

"People who have never had the chance to learn cannot really know the truths of faith, nor can they perform actions which they have never been taught" ("Ecclesia in Africa," n. 75).

The formation offered to Christians must give them the means to deepen their faith so that they can face the difficult situations they encounter and transmit the content of the faith through their witness of life, sustained by firm personal convictions.

Moreover, this formation must also help the lay faithful to acquire skills that permit them to be committed to working for the common good in the life of society.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is henceforth a precious instrument at the service of the formation of all and of lay people in particular. Their involvement in public life, through respect for life, the promotion of justice, the defense of human rights and the integral development of the human person, is a witness borne to Christ. In this way the faithful take part in the construction and development of the nation, as well as in the task of the world's evangelization.

Lastly, I would like to stress the need to pursue and to deepen the cordial relations with Muslims that exist in your Country. Indeed, such relations are indispensable for concord and harmony among all citizens and the promotion of values common to humanity.

By training competent people in the ecclesial institutions founded with a view to interreligious dialogue, you foster a better mutual knowledge, in charity and in truth, for an effective collaboration in the area of the development of individuals and of society.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of this meeting, I ask you to persevere with courage and determination in your ministry at the service of the people entrusted to you. May the Lord accompany you with his power and light.

I entrust each one of your Dioceses to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, and I willingly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you as well as to the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.


Papal Address to Syro-Malankara Church Leader
"Now Is a Time of New Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2007 ( Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave when receiving in audience Major Archbishop Issac Cleemis Thottunkal of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara Church in India.

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Your Beatitude,

I am pleased to welcome you on your first visit to Rome since your election as Major Archbishop of the beloved Catholic Syro-Malankara Church. I am most grateful to Your Beatitude for your affectionate and respectful greetings, and I thank you sincerely for your eager wish to "see Peter" (cf. Gal 1:18). Together let us give thanks to God for this providential opportunity to confirm that bond of communion with the See of Rome of which your community is justly proud.

My thoughts turn to the distinguished Pastors that the Holy Spirit has called forth to lead your people to rediscover unity with Peter’s Successor. I think especially of Mar Ivannios, who in 1930 solemnly professed the Catholic faith, and set out generously upon an ecclesial path rich in blessings. This made it possible for my predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, to raise the Syro-Malankara Church to the level of a Major Archbishopric in February 2005. The Venerable Cyril Mar Baselios, Metropolitan sui juris of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, thus became your first Major Archbishop. In this capacity, he travelled to Rome to represent the Malankara community, as the Church and the world took leave of that beloved Pontiff, who had since been called to the Father’s House. Soon afterwards, Mar Baselios himself was to follow him. Today we sense the closeness of these unforgettable Pastors, as the Syro-Malankara Church continues her generous mission, filled with confidence in God’s grace.

The precious heritage of your ecclesial tradition was placed in the hands of Your Beatitude through the act of canonical election conducted by the Fathers of the Syro-Malankara Synod. May the Lord grant you an abundance of spiritual gifts so that this heritage may continue to bear much fruit, according to the Lord’s will.

As Peter’s Successor, I happily confirmed the Synod’s decision. Now the universal Church, together with all those who belong to your ecclesial tradition, is counting upon Your Beatitude to ensure that the Malankara community can proceed along a twofold path. On the one hand, through faithfulness to the Apostolic See you will always participate fully in the universal breath of the one Church of Christ; on the other hand your fidelity to the specifically Eastern features of your tradition will enable the whole Church to benefit from what in his manifold wisdom "the Spirit is saying to the Churches" (cf. Rev 2:7 et passim).

In your capacity as Head and Shepherd of the Syro-Malankara Church, Your Beatitude has been entrusted with the mission of leading and sustaining the Christian witness and ecclesial life of the faithful of that noble Church throughout the vast Indian Sub-Continent and the other regions where Syro-Malankara Catholics are found. At the same time you are seeking to address the major challenges that present themselves at the start of this Third Christian Millennium. Now is a time of new evangelization, a time of constantly renewed and convinced dialogue with all our brothers and sisters who share our Christian faith, a time of respectful and fruitful encounter between religions and cultures for the good of all, and especially the poorest of the poor. Our commitment to evangelization needs to be constantly renewed, as we strive to build peace, in justice and solidarity, for the whole human family. May you always draw strength from the Lord and from the collegial support of your Brother Bishops -- the members of the Synod. Please assure them of my prayers and convey my special greetings to them on the happy occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Syro-Malankara hierarchy.

We are still breathing the atmosphere of Pentecost and we wish to linger with the Holy Mother of God and the Apostles in the Upper Room of Jerusalem, docile to the action of the Spirit. To the Holy Virgin I entrust my prayers for Your Beatitude and for the whole Syro-Malankara Church, asking that the gift of the Spirit may continue to nourish and strengthen you as you bear witness to the Gospel of Christ. With these sentiments I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, my Venerable Brother, and to all the sons and daughters of the Syro-Malankara Church.


Saturday, 28 April 2007

Your Beatitude,
Venerable Brothers,

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor 1:3). I welcome you and greet you all at the end of your meeting with these words that the Apostle to the Gentiles addressed to the Christians of the community of Corinth.

Concern for all the Churches, complying with the mandate which Christ entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his Successors, has impelled me to convoke your Extraordinary Synod, at which Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, whom I greet and cordially thank, presided in my name. I would also like to thank you, Your Beatitude, and each one of you for your active participation in the Synod's work and for your generous contributions to solving the problems and difficulties that the praiseworthy Syrian Catholic Church has been encountering for some time.

In convoking you to this extraordinary assembly, my sole intention was to revive and increasingly revitalize the age-old bonds that unite your Church to the Apostolic See, and at the same time, to express the esteem and anxiety which the Bishop of Rome feels for each one of you, Pastors of a portion of the People of God which, although not large, is ancient and important.

My greeting also goes to your collaborators, to the priests and deacons in the first place, as well as to all the members of the Syrian Catholic Church.

The liturgy of the Easter Season in which we are living invites us to turn our gaze and heart to the fundamental event of Christian faith: Christ's death and Resurrection.

The Acts of the Apostles that we are reading in these days presents to us the progress of the newborn Church, a journey that was not always easy but rich in apostolic fruit. From the first, there had been no lack of external hostility and persecution, nor, even within the communities, was the risk of tension and opposition absent.

In spite of these shadows and the various difficulties that the early Christians had to confront, the radiant light of the Church's faith in Jesus Christ never grew dim.

From her very first steps, the Church, guided by the Apostles and their collaborators and enlivened by an extraordinary courage and inner force, was able to preserve and to increase the precious treasure of unity and communion over and above differences in people, language and culture.

Venerable Brothers, while the Extraordinary Synod in which you have taken part is drawing to a close, aware of the problems that have worried you all these years and that you are seeking to overcome, I remember with gratitude my Venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who was close to you in so many ways. He listened to you, he met with you, and he tirelessly urged you on several occasions, especially in his Letter of August 2003, to seek unity and reconciliation with the participation of all.

As for me, I took up the task on which he had embarked in my Letter of October 2005, since I am deeply convinced that today, as at the dawn of Christianity, each community is asked to offer a clear witness of brotherhood.

It is moving to read in the Acts of the Apostles that "the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (4: 32). It is here, in this shared love which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the secret of apostolic effectiveness lies.

In these days, dear and venerable Brothers, you have reflected on ways to overcome the obstacles that prevent your ecclesial life from functioning normally. You are well aware of what is necessary and even indispensable.

It is the ministry that the Lord entrusted to you with his flock that demands it; it is the good of the Syrian Catholic Church that demands it. The particular situation in which the Middle East is living and the witness that the Catholic Churches in their unity can give, demand it.

May Paul's exhortation to the faithful of Corinth, tinged with sorrow, resonate in your hearts: "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (I Cor 1:10).

In our time Christian communities across the world must face so many challenges, while numerous dangers and traps risk masking the Gospel values.

With regard to your Church, the violence and conflicts which mark a part of the flock entrusted to your care constitute extra difficulties that endanger even more not only peaceful coexistence, but also peoples' very lives.

In such situations it is important that the Syrian-Catholic Ecclesial Community be able to proclaim the Gospel forcefully, to promote a pastoral ministry adapted to the challenges of post-modernity and to a fragmented, divided world, a shining example of unity.

Venerable Brothers, the Second Vatican Council emphasized that the Oriental Catholic Churches, in response to Christ's prayer ut unum sint, are called to play a special role in the promotion of the ecumenical process: "by prayer above all, by their example, by their scrupulous fidelity to the ancient traditions of the East, by better knowledge of each other, by working together, and by a brotherly attitude towards persons and things (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, n. 24).

Here is a final element that, together with those requirements dictated by interreligious dialogue, can only spur you to exercise the apostolic mission the Lord has entrusted to your Church with confidence. Precisely yesterday, the Latin liturgy granted us to hear the moving episode of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. You too are called today to continue the Apostle Paul's missionary action with enthusiasm, confidence and perseverance, following in the footsteps of St Ignatius of Antioch, St Ephrem and your other Patron Saints.

May Mary, whom you venerate under the title of Our Lady of Deliverance, always intercede for you and protect you.

With these sentiments, I assure you of my full support and that of my collaborators, and I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here, the Patriarch and the members of your Holy Synod, and to all the faithful of the Syrian Catholic rite.




Redemptoris Mater Chapel
Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Dear Confreres,

The texts we have just heard -- the Reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel -- have a common theme that could be summarized in the phrase: "God never fails". Or more precisely: initially God always fails, he lets human freedom exist and this freedom constantly says "no"; but God's imagination, the creative power of his love, is greater than the human "no". With every human "no" a new dimension of his love is bestowed and he finds a new and greater way to bring about his "yes" to man, history and creation.

In the great hymn to Christ in the Letter to the Philippians with which we began, we listened first of all to an allusion to the story of Adam, who was not satisfied with God's friendship; it was not enough for him because he himself wanted to be a god. He considered friendship as a dependence and considered himself a god, as though he could exist solely by himself. He therefore said "no" in order to become a god himself and in this very way, he threw himself down from his exalted position.

God "failed" in Adam -- and likewise, to all appearances, throughout history. But God did not fail, for now he becomes a man himself and so begins a new humanity; he roots God's being in a human being in an irrevocable way and descended to the deepest abysses of man's being: he humbled himself even unto the Cross. He overcame pride with the humility and the obedience of the Cross. And in this way what Isaiah had foretold (chapter 45) came to pass.

At the time when Israel was living in exile and had disappeared from the map, the Prophet predicted that the whole world -- "every knee" -- would bend before this powerless God. And the Letter to the Philippians confirms it: it has now happened.

Through the Cross of Christ, God made himself close to the peoples, he came out of Israel and became the God of the world. And now the cosmos kneels before Jesus Christ, and this is something we too can experience in a marvelous way today: on all the continents, even in the most humble of huts, the Crucifix is present.

The God who had "failed" now through his love truly brings man to bend his knee and thus overcomes the world with his love.

We sang the second part of the Psalm of the Passion as the Responsorial Psalm. It is the Psalm of the righteous sufferer, in the first place suffering Israel who, before the mute God who abandoned it, cries: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me? ... Now I am almost spent ... you do not act ... you do not answer ... why have you forsaken me?" (cf. 22[21]). Jesus identifies himself with the suffering Israel, with the suffering just ones of every age abandoned by God, and he cries out at God's abandonment; the pain of being forgotten he carries to the Heart of God himself, and in this way transforms the world.

The second part of the Psalm, the part that we recited, tells us the result of this: the poor will eat and be satisfied. It is the universal Eucharist that derives from the Cross. God now satisfies man throughout the world, the poor who are in need of him. He gives them the satiety they need: he gives God, he gives himself.

The Psalm then says: "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord". The universal Church derives from the Cross. God goes beyond Judaism to embrace the whole world, to unite it in the banquet of the poor.

And lastly, the Gospel message: again, the failure of God. Those who were invited first declined, they did not come.

God's hall remains empty, the banquet seemed to have been prepared in vain. This is what Jesus experienced in the last stages of his activity: official groups, the authorities, say "no" to God's invitation, which is he himself. They do not come. His message, his call, ends in the human "no".

However, God did not fail here, either. The empty hall becomes an opportunity to invite a larger number of people. God's love, God's invitation is extended. Luke recounts this in two episodes.

First, the invitation is addressed to the poor, the abandoned, those who were never invited by anyone in the city. In this way, God did what we heard in yesterday's Gospel reading.

(Today's Gospel is part of a small symposium in the setting of a meal at a Pharisee's house. There are four texts: first, the healing of the man with dropsy; then, the words about the lowest places; then, the teaching about not inviting friends who would invite you back but those who are really hungry, who cannot reciprocate the invitation; and then appropriately, our account follows).

God now does what he told the Pharisee to do: he invites those who possess nothing, who are truly hungry, who cannot invite him back, who cannot give him anything.

The second episode follows. He departs from the city to go on the country roads: the homeless are invited. We may suppose that Luke means these two episodes in the sense that the first to enter the hall are Israel's poor and later -- because there were not enough of them since God's space was larger -- the invitation extends beyond the Holy City to the world of the peoples. Those who do not at all belong to God, who are outside, are now invited to fill the hall. And Luke, who has handed down this Gospel to us, certainly saw in anticipation, in a figurative way, the events recounted later in the Acts of the Apostles, where precisely this happens.

Paul always begins his mission in the synagogue with those who are invited first; and only when the authoritative figures excuse themselves and he remains alone with a small group of poor people does he go to the Gentiles.

Thus, the Gospel through this ever new way of the Cross becomes universal, it influences everything, eventually even Rome.

In Rome, Paul summons the heads of the synagogue and proclaims to them the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God in his Person. However, the authorities excuse themselves and he takes his leave of them with these words: Well, since you will not listen, this message will be proclaimed to the Gentiles and they will listen to it. With such confidence he concludes the message of failure: they will listen; the Church of the Gentiles will be built. And she was built and continues to be built.

During the "ad limina" visits, I hear of many serious and tiresome things, but always -- precisely from the Third World -- I also hear this: that people listen, that they come, that even today the message spreads along the roads to the very ends of the earth and that people crowd into God's hall for his banquet.

Consequently, we should ask ourselves: what does all this mean for us?

First of all, it means one certainty: God does not fail. He "fails" continuously, but for this very reason he does not fail, because through this he finds new opportunities for far greater mercy and his imagination is inexhaustible.

He does not fail because he finds ever new ways to reach people and to open wider his great house so that it is completely filled.

He does not fail because he does not shrink from the prospect of asking people to come and sit at his table, to eat the food of the poor in which the precious gift is offered, God himself. God does not fail, not even today. Even if we come up against many "noes", we can be sure of it.

From the whole of this history of God, starting with Adam, we can conclude: God never fails.

Today too, he will find new ways to call men, and he wants to have us with him as his messengers and servants.

Precisely in our time we know very well how those who were invited first say "no". Indeed, Western Christianity, the new "first guests", now largely excuse themselves, they do not have time to come to the Lord. We know the churches that are ever more empty, seminaries continue to be empty, religious houses that are increasingly empty; we are familiar with all the forms in which this "no, I have other important things to do" is presented. And it distresses and upsets us to be witnesses of these excuses and refusals of the first guests, who in reality should know the importance of the invitation and should feel drawn in that direction.

What should we do?

First of all, we should ask ourselves: why is this happening?

In his Parable the Lord mentions two reasons: possessions and human relations, which involve people to the extent that they no longer feel the need for anything else to fill their time and therefore their interior existence.

St Gregory the Great in his explanation of this text sought to delve into it further and wondered: how can a man say "no" to the greatest thing that exists; that he has no time for what is most important; that he can lock himself into his own existence?

And he answers: in reality, they have never had an experience of God; they have never acquired a "taste" for God; they have never experienced how delightful it is to be "touched" by God! They lack this "contact" -- and with it, the "taste for God". And only if we, so to speak, taste him, only then can we come to the banquet.

St Gregory cites the Psalm from which today's Communion Antiphon is taken: Taste, try it and see; taste and then you will see and be enlightened! Our task is to help people so they can taste the flavor for God anew.

