Retreats of 2006 and 2007     


Papal Comments at Conclusion of Lenten Retreat
"We Must Walk With Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the comments made by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the retreat on the theme "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him," given to the Roman curia by Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

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Your Eminence, My Dear Venerable Brothers,

Saying "thank you" is one of the wonderful tasks of the Pope. At this time I would like, in the name of all of us and all of you, to say thank you, Eminence, from the heart, for these meditations which you have given us. You have led, enlightened, helped and renewed us in our priesthood. Yours has not been a theological acrobatic act. You have not given us theological acrobatics, but you have given us sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith.

Listening to your words, there came to my mind a prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, on which St. Augustine comments. In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord, God the Shepherd, says to the people: I will lead my sheep upon the hills of Israel, to green pastures. And St. Augustine asks: Where are these hills of Israel? What are these green pastures? And he answers: the hills of Israel, the green pastures are the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God that gives us true nourishment.

Your preaching has been permeated with Sacred Scripture, with a great familiarity with the Word of God read in the context of the living Church, from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, always contextualized in the reading, in the liturgy. Precisely in this way Scripture has been presented in its complete relevance. Your theology, as you told us, was not an abstract theology but one marked by healthy realism. I admired and enjoyed this concrete experience of your 50 years in the priesthood that you spoke to us about and in the light of which you helped us concretize our faith. What you said to us was sound, concrete for our life, for our comportment as priests. I hope that many will read these words and take them to heart.

You first began with this always fascinating and beautiful account of the first disciples who followed Jesus. Still a little uncertain and timid they ask: Master, where do you live? And the answer, which you commented on, is: "Come and see." To see we must come, we must walk with Jesus, who always precedes us. Only in walking with and following Jesus can we see. You have showed us where Jesus lives, where his dwelling is: in the Church, in his Word, in the most holy Eucharist.

Thank you, Your Eminence, for this guidance. With a new spirit and new joy we will set out on the way to Easter. I wish everyone a good Lent and a good Easter.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]


1. Lenten Retreat to Pope and Roman Curia 2006, preached by Cardinal Marco Ce.

What Benedict XVI Liked About Lenten Retreat
"You Have Made Us Attentive to the Inner Teacher"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2006 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the end of the Roman Curia's spiritual exercises on March 11. The Pope delivered the address in the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, had preached the retreat.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Confreres,

At the end of these days of grace it is right and beautiful for the Pope to say: Thank you! Thank you first and foremost to the Lord, who has granted us this physical and spiritual break, and also thank you to you, Your Eminence, for guiding us in St. Mark's footsteps on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus.

At the outset, you immediately made us understand the profound ecclesial nature of this "sacramentum exercitii." You made us realize that it was not a question of an individual or private retreat. With the "sacramentum exercitii" we express our solidarity with the Church in the common sacramental "exercitum," and thus respond to our responsibility as pastors.

We cannot bring to the world the Good News which is Christ himself in person if we ourselves are not deeply united with Christ, if we do not know him profoundly, personally, if we do not live on his Words.

Together with the ecclesiastical and ecclesial nature of these exercises, you have also shown us their Christological dimension. You have made us attentive to the inner Teacher; you have helped us to listen to the Teacher who speaks with us and within us; you have helped us to respond to and speak with the Lord, listening to his words. You have led us on this "catechumenal" journey which is the Gospel according to Mark, on a common pilgrimage together with the disciples bound for Jerusalem.

You have also restored to us the certainty that in our Bark, despite all the storms of history, is Christ. You have taught us to see anew on the suffering face of Christ, on the face crowned with thorns, the glory of the Risen One.

We are grateful to you for this, Your Eminence, and we can journey on toward Easter, together with Christ and the disciples, with new strength and new joy.

In all these days, my gaze has necessarily focused on this depiction of the Annunciation of Mary. What fascinated me is this: The Archangel Gabriel holds a scroll in his hand, which I believe is the symbol of Scripture, of the Word of God. And Mary is kneeling within the scroll; that is, she lives her whole life in the Word of God. It is as though she were steeped in the Word. Thus, all her thoughts, her will and her actions are imbued with and formed by the Word. Since she herself dwells in the Word, she can also become the new "Dwelling Place" of the Word in the world.

