Pope Benedict's addresses from November 2006 to April 2007, click here

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Pope Benedict's addresses from May 2008


(From May 2007 to November 2007)

Pope's Response to Muslim Scholars' Letter
"We Can and Therefore Should Look to What Unites Us"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2007.- Here is Benedict XVI's response to the open letter that 138 Muslims scholars addressed to the Holy Father and Christian leaders on Oct. 13. The response was released by the Vatican press office today, and signed Nov. 19 on the Pontiff's behalf by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state.

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His Royal Highness
Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal
The Royal Palace
Amman
Jordan

From the Vatican, November 19, 2007

Your Royal Highness,

On 13 October 2007 an open letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to other Christian leaders was signed by one hundred and thirty-eight Muslim religious leaders, including Your Royal Highness. You, in turn, were kind enough to present it to Bishop Salim Sayegh, Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in Jordan, with the request that it be forwarded to His Holiness.

The Pope has asked me to convey his gratitude to Your Royal Highness and to all who signed the letter. He also wishes to express his deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world.

Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions. We are all called to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will.
Mindful of the content of his Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), His Holiness was particularly impressed by the attention given in the letter to the twofold commandment to love God and one’s neighbour.

As you may know, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stated: "I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values" (Address to Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation. The Pope is confident that, once this is achieved, it will be possible to cooperate in a productive way in the areas of culture and society, and for the promotion of justice and peace in society and throughout the world.

With a view to encouraging your praiseworthy initiative, I am pleased to communicate that His Holiness would be most willing to receive Your Royal Highness and a restricted group of signatories of the open letter, chosen by you. At the same time, a working meeting could be organized between your delegation and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with the cooperation of some specialized Pontifical Institutes (such as the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University). The precise details of these meetings could be decided later, should this proposal prove acceptable to you in principle.

I avail myself of the occasion to renew to Your Royal Highness the assurance of my highest consideration.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

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Papal Message for Migrants Day
"The Gospel Is Alive and Suited to Every Situation"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2007 .- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which was presented today. The text was signed Oct. 18, and the World Day is scheduled for Jan. 13, which will focus on the theme of young migrants.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The theme of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees invites us this year to reflect in particular on young migrants. As a matter of fact, the daily news often speaks about them. The vast globalization process underway around the world brings a need for mobility, which also induces many young people to emigrate and live far from their families and their countries. The result is that many times the young people endowed with the best intellectual resources leave their countries of origin, while in the countries that receive the migrants, laws are in force that make their actual insertion difficult. In fact, the phenomenon of emigration is becoming ever more widespread and includes a growing number of people from every social condition. Rightly, therefore, the public institutions, humanitarian organizations and also the Catholic Church are dedicating many of their resources to helping these people in difficulty.

For the young migrants, the problems of the so-called "difficulty of dual belonging" seem to be felt in a particular way: on the one hand, they feel a strong need to not lose their culture of origin, while on the other, the understandable desire emerges in them to be inserted organically into the society that receives them, but without this implying a complete assimilation and the resulting loss of their ancestral traditions. Among the young people, there are also girls who fall victim more easily to exploitation, moral forms of blackmail, and even abuses of all kinds. What can we say, then, about the adolescents, the unaccompanied minors that make up a category at risk among those who ask for asylum? These boys and girls often end up on the street abandoned to themselves and prey to unscrupulous exploiters who often transform them into the object of physical, moral and sexual violence.

Next, looking more closely at the sector of forced migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking, we unhappily find many children and adolescents too. On this subject it is impossible to remain silent before the distressing images of the great refugee camps present in different parts of the world. How can we not think that these little beings have come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as the others? And, at the same time, how can we not remember that childhood and adolescence are fundamentally important stages for the development of a man and a woman that require stability, serenity and security? These children and adolescents have only had as their life experience the permanent, compulsory "camps" where they are segregated, far from inhabited towns, with no possibility normally to attend school. How can they look to the future with confidence? While it is true that much is being done for them, even greater commitment is still needed to help them by creating suitable hospitality and formative structures.

Precisely from this perspective the question is raised of how to respond to the expectations of the young migrants? What can be done to help them? Of course, it is necessary to aim first of all at support for the family and schools. But how complex the situations are, and how numerous the difficulties these young people encounter in their family and school contexts! In families, the traditional roles that existed in the countries of origin have broken down, and a clash is often seen between parents still tied to their culture and children quickly acculturated in the new social contexts. Likewise, the difficulty should not be underestimated which the young people find in getting inserted into the educational course of study in force in the country where they are hosted. Therefore, the scholastic system itself should take their conditions into consideration and provide specific formative paths of integration for the immigrant boys and girls that are suited to their needs. The commitment will also be important to create a climate of mutual respect and dialogue among all the students in the classrooms based on the universal principles and values that are common to all cultures. Everyone's commitment -- teachers, families and students -- will surely contribute to helping the young migrants to face in the best way possible the challenge of integration and offer them the possibility to acquire what can aid their human, cultural and professional formation. This holds even more for the young refugees for whom adequate programs will have to be prepared, both in the scholastic and the work contexts, in order to guarantee their preparation and provide the necessary bases for a correct insertion into the new social, cultural and professional world.

The Church looks with very particular attention at the world of migrants and asks those who have received a Christian formation in their countries of origin to make this heritage of faith and evangelical values bear fruit in order to offer a consistent witness in the different life contexts. Precisely in this regard, I invite the ecclesial host communities to welcome the young and very young people with their parents with sympathy, and to try to understand the vicissitudes of their lives and favor their insertion.

Then, among the migrants, as I wrote in last year's Message, there is one category to consider in a special way: the students from other countries who because of their studies, are far from home. Their number is growing constantly: they are young people who need a specific pastoral care because they are not just students, like all the rest, but also temporary migrants. They often feel alone under the pressure of their studies and sometimes they are also constricted by economic difficulties. The Church, in her maternal concern, looks at them with affection and tries to put specific pastoral and social interventions into action that will take the great resources of their youth into consideration. It is necessary to help them find a way to open up to the dynamism of interculturality and be enriched in their contact with other students of different cultures and religions. For young Christians, this study and formation experience can be a useful area for the maturation of their faith, a stimulus to be open to the universalism that is a constitutive element of the Catholic Church.

Dear young migrants, prepare yourselves to build together your young peers a more just and fraternal society by fulfilling your duties scrupulously and seriously towards your families and the State. Be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence. Try instead to be protagonists as of now of a world where understanding and solidarity, justice and peace will reign. To you, in particular, young believers, I ask you to profit from your period of studies to grow in knowledge and love of Christ. Jesus wants you to be his true friends, and for this it is necessary for you to cultivate a close relationship with Him constantly in prayer and docile listening to his Word. He wants you to be his witnesses, and for this it is necessary for you to be committed to living the Gospel courageously and expressing it in concrete acts of love of God and generous service to your brothers and sisters. The Church needs you too and is counting on your contribution. You can play a very providential role in the current context of evangelization. Coming from different cultures, but all united by belonging to the one Church of Christ, you can show that the Gospel is alive and suited to every situation; it is an old and ever new message. It is a word of hope and salvation for the people of all races and cultures, of all ages and eras.

To Mary, the Mother of all humanity, and to Joseph, her most chaste spouse, who were both refugees together with Jesus in Egypt, I entrust each one of you, your families, those who take care of the vast world of young migrants in various ways, the volunteers and pastoral workers that are by your side with their willingness and friendly support.

May the Lord always be close to you and your families so that together you can overcome the obstacles and the material and spiritual difficulties you encounter on your way. I accompany these wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing for each one of you and for those who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, October 18, 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On St. Ephrem the Syrian
"Scepter of the Holy Spirit"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focussed on the figure of St. Ephrem the Syrian, fourth-century theologian, poet and musician.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

According to general opinion, Christianity is a European religion that has exported the culture of this Continent to other countries. The reality, though, is a lot more complex, as the root of the Christian religion is found in the Old Testament, and therefore in Jerusalem and the Semitic world. Christianity has always nourished itself from its roots in the Old Testament.

Also, its expansion during the first centuries was both westward -- toward the Greek-Latin world, where it then inspired the European culture -- and eastward to Persia and India, thus contributing to stimulate a specific culture, in Semitic languages, with its own identity.

To show the cultural diversity of the early Christian faith, during last Wednesday's catechesis I talked about a representative of this Christianity, Aphraates the Persian sage, almost unknown to us. Along the same lines I would like to speak today of St. Ephrem the Syrian, born in Nisibis around 306 into a Christian family.

He was the most important representative of Syriac Christianity, and succeeded in a unique way to reconcile the vocation of the theologian with that of the poet. He was brought up with James, bishop of Nisibis (303-338), and with him he founded the theological school of his town. Once deacon, he completely immersed himself in the life of the local Christian community until 363, the year in which Nisibis fell under Persian rule. Ephrem fled to Edessa, where he continued his activities as a preacher. He died there in 373, after being infected with the plague while attending to the sick.

It is not known with certainty whether he was a monk, but in any case it is certain that he remained a deacon all his life and that he embraced celibacy and poverty. In this way, according to the specific character of his culture, the common and fundamental Christian identity can be seen: faith, hope -- the hope that allows you to live a chaste and simple life putting your faith in the Lord -- and charity, even to the point of giving one's own life to care for the victims of the plague.

St. Ephrem left us a large written theological inheritance. His considerable writings can be grouped into four categories: works written in ordinary prose (his polemical works, or biblical commentaries); works in poetic prose; sermons in verses; and finally the hymns -- undoubtedly Ephrem's most extensive work.

He is a rich and captivating author for many reasons, but particularly because of his theological profile. The specific character of his work is that theology meets poetry. If we want to get closer to his doctrine, we need to acknowledge that he studied theology through poetry. Poetry allowed him to deepen his theological reflections through paradoxes and images. His theology became both liturgy and music at the same time: he was indeed a great composer and musician.

Theology, reflection on faith, poetry, chanting and the praising of God all complement one another. It is actually from this liturgical character that the divine truth appeared with clarity in Ephrem's theology. During his search for God and in his theology, he followed the path of paradox and symbol. His preference was to use opposing images, because they serve to underline the mystery of God.

I cannot quote much of his work, partly because poetry is difficult to translate, but just to give an idea of his poetic theology I would like to quote parts of two different hymns. First of all, as Advent is almost here, I would like to show you some wonderful images taken from the hymns "On Christ's Nativity." In an inspired tone Ephrem expressed his wonder of the figure of the Virgin Mary:

"The Lord came to her
to make himself a servant.
The Word came to her
to keep silence in her womb.
The lightning came to her
to not make any noise.

"The shepherd came to her
and the Lamb is born, who humbly cries.
Because Mary's womb
has reversed the roles:
The one who created all things
wasn't born rich, but poor.

"The Almighty came to her (Mary),
but he came humbly.
Splendor came to her,
but dressed in humble clothes.
The One who gives us all things
met hunger.

"The One who gives water to everyone
met thirst.
Naked and unclothed he came from her,
he who dresses all things (with beauty)."

(Hymn "De Nativitate" 11, 6-8).

To express the mystery of Christ, Ephrem uses a large variety of topics, expressions and images. In one of his hymns he connects Adam (in paradise) with Christ (in the Eucharist) in an effective way:

"It was the cherub's sword,
that closed the path
to the tree of life.

"But for the people,
the Lord of this tree
gave himself like food
at the (Eucharistic) offering.

"Eden's trees
were given as nourishment
to the first Adam.

"For us, the gardener
of the garden
has made himself food
for our souls.

"In fact we all left
Paradise together with Adam,
who left it all behind.

"Now that the sword has been removed,
from there (on the cross) by the lance
we are able to return."

(Hymn 49,9-11).

Ephrem uses two images to speak about the Eucharist: the charcoal or the hot coal, and the pearl. The theme of the hot coal is taken from the prophet Isaiah (cf. 6:6). It is the image of the seraph who takes the hot coal with tongs and simply grazes the lips of the prophet to purify them; the Christian, instead, takes and consumes the hot coal, that is, Christ himself:

"In your bread hides the Spirit
that cannot be consumed;
In your wine is the fire that cannot be drunk.

"The Spirit in your bread, the fire in your wine:
Here is a wonder welcomed by our lips.

"The seraph could not get his fingers close to the hot coal,
that could only approach Isaiah's mouth;
neither did the fingers take it, nor the lips swallow it;
But the Lord granted us the ability to do both things.

"The fire rained down with anger to destroy the sinners,
But the fire of grace comes down on the bread and remains there.
Instead of the fire destroying man,
we ate the fire in the bread
and we were revived."

(Hymn "De Fide" 10,8-10).

Here is another example of St. Ephrem's hymns, where he writes of the pearl as a symbol of the richness and beauty of faith:

"My brothers, I put (the pearl) to the palm of my hand,
to be able to look at it closely.

"I observed it from one side and then the other:
It had one only appearance from all sides.

"(Such) is the search for the Son, inscrutable,
for he is luminous.

"In its clarity, I saw the clear one,
that does not become opaque;
and in its purity,
I saw the great symbol of our Lord's body,
That is pure.

"In its indivisibility, I saw the truth,
which is indivisible."

(Hymn "On The Pearl" 1, 2-3).

The figure of Ephrem is still very relevant for the life of the various Christian Churches. In the first place we discover him as a theologian, who began from sacred Scripture and poetically reflected upon the mystery of the redemption of man by Christ, the embodiment of the Word of God.

His theological reflection is expressed with images and symbols taken from nature, from daily life and from the Bible. Ephrem conferred an educational and catechetical character to his poetry and to the hymns for the liturgy; these are theological hymns suitable for performance or liturgical songs. Ephrem uses such hymns to spread the doctrine of the Church at liturgical festivals. Over time the hymns proved to be an extremely effective catechetical instrument for the Christian community.

It is important to underline Ephrem's reflection on the God of creation: Nothing in creation is isolated, and the world is, with sacred Scripture, a Bible of God. By using his freedom wrongly, man overturns the order of the cosmos.

To Ephrem the role of the woman is a relevant one. The way he wrote about women was always prompted by sensibility and respect: The fact that Jesus dwelt in the womb of Mary has enormously raised the woman's dignity. For Ephrem there is no redemption without Jesus, just as there could be no incarnation without Mary. The divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our redemption can already be found in Ephrem's texts; in a poetic way and with scriptural images, he anticipated the theological background and in some ways the language itself of the great Christological definitions from the fifth-century councils.

Honoured by the Christian tradition as "scepter of the Holy Spirit," Ephrem opted to be a deacon of his Church for his entire life. It was a decisive and emblematic choice: He was deacon, that is to say, a servant, in the ministry of the liturgy, in his love for Christ -- which was radical -- that he sung of in an unparalleled way, and in charity toward his brothers, whom he taught with rare mastery the knowledge of divine revelation.

[Translation by Laura Leoncini]

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Papal Address to University Federation
"Whoever Wants to Be a Disciple of Christ Is Called to Go Against the Tide"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Nov. 9 address to the members of the Italian Catholic University Federation.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY FEDERATION (FUCI)
Clementine Hall

Friday, 9 November 2007

Dear Young Friends of FUCI,

This visit you are making at the conclusion of the 110th anniversary celebrations of the birth of your Association, FUCI, the Italian Catholic University Federation, is particularly welcome. I address to each one of you my cordial greeting, beginning with the National Presidents and the Prime Ecclesial Assistants, and I thank them for the words they addressed to me in your name. I greet Bishop Giuseppe Betori, General Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina and Assistant General Chaplain of the Italian Catholic Action, who have accompanied you to this Audience and whose presence witnesses to how strongly FUCI is rooted in the Church in Italy. I greet the diocesan Chaplains and the members of the FUCI Foundation. To each one of you I renew the Church's appreciation for the work your Association does in the university world at the service of the Gospel.

FUCI is celebrating its 110 years: a fitting occasion to review the ground covered and its future prospects. Safeguarding the historic memory is valuable because, by considering the validity and consistency of its own roots, it is more enthusiastic in continuing the itinerary begun. On this joyful occasion, I willingly take up the words that approximately 10 years ago my Venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II addressed to you on the occasion of your centenary: "The history of the past 100 years", he said, "actually confirms that the FUCI experience is a significant chapter of the Church's life in Italy, especially of that vast and multiform lay movement which found in Catholic Action its main support" (Discourse, 29 April 1996; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 22 May, n. 3, p. 4).

How can one fail to recognize that FUCI has contributed to the formation of entire generations of exemplary Christians, who have been able to transform the Gospel into life and with life, committing themselves on the cultural, civil, social and ecclesial levels? I am thinking in the first place of the young Blesseds Piergiorgio Frassati and Alberto Marvelli. I recall illustrious personalities like Aldo Moro and Vittorio Bachelet, both barbarously assassinated. Nor can I forget my Venerable Predecessor Paul VI, who was an attentive and courageous General Ecclesial Chaplain of FUCI in the difficult years of Fascism, and also Bishop Emilio Guano and Bishop Franco Costa. Moreover, the recent 10 years have been characterized by FUCI's decisive commitment to rediscover its true university dimension. After several debates and heated discussions, Italy began during the mid-'90s a radical reform of its academic system, which now presents a new profile, rich in promising perspectives, combined, however, with elements that raise legitimate concern. And you, both at the recent Congresses and on the pages of the Ricerca journal, are constantly concerned with the new configuration of academic studies, the relative legislative modifications, the topic of student participation and the ways in which the global dynamics of communication affect formation and the transmission of knowledge.

It is precisely in this environment that FUCI can fully express even today its original and ever-current charism: the convinced witness of the "possible friendship" between intelligence and faith, which implies the ceaseless effort to unite maturation in faith with growth in studies and the acquisition of scientific knowledge. In this context the expression so dear to you, "To believe in study" is meaningful. In effect, why should one who holds the faith renounce the freedom to seek the truth, and why should one who freely seeks the truth renounce the faith? Instead, it is possible, precisely during the university years and thanks to them, to realize an authentic human, scientific and spiritual maturation. "To believe in study" means to recognize that study and research - especially during the university years - have an intrinsic power to widen the horizons of human intelligence, as long as academic study remains demanding, rigorous, serious, methodical and progressive. Indeed, on these conditions, it represents an advantage for the global formation of the human person, as Bl. Giuseppe Tovini used to say, observing that with study young people would never have been poor, while without study they would never have been rich.

At the same time, study constitutes a providential opportunity to advance on the journey of faith, because a well-cultivated intelligence opens the heart of man to listen to the voice of God, emphasizing the importance of discernment and humility. I referred precisely to the value of humility at the recent Agorà [meeting] at Loreto, when I exhorted Italian youth not to follow the dictates of pride, but rather, the realistic sense of life open to the transcendent dimension. Today, as in the past, whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ is called to go against the tide, not to be attracted by the interesting and persuasive appeals which come from various platforms that propagandize behaviour marked by arrogance and violence, presumption and gaining success by every means. Contemporary society is marked by such an unbridled race for appearances and possessions and unfortunately to the detriment of being, and the Church, expert in humanity, does not tire to exhort especially the young generations to which you belong, to remain vigilant and not to be afraid to choose "alternative" ways that only Christ can indicate.

Yes, dear friends, Jesus summons all his friends to characterize their existence by a sober, solidary way of life, to weave sincere and free emotional relationships with others. He asks you, dear young students, to commit yourselves honestly to study, cultivating a mature sense of responsibility and a shared interest in the common good. The university years are therefore a training ground for convinced and courageous Gospel witness. To accomplish your mission, seek to cultivate an intimate friendship with the divine Teacher, placing yourself at the school of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. I entrust you to her maternal intercession and, while I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I warmly impart to all with affection a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and loved ones.

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Papal Homily at the Consistory
"The Lord Asks of You and Gives to You the Service of Love"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 25, 2007 - Here is a translation of the homily that Benedict XVI gave during Saturday’’s ordinary public consistory in which he elevated 23 new cardinals.
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Lord Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers of the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today -- in this Vatican basilica, heart of the Christian world -- is renewed a significant and solemn ecclesial event: the ordinary public consistory for the creation of 23 new cardinals with the imposition of the biretta and the conferral of the title. It is an event that every time awakens a special emotion, and not only in those who with these rites are admitted to the College of Cardinals, but in the whole Church, joyful over this eloquent sign of Catholic unity.
The ceremony itself in its structure discloses the value of the task that the new cardinals are called to perform, closely cooperating with the Successor of Peter, and it invites the people of God to pray that in their service, these brothers of ours always remain faithful to Christ, even unto the sacrifice of life if it is necessary, and let themselves be guided by his Gospel. For this we gather around them with faith and raise up to God, first of all, our prayerful thanksgiving.