In another homily, St Gregory the Great deepened further the same question and asked himself: how can it be that man does not even want to "taste" God?

And he responds: when man is entirely caught up in his own world, with material things, with what he can do, with all that is feasible and brings him success, with all that he can produce or understand by himself, then his capacity to perceive God weakens, the organ sensitive to God deteriorates, it becomes unable to perceive and sense, it no longer perceives the Divine, because the corresponding inner organ has withered, it has stopped developing.

When he overuses all the other organs, the empirical ones, it can happen that it is precisely the sense of God that suffers, that this organ dies, and man, as St Gregory says, no longer perceives God's gaze, to be looked at by him, the fact that his precious gaze touches me!

I maintain that St Gregory the Great has described exactly the situation of our time -- in fact, his was an age very similar to ours. And the question still arises: what should we do?

I hold that the first thing to do is what the Lord tells us today in the First Reading, and which St Paul cries to us in God's Name: "Your attitude must be Christ's -- 'Touto phroneite en hymin ho kai en Christo Iesou'".

Learn to think as Christ thought, learn to think with him! And this thinking is not only the thinking of the mind, but also a thinking of the heart.

We learn Jesus Christ's sentiments when we learn to think with him and thus, when we learn to think also of his failure, of his passage through failure and of the growth of his love in failure.

If we enter into these sentiments of his, if we begin to practice thinking like him and with him, then joy for God is awakened within us, confident that he is the strongest; yes, we can say that love for him is reawakened within us. We feel how beautiful it is that he is there and that we can know him -- that we know him in the face of Jesus Christ who suffered for us.

I think this is the first thing: that we ourselves enter into vital contact with God -- with the Lord Jesus, the living God; that in us the organ directed to God be strengthened; that we bear within us a perception of his "exquisiteness".

This also gives life to our work, but we also run a risk: one can do much, many things in the ecclesiastical field, all for God ..., and yet remain totally taken up with oneself, without encountering God. Work replaces faith, but then one becomes empty within.

I therefore believe that we must make an effort above all to listen to the Lord in prayer, in deep interior participation in the sacraments, in learning the sentiments of God in the faces and the suffering of others, in order to be infected by his joy, his zeal and his love, and to look at the world with him and starting from him.

If we can succeed in doing this, even in the midst of the many "noes", we will once again find people waiting for him who may perhaps often be odd -- the parable clearly says so -- but who are nevertheless called to enter his hall.

Once again, in other words: it is a matter of the centrality of God, and not just any god but the God with the Face of Jesus Christ. Today, this is crucial.

There are so many problems one could list that must be solved, but none of them can be solved unless God is put at the centre, if God does not become once again visible to the world, if he does not become the determining factor in our lives and also enters the world in a decisive way through us.

In this, I believe that the future of the world in this dramatic situation is decided today: whether God -- the God of Jesus Christ -- exists and is recognized as such, or whether he disappears.

We are concerned that he be present. What must we do? As the last resort? Let us turn to him! We are celebrating this votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, calling upon him: "Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium".

Let us invoke him so that he will irrigate, warm and straighten, so that he will pervade us with the power of his sacred flame and renew the earth. Let us pray for this with all our hearts at this time, in these days. Amen.


Pope's Nov. 7 Address to Swiss Bishops
"We Ourselves Cannot Invent Faith"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2006 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Nov. 7 during a meeting with the bishops of Switzerland. They were concluding their "ad limina" pastoral visit, which had been interrupted in 2005 due to Pope John Paul II's failing health.

Sala Bologna
Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Confreres,

I would like first of all to offer you a cordial welcome and to express my joy at now being granted to complete your Pastoral Visit, cut short in 2005, and thus to work together again on the panorama of issues that concern us.

I still have a vivid memory of the "ad limina" visit in 2005, when at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we spoke of the problems that will be discussed once again in these days. I still clearly recall the atmosphere at that time of inner commitment to ensuring that the Word of God would be lively and would reach the hearts of the people of our time so that the Church might be full of life. In our common situation, rendered difficult by the secularized culture, let us seek to understand the mission entrusted to us by the Lord and to carry it out as best we can.

I have been unable to prepare a proper Address; in view of the individual aspects of the great mass of problems we will be touching on, I only want to make a few "trial attempts" that do not intend to come up with definitive assertions but only to initiate our conversation. This is a meeting of the Swiss Bishops and various Dicasteries of the Curia, in which each area of our pastoral task is identified and made visible. I shall try to make a few comments on some of them.

In keeping with my past, I will begin with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or rather, with the topic of faith.

Earlier, in my Homily [see page 6], I endeavored to say that in all the anguish of our time, faith must truly have priority. Two generations ago, it might still have been presumed natural: one grew up in the faith; in a certain way, faith was simply present as part of life and did not need any special seeking. It needed to be formed and deepened, but seemed something perfectly obvious.

Today, the opposite seems natural: in other words, that it is basically impossible to believe, and that God is actually absent. The faith of the Church, in any case, seems something that belongs to the distant past.

Thus, even practicing Christians are of the opinion that it is right to choose for oneself, from the overall faith of the Church, those things one considers still sustainable today. And especially, people also set about fulfilling their proper duty to God through their commitment to human beings, so to speak, at the same time.

This, however, is the beginning of a sort of "justification through works": the human being justifies himself and the world, in which he does what clearly seems necessary yet completely lacks the inner light and spirit.

Consequently, I believe it is important to acquire a fresh awareness of the fact that faith is the centre of all things -- "Fides tua te salvum fecit", the Lord said over and over again to those he healed. It was not the physical touch, it was not the external gesture that was operative, but the fact that those sick people believed. And we too can only serve the Lord energetically if our faith thrives and is present in abundance.

In this context, I want to emphasize two crucial points.

First: faith is above all faith in God. In Christianity it is not a matter of an enormous bundle of different things; all that the Creed says and the development of faith has achieved exists only to make our perception of the Face of God clearer. He exists and he is alive; we believe in him; we live before him, in his sight, in being with him and from him. And in Jesus Christ, he is, as it were, with us bodily.

To my mind, this centrality of God must appear in a completely new light in all our thoughts and actions.

Furthermore, this is what enlivens activities which, on the contrary, can easily lapse into activism and become empty.

This is the first point I want to stress: faith actually looks to God with determination and thus impels us in turn to look to God and set out towards him.

The other thing concerns the fact that we ourselves cannot invent faith, composing it with "sustainable" pieces, but we believe together with the Church. We cannot understand all that the Church teaches, nor must all of it be present in every life.

Yet, it is important that we are co-believers in the great "I" of the Church, in her living "We", and thereby find ourselves in the great community of faith, in that great subject in which the "You" of God and the "I" of man truly touch each other; in which the past of the words of Scripture becomes the present, times flow into one another, the past is present and, opening itself to the future, allows into time the brightness of eternity, of the Eternal One.

This complete form of faith, expressed in the Creed, a faith in and with the Church as a living subject in which the Lord works: it is this form of faith that we must seek to put truly at the heart of our endeavors.

Today too, we see it very clearly: wherever development has been exclusively encouraged without nourishing the soul, it causes harm. Moreover, technological skills are indeed increasing, but they result above all in new possibilities of destruction.

If, as well as aid to developing countries, as well as learning all that the human being is able to do, all that human intelligence has invented and that human determination makes possible, the human heart is not illuminated at the same time and God's power does not arrive, human beings learn above all to destroy.

And for this reason I believe that missionary responsibility must once again become strong within us: if our faith makes us glad, let us feel bound to speak of it to others. The extent to which people will be able to accept it will then be in God's hands.

I would now like to move on from this topic to "Catholic Education", touching on two areas.

One thing which I believe is a cause of "concern" -- in the positive sense of the word -- to all of us, is the fact that future priests and other teachers and preachers of the faith must receive a good theological training; we therefore need good theological faculties, good major seminaries and qualified theology teachers who not only impart knowledge but inculcate in students an intelligent faith so that faith becomes intelligence and intelligence, faith.

In this regard, I have a very specific wish.

Our exegesis has progressed by leaps and bounds. We truly know a great deal about the development of texts, the subdivision of sources, etc., we know what words would have meant at that time.... But we are increasingly seeing that if historical and critical exegesis remains solely historical and critical, it refers the Word to the past, it makes it a Word of those times, a Word which basically says nothing to us at all; and we see that the Word is fragmented, precisely because it is broken up into a multitude of different sources.

With "Dei Verbum," the Council told us that the historical-critical method is an essential dimension of exegesis because, since it is a "factum historicum," it is part of the nature of faith. We do not merely believe in an idea; Christianity is not a philosophy but an event that God brought about in this world, a story that he pieced together in a real way and forms with us as history.

For this reason, in our reading of the Bible, the serious historical aspect with its requirements must be truly present: we must effectively recognize the event and, precisely in his action, this "making of history" on God's part.

"Dei Verbum" adds, however, that Scripture, which must consequently be interpreted according to historical methods, should also be read in its unity and must be read within the living community of the Church. These two dimensions are absent in large areas of exegesis.

The oneness of Scripture is not a purely historical and critical factor but indeed in its entirety, also from the historical viewpoint, it is an inner process of the Word which, read and understood in an ever new way in the course of subsequent "relectures," continues to develop.

This oneness itself, however, is ultimately a theological fact: these writings form one Scripture which can only be properly understood if they are read in the "analogia fidei" as a oneness in which there is progress towards Christ, and inversely, in which Christ draws all history to himself; and if, moreover, all this is brought to life in the Church's faith.

In other words, I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with "Dei Verbum": may they experience the inner unity of Scripture -- something that today is helped by "canonical exegesis" (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages) -- and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion in the presence of the Word.

It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis. I do not know how this should be done in practice, but I think that in the academic context and at seminaries, as well as in an introductory course, it will be possible to find capable teachers to ensure that this timely encounter with Scripture in the faith of the Church -- an encounter on whose basis proclamation subsequently becomes possible -- can take place.

The other thing is catechesis. Precisely in the past 50 years or so, it has come a long way in its methodology.

On the other hand, however, since much has been lost in anthropology and in the search for reference points, all too often catechesis does not even reach the content of the faith.

I can understand this since, even at the time when I was a parochial vicar -- some 56 years ago --, it was already very difficult to proclaim the faith in pluralistic schools with numerous non-believing parents and children, because it appeared to be a totally foreign and unreal world.

Today, of course, the situation is even worse. Yet, it is important in catechesis, which includes the contexts of school, parish, community, etc., that faith be expounded fully, in other words, that children truly learn what "creation" is, what the "history of salvation" brought about by God is, and who Jesus Christ is, what the sacraments are and what is the object of our hope....

I think that we must all do our utmost for a renewal of catechesis in which the courage to witness to our faith and find ways to make it understood and accepted is fundamental.

Today, religious ignorance has sunk to an abysmal level. And yet in Germany, children are given at least 10 years of catechesis, so basically, they ought to know many things.

For this reason, we should certainly reflect seriously on our possibilities of finding ways to communicate knowledge, even simply, so that the culture of faith may be present.

And now, for some remarks on "Divine Worship". The Year of the Eucharist gave us much in this regard. I can say that the Post-Synodal Exhortation is at a good point. It will certainly be a great enrichment.

In addition, we have received the Document of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the proper celebration of the Eucharist, which is very important.

I believe that subsequent to all this it will slowly become clear that the Liturgy is not a "self-manifestation" of the community through which, as people say, it makes its entrance onto the scene; rather, it is the exit of the community from merely "being-its-self", its access to the great banquet of the poor and its entry into the vast living community in which God himself nourishes us. This universal character of the Liturgy must once again penetrate the awareness of one and all.

In the Eucharist we receive something that we cannot do, but instead enter something greater that becomes our own, precisely when we give ourselves to this thing that is greater, truly seeking to celebrate the Liturgy as the Church's Liturgy.

Furthermore, connected with this there is also the famous problem of the homily. From the purely functional viewpoint I can understand it very well: perhaps the parish priest is weary or has already preached again and again, or perhaps he is elderly and overburdened with tasks.

As a result, if there should be a pastoral assistant skilled in interpreting the Word of God convincingly, one might spontaneously ask: why should not the pastoral assistant speak; he is better at it so the people will draw greater benefit from it.

This, however, is the purely functional viewpoint. Instead, people should take into account the fact that the homily is not a discursive interruption in the Liturgy but part of the sacramental event, and that it brings the Word of God into the present of this community.

It is the moment when this community as a subject truly wants to be called into question, to be brought to listen to and accept the Word. This means that the homily itself is part of the mystery, of the celebration of the mystery, and therefore cannot simply be detached from it.

Above all, however, I think it is also important not to reduce the priest to the sacrament and to jurisdiction -- in the conviction that all his other tasks could be done equally well by others -- but to preserve the integrity of his office.

Moreover, the priesthood is only beautiful if the mission to be carried out is kept intact, without having bits and pieces chopped off here and there.

And the priest's duty to connect the sacrifice with the Word, which is an integral part of the whole, has always been part of this role, even in the Old Testament.

From the purely practical viewpoint, we must then, of course, see to providing priests with the necessary help so that they are also able to carry out properly the ministry of the Word. As a rule, this interior oneness, both of the essence of the Eucharistic Celebration and of the essence of the priestly ministry, is of great importance.

The second subject I would like to talk about concerns the Sacrament of Penance, whose practice in the past 50 years or thereabouts has gradually diminished. Thanks be to God, cloisters, abbeys and shrines exist where people go on pilgrimage, where their hearts are opened and also prepared for confession.

We must truly learn this Sacrament anew. From a purely anthropological viewpoint it is important, on the one hand, to recognize sin and on the other, to practice forgiveness. The widespread absence of an awareness of sin is a disturbing phenomenon of our time.

Thus, the gift of the Sacrament of Penance not only consists in the reception of forgiveness, but also and above all in being aware of our need for forgiveness. With this Sacrament we are purified, we are inwardly transformed and subsequently able to understand others even better and to forgive them.

For the human being, the recognition of sin is elementary -- he is ill if he no longer perceives it --, and the liberating experience of being granted forgiveness is equally important for him. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the crucial place where both these things take place.

In this Sacrament, furthermore, faith becomes something completely personal; it is no longer concealed in collectivity. If man faces up to this challenge and in his need of forgiveness presents himself defenseless, as it were, before God, he then has the moving experience of a quite personal encounter with the love of Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I would like once again to focus attention on the ministry of the Bishop. Basically, we have already been talking about it implicitly all this time.

It seems to me important that Bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, on the one hand truly bear responsibility for the local Churches which the Lord has entrusted to them, ensuring that the Church as the Church of Jesus Christ grows and lives.

On the other hand, they must open the local Churches to the universal dimension. Given the difficulties the Orthodox encounter with the Autocephalous Churches as well as the problems of our Protestant friends in the face of the disintegration of the regional Churches, we realize the great significance of universality and the importance of the Church being open to totality, to become in universality a Church which is truly one.

The Church is only capable of this if she is active in her own local area. This communion must be nurtured by the Bishops together with the Successor of Peter in the spirit of a conscious succession to the College of the Apostles.

We must all strive continuously to find the right balance in this mutual relationship so that the local Church may live her authenticity, and that the universal Church may likewise be enriched by it so that both will give and receive, and thus the Lord's Church will grow.

Bishop Grab mentioned the ecumenical difficulties: this is an area I can only entrust to all your hearts. In Switzerland, you are confronted daily with this task which is tiring but also creates joy.

On the one hand, I think personal relationships are important, where we recognize and esteem one another in an immediate way as believers, and as spiritual persons purify ourselves and help one another in turn.

On the other, as Bishop Grab said, it is a question of guaranteeing the essential values and framework of our society, since they come from God.

In this area, all of us -- Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox -- have a great, joint task. And I am glad that awareness of this is growing.

In the West it is the Church in Greece which, in spite of some occasional problems with the Latins, always says very clearly: in Europe, we can only carry out our task if we work together for the great Christian heritage. The Church in Russia is also seeing this ever more clearly and likewise, our Protestant friends are aware of this fact.

I believe that if we learn to act together in this field, we could achieve a large degree of unity, even where full theological and sacramental unity are not yet possible.

To conclude, I would once again like to express to you my joy at your visit, as I wish you many fruitful exchanges during these days.