Silently, with these points alone, Your Eminence, you have guided us on a Marian path. This Marian route calls us to be integrated into the Word of God, to place our lives within the Word of God and thereby let our being be imbued with this Word, so that we may be witnesses in our time of the living Word, of Christ himself.

Thus, with new courage and new joy, we journey on toward Easter, toward the celebration of the Mystery of Christ that is always more than a celebration or rite: It is Presence and Truth. And let us pray the Lord to help us return to him and thus also to be guides and pastors of the flock entrusted to our care.

Thank you, Your Eminence!

Thank you, dear confreres!


Pope in 1st Full Day of Lenten Retreat (March 6, 2006)

The spiritual exercises that Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia began on Sunday is a moment of encounter with God, says the retreat's preacher.

Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, proposed in the presence of the Pope, and to the cardinals, bishops, priests and religious on hand in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, that they undertake an "interior pilgrimage to him who is the source of mercy," Jesus.

The cardinal said that Christ "accompanies us through the wilderness of our poverty, supporting us on the way to the intense joy of Easter," the fruit of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, "heart of our faith."

Cardinal Cé explained that this encounter takes place because Christ first came in search of each of us.

"If the grace of the Risen Crucified did not call us and did not seek us, we would never come out of our sloth and sin. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" asked the cardinal rhetorically. "The grace of God through Jesus Christ."

If the spiritual exercises become an encounter with Christ, this meeting will also be "an act of love for the Church and for so many brothers who walk on remote paths" whom "Jesus wants to save," the retired patriarch said.

"The Gospel calls us to be involved, to feel questioned, and not to be mere spectators enclosed in the fortress of our rationality, but to react as those who find Jesus and let themselves be enveloped by his light. This is the meaning of Jesus' heartfelt desire when he said: 'Believe in me,'" noted the preacher.

Open heart

To take the Gospel seriously, always means "an encounter" in which the strength is found to be converted, "to orient one's life again to God, opening the heart wide to him in faith," he added.

In the second meditation this morning, Cardinal Cé left this message with the Pope and his collaborators: "We must have only one ambition: that despite our limitations, people see in us persons who really love the Lord, who are in love with him; where there is no gap between what they say and what they really are."

Lent is "the time of grace to decide for the Lord," he said. It is beautiful "to think that God comes to seek us;" we must "let him find us in Lent."

On the second day of the papal spiritual exercises (March 7):
The retreatants were reminded that Jesus calls poor and sinful disciples to follow him.

Cardinal Marco Cé, delivered two meditations this morning that were focused on Christ's calling of the Twelve Apostles.

According to the preacher, Christ's calling to his disciples is one of the symbolic images of the life of faith, as it shows characteristic elements of the call to every Christian to follow Our Lord: "radical conversion," "detachment," and the fact that, above all, it is an "initiative of Jesus."

Referring to the calling of the apostles, Cardinal Cé described the setting: Galilee, land of poor people.

Humility, as opposed to the wisdom men boast about, is a constant in Christ's life, said the preacher.

Christ's chosen ones are fishermen, people who see how the simplicity of their ordinary lives is disconcerted by three terms: "repent," "believe" and "good news."

"The most radical meaning of the conversion to which Lent invites us is the following of Christ," the cardinal said.

Giving one’s life

According to Cardinal Cé, "To be converted is not above all a moral change of life: It is a reorientation of the latter to the person of the Lord Jesus; it is a radical opening of life to Christ, to give one's life to him."

Cardinal Cé noted that it was Jesus who approached Peter and his future fellow travelers; this overturned the custom of the time, since the rabbis of the period did not normally go to find their followers.