In this climate of joy and intense spirituality I offer with affection my greeting to each one of you, brothers, who from this day forward are members of the College of Cardinals, chosen to be, according to an ancient institution, the closest counselors and co-workers of the Successor of Peter in guiding the Church.
I greet and thank Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who, in your name addressed courteous and devout sentiments to me, emphasizing at the same time the significance and importance of the ecclesial event we are experiencing. I desire, furthermore, to address a dutiful thought to Bishop Ignacy Jez, whom we mourn, whom the God of every grace called to himself, just before his nomination, to offer him a very different crown: that of the glory of Christ. My cordial greeting then goes to the lord cardinals who are present and also to those who were not able to be with us physically, but who are spiritually united with us. The celebration of the consistory is always a providential occasion to offer ““urbi et orbi”” -- to the city of Rome and to the whole world -- witness to that singular unity that binds the cardinals to the Pope, Bishop of Rome. In such solemn circumstances it is also dear to me to address a respectful and deferential greeting to government representatives and leaders who have gathered here from every part of the world, and to the relatives, friends, priests, religious, and faithful of the particular local Churches from which the new cardinals come. Finally, I greet all those who have come here to pay their respects to the new cardinals and to express in festive joy their esteem and affection for them.

With today’’s celebration, you, dear brothers, are with full rights inserted into the venerable Church of Rome, whose shepherd is the Successor of Peter. Thus in the College of Cardinals is revived the ancient ““presbyterium”” of the Bishop of Rome, whose members, while they carried out their pastoral and liturgical functions in the various churches, did not neglect their precious work in the fulfillment of those tasks connected with assisting the Pope in his universal apostolic office. The times have changed and today the great family of Christ’’s disciples is spread across every continent to the most remote corners of the earth. It speaks nearly all the languages of the world and to it belong people of every culture. The diversity of the College of Cardinals, which is accounted for by geographical and cultural provenance, manifests this providential growth and at the same time demonstrates the changed pastoral needs to which the Pope must respond. Because of this, the universality, the catholicity, of the Church, is well reflected in the composition of the College of Cardinals: Many are pastors of diocesan communities, others are in direct service of the Apostolic See, and others have rendered meritorious service in specific pastoral sectors.

Each one of you, dear and venerable newly created cardinals, therefore represents a portion of the articulated Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church everywhere diffused. I know what effort and sacrifice is necessary today for the care of souls, but I know the generosity that sustains your daily apostolic activity. For this reason, in the circumstances in which we live, it is dear to me to confirm to you my sincere appreciation of the service you have faithfully given in many years of work in different spheres of ecclesial ministry, service which now, with this elevation to the cardinalate, you are called to accomplish with greater responsibility, in the closest communion with the Bishop of Rome.
I now think with affection of the communities entrusted to your care and, in a special way, of those that are most tried by suffering, by challenges and difficulties of different sorts. Among these, how can I not turn my gaze with apprehension and affection, in this moment of joy, to the dear Christian communities of Iraq? These brothers and sisters of ours in the faith are experiencing in their own flesh the dramatic consequences of a long conflict and are living in an ever more fragile and delicate political situation. Calling the patriarch of the Chaldean Church to enter into the College of Cardinals, I intended to express in a concrete way my spiritual nearness and my affection for those populations. We would like, dear and venerable brothers, together to reaffirm the solidarity of the whole Church with the Christians of that beloved land and to invite and to implore from the merciful God, for all peoples involved, the longed-for coming of reconciliation and peace.

A short while ago we heard the Word of God that helps us better to understand the solemn moment we are now experiencing. In the Gospel passage, Jesus had just recalled for the third time the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, but the ambition of the disciples gets the upper hand on the fear that for a moment assailed them. After Peter’’s confession at Caesarea and the discussion along the way about who was greatest, ambition drives the sons of Zebedee to claim for themselves the best positions in the messianic kingdom at the end of time. In the race for privileges, the two know well what they want, just as the other 10 do, despite their ““righteous”” indignation. In truth, however, they do not know what they are asking for. It is Jesus who makes them understand, speaking in very different terms of the ““service”” that awaits them. He corrects the coarse conception of merit that they have, according to which man can acquire rights before God.

The Evangelist Mark reminds us, dear and venerable brothers, that every true disciple of Christ can aspire for one thing only: to share in his passion without claiming recompense. The Christian is called to assume the condition of ““servant,”” following in the footsteps of Jesus, spending his life for others in a gratuitous and disinterested way. It is not the quest for power and success but the humble gift of self for the good of the Church that should characterize each gesture and each word of ours. True Christian greatness, in fact, does not consist in dominating but in serving. Today Jesus repeats to each of us that he ““did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the many”” (Mark 10:45). This is the ideal that must orient your service. Dear brothers, in entering the College of Cardinals, the Lord asks of you and gives to you the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, love for our brothers, with a total and unconditional dedication, ““usque ad sanguinis effusionem”” [even to the shedding of blood], as is said in the formula for the imposition of the biretta and as is shown in the garments that you will put on.

Be apostles of God, who is love, and witnesses of evangelical hope: The Christian people expects this of you. Today’’s ceremony highlights the great responsibility that weighs on each of you, venerable and dear brothers, and which finds confirmation in the words of the Apostle Peter that we have just heard: ““Adore the Lord, Christ, in your hearts, always ready to answer whoever asks you the reason for the hope that is in you”” (1 Peter 3:15). Such a responsibility does not exempt you from risks, rather, as St. Peter adds, ““It is better, if God wills it, to suffer for doing the good than for doing evil”” (1 Peter 3:17). Christ asks you to confess his truth before men, to embrace and share his cause; and to accomplish all of this ““with sweetness and respect, with a good conscience”” (1 Peter 3:1-16), that is, with that interior humility that is a fruit of cooperation with the grace of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, tomorrow, in this same basilica, I will have the joy of celebrating the Eucharist of Christ the King of the Universe, together with the new cardinals, and I will give them the ring. It will be a very important and opportune occasion to reaffirm our unity in Christ and to renew our common will to serve him with total generosity. Accompany them with your prayer, so that they will respond to the gift given with complete and constant dedication. To Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we turn our confidence. May her spiritual presence today in this singular cenacle be a pledge for the new cardinals and for all of us a constant effusion of the Holy Spirit that guides the Church on her way in history. Amen!

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Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after celebrating the Eucharist with the new cardinals created in Saturday’’s consistory and before reciting the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On Tuesday, at Annapolis in the United States, Israelis and Palestinians, with the help of the international community, intend to re-launch the negotiation process to find a just and definitive solution to the conflict that has bloodied the Holy Land for 60 years and provoked so many tears and so much suffering among the two peoples. I ask you to join yourselves to the day of prayer declared today by the U.S. bishops' conference to implore the Spirit of God for peace for that region so dear to us and to give wisdom and courage to all the protagonists in this important meeting.

After the conclusion of today’’s solemn celebration, I would like to address my cordial greetings to all present, including those who are outside the basilica. I express special gratitude to those faithful who have come from far away to accompany the new cardinals and participate in this event, which manifests in a singular manner the unity and universality of the Catholic Church. To the distinguished civil authorities I renew my deferential sentiments.

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Pope's Address to Food and Agriculture Organization
"Peace, Prosperity and Respect for Human Rights Are Inseparably Linked"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2007 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI delivered today to members of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

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Mr President,

Mr Director General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you gather for the Thirty-fourth Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican. Our meeting today is part of a tradition reaching back to the time when your Organization first set up its headquarters in Rome. I am happy to have yet another occasion to express appreciation for your work to eliminate the scourge of global hunger.

As you know, the Holy See has always maintained a keen interest in every effort made to rid the human family of famine and malnutrition, in the awareness that resolving these problems requires not only extraordinary dedication and highly refined technical training, but above all a genuine spirit of cooperation uniting all men and women of good will.

This noble goal calls for unwavering acknowledgement of the inherent dignity of the human person at every stage of life. All forms of discrimination, and particularly those that thwart agricultural development, must be rejected since they constitute a violation of the basic right of every person to be "free from hunger". These convictions are in fact demanded by the very nature of your work on behalf of the common good of humanity, as expressed so eloquently by your motto -- fiat panis -- words that are also at the heart of the Gospel which the Church is called to proclaim.

The data gathered through your research and the extent of your programmes for supporting the global endeavour to develop the world’s natural resources clearly testify to one of the most troubling paradoxes of our time: the relentless spread of poverty in a world that is also experiencing unprecedented prosperity, not only in the economic sphere but also in the rapidly developing fields of science and technology.

The obstacles standing in the way of overcoming this tragic situation can at times be discouraging. Armed conflicts, outbreaks of disease, adverse atmospheric and environmental conditions and the massive forced displacement of peoples: all these obstacles should serve as a motivation to redouble our efforts to provide each person with his or her daily bread. For her part, the Church is convinced that the quest for more effective technical solutions in an ever-changing and expanding world calls for far-sighted programmes embodying enduring values grounded in the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person.

FAO continues to play an essential role in relieving world hunger, while reminding the international community of the pressing need constantly to update methods and to design strategies adequate to today’s challenges. I express my appreciation for the generous efforts made in this regard by all associated with your Organization. The Holy See has closely followed the activities of FAO over the last sixty years and is confident that the significant results already achieved will continue. FAO was one of the first international organizations with which the Holy See established regular diplomatic relations. On 23 November 1948, during the Fourth Session of your Conference, the Holy See was granted the unique status of "Permanent Observer", thus ensuring its right to participate in the activities of FAO’s various departments and affiliated agencies in a way consonant with the Church’s religious and moral mission.

The united effort of the international community to eliminate malnutrition and promote genuine development necessarily calls for clear structures of management and oversight, and a realistic assessment of the resources needed to address a wide range of different situations. It requires the contribution of every member of society -- individuals, volunteer organizations, businesses, and local and national governments -- always with due regard for those ethical and moral principles which are the common patrimony of all people and the foundation of all social life. The international community must always avail itself of this precious treasure of common values since genuine and lasting development can only be furthered in a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to share professional and technical resources.

Indeed, today more than ever, the human family needs to find the tools and strategies capable of overcoming the conflicts caused by social differences, ethnic rivalries, and the gross disparity in levels of economic development. Mankind is thirsting for true and lasting peace -- a peace that can only come about if individuals, groups at every level, and government leaders cultivate habits of responsible decision-making rooted firmly in the fundamental principles of justice. It is therefore essential that societies dedicate their energies to educating authentic peacemakers: this is a task which falls in a particular way to organizations like your own, which cannot fail to recognize as the foundation of authentic justice the universal destination of the goods of creation.

Religion, as a potent spiritual force for healing the wounds of conflict and division, has its own distinctive contribution to make in this regard, especially through the work of forming minds and hearts in accordance with a vision of the human person.

Ladies and Gentlemen, technical progress, important as it is, is not everything. Such progress must be placed within the wider context of the integral good of the human person. It must constantly draw nourishment from the common patrimony of values which can inspire concrete initiatives aimed at a more equitable distribution of spiritual and material goods. As I wrote in my encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," "those who are in a position to help others will realize that, in doing so, they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own" (No. 35). This principle has a special application to the world of agriculture, in which the work of those who are often considered the "lowliest" members of society should be duly acknowledged and esteemed.

FAO’s outstanding activity on behalf of development and food security clearly points to the correlation between the spread of poverty and the denial of basic human rights, beginning with the fundamental right to adequate nutrition. Peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights are inseparably linked. The time has come to ensure, for the sake of peace, that no man, woman and child will ever be hungry again!

Dear friends, in renewing my esteem for your work, I assure you of my prayers that Almighty God will enlighten and guide your deliberations, so that the activity of FAO will respond ever more fully to the human family’s yearning for solidarity, justice and peace.

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On the Teachings of Aphraates
"Prayer Is Strong When It Is Full of God’s Strength" (November 21, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on the fourth-century Christian Aphraates.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On our journey into the world of the Fathers of the Church, today I would like to guide you toward a little-known area of the universe of faith, namely those territories in which the Churches of Semitic languages, not yet influenced by Greek thought, flourished. Such Churches developed through the fourth century in the Near East, from the Holy Land to Lebanon and Mesopotamia. In that century -- which was a period of clerical and literary growth -- the ascetic-monastic phenomenon was developed with autochthonous characteristics, which did not come under the influence of Egyptian monasticism. Hence the Syriac communities of the fourth century represent the Semitic world from which the Bible itself evolved. They are an expression of a Christianity whose theological formulation had not yet come into contact with other cultural currents, but rather lived thinking their own way. These are Churches in which asceticism in its various hermitic forms (hermits in the desert, in caverns, recluses, stylites), and monasticism in the form of community life, play a vital role in the development of theological and spiritual thought.

I would like to introduce this world through Aphraates, also known as "the wise one." He was one of the most important and enigmatic characters of fourth-century Syriac Christianity. He lived in the first half of the fourth century and was a native of the Nineveh-Mosul region -- today’s Iraq.

We have little information about his life; he had strong ties with the ascetic-monastic environment of the Syriac Church, on which he reflected a great deal in his work. According to some sources, he was the head of a monastery, and later ordained a bishop. He wrote 23 speeches known as Expositions or Demonstrations, in which he discusses different topics of Christian life, such as faith, love, fasting, humility, prayer, ascetic life, and also the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and between the Old and New Testaments. He writes in a simple style, with short sentences and at times contrasting parallelisms; nevertheless he manages to make consistent speeches by developing articulated arguments.

Aphraates came from a clerical community halfway between Judaism and Christianity. The community was very closely linked to the Mother Church of Jerusalem, and its bishops were traditionally chosen among what were called James' "relatives," the "Lord’s brother" (cf. Mark 6:3): These people were connected to the Church of Jerusalem by blood and faith.

Aphraates spoke Syriac, a Semitic language like the Hebrew of the Old Testament and like the Aramaic spoken by Jesus himself. The ecclesial community in which Aphraates lived wanted to stay faithful to the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which it felt it was a daughter. Therefore it maintained a close relationship with the Jewish world and its sacred books.

Significantly Aphraates defines himself as a "disciple of sacred Scripture," of both the Old and New Testaments (Exposition 22,26), which he considered his sole source of inspiration, and so often mentioned it that it became the center of his reflections.

Aphraates develops different arguments in his Expositions. True to his Syriac tradition, he often presents Christ’s salvation as a type of healing and consequently, Christ as a doctor. In keeping with this, sin is seen as a wound, which penance alone can heal: "A man that has been injured in battle," says Aphraates, "is not ashamed to put himself in the hands of a doctor. ... Equally so, he who has been injured by Satan should not be ashamed to admit his fault and to distance himself from it, asking for the medicine of penance" (Exposition 7,3).

Another important aspect of Aphraates' work is his teaching on prayer, and particularly on Christ as the master of prayer. The Christian prays following Jesus’ teaching and the example he has set us: "Our Savior taught us to pray saying: 'Pray in the secret of the one who is hidden, but who sees everything.'" And again: "Enter your room, pray to your Father in secret, and the Father who sees this will reward you" (Matthew 6:6). … Our Savior wants to show that God knows the desires and thoughts of the heart" (Exposition 4,10).

To Aphraates, Christian life is centered on the imitation of Christ, taking up his yoke, following him on the path of the Gospel. Humility is one of the most apt virtues in a disciple of Christ. It is not a secondary consideration in the spiritual life of a Christian: Man’s nature is humble, and God exalts it to his own glory. Humility, Aphraates states, is not a negative value: "If man’s root is planted in the earth, his fruits ascend before the Lord of greatness" (Exposition 9,14). By remaining humble, even in his earthly surroundings, a Christian can establish a relationship with the Lord: "The humble man is humble, but his heart rises to the uppermost heights. The eyes of his face observe the earth, but the eyes of his mind observe the highest summit" (Exposition 9,2).

Aphraates’s vision of man and his physical reality is a very positive one: The human body, in the example of the humble Christ, is called to beauty, joy and light: "God is attracted to the man who loves, it is right to love humility and to stay humble. Humble individuals are simple, patient, loving, honest, righteous, experts in what is good, prudent, serene, wise, calm, peaceful, merciful, ready to convert, benevolent, profound, thoughtful, beautiful and attractive" (Exposition 9,14).

Often in Aphraates’ teachings, Christian life is presented in a clear ascetic and spiritual dimension: Faith is its base, its foundation; it makes of man a temple where Christ himself lives. Faith therefore enables a true charity that is expressed in the love toward God and toward one’s neighbor.

Another important aspect in Aphraates’ thought is that of fasting, understood in its widest sense. He speaks of fasting from food as a practice that is necessary to be charitable and pure; of fasting in the sense of self-discipline with a view to sanctity; of fasting from vain and loathsome words; of fasting from anger; of fasting from owning goods in the context of the priestly ministry; of fasting from sleep to pray.

Dear brothers and sisters, to conclude, we return again to Aphraates' teaching on prayer. According to this ancient sage, prayer is achieved when Christ dwells in the heart of Christians, inviting them to a coherent commitment of charity toward their brethren. He writes:

"Give relief to those in distress, visit the ailing,
Be solicitous to the poor: This is prayer.
Prayer is good, and its works are beautiful.
Prayer is accepted when it gives relief to your neighbor.
Prayer is heard when it includes the forgiveness of sins.
Prayer is strong when it is full of God’s strength" (Exposition 4,14-16).

With these words Aphraates invites us to join in a prayer that becomes Christian life, a life that comes to fruition, infused by faith, by openness to God and, as such, by the love for one’s neighbor.

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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.

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On Trust in God
"Let Us Not be Afraid of the Future, Even When it Appears Bleak"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In today's Gospel passage St. Luke re-proposes the biblical vision of history for our reflection and reports the words of Jesus that invite the disciples not to have fear but to face difficulties, misunderstandings and even persecutions with trust, persevering in faith in him.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections," the Lord says, "do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end" (Luke 21:9). Mindful of this admonition of the Lord, the Church has from the very beginning lived in the prayerful expectation of the Lord's return, scrutinizing the signs of the times and putting the faithful on guard against recurring messianic movements that from time to time proclaim that the end of the world is imminent.

In reality, history must follow its course, which also brings human dramas and natural calamities with it. A plan of salvation that Christ has already carried out in his incarnation, death, and resurrection develops in history. The Church continues to proclaim and realize this mystery through preaching, the celebration of the sacraments and the witness of charity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome Christ's invitation to face daily events trusting in his providential love. Let us not be afraid of the future, even when it appears bleak to us, for the God of Jesus Christ, who took up history to open it up to its transcendent fulfillment, is its alpha and omega, the beginning and the end (cf. Revelation 1:8). He guarantees that in every little but genuine act of love the meaning of the whole universe is contained, and those who do not hesitate to lose their lives for him, will find them again in fullness (cf. Matthew 16:25).

Consecrated persons, who have placed their life without reserve at the service of the kingdom of God invite us with singular effectiveness to keep this perspective alive. Among these persons I would like especially to draw attention to those who are called to contemplation in cloistered monasteries. The Church dedicates a particular day to them on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the temple. We owe much to these persons who live by what providence procures for them through the generosity of the faithful.

"As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today's world of the most important, and indeed, in the end, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living -- God and his unfathomable love" (Address at Heiligenkreuz, Sept. 9, 2007). Faith that works in charity is the true antidote for the nihilistic mentality, which in our epoch spreads its influence further and further throughout the world.

May Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, accompany us on the earthly pilgrimage. We ask her to support the witness of all Christians, that it always rest on a solid and persevering faith.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

In recent days southern Bangladesh was struck by a terrible cyclone that injured and killed numerous people and caused grave destruction. In renewing my profound condolences to the families and the whole nation, which is so dear to me, I appeal for international solidarity, which has already moved to assist with immediate necessities. I ask that every possible effort be made to succor these sorely tried brothers.

Today there opens in Jordan the 8th meeting of the countries who signed the convention on the ban of the use, stockpiling, manufacture and transport of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction. The Holy See is among the principal promoters of the convention that was signed 10 years ago. From my heart I convey my greeting and encouragement for a good outcome to the meeting so that these explosives, which continue to generate victims -- among whom are many children -- be completely prohibited.

This afternoon at Novara there will be beatified the venerable servant of God, Antonio Rosmini, a great figure of a priest and an illustrious man of culture, animated by fervid love for God and the Church. He bore witness to the virtue of charity in all of its dimensions and at a high level, but that for which he was mostly known was his generous commitment to what he called "intellectual charity," that is to say the reconciliation of faith and reason. May his example help the Church, especially Italian ecclesial communities, to grow in the awareness that the light of reason and that of grace, when they walk together, become a source of benediction for the human person and for society.

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Papal Address to Missionaries
"The Baptized Are Called to the Spreading of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2007.- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in English to superiors general of missionary societies, in Rome for a meeting organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Fathers,

It is a particular pleasure for me to greet you, the Superiors General of Missionary Societies of Apostolic Life, meeting here in Rome at the invitation of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People. Your assembly, which brings together the Superiors of the fifteen Missionary Societies of pontifical right and the six of diocesan right, bears eloquent witness to the continuing vitality of the missionary impulse in the Church and the spirit of communion uniting your members and their manifold activities to the Successor of Peter and his universal apostolic ministry.