Pope's Nov. 9 Address to Swiss Bishops
"Prayer Is Hope in Action"

VATICAN CITY,  Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Nov. 9 at the conclusion of his meeting with the bishops of Switzerland, who were on their visit to Rome.

* * *



Thursday, 9 November 2006

I would first like to thank you all for this meeting, which seems very important to me as an exercise of collegial affection, an expression of our common responsibility for the Church and for the Gospel in the world at this time. Thank you for everything!

I am sorry that because of other commitments, especially the "ad limina" visits -- in these days it is the turn of the German bishops -- I was unable to be with you.

I would have really liked to hear the voice of the Swiss Bishops -- but perhaps there will be other opportunities -- and of course, also to hear the dialogue of the Roman Curia and the Swiss Bishops: in the Roman Curia too, the Holy Father always speaks as responsible for the whole Church.

Thank you, therefore, for this meeting, which it seems to me is a help to us all because it is an experience of the Church's unity as well as of the hope that accompanies us in all the difficulties that surround us.

In addition, I would like to ask you to excuse me for having come without a prepared text on the very first day; I had of course given it some thought, but I did not have the time to write. And so, once again now, I am presenting myself with this impoverishment, but it might be right also for a Pope to be poor in all senses at this time in the Church's history.

In any case, I am unable to offer you a grand Discourse now as would have been fitting after a meeting with these results.

I must say, in fact, that I had already read the summary of your discussions and I have listened to it just now with great attention: it seems a very well thought out and rich text. It truly responds to the essential questions that concern us, both for the unity of the Church as a whole and for the specific issues of the Church in Switzerland. It seems to me that it really plots the path for the years to come and demonstrates our common desire to serve the Lord. It is a very rich text.

In reading it, I thought: it would be somewhat absurd if I were now to start once again to treat the topics discussed thoroughly and intensely over the past three days. I see here the condensed and rich result of the work done; to add anything further to the individual points would, I think, be very difficult, partly because the result of the work is known to me but not the actual voices of those who spoke during the discussions.

I therefore thought that perhaps it would be right this evening, at the conclusion, to return once again to the important topics which occupy us and are, in short, the basis of all the details -- even if obviously each detail is important.

In the Church, the institution is not merely an external structure while the Gospel is purely spiritual. In fact, the Gospel and the Institution are inseparable because the Gospel has a body, the Lord has a body in this time of ours. Consequently, issues that seem at first sight merely institutional are actually theological and central, because it is a matter of the realization and concretization of the Gospel in our time.

The best thing to do now, therefore, would be to stress once again the great perspectives within which the whole of our reflection takes place. Allow me with the indulgence and generosity of the members of the Roman Curia, to continue in German, because we have excellent interpreters who would otherwise be left idle.

I have thought of two specific themes of which I have already spoken and which I would now like to examine further.

Let us return, therefore, to the subject of "God". The words of St Ignatius spring to mind: "The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power" ("Epistula ad Romanos" 3, 3). We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith -- a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

In this perspective I would now like to continue by completing last Tuesday's reflections and to stress once again: what matters above all is to tend one's personal relationship with God, with that God who revealed himself to us in Christ.

Augustine repeatedly emphasized the two sides of the Christian concept of God: God is Logos and God is Love -- to the point that he completely humbled himself, assuming a human body and finally, giving himself into our hands as bread. We must always keep in mind and help others to keep in mind these two aspects of the Christian conception of God.

God is "Spiritus Creator", he is Logos, he is reason. And this is why our faith is something that has to do with reason, can be passed on through reason and has no cause to hide from reason, not even from the reason of our age. But precisely this eternal, immeasurable reason is not merely a mathematics of the universe and far less, some first cause that withdrew after producing the Big Bang.

This reason, on the contrary, has a heart such as to be able to renounce its own immensity and take flesh. And in that alone, to my mind, lies the ultimate, true greatness of our conception of God. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, he is not something that perhaps exists, but we know him and he knows us. And we can know him better and better if we keep up a dialogue with him.

This is why it is a fundamental task of pastoral care to teach people how to pray and how to learn to do so personally, better and better. Today, schools of prayer and prayer groups exist; it is obvious that people want them. Many seek meditation elsewhere because they think that they will not be able to find a spiritual dimension in Christianity.

We must show them once again not only that this spiritual dimension exists but that it is the source of all things. To this end, we must increase the number of these schools of prayer, for praying together, where it is possible to learn personal prayer in all its dimensions: as silent listening to God, as a listening that penetrates his Word, penetrates his silence, sounds the depths of his action in history and in one's own person; and to understand his language in one's life and then to learn to respond in prayer with the great prayers of the Psalms of the Old Testament and prayers of the New.

By ourselves, we do not possess words for God, but words have been given to us: the Holy Spirit himself has already formulated words of prayer for us; we can enter them, we can pray with them and thus subsequently, also learn personal prayer ever better; we can "learn" God and thus become sure of him even if he is silent -- we can become joyful in God.

This intimate being with God, hence, the experience of God's presence, is what makes us, so to speak, experience ever anew the greatness of Christianity, and then also helps us to find our way through all the trivialities among which, of course, it must also be lived and -- day after day, in suffering and loving, in joy and sorrow -- put into practice.

And from this viewpoint one perceives, in my opinion, the significance of the Liturgy also as precisely a school of prayer, where the Lord himself teaches us to pray and where we pray together with the Church, both in humble, simple celebrations with only a few of the faithful and also in the feast of faith.

In various conversations, I have perceived now, once again at this very moment, on the one hand, how important for the faithful silence in their contact with God is, and on the other, the feast of faith, how important it is to be able to live festive celebration.

The world also has its feast days. Nietzsche actually said: We can only celebrate if God does not exist. But this is absurd: only if God exists and touches us can there be true festivity. And we know that these feasts of faith open people's hearts wide and create impressions that are helpful for the future. I saw once again during my Pastoral Visits to Germany, Poland and Spain that faith there is lived as a festive celebration and that it accompanies people and guides them.

In this context I would like to mention something else that struck me and made a lasting impression.

In St Thomas Aquinas' last work that remained unfinished, the Compendium Theologiae which he intended to structure simply according to the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the great Doctor began and partly developed his chapter on hope. In it he identified, so to speak, hope with prayer: the chapter on hope is at the same time the chapter on prayer.

Prayer is hope in action. And in fact, true reason is contained in prayer, which is why it is possible to hope: we can come into contact with the Lord of the world, he listens to us, and we can listen to him. This is what St Ignatius was alluding to and what I wanted to remind you of today, once again: "ou peismones to ergon, alla megethous estin ho Christianismos" ("Ad Rom." 3, 3) -- the truly great thing in Christianity, which does not dispense one from small, daily things but must not be concealed by them either, is this ability to come into contact with God.

The second thing that I have remembered in these very days concerns morals.

I often hear it said that people today have a longing for God, for spirituality, for religion, and are starting once again to see the Church as a possible conversation partner from which, in this regard, they can receive something. (There was a period in which this was basically sought only in other religions).

Awareness is growing: the Church especially conveys spiritual experience; she is like a tree where the birds can make their nests even if they want to fly away again later -- but she is precisely also a place where one can settle for a certain time.

Instead, what people find more difficult is the morality that the Church proclaims. I have pondered on this -- I have been pondering on it for a long time -- and I see ever more clearly that in our age morality is, as it were, split in two.

Modern society not merely lacks morals but has "discovered" and demands another dimension of morality, which in the Church's proclamation in recent decades and even earlier perhaps has not been sufficiently presented. This dimension includes the great topics of peace, non-violence, justice for all, concern for the poor and respect for creation. They have become an ethical whole which, precisely as a political force, has great power and for many constitutes the substitution or succession of religion.

Instead of religion, seen as metaphysical and as something from above -- perhaps also as something individualistic --, the great moral themes come into play as the essential which then confers dignity on man and engages him.

This is one aspect: this morality exists and it also fascinates young people, who work for peace, for non-violence, for justice, for the poor, for creation. And there are truly great moral themes that also belong, moreover, to the tradition of the Church. The means offered for their solution, however, are often very unilateral and not always credible, but we cannot dwell on this now. The important topics are present.

The other part of morality, often received controversially by politics, concerns life. One aspect of it is the commitment to life from conception to death, that is, its defense against abortion, against euthanasia, against the manipulation and man's self-authorization in order to dispose of life.

People often seek to justify these interventions with the seemingly great purpose of thereby serving the future generations, and it even appears moral to take human life into one's own hands and manipulate it.

However, on the other hand, the knowledge also exists that human life is a gift that demands our respect and love from the very first to its very last moments, also for the suffering, the disabled and the weak.

The morality of marriage and the family also fit into this context. Marriage is becoming, so to speak, ever more marginalized.

We are aware of the example of certain countries where legislation has been modified so that marriage is no longer defined as a bond between a man and a woman but a bond between persons; with this, obviously, the basic idea is destroyed and society from its roots becomes something quite different.

The awareness that sexuality, eros and marriage as a union between a man and a woman go together -- "and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:24) -- this knowledge is growing weaker and weaker; every type of bond seems entirely normal -- they represent a sort of overall morality of non-discrimination and a form of freedom due to man.

Naturally, with this the indissolubility of marriage has become almost a utopian idea which many public figures seem precisely to contradict. So it is that even the family is gradually breaking up.

There are of course many explanations for the problem of the sharp decline in the birth rate, but certainly a decisive role is also played in this by the fact that people want to enjoy life, that they have little confidence in the future and that they feel the family is no longer viable as a lasting community in which future generations may grow up.

In these contexts, therefore, our proclamation clashes with an awareness, as it were, contrary to society and with a sort of anti-morality based on a conception of freedom seen as the faculty to choose autonomously with no pre-defined guidelines, as non-discrimination, hence, as the approval of every type of possibility.

Thus, it autonomously establishes itself as ethically correct, but the other awareness has not disappeared. It exists, and I believe we must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united.

Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice.

I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need to be able to "lose our own life". On the other hand, in this context of freely given love, we need to move forward towards ways of putting it into practice, whose foundation is always offered to us by the Decalogue, which we must interpret today with Christ and with the Church in a progressive and new way.

These, therefore, were the themes I thought I should and could elaborate. I thank you for your indulgence and your patience. Let us hope that the Lord will help us all on our journey!


Benedict XVI's Address to Irish Bishops
"Sound Catechesis and Careful 'Formation of the Heart' Are Needed"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to the bishops of Ireland on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome. The Pope had received the prelates in individual audiences last week.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

In the words of a traditional Irish greeting, a hundred thousand welcomes to you, the Bishops of Ireland, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you draw inspiration from the courage and vision of these two great saints, who so faithfully led the way in the Church's mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. Today you have come to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I gladly express my appreciation for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Seán Brady, President of your Episcopal Conference. The constant witness of countless generations of Irish people to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See has shaped Ireland at the deepest level of her history and culture. We are all aware of the outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores. Meanwhile, the flame of faith has continued bravely burning at home through all the trials afflicting your people in the course of their history. In the words of the Psalmist, "I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord, through all ages my mouth shall proclaim your truth" (Ps 89:1).

The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland. You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last fifteen years have brought. After centuries of emigration, which involved the pain of separation for so many families, you are experiencing for the first time a wave of immigration. Traditional Irish hospitality is finding unexpected new outlets. Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure "what is new and what is old" (Mt 13:52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, 1:1).

So often the Church's counter-cultural witness is misunderstood as something backward and negative in today's society. That is why it is important to emphasize the Good News, the life-giving and life-enhancing message of the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:10). Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely "a collection of prohibitions". Sound catechesis and careful "formation of the heart" are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young. Continue to encourage them in their task and ensure that their catechetical programs are based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the new Compendium. Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel. By exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used and by proclaiming the Church's doctrine in its entirety, you are carrying out your responsibility to "preach the word … in season and out of season … unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).

In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God's people in Ireland to "maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labors. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord's words: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations "must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes'" (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfillment.

Allow me to add an observation that is close to my heart. For many years, Christian representatives of all denominations, political leaders and many men and women of good will have been involved in seeking means to ensure a brighter future for Northern Ireland. Although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all.

As you prepare to return to your Dioceses, I commend your apostolic ministry to the intercession of all the saints of Ireland, and I assure you of my deep affection and constant prayer for you and for the Irish people. May Our Lady of Knock watch over and protect you always. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your beloved island I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Papal Address to Bishops in Formation Course

"Priority to Prayer and to the Constant Aspiration to Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2006 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sept. 23 to the bishops taking part in a formation course organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Hall of the Swiss, Castel Gandolfo
Saturday, 23 September 2006

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am pleased to be able to meet you on the occasion of the Update Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and I address my most cordial welcome to each one of you.

I greet first of all Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery for only a few months, and I thank him for his kind words on behalf of you all.

I next greet and thank those who have collaborated for the success of this formation course. I extend my affectionate thoughts to your young and enthusiastic diocesan Communities in which evangelization is showing promising signs of development, despite the sometimes difficult and demanding context. These days of brotherly coexistence will certainly be useful to you for the pastoral mission at their service that the Lord has recently entrusted to you.

You are called to be Pastors among peoples, many of whom do not yet know Jesus Christ. As those primarily responsible for Gospel proclamation, you must therefore make a considerable effort to ensure that all are given the possibility of accepting him.

More and more, you are feeling the need to inculturate the Gospel, to evangelize cultures and to foster a sincere and open dialogue with one and all in order to build together a more brotherly and supportive humanity.

Only if you are impelled by the love of Christ can you bring to completion this apostolic task which demands the fearless zeal of men undaunted even by persecution and death for the Lord.

How can we forget the many priests, men and women religious and lay people in mission lands who have sealed with blood their fidelity to Christ and to the Church, in past centuries and in our times?

In the last few days, the oblation of Sr Leonella Sgorbati, a Consolata Missionary barbarically killed in Moga-dishu, Somalia, has been added to the number of these heroic Gospel witnesses. This martyrology, in the past and in our day, adorns the history of the Church. Even in suffering and apprehension, it keeps alive in our souls trust in the glorious flourishing of Christian faith, for as Tertullian says, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians".

To you, Pastors of God's flock, is entrusted the mandate of safeguarding and transmitting faith in Christ, passed on to us through the living tradition of the Church and for which so many have given their lives. To carry out this task, it is essential that first of all you show you are "in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured" (Ti 2:7-8).

"Modern man", wrote my Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, "listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi," n. 41).

For this reason, it is only right that you give priority in your episcopal ministry to prayer and to the constant aspiration to holiness. It is important for you to ensure that your seminarians receive a sound formation and that your priests and catechists are given ongoing formation.

The preservation of the unity of faith in the diversity of its cultural expressions is another precious service that is asked of you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate. This requires that you be united with the flock after the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd, and that the flock always walk united with you.

As sentries of the People of God, firmly and courageously avoid divisions, especially when they are due to ethnic or social and cultural causes. Indeed, divisions undermine the unity of the faith and weaken the proclamation and witness of the Gospel of Christ, who came into the world to make the whole of humanity a holy people and one family in which God is the Father of all.
It is a cause of joy and consolation to note that in many of your Churches there is a constant flourishing of vocations to the priesthood and to the Religious life, a marvellous gift of God to be accepted and furthered with gratitude and enthusiasm. May it be your concern to equip seminaries with a sufficient number of carefully chosen and trained formation teachers who are first and foremost examples and models for the seminarians.

As you well know, the seminary is the heart of the Diocese, and this is why the Bishop should take a personal interest in it. The future of your communities and that of the universal Church depends on the training of future priests and of all the other pastoral workers, especially catechists.

Venerable and dear Brothers, in a few days' time you will be returning to your own Dioceses enriched by this formative stay in Rome.

I will continue to feel united with you in spirit and I ask you to convey the assurance of my affection and closeness in prayer to your Communities, upon which I invoke the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, Star of Evangelization, and the intercession of St Pius of Pietrelcina, whose liturgical memorial we are celebrating today.