This style shows the "totally new" announcement of the Kingdom of God that Christ is about to proclaim, and the "totally new" character of the lordship of Jesus over his disciples, Cardinal Cé explained. Christ does not oppress but liberates his disciples, soliciting a complete response to his invitation to follow him.

The setting of the morning's second meditation was the fishermen's village of Capernaum, in the Apostle Peter's home, where Jesus healed the paralytic who was lowered through the ceiling by four people carrying the pallet, impressing Jesus himself with their faith.

The solidarity of these four people with the paralytic, the patriarch explained, is an image of the vocation of persons who have consecrated their lives to God in the Church.

"Sometimes we think that our role in the Church is very different from the one we dreamed of when we were ordained priests," he said to his audience, which included cardinals, bishops, priests and religious who work in the Roman Curia.


"It might be that age and sickness remove us from active pastoral involvement," the cardinal said. "It is then that we must think of the communion that unites us all in the Church and makes us necessary stretcher-bearers for the salvation of brothers.

"Then our work makes sense, even if it is hidden or gives us little satisfaction; then exhaustion and even the difficulties of the situations that must be faced; then, I now believe, sickness and old age with its greater frailty, with the consequent diminution of strength -- make sense."

"At the same time," he added, "in these situations, spaces of interior freedom are also opened, when weakness becomes strength for those who work in the difficult areas of the proclamation of the Gospel."

Third day of meditations at Pope's Retreat (March 8)

To preach the Gospel implies difficulties and failures, as it did for Jesus himself, says the preacher of the spiritual exercises being attended by Benedict XVI this week. Cardinal Marco Cé, the retired patriarch of Venice, dedicated this morning's two meditations to faith in Christ, particularly in the trials the Church and its ministers are undergoing.

In the first meditation, the preacher said that Mark's Gospel "does not at all hide the fact that Jesus, after a first moment of enthusiasm and success in Galilee, had to face growing indifference and the distancing of many people, ever more numerous."

"On several occasions" Jesus laments the exhaustion he feels "in trying to make his message understood," said the retired patriarch, according to a Vatican Radio report.

"Therefore, we must not let ourselves be disturbed by our littleness," he told the retreatants, who include officials of the Roman Curia.

Referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the cardinal added: "She was no more than the handmaid of the Lord, but the Almighty made use precisely of her, of her silence and prayer, to realize the greatest things in history."

Storm proof faith

In the second meditation, the cardinal commented on the passage of Mark's Gospel in which Jesus and his disciples are in the boat in the midst of a violent storm.

He noted that Christ's reprimand might seem exaggerated, when counterpoised to the humanly understandable fear of the apostles, who were about to drown.

However, what the Gospel passage is meant to highlight is Jesus' desire to find in the apostles' hearts a faith that remains firm even in a storm, continued Cardinal Céé.

This episode is "a parable of the life of the Church," he said. "The latter lives in history, is marked by our weakness, and at times must face storms. In the century that just ended, the Church went through terrible storms and the century that has just begun appears very threatening."

"In times of trial, the Church must believe above all in her Lord, but one cannot remain under the cross without the strength of grace."

"Faith is the total giving of ourselves to God. It is a gift," the cardinal concluded. "But we love God," thanks to faith, even when "we cannot see anything, when we cannot hear anything."

"Our only guarantee is the love of the Father and the mercy of Jesus",

Cardinal Marco Cé concluded in a meditation delivered in the Apostolic Palace this morning. (March 9) 

"Jesus asks us to trust unconditionally in his infinite mercy," added the cardinal, according to a report on Vatican Radio.

The three Gospel passages the patriarch used in his meditations this morning were Jesus' transfiguration, and the healings of the epileptic child and the blind beggar near Jericho.

The Transfiguration reveals "the intrinsic unity between the cross and glory," a relationship that the disciples had not understood, noted the preacher.

On Mount Tabor "the glorious reality of his person and of his relationship with the Father appeared. It was an anticipation of the Resurrection," he explained, commenting on Mark 9:1-9.

The presence of Moses and Elias with the Father indicated that in Jesus all the promises of the Old Covenant are fulfilled, Cardinal Céé said.