Your meeting is also a concrete sign of the historic relationship between the various Missionary Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In these days you have sought to examine new ways of consolidating and strengthening this privileged relationship. As the Second Vatican Council observed, Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to every creature applies primarily and immediately to the College of Bishops, cum et sub Petro (cf. "Ad Gentes," 38). Within the hierarchical unity of the Body of Christ, enriched by the variety of gifts and charisms bestowed by the Spirit, communion with the successors of the Apostles remains the criterion and guarantee of the spiritual fruitfulness of all missionary activity. For the Church’s communion in faith, hope and love is itself the sign and foretaste of that unity and peace which is God’s plan in Christ for the whole human family.

One of the promising indications of a renewal in the Church’s missionary consciousness in recent decades has been the growing desire of many lay men and women, whether single or married, to cooperate generously in the missio ad gentes. As the Council stressed, the work of evangelization is a fundamental duty incumbent upon the whole People of God, and all the baptized are called to "a lively awareness of their personal responsibility for the spreading of the Gospel" ("Ad Gentes," 36). While some Missionary Societies have had a long history of close collaboration with lay men and women, others have only more recently developed forms of lay association with their apostolate. Given the extent and the importance of the contribution made by these associates to the work of the various Societies, the proper forms of their cooperation should naturally be governed by specific statutes and clear directives respectful of each institute’s proper canonical identity.

Dear friends, our meeting today gives me a welcome opportunity to express my gratitude to you and to all the members of your Societies, past and present, for your enduring commitment to the Church’s mission. Today, as in the past, missionaries continue to leave their families and homes, often at great sacrifice, for the sole purpose of proclaiming the Good News of Christ and serving him in their brothers and sisters. Many of them, also in our time, have heroically confirmed their preaching by the shedding of their blood, and contributed to establishing the Church in distant lands. Today, changed circumstances have led in many cases to a decrease in the number of young people who are attracted to missionary societies, and a consequent decline in missionary outreach. All the same, as the late Pope John Paul II insisted, the mission ad gentes is still only beginning, and the Lord is summoning us, all of us, to be committed wholeheartedly to its service (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 1). "The harvest is great!" (Mt 9:37) While conscious of the challenges you face, I encourage you to follow faithfully in the footsteps of your founders, and to stir into flame the charisms and apostolic zeal which you have inherited from them, confident that Christ will continue to work with you and to confirm your preaching with signs of his presence and power (cf. Mk 16:20).

With great affection, I commend you, together with the members and associates of your various Societies, to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

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Papal Address to Focolare Families
"Your Task Is a Silent and Deep Commitment to Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Nov. 3 address to the New Families Movement of the lay Catholic Focalare Movement.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF "THE NEW FAMILIES MOVEMENT"

Clementine Hall Saturday, 3 November 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome and thank you for coming to visit me. You come from the five continents and belong to The New Families Movement which came into being 40 years ago in the context of the Focolare Movement. You are thus a branch of Focolare and today form a network of at least 800,000 families working in 182 nations, all committed to making their home a "focolare" [hearth] which radiates in the world the witness of a Gospel-style family life. I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting, which I extend also to those who have wished to accompany you at our meeting. I greet in a special way your leaders who have conveyed your common sentiments and described to me your Movement's working methods as well as its goals. I thank you for the greetings you have brought me from Chiara Lubich, to whom I send my warm good wishes, thanking her because she continues to guide the large family of the Focolare with wisdom and unswerving attachment to the Church.

As has just been recalled, it is precisely in the context of this vast and praiseworthy institution that you, dear married couples, place yourselves at the service of the world of families with an important and ever timely pastoral action that has four orientations: spirituality, education, sociability and solidarity. Your task is effectively a silent and deep commitment to evangelization with the goal of testifying that only family unity, a gift of God-Love, can make the family a true nest of love, a home that welcomes life and a school of virtue and Christian values for children. As you confront the many social and economic, cultural and religious issues that challenge contemporary society in every part of the world, your work, truly providential, is a sign of hope and an encouragement for Christian families to be a privileged "space" where the beauty of making Jesus Christ the focus and of faithfully following his Gospel is proclaimed in everyday life, sometimes despite many difficulties. Indeed, your meeting's theme: "A house built on the rock -- the Gospel lived, a response to the problems of families today", emphasizes the importance of this ascetical and pastoral itinerary. The secret is precisely to live the Gospel!

Rightly, therefore, in the work of the assembly during these days, in addition to contributions that illustrate the situation of today's families in the different cultural contexts, you have planned to deepen your knowledge of the Word of God and to hear the testimonies that show how the Holy Spirit acts in hearts and in family life, even in complex and difficult situations. Only think of the uncertainties of engaged couples as they face definitive decisions for the future, of the crisis of couples, of separations and divorces as well as irregular unions, of the condition of widows, of families in difficulty and of welcoming abandoned minors. I warmly hope that also thanks to your commitment, pastoral strategies may be identified to cope with the increasing needs of families today and the multiple challenges that face them, so that they will not fail in their special mission in the Church and in society.

In this regard, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici," my venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II noted that the Church maintains that for the faithful, "the first and basic expression of the social dimension... is the married couple and the family" (n. 40). To bring this vocation to fruition, the family, aware that it is the primary cell of society, must not forget that it can find strength in a Sacrament desired by Christ to reinforce the love between man and woman: a love understood as a gift of self, reciprocal and profound. As John Paul II likewise observed: "The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church, his Bride" ("Familiaris Consortio," n. 17). Thus, according to the divine plan, the family is a sacred and sanctifying place and the Church, which has always been close to the family, supports it in this mission, especially today when the internal and external threats to it are so numerous. In order not to succumb to discouragement, divine help is essential; thus, every Christian family must look with trust to the Holy Family, the original "domestic Church" in which "through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families" (ibid., n. 45).

Dear brothers and sisters, the humble and holy Family of Nazareth, the icon and model of every human family, will not let you go without its heavenly support. Nonetheless, your ceaseless recourse to prayer, to listening to the Word of God and to an intense sacramental life is indispensable, together with a constant effort to live Christ's commandment of love and forgiveness. Love does not seek its own interests, it does not harbour rancour for evil received but rejoices in truth. Love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (I Cor 13: 5-7). Dear brothers and sisters, continue your journey and be witnesses of this Love which will make you increasingly the "heart" and "leaven" of the entire New Families Movement. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for each one of you, for your activities and all those you meet in your apostolate, and with affection I now impart to you all the Apostolic Blessing.

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St. Jerome on the Bible
"Love Sacred Scripture and Wisdom Shall Love You"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2007- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. Jerome.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we continue with the presentation of St. Jerome. As we said last Wednesday, he devoted his life to the study of the Bible, for which he was acknowledged as "eminent doctor in the interpretation of sacred Scripture" by one of my predecessors, Pope Benedict XV.

Jerome underlined the joy and importance of familiarizing oneself with the biblical texts: "Don't you feel, here on Earth, that you are already in the kingdom of heaven, just by living in these texts, meditating on them, and not seeking anything else?" (Ep. 53,10).

In truth, to converse with God and with his word means to be in heaven's presence, that is to say, in God's presence. To draw close to the biblical texts, above all to the New Testament, is essential for the believer, because "ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." This is his famous sentence, also quoted by the Second Vatican Council in the constitution "Dei Verbum" (No. 25).

Truly "enchanted" by the word of God, Jerome asked himself: "How could we live without the science of Scriptures, through which we learn how to know Christ himself, who is the life of the believer?" (Ep. 30,7). Hence the Bible, the instrument "with which God speaks to the faithful every day" (Ep. 133,13), becomes catalyst and source of Christian life for all situations and for everyone.

To read Scripture is to converse with God: "If you are praying," he writes to a noble young lady from Rome, "you are speaking with the Groom; if you are reading, it is He who is speaking to you" (Ep. 22,25). The study and meditation of Scripture makes man wise and at peace (cf. In Eph., prol.). Certainly, to penetrate more deeply the word of God, a constant and increasing practice is necessary. This is what Jerome recommended to the priest Nepotian: "Read the divine Scriptures with much regularity; let the Holy Book never be laid down by your hands. Learn there what you ought to teach (Ep. 52,7)."

To the Roman matron Laeta he gave the following advice for the Christian education of her daughter: "Make sure that every day she studies some passages of Scripture. ... That she ensues from reading to praying and from praying to reading. ... Instead of loving jewelry and silk garments, may she rather love the divine books" (Ep. 107,9.12). With the meditation and the science of the Scriptures one "maintains the balance of the soul" (Ad Eph., prol.). Only through a deep spirit of prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit are we able to understand the Bible: "For the interpretation of sacred Scripture we always need the help of the Holy Spirit" (In Mich. 1,1,10,15).

A passionate love for Scripture pervaded all of Jerome's life, a love that he sought to also awaken in the faithful. To a spiritual daughter he recommended: "Love sacred Scripture and wisdom shall love you; love it tenderly, and it will protect you; honor it and you shall receive its caresses. Let it mean to you as much as your necklaces and your earrings mean to you" (Ep. 130,20). And again: "Love the science of Scripture, and you shall not love the vices of the flesh" (Ep. 125,11).

A fundamental criterion Jerome used to interpret Scripture was to be in tune with the magisterium of the Church. Alone we are not able to read Scripture. We find too many closed doors and we are easily mistaken. The Bible was written by the people of God, for the people of God, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in communion with the people of God can we truly enter the core of the truth that God intends to convey us.

For him an authentic interpretation of the Bible always had to be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church. This is not an external requirement imposed on the book. The book itself is the voice of the people of God in pilgrimage, and only in the faith of these people we find the right frame of mind to understand sacred Scripture. Hence Jerome warned: "Stay firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that has been taught to you, so that you can preach according to the right doctrine and refute those who contradict it" (Ep. 52,7).

In particular, given that Jesus Christ founded his Church on Peter, he concluded that every Christian has to be in communion "with the chair of St. Peter. I know that on this stone the Church is built" (Ep. 15,2). Consequently, he declared: "I am with whoever is united to the chair of St. Peter" (Ep. 16).

Jerome obviously does not neglect the ethical side. Rather often he recalls the duty of reconciling life with the divine word, and that only by living it we manage to understand it. Such coherence is necessary for every Christian, especially for the preacher, to ensure that his actions are not a source of embarrassment when conflicting with his speech. So he urges the priest Nepotian: "Let not your actions deny your words, so that when you preach in church someone won't be able to say: 'Why don't you act this way?' Interesting is the teacher who, with his belly full, preaches about fasting -- even a thief can condemn greed -- but for the priest of Christ the mind and word have to match" (Ep. 52,7).

In another letter Jerome confirms: "Even when mastering a wonderful doctrine, he who is condemned by his own conscience will be shamed" (Ep. 127,4). Always in terms of coherence, he observes, the Gospel has to translate into attitudes of true charity, because in every human being Christ is present. For instance, when addressing Paulinus (who became bishop of Nola and then a saint), Jerome advises: "The true temple of Christ is the soul of the faithful: adorn this sanctuary, embellish it, put your offerings in it and receive Christ. To what purpose do you adorn walls with precious stones, if Christ starves in the person of the poor?" (Ep. 58,7).

Jerome continues: It is necessary "to dress Christ among the poor, to visit him among the suffering, to nourish him among the starving, to host him among the homeless" (Ep. 130,14). The love for Christ, fed with study and meditation, makes us overcome any difficulty: "We love Jesus Christ, we always search the union with him: then all that is difficult will seem easy" (Ep. 22,40).

Jerome, defined as "a model of conduct and a master of the human kind" by Prosper of Aquitaine ("Carmen de Ingratis," 57), also left us a rich teaching on Christian asceticism. He reminds us that a courageous engagement toward perfection requires a constant alertness, frequent mortifications, even if with moderation and caution, an assiduous intellectual or manual work to avoid idleness (cf. Epp. 125.11 and 130,15), and above all obedience to God: "Nothing … pleases God as much as obedience. ... That is the most outstanding and the sole virtue" (Hom. De oboedientia: CCL 78,552).

The practice of pilgrimages can be included in the ascetic path. In particular, Jerome promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Land, where pilgrims were welcomed and accommodated in the buildings built near Bethlehem's monastery, thanks to the generosity of the noblewoman Paula, Jerome's spiritual daughter (cf. Ep. 108,14).

Finally, we have to mention Jerome's contribution to Christian pedagogy (cf. Epp. 107 and 128). He proposes to form "a soul that has to become the temple of the Lord " (Ep. 107,4), a "most precious gem" to the eyes of God (Ep. 107,13). With deep intuition he suggests to protect the soul from evil and from sinful events, to exclude equivocal or wasteful friendships (cf. Ep. 107.4 and 8-9; cf also Ep. 128,3-4).

Above all, he urges parents to create an environment of serenity and joy around the children, to encourage them to study and work, also through praise and emulation (cf. Epp. 107,4 and 128,1), to encourage them to overcome difficulties, to nurture in them good habits and protect them from bad ones because -- here he quotes a phrase that Publilius Syrus had heard as a schoolboy -- "you will barely succeed to correct those things that you are getting used to do" (Ep. 107,8).

Parents are the primary educators for children, their first life teachers. Addressing himself to the mother of a girl and then turning to the father, Jerome warns, with much clarity, as if to express a fundamental requirement of every human creature who comes into existence: "May she find in you her teacher, and may her inexperienced childhood look at you with wonder. May she never see, neither in you nor in her father, any actions that, if imitated, could lead her to sin. Remember that ... you can educate her more with the example than with the word" (Ep. 107,9).

Among Jerome's main intuitions as a pedagogue we must underline the importance attributed to a healthy and complete education from infancy, as well as the special responsibility acknowledged as belonging to parents, the urgency of a serious moral and religious education, and the need of study for a more complete human formation.

Moreover, a vital aspect retained by the author but disregarded in ancient times is the promotion of the woman, to whom he acknowledges the right to a complete education: human, academic, religious, professional. We actually see today that the true condition to any progress, peace, reconciliation and exclusion of violence is the education of the person in its entirety and the education in responsibility before God and before man. Sacred Scripture offers us the guidance of education and of true humanism.

We cannot conclude these rapid notes on the great Father of the Church without mentioning his effective contribution to the safeguard of the positive and valid elements of ancient Israeli, Greek and Roman cultures in the rising Christian civilization. Jerome recognized and assimilated the artistic values, the rich feelings and harmonic images of the classics, which educate heart and fantasy to noble feelings.

Above all, he put the word of God at the center of his life and actions, a word that shows to man the paths of life and discloses the secrets of holiness. Today we can't be but deeply grateful to Jerome for all this.


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Papal Message on the Common Good
"Only Together Is It Possible to Attain It and Safeguard Its Effectiveness"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent on the occasion of the Sept. 23-28 Italian Catholic Social Week.

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LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF THE CENTENARY OF THE ITALIAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL WEEK

To my Venerable Brother Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco President of the Italian Bishops' Conference

This year is the centenary of the first Italian Catholic Social Week, which was held in Pistoia from 23 to 28 September 1907 particularly at the initiative of Prof. Giuseppe Toniolo. He was a splendid lay Catholic, scientist and social apostle, protagonist of the Catholic Movement at the end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th. On this important jubilee, I willingly send my cordial greeting to you, Venerable Brother, to Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea, President of the Scientific Committee and organizer of the Social Weeks, to the collaborators and to all the participants in the 45th Week that will be held in Pistoia and Pisa from the 18th to the 21st of this month. Although the theme chosen -- "The common good today: a commitment that comes from afar" -- has already been treated during previous Weeks, it has kept its timeliness intact. Indeed, it is appropriate that it be studied and explained precisely now in order to avoid a generic and at times improper use of the term "common good".

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, with reference to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," n. 26), specifies that "the common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains "common' because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future" (n. 164). Francisco Suárez, a theologian, had already earlier identified a "bonum commune omnium nationum," which means: "a common good of the human race". Therefore, in the past and especially today in the epoch of globalization, the common good has been and should be considered and promoted also in the context of international relations. It clearly appears that precisely for the social foundation of human existence, the good of each person is naturally connected with the good of all humanity. The beloved Servant of God John Paul II noted in this regard in the Encyclical "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" that: "It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category" (n. 38). And he added: "When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue', is solidarity. "This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. "On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (ibid.).

In the Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," I wanted to recall that "the formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason" (n. 29). I then noted that: "The Church has an indirect duty here, in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run" (ibid.). What better occasion than this to reaffirm that working for a just order in society is a direct task proper to the lay faithful? As citizens of the State, it is their duty to take part in public life in the first person and, with respect for the legitimate autonomies, to cooperate in forming social life correctly, together with all other citizens, in accordance with the competencies of each one and under his or her own autonomous responsibility. In my Intervention at the National Ecclesial Convention of Verona last year, I reaffirmed that the immediate duty to act in the political sphere to build a just order in Italian society is not the Church's task as such, but rather, that of the lay faithful. They must dedicate themselves with generosity and courage to this duty of great importance, illuminated by faith and by the Church's Magisterium and animated by the charity of Christ ("Address at the Fourth Italian National Ecclesial Convention," 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 October, p. 8). For this reason the Social Weeks for Italian Catholics were wisely instituted, and this providential initiative will also be able to make a crucial contribution to the formation and animation of Christianly inspired citizens in the future.

The daily news demonstrates that contemporary society is facing many ethical and social emergencies that could undermine its stability and seriously jeopardize its future. Particularly relevant is the current anthropological question which embraces respect for human life and the attention to be paid to the needs of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. As has been affirmed several times, it is not a matter of solely "Catholic" values and principles but of defending and protecting common human values, such as justice, peace and the safeguarding of creation. What can then be said of the problems concerning work in relation to the family and young people? When lack of steady work does not permit young people to have a family of their own, society's authentic and full development is seriously jeopardized. Here I repeat the invitation I addressed to Italian Catholics at the Ecclesial Convention in Verona, to be ready to welcome the great opportunity that these challenges offer and not to react with a defeatist withdrawal into themselves, but on the contrary, with a renewed dynamism, to trustingly open themselves to new relationships and not waste any energy that could contribute to Italy's cultural and moral growth.

Lastly, I cannot fail to mention a specific context that prompts Catholics also in Italy to question themselves: it is the context of the relationship between religion and politics. The substantial novelty brought by Jesus is that he opened the way to a more human and freer world, with full respect for the distinction and autonomy that exists between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22: 21). If, therefore, on the one hand, the Church recognizes that she is not and does not intend to be a political agent, on the other, she cannot avoid concerning herself with the good of the whole civil community in which she lives and works and to which she makes her own special contribution, shaping in the political and entrepreneurial classes a genuine spirit of truth and honesty geared to seeking the common good rather than personal advantage.

These are the particularly timely topics to which the upcoming Italian Catholic Social Week will give its attention. I assure my special remembrance in prayer to those who will be taking part in it and as I wish them fertile and fruitful work for the good of the Church and the entire Italian People, I warmly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 12 October 2007

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Papal Address to Indonesian Ambassador
"The Church Condemns the Manipulation of Religion for Political Ends"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2007.- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave when he received in audience today Indonesia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Suprapto Martosetomo.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from the Indonesian Government and people, and I ask you kindly to convey my own greetings to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

Your Excellency has spoken of Indonesia’s commitment to pursue policies aimed at advancing the noble goals of democracy and social harmony enshrined in the Constitution and eloquently expressed in the national philosophy of Pancasila. This determination, which calls for sacrifice, resolute efforts to discern and promote the common good, and the cooperation of all political and social groups, is indispensable for overcoming the forces of polarization and conflict, carrying forward the renewal of economic life and consolidating a just democratic order in full respect for the rights of every individual and community.

Certainly at present one of the gravest threats to Indonesia’s cherished ideal of national unity is the phenomenon of international terrorism. I deeply appreciate your reaffirmation of the Government’s position of condemning terrorist violence, under whatever pretext it occurs, as a criminal offence which, by its contempt for human life and freedom, undermines the very foundations of society. This is particularly the case when the holy name of God is invoked as a justification for such acts. The Church at every level, in fidelity to the teaching of her Master, unequivocally condemns the manipulation of religion for political ends, while urging the application of international humanitarian law in every aspect of the fight against terrorism (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 14).

Indonesia, as a multi-religious country with the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, plays an important and positive role in promoting interreligious cooperation, both within its borders and in the international community. Dialogue, respect for the convictions of others, and collaboration in the service of peace are the surest means of securing social concord. These are among the noblest goals which can bring together men and women of good will, and, in a particular way, all those who worship the one God who is the Creator and beneficent Lord of the whole human family. A promising development in this regard is represented by the growing instances of cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, aimed particularly at the prevention of ethnic and religious conflicts in the most troubled areas.