With these sentiments, I impart my Blessing to you all, and gladly extend it to those who are entrusted to your care as Pastors, particularly the children, young people, the elderly, the sick, the poor and the suffering.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Zambia
"Show Your People the Beautiful Face of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of the Zambian episcopal conference, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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My dear Brothers in Christ,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Zambia, to this fraternal encounter during your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. In a special way I thank the Most Reverend Telesphore George Mpundu, who has expressed your devotion to the Holy See and to me as Peter's successor. I am grateful for your good wishes, which I gladly reciprocate. Our conversations have led me to deeper appreciation of the Catholic Church in your country: her joys, her difficulties and her hopes. Through you I greet and embrace the clergy, religious and lay faithful of Zambia. Recently in Germany I had occasion to say: "As people of prayer filled with his light, we reach out to others and bring them into our prayer and into the presence of God, who will not fail to do his part" (Cathedral of Saint Corbinian, Freising, 14 September 2006). I encourage you therefore to urge your people to dedicate themselves to prayer and holiness, discovering the treasure of a life built on faith in Christ. May they invite all those whom they encounter to share that treasure!

The light of holiness that shines forth in those who have discovered this treasure is enkindled at the moment of baptism. In baptism Christ liberates the believer from the dominion of sin, freeing him from an existence filled with fear and superstition and calling him to a new life. "Beloved, we are God's children now ... and everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 Jn 3:2-3). Indeed, the Christian has placed his trust in Christ and can be ever confident that he hears his prayers and answers them. As you strive to prepare your people for lives of genuine holiness, be sure to instruct them in the value and the practice of prayer, especially liturgical prayer, where in a sublime way the Church is united with Christ the High Priest in his eternal intercession for the salvation of the world. Moreover, the Catholic Church encourages the faithful to practice popular forms of piety. Therefore, always teach your people the value of the intercession of the saints, who are the great friends of Jesus (cf. Jn 12:20-22), and particularly the special intercession of Mary, his Mother, who is always attentive to our needs (cf. Jn 2:1-11).

My dear Brother Bishops, I have no doubt that you will continue to devote your lives with generous love to God's people in Zambia. The Lord has chosen you to keep them and guide them on the way that leads to sanctity. Do so with wise advice, unwavering resolve and paternal affection. Saint Jerome in his Commentary on Saint Paul's Letter to Titus puts it this way: "Let the bishop practice abstinence with respect to all the troubles that can agitate the soul: let him not be inclined to anger or crushed by sadness and let him not be tortured by fear" (cf. vv. 8-9, PL 26, 603b-42). This is especially true in your dealings with your brother priests, who at times can be led astray by the many temptations of contemporary society. As pastors and fathers to your co-workers in the vineyard, you must always communicate to them the joy of serving the Lord with a proper detachment from the things of this world. Tell them that they are close to the Pope's heart and in his daily prayers. With you I encourage them to stand steadfast in the true faith and to look forward with living hope to the joyful possession of that undefiled, imperishable treasure, won for us by Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet 1:4).

We believe that the Church is holy. When you urge your priests to live holy lives in accordance with their calling, when you preach generous love and fidelity in marriage and when you exhort everybody to practice the works of mercy, remind them of the Lord's own words: "You are the light of the world ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:14-16). Holiness is a divine gift, which manifests itself in love of God and love of neighbor. Dear Brothers, show your people the beautiful face of Christ by living a life of genuine love. Show Christ's compassion especially for the poor, for refugees, for the sick and for all who suffer. At the same time, in your teaching continue to proclaim the need for honesty, family affection, discipline and fidelity, all of which have a decisive impact on the health and stability of society.

Your visit to Rome is a visible sign of your personal search for holiness and your ardent desire to act as heralds of the Gospel, following the heroic example of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Saint Matthew expresses the Church's missionary mandate as follows: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:18-20). This passage is a source of great hope for all who devote their energies to the Apostolic Ministry. These words remind us of the constant and active presence of the living Christ in his holy Catholic Church. I invite you and those who cooperate with you in your ministry to meditate on them and to renew your trust in the Lord. As you return home, take with you my affectionate greetings to the people of your country. May your witness as men filled with the hope of the resurrection lead them to an ever greater appreciation of the joys that the Lord has promised us. To each of you and to all those in your pastoral care I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to Bishops of Western Canada
"The Human Need to Confront Sin Never Goes Away"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the bishops of the Western Catholic Conference of Canada, with whom he met on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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[In English]

Dear Brother Bishops,

"We should celebrate and rejoice ... he has come to life; he was lost and is found" (Lk 15:32). With fraternal affection I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of the Western Catholic Conference of Canada, and I thank Bishop Wiesner for the good wishes offered on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude. Your meeting with the Successor of Peter concludes the visits "ad limina Apostolorum" of the Canadian Bishops' Conference. Notwithstanding the increasingly secular climate within which you serve, your reports contain much from which you can draw encouragement. In particular, I have been heartened to note the zeal and generosity of your priests, the selfless dedication of the Religious present in your Dioceses and the increasing readiness among the laity to embolden their witness to Christ's truth and love in their homes, schools, places of work and in the public sphere.

[In French; translated by ZENIT]

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most appreciated passages of sacred Scripture. Its profound illustration of the mercy of God and the important human desire for conversion and reconciliation, as well as the restoration of severed relations, speak to men and women of every age. Man's temptation to exercise his freedom by distancing himself from God is frequent. Now the experience of the Prodigal Son makes us see at the same time that in history and in our own lives, when freedom is sought outside of God, the result is negative: loss of personal dignity, moral confusion and social disintegration. However, the Father's passionate love for humanity overcomes human pride. Freely lavished, it is a forgiving love that leads people to enter more profoundly in the communion of Christ's Church. It truly offers all peoples unity in God and, as perfectly manifested by Christ on the cross, reconciles justice and love (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 10).

[In English]

And what of the elder brother? Is he not, in a certain sense, all men and women as well; perhaps particularly those who sadly distance themselves from the Church? His rationalization of his attitude and actions evokes a certain sympathy, yet in the final analysis illustrates his inability to understand unconditional love. Unable to think beyond the limits of natural justice, he remains trapped within envy and pride, detached from God, isolated from others and ill at ease with himself.

Dear Brothers, as you reflect upon the three characters in this parable -- the Father in his abundant mercy, the younger son in his joy at being forgiven, and the elder brother in his tragic isolation -- be confirmed in your desire to address the loss of a sense of sin, to which you have referred in your reports. This pastoral priority reflects an eager hope that the faithful will experience God's boundless love as a call to deepen their ecclesial unity and overcome the division and fragmentation that so often wound today's families and communities. From this perspective, the Bishop's responsibility to indicate the destructive presence of sin is readily understood as a service of hope: it strengthens believers to avoid evil and to embrace the perfection of love and the plenitude of Christian life. I wish therefore to commend your promotion of the Sacrament of Penance. While this Sacrament is often considered with indifference, what it effects is precisely the fullness of healing for which we long. A new-found appreciation of this Sacrament will confirm that time spent in the confessional draws good from evil, restores life from death, and reveals anew the merciful face of the Father.

Understanding the gift of reconciliation calls for a careful reflection on the ways to evoke conversion and penance in man's heart (cf. "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia," 23). While manifestations of sin abound -- greed and corruption, betrayed relationships and exploitation of persons -- the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned. Behind this weakening of the recognition of sin, with its commensurate attenuation of the need to seek forgiveness, is ultimately a weakening of our relationship with God (cf. Address at Ecumenical Vespers, Regensburg, 12 September 2006).

Not surprisingly this phenomenon is particularly pronounced in societies marked by secularist post-Enlightenment ideology. Where God is excluded from the public forum the sense of offence against God -- the true sense of sin -- dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility. Yet, the human need to acknowledge and confront sin in fact never goes away, no matter how much an individual may, like the elder brother, rationalize to the contrary. As Saint John tells us: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 Jn 1:8). It is an integral part of the truth about the human person. When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises. This ugly phenomenon, however, can be dispelled. Following the light of Christ's healing truth is to say with the father: "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours" and we must be glad "because your brother ... who was lost ... is found" (Lk 15:31-32).

The lasting peace and harmony so longed for by individuals, families and society underpin your concerns to deepen reconciliation and understanding with the many First Nations communities found in your region. Much has been achieved. In this regard, I have been heartened to learn from you about the work of the Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation and the aims of the Amerindian Fund. Such initiatives bring hope and bear witness to the love of Christ which draws us forward (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). Yet there is still much to be accomplished. I therefore encourage you to address with compassion and determination the underlying causes of the difficulties surrounding the social and spiritual needs of the Aboriginal faithful. Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness -- two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth.

With fraternal affection I share these reflections with you and assure you of my prayers as you seek to make the sanctifying and reconciling mission of the Church ever more appreciated and recognizable in your ecclesial and civic communities. With these sentiments I commend you to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and to the intercession of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. To you and to the priests, deacons, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of Malawi
"Continue to Proclaim Fearlessly the Gospel of Jesus Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the bishops of Malawi, at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you here today, the bishops of Malawi, on your visit "ad limina apostolorum," and I thank you for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye, president of your episcopal conference.

Your visit expresses the deep bonds of communion and affection that link your local Churches in East Africa with the See of Rome. Simon Peter was called to strengthen his brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) and to feed the Lord's sheep (cf. John 21:17), and you too have been placed as leaders and shepherds of your people, to teach, sanctify and govern them in the Lord's name.

As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, I pray that, through their intercession, you will be strengthened and nourished for your ministry among the people of Malawi, and will continue to proclaim fearlessly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who came "that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

The exuberance with which the peoples of Africa give praise to God in their liturgical worship is known all over the world, and the Church in Malawi is no exception. Their joyful celebration expresses the great vitality of your Christian communities, and it reflects the predominance of young people in your population. Continue to guide them with true fatherly care toward a deeper knowledge of their crucified and risen Lord, always providing them with sound catechesis in the faith.

To this end, it is important that teachers and catechists receive good preparation for their noble task since, as you know, they play a vital part in helping the bishop to carry out his responsibility as the one who teaches with Christ's authority. Hence they should be well formed in the faith and able to communicate both the joy and the challenge of following Christ. I am hopeful that the newly-opened Catholic University of Malawi will be able to make a significant contribution in this area, and I encourage you to do all you can to provide it with sufficient resources and to maintain high-quality teaching in fidelity to the Church's magisterium.

In a world dominated by secular and materialist values, it can be hard to maintain the counter-cultural manner of life that is so necessary in the priesthood and the religious life. The clergy in your country, like those to whom they minister, sometimes find themselves in situations of want, lacking the means necessary for their "decent support ... and the exercise of works of the apostolate and of charity" ("Presbyterorum Ordinis," no. 17). I am sure that you will do your utmost to provide for the legitimate needs of your co-workers, while at the same time warning them against excessive concern with material possessions.

Help your clergy not to fall into the trap of seeing the priesthood as a means of social advancement by reminding them that "the only legitimate ascent toward the shepherd's ministry is the cross" (Ordination Homily, May 7, 2006). The formation staff in the seminaries need to teach the students that a priest is called to live for others and not for himself, in imitation of Christ, who came "not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

Above all, the bishop's example of a truly Christ-centered ministry can serve as an inspiration to his priests. My dear brother bishops, live as authentic followers of Christ, and let your discipleship be the basis of the authority that you exercise. I pray that in this way you will be able to strengthen the bonds of fraternal charity within the presbyterium of each of your local Churches.

I am pleased to note that you continue to exercise your teaching office by commenting on matters of social concern. In fact, your Pentecost pastoral letter "Renewing Our Lives and Society with the Power of the Holy Spirit," which you published earlier this year, drew attention to some of the social and moral evils afflicting the nation.

Food security is threatened not only by drought but also by inefficient and unjust management of agriculture; the spread of AIDS is increased by failure to remain faithful to one partner in marriage or to practice abstinence; the rights of women, children and the unborn are cynically violated by human trafficking, by domestic violence and by those who advocate abortion. Never cease to proclaim the truth, and insist on it, "in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2) because "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

The Good Shepherd, who never leaves his flock untended, watches over his sheep and protects them always. Following his example, continue to guide your people away from the dangers that threaten them, and lead them into safe pastures. I pray that they will pay heed to your counsel, so that the face of the earth may be renewed (cf. Psalm 104:30) and the Spirit of God may truly maintain the unity of your nation in the bond of peace (cf. Ephesians 4:3).

As I conclude my remarks to you today, I want to remind you of the image of the Apostles gathered in the upper room with Mary, mother of the Lord, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the same scene that you describe so beautifully in the closing paragraph of your recent pastoral letter. In that document, you encouraged your people to come together to pray, in their families and in small Christian communities. I know that you too will continue to pray together, and in communion with the clergy and lay faithful, for the gifts of the Spirit on the Church in your country.

The Spirit is the energy "which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son" ("Deus Caritas Est," no. 19).

I too pray that the Spirit may be poured out abundantly upon all of you, and as I entrust you and your clergy, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, mother of the Church, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of grace and strength in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Ontario
"Make God Visible in the Human Face of Jesus"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today in English and French to the bishops of Ontario, Canada, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the bishops of Ontario, and I thank Bishop Smith for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude.

Your visit "ad limina apostolorum," and to the Successor of Peter, is an occasion to affirm your commitment to make Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through joyful witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.

The Evangelist John's numerous exhortations to abide in the love and truth of Christ evoke an appealing image of a sure and safe dwelling place. God first loves us (1 John 4:10) and we, drawn toward this gift, find a resting place where we can "constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est," 7).

St. John was also compelled to urge his communities to remain in that love. Already some had been weakened by the disputes and distractions which eventually lead to division.

2. Dear Brothers, your own diocesan communities are challenged to resonate with the living statement of faith: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16).

These words, which eloquently reveal faith as personal adherence to God and concurrent assent to the whole truth that God reveals (cf. "Dominus Iesus," 7), can be credibly proclaimed only in the wake of an encounter with Christ. Drawn by his love the believer entrusts his entire self to God and so becomes one with the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:17).

In the Eucharist this union is strengthened and renewed by entering into the very dynamic of Christ's self-giving so as to share in the divine life: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (John 6:56; cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 13).

[The Pope read the following in French]

St. John's warning remains however always timely. In our increasingly secularized societies, which you yourselves have experienced, the love that flows from God's heart toward humanity can be unperceived or even rejected. On imagining that removing himself from this relationship constitutes, one way or another, a solution for his liberation, man becomes in fact a stranger to himself, because "in reality, the truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 22).

By their lack of interest in the love that reveals the fullness of the truth of man, numerous men and women continue to estrange themselves from God's dwelling to live in the desert of individual isolation, social brokenness and the loss of cultural identity.

[Translation of French original by ZENIT]

3. Within this perspective, one sees that the fundamental task of the evangelization of culture is the challenge to make God visible in the human face of Jesus. In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church.

This is our mission. It expresses our ecclesial nature and ensures that every initiative of evangelization concurrently strengthens Christian identity. In this regard, we must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the "kingdom of God," to indefinite talk of "kingdom values" weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church's contribution to the regeneration of society.

When believing is replaced by "doing" and witness by talk of "issues," there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord's presence, "burned within them" impelling them to "tell their story" (cf. Luke 24:32,35).

Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities.

At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of "tolerance" your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of "freedom of choice" it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.

False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls.

Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendor of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life," 2-3; 6).

In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.

4. Within the context of the evangelization of culture, I wish to mention the fine network of Catholic schools at the heart of ecclesial life in your province.

Catechesis and religious education is a taxing apostolate. I thank and encourage those many lay men and women, together with religious, who strive to ensure that your young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received.

More than ever this demands that witness, nourished by prayer, be the all-encompassing milieu of every Catholic school. Teachers, as witnesses, account for the hope that nourishes their own lives (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) by living the truth they propose to their pupils, always in reference to the one they have encountered and whose dependable goodness they have sampled with joy (cf. Address to Rome's Ecclesial Diocesan Convention, Living the Truth that God Loves his People, June 6, 2005).

And so with St. Augustine they say: "We who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (St. Augustine, Sermons, 23:2).

A particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom.

Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of "intellectual charity" which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young toward the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life.

Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who "enlightens every person who comes into the world" (John 1:9) and satisfies every desire of humanity.

5. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and encourage you in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Experience his love and in this way cause the light of God to enter into the world! (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 39).