On the other hand, people were awaiting a powerful and glorious Messiah, who would liberate Israel from Roman oppression. Jesus shows that "the Father's plan is very different," said the preacher.


Speaking of the epileptic child, the patriarch recalled that the disciples were unable to free the child from his evil and that Christ acted in response to the father's faith: "Jesus asks us to trust unconditionally in his infinite mercy."

"Faithless generation," lamented Jesus addressing the disciples who were prey to the worldly conception of messianism. Christ explained to them that evil can only be expelled with prayer, confirming "the absolute primacy of divine action."

Cardinal Cé commented on the blind beggar from Jericho, in whose case faith was also decisive in recovering his sight. The blind man heard the Lord's arrival -- "faith comes from hearing" -- and his most profound desire was to see Jesus, the preacher said.

This is a very important lesson for today, said Cardinal Cé: "Faith is not only, or above all, information; faith is self-giving; it is communion with Jesus who gives himself.

"Let us ask the Lord for the grace to cure our blindness. Let us ask him to give us the truth, the only one that makes us truly free, and, at the same time, let us ask for the strength to make it concrete in our lives, following him on the path that leads to Jerusalem, certain that glory is already in the cross."

The cardinal added: "Spiritual exercises are a way to renew our baptismal faith. The object of Lent is to believe in Jesus, opening our life wide to him."

Last Full Day of Papal Spiritual Exercises:
Jesus' Adherence to the Father's Will

 MARCH 10, 2006 - Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, his death on Calvary, and his resurrection were the focus of a pair of meditations on the last full day of the papal spiritual exercises.

Cardinal Marco Cé, the retired patriarch of Venice, continued today leading the meditations at the spiritual retreat in the Vatican attended by Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia.

This morning the cardinal began by reflecting on the solitude Jesus experienced in the Garden of Olives and his adherence to the Father's will.

"The agony of Gethsemane enables us to enter 'within' the mystery of the Passion, to understand the core and the core is this: He willingly gave himself up to death," indicated the preacher, as reported by Vatican Radio.

"The features that characterize Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane are the overwhelming psychological suffering, Jesus' total solitude, the collapse of all his work and, at the same time, the total and radical conformity of his will with the Father's," continued the cardinal.

Jesus remained "tragically alone" in Gethsemane as death approached, added the preacher. Jesus asks that he not have to drink the "cup" of the passion but accepts without reservations the Father's decision, the cardinal noted.

"There is no more human and painful prayer than this," Cardinal Cé said. "But at the same time there is no more filial act of abandonment than this."

"Jesus' death out of love realizes fully the plan of salvation willed by the Father from eternity," he said.

Light of Easter

The preacher noted that the centurion who was before the Crucified, seeing him die in this way, said: "'Truly he was the Son of God.' In the centurion's confession of faith one can already see the light of Easter shine."

In the second meditation, the preacher reflected on the first eight verses of the last chapter of Matthew's Gospel, in which is described the surprise of the women before the empty tomb.

The young man announced to them the resurrection of Christ and told them that he awaited his disciples in Galilee.

"This conclusion of Mark is undoubtedly surprising," the cardinal said. "The sending to Galilee, where the proclamation of the Gospel had begun, seems to make reference to a new beginning, that of the Church which leads the mystery of Jesus to fulfillment in time."

In this Gospel page "is the act of faith that makes us Christians," said the preacher.

The Gospel -- "good news" -- takes its name precisely from this moment: "that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is 'good news' depends precisely on the fact that the Crucified did not remain in the tomb but, on the contrary, rose," Cardinal Cé said.

"He whom all considered a failure is truly the Son of God, as he said," he added. "The whole Gospel of Mark is understood from the event of the Resurrection. … Evil is conquered and with it death, which is its seal."

Two thousand years later, every Christian should relive the women's surprise before the empty tomb, exhorted the cardinal.

"If faith in the resurrection of the Crucified is obfuscated, our hope collapses immediately. Evil remains as lord of history and we remain in the hands of despair," he stressed.