Although Indonesia’s Catholics are a small minority, they desire to participate fully in the life of the nation, "to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony" (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps Attached to the Holy See, 8 January 2007). Through their network of educational and health care institutions, they seek to offer a significant service to their brothers and sisters, regardless of religion, and to instil the ethical values fundamental for authentic civic progress and peaceful coexistence. While their right to the free exercise of their religion in complete equality with their fellow citizens is guaranteed by the national Constitution, the protection of this fundamental human right calls for constant vigilance on the part of all. In this regard I note that Indonesia has recently acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and I am confident that this will help to further consolidate the freedom and legitimate autonomy of individual Christians and their institutions.

As Indonesia now sits as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, I take the present occasion to express my confidence that the principles which inspire your own national policies of pacification, dialogue and tolerance will enable Indonesia to make a fruitful contribution to the solution of global conflicts and the promotion of a peace based on international solidarity and concern for the integral development of individuals and peoples.

Your Excellency, as you undertake the mission of representing the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Indonesian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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On St. Martin of Tours
"Generous Witness of the Gospel of Charity" (November 11, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Nov. 11, the Church remembers St. Martin, bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated saints in Europe. Born around 316 to pagan parents in Pannonia, present-day Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career.

When he was still an adolescent, Martin encountered Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he registered among the catechumens to prepare himself for baptism. He received the sacrament around the age of 20 but still had to remain for some time in the military, where he gave testimony to his new way of life: Respectful and understanding toward all, he treated his servant as a brother and he avoided vulgar entertainments.

Leaving military service, he went to stay with the holy Bishop Hilary at Poitiers in France. Ordained deacon and priest by Hilary, Martin began a monastery at Liguge with some disciples. Martin’s is the oldest known monastic foundation in Europe. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, being without a pastor, acclaimed Martin bishop. From that point on, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy.

Although many miracles are attributed to him, St. Martin is famous above all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man along the road who was frozen and trembling from the cold. Martin took his own cloak and cutting it with his sword, gave half of it to the man. That night Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, smiling and wrapped in the cloak.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Martin’s charitable gesture inscribes itself in the same logic that moved Jesus to multiply the loaves of bread for the famished crowds, but above all to leave himself in food for humanity in the Eucharist, supreme sign of God’s love, "sacramentum caritatis." It is in the logic of sharing that the love of neighbor is concretely expressed. May St. Martin help us to understand that it is only through a common commitment to sharing that it is possible to respond to the great challenge of our time: that of building up a world of peace and justice in which every man can live with dignity. This can happen if a global model of authentic solidarity prevails, one that is able to assure all the inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medicines, and also work and energy resources, as well as cultural goods and scientific and technological knowledge.

We turn now to the Virgin Mary to implore that she help all Christians to be, like St. Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of charity and tireless builders of solidary sharing.

[After praying the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those who were present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Lebanon’s national assembly will soon be called to elect the new head of state. As numerous initiatives undertaken in recent days have shown, this is a crucial moment on which depends the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions. I make my own the concerns recently expressed by the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, and his desire that the new president recognize all Lebanese. Together let us implore Our Lady of Lebanon that she inspire in all the parties involved the necessary detachment from personal interests and a true passion for the common good.

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Papal Address to Catholic Pharmacists Congress
You "Must Invite Each Person to Advance Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 8, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address Oct. 29 to participants of the 25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, held in Rome.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS
OF CATHOLIC PHARMACISTS
Consistory Hall
Monday, 29 October 2007

Mr President,
Dear Friends,

I am happy to welcome you, members of the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, on the occasion of your 25th Congress, whose theme is: "The new boundaries of the pharmaceutical act".

The current development of an arsenal of medicines and the resulting possibilities for treatment oblige pharmacists to reflect on the ever broader functions they are called to fulfil, particularly as intermediaries between doctor and patient; they have an educational role with patients to teach them the proper dosage of their medication and especially to acquaint them with the ethical implications of the use of certain drugs. In this context, it is not possible to anaesthetize consciences, for example, concerning the effects of particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to shorten a person's life. The pharmacist must invite each person to advance humanity, so that every being may be protected from the moment of conception until natural death, and that medicines may fulfil properly their therapeutic role. No person, moreover, may be used thoughtlessly as an object for the purpose of therapeutic experimentation; therapeutic experimentation must take place in accordance with protocols that respect fundamental ethical norms. Every treatment or process of experimentation must be with a view to possible improvement of the person's physical condition and not merely seeking scientific advances. The pursuit of good for humanity cannot be to the detriment of people undergoing treatment. In the moral domain, your Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia.

It would also be advisable that the different pharmaceutical structures, laboratories at hospital centres and surgeries, as well as our contemporaries all together, be concerned with showing solidarity in the therapeutic context, to make access to treatment and urgently needed medicines available at all levels of society and in all countries, particularly to the poorest people.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, may you as Catholic pharmacists find in the life of faith and in the Church's teaching elements that will guide you in your professional approach to the sick, who are in need of human and moral support if they are to live with hope and find the inner resources that will help them throughout their lives. It is also your duty to help young people who enter the different pharmaceutical professions to reflect on the increasingly delicate ethical implications of their activities and decisions. To this end, it is important that all Catholic health-care professionals and people of good will join forces to deepen their formation, not only at a technical level but also with regard to bioethical issues, as well as to propose this formation to the profession as a whole. The human being, because he or she is the image of God, must always be the centre of research and choices in the biomedical context. At the same time, the natural principle of the duty to provide care for the sick person is fundamental. The biomedical sciences are at the service of the human being; if this were not the case, they would have a cold and inhuman character. All scientific knowledge in the health sector and every therapeutic procedure is at the service of the sick person, viewed in his integral being, who must be an active partner in his treatment and whose autonomy must be respected.

As I entrust you as well as the sick people you are called to treat to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Albert the Great, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your Federation and your families.

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On St. Jerome
"To Ignore Scripture Is to Ignore Christ" (November 7, 2007)

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Dear brothers and sisters!

We will turn our attention today to St. Jerome, a Father of the Church who placed the Bible at the center of his life: He translated it into Latin, he commented on it in his writings, and above all he committed to live it concretely in his long earthly existence, despite his naturally difficult and fiery character, which he was known for.

Jerome was born in Stridon around 347 to a Christian family that educated him well, and sent him to Rome to complete his studies. Being young, he felt attracted to worldly living (cf. Ep. 22,7), but his desire for and interest in the Christian religion prevailed.

After his baptism around 366, he was drawn to the ascetic life, and upon moving to Aquileia, he joined a group of fervent Christians, whom he described as a type of "choir of the blessed" (Chron. Ad ann., 374), who were united around the bishop Valerian.

He then left for the East and lived as a hermit in the desert of Calcide, south of Aleppo (cf. Ep. 14,10), dedicating himself to serious study. He perfected his knowledge of Greek, began to study Hebrew (cf. Ep. 125,12), transcribed patristic codices and works (cf. Ep. 5,2). The meditation, the solitude, the contact with the word of God matured his Christian sensibility.

He felt intensely the weight of his youthful past (cf. Ep. 22, 7), and became vividly aware of the contrast between the pagan and Christian mentalities: a contrast made famous by the dramatic and vivid "vision" which he left to us. In this vision he saw himself being scourged in the presence of God because he was a "Ciceronian and not a Christian" (cf. Ep. 22,30).

In 382, he moved to Rome where Pope Damasus, recognizing his fame as an ascetic and his competence as a scholar, took him on as secretary and adviser. He encouraged him to undertake a new Latin translation of biblical texts for pastoral and cultural reasons.

Some members of the Roman aristocracy, above all noblewomen such as Paola, Marcella, Asella, Lea and others, desired to commit themselves to the way of Christian perfection and to deepen their knowledge of the Word of God, and they chose him to be their spiritual guide and teacher in the method to read sacred texts. These women also learned Greek and Hebrew themselves.

After the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome left Rome in 385 and undertook a pilgrimage, first to the Holy Land, silent witness to the earthly life of Christ, then to Egypt, a destination chosen by many monks (cf. "Contra Rufinum," 3,22; Ep. 108,6-14).

In 386, he decided to stay in Bethlehem, where, thanks to the generosity of the noblewoman Paola, a monastery for men was built, and another for women, as well as a hospice for pilgrims to the Holy Land "in memory of Mary and Joseph who found no shelter" (Ep. 108,14).

He remained in Bethlehem until his death, carrying on his intense activity. He commented on the Gospels; he defended the faith, vigorously opposing various heresies; he exhorted monks to perfection; he taught classical and Christian culture to young pupils; he welcomed pilgrims to the Holy Land like a pastor. He died in his cell near the Grotto of the Nativity on Sept. 30, 419/420.

His literary preparation and vast erudition allowed Jerome to revise and translate many biblical texts: an invaluable service for the Latin Church and for Western culture. Beginning with the original texts in Greek and Hebrew, and comparing them to earlier translations, he revised the translation of the four Gospels in Latin, then the Psalms and a good part of the Old Testament.

Taking into account the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Septuagint, the classic Greek version of the Old Testament that dates back to pre-Christian times, and the earlier Latin translations, Jerome and his collaborators were able to offer a better translation. This is what we call the "Vulgate," considered the "official" text of the Latin Church, which was recognized as such by the Council of Trent. Despite the recent revision of the text, it continues to be the "official" text of the Church in the Latin language.

It is interesting to highlight the criteria that the great biblical scholar used in his work as a translator. He revealed them himself when he stated that he respected even the order of words in sacred Scripture, because "even the order of the words is a mystery," that is, a revelation.

He also reiterated the need to turn to the original texts: "Whenever a question is raised among the Latins regarding the New Testament due to discordant readings of the texts, we must turn to the original, that is, the Greek text in which the New Testament was first written. Likewise for the Old Testament, if there are divergences between the Greek and Latin texts, let us turn to the original text in Hebrew. In this way, "we will be able to find in the rivulets everything that flows from the spring" (Ep. 106,2).

Jerome also commented on several biblical texts. He said commentaries should offer many opinions so that "the astute reader, after reading different explanations and getting to know different opinions -- to accept or to reject -- may judge which one is most reliable, and like a currency expert, reject the counterfeit" ("Contra Rufinum" 1,16).

With energy and liveliness, he refuted the heretics who contested the tradition and faith of the Church. He also showed the importance and validity of Christian literature, which had by then come into its own, and deemed worthy to confront classical literature. He did this in "De viris illustribus," a work in which he presented the biographies of more than 100 Christian authors.

He also wrote biographies of monks, expounding the monastic ideal alongside other spiritual itineraries, and translated various works by Greek authors. Lastly, in the important Epistolary, a masterpiece of Latin literature, Jerome emerges characterized as a man of culture, an ascetic and a spiritual guide.

What can we learn from St. Jerome? Above all I think it is this: to love the word of God in sacred Scripture. St. Jerome said, "To ignore Scripture is to ignore Christ." That is why it is important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the word of God, given to us in sacred Scripture.

This dialogue should be of two dimensions. On one hand, it should be truly personal, because God speaks to each of us through sacred Scripture and has a message for each of us. We shouldn't read sacred Scripture as a word from the past, but rather as the word of God addressed even to us, and we must try to understand what the Lord is telling us.

And so we don't fall into individualism, we must also keep in mind that the word of God is given to us in order to build communion, to unite us in the truth along our way to God. Therefore, despite the fact that it is always a personal word, it is also a word that builds community, and that builds the Church itself. Therefore, we should read it in communion with the living Church.

The privileged place for reading and listening to the word of God is in the liturgy. By celebrating the word and rendering the Body of Christ present in the sacrament, we bring the word into our life and make it alive and present among us.

We should never forget that the word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go; what is very modern today will be old tomorrow. But the word of God is the word of eternal life, it carries within itself eternity, which is always valuable. Carrying within ourselves the word of God, we also carry eternal life.

I conclude with a something St. Jerome had said to St. Paulinus of Nola, in which the great exegete expressed the reality that in the word of God we receive eternity, life eternal. St. Jerome said: "Let us seek to learn on earth those truths which will remain ever valid in heaven" (Ep. 53,10).

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On Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
"Love ... Is the Force That Renews the World" (November 4, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy presents the well-known Gospel episode of Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus in the city of Jericho. Who was Zacchaeus? A rich "publican," that is, a tax collector for the Roman authorities, and precisely for this he was regarded as a public sinner.

Knowing that Jesus was passing through Jericho, this man was seized by a great desire to see him but, being small of stature, he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped beneath the tree and turned to him, calling him by name: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house" (Luke 19:5).

What a message in this simple phrase! "Zacchaeus": Jesus calls by name a man who is despised by all. "Today": Yes, his moment of salvation is now. "I must stay": Why "must"? Because the Father, who is rich in mercy, wants Jesus to go and "seek out and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).

The grace of that unforeseeable moment was such that it completely changed Zacchaeus' life: "Behold," he confesses to Jesus, "half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over" (19:8). Once more the Gospel tells us that love, flowing from the heart of God and working through the heart of man, is the force that renews the world.

This truth shines forth in a singular way in the witness of the saint whose feast falls on this day: Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan. The figure of St. Charles rises up in the 16th century as the model of the pastor known for his exemplarity in charity, doctrine, apostolic zeal and above all prayer: "We conquer souls," he said, "on our knees."

Consecrated bishop when he was only 25, he put into practice the decree of Trent that demanded that bishops reside in their diocese, and he dedicated himself entirely to the Ambrosian church: three times he visited the entire diocese; he called six provincial synods and 11 diocesan synods; he founded seminaries to form a new generation of priests; he built hospitals and gave his family's wealth to the service of the poor; he defended the Church's rights against the powerful; he renewed religious life and instituted a new congregation of priests, the Oblates.

In 1576, when the plague was wreaking havoc on Milan, he visited and comforted the sick and gave all his goods to them. His motto was a single word: "Humilitas." Humility moved him, as it did the Lord Jesus, to renounce himself to become the servant of all.

Remembering my venerable predecessor John Paul II, who with devotion bore St. Charles' name, let us entrust to the intercession of St. Charles all the bishops of the world, for whom we invoke as always the celestial protection of Mary Most Holy, mother of the Church.

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On All Saints' Day
"God Invites Everyone to Form Part of His Holy People" (November 1, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this solemnity of All Saints' Day, our hearts surpass the limits of time and space and open up to the vastness of heaven. In the early days of Christianity, the members of the Church were also called "saints." In the first Letter to the Corinthians, for example, St. Paul addresses "you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2). In fact, the Christian is already holy, because baptism unites him to Jesus and the paschal mystery, but at the same time he has to become holy, conforming himself to Jesus ever more intimately.

Sometimes it is thought that sainthood is a privilege reserved only for the chosen few. Actually, to become a saint is the task of every Christian, and what's more, we could even say it's the task of everyone! The Apostle wrote that God has blessed us from all eternity and has chosen us in Christ "to be holy and without blemish before him" (Ephesians 1:3-4). All human beings are therefore called to sainthood, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that "likeness" to him according to which humanity was created.

All human beings are children of God, and they all should become what they are through the demanding path of freedom. God invites everyone to form part of his holy people. The "way" is Christ, the son, the Holy One of God: No one reaches the Father if not through him (cf. John 14:6).

The Church has wisely placed in close succession the feast of All Saints' Day with the commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. May our prayers of praise to God and veneration of the beatific souls, whom today's liturgy presents to us as "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue" (Revelation 7:9), be united to our intercessory prayers for those who have preceded us in the passage from this world to eternal life. To them we will dedicate our prayers tomorrow in a special manner, and celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice. In fact, the Church invites us to pray for them every day, offering our daily sufferings and weariness so that, completely purified, they may enjoy forever the light and peace of the Lord.

In the center of the assembly of saints shines the Virgin Mary, "humble and more exalted than any creature" (Dante, Paradise, XXXIII, 2). Placing our hand in hers, we feel ready to walk with more energy along the way of sainthood. To her we entrust our daily tasks, and we pray to her today for our dearly departed with the profound hope of one day finding ourselves together again with them in the glorious community of saints.

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On St. Maximus of Turin
"The Intimate and Vital Union of the Bishop With His City" (October 31, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Between the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth, another Father of the Church -- after St. Ambrose of Milan -- contributed decisively to the spread and consolidation of Christianity in northern Italy: He is St. Maximus, who was the bishop of Turin in 398, one year after the death of Ambrose. There is very little information about him; but, we do have a collection of about 90 Sermons. In these the intimate and vital union of the bishop with his city emerges, which bears witness to an evident point of contact between the episcopal ministry of Ambrose and that of Maximus.

At that time, serious tensions upset civil coexistence. In this context, Maximus succeeded in uniting the Christian population around him as pastor and teacher. The city was threatened by scattered groups of barbarians who, having entered through the eastern passes, were advancing toward the western Alps. For this reason Turin was permanently surrounded by military garrisons, which became, during critical moments, a refuge for the people fleeing the countryside and the unprotected urban centers.

The interventions of Maximus in the face of this situation bears witness to his commitment to do something about civil degradation and disaggregation. Even though it is difficult to determine the social composition of the people that his Sermons addressed, it appears that his preaching, to overcome the risk of being generic, was addressed specifically to a select nucleus of the Christian community of Turin, comprised of rich landowners who owned land in the countryside and a home in the city. It was a lucid pastoral decision of the bishop, who envisaged this kind of preaching as the most effective path to maintain and reinforce his ties with the people.

To illustrate Maximus' ministry in Turin from this perspective, I wish to refer to Sermons 17 and 18 as examples. They are dedicated to a theme that is always current, that of wealth and poverty in Christian communities. Sharp tensions ran through the city on account of this topic. Wealth was accumulated and hidden. "One does not think of the needs of others," the bishop said bitterly in Sermon 17.

"In fact, not only do many Christians not distribute what they have, but they also plunder the possessions of others. Not only do they fail to bring to the feet of the apostles the money they collect, but they even drive away from the feet of the priests their brethren who seek help." And he concludes: "Many guests and pilgrims come to our city. Do what you promised" in good faith, "so that what was said of Ananias may not be said of you: 'You have not lied to men, but to God'" (Sermon 17, 2-3).

In the next Sermon, No. 18, Maximus criticizes the common forms of profiting from the misfortunes of others. "Tell me, Christian," the bishop asked his faithful, "tell me: Why have you taken the loot abandoned by the plunderers? Why have you brought to your house a savage and contaminated so-called profit?" "But," he continued, "perhaps you say you bought it, and in this way think you can avoid being accused of avarice. But this is no way to establish a buyer-seller relationship. Buying is something good, but in times of peace, when one sells freely, and not when one sells what has been looted in plunder. ... Therefore, act like Christians and like citizens who buy back things in order to return them" (Sermon 18,3).

Maximus preached of an intimate relationship between the duties of a Christian and those of a citizen. For him, to live a Christian life also meant taking on civic commitments. And on the other hand, the Christian who, "despite the fact that he could live on the fruits of his own labor, takes someone else's loot with the fierceness of beasts," or who "ambushes his neighbor, attempting day by day to claw at his neighbor's fence and take possession of his crops," isn't even similar to a fox who beheads chickens, but rather a wolf who preys on pigs (Sermon 41,4).

Compared to the prudent defensive attitude taken by Ambrose to justify his famous initiative of rescuing prisoners of war, the historical changes that have since taken place in the relationship between a bishop and civic institutions can clearly be seen. Supported in his time by a law that urged Christians to redeem prisoners of war, Maximus, facing the collapse of the civil authority of the Roman Empire, felt fully authorized to exercise a true and proper power of control over the city.

This power would become broader and more effective to the point of substituting for the absence of magistrates and civic institutions. Maximus not only dedicated himself to reigniting in the faithful a traditional love for their native city, but also proclaimed that it was their duty to take on fiscal responsibilities, as serious and unpleasant as they may be (Sermon 26, 2).

In short, the tone and substance of his Sermons assume a mature and growing awareness of the political responsibility of a bishop in specific historical circumstances. He was the city's "watchtower." Are not the watchtowers, Maximus asked in Sermon 92, "the blessed bishops who, being raised, so to speak, on an elevated rock of wisdom to defend the people, see from afar the evils that are approaching?"

In Sermon 89, the bishop of Turin illustrates to the faithful his task, availing himself of a singular comparison between the bishop's function and that of bees: "Like the bee," he said, the bishops "observe corporal chastity, offer the food of celestial life, use the sting of the law. They are pure in order to sanctify, gentle in order to comfort and severe in order to punish." That is how St. Maximus described the mission of a bishop in his time.