Invoking upon you the intercession of Mary, seat of wisdom, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to you and the priests, religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.


Papal Address to Recipients of Pallium
Symbol of Catholicity, Unity

VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2006 ( Here is the full text of Benedict XVI's address on June 30 to the metropolitan archbishops on whom he bestowed the pallium the previous day, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

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Paul VI Hall
Friday, June 30, 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's meeting is like an echo of the solemn celebration that took place yesterday in the Vatican Basilica, during which I had the joy of conferring the pallium upon the metropolitan archbishop here with their relatives, friends and a numerous representation of their diocesan communities.

The different places they come from illustrate the catholic character of the Church: the faithful of the various particular Churches who have arrived from every part of the earth feel united with the See of Peter by a special bond of communion that is also clearly expressed by the liturgical symbol of the pallium worn by their metropolitans.

I greet each one of you with affection, venerable and dear brothers, and together with you I greet the members of your faithful who have come on pilgrimage to the tomb of the apostles.

An affectionate greeting to you in the first place, venerable and dear pastors of the Church in Italy!

I greet you, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who is now called, after various years of direct service to the Holy See, to be pastor of the distinguished Archdiocese of Naples; to you, Archbishop Tommaso Valentinetti of Pescara-Penne; to you, Archbishop Luigi Conti of Fermo; to you, Archbishop Ignazio Sanna of Oristano; to you, Archbishop Andrea Mugione of Benevento.

May the Lord Jesus, the one who chose you as pastors of his flock, sustain you in your daily service and with the power of the Holy Spirit make you faithful heralds of the Gospel.

I warmly greet the pilgrims who have come from France and Africa to accompany the new metropolitan archbishops upon whom I have had the joy of conferring the pallium, a sign of very special communion with the See of Peter.

My greetings go to Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, Madagascar, to Archbishop Cornelius Esua of Bamenda, Cameroon, to Archbishop Francois Xavier Maroy Rusengo of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, and to Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles, France.

Through you I carry in prayer all the faithful of your dioceses and your countries.

Since I feel very specially close to Africa at this time, I ask the Lord to help the countries there to advance on the path of peace and the road of development of individuals and peoples. May you each day become ever better witnesses of Christ, concerned to proclaim the Gospel to your brethren and to help them to love our Father in heaven more and more.

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking metropolitan archbishops upon whom I conferred the pallium yesterday: Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, U.S.A.; Archbishop Daniel Di Nardo of Galveston-Houston, U.S.A.; Archbishop José Serofia Palma of Palo, the Philippines; Archbishop Antonio Javellana Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines; Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie of Keewatin-Le Pas, Canada; and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, U.S.A.

I also welcome their family members and friends, and the faithful from their archdioceses who have accompanied them to Rome.

The pallium is worn by archbishops as a symbol of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter in the governance of God's people.

It is made of sheep's wool as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the Good Shepherd who keeps vigilant watch over his beloved flock. This vestment reminds bishops, as vicars of Christ in their local Churches, that they are called to be shepherds after the Heart of Jesus.

To all of you I affectionately impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

I greet with affection the Spanish-speaking archbishops and those who have accompanied them at the important ceremony of the imposition of the pallium, which distinguishes them and demonstrates their role as metropolitans. I am referring to Archbishops Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas; Jorge Enrique Jiménez Carvajal of Cartagena; Fabriciano Sigampa of Resistencia and José Luis Mollaghan of Rosario.

Dear members of the faithful who have accompanied them, I ask you to continue to be close to them with prayer and generous collaboration, constant and loyal, so that they may carry out their mission in accordance with God's plans.

I ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary, so deeply venerated in your countries -- Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina -- to inspire the archbishops' ministry and to accompany with tenderness the priests, religious communities and faithful of your archdioceses.

Take back to everyone my affectionate greeting, together with the apostolic blessing that I now warmly impart to you.

The Church in Brazil is rejoicing today because the Archiepiscopal Sees of São Luís do Maranhão, Ribeirão Preto and Londrina are celebrating the imposition of the pallium on their new archbishops: José Belisário da Silva, Joviano de Lima Júnior and Orlando Brandes, who are accompanied today by their priests, their faithful and their relatives.

I would therefore like to greet your particular Churches with affection and express the hope that this important celebration will help to strengthen their unity and communion with the Apostolic See, and to encourage the generous pastoral dedication of their bishops for the growth of the Church and the salvation of souls.

I greet the pilgrims who have come from Poland. It is a custom of the Church that new metropolitans receive the pallium on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

The pallium symbolizes the special bond of each metropolitan with the Successor of Peter.

Yesterday, among the metropolitans who have come from various parts of the world, your compatriot Archbishop Wojciech Ziemba, metropolitan of Warmia, received the pallium.

I hope that he and all the metropolitans in Poland will receive abundant gifts in their apostolic ministry, in union with the Successor of Peter.

I cordially impart my blessing to all the pilgrims present here who have accompanied the new metropolitan. Praised be Jesus Christ!

I address a cordial greeting to Archbishop Franc Kramberger of Maribor, upon whom I conferred the pallium yesterday.

Dear Brother in the episcopate, may the holy apostles Peter and Paul, great servants of the Church's unity, be a model in your work for the good of the people of God which has been entrusted to you.

I also greet all the Slovenians, your compatriots, who have accompanied you today. I warmly impart my apostolic blessing to you all.

Dear brothers and sisters, this meeting of ours also sheds light on how the Lord continues to care for his people, not allowing them to lack pastors and reliable guides.

As we thank him, we cannot but be aware that each one of us, according to his or her own vocation, is called to work diligently in the Lord's vineyard so that all may be living members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. Indeed, we are "like living stones built into a spiritual house," the apostle Peter recalls, "to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).

May Mary, Mother of God, intercede for us and help us to be ever faithful to our mission. I assure you and the diocesan communities from which you come of my daily remembrance in prayer, as I willingly impart to you my blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to the Bishops of Atlantic Canada
"No Effort Can Be Spared in Finding Effective Pastoral Initiatives"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday in English to prelates of the episcopal conference of Atlantic Canada, who in recent days were granted individual audiences, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1 Timothy 1:2). With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the bishops of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I thank Bishop Lahey for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your pastoral care of my prayers.

Your visit "ad limina apostolorum" is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the work of those who have tirelessly preached the Gospel throughout the length and breadth of your country. It is also an occasion to strengthen in faith, hope and charity your bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome, and to affirm your commitment to make the face of Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through consistent witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.

2. Canada enjoys a proud heritage steeped in rich social diversity. Central to the cultural soul of the nation is Christ's immeasurable gift of faith which has been received and celebrated over the centuries with deep rejoicing by the peoples of your land.

Like many countries, however, Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism. The attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God's transcendent order and indifferent to Christ's beckoning light, removes from the reach of ordinary men and women the experience of genuine hope.

One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate. This disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious, is in stark contrast with the definitive experience of true love which by its nature is marked by trust, seeks the good of the beloved, and looks to the eternal (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," no. 6).

Faced with the many social ills and moral ambiguities which follow in the wake of a secularist ideology, Canadians look to you to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion the splendor of the truth of Christ who dispels the darkness and illuminates the way to renew ecclesial and civic life, educating consciences and teaching the authentic dignity of the person and human society.

Particularly in districts which also suffer from the painful consequences of economic decline, such as unemployment and unwanted emigration, ecclesial leadership bears much fruit when, in its concern for the common good, it generously seeks to support civil authorities in their task of promoting regeneration in the community.

In this regard, I note with satisfaction the success of the anniversary events celebrated last year in the Archdiocese of St. John's, marked by a spirit of cooperation with various civic authorities. Such initiatives manifest recognition of the need for spiritual strength at the heart of society. In fact, "it is quite impossible to separate the response to people's material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts" (Papal Message for Lent 2006).

3. Dear Brothers, your reports clearly indicate the seriousness with which you are responding to the need for pastoral renewal. I understand that with aging clergy and many isolated communities the challenges are great. Yet, if the Church is going to satisfy the thirst of men and women for truth and authentic values upon which to build their lives no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known.

Thus it is of great importance that the catechetical and religious education programs which you are implementing continue to deepen the faithful's understanding and love of our Lord and his Church, and reawaken in them the zeal for Christian witness which has its root in the sacrament of baptism.

In this regard, particular care must be taken to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church's magisterium, individuals' faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted. Only in this way can we hope to overcome the debilitating split between the Gospel and culture (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," no. 20).

Of notable importance are your Catechists. They have embraced with great courage the burning desire that was St. Paul's: "Deliver ... as of primary importance what I also received" (1 Corinthians 15:3). Teaching the faith cannot be reduced to a mere transmission of "things" or words or even a body of abstract truths. The Church's tradition is alive! It is the permanent actualization of the active presence of the Lord Jesus among his people, brought about by the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church in every generation.

In this sense it is like a living river that links us to the origins which are ever present and which leads us to the gates of eternity (cf. Catechesis of the General Audience, April 26, 2006). Through you, I acknowledge the fine service of the catechists in your dioceses and encourage them in their duty and privilege of making known to others the extraordinary "yes" of God to humanity (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).

Further, I directly appeal in a special way to the young adults of your dioceses to take up the rewarding challenge of catechetical service and share in the satisfaction of handing on the faith. Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals.

4. In your plan of pastoral renewal, you are faced with the delicate task of the reorganization of parishes and also of dioceses. This can never be carried out in an appropriate way by simple social models of restructuring. Without Christ, we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5). Prayer roots us in truth, reminds us incessantly of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness.

The parishes are therefore, rightly considered above all as houses and schools of communion. Consequently, the reorganization of parishes is essentially an exercise of spiritual renewal. This calls for a pastoral promotion of holiness, so that the faithful remain attentive to the will of God, from whom we share true life, becoming participants of the divine nature (cf. "Dei Verbum," no. 2).

Such holiness, or such profound communion through Christ and in the Spirit, is affirmed among other things by an authentic pedagogy of prayer, by an introduction to the lives of the saints and to simple forms of spirituality that embellish and stimulate the life of the Church, by regular participation in the sacrament of reconciliation, and by a convincing catechesis on Sundays "the day of faith," "the day one cannot do without," "the day of Christian hope"(cf. "Dies Domini," nos. 29-30; 38).

I am certain that the rediscovery of Jesus Christ made flesh, our savior, will lead to a rediscovery of the personal, social and cultural identity of the faithful. Far from confusing the diversity and complementarity of the charisms and functions of ordained ministers and lay faithful, a reinforced Catholic identity will revive the passion for evangelization, which is proper to the vocation of every believer and of the nature of the Church (cf. Instruction "Le prêtre, pasteur et guide de la communauté paroissiale," nos. 23-24).

5. Within the universal call to holiness (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) is found the particular vocation to which God summons every individual. In this regard, I encourage you to remain vigilant in your duty to promote a culture of vocation.

Your reports attest to the admiration you have of your priests who labor with great generosity for the Church's mission and the good of those whom they serve. I pray that their daily journey of conversion and self-giving love will awaken in young men the desire to respond to God's call to humble priestly ministry in his Church.

Additionally you have with good reason underlined the fine contribution of religious sisters and brothers to the mission of the Church. This deep appreciation of consecrated life is rightly accompanied by your concern for the decline in religious vocations in your country.

A renewed clarity is needed to articulate the particular contribution of religious to the life of the Church: a mission to make the love of Christ present in the midst of humanity (cf. Instruction "Starting Afresh From Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium," no. 5). Such clarity will give rise to a new "kairos," with religious confidently reaffirming their calling and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, proposing afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission.

I again assure religious priests, brothers and sisters of the vital witness they provide by placing themselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church, as a strong and clear proclamation of God's presence in a way understandable to our contemporaries ("Homily for the World Day of Consecrated Life," Feb. 2, 2006).

6. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and assure you of my prayers as you seek to shepherd the flocks entrusted to you. United in your proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ, go forward now in hope! With these sentiments I commend you to the protection of Mary, mother of the Church, and to the intercession of St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse. To you and to the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of your dioceses, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing.


Papal Address to Bishops of Ghana
"To Reach Out to Today's Youth …"  (April 24, 2006)

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2006 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the bishops of Ghana, on receiving them in audience at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

In these days of joyful celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, I welcome you, the bishops of Ghana, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome for your visit "ad limina apostolorum." Through you I offer my warm affection to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your dioceses. In a special way, I thank Bishop Lucas Abadamloora for the kind words of greeting he offered me on your behalf. I wish to recognize in particular Ghana's native son, Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, who recently joined the ranks of the College of Cardinals, and I also take this opportunity to greet Cardinal Peter Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast.

You have all come to Rome, this city where the Apostles Peter and Paul gave of themselves completely in imitation of Christ: Peter just a short distance from where we are today and Paul along the Ostian way. As good and faithful servants of the Gospel, it is my constant prayer that, like the Princes of the Apostles, "God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

Your country has made great strides in recent years to deal with the scourge of poverty and to strengthen the economy. Notwithstanding this laudable progress, much still remains to be done to overcome this condition which impedes a large portion of the population. Extreme and widespread poverty often results in a general moral decline leading to crime, corruption, attacks on the sanctity of human life or even a return to the superstitious practices of the past. In this situation, people can easily lose trust in the future.

The Church, however, shines forth as a beacon of hope in the life of the Christian. One of the most effective ways in which she does this is by helping the faithful gain a better understanding of the promises of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, there is a particular and pressing need for the Church, as a beacon of hope, to intensify her efforts to provide Catholics with comprehensive programs of formation which will help them to deepen their Christian faith and thus enable them to take their rightful place both in the Church of Christ and in society.

An essential part of any adequate formation process is the role of the lay catechist. It is appropriate, therefore, that I offer a word of gratitude to the many committed men and women who selflessly serve your local Church in this way. As Pope John Paul II noted in his postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa": "in the midst of the Christian community the catechists' responsibility is to be acknowledged and held in respect" (cf. No. 91).

I know that these faithful men and women are often impeded in their task by a lack of resources or hostile environments, and yet they remain undaunted messengers of Christ's joy. Mindful of how grateful local Churches are for the assistance offered by catechists, I encourage you and your priests to continue to do all you can to ensure that these evangelists receive the spiritual, doctrinal, moral and material support they require to carry out their mission properly.

In many countries, including your own, young people constitute almost half of the population. The Church in Ghana is young. In order to reach out to today's youth it is necessary that the Church address their problems in a frank and loving way. A solid catechetical foundation will strengthen them in their Catholic identity and give them the necessary tools to confront the challenges of changing economic realities, globalization and disease. It will also assist them in responding to the arguments often put forward by religious sects. Consequently, it is important that future pastoral planning at both national and local levels carefully takes into account the needs of the young and tailors youth programs to address these needs appropriately (cf. "Christifideles Laici," No. 46).

It is also the Church's task to assist Christian families to live faithfully and generously as true "domestic churches" (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 11). In fact, sound catechesis relies on the support of strong Christian families which are never selfish in character, constantly directed toward the other and founded upon the sacrament of matrimony. In reviewing your quinquennial reports, I noted that many of you are concerned about the proper celebration of Christian marriage in Ghana. I share your concern and therefore invite the faithful to place the sacrament of matrimony at the center of their family life.

While Christianity always seeks to respect the venerable traditions of cultures and peoples, it also seeks to purify those practices which are contrary to the Gospel. For this reason it is essential that the entire Catholic community continue to stress the importance of the monogamous and indissoluble union of man and woman, consecrated in holy matrimony. For the Christian, traditional forms of marriage can never be a substitute for sacramental marriage.

The gift of self to the other is also at the heart of the sacrament of holy orders. Those who receive this sacrament are configured in a particular way to Christ the Head of the Church. They are therefore called to give of themselves completely for the sake of their brothers and sisters. This can only happen when God's will is no longer seen as something imposed from without, but becomes "my own will based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself" (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 17).

The priesthood must never be seen as a way of improving one's social standing or standard of living. If it is, then priestly gift of self and docility to God's designs will give way to personal desires, rendering the priest ineffective and unfulfilled. I therefore encourage you in your continuous endeavors to ensure the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and to guarantee proper priestly formation for those who are studying for the sacred ministry. We must strive to help them discern Christ's will and nurture this gift so that they may become effective and fulfilled ministers of his joy.