2.      2007      
Papal Retreat Focuses on Sense of Sin, preached by Cardinal Biffi

Benedict XVI in 1st Full Day of Spiritual Exercises

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2007 ( To acknowledge one's own sin is to rediscover the profound joy of God's forgiveness, says the director of the weeklong spiritual retreat being attended by Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message today, the first full day of the Spiritual Exercises. The Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia began the retreat on Sunday afternoon.

The retreat, being held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, finishes Saturday.

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Biffi in the first meditation this morning reflected on the main tenets of Lent: conversion, that is, the sense of sin and repentance.

The Lenten liturgy, he said, is characterized by a phrase that represents the beginning of Jesus' public proclamation: "Repent and believe in the Gospel."

Not if, but what

Cardinal Biffi said that this is not a time in which the believer examines if there is something to change in himself, but rather sees what he must change. And conversion begins with the heart, through interior repentance, on the condition that the disciple firmly deplores his faults, the preacher added.

Thus, the believer has the certainty of divine mercy, and so repentance leads necessarily to profound joy, the 78-year-old cardinal explained.

According to Cardinal Biffi, today it is said there is no repentance because the sense of sin has been lost. However, he added, this is not totally true, since the era is characterized by the constant denunciation of sin in the media and in courts.

This means that the sense of sin exists -- but the sense of sin that others commit, the cardinal said.

He said the repentance that saves is that which recognizes one's own errors; to move away from one's faults is to come closer to God as he is the antithesis of evil.

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2007 ( Christ's entry into history makes Christianity "an incomparable novelty in the history of humanity," says the director of the weeklong spiritual retreat being attended by Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, reminded his listeners of that today, the second full day of the Spiritual Exercises. The Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia began the retreat on Sunday afternoon.

"Seek the things that are on high" is the theme of the retreat being held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

"The apostles, despite continuing to be coherent and loyal Jews, adored the Son of Mary as dominating all times, as the center of everything," said the cardinal, according to the summary of his preaching reported by Vatican Radio.

The 78-year-old cardinal explained that although the apostles did not propose "a different religion from that in which they had lived." Christianity "was born within Israel's faith," it became "an incomparable novelty in the history of humanity."

"The apostles found themselves before a man who broke all paradigms," Cardinal Biffi said. He added that after the Resurrection, the apostles "were obliged to reinterpret all the episodes of Christ's life. They were obliged to give in, to admit that they had come into contact with someone who is above every being."


Retreatants Hear of Guises of the Antichrist
Preacher Draws On Work of V.S. Solovyov

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2007 ( The Antichrist is the reduction of Christianity to an ideology, instead of a personal encounter with the Savior, says the cardinal directing the retreat which Benedict XVI is attending.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message during a meditation Tuesday, drawing on the work of Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov.

The cardinal's meditation came during the weeklong Spiritual Exercises being attended by the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat ends this Saturday. The Holy Father suspended his usual meetings, including the general audience, in these days.

According to Vatican Radio's summary of his preaching, the cardinal explained that "the teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the center of being a Christian is, in fact, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ."

Quoting the work "Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History," Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that "the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," he said.

The cardinal added that Solovyov says in that work: "Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values."

No cross

In his "Tale of the Antichrist" Solovyov foresees that a small group of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will resist and will say to the Antichrist: "You give us everything, except what interests us, Jesus Christ."

For Cardinal Biffi, this narrative is a warning: "Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity which puts aside Jesus with his cross and resurrection."

The 78-year-old cardinal said that if Christians "limited themselves to speaking of shared values they would be more accepted on television programs and in social groups. But in this way, they will have renounced Jesus, the overwhelming reality of the resurrection."

The cardinal said he believes that this is "the danger that Christians face in our days ¡Ä the Son of God cannot be reduced to a series of good projects sanctioned by the prevailing worldly mentality."

However, "this does not mean a condemnation of values, but their careful discernment. There are absolute values, such as goodness, truth, beauty," Cardinal Biffi said. "Those who perceive and love them, also love Christ, even if they don't know it, because he is Truth, Beauty and Justice."