Definitively, historical and literary analysis demonstrates his growing awareness of the political responsibility of ecclesiastical authorities, in a context in which he was in fact substituting for civil authority. This is the development of the bishop's ministry in northern Italy, beginning with Eusebius, who lived in Vercelli "like a monk," to Maximus, who "like a sentinel" was situated on the highest rock in the city.

Obviously, the historical, cultural and social context today is profoundly different. The context today is that which my venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II, described in his postsynodal exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," in which he offers a detailed analysis of the challenges and signs of hope for Europe today (6-22). In any case, independent of changed conditions, the duties of the believer toward his city and homeland remain valid. The intimate relationship between the "honest citizen" and the "good Christian" continues to stand.

In conclusion, I wish to recall what the pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes" says to clarify one of the most important aspects of the unity of Christian life: the consistency between faith and behavior, between Gospel and culture. The Council exhorts the faithful "to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation" (No. 43).

Following the magisterium of St. Maximus and many other Fathers of the Church, let us make the Council's hope ours as well, that the faithful may ever more "exercise all their earthly activities and their humane, domestic, professional, social and technical enterprises by gathering them into one vital synthesis with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are harmonized unto God's glory" (ibid.), and in this way for the good of mankind.

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On the Call to Martyrdom
"Not an Exception Reserved Only to Some Individuals"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus. The address followed the beatification ceremony of 498 Spanish martyrs from the 20th century, celebrated by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

* * *

My dear brothers and sisters:

This morning, here, in St. Peter's Square, 498 martyrs, assassinated in Spain during the decade of the '30s in the last century, were beatified. I thank Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, who presided over the celebration, and I cordially greet the pilgrims gathered for this joyful occasion.

Adding such a great number of martyrs to the list of beatified persons shows that the supreme witness of giving blood is not an exception reserved only to some individuals, but a realistic possibility for all Christian people. It includes men and women of different ages, vocations and social conditions, who pay with their lives in fidelity to Christ and his Church.

The expression of St. Paul in today's liturgy adequately applies to them: "Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith" (2 Timithoy 4:6-7). Paul, detained in Rome, saw death approaching and balances this awareness and hope. At peace with God and himself, he serenely confronted death, with the knowledge that he had surrendered his life totally to the service of the Gospel, without sparing anything.

October, the month dedicated in a special way to missionary commitment, ends with the luminous testimony of the Spanish martyrs, who join the martyrs Albertina Berkenbrock, Emmanuel Gómez Gonzáles and Adilio Daronch, and Franz Jägerstätter, who were beatified recently in Brazil and Austria.

Their example gives witness to the fact that baptism commits Christians to participate boldly in the spread of the Kingdom of God, cooperating if necessary with the sacrifice of one's own life. Certainly not everyone is called to a bloody martyrdom. There is also an unbloody "martyrdom," which is no less significant, such as that of Celina Chludzinska Borzecka, wife, mother, widow and religious, beatified yesterday in Rome: It is the silent and heroic testimony of many Christians who live the Gospel without compromises, fulfilling their duty and dedicating themselves generously in service to the poor.

This martyrdom of ordinary life is a particularly important witness in the secularized societies of our time. It is the peaceful battle of love that all Christians, like Paul, have to fight tirelessly; the race to spread the Gospel that commits us until death. May Mary, Queen of Martyrs and Star of Evangelization, help us and assist us in our daily witness.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the Angelus, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus, including the group from the Oratory Prep School in Oxfordshire, England. The Gospel invites us to leave aside all arrogance and pride, and to walk in humility before God and with our neighbour. The Beatifications today remind us of the importance of humbly following our Lord even to the point of offering our lives for the faith. May your stay in Rome renew your love of Christ, and may God bless you all!

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On St. Ambrose of Milan
"Catechesis Is Inseparable From the Testimony of Life"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on St. Ambrose of Milan.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The saintly Bishop Ambrose, of whom I will speak to you today, died during the night in Milan between April 3-4, 397. It was the dawn of Holy Saturday. The day before, toward 5 p.m., he began to pray as he was lying in bed with his arms open in the form of the cross. That is how he participated in the solemn Easter triduum, in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. "We saw him moving his lips," testified Paulinus, the faithful deacon who was invited by Augustine to write Ambrose's biography entitled "Vita," "but his voice could not be heard."

Suddenly, the situation seemed to come to an end. Honoratus, bishop of Vercelli, who helped Ambrose and who slept upstairs from him, was awakened by a voice that repeated: "Get up, quick! Ambrose is approaching death." Honoratus immediately went downstairs, Paulinus recounted, "and offered the saint the Body of the Lord. After having taken it, Ambrose surrendered his spirit, carrying with him viaticum. Thus, his soul, strengthened by virtue of that food, now enjoys the company of angels" ("Vita," 47).

On that Good Friday of 397, the open arms of the dying Ambrose expressed his mystical participation in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. This was his last catechesis: Without speaking a word, he spoke with the testimony of life.

Ambrose was not old when he died. He was not even 60, for he was born around 340 in Trier, where his father was prefect of the Gauls. The family was Christian. When his father died, and he was still a boy, his mother brought him to Rome to prepare him for a civil career, giving him a solid rhetorical and juridical education. Around 370, he was sent to govern the provinces of Emilia and Liguria, with headquarters in Milan. It was precisely there where the struggle between orthodox Christians and Arians was seething, especially after the death of Auxentius, the Arian bishop. Ambrose intervened to pacify those of both factions, and his authority was such that, despite the fact that he was nothing more than a simple catechumen, he was acclaimed by the people as bishop of Milan.

Until that moment, Ambrose had been the highest magistrate of the Roman Empire in northern Italy. Highly prepared culturally, but deficient in knowledge of Scriptures, the new bishop began to study them energetically. He learned to study and comment on the Bible from the works of Origen, the undisputed master of the school of Alexandria. In this way, Ambrose brought to the Latin environment the practice of meditating on Scriptures initiated by Origen, beginning the practice of "lectio divina" in the West.

The method of "lectio" soon guided the preaching and writing of Ambrose, which emerged precisely from prayerful listening to the word of God. A famous opening from one Ambrosian catechesis distinctly demonstrates how the holy bishop applied the Old Testament to Christian life: "When we read the histories of the patriarchs and the maxims of Proverbs, we come face to face with morality," the bishop of Milan told his catechumens and neophytes, "in order that, educated by these, you can then accustom yourselves to enter into the life of the fathers and to follow the path of obedience to the divine precepts" ("I misteri," 1,1).

In other words, neophytes and catechumens, in the opinion of the bishop, after having learned the art of living morally, could then consider themselves prepared for the great mysteries of Christ. In this way, the preaching of Ambrose, which represents the heart of his prodigious literary work, originates from the reading of sacred books ("The Patriarchs," the historical books, and "Proverbs," the sapiential books), to live in conformity with divine revelation.

It is evident that the personal testimony of the preacher, and the exemplarity of the Christian community, conditions the efficacy of any preaching. From this point of view a passage from St. Augustine's "Confessions" is significant. Augustine had come to Milan as a professor of rhetoric; he was a skeptic, not a Christian. He was looking, but he wasn't able to truly encounter the Christian truth. For the young African rhetorician, skeptical and desperate, it was not the beautiful homilies of Ambrose that converted him -- despite the fact that he appreciated them immensely. Rather, it was the testimony of the bishop and the Church in Milan, which prayed and sang, united as a single body. It was a Church capable of resisting the bullying of the emperor and his mother, who had demanded again the expropriation of a Church building for Arian ceremonies in early 386.

In the building that was to be expropriated, Augustine wrote, "the devout people of Milan stayed put, ready to die with their own bishop." This testimony in the "Confessions" is invaluable, because it shows that something was moving deep within Augustine. He continued, "Despite the fact that we were still spiritually lukewarm, we participated as well in the fervor of the entire population" ("Confessions" 9, 7).

From the life and example of Bishop Ambrose, Augustine learned to believe and to preach. We can refer to a famous sermon of the African, which deserved to be cited many centuries later in No. 25 of the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum": "All the clergy must hold fast to the sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become," and here is where Augustine is quoted, "'an empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it inwardly.'" He had learned precisely from Ambrose this "to listen inwardly," this diligence in reading sacred Scripture in a prayerful attitude, in order to truly receive it in one's heart, and to assimilate the word of God.

Dear brothers and sisters: I would like to present to you a type of "patristic icon" that, seen in the light of what we have just said, effectively represents the heart of Ambrosian doctrine. In the same book of "Confessions," Augustine recounts his meeting with Ambrose, certainly a meeting of great importance for the history of the Church. He writes in the text that when he came to see the bishop of Milan, the latter was always surrounded by hordes of people with problems, whom he tried to help. There was always a long line of people waiting to speak to Ambrose, looking for comfort and hope. When Ambrose was not with these people -- and this only happened for short periods of time -- he was either filling his body with the food necessary to live, or filling his spirit with reading. In this respect Augustine praises Ambrose, because Ambrose read Scriptures with his mouth closed, and only with his eyes (cf. "Confessions," 6,3).

In the early centuries of Christianity, reading Scripture was thought of strictly in terms of being proclaimed, and reading aloud facilitated understanding, even for the one who was reading it. The fact that Ambrose could read through the pages only with his eyes was for Augustine a singular capacity for reading and being familiar with Scripture. In this reading -- in which the heart seeks to understand the word of God -- this is the "icon" we are talking about. Here one can see the method of Ambrosian catechesis: Scripture itself, profoundly assimilated, suggests the content of what one must announce in order to achieve conversion of hearts.

Thus, according to the teachings of Ambrose and Augustine, catechesis is inseparable from the testimony of life. The catechist may also avail himself of what I wrote in "Introduction to Christianity" about theologians. Educators of the faith cannot run the risk of looking like some sort of clown, who is simply playing a role. Rather, using an image from Origen, a writer who was particularly appreciated by Ambrose, he should be like the beloved disciple, who rested his head on the Master's heart and there learned how to think, speak and act. In the end, the true disciple is he who proclaims the Gospel in the most credible and effective manner.

Like John the Apostle, Bishop Ambrose, who never tired of repeating "Omnia Christus est nobis!" -- Christ is everything for us! -- remained an authentic witness for the Lord. With these same words, full of love for Jesus, we will conclude our catechesis: "Omnia Christus est nobis! If you want to heal a wound, he is the physician; is you burn with fever, he is the fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, he is justice; if you need help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way; if you are in darkness, he is the light. ... Taste and see how good the Lord is. Blessed is the man who hopes in him!" ("De virginitate," 16,99). We also hope in Christ. In this way we will be blessed and will live in peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Pope greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now turn to Saint Ambrose of Milan. Born into a Christian family in the middle of the fourth century, Ambrose was educated in Rome and sent as governor to Milan, where, although a catechumen, he was soon acclaimed as Bishop. He set about mastering the Scriptures, guided by the writings of Origen and the practice of "lectio divina," a form of prayerful meditation on the word of God. It was Ambrose who introduced this practice to the West, and it deeply permeated his life and preaching. Saint Augustine, who was converted in Milan and baptized by Ambrose, relates the profound impression which Ambrose’s engagement with the word of God left upon him. Ambrose, contrary to the custom of the time, did not read the Scriptures aloud, which Augustine interpreted as a sign of how deeply the inspired word had penetrated the holy Bishop’s mind and heart. This image can serve as an "icon" of Ambrose as a catechist: his teaching was inseparable from his prayer and his entire life. For Ambrose, Christ was everything -- Omnia Christus est nobis! -- and so it must be for every catechist and indeed for every one of the Lord’s disciples.

I am happy to greet the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother who are gathered in Rome for their Twentieth General Chapter. I also cordially welcome an ecumenical pilgrimage of Catholics and Evangelical Lutherans from the United States of America. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I invoke God’s abundant blessings of peace and joy.

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Papal Address to the Vatican Chapter
"I Trust in Your Ministry So St. Peter's May Become a Place of Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the Oct. 8 address Benedict XVI delivered to members of the Chapter of St. Peter's Basilica.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO MEMBERS OF THE CHAPTER
OF THE PAPAL BASILICA
OF SAINT PETER AT THE VATICAN

Vatican's Clementine Hall
Monday, 8 October 2007

Dear Member of the Vatican Chapter,

I have been looking forward to meeting you for a long time and I gladly take this opportunity to express to you my personal esteem and affection. I address a cordial greeting to each one of you.

I greet in particular Archbishop Angelo Comastri, Archpriest, whom I thank for his presentation of this ancient and venerable institution. With him, I greet the Vicar, Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, the Canons and the Coadjutors. I appreciated, Your Excellency, the fact that as Archpriest you referred to the uninterrupted presence of clergy praying in the Vatican Basilica since the time of St Gregory the Great. It has been a continuous, deliberately discreet but faithful and persevering presence.

Properly speaking, however, your Chapter was founded in 1053, when Pope Leo IX confirmed that the Archpriest and Canons of St Peter's who had settled in the Monastery of St Stephen the Great would be granted the same possessions and privileges that his Predecessors had conferred upon them. It was later, during the Pontificate of Eugene III (1145-53), that the General Chapter acquired the characteristics of a well-structured and autonomous community. Indeed, the transition from a monastic structure at the service of the Basilica to today's canonical structure was essentially long and gradual. Under the Archpriest's guidance, the activity of the Vatican Chapter focused from the outset on a wide rang of commitments: the liturgical sphere, for a harmonious celebration and the daily supervision of the services connected to worship; the administrative context, for the management of the patrimony of the Basilica and its affiliated churches; the pastoral sector, in which the Chapter was entrusted with the care of the Borgo district; the charitable sector, in which the Chapter carried out its own activities of assistance and collaboration with the Santo Spirito Hospital and other institutions.

From the 11th century to this day, at least 11 Popes have belonged to the Vatican Chapter. I would like to recall among them the 20th century Popes in particular, Pius XI and Pius XII.

Ever since the 16th century, when the construction of the new Basilica began -- we celebrated the fifth centenary of the laying of the foundation stone last year -- the history of the Vatican Chapter has been linked to that of the Fabric of St Peter's. They are two separate institutions but are united in the person of the Archpriest, who ensures that their reciprocal collaboration is fruitful.

The Chapter's work in the life of the Vatican Basilica, especially in the last decades of the past century, has sought more and more to rediscover its true, original function that consisted above all in the ministry of prayer. If prayer is fundamental for all Christians, for you, dear brothers, it is as it were a "professional" task.

As I said during my recent Journey in Austria, prayer is at the same time both a service to the Lord who deserves to be ceaselessly praised and adored and a testimony for people.

Moreover, when God is faithfully praised and worshipped, his blessings are unfailing (cf. Address at Holy Cross Abbey, 9 September 2007; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 12 September, p. 10). This is the proper nature of the Vatican Chapter and the contribution that the Pope expects of you: to recall with your prayerful presence at Peter's tomb that nothing can come before God; that the Church is entirely oriented to him and to his glory; that the primacy of Peter is at the service of the unity of the Church, and that this in turn is at the service of the saving plan of the Most Holy Trinity.

Dear and venerable Brothers, I trust profoundly in you and in your ministry so that St Peter's Basilica may become an authentic place of prayer, adoration and praise of the Lord. It is more necessary than elsewhere that a permanent community of prayer should exist here, by Peter's tomb, in this sacred place visited every day by thousands of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, which can guarantee continuity with tradition and at the same time intercede for the Pope's intentions in the Church and in the world today. In this perspective, I invoke upon you the protection of St Peter, of St John Chrysostom, whose relics are preserved precisely in your Chapel, and of the other Saints and Blesseds enshrined in the Basilica. May the Immaculate Virgin watch over you. Her image, which you venerate in the Chapel of the Choir, was crowned by Bl. Pius IX in 1854 and, 50 years later in 1904, St Pius X surrounded it with stars. Once again, I thank you for the zeal with which you carry out your task, and as I assure you of my special remembrance in Holy Mass, I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.

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On Peace, Missions and Justice
"A Strong Effort Is Required By All"

NAPLES, Italy, OCT. 21, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after celebrating Mass in Naples, and before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus. The Pope was in Naples to open the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn celebration, I would like to renew, my dear friends of Naples, my greeting to you and my thanks for the cordial reception that you gave me. I address a particular greeting to the delegations that have come from various parts of the world to participate in the International Meeting for Peace sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio. The theme of this meeting is "Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue." May this important cultural and religious initiative contribute to consolidating peace in the world.

Let us pray for this. But let us also pray today in a special way for missionaries. Today, in fact, we celebrate World Mission Sunday, which has a very significant motto: "All the Churches For All the World." Every particular Church is responsible for the evangelization of all of humanity, and this cooperation among the Churches was augmented by Pope Paul VI 50 years ago with the encyclical "Fidei Donum." Let us not fail to give our spiritual and material support to those who work on the frontlines of the missions: priests, religious and lay people, who often encounter grave difficulties in their work, and even persecutions.

Let us give these prayer intentions to Mary Most Holy, who, in the month of October we love to invoke with the title with which she is venerated at the shrine of Pompeii, not far from here: Queen of the Rosary. To her we entrust the many pilgrims who have traveled from Caserta.

May the Holy Virgin also protect those who in various ways commit themselves to the common good and the just order of society, as has been highlighted rather well during the 45th Social Week of Italian Catholics. The event is being held in these days in Pistoia and Pisa, 100 years after the first such Week, promoted above all by Giuseppe Toniolo, an illustrious figure among Christian economists.

There are many problems and challenges that we face today. A strong effort is required by all, especially lay faithful working in social and political spheres, to assure that every person, in particular the youth, be assured the indispensable conditions for developing their natural talents and cultivating the generous choices of service to their families and the entire community.

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Pope's Address to Religious Leaders in Naples
"Religion Can Never Be a Vehicle of Hate"

NAPLES, Italy, OCT. 21, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions. The meeting, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, has as its theme "Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue."

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Holinesses, Beatitudes, Illustrious Leaders
Representatives of Churches and Ecclesial Communities
Kind Members of the Major World Religions

I gladly welcome this occasion to greet those convoked here in Naples for the XXI Meeting for Peace on the theme "Toward a World without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue." You representatives who are gathered here express in a certain sense the different religious worlds and patrimonies of humanity to which the Catholic looks with cordial attention. A word of appreciation must be directed to his eminence Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe and the Archdiocese of Naples who are hosting this meeting, and to the Community of Sant'Egidio which works with dedication to promote dialogue among religions and cultures in "the spirit of Assisi."

This meeting turns our minds back to 1986, when my venerable predecessor, John Paul II, invited major religious representatives to pray for peace on the hill of St. Francis, highlighting in those circumstances the intrinsic link that unites an authentic religious attitude with a living sensibility for this basic good of humanity. In 2002, after the dramatic events of Sept. 11 of the previous year, the same John Paul II again called religious leaders to Assisi to ask God to stop the grave threats to humanity that were looming, especially because of terrorism.

In respect of the differences of the various religions, we are all called to work for peace and to an active commitment to promote reconciliation between peoples. It is this authentic "spirit of Assisi" which is opposed to every form of violence and abuse of religion as a pretext for violence.

Faced with a world lacerated by conflicts, where at times violence is justified in the name of God, it is important to re-emphasize that religion can never be a vehicle of hate; never, in the name of God, can we justify evil and violence. On the contrary, because they speak of peace to the human heart, religions can offer precious resources for building a peaceful humanity.

The Catholic Church intends to continue along the road of dialogue to promote understanding among various cultures, traditions and religious wisdom. I ardently desire that this spirit spread more and more, especially where the tensions are strongest, where freedom and respect for the other are denied and men and women suffer the consequences of intolerance and misunderstanding.

Dear friends, may these days of work and prayerful listening be fruitful for all. For this I lift up my prayer to the Eternal God, may he pour out his benediction, his wisdom, and his love in abundance upon all of the participants in this meeting. May he liberate the hearts of men from all hatred and from the root of violence and make us builders of the civilization of love.

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Papal Address to Mennonite Delegation
"Christ Himself Calls Us to Seek Christian Unity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2007- Here is a copy of the address Benedict XVI made to the delegation members of the Mennonite World Conference whom he received in audience today.

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Dear Friends,

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 1:2). I am happy to welcome you to Rome, where Peter and Paul bore witness to Christ by shedding their blood for the Gospel.

In the ecumenical spirit of recent times, we have begun to have contacts with each other after centuries of isolation. I am aware that leaders of the Mennonite World Conference accepted the invitation of my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to join him in Assisi both in 1986 and in 2002 to pray for world peace at a great gathering of leaders of Churches and Ecclesial Communities and other world religions. And I am pleased that officials of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have responded to your invitations to attend your world assemblies in 1997 and 2003.

Since it is Christ himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the sixteenth century. To understand is to take the first step towards healing. I know that the report of that dialogue, published in 2003 and currently being studied in several countries, has placed special emphasis on healing of memories.