My dear brothers, I am aware that this year is a special Jubilee for the Church in Ghana. In fact, just yesterday, April 23, was the 100th anniversary of the arrival of missionaries in the northern part of your country. It is my special prayer that missionary zeal will continue to fill you and your beloved people, strengthening you in your efforts to spread the Gospel. As you return to your homes, I ask that you take consolation from the words the Apostle Peter offered to the early Christians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Commending your ministry to Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to you and to all those entrusted to your pastoral care.


Papal Letter to Cuba's Bishops
"To Open One's Heart and Mind to the Things of God"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2006 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Letter to the Cuban bishops' conference, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting.

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To Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino
Archbishop of San Cristóóbal de La Habana
President of the Cuban Bishops' Conference

On the occasion of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting (ENEC), I would like to send an affectionate greeting to the bishops as well as to the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of this beloved nation. I would also like to express my spiritual closeness to them in order to give an impetus to their evangelizing tasks.

Human reality is full of events that we are asked to live as salvific, since time and history are peopled by the divine presence that encourages and strengthens.

On this anniversary, therefore, when you think back to past experiences, you should strive to approach this reality as a path of promise and salvation on which you should walk with care and compassion, to discover from experience the signs and symbols of the living God who accompanies you.

Yes, he accompanies all who live on this earth, believers and nonbelievers alike, the near and the far, those who sow and those who scatter, for all are invited to the feast of life that the Father gives to us.

In this regard, it would be good in this anniversary reflection to remember in particular the words that my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, spoke during his visit to this beloved land: "May Cuba ... open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba" (Arrival Address at Joséé Martíí Airport in Havana, Jan. 21, 1998, No. 5; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, Jan. 28, p. 2).

First of all, however, this opening requires one to examine how to open one's heart and mind to the things of God; how to be reciprocally open to all who live side by side, believing and trusting in one another despite differences in ways of thinking and believing; and lastly, how to be open to the global context, with the challenges of its possibilities and at the same time its difficulties.

Only by setting out from God's gaze, a loving gaze, will it be possible to reach the truth of every person, of every group and of all who live in the same land. The experience of prayer of every Christian in the silence and humility of daily work, in fidelity to the faith professed and in the implicit or explicit proclamation of the Gospel, will be a great help in undertaking this journey.

The profound love of most Cubans for Madre de la Caridad del Cobre, for so long Patronness of this land and one who accompanies its inhabitants with motherly tenderness, will also be a great help.

To her I entrust these meetings for the 20th anniversary of the ENEC so that her closeness may encourage hope and her intercession with her divine Son obtain the gift of strengthening in the faith this part of the People of God.

With these sentiments, I warmly impart my apostolic blessing to all the participants as well as to the various ecclesial communities of Cuba.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2006



VATICAN CITY, FEB 6, 2006 (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI today received the second group of bishops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have just finished their "ad limina" visit. The Pope asked the prelates to transmit to their diocese his "spiritual closeness," reminding them that they were invited "with all the inhabitants of the country to mobilize for peace and reconciliation after years of war that resulted, especially in your region, in millions of victims."

"The work for peace," continued the Holy Father, "is a net thrown over the evangelical mission of the bishop. Your reports describe the difficult conditions in which you undertake your ministry...this year, in which your local Church was consecrated to the Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta, I desire that the imperative to love mobilize us and, for the holiness of your lives and for the dynamic ministry that animates you, that you be prophets of justice and peace."

"It is important that you dedicate yourselves to the demanding work of radiating the Gospel in your culture, respecting the authentic and rich values of the Africans, but at the same time purifying that which is incompatible with the Gospel...Build up the family of the Church in your countries, as it is in other places, it is a difficult task, but I know that a dynamic apostolic fervor animates you. It is satisfying that the Congolese Episcopal Conference...has not spared efforts to open up within their hearts and consciences paths of reconciliation and fraternal communion."

Focusing on the theme of national reconciliation, the Pope expressed the desire that good fruits may come from "the campaign undertaken by those responsible from other religious confessions to propose for all citizens a civic education." "The Church is called to participate in this work, taking the place that corresponds to you according to your vocation" and "to propose specific formation and training for the politicians of the country. It serves to reflect on the rich patrimony of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, one can reflect on his obligation in the service of the common good and keep in mind its moral challenges to work for the construction of just institutions for the renewal of society. "

Pope Benedict XVI later invited the prelates to utilize, for the diffusion of the Gospel in their country "the means of social communication, in particular the radio and television...especially to limit the activities of those sects who utilize the profusion of new technologies for the purpose of attracting and confusing the faithful."

Another pastoral priority is "the evangelization of the family. The movement of the displaced and the refugees, the pandemic of AIDS, and also a notable mutations of contemporary society, have transformed many families, and weakened the institution of the family." The Pope highlighted the importance of encouraging Catholics to preserve and promote family values and to give a balanced human and spiritual formation to those preparing for marriage.

The Holy Father had words of thanks for those consecrated who "in extreme conditions decide to remain on the side of those among the population who endure severe tests and hardships, giving them help, counsel and spiritual support." He also mentioned the condition of the youth and referred to the need for "pastoral initiatives that allow for the human and spiritual reconstruction of the children on the street and those children who are soldiers" and he asked the bishops and the Catholic schools to nourish the faith and hope of the young generation.

"I reach out to the international community" concluded Pope Benedict XVI, "that they may not forget about Africa and that they may take brave action and decisions to consolidate the political and economic stability of Africa."


Pope's Message on Death of Polynesian Cardinal
"A Towering Figure of Unwavering Commitment to the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2006 ( Here is message Benedict XVI sent upon hearing of the death of Cardinal Pio Taofinu'u, retired archbishop of Samoa-Apia, first Polynesian bishop in the history of the Church.

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To my Brother
His Excellency Alapati Lui Mataeliga
Archbishop of Samoa-Apia

Having learned with sorrow of the death of Cardinal Pio Taofinu'u, S.M., I offer heartfelt condolences to you and all the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia, together with the members of the Society of Mary.

I also extend my sympathy to the civic authorities of the region and indeed all the peoples of the Pacific, for whom the late cardinal has been a towering figure of unwavering commitment to the truth and love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At this time of deep mourning I join with you in praying that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God our merciful father will grant him the reward of his labors and welcome his noble soul into the joy and peace of heaven.

To all assembled for the solemn Mass of Christian burial I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord.



Papal Address to Polish Bishops on Dec. 3, 2005
"The Chief Person Responsible for the Work of Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 3 to a second group of Polish bishops who were making their five-yearly visit to the Holy See. There were accompanied by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry,

I offer my cordial greeting to you all. I am pleased to be able to offer hospitality to the second group of Polish bishops who have come here on their visit "ad limina Apostolorum."

The new evangelization

During his first pilgrimage to Poland, John Paul II said: "From the Cross of Nowa Huta began the new evangelization, the evangelization of the second millennium. This Church is a witness and confirmation of it. It arose from a living, aware faith and [the Church] must continue to serve the faith. The evangelization of the new millennium must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It must be, as that Council taught, a work shared by bishops, priests, religious and laity, by parents and young people" (cf. Homily, Nowa Huta, No. 3, June 9, 1979; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition [ORE], July 16, p. 11).

At the time, it was one of the first, if not the first, interventions of my great predecessor on the theme of the new evangelization. He spoke of the second millennium, but there is no doubt that he was already thinking of the third.

Under his guidance, we entered this new millennium of Christianity, becoming aware of the constant timeliness of his exhortation to a new evangelization. With these brief words he set the aim: to revive a "living, aware and responsible" faith. He subsequently said that this must be the common work of bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people.

Today, I would like to reflect on this topic with you, dear brothers. We know well that the chief person responsible for the work of evangelization is the bishop, on whose shoulders rest the "tria munera": prophetic, priestly and pastoral.

In his book, "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!" and especially in the chapters: "The Shepherd," "I Know My Sheep" and "The Administration of Sacraments," John Paul II mapped the journey of the episcopal ministry with reference to his own experience so that it might bear blessed fruit.

We need not mention here the development of his reflections. We all have recourse to the patrimony he has bequeathed to us and can draw abundantly from his witness. May he be a model for us and may his sense of responsibility for the Church and for the believers entrusted to the bishop's care be an incentive to us.

Diocesan priests

The first collaborators of the bishop in the realization of his tasks are the priests; the bishop's concern should be addressed to them before anyone else.

John Paul lI wrote: "By his manner of life, a bishop demonstrates that the Christ 'as Model' lives on and still speaks to us today. One could say that a diocese reflects the manner of life of its bishop.

"His virtues -- chastity, a spirit of poverty and prayer, simplicity, sensitivity of conscience -- will, as it were, be written into the hearts of his priests. They, in their turn, will convey these values to the faithful entrusted to their care, and in this way young people can be led to make a generous response to Christ's call" ("Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!", Paulines Publications Africa, 2004, p. 129).

The example the bishop sets is extremely important: He must not only have an irreproachable lifestyle but also loving concern, so that the Christian virtues of which John Paul II wrote may deeply penetrate the souls of the priests in his diocese.

For this reason, the bishop should pay special attention to the quality of seminarians' formation. It is necessary to keep in mind not only the intellectual training of priests-to-be for their future tasks, but also their spiritual and emotional formation.

At the Synod of 1991, the bishops expressed their desire for a larger number of spiritual directors in seminaries who would be well qualified to carry out the demanding task of forming spirits and of ascertaining the emotional readiness of seminarians to take on priestly tasks.
It is worth returning to this request. The document of the Congregation for Catholic Education on the admission of candidates to sacred orders has recently been published. I ask you, dear brothers, to put into practice all its directives.

It is important that the process of intellectual and spiritual formation should not end with the period at the seminary. Continuing formation for priests is vital. I know that great importance is attributed to it in the Polish dioceses. Courses, retreat days, spiritual exercises and other meetings are organized, during which priests can share their problems and pastoral successes, and strengthen one another in faith and pastoral enthusiasm. I ask you to continue this practice.

The bishop, for his part, is called as pastor to surround his priests with fatherly care. He should organize his own schedule in such a way as to have time for the priests, to listen to them attentively and help them in their difficulties. In the case of a vocational crisis, to which priests can fall prey, the bishop must do his best to sustain them and restore to them their original dynamism and love for Christ and for the Church. Even when a reprimand is necessary, fatherly love must not be lacking.

I thank God because he continues to lavish upon Poland the grace of numerous vocations. The southern region, which you represent, dear brothers, is particularly rich in vocations.

Considering the enormous needs on the part of the universal Church, I ask you to encourage your priests to do their missionary service or pastoral work in countries where clergy are scarce. It seems that today this is a special task and, in a certain sense, also a duty of the Church in Poland.

In the sending of priests abroad, however, especially to the missions, remember to assure them both of your spiritual support and adequate material resources.

Religious orders

John Paul II wrote: "The religious orders never caused me any problems, and my relations with all of them were good. They were a great help to me in my mission as a bishop. My thoughts also turn to the great reserves of spiritual energy found in the contemplative orders" (ibid., p. 120).

The diversity of charisms and of the services carried out by men and women religious and members of the secular institutes of consecrated life is a great enrichment for the Church. The bishop can and must encourage them in order to integrate them into the diocesan program for evangelization and for them to take on pastoral tasks, in conformity with their charism, in collaboration with the priests and the lay community.

Although religious communities and individual consecrated persons are subject by law to their own superiors, they are also "subject to the authority of bishops, whom they are obliged to follow with devoted humility and respect, in those matters that involve the care of souls, the public exercise of divine worship and other works of the apostolate," as the Code of Canon Law declares (Canon 678 §§1).

Furthermore, the code invites both diocesan bishops and religious superiors to proceed "in organizing the works of the apostolate of religious ... after consultation with each other" (Canon 678 §§3).
I strongly encourage you, brothers, to surround with care the religious communities of women that are located in your dioceses. The sisters, who carry out a variety of services in the Church, deserve supreme respect and their work must be recognized and properly appreciated. They should not be deprived of adequate spiritual support and the possibility of intellectual development and growth in the faith.

I recommend in particular that you take to heart the future of the contemplative orders. May their presence in the diocese, their prayers and their sacrifices always be a support and a help to you. For your part, seek to meet their needs, even practical ones.

In recent years, we have unfortunately seen religious vocations dwindling, especially among women. It is necessary, therefore, together with the religious superiors responsible, to reflect on the causes of this state of affairs and consider how it might be possible to rekindle and sustain new female vocations.

The laity

The words of my great predecessor introduce us into a reflection on the role of lay people in the work of evangelization: "The laity can accomplish their proper vocation in the world and attain holiness not only through their active involvement in helping the poor and needy, but also by imbuing society with a Christian spirit as they carry out their professional duties and offer an example of Christian family life" ("Rise, Let Us," p. 115).

In times when, as John Paul II wrote, "European culture gives the impression of 'silent apostasy' on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist" ("Ecclesia in Europa," No. 9), the Church never ceases to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is her hope. In this work, the role of lay people is irreplaceable. Their witness of faith is particularly eloquent and effective because it is borne in daily reality and in areas which are difficult for a priest to gain access.

One of the main goals of lay people's activity is the moral renewal of society, which cannot be superficial, partial or instant. It must be marked by a deep transformation in the ethos of human beings, that is, by the acceptance of an appropriate hierarchy of values that should shape attitudes.

A specific task of the laity is participation in public and political life. In his apostolic exhortation "Christifideles Laici," John Paul II recalled that "every person has a right and duty to participate in public life" (No. 42). The Church does not identify with any political party, community or system.

On the other hand, she always recalls that lay people involved in politics must give a clear and courageous witness of Christian values, which they must reassert and defend should they be threatened. They should do so publicly, in political debates and in the mass media.

One of the important tasks which derives from the process of European integration is to be courageously concerned with preserving the Catholic and national character of Poles. The dialogue initiated by Catholic lay people concerning political issues will prove effective and useful to the common good if it is based on love of the truth, a spirit of service, and solidarity in the commitment to the common good.
I urge you, dear brothers, to support this lay service, with respect for a just political autonomy. I have listed only a few forms of lay commitment in the work of evangelization. Others, such as the pastoral care of the family and youth or charitable activities, will be the topic of a subsequent reflection at my meeting with the third group of Polish bishops. I now express the hope that harmonious collaboration with all the states of life in the Church under your enlightened guidance will lead to the transformation of the world in the spirit of Christ's Gospel.

As I entrust your episcopal ministry to Our Lady, I bless you all with affection. Praised be Jesus Christ!


Marriage: "Patrimony of Humanity"
Papal Address to Latin American Bishops' Meeting

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI gave Dec. 3 to the 3rd Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life of Latin America. The meeting in Rome was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the Third Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life of Latin America. I should like to express my gratitude for the words addressed to me by Cardinal Alfonso Lóópez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Together with the whole Church, I witnessed Pope John Paul II's concern for this most important topic. For my part, I make my own this same concern, which will have a far-reaching effect on the future of the Church and the peoples since, as my Predecessor said in his apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio": "The future of humanity passes by way of the family!"

"It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family." And he added: "Christians also have the mission of proclaiming with joy and conviction the 'Good News' about the family, for the family absolutely needs to hear ever anew and to understand ever more deeply the authentic words that reveal its identity, its inner resources and the importance of its mission in the City of God and in that of man" (Conclusion, No. 86).

The apostolic exhortation cited together with the Letter to Families "Gratissimam Sane" and the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" constitute, as it were, a luminous triptych that must inspire your task as pastors.

2. I wish to thank you in particular for your pastoral concern which seeks to safeguard the fundamental values of marriage and the family. They are threatened by the current phenomenon of secularization that prevents the social conscience from discovering adequately the identity and mission of the family institution and recently, by the pressure of unjust laws that fail to recognize its fundamental rights.

In light of this situation, I am pleased to note the increase in and consolidation of the particular Churches' work for this human institution, which is rooted in God's loving plan and represents the irreplaceable model for the common good of humanity. Homes that give a generous response to the Lord abound and there is also a wealth of pastoral experiences, a sign of new vitality, in which family identity is reinforced by means of better marriage preparation.