The preacher of the Spiritual Exercises added that "there are relative values, such as solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature. If these become absolute, uprooting or even opposing the proclamation of the event of salvation, then these values become an instigation to idolatry and obstacles on the way of salvation."

Cardinal Biffi affirmed that "if Christianity -- on opening itself to the world and dialoguing with all -- dilutes the salvific event, it closes itself to a personal relationship with Jesus and places itself on the side of the Antichrist."

(Separate report of this talk above)
Antichrist is pacifist, ecologist, Cardinal tells Pope

Addressing a Lenten retreat for the Pope and top Vatican officials, Italian Cardinal Giacomi Biffi has cited a Russian philosopher's "prophetic" warning that "the Antichrist presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist".

Cardinal Biffi, who has been leading this week's retreat for the Pope, cited the warning presented in the work of Vladimir Solovyev, a 19th-century Russian philosopher, about the modern guises of the Antichrist, according to a Catholic News Service report.

The retired Cardinal says Christians tempted to set aside their belief in Christ as the only saviour in order to promote dialogue with others are being tempted by the Antichrist.

While the Vatican has not published Cardinal Biffi's talks to the Pope, Vatican Radio provided a daily summary and some quotations from his presentations.

The Cardinal, who wrote the introduction to an anthology of Solovyev's work, said the philosopher's most important message was that Christianity cannot be reduced to a collection of values.

In one of the philosopher's works, Cardinal Biffi told the Pope, "the Antichrist presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist. He convokes an ecumenical council and seeks the consensus of all the Christian confessions, conceding something to each one.

"The crowds follow him, except for tiny groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Chased by the Antichrist, they tell him, 'You have given us everything except for the one thing that interests us, Jesus Christ,'" said the Cardinal, according to the radio's report.

Cardinal Biffi said the account should be taken as a warning.

"Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity that puts Jesus with his cross and resurrection into parentheses," he said.

The 78-year-old Cardinal said that if the church were to speak about only those values that it shares with others it would find great acceptance "on televisions shows," but "we would have renounced Christ."

Obviously, he said, the church does espouse values that it shares with other people of good will.

He said there are "absolute values such as the good, the true and the beautiful. One who perceives them and loves them also loves Christ, even if he does not know it, because Christ is the truth, beauty and justice.

"There also are relative values such as solidarity, love for peace and respect for nature," he said. "If these are given an absolute value or uprooted from or placed in opposition to the proclamation of the fact of salvation, then they become the basis for idolatry and are obstacles on the path to salvation."


Cardinal Biffi: Church Is Holy, Despite Sins
Pope and Curia in 4th Full Day of Spiritual Exercises

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2007 ( The holiness of the Church is eternal despite the weaknesses and sins of some of its faithful, says the cardinal directing the retreat which Benedict XVI is attending.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message today during a meditation in which he underlined the necessity of a transcendent ecclesiology guided by the idea of eternal happiness and the elevation of the soul in Christian contemplation.

The cardinal's meditation came during the weeklong Spiritual Exercises being attended by the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat ends this Saturday. The Holy Father suspended his usual meetings, including the general audience, in these days.

"One of the inalienable goals of the pastoral commitment is that of helping the people of God -- the little ones, as we should all be -- the joy and pride of being part of the Church," said Cardinal Biffi, as reported by Vatican Radio.

The cardinal said that this is one of the urgent necessities of this moment, as it was at the beginning of Christianity.

The preacher added that the members of the Church walk through history "shining with innumerable heroic testimonies, with their clear and valiant teachings, with their impressive examples of charity and with their exceptional manifestations of beauty."

Cardinal Biffi said that in the design of divine wisdom, and in his salvific plan, God knows the mystery of the historical reality of human guilt.

He added that the Church remembers the redemption of "Christ, beginning and center of the designs of the Father, who carries in his crucified and resurrected flesh the imprints of a tough fight" between good and evil.