Mennonites are well known for their strong Christian witness to peace in the name of the Gospel, and here, despite centuries of division, the dialogue report "Called Together to be Peacemakers" has shown that we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ "who is our peace, who has made us both one… making peace that he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross (Eph 2:14-16)" (Report No. 174). We both understand that "reconciliation, nonviolence, and active peacemaking belong to the heart of the Gospel (cf. Mt 5:9; Rom 12:14-21; Eph 6:15)" (No. 179). Our continuing search for the unity of the Lord's disciples is of the utmost importance. Our witness will remain impaired as long as the world sees our divisions. Above all, what impels us to seek Christian unity is our Lord's prayer to the Father "that they may all be one… so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21).

It is my hope that your visit will be another step towards mutual understanding and reconciliation. May the peace and joy of Christ be with all of you and with your loved ones.

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On St. Eusebius of Vercelli
"He Governed the Church With the Austerity of Fasting"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on St. Eusebius of Vercelli. After the discourse, the Pope announced the names of 23 who will be made cardinals in a consistory Nov. 24.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This morning I invite you to reflect on St. Eusebius of Vercelli, the first bishop of northern Italy of whom we have sure knowledge. Born in Sardinia at the beginning of the fourth century, at a young age he transferred to Rome with his family. Later he was instituted as a lector: In this way he came to form part of the clergy of Urbe, during the time that the Church was suffering the difficult test of the Arian heresy.

The great esteem that many had for Eusebius explains his election, in 345, as the bishop of Vercelli. The new bishop immediately began an intense program of evangelization in a territory that was still to a large extent pagan, especially in the rural areas.

Inspired by St. Athanasius -- who had written "The Life of St. Anthony," founder of Eastern monasticism -- founded in Vercelli a community of priests, similar to a monastic community. This monastery gave to the clergy of northern Italy a significant character of apostolic sanctity, and inspired important bishops such as Limenio and Honoratus, successors of Eusebius in Vercelli, Gaudentius in Novara, Exuperantius in Tortona, Eustasius in Aosta, Eulogius in Ivrea, Maximus in Turin, all venerated by the Church as saints.

Solidly formed in the faith of the Council of Nicaea, Eusebius defended with all his strength the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as "of the same nature" as the Father. With this objective he allied himself with the great fathers of the fourth century, above all St. Athanasius, the herald of the Nicene orthodoxy, against the pro-Arian politics of the emperor.

For the emperor the simpler Arian faith was more useful politically as an ideology of the empire. For him the truth didn't count, only the political opportunity: He wanted to use religion as a tie to unite the empire. But these great fathers resisted, defending the truth over and against political domination. For this reason, Eusebius was condemned to exile, as were other bishops of the East and the West: such as Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers -- of whom we spoke last week -- and Osius of Cordoba. At Scythopolis in Palestine, where he was confined from 355 to 360, Eusebius wrote a wonderful page of his life. Here too he founded a monastery with a small group of disciples, and from there maintained correspondence with this faithful in Piedmont, which is demonstrated best by the second of the three letters of Eusebius that have been recognized as authentic.

After 360 he was exiled to Cappadocia and in Thebaid, where he suffered severe physical maltreatment. In 361, Emperor Constantius II died, and was succeeded by Emperor Julian, known as the Apostate, who was not interested in Christianity as the religion of empire, but rather wanted to restore paganism. He ended the exile of bishops and in this way permitted Eusebius to take back his see.

In 362 Eusebius was invited by Athanasius to participate in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon Arian bishops provided they reverted to the lay state. Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another decade, until he died, establishing with his city an exemplary relationship, which inspired the pastoral service of other bishops of northern Italy, whom we shall talk about in future catecheses, such as St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Maximus of Turin.

The relationship between the bishop of Vercelli and his city is made clear above all by two epistolary testimonies. The first is found in the letter we already cited, which Eusebius wrote from exile in Scythopolis "to my most delightful brethren and to my beloved priests, as well as to the holy peoples of Vercelli, Novara, Ivrea and Tortona, keeping firm in the faith" ("Ep. secunda," CCL 9, p. 104).

These greetings, which show the emotion of the good shepherd when speaking to his flock, is confirmed to a large extent at the end of the letter, in the warm greetings of the father to each and every one of his sons in Vercelli, with expressions overflowing with affection and love.

One must underline above all the explicit relationship that unites the bishop to the "sanctae plebes" [holy people] not only of Vercelli -- the first, and for many more years, the only diocese of the Piedmont region -- but also of Novara, Ivrea and Tortona, that is to say, those Christian communities within his diocese that had reached a certain consistency and autonomy.

Another interesting element can be found in the farewell of the letter: Eusebius asks his sons and daughters to greet "even those who are outside the Church, and who have deigned to love us:" (etiam hos, qui foris sunt et nos dignantur diligere.) This is an evident sign that the bishop's relationship with his city was not limited to the Christian population, but also extended to those outside the Church who recognized in a certain sense his spiritual authority, and loved this exemplary man.

The second testimony of the singular relationship the bishop had with his city appears in the letter that St. Ambrose of Milan wrote to the Christians of Vercelli around 394, more than 20 years after Eusebius' death ("Ep. extra collectionem 14": Maur. 63).

The Church of Vercelli was going through a difficult time: It was divided and without a bishop. With frankness, Ambrose declared that he couldn't recognize in them "the descendants of the holy fathers, who elected Eusebius as soon as they saw him, without even having known him beforehand, passing over even their own fellow citizens." In the same letter, the bishop of Milan clearly bore witness to his esteem for Eusebius: "A great man," he wrote decisively, who "deserved to be elected by the whole Church."

Ambrose's admiration for Eusebius was based above all on the fact that Eusebius governed his diocese with the witness of his own life: "He governed the Church with the austerity of fasting." In fact, Ambrose himself was fascinated, as he himself admitted, by the monastic ideal of contemplating God, which Eusebius had pursued in the footsteps of the prophet Elijah.

To begin with, Ambrose noted, the bishop of Vercelli gathered his own priests into "vita communis" [community life] and educated them "in the observance of monastic rules, even though they lived in the middle of the city." The bishop and his priests had to share the problems of their fellow citizens, and they did this credibly by cultivating at the same time a different citizenship, that of heaven (cf. Hebrews 13:14). Thus they truly constructed a genuine citizenship in true solidarity with the citizens of Vercelli.

In this way Eusebius, while he took up the cause of the "sancta plebs" of Vercelli, lived in the midst of the city like a monk, opening his city to God. This trait did not take anything away from his exemplary pastoral dynamism.

Among other things, it seems that he set up parish churches in Vercelli to establish ecclesial services that were organized and stable, and that he promoted Marian shrines for the conversion of pagan rural populations. On the contrary, this "monastic character" gave a particular dimension to the relationship of the bishop with his city. Like the apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at the Last Supper, the pastors and the faithful of the Church "are in the world" (John 17:11), but not "of the world."

Therefore, the pastors, Eusebius reminds us, should exhort the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling, but rather to seek the future city, the definitive Jerusalem in heaven. This "eschatological dimension" allows the pastors and the faithful to protect the hierarchy of just values, without giving into the trend of the moment, or to the unjust demands of political power. The authentic hierarchy of values, Eusebius' whole life seems to tell us, does not come from the emperors of yesterday or today, but from Jesus Christ, the perfect man, equal to the Father in divinity, but at the same time a man like us.

Referring to this scale of values, Eusebius does not tire of "recommending without reservations" to his faithful to guard, "with every resource, the faith, to maintain harmony, to be assiduous in prayer" ("Ep. secunda," cit.).

Dear brothers and sisters, I too recommend to you with all my heart these perennial values, and I bless and greet you with the same words St. Eusebius used to conclude his second letter: "I address you all, my brothers and holy sisters, sons and daughters, the faithful of both sexes and every age, so that ... you may bring our greetings even to those who are outside the Church, but who deign to love us" (ibid.).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Pope greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now turn to Saint Eusebius of Vercelli. Eusebius was born in Sardinia at the beginning of the fourth century, educated in Rome and eventually elected Bishop of Vercelli. There he founded a priestly community inspired by the early monastic communities of Egypt, and helped to spread the ideal of apostolic holiness throughout northern Italy.

Eusebius tirelessly defended the full divinity of Christ proclaimed at the Council of Nicaea, even at the cost of exile. His example of pastoral zeal greatly influenced many of his contemporaries, including Saints Ambrose and Maximus of Turin. Eusebius' Letters testify to his closeness to the faithful of Vercelli, as well as his concern for those who were not of the faith. His episcopal ministry was shaped by his commitment to the monastic ideals of contemplation and self-discipline. He thus found the strength to resist every form of external pressure in his faithful service to the Gospel. May his teachings and example inspire us, in all our life and activity, to "make every effort to preserve the faith, to live in harmony and to be constant in the practice of prayer" (cf. Ep. II).

I warmly greet the Immaculate Heart Sisters from Nigeria who celebrate the seventieth anniversary of their foundation. I likewise greet the members of the national pilgrimage of Tanzania. My welcome also goes to the Lutheran pilgrims from Norway and to the members of Serra International. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

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On True Healing
"What a Treasure Is Hidden in the Little Phrase 'Thank You'"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Gospel from this Sunday presents Jesus curing 10 lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan, and thus a foreigner, returns to give thanks (cf. Luke 17:11-19). The Lord says, "Rise and go on your way; your faith has saved you" (Luke 17:19).

This Gospel passage invites us to a double reflection. Above all, it makes us think of two levels of healing: one that is more superficial, affecting the body; another, more profound, reaching the depths of a person, that which the Bible calls the "heart," and from there, irradiating to all of existence.

The complete and radical healing is "salvation." Even in common language, the distinction between "health" and "salvation" helps us to understand that salvation is much more that health. It is, in fact, a new life, full and definitive. Moreover, here, as in other circumstances, Jesus uses the expression, "Your faith has saved you." Faith saves the human person, re-establishing him in his profound relationship with God, with himself, and with others. And faith is expressed with appreciation. He who, like the healed Samaritan, knows how to give thanks, shows that he does not consider everything as something which is merited, but instead as a gift that, even if it comes through people or through nature, in the end, comes from God. Faith involves, then, the openness of the person to the grace of the Lord; to recognize that all is gift, all is grace. What a treasure is hidden in the little phrase "thank you!"

Jesus cures 10 people sick with leprosy, a sickness in that time considered a "contagious impurity," which required a rite of purification (cf. Leviticus 14:1-37). In reality, the leprosy that truly disfigures the person and society is sin; pride and egotism give birth in the spirit to indifference, hate and violence. Only God, who is Love, can cure this leprosy of the spirit, which disfigures the face of humanity. Upon opening the heart to God, the converted person is healed interiorly of evil.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" (cf. Mark 1:15). Jesus made this invitation at the beginning of his public life, and it continues to resound in the Church, to the point that even the Blessed Virgin in her apparitions, especially in recent times, has renewed this call.

Today we think especially of Fatima, where, precisely 90 years ago, from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917, the Virgin appeared to three little shepherds: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Thanks to a television connection, I want to make myself spiritually present in that Marian shrine, where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, has in my name presided over the concluding ceremonies of such an important anniversary.

I cordially greet him, and the other cardinals and bishops present, the priests that work in the shrine and the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world for this occasion. We ask the Blessed Virgin for the gift of conversion for all Christians, so that they may announce and give a faithful and coherent witness to the perennial evangelical message, which indicates to humanity the path to an authentic peace.

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On Hilary of Poitiers
"God Only Knows How to Be Love" (October 10, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak about a great Father of the Western Church, St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of the great bishops of the 4th century. Confronted with the Arians, who considered the Son of God a creature, albeit an excellent one, Hilary dedicated his life to the defense of faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, Son of God, and God as the Father, who generated him from all eternity.

We do not have definitive data about most of Hilary's life. Ancient sources say that he was born in Poitiers, probably around the year 310. From a well-to-do family, he received a good literary education, which is clearly evident in his writings. It does not seem that he was raised in a Christian environment. He himself tells us about a journey of searching for the truth, which little by little led him to the recognition of God the creator and of the incarnate God, who died to give us eternal life. He was baptized around 345, and elected bishop of Poitiers around 353-354.

In the years that followed, Hilary wrote his first work, the "Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew." It is the oldest surviving commentary in Latin that we have on this Gospel. In 356, Hilary, as bishop, attended the Synod of Beziers in southern France, which he called the "Synod of the False Apostles," given that the assembly was dominated by bishops who were followers of Arianism, and thus negated the divinity of Jesus Christ. These "false apostles" asked Emperor Constantine to condemn to exile the bishop of Poitiers. So Hilary was forced to leave Gaul during the summer of 356.

Exiled to Phrygia, in present-day Turkey, Hilary found himself in contact with a religious environment totally dominated by Arianism. There, too, his pastoral solicitude led him to work tirelessly for the re-establishment of the Church’s unity, based on the correct faith, as formulated by the Council of Nicea. To this end, he began writing his most important and most famous dogmatic work: "De Trinitatae" (On the Trinity).

In it, Hilary talks about his own personal journey toward knowing God, and he is intent on showing that Scriptures clearly attest to the Son's divinity and his equality with the Father, not only in the New Testament, but also in many pages of the Old Testament, in which the mystery of Christ is already presented. Faced with the Arians, he insists on the truth of the names of the Father and the Son and develops his entire Trinitarian theology departing from the formula of baptism given to us by the Lord himself: "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

The Father and the Son are of the same nature. And if some passages of the New Testament could lead one to think that the Son is inferior to the Father, Hilary offers precise rules to avoid misleading interpretations: Some passages in Scripture speak about Jesus as God, others emphasize his humanity. Some refer to him in his pre-existence with the Father; others take into consideration his self lowering ("kenosis"), his lowering himself unto death; and lastly, others contemplate him in the glory of the resurrection.

During the years of his exile, Hilary also wrote the "Book of the Synod," in which, for his brother bishops of Gaul, he reproduces and comments on the confessions of faith and other documents of the synods which met in the East around the middle of the 4th century. Always firm in his opposition to radical Arians, St. Hilary showed a conciliatory spirit with those who accepted that the Son was similar to the Father in essence, naturally trying to lead them toward the fullness of faith, which says that there is not only a similarity, but a true equality of the Father and the Son in their divinity.

This also seems characteristic: His conciliatory spirit tries to understand those who still have not yet arrived to the fullness of the truth and helps them, with great theological intelligence, to reach the fullness of faith in the true divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In 360 or 361, Hilary was finally able to return from exile to his homeland and immediately resumed the pastoral work in his Church, but the influence of his teaching extended, in fact, well beyond its borders. A synod celebrated in Paris in 360 or 361 took up again the language used by the Council of Nicea. Some ancient authors think that this anti-Arian development of the bishops of Gaul was due, in large part, to the strength and meekness of the bishop of Poitiers.

This was precisely his gift: uniting strength of faith and meekness in interpersonal relationships. During the last years of his life, he wrote "Treatises on the Psalms," a commentary on 58 psalms, interpreted according to the principle highlighted in the introduction to the work: "There is no doubt that all the things said in the Psalms must be understood according to the Gospel proclamation, so that, independently of the voice with which the prophetic spirit has spoken, everything refers to the knowledge of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, incarnation, passion and kingdom, and the glory and power of our resurrection” ("Instructio Psalmorum," 5).

In all of the Psalms, he sees this transparency of Christ's mystery and of his body, which is the Church. On various occasions, Hilary met with St. Martin: The future bishop of Tours founded a monastery near Poitiers, which still exists today. Hilary died in 367. His feast day is celebrated on Jan. 13. In 1851, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a doctor of the Church.

To summarize the essential aspects of his doctrine, I would like to say that the starting point for Hilary's theological reflection is the baptismal faith. In "De Trinitate," he writes: Jesus "commanded to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:19), that is to say, confessing the Author, the Only Begotten One and the Gift. One alone is the author of all things, because there is only one God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made (1 Corinthians 8:6), and one alone is the Spirit (Ephesians 4:4), gift in everything. … Nothing can be found lacking in a plenitude that is so grand, in which converges in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, the immensity of the Eternal, the revelation in the Image, the joy in the Gift" ("De Trinitatae" 2:1).

God the Father, being all love, is able to communicate the fullness of his divinity to the Son. I find this phrase of St. Hilary to be particularly beautiful: "God only knows how to be love, only knows how to be Father. And he who loves is not envious, and whoever is Father, is so totally. This name does not allow for compromise, as if to say that God is father only in certain aspects and not in others” (ibid. 9:61).

For this reason, the Son is fully God without lacking anything or having any lessening: "He who comes from the perfect is perfect, because he who has everything, has given him everything" (ibid. 2:8). Only in Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, does humanity find salvation. Taking on human nature, he united every man to himself, "he became our flesh" ("Tractatus in Psalmos" 54:9); "he took on the nature of all flesh, thus becoming the true vine, the root of all branches" (ibid. 51:16).

Precisely because of this motive, the path to Christ is open to all -- because he drew everyone into his humanity -- even though personal conversion is always required: "Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to everyone, provided that they leave aside the old man (cf. Ephesians 4:22) and nail him to his cross (cf. Colossians 2:14); provided they abandon their former works and are converted, in order to be buried with him in baptism, in view of life (cf. Colossians 1:12; Romans 6:4)" (ibid. 91:9).

Faithfulness to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore St. Hilary asks, at the end of his treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain faithful to the faith of baptism. One of the characteristics of this book is this: Reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer leads to reflection. The entire book is a dialogue with God.

I would like to end today's catechesis with one of these prayers, that also becomes our prayer: "Grant, O Lord," Hilary prays in a moment of inspiration, "that I may remain faithful to that which I professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That I may adore you, our Father, and together with you, your Son; that I may be worthy of your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your only Son. … Amen” ("De Trinitatae" 12:57).

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Month of the Rosary
"A Means for Contemplating Jesus" (October 7,2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This first Sunday of October offers us two reasons for prayer and reflection: the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is today, and the commitment to missions, to which this month is dedicated in a special way.

The traditional image of the Madonna of the Rosary depicts Mary holding the child Jesus in her arm and giving the rosary to St. Dominic. This significant iconography shows that the rosary is a means given by the Virgin for contemplating Jesus and, meditating on his life, for loving and following him always more faithfully.

This is something that Mary has also offered in various apparitions. I am thinking especially of her appearance at Fatima that took place 90 years ago. To the three little shepherds, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, presenting herself as "the Madonna of the Rosary," she insistently recommended praying the rosary every day to bring an end to the war.

We also desire to welcome the Virgin’s maternal request, committing ourselves to saying the rosary with faith for peace in our families, in countries, and in the whole world.

In any case, we know that peace spreads where men and institutions are open to the Gospel. The month of October helps us to recall this fundamental truth through a mobilization that seeks to promote an authentic missionary drive in each community, and to support the work of priests, religious and laypeople who work on the Church's mission frontiers.

With special care we prepare to celebrate, on Oct. 21, the World Mission Day, which will have as its theme "All the Churches for All the World."

The proclamation of the Gospel remains the primary service that the Church owes to humanity, to offer the salvation of Christ to the man of our time, who is in many ways humiliated and oppressed, and to orientate in a Christian way cultural, social, and ethical transformations that are unfolding in the world.

This year we are moved toward a renewal of missionary commitment for still another reason: the 50th anniversary of the encyclical "Fidei Donum" of the Servant of God Pius XII, which promoted and encouraged cooperation among the Churches for the mission "ad gentes."

With pleasure I recall also that 150 years ago five priests and a layman of the Institute of Don Mazza in Verona departed for Africa, for present-day Sudan. Among them was St. Daniel Comboni, future bishop of central Africa and patron of the people of that region, whose liturgical memorial is Oct. 10.

We entrust all missionaries to the intercession of these pioneers of the Gospel and to the many other canonized and beatified missionaries, and especially to the maternal protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary.

O Mary, help us to remember that every Christian is called to be a proclaimer of the Gospel by his word and by his life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

* * *

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said in English:]

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. In this month of October, dedicated to the holy rosary, we ponder with Mary the mysteries of our salvation, and we ask the Lord to help us grow in our understanding of the marvelous things he has done for us.

May God fill you with his love and may he grant you and all those dear to you his blessings of joy and peace.

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Papal Homily in Velletri
"We Have Believed in Love: This Is the Essence of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Sept. 23 homily during his visit to the Diocese of Velletri-Segni.