3. Your duty as pastors consists in presenting in its full richness the extraordinary value of marriage, which as a natural institution is a "patrimony of humanity." Moreover, its elevation to the loftiest dignity of a sacrament must be seen with gratitude and wonder, as I recently said, affirming:
"The sacramental quality that marriage assumes in Christ therefore means that the gift of creation has been raised to the grace of redemption. Christ's grace is not an external addition to human nature, it does not do violence to men and women but sets them free and restores them, precisely by raising them above their own limitations" (" Address to the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome," June 6, 2005; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, June, 15, p. 6).

4. The spouses' love and total gift of self, with their special connotations of exclusivity, fidelity, permanence in time and openness to life, are at the root of this communion of life and love that constitutes the married state (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," No. 48).

Today, it is necessary to proclaim with renewed enthusiasm that the Gospel of the family is a process of human and spiritual fulfillment in the certainty that the Lord is always present with his grace. This proclamation is often distorted by false concepts of marriage and the family that do not respect God's original plan. In this regard, people have actually reached the point of suggesting new forms of marriage, some unknown to popular cultures in that its specific nature is altered.

Also in the life context, new models are being proposed that dispute this fundamental right. As a result, the elimination of embryos or their arbitrary use in the name of scientific progress, which fails to recognize its own limits and to accept all the moral principles that make it possible to safeguard the dignity of the person, becomes a threat to the human being who is reduced to an object or a mere instrument. When such levels are reached, society itself is affected and every kind of risk shakes its foundations.

5. In Latin America, as in all other places, children have the right to be born and to be raised in a family founded on marriage, where parents are the first educators of the faith for their children in order for them to reach full human and spiritual maturity.

Children truly are the family's greatest treasure and most precious good. Consequently, everyone must be helped to become aware of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion. In attacking human life in its very first stages, it is also an aggression against society itself. Politicians and legislators, therefore, as servants of the common good, are duty bound to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God's love.

6. It is certain that for pastoral action in so delicate and complex an area, in which various disciplines are involved and fundamental issues faced, a careful training of pastoral workers in the dioceses is essential.

Priests, therefore, as the immediate collaborators of the bishops, must receive a sound training in this field that will enable them to face competently and with conviction the problems that arise in their pastoral activity.

As for lay people, especially those who devote their energy to this service of families, they in turn need a proper and sound formation that will help them witness to the greatness and lasting value of marriage in today's society.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, as you know well, the Fifth World Meeting of Families is not far off. It will be held in Valencia, Spain, on the theme: The transmission of faith in the family.

In this regard, I would like to offer my cordial greeting to Archbishop Agustíín Garcíía-Gasco of that city, who is taking part in this meeting and who, with the Pontifical Council for the Family, is sharing the challenging task of its preparation. I encourage you all so that numerous delegations of the bishops' conferences, dioceses and movements of Latin America will be able to take part in this important ecclesial event.

For my part, I firmly support the holding of this meeting and place it under the loving protection of the Holy Family.

Dear pastors, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to you and to all the families in Latin America.


Benedict XVI's Address to Austrian Bishops
"We Need to Bring About a 'Change of Course'"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Nov. 5 to Austria's bishops during their five-yearly visit to Rome. The Pope gave the address in German.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

The visit of the Pastors of the Church in Austria to the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is a fixed appointment and a moment of assessment in the exercise of this office of great responsibility.

Therefore, dear Brothers, on the occasion of your "ad limina" visit I welcome you to the Apostolic Palace with deep joy. Your pilgrimage strengthens your bonds with the Successor of Peter, and at the same time enables you to experience anew the communion of the universal Church at her center.

Precisely during the events of recent months, we have been able to experience the full freshness of the Church's vitality and her global missionary energy, especially during the 20th World Youth Day at Cologne last August. Although the spiritual impetus that God enables us to live in these special hours of grace is not always visible in the Church, we know of the promise of our divine Lord and Teacher for all times and all places: "Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Matthew 28: 20).

Thus, we know that this vital presence of the Risen Lord in his Church is brought about at the same time through the sacramental celebration of his Sacrifice, through Communion, in which we receive his Body and his Blood, and through the experience that is offered to us in the adoration of his Real Presence under the sacred species.

The intention of the Year of the Eucharist, which has just ended with the Synod of Bishops, was to call the faithful's attention to the source of the Church's life and mission and to what the true summit is, the goal of all our efforts to lead people to their Savior and to reconcile them in him with the Triune God.

On the basis of these experiences, it is now necessary to analyze calmly and confidently the situation of the Austrian Dioceses in order to identify the key points that require our particular attention for the salvation and good of the flock: "Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard. Shepherd the Church of God, which he has acquired at the price of his own blood" (Acts 20: 28). In the certainty of the Lord's presence, let us look courageously into the eyes of reality without letting optimism, which always attracts us, become an obstacle to calling things by their proper name with full objectivity and without embellishment.

Grievous events are occurring today: The secularization process, constantly gaining momentum in Europe at this time, has not even been halted at the gates of Catholic Austria. Identification with the Church has been eroded in many of the faithful and with it, the certainty of the faith and reverential awe for God's law are lacking.

Apart from these few observations, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I do not need to recall in detail here the numerous critical sectors of social life in general and of the ecclesial situation in particular, because I know that they are your constant concerns. I share your anxiety about the Church in your Country.

So what can we do? God has prepared a remedy for the Church in our time; will you be able to use it to face courageously the challenges you encounter on your way in the third Christian millennium? On the one hand, there is no doubt that we need a clear, courageous and enthusiastic profession of faith in Jesus Christ, who is also alive here and now in his Church and in whom, true to its essence, the human soul oriented to God can find happiness. On the other hand, we need to take numerous small and large missionary measures to bring about a "change of course."

As you well know, profession of faith is one of the Bishop's most important duties. "I have never shrunk from announcing to you God's design in its entirety," St. Paul said at Miletus to the Presbyters of the Church of Ephesus (Acts 20: 27). It is true that we Bishops must act prudently. However, this prudence must not prevent us from presenting the Word of God in its full clarity, even those things that people are less willing to hear, or that never fail to arouse protests and derision.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you are well aware that there are topics concerning the truth of faith, and especially moral doctrine that are not being adequately presented in catechesis and preaching in your Dioceses and that at times, for example, in youth ministry in the parishes or associations, are not being confronted at all, or are not being clearly addressed as the Church wishes.

I give thanks to God it is not like this everywhere. However, perhaps those responsible for preaching fear that here and there people might drift away if they spoke too clearly.

Yet experience generally shows that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Be under no illusion. An incomplete Catholic teaching is a contradiction in itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God goes hand in hand with the need for conversion and love that encourages, that knows the way, that teaches an understanding that with God's grace even what seems impossible becomes possible. Only think how the teaching of religion, catechesis at various levels and preaching can be gradually improved, deepened and as it were completed.

Please use zealously the Compendium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ensure that your priests and catechists use these instruments, that they are explained in parishes, associations and movements, and used in families as important reading.

In the uncertainty of this time in history and of our society, offer people the certainty of the complete faith of the Church. The clarity and beauty of the Catholic faith are such that they brighten human life even today! This is particularly true if it is presented by enthusiastic and convincing witnesses.

The clear, public and resolute witness of Bishops, which can give a direction to all the faithful and especially the priests in your special care, and the courage to strengthen the faith through your own attitude, must be accompanied by many measures, often seemingly insignificant and unnecessary, which have a public effect.

Something has been done to reawaken the missionary awareness of Christians in your Dioceses. In this regard I am thinking, for example, of the extraordinary city mission in Vienna, and of course, of the "Mitteleuropäischen Katholikentag" [Central European Catholic Day] that is an exceptional witness of Catholic faith linking the peoples in the face of European public opinion.

There is still much to be done to enable the Church in Austria to carry out her missionary mandate better. In fact, it is often measures of ordinary administration such as, for example, wise and correct decisions concerning personnel, that permanently improve the situation.

Whether it is a matter of going to Sunday Mass or receiving the Sacrament of Penance, how important example and encouraging words can frequently be!

It is the precept of love that urges us not only to provide our neighbor with one or other social service, but also to help him or her to do the greatest good, to turn constantly to the living God, to communion with Jesus Christ, to the discovery of one's own vocation to holiness, to openness to God's will, to the joy of a life that in a certain sense already anticipates the eternal bliss.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, innumerable positive situations in ecclesial life, such as, for example, the practice and rediscovery of Eucharistic adoration in parishes, the devotion of many individuals and communities to the recitation of the Rosary and the constant good collaboration between the State and the Church for the good of human beings, outline the image of the Church in Austria as well as the great cultural wealth of your Country, so blessed by the Lord in the course of Christian history.

The spark of Christian zeal can be rekindled. Use all these gifts wherever you can, but do not be content with external piety. God is not satisfied by the fact that his people pay him lip service. God wants their hearts and gives us his grace if we do not drift away or cut ourselves off from him. I am well aware of your most dedicated efforts and those of many priests, deacons, Religious and lay people. I am certain that the Lord will accompany you and reward your fidelity and zeal with his divine blessing.

May the "Magna Mater Austriae," the good Mother of Grace of Mariazell and the supreme Virgin of Austria, whose shrine has become so dear to me, give you and the faithful of your Country the strength and perseverance to continue with courage and confidence the great task of the authentic renewal of the living faith in your Homeland, in fidelity to the directives of the universal Church.

Through her intercession I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you for your pastoral work, and to all the faithful in Austria.


Pope's Address to Chaldean Synod Participants
"A Period to Reflect on the Great Gift of the Eucharist"  

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad, Iraq, and to the bishops who participated in the Special Synod of the Chaldean Church in Rome.

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Your Beatitude,
Venerated and beloved brothers:

Upon greeting all of you, I thank you for your visit, which gives me the opportunity to extend words of warmth and encouragement to your communities, and to the entire Iraqi people. In solidarity I remembered your beloved country in my prayer, so that, despite its difficult situation, it does not lose hope and continues on the path to reconciliation and peace.

During your stay in Rome, you have celebrated a special synod, in which you have been able to conclude the project of revising the texts of the Divine Liturgy of the Syrian Eastern rite, preparing a reform that should give a new push to the devotion of your communities. This work has required years of study and decisions that have not always been easy to make, but it has been a period in which the Chaldean Church has been able to reflect more profoundly on the great gift of the Eucharist.

Another important topic over which you have concentrated your attention has been the analysis of the draft of the Particular Law that should regularize the internal organization of you community. An appropriate canonical discipline is necessary for the ordered exercise of the mission that Christ has confided to us. With the synodal spirit that characterizes the Chaldean Church, you have experienced a period of intense communion, having always before you the "health of souls." Now, return to your respective sees comforted by this experience of lived communion before the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is a communion that finds a particular _expression here, today, upon lifting to our Lord, together with the Successor of Peter, the prayer of thanksgiving.

I exhort all of you to continue in your pastoral commitment and in your ministry of hope for the entire Iraqi nation. Upon confiding to each one of your communities the sweet protection of the Mother of God, I enthusiastically impart to you, to your priests, to your religious and to all your faithful the apostolic blessing, pledge of heavenly peace and consolation.



 Benedict XVI today received bishops from the ecclesiastical circumscriptions of Monterrey, Morelia and San Luis Potosi (central and north east Mexico), who are in Rome on their "ad limina" visit. In his address to the prelates, the Pope recalled that Mexico faces "the challenge of transforming its social structures to bring them more into line with the dignity of individuals and their fundamental rights."

The Pope went on: "Catholics, who still constitute the majority of the population, are called to participate in this task, discovering their commitment to their faith and the unitary meaning of their presence in the world. Otherwise, the 'split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age'."

The Holy Father then addressed the question of the breakdown, in some areas, of "healthy forms of coexistence and the management of public affairs," and of the increase of "corruption, impunity, infiltration of drug trafficking and organized crime. All this leads to various forms of violence, indifference and contempt for the inviolable value of life. On this matter, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in America' clearly criticizes the 'social sins' of our times."

"In Mexico too, people frequently live in situations of poverty. Nonetheless, many faithful display a faith in God, a religious sense accompanied by expressions rich in humanity, hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. These values are being endangered by migration abroad, where many work in precarious conditions, unprotected and struggling to face a cultural context very different from their own social and religious practices."

The Holy Father emphasized that "human mobility is a pastoral priority in cooperative relations with the Churches of North America," explaining that "beyond economic and social factors, an appreciable unity exists, rooted in a shared faith and favoring a fraternal and solidary communion. This is the result of the various forms the presence and encounter with the living Christ have taken, and continue to take, in the history of America."

However, belonging to an ecclesial community is difficult for many of the baptized who, "influenced by innumerable proposals for ways of thinking and acting, are indifferent to the values of the Gospel, and are even drawn towards forms of behavior that run counter to the Christian vision of life."

"All this, united with the activity of sects and new religious groups in America, far from leaving you indifferent, must stimulate your particular Churches to offer the faithful more personalized religious care, strengthening the structures of communion and proposing a purified form of popular religiosity, in order to revive the faith of all Catholics. One pressing task is to form, responsibly, the faith of Catholics, so as to help them live in the world joyfully and courageously."

The Holy Father concluded by indicating how "all this implies, in practical pastoral care, the need to revise our mentality ... and to broaden our horizons, ... in order to respond to the great questions facing mankind today. As a missionary Church, we are all called to understand the challenges that postmodern culture presents to the new evangelization of the continent. The Church's dialogue with the culture of our time is vital, both for the Church and for the world."


To the bishops of Mexico: Integral formation in all ecclesial fields (September 8, 2005)

At Castelgandolfo this morning, the Holy Father received the first group of prelates from the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

After stressing that "the Mexican nation came into being as a meeting of peoples and cultures, their nature and character marked by the living presence of Jesus Christ and the mediation of Mary," the Pope said: "Today, Mexico is experiencing a process of transition characterized by the appearance of groups that, in a more or less ordered fashion, seek new areas for participation and representation. Many of them, with particular force, advocate claims in favour of the poor and of those excluded from development, especially indigenous people."

"The profound desire to consolidate democratic, economic and social culture and institutions that recognize human rights and the cultural values of the people, must find an echo and an illuminating response in the Church's pastoral activity." Benedict XVI referred to the necessity of "integral formation in all areas of the Church." This is "particularly necessary for the young" because in abandoning the Church after the sacraments of initiation "they find themselves in a society marked by growing religious and cultural pluralism. Moreover they face, at times alone and disoriented, currents of thought according to which man achieves fullness through technological, political and economic power, with no need of God or even against God. For this reason it is necessary to accompany young people, to invite them enthusiastically so that, integrated again into the ecclesial community, they take up the commitment of transforming society as a fundamental requirement of following Christ."

"In the same way," he added, "families need adequate accompaniment in order to discover and experience their dimension as 'domestic church.' The father and mother need to receive formation to help them become the 'first evangelizers' of their children."

The Pope emphasized how "the Church in Mexico reflects the pluralism of the society itself, which is composed of many differing realities, some of them very good and promising, others more complicated. Faced with this situation, and while respecting local and regional realities, bishops must favor organic pastoral processes that give greater meaning to expressions deriving from mere tradition or custom."
"Because we find ourselves in a new culture marked by the means of social communication, in this area the Church in Mexico must take advantage of the collaboration of the faithful, the education of so many men and women of culture, and the opportunities provided by public institutions." The Pope concluded by saying: "Bringing the face of Christ to this media environment requires serious formative and apostolic efforts that cannot be delayed and that require a contribution from everyone."


Pope's Address to Bishops of Zimbabwe

"Witnesses to the Hope Held Out by the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2005 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in English to the bishops' conference of Zimbabwe, at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.

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My Brother Bishops,

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Ephesians 1:2).

I offer a warm welcome to you, the Bishops of Zimbabwe, on the occasion of your quinquennial visit "ad Limina Apostolorum." May your pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and this meeting with Peter's Successor, be for all of you an incentive to ever greater unity in the cause of the Gospel and the service of Christ's Kingdom. May these days also grant you a precious opportunity to withdraw from your pressing pastoral cares in order to spend time with the Lord (cf. Mark 6:31) in prayer and spiritual discernment, so that you may take up with renewed zeal your ministry as heralds of God's word and shepherds of his people in your native land.