Thanks to Christ, said the cardinal, the good "wins definitively and eternally."


Papal Address at End of Retreat
"You Have Taught Us to Elevate Our Hearts"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 3, at the conclusion of spiritual exercises.

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Redemptoris Mater Chapel
Saturday, 3 March 2007

Your Eminence,

On behalf of all of us gathered here, I would like to say "thank you" to you for the marvellous inspirational presentation you have given us this week.

At Holy Mass, before the Eucharistic Prayer, we respond every day to the invitation, "Lift up your hearts" with the words, "We lift them up to the Lord". And I fear that this response is often more ritual than existential.

But during this week you have truly taught us to rise, to elevate our hearts, to soar upwards towards the invisible, towards the true reality. And you have also given us the key to respond every day to the challenges of this reality.

During your first conference I became aware that in the in-lay of my prie-dieu the Risen Christ is shown surrounded by flying angels. These angels, I thought, can fly because they are not regulated by the gravity of the earth's material things but by the gravity of the Risen One's love; and that we would be able to fly if we were to step outside material gravity and enter the new gravity of the love of the Risen One.

You have really helped us to come out of this gravitational force of everyday things, to enter into this other gravity of the Risen One and thus, to rise to on high. We thank you for this.

I would also like to say "thank you" because you have given us a very acute and precise diagnosis of our situation today, and you have especially shown us how, behind so many phenomena of our time that appear to be very far from religion and from Christ, there is a question, an expectation, a desire; and that the one true response to this ever-present desire precisely in our time is Christ.

Thus, you have helped us to follow Christ more courageously and to have greater love for the Church, the "Immaculata ex maculatis", as you taught us together with St Ambrose.

Lastly, I would like to say "thank you" for your realism, your humour and your concreteness; even for the somewhat audacious theology of your maid: I should not dare to submit these words, "The Lord may have his faults", to the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith! But in any case, we have been able to learn and your thoughts, dear Cardinal, will accompany us for more than the weeks to come.

Our prayers are with you. Thank you.


Benedict XVI's Letter to Cardinal Biffi
"You Helped Us to Meditate on the Lordship of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent the preacher of this year's Lenten spiritual exercises, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi.

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To His Eminence Cardinal Giacomo Biffi
Archbishop emeritus of Bologna

While the Spiritual Exercises come to a successful conclusion, with this Message I wish to express to you, dear Brother, my cordial thanks and deep appreciation for the service you have rendered to me and to my Collaborators in the Roman Curia, guiding us with your stimulating meditations.

With that richness and depth of thought well known to us, you have impelled us to turn our mind and heart toward "the things that are above" (Col 3:1-2), as was suggested by the theme -- of Pauline inspiration -- for these days of prayer and reflection.

Starting with the two liturgical invitations which, so to speak, initiate the Lenten journey: "Repent and believe in the Gospel"; "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return", you helped us to meditate on the lordship of Christ over the cosmos and history, on his blessed Passion, on the mystery of the Church and on the Eucharist, as well as on the relationship of these supernatural realities with the world.

To complete and enhance the theological and spiritual reflections of each day, you wisely presented certain figures as "witnesses" who, in various ways and with different styles, guided and sustained us on our journey toward Christ, fullness of life for every person and for the entire universe.

How can I thank you, dear Cardinal, for such a precious gift? The Lord alone knows and can reward you as you deserve. On my part and, I am certain, also on the part of those who have benefited from your meditations, I wish to assure you of our fervent remembrance in prayer for you yourself and for the intentions dearest to your heart.

And to make this bond of prayer stronger and more effective, I entrust it to the heavenly intercession of Mary Most Holy. "May the soul of Mary be in everyone": I, in turn, would like to address this beautiful exhortation with which, echoing St Ambrose, you brought the Exercises to culmination, as a heartfelt wish to you, dear Brother, while I wholeheartedly renew my Apostolic Blessing and extend it to all your loved ones.

From the Vatican, 3 March 2007