* * *

PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE SUBURBICARIAN DIOCESE OF VELLETRI-SEGNI

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Clement's Square
Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I willingly return among you to preside at this solemn Eucharistic celebration, responding to one of your repeated invitations. I have come back with joy to meet your diocesan community, which for several years has been mine, too, in a special way, and is always dear to me. I greet you all with affection. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Francis Arinze who has succeeded me as titular Cardinal of this Diocese; I greet your Pastor, dear Bishop Vincenzo Apicella, whom I thank for his beautiful words of welcome with which he has desired to greet me in your name. I greet the other Bishops, priests and men and women religious, the pastoral workers, young people and all who are actively involved in parishes, movements, associations and the various diocesan activities. I greet the Commissioner of the Prefecture of Velletri-Segni and the other civil and military Authorities who honour us with their presence. I greet all those who have come from other places, in particular from Bavaria, from Germany, to join us on this festive day. Bonds of friendship bind my native Land to yours, as is testified by the bronze pillar presented to me in Marktl am Inn in September last year on the occasion of my Apostolic Visit to Germany. As has been said, 100 municipalities of Bavaria have recently given me, as it were, a "twin" of that pillar which will be set up here in Velletri as a further sign of my affection and goodwill. It will be the sign of my spiritual presence among you. In this regard, I would like to thank the donors, the sculptor and the mayors whom I see present here with numerous friends. I thank you all!

Dear brothers and sisters, I know that you have prepared for my Visit today with an intense spiritual itinerary, adopting a very important verse of John's First Letter as your motto: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (4: 16). Deus caritas est, God is love: my first Encyclical begins with these words that concern the core of our faith: the Christian image of God and the consequent image of man and his journey. I rejoice that you have chosen these very words to guide you on the spiritual and pastoral journey of the Diocese: "We know and believe the love God has for us". We have believed in love: this is the essence of Christianity. Therefore, our liturgical assembly today must focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, capable of impressing an absolutely new orientation and value on human life. Love is the essence of Christianity, which makes the believer and the Christian community a leaven of hope and peace in every environment and especially attentive to the needs of the poor and needy. This is our common mission: to be a leaven of hope and peace because we believe in love. Love makes the Church live, and since it is eternal it makes her live for ever, to the end of time.

Last Sunday, St Luke the Evangelist, who was more concerned than others to show Jesus' love for the poor, offered us various ideas for reflection on the danger of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that prevents us from living to the full our vocation to love God and neighbour. Today too, through a parable that inspires in us a certain surprise since it speaks of a dishonest steward who is praised (cf. Lk 16: 1-13), a close look reveals that here the Lord has reserved a serious and particularly salutary teaching for us. As always, the Lord draws inspiration from the events of daily life: he tells of a steward who is on the point of being dismissed for dishonest management of his master's affairs and who, to assure a future for himself, cunningly seeks to come to an arrangement with his master's debtors. He is undoubtedly dishonest but clever: the Gospel does not present him to us as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but rather as an example to be imitated for his farsighted guile. The short parable ends, in fact, with these words: "The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence" (Lk 16: 8).

But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of this Gospel passage is incisive and peremptory: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other". Ultimately, Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Lk 16: 13). Mammon is a term of Phoenician origin that calls to mind economic security and success in business; we might say that riches are shown as the idol to which everything is sacrificed in order to attain one's own material success; hence, this economic success becomes a person's true god. As a result, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision between God and mammon, it is necessary to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action, and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as increasing the ruinous exploitation of the planet. On the other hand, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it to a fair development for the common good of all. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. If loving Christ and one's brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.

We could then say, paraphrasing one of St Augustine's thoughts, that through earthly riches we must procure for ourselves those true and eternal riches: indeed, if people exist who are prepared to resort to every type of dishonesty to assure themselves an always unpredictable material well-being, how much more concerned we Christians must be to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. Discourses, 359, 10). Now, the only way of bringing our personal talents and abilities and the riches we possess to fruition for eternity is to share them with our brethren, thereby showing that we are good stewards of what God entrusts to us. Jesus said: "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much" (Lk 16: 10).

Today, in the First Reading, the Prophet Amos speaks of the same fundamental decision to be made day by day. Using strong words, he stigmatizes a lifestyle typical of those who allow themselves to be absorbed by a selfish quest for profit in every possible form and which is expressed in the thirst for gain, contempt for the poor and their exploitation, to one's own advantage (cf. Am 8: 5). The Christian must energetically reject all this, opening his heart on the contrary to sentiments of authentic generosity. It must be generosity which, as the Apostle Paul exhorts in the Second Reading, is expressed in sincere love for all and is manifested in prayer. Actually, praying for others is a great act of charity. The Apostle invites us in the first place to pray for those who have tasks of responsibility in the civil community because, he explains, if they aspire to do good, positive consequences derive from their decisions, assuring peace and "a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (I Tm 2: 2). Thus, may our prayer never be lacking, a spiritual contribution to building an Ecclesial Community that is faithful to Christ and to the construction of a society in which there is greater justice and solidarity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray in particular that your diocesan community, which is undergoing a series of transformations due to the transfer of many young families from Rome to the development of the "service sector" and to the settlement of many immigrants in historical centres, may lead to an increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the instructions that your Bishop continues to give you with outstanding pastoral sensitivity. His Pastoral Letter of last December proved more timely than ever in this regard, with the invitation to listen with attention and perseverance to God's Word, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and to the Church's Magisterium. Let us place your every intention and pastoral project in the hands of Our Lady of Grace, whose image is preserved and venerated in your beautiful Cathedral. May Mary's maternal protection accompany the journey of you who are present here and all those who have been unable to participate in our Eucharistic celebration today. May the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, children, everyone who feels lonely or neglected or who is in particular need. May Mary deliver us from the greed for riches and ensure that in raising to Heaven hands that are free and pure, we may glorify God with our whole life (cf. Collect). Amen!

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

On St. Cyril of Alexandria
"An Untiring and Firm Witness of Jesus Christ"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. Cyril of Alexandria.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, continuing our journey in the footsteps of the Fathers of the Church, we meet a great figure: St. Cyril of Alexandria. Linked to the Christological controversy that led to the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the last noteworthy representative of the Alexandrian tradition, Cyril was later defined in the East as the “custodian of accuracy” -- in other words, a guardian of the true faith -- and even the “seal of all the Fathers."

These ancient expressions manifest something that is, in fact, characteristic of Cyril, that is, the constant references the bishop of Alexandria makes to preceding ecclesiastical authorities -- including, above all, Athanasius -- with the goal of showing the continuity of his own theology with tradition.

Cyril took care to ensure that his theology was firmly situated within the tradition of the Church, by which he sees the guarantee of continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself.

Venerated as a saint in both the East and the West, in 1882 St. Cyril was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who at that time also gave the same title to another important representative of Greek patristics, St. Cyril of Jerusalem. This shows that Pope's attention and love for the Eastern Christian traditions; he would later proclaim St. John Damascene a doctor of the Church, showing how the Eastern and Western traditions express the doctrine of the one Church of Christ.

Information on the life of Cyril before his election to the important See of Alexandria is scarce. A nephew of Theophilus -- who, as bishop from 385, upheld the Diocese of Alexandria with resolve and prestige -- Cyril was most likely born in that same Egyptian city sometime between 370-380. He soon embraced the ecclesiastical life and received a good education, both in culture and theology. In 403, he was in Constantinople following his powerful uncle and, here, he participated in the so-called Synod of the Oak, which deposed the city’s bishop -- John, later called Chrysostom. This indicated the triumph of the Alexandrian See over its traditional rival, the See of Constantinople, where the emperor resided.

Upon the death of his uncle Theophilus, though still young, Cyril was elected bishop of the influential Church of Alexandria in 412, which he governed with great energy for 32 years, working tirelessly to affirm its primacy in the East, strengthened by its traditional bonds with Rome.

Two or three years later, in 417 or 418, the bishop of Alexandria showed himself to be a realist and healed the rift in the communion with Constantinople, which had been going on since 406, in the wake of Chrysostom’s removal from office.

But the old conflict with the See of Constantinople was rekindled some 10 years later, when Nestorius was elected in 428, a prestigious but severe monk, educated in Antioch. The new bishop of Constantinople quickly brought much opposition because he preferred the title “Mother of Christ” (Christotòkos) for Mary, in place of “Mother of God” (Theotòkos), which was already beloved in popular devotion.

The reason for Bishop Nestorius’ choice was his adhesion to the Christology of the Antiochean tradition, which, to safeguard the importance of Christ’s humanity, ended up affirming its separation from his divinity. Thus, there was no longer an authentic union between God and the man Christ, and therefore, one could no longer speak of a “Mother of God."

Cyril -- the leading exponent of Alexandrian Christology at the time, one who emphatically underlined the unity of Christ’s person -- reacted almost immediately, using every means possible beginning in 429, even writing letters to Nestorius himself.

In the second letter (PG 77, 44-49) which Cyril sent to him, in February 430, we read a clear affirmation of the pastor’s task to preserve the faith of God’s people. This was his criterion, which is still valid today: The faith of God’s people is an expression of tradition, a guarantee of sound doctrine. He wrote to Nestorius: “It is necessary to explain the teaching and interpretation of the faith to the people in an irreproachable way, and recall that he who scandalizes even one of these little ones who believes in Christ will suffer an intolerable punishment."

In the same letter to Nestorius -- which later, in 451, would be approved by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon -- Cyril describes his Christological faith with clarity: "The natures that have united in a true unity are different, but from both resulted one Christ and Son, not because, due to the unity, the differences of the human and divine natures have been eliminated, but rather because humanity and divinity united in an ineffable way have produced the one Lord, Christ, the Son of God."

And this is important: The true humanity and the true divinity are really united in one person, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, continues the bishop of Alexandria, “we profess only one Christ and Lord, not in the sense that we adore the man together with the Logos, so as not to insinuate the idea of separation by saying 'together,' but rather in the sense that we adore only one; his body is not something detached from the Logos, who sits at the Father’s side. There are not two sons sitting at his side, but one alone united with his own flesh.”

Soon the bishop of Alexandria, thanks to shrewd alliances, saw to it that Nestorius was repeatedly condemned: by the Roman See with a series of 12 anathemas Cyril himself composed and, in the end, by the council held in Ephesus in 431, the Third Ecumenical Council.

The assembly, which took place amid tumultuous and alternating incidents, concluded with the great triumph of devotion to Mary and with the exile of the bishop of Constantinople, who refused to recognize Mary under the title of “Mother of God," because of a mistaken Christology, which claimed that Christ was divided in himself.

After prevailing in such a definitive way over his rival and his doctrine, Cyril was able to reach, as soon as 433, a theological formula of compromise and reconciliation with the people of Antioch. And this is also significant: On one hand there is clarity about the doctrine of faith, but on the other, there is the intense search for unity and reconciliation. In the years that followed, he dedicated himself in every way to defend and clarify his theological position until his death on June 27, 444.

Cyril’s writings -- numerous and widespread in various Latin and Eastern traditions even during his life, which is a testament to their immediate success -- are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the books of the Old and New Testaments, including the Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke, are important. Many of his doctrinal works are also greatly important, in which he continually defends the Trinitarian faith against the Arian theses and Nestorius.

The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition, and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great predecessor in the Alexandrian See. Among Cyril’s other writings, we must recall the books “Against Julian," the last great answer to anti-Christian polemics, dictated by the bishop of Alexandria most likely during the last years of his life as a response to “Against the Galileans,” written many years before, in 363, by the emperor who was called an apostate for having abandoned the Christianity in which he had been educated.

The Christian faith is above all a meeting with Jesus, “a person who gives life a new horizon” (encyclical “Deus Caritas Est," No. 1). St. Cyril of Alexandria was an untiring and firm witness of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, emphasizing his unity above all, as he repeats in his first letter in 433 to Bishop Succens: “One alone is the Son, one alone is the Lord Jesus Christ, before the incarnation and after the incarnation. In fact, it is not a question of a Son, the Logos, born of God the Father, and another, born of the holy Virgin; but we believe that he who is before all time was born according to the flesh of a woman."

This affirmation, beyond its doctrinal significance, shows that faith in Jesus, the “Logos,” born of the Father, is also deeply rooted in history because, as St. Cyril says, this same Jesus came in time by being born of Mary, the "Theotòkos," and will be, according to his promise, with us always. And this is important: God is eternal, he was born of a woman and remains with us every day. We live in this trust, in this trust we find the path of our life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Holy Father addressed the audience in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The subject of today’s catechesis is Saint Cyril of Alexandria, known as the "pillar of faith" and the "seal of all the Fathers". He was born somewhere between 370 and 380, and at a young age became Bishop of Alexandria. Cyril was a zealous defender of the faith. He took care to ensure that his theology was firmly situated within the tradition of the Church by referring to preceding ecclesiastical authorities, especially Athanasius. Through a series of letters countering the position of Nestorius, the Bishop of Constantinople, Cyril made a very significant contribution to Christology defending the divinity and humanity of Christ united in the one Lord, Christ and Son. He was also of utmost influence at the Council of Ephesus, supporting the recognition of the Virgin Mary as the "Mother of God". This led to the deposition of Nestorius as Bishop of Constantinople. Saint Cyril, a prolific writer whose works were read throughout the Church, was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882. May our remembrance of this outstanding figure in the history of Christianity remind us that the centre of our faith is the encounter with Jesus Christ, who gives each one of us a new horizon and a decisive direction!

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from Australia, Denmark, Scotland and the United States. In a special way I greet the Maryknoll Missionaries, the priests from the Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston, the students from the Pontifical Beda College and Deacon Candidates from the Pontifical North American College. May God continue to strengthen you as you strive to serve his people. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.

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Papal Homily in Velletri
"We Have Believed in Love: This Is the Essence of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Sept. 23 homily during his visit to the Diocese of Velletri-Segni.

* * *

PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE SUBURBICARIAN DIOCESE OF VELLETRI-SEGNI

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Clement's Square
Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I willingly return among you to preside at this solemn Eucharistic celebration, responding to one of your repeated invitations. I have come back with joy to meet your diocesan community, which for several years has been mine, too, in a special way, and is always dear to me. I greet you all with affection. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Francis Arinze who has succeeded me as titular Cardinal of this Diocese; I greet your Pastor, dear Bishop Vincenzo Apicella, whom I thank for his beautiful words of welcome with which he has desired to greet me in your name. I greet the other Bishops, priests and men and women religious, the pastoral workers, young people and all who are actively involved in parishes, movements, associations and the various diocesan activities. I greet the Commissioner of the Prefecture of Velletri-Segni and the other civil and military Authorities who honour us with their presence. I greet all those who have come from other places, in particular from Bavaria, from Germany, to join us on this festive day. Bonds of friendship bind my native Land to yours, as is testified by the bronze pillar presented to me in Marktl am Inn in September last year on the occasion of my Apostolic Visit to Germany. As has been said, 100 municipalities of Bavaria have recently given me, as it were, a "twin" of that pillar which will be set up here in Velletri as a further sign of my affection and goodwill. It will be the sign of my spiritual presence among you. In this regard, I would like to thank the donors, the sculptor and the mayors whom I see present here with numerous friends. I thank you all!

Dear brothers and sisters, I know that you have prepared for my Visit today with an intense spiritual itinerary, adopting a very important verse of John's First Letter as your motto: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (4: 16). Deus caritas est, God is love: my first Encyclical begins with these words that concern the core of our faith: the Christian image of God and the consequent image of man and his journey. I rejoice that you have chosen these very words to guide you on the spiritual and pastoral journey of the Diocese: "We know and believe the love God has for us". We have believed in love: this is the essence of Christianity. Therefore, our liturgical assembly today must focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, capable of impressing an absolutely new orientation and value on human life. Love is the essence of Christianity, which makes the believer and the Christian community a leaven of hope and peace in every environment and especially attentive to the needs of the poor and needy. This is our common mission: to be a leaven of hope and peace because we believe in love. Love makes the Church live, and since it is eternal it makes her live for ever, to the end of time.

Last Sunday, St Luke the Evangelist, who was more concerned than others to show Jesus' love for the poor, offered us various ideas for reflection on the danger of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that prevents us from living to the full our vocation to love God and neighbour. Today too, through a parable that inspires in us a certain surprise since it speaks of a dishonest steward who is praised (cf. Lk 16: 1-13), a close look reveals that here the Lord has reserved a serious and particularly salutary teaching for us. As always, the Lord draws inspiration from the events of daily life: he tells of a steward who is on the point of being dismissed for dishonest management of his master's affairs and who, to assure a future for himself, cunningly seeks to come to an arrangement with his master's debtors. He is undoubtedly dishonest but clever: the Gospel does not present him to us as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but rather as an example to be imitated for his farsighted guile. The short parable ends, in fact, with these words: "The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence" (Lk 16: 8).

But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of this Gospel passage is incisive and peremptory: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other". Ultimately, Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Lk 16: 13). Mammon is a term of Phoenician origin that calls to mind economic security and success in business; we might say that riches are shown as the idol to which everything is sacrificed in order to attain one's own material success; hence, this economic success becomes a person's true god. As a result, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision between God and mammon, it is necessary to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action, and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as increasing the ruinous exploitation of the planet. On the other hand, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it to a fair development for the common good of all. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. If loving Christ and one's brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.

We could then say, paraphrasing one of St Augustine's thoughts, that through earthly riches we must procure for ourselves those true and eternal riches: indeed, if people exist who are prepared to resort to every type of dishonesty to assure themselves an always unpredictable material well-being, how much more concerned we Christians must be to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. Discourses, 359, 10). Now, the only way of bringing our personal talents and abilities and the riches we possess to fruition for eternity is to share them with our brethren, thereby showing that we are good stewards of what God entrusts to us. Jesus said: "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much" (Lk 16: 10).

Today, in the First Reading, the Prophet Amos speaks of the same fundamental decision to be made day by day. Using strong words, he stigmatizes a lifestyle typical of those who allow themselves to be absorbed by a selfish quest for profit in every possible form and which is expressed in the thirst for gain, contempt for the poor and their exploitation, to one's own advantage (cf. Am 8: 5). The Christian must energetically reject all this, opening his heart on the contrary to sentiments of authentic generosity. It must be generosity which, as the Apostle Paul exhorts in the Second Reading, is expressed in sincere love for all and is manifested in prayer. Actually, praying for others is a great act of charity. The Apostle invites us in the first place to pray for those who have tasks of responsibility in the civil community because, he explains, if they aspire to do good, positive consequences derive from their decisions, assuring peace and "a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (I Tm 2: 2). Thus, may our prayer never be lacking, a spiritual contribution to building an Ecclesial Community that is faithful to Christ and to the construction of a society in which there is greater justice and solidarity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray in particular that your diocesan community, which is undergoing a series of transformations due to the transfer of many young families from Rome to the development of the "service sector" and to the settlement of many immigrants in historical centres, may lead to an increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the instructions that your Bishop continues to give you with outstanding pastoral sensitivity. His Pastoral Letter of last December proved more timely than ever in this regard, with the invitation to listen with attention and perseverance to God's Word, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and to the Church's Magisterium. Let us place your every intention and pastoral project in the hands of Our Lady of Grace, whose image is preserved and venerated in your beautiful Cathedral. May Mary's maternal protection accompany the journey of you who are present here and all those who have been unable to participate in our Eucharistic celebration today. May the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, children, everyone who feels lonely or neglected or who is in particular need. May Mary deliver us from the greed for riches and ensure that in raising to Heaven hands that are free and pure, we may glorify God with our whole life (cf. Collect). Amen!

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Pope Remembers Cardinal Van Thuân
"He Lived on Hope and Spread It Among Those He Met"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Sept. 17 address to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE ON THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF CARD. FRANÇOIS-XAVIER NGUYÊN VAN THUÂN

Castel Gandolfo
Monday, 17 September 2007

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

I address a cordial welcome to all of you, gathered to remember beloved Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, whom the Lord called to himself on 16 September five years ago. Five years have passed but the noble figure of this faithful servant of the Lord lives on in the minds and hearts of all who knew him. I too cherish many personal memories of the meetings I had with him during the years of his service here in the Roman Curia.

I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with their collaborators. I greet the members of the San Matteo Foundation established in memory of Cardinal Van Thuân, and of the International Observatory, called after him and created for the dissemination of the Church's social doctrine, as well as the deceased Cardinal's relatives and friends. I also express my sentiments of deep gratitude to Cardinal Martino for his words on behalf of those present.

I willingly take the opportunity once again to highlight the shining witness of faith which this heroic Pastor bequeathed to us. Bishop Francis Xavier -- this is how he liked to introduce himself -- was called to the Father's House in autumn 2000, after a long and difficult period of illness faced in total abandonment to God's will. A little earlier, my venerable Predecessor John Paul II had appointed him Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of which he later became President, and he set about publishing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. How can we forget the outstanding features of his simple, ready cordiality? How can we not shine light on his conversational skill and his ability to make himself close to everyone? We recall him with deep admiration while we remember the great visions full of hope that inspired him and that he was able to present easily and engagingly: his fervent dedication to disseminating the social doctrine of the Church among the world's poor; his longing for evangelization in Asia, his Continent; his ability to coordinate activities of charity and human promotion which he encouraged and supported in the most remote places of the earth.