The recent elections in Zimbabwe have laid the basis for what I trust will be a new beginning in the process of national reconciliation and the moral rebuilding of society. I appreciate the significant contribution to the electoral process which you offered to the Catholic faithful and to all your fellow-citizens in your Joint Pastoral Statement published last year. As you rightly noted in that Statement, responsibility for the common good demands that all members of the body politic work together in laying firm moral and spiritual foundations for the future of the nation.

Through the publication of the Statement and your most recent Pastoral Letter "The Cry of the Poor," you yourselves have brought the wisdom of the Gospel and the rich heritage of the Church's social doctrine to bear upon the thinking and practical judgments of the faithful both in their daily lives and in their efforts to act as upright members of the community. In the exercise of your episcopal ministry of teaching and governance, I encourage you to continue to provide clear and united leadership, grounded in an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to "the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation" (Ephesians 1:13). In your preaching and teaching the faithful should be able to hear the voice of the Lord himself, a voice that speaks with authority of what is right and true, of peace and justice, of love and reconciliation, a voice that can console them in the midst of their troubles and show them the way forward in hope.

Amid the difficulties of the present moment, the Church in Zimbabwe can rejoice in the presence of so many communities vibrant in faith, a significant number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the presence of a committed laity devoted to various works of the apostolate. These gifts of God's grace are at once a consolation and a challenge to an ever more profound and integrated catechesis aimed at training the faithful to live fully their Christian vocation. "In all areas of Church life, formation is of primary importance" for the future of the Church in Africa ("Ecclesia in Africa," 75). For this reason, I encourage you to work together to ensure suitable and comprehensive catechetical preparation for all the faithful, and to take whatever steps may be necessary to provide for a more systematic education of catechists.

Future priests, for their part, should be helped to present the fullness of the Catholic faith in a way which truly addresses and responds to people's difficulties, questions and problems. The national seminaries require practical support in their challenging task of providing seminarians with an adequate human, spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation, while the younger clergy would greatly benefit, in the first years of their priestly ministry, from a program of spiritual, pastoral and human accompaniment guided by experienced and exemplary priests. Your concern for sound catechesis and an integral religious education must also extend to the system of Catholic schools, whose religious identity needs to be strengthened, for the good not only of their students, but of the entire Catholic community in your country.

Dear Brother Bishops, in union with the Successor of Peter and the College of Bishops, you have been sent forth as witnesses to the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. "Pastores Gregis," 5). As you return to your native land strengthened in faith and in the bond of ecclesial communion, I ask you to cooperate generously in the service of the Gospel, so that the light of God's word will shine ever more brightly in the minds and hearts of Zimbabwe's Catholics, inspiring in them a deeper love of Christ and a more firm commitment to the spread of his Kingdom of holiness, justice and truth.

With great affection I commend you and the clergy, religious and laity of your Dioceses to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.


Papal Address to Bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomons
On the "Communion" Between a Prelate and His Priests

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2005 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to members of the bishops' conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, at the end of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In the love of our Lord I cordially welcome you, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and make my own the greeting of Peter: "Grace and peace be yours in abundance" (1 Peter 1:2). I am grateful to Bishop Sarego for the kind sentiments he offered on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your pastoral care of my prayers. Traveling great distances to visit the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul you "more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome … has spread throughout the world" ("Pastor Bonus," Appendix I, 3).

2. Jesus Christ continues to draw the peoples of your two island nations to a still deeper faith and life in him. As Bishops you respond to his voice by asking how the Church can become an even more effective instrument of Christ (cf. "Ecclesia in Oceania," 4). The recent national "General Assembly" in Papua New Guinea and the "Seminar" in Solomon Islands have addressed this task. From these two events clear signs of hope have emerged including the keen participation of the young in the mission of the Church, the outstanding generosity of missionaries, and the flowering of local vocations. At the same time you have not hesitated to recognize the difficulties which continue to afflict your Dioceses. In the face of these, the faithful look to you to be courageous witnesses to Christ, vigilant in seeking new ways to teach the faith so that the power of the Gospel can permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgment, and norms of behavior (cf. "Sapientia Christiana," Foreword).

3. As you know, priests are and must be a Bishop's closest cooperators (cf. "Pastores Gregis," 47). The particular significance of the "communion" between a Bishop and his presbyters demands that your interest in their well-being be of the utmost importance to you. This special relationship is expressed most effectively through your assiduous care to uphold the unique identity of your priests, to encourage their personal sanctification in the ministry, and to foster a deepening of their pastoral commitment. Priestly identity must never be likened to any secular title or confused with civic or political office. Rather, configured to Christ who emptied himself taking the form of a servant (cf. Philippians 2:7-8), the priest lives a life of simplicity, chastity and humble service, which inspires others by example. At the heart of the priesthood is the daily, devout celebration of Holy Mass. In this Year of the Eucharist I appeal to your priests: be faithful to this commitment which is the center and mission of the life of each one of you (Message at the Missa Pro Ecclesia, 20 April 2005, 4).

The proper formation of Priests and Religious is absolutely integral to successful evangelization (cf. "Pastores Dabo Vobis," 2). I know you have been addressing this matter with due attention for quite some time. Your concern for the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral development of your seminarians, as well as men and women Religious in training, will bear much fruit in your Dioceses. I encourage you therefore to ensure careful selection of candidates, to supervise your seminaries personally and to provide regular programs of ongoing formation so necessary for deepening priestly and religious identity and enriching joyful commitment to celibacy. Finally in this regard, I offer my prayers of deep gratitude for those who serve in seminaries and houses of formation. Please let them know that the Holy Father thanks them for their generosity.

4. Dear Brothers, your Catechists have embraced with great zeal the burning conviction of Saint Paul: "woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16). During the Synod for Oceania many of you noted with satisfaction that an increasing number of the lay faithful are coming to a deeper appreciation of their duty to participate in the Church's mission of evangelization (cf. "Ecclesia in Oceania," 19). If this zeal is to succeed in convincing an ever greater number of believers that "faith in fact has the force to shape culture itself by penetrating it to its very core" (ibid., 20) then the pastoral priorities which you have identified -- especially that of marriage and stable family life -- will require corresponding, appropriate adult catechetical programs. In this way, I am confident that your people will deepen their understanding of the faith, grow in their ability to express its liberating truth, and account for the hope that is in them! (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

5. With fraternal affection I offer these reflections wishing to affirm you in your desire to embrace the summons to testimony and evangelization which ensue from the encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist (cf. "Mane Nobiscum Domine," 24). United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, go forward in hope! Invoking upon you the intercession of Blessed Peter To Rot, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses.



VATICAN CITY, JUN 18, 2005 (VIS) - Twenty bishops of Madagascar were welcomed by the Holy Father this morning who told them, as they conclude their "ad limina" visit, that he hoped the people of their nation "will live in the peace of God and will courageously pursue the building of a society ever more respectful of man and his dignity."

  "In this year of the Eucharist," said Benedict XVI, "I especially invite you to renew your attachment to Christ who never ceases giving Himself to us in this Sacrament. Through your exemplary life and your teaching, collaborating actively among yourselves, lead the faithful to friendship with Christ, exhorting them to live an ever more generous charity with regard to their brothers." The Pope noted that the laity, when they are faithful to their vocation, "working to establish a more just society, fighting corruption, insecurity and all forms of exploitation of the poorest, express the solicitude of the Church for the true good of man."

  As bishops, stated Pope Benedict, "we must help the faithful entrusted to us to acquire an enlightened faith, rooted in an intimate encounter with Christ. He must be the measure of everything, allowing us to discern where truth is so as to face the problems of today with an authentic fidelity to His teaching. In this perspective the inculturation of faith in Malagasy culture remains an important objective. Welcoming modernity does not exclude, but rather demands this taking root. Sustaining ourselves through an enlightened faith is indispensable for authentic progress in the search for unity of the disciples of Christ."

   The Holy Father dedicated closing remarks to priests, the bishops' closest collaborators, noting that, even though "living in difficult conditions, many are generous and close to the people. Sustain them in their difficulties, be for each one of them a father and a demanding guide." Priests must be men of intellectual, spiritual and moral quality who "throughout their lives give witness of an unconditional attachment to the person of Christ and His Church." He urged the bishops to "give priority to serious formation in seminaries and to seek to develop the means for the permanent formation of priests."



VATICAN CITY, JUN 10, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

   In his address in English, the Pope noted how Catholics represent a minority in the region, and said that, for this reason "it is essential that the bishops promote the crucial work of catechesis in order to ensure that God's people are truly prepared to witness by word and deed to the authentic teaching of the Gospel."

   Benedict XVI gave thanks to God for "the many priests, religious and lay men and women who have given their lives to" the "noble task" of evangelization in Africa over the course of last century.

   The Pope went on: "Even though your region still needs more priests, one cannot help but thank God for the large number of vocations to the priesthood you are currently witnessing in Sub-Saharan Africa. ... It is your grave responsibility to help them develop into men of the Eucharist. Priests are called to leave everything and become ever more devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. ... I encourage you, therefore, in your ongoing efforts to conscientiously select candidates for the priesthood. Likewise, these young men should be formed with great concern to guarantee that they are prepared for the many challenges they will face."

  "A world filled with temptations needs priests who are totally dedicated to their mission," and who serve others "as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy.  Bishops should assist them by ensuring that this gift never becomes a burden but always remains life-giving. One of the ways this can be achieved is by bringing ministers of word and sacrament together for continuing education, retreats and days of recollection."

  Benedict XVI stressed how "family life has always been a unifying characteristic of African society," but expressed concern that "the fabric of African life is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality."

   After explaining how he shared the bishops' "deep concern over the devastation caused by AIDS and related diseases," the Pope said: "I especially pray for the widows, the orphans, the young mothers and all those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic. I urge you to continue your efforts to fight this virus which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the continent."

     "The traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, the companionship, joy, happiness and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young."



VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2005 (VIS) - Yesterday morning, the Pope received participants in the 54th general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

  In his address, which was made public yesterday afternoon, Benedict XVI stressed Italy's "deep and living" relationship with the Christian faith, even though, as in the rest of Europe, there exists a "culture based on purely functional rationality, a culture that contradicts and tends to exclude Christianity and, in general, the religious and moral traditions of humanity."

  Nonetheless, he went on, in Italy the supremacy of such culture "is by no means total, nor does it go unquestioned. In fact, even among those who do not share our faith, or at least do not practice it, there are people who realize  how such a form of culture in fact constitutes a deadly mutilation of man and his reason."

  The Holy Father pointed out that Italy today still has "a dense network of parishes" characterized by their vitality "despite great changes in society and culture." On this matter, he stressed the importance of "strengthening communion between parish structures and the various 'charismatic' groups that have emerged over the last few decades and have a strong presence in Italy, in order for the mission to reach all areas of life."

  Speaking about the family, "a crucial question that calls for all our pastoral attention," the Pope indicated that in Italy too the family "is exposed ... to many risks and threats, of which we are all aware. In addition to the fragility and internal instability of many marriages, there is a tendency in culture and society to question the unique character and mission of the family based on marriage."

  Going on to mention the forthcoming Italian referendum on fertility treatment, due to be held on June 12 and 13, Benedict XVI thanked bishops for their "commitment" to "illuminating and motivating the choice of Catholics and of all citizens. ... Precisely in its clarity and firmness, your commitment is a sign of the solicitude of pastors for all human beings, who can never be reduced to a means but are always an end, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us in His Gospel, and as human reason itself tells us. ... We are not working for Catholic interests but for the human being, God's creature."

   After recalling that in August he will participate in World Youth Day, due to be held in the German city of Cologne, the Pope recognized that young people run the risk of being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Therefore, they need to be helped to grow and mature in the faith: this is the first service they must receive from the Church, especially from us as bishops and from our priests."

  "Many of them," he went on, "are not able to understand and accept all the Church's teaching immediately, but precisely for this reason it is important to reawaken within them the intention to believe with the Church, the belief that this Church, animated and guided by the Spirit, is the true subject of the faith." In order to reach this objective, Benedict XVI explained that young people "must feel loved by the Church, in particular by us, bishops and priests."

   In this way, he concluded, "they will experience in the Church the friendship and love the Lord holds for them, they will understand that in Christ truth coincides with love, and in their turn they will learn to love the Lord, and to have faith in His body which is the Church. This is the central point of the great challenge of transmitting the faith to the young generations."


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of Sri Lanka
"Renew Your Trust in Christ! Open Your Hearts to Him!"

VATICAN CITY,  MAY 8, 2005 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday to the bishops of Sri Lanka, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In these still early days of my pontificate, I am glad to welcome you, the pastors of the Church in Sri Lanka, on your visit "ad limina Apostolorum" -- the first to take place since my election. I thank you for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando, president of your episcopal conference. You come from a continent particularly marked by a wealth of cultures, languages and traditions (cf. "Ecclesia in Asia," 50) and you bear witness to the deep faith of your people in Jesus Christ, the sole redeemer of the world. I pray that your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul may renew your commitment to serve and proclaim Christ with conviction, so that your people may grow in knowledge and love of him who came so that all "might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

2. Together with countless others throughout the world, I was deeply disturbed to observe the devastating effects of the tsunami last December, which claimed a vast number of lives in Sri Lanka alone, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Please accept my profound sympathy and that of Catholics everywhere for all who have endured such terrible losses. In the faces of the bereaved and dispossessed, we cannot fail to recognize the suffering face of Christ, and indeed it is he whom we serve when we show our love and compassion to those in need (cf. Matthew 25:40).

The Christian community has a particular obligation to care for those children who have lost their parents as a result of the natural disaster. To these most vulnerable members of society the Kingdom of heaven belongs (cf. Matthew 19:14), yet so often they are simply forgotten or shamelessly exploited as soldiers, laborers, or innocent victims in the trafficking of human beings. No effort should be spared to urge civil authorities and the international community to fight these abuses and to offer young children the legal protection they justly deserve.

Even in the darkest moments of our lives, we know that God is never absent. St. Paul reminds us that "in everything God works for good with those who love him" (Romans 8:28), and this was manifested in the unprecedented generosity of the humanitarian response to the tsunami. I want to commend all of you for the outstanding way in which the Church in Sri Lanka struggled to meet the material, moral, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims. We can recognize further signs of God's goodness in the partnership and collaboration of so many diverse elements of society in the relief effort. It was heartening to see members of different religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and throughout the global community coming together to show their solidarity towards the afflicted and rediscovering the fraternal bonds that bind them. I am confident that you will find ways of building further on the fruits of this cooperation, especially by ensuring that aid is offered freely to all who are in need.

3. The Church in Sri Lanka is young -- a third of the population of your country is under the age of 15 -- and this gives great hope for the future. Religious education in schools must therefore be a high priority. Whatever difficulties you may encounter in this area, do not be deterred from carrying out your responsibility. Seminaries, likewise, require particular attention on the part of the bishops (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 84-91), and I urge you to be ever vigilant in maintaining a sound spiritual and theological formation for your seminarians. They need to be inspired to exercise their future apostolate in a way that will attract others to follow Christ -- the more holy, the more joyful and the more impassioned they are in their priestly ministry, the more fruitful it will be (cf. Letter of John Paul II to Priests, Holy Thursday, 2005, 7). It is gratifying to know that your country is already blessed with a good number of priestly vocations, and I pray that many more young people will recognize and respond to God's call to give themselves completely for the sake of the Kingdom.

4. To conclude my remarks with you today, I put before you the image of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so recently invoked by my beloved predecessor to guide us in this Year of the Eucharist. Christ himself accompanied them on their journey. He opened their eyes to the truth contained in the Scriptures, he rekindled their hope and he revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread (cf. "Mane Nobiscum Domine," 1). He also accompanies you as you lead your people forward along the path of discipleship. Renew your trust in him! Open your hearts to him! Plead with him, in union with the whole Church throughout the world: "Mane nobiscum, Domine."

Entrusting you and your priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, woman of the Eucharist, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of grace and strength in her son, our lord and savior Jesus Christ.