Cardinal Van Thuân was a man of hope. He lived on hope and spread it among those he met. It was thanks to this spiritual energy that he was able to withstand all the physical and moral difficulties. Hope sustained him as a Bishop who for 13 years was cut off from his diocesan community; hope helped him to see in the absurdity of the events that had happened to him -- he was never tried throughout his lengthy detention -- a providential plan of God. He received the news of the disease, the tumour that was later to lead to his death, at the same time that he learned of his appointment as Cardinal by Pope John Paul II, who held him in high esteem and was very fond of him. Cardinal Van Thuân liked to repeat that the Christian is the man of the moment, of the now, of the present time that must be welcomed and experienced with Christ's love. In this ability to live in the present shines forth Cardinal Van Thuân's intimate abandonment in God's hands and the Gospel simplicity that we all admired in him. And could it be possible, he used to wonder, that those who trust in the Heavenly Father then refuse to allow themselves to be embraced by him?

Dear brothers and sisters, I accepted with great joy the news that the Cause of Beatification of this unique prophet of Christian hope is being initiated. As we entrust this chosen soul to the Lord, let us pray that his example may be an effective lesson for us. With this hope, I cordially bless you all.

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On Lazarus and World Hunger
"He Who Is Forgotten by All Is Not Forgotten by God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sister!

Today, the Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (16:19-31). The rich man embodies the unjust spending of wealth by those who use it for unbridled and egotistical luxury, thinking only of satisfying themselves, without taking care of the beggar at their door.

The poor man, on the other hand, represents the person that only God cares for, and unlike the rich man, he has a name, Lazarus, an abbreviation of Eleazar, which means “God helps him." He who is forgotten by all is not forgotten by God; he who is worth nothing in the eyes of men, is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The story shows how earthly injustice is overturned by divine justice: After death, Lazarus is welcomed “into Abraham’s bosom," that is to say, into eternal beatitude, while the rich man ends up “in hell among torments." It is a new, definitive, unappealing state. Therefore it is during this life that one must repent; doing so afterward is useless.

This parable also lends itself to a social interpretation. Paul VI’s encyclical “Populorum Progressio," written 40 years ago, remains memorable. In speaking about the fight against hunger, he writes: “It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives … where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table” (No. 47).

The cause of the numerous situations of misery are -- according to the encyclical -- on the one hand, "servitude to other men” and on the other, “natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily” (ibid).

Unfortunately, certain peoples suffer from both of these forces. How can we not think, especially in this moment, of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, stricken with serious flooding over these last few days?

But we cannot forget many other situations of humanitarian emergency in various regions of the planet, in which battles for political power lead to the worsening of environmental problems already weighing on the people. The appeal Paul VI gave voice to back then: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance” (“Populorum Progressio," No. 3), has the same urgency today.

We cannot say that we do not know the road to take: We have the law and the prophets, Christ tells us in the Gospel. Whoever chooses not to listen would not change even if someone came back from the dead to warn him.

May the Virgin Mary help us to take advantage of the present time to listen and to put into practice this word of God. May she make us attentive to our brothers in need, to share with them the abundance or the little that we have, and to contribute, beginning with ourselves, to the spreading of the logic and style of authentic solidarity.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo, saying:]

I follow the serious events taking place in Myanmar with great trepidation and I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people in this moment of sorrowful difficulty that they are experiencing. While guaranteeing them my intense prayer and support, I invite the entire Church to do the same and I hope that a peaceful solution can be found, for the good of the country.

I recommend the situation of the Korean peninsula to your prayers, where important developments in the dialogue between the two Koreas are a hopeful sign that the efforts of reconciliation in act can consolidate in favor of the Korean people and to benefit the stability and peace of the entire region.

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Pope's Homily in Velletri
"A Grand Gesture of Charity Is to Pray for Others"

VELLETRI, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2007, (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave this morning during a Mass celebrated in the plaza of the Cathedral of San Clement, on the occasion of the Pope's brief pastoral visit to the suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni, some 25 miles southeast of Rome.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

I have returned with great pleasure in your midst to preside over this solemn Eucharistic celebration, in response to you repeated invitations. I return with joy to meet your diocesan community, which for many years was also mine in a special way, and which is still very dear to me today. I greet you all with great affection. First of all I would like to greet Cardinal Francis Arinze, who succeeded me as titular cardinal of this diocese; I greet your pastor, Monsignor Vincenzo Apicella, whom I would like to thank for the courteous words of welcome with which he welcomed me in your name.

I greet the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and pastoral workers, the youth and all those at work in parishes, movements, associations and various diocesan activities. I greet the prefectorial commissioner of Velletri, the mayors of towns of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni and the other civil and military authorities, who honor us with their presence.

I also greet all those who have come from other places, Germany in particular, to unite themselves to us in this day of celebration. Bonds of friendship link my native land to yours: This bronze column from Marktl am Inn, given to me in September last year in honor of my apostolic trip to Germany, is a testimony of that, and I wished it to remain here, as a further sign of my affection and my goodwill.

I know you have prepared for my visit here today with an intense spiritual journey, adopting as the motto a meaningful verse from the First Letter of John: "So we know and believe in the love that God has for us" (4:16). "Deus Caritas East," God is love: My first encyclical begins with these words, which pertain to the core of our faith --the Christian image of God and the resulting image of man and his journey.

I rejoice in the fact that you have chosen as your guide for the diocese's spiritual and pastoral journey this very expression: "We have known the love that God has for us and we have believed." Today's liturgy cannot but focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, able to impress upon human existence an absolutely new orientation and value. Love is the essence of Christianity, which renders the believer and the Christian community yeast of hope and peace in every situation, especially attentive to the necessities of the poor and needy. Love brings the Church into existence.

For the past few Sundays, St. Luke, the Gospel writer who more than the others is concerned to show the love Jesus has for the poor, he offered different ideas for reflection on the dangers of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that impedes us from loving the fullness of our vocation to love God and our brethren. Also today, through the parable that provokes a certain wonder in us because it speaks of a dishonest manager who ends up being praised (cf. Luke 16:1-13), and the Lord is offering is a salutary teaching. As he often does, he draws from current events: He speaks about a manager on the verge of being fired for his dishonest management of the affairs of his master and, to guarantee his own future, he tries to slyly come to agreements with his debtors. He is dishonest, but astute: The Gospel does not present him as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but as an example to imitate for his cautious craftiness. In fact, the brief parable ends with these words: "The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly."

What does Jesus want to say to us? The Evangelist follows the parable of the unfaithful steward with a brief series of sayings and admonitions about the relationship we should have with money and the goods of this earth. Brief phrases that invite us to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant interior tension. Life is in truth always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between egoism and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of the Gospel selection is incisive and authoritative: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).

Mammon is the original Phoenician term that evokes economic security and success in business; we could say that in wealth is found the idol in which one sacrifices everything to reach personal success. Therefore a fundamental decision is necessary -- the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria of our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. The logic of profit, if it prevails, increases not only the disproportion between poor and rich, but also the devastating exploitation of the planet.

When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional development, for the common good of all. In the end it is a decision between egoism and love, between justice and dishonesty, and a final choice between God and Satan. If loving Christ and our brethren is not considered as something accessorial and superficial, but moreover the true and final scope of our existence, we must know how to make fundamental choices, to be open to radical renunciations, even martyrdom if necessary. Today, like yesterday, the Christian life demands courage to go against the tide, to love as Jesus did, who ended up sacrificing himself on the cross.

We can say therefore, paraphrasing St. Augustine, that through earthly riches we should obtain those that are true and eternal: If in fact there are people who are ready for any kind of dishonest action to ensure material well-being, which isn't sure, how much more we Christians must try to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. "Discourses" 359:10). Now, the only way our personal gifts and abilities will be fruitful along with the wealth we possess is to share them with our brethren, showing ourselves to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Jesus says: "Whoever is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest also in much" (Luke 16:10-11).

The prophet Amos speaks about this fundamental choice to be performed day after day in today's first reading. With strong words, he stigmatizes a typical style of life of someone who lets themselves be drawn in by a selfish search for profit in every possible way and is transformed into a thirst for gain, a contempt for the poor and in exploitation of the poor for their own advantage (cf. Amos 4:5). The Christian must energetically reject all of this, opening his heart, on the contrary, to feelings of authentic generosity. A generosity that, as St. Paul tells us in today's second reading, is expressed in a sincere love for all and is manifested in the first place in prayer. A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others.

The Apostle invites us first of all to pray for those who carry out tasks of responsibility in the civil community, because -- he explains -- from their decisions, if they tend toward the common good, result in positive consequences, ensuring peace and "a calm and tranquil life with piety and dignity" for all (1 Timothy 2:2). Our prayer is just as valuable, a spiritual support for the edification of an ecclesial community faithful to Christ and to the construction of a more just and supportive society.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray, in a special way so that your diocesan community, that is undergoing a series of transformations, because of the transfer of many young families out of Rome, the development of the service industry and the arrival of many immigrants in town centers, may lead to an ever increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the indications that your bishop is offering with outstanding pastoral sensitivity.

To this end, his pastoral letter of last December proved to be very opportune with an invitation to attentive and persevering listening to God's word, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of the Church.

We place in the Madonna of Grace's hands, whose image is kept and venerated in this your beautiful cathedral, all of your intentions and pastoral projects. May the maternal protection of Mary accompany the journey of all of you present here and of those who were unable to participate in today's Eucharistic celebration. In a special way, may the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, the children and anyone who feels alone or abandoned or is in particular need. Free us Mary from the greed of wealth, and make it so that lifting our free and pure hands, we can give glory to God with our life (cf. Offertory Prayer). Amen!

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Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops

"Never Cease Praying for New Vocations"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2007, (Zenit.org).- 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.

* * *

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.

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On Wealth and Poverty
"Equal Distribution of Goods Is a Priority"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2007, (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

This morning I visited the Diocese of Velletri of which I was the titular cardinal for several years. It was a familial encounter, which permitted me to relive past moments rich with spiritual and pastoral experiences. During the solemn Eucharistic celebration, in speaking about the liturgical texts, I was able to reflect on the correct use of earthly goods, a theme that St. Luke the evangelist, in various ways, has brought to our attention over the last few Sundays.

In the parable of the dishonest, yet sharp steward, Christ teaches his disciples the best way to use money and material riches; share them with the poor and in this way earn their friendship, in view of the Kingdom of heaven. "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon," says Jesus, "so that when it fails they may receive your into the eternal habitations" (Luke 16:9).

Money is not "dishonest" in itself, but more than anything else it can close man up within a blind egoism. What is needed therefore is a sort of "conversion" of economic goods: Instead of using them for one's own interests, we need to also think of the necessities of the poor, imitating Christ himself, who, wrote St. Paul, "Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). It seems to be a paradox: Christ did not enrich us with his wealth, but with his poverty, that is with his love that motivated him to give himself completely to us.

This could open up a vast and complex field of reflection on the theme of wealth and poverty, even on the world stage, in which two rationales regarding economics come face to face: the logic of profit and that of the equal distribution of goods, and one does not contradict the other, provided that their relationship is well-ordered. Catholic social doctrine has always sustained that the equal distribution of goods is a priority. Profit is naturally legitimate and, in a just measure, necessary for economic development.

John Paul II wrote in "Centesimus Annus": "The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in the economic field, just as it is exercised in many other fields (No. 32). However, he adds, capitalism is not considered the only valid model of economic organization (No. 35). The crises of hunger and the environment are denouncing, with growing evidence, that the logic of profit, if it prevails, increases the disproportion between rich and poor and a harmful exploitation of the planet. When the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails on the other hand, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional and sustainable development.

Mary Most Holy, who in the Magnificat proclaims: the Lord "has fed the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Luke 1:53), help all Christians to use with evangelical wisdom, that is, with generous solidarity, earthly goods, and inspire governments and economists with farsighted strategies that favor the authentic progress of all peoples.

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Pope's Address to Centrist Democrat International
"When Justice Is Compromised, Peace Itself Is Jeopardized"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the participants of a meeting of the Centrist Democrat International (IDC) political party at Castel Gandolfo.

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Mister President,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you during the conference of the Executive Committee of Centrist Democratic International, and I extend cordial greetings to the Delegates present from many nations throughout the world. I thank your President, the Honourable Pier Ferdinando Casini, for the kind words of greeting he has offered to me on your behalf. Your visit gives me an opportunity to bring to your attention some of the values and ideals that have been moulded and deepened in a decisive way by the Christian tradition in Europe and throughout the world.

Notwithstanding your different backgrounds, I know that you share several basic principles of this tradition, such as the centrality of the human person, a respect for human rights, a commitment to peace and the promotion of justice for all. You appeal to fundamental principles, which, as history has shown, are closely interconnected. In effect, when human rights are violated, the dignity of the human person suffers; when justice is compromised, peace itself is jeopardized. On the other hand, justice is truly human only when the ethical and moral vision grounding it is centred on the human person and his inalienable dignity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your activity, inspired by these principles, is subject to increasing challenges today due to the profound changes taking place in your respective communities. For this reason, I wish to encourage you to persevere in your efforts to serve the common good, taking it upon yourselves to prevent the dissemination and entrenchment of ideologies which obscure and confuse consciences by promoting an illusory vision of truth and goodness. In the economic sphere, for example, there is a tendency to view financial gain as the only good, thus eroding the internal ethos of commerce to the point that even profit margins suffer. There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity. There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman. Experience has shown that when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.

Another cause highly esteemed by all of you is the defence of religious liberty, which is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable right rooted in the dignity of every human being and acknowledged by various international documents, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The exercise of this freedom also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice. In fact, religious liberty corresponds to the human person's innate openness to God, who is the fullness of truth and the supreme good. An appreciation for religious freedom is a fundamental expression of respect for human reason and its capacity to know the truth. Openness to transcendence is an indispensable guarantee of human dignity since within every human heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfilment in God alone. For this reason, God can never be excluded from the horizon of man and world history! That is why all authentically religious traditions must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.

Moreover, due respect for religion helps to counter the charge that society has forgotten God: an accusation shamelessly exploited by some terrorist networks in an attempt to justify their threats against global security. Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in God's name and harbour an inexcusable contempt for human life. Society naturally has a right to defend itself, but this right must be exercised with complete respect for moral and legal norms, including the choice of ends and means. In democratic systems, the use of force in a manner contrary to the principles of a constitutional State can never be justified. Indeed, how can we claim to protect democracy if we threaten its very foundations? Consequently, it is necessary both to keep careful watch over the security of civil society and its citizens while at the same time safeguarding the inalienable rights of all. Terrorism needs to be fought with determination and effectiveness, mindful that if the mystery of evil is widespread today, the solidarity of mankind in goodness is an even more pervasive mystery.

In this regard, the social teaching of the Catholic Church offers some points for reflection on how to promote security and justice both at the national and international levels. This teaching is based on reason, natural law and the Gospel: that is, principles that both accord with and transcend the nature of every human being. The Church knows that it is not her specific task to see to the political implementation of this teaching: her objective is to help form consciences in political life, to raise awareness of the authentic requirements of justice, and to foster a greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 28). In this her mission, the Church is moved only by love for humanity and the desire to work together with all people of goodwill to build a world in which the dignity and inalienable rights of all persons will be safeguarded. For those of you who share a faith in Christ, the Church asks you to bear witness to that faith today with even greater courage and generosity. The integrity of Christians in political life is indeed more necessary than ever so that the "salt" of apostolic zeal does not lose its "flavour", and so that the "lamp" of Gospel values enlightening the daily work of Christians is not obscured by pragmatism or utilitarianism, suspicion or hate.

Your Excellencies, I thank you once again for this welcome opportunity to meet with you. Wishing you success in your respective missions, I assure all of you of a remembrance in my prayers, that Almighty God may bless you and your families, and that you may receive the wisdom, integrity and moral strength to serve the great and noble cause of human dignity.

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On St. John Chrysostom's Antioch Years
"His Is an Exquisitely Pastoral Theology"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. John Chrysostom.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This year marks the 16th centenary of the death of St. John Chrysostom (407-2007). John of Antioch was called Chrysostom, "golden-mouthed,” for his eloquence. It could be said he is still alive today through his written works. An anonymous copyist wrote that his works "go across the globe like lighting." His writings enable us -- as they did for the faithful of his time, who were repeatedly deprived of him because of his exiles -- to live with his books, despite his absence. This was the advice he himself gave in one of his letters written from exile (cf. "To Olympia, Letter” 8:45).

Born around the year 349 in Antioch in Syria (modern-day Antakya, in south Turkey), he carried out his priestly ministry for about 11 years. In 397, he was appointed bishop of Constantinople. He exercised the episcopal ministry in the capital of the empire, before his two exiles which happened within a few years of each other, between 403 and 407. Today we limit ourselves to considering Chrysostom's years in Antioch.

Orphaned by his father at a young age, he lived with his mother, Anthusa, who instilled in him an exquisite human sensitivity and a profound Christian faith. He completed his elementary and higher studies, crowned by courses in philosophy and rhetoric. Libanius, a pagan, was his teacher. At his school, John became the greatest orator of late Ancient Greece. Baptized in 368 and formed in the ecclesiastical life by Bishop Meletius, he was ordained as a lector by him in 371. This marked Chrysostom's official entrance into the ecclesiastical "cursus." He attended, from 367-372, the "Asceterium," a kind of seminary in Antioch, together with a group of young men, some of whom later became bishops, under the guidance of the famous exegete Diodorus of Tarsus, who taught John historical-literal exegesis, characteristic of the Antiochian tradition.

He retreated for four years among the hermitages on nearby Mount Silpius. And then he continued his retreat for another two years, living alone in a grotto under the guidance of an "elder." During that time he dedicated himself entirely to meditating on "the laws of Christ," the Gospels and especially Paul's letters. Falling ill, he found it impossible to take care of himself, and therefore he returned to the Christian community of Antioch (cf. Palladium, "Life” 5).

The Lord -- a biographer explains -- intervened at the right time to enable John to follow his true vocation. In effect, he himself would write that if he had to choose between the crosses of governing the Church or the tranquility of the monastic life, he would have preferred pastoral service a thousand times over (cf. "On the Priesthood," 6:7): Chrysostom felt called to this.

And here we see the decisive turning point of his vocation story: full-time pastor of souls! Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated during the years in the hermitage, matured in him the irresistible urgency to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he received during years of meditation. The ideal missionary was thus launched, a soul afire, into pastoral care.

Between 378 and 379 he returned to the city. Ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, he became a celebrated preacher in the churches of his city. He gave homilies against the Arians, followed by those commemorating the martyrs of Antioch and others on principal liturgical feasts: constituting a great teaching of faith in Christ, in light of his saints.

The year 387 was John's "heroic year," the so-called statue revolt. The people knocked down the imperial statues, as a sign of protest against tax increases. During those days of Lent and anguish because of the emperor's punishments, he gave his 22 vibrant "Homilies on Statues," directed toward penance and conversion. What followed was a period of serene pastoral care (387-397).

Chrysostom is counted among the most prolific Fathers, having written 17 treatises, 700 authentic homilies, commentaries on Matthew and Paul (Letters to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Ephesians and to the Hebrews), and 241 letters. He was not a speculative theologian. However he transmitted the traditional and certain doctrine of the Church in an age of theological controversies caused above all by Arianism, that is, by the negation of Christ's divinity. He is therefore a trustworthy witness of the dogmatic development of the Church in the fourth-fifth century.

His is an exquisitely pastoral theology, in which there is constant concern for the coherence between the thought expressed by the word and lived existence. It is this, in particular, the common thread of the splendid catecheses, with which he prepared the catechumens to receive baptism. Just before he died, he wrote that man's value is found in the "exact knowledge of true doctrine and in rectitude of life” ("Letter From Exile”). The two things, knowledge of the truth and rectitude of life, go together: Knowledge must become life. Every one of his discourses aimed at developing in the faithful the exercise of intelligence, of true reason, in order to understand and put into practice moral needs and precepts of the faith.

John Chrysostom tried to assist, through his writings, the integral development of the person, in the physical, intellectual and religious dimension. The various phases of growth are comparable to as many seas in an immense ocean.

"The first of these seas is infancy” (Homily 81:5 "On the Gospel of Matthew”). Therefore "in this first stage inclinations to vice and virtue begin to show." That is why God's law must be impressed on the soul from the beginning "as on a table of wax” (Homily 3:1 "On the Gospel of John”). In fact this is the most important age. We must be aware how important it is that in this first phase of life the major orientations that give the right perspective to existence truly enter into man. Chrysostom therefore recommends: "From a very young age, arm children with spiritual weapons, and teach them to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads” (Homily 12:7 "On the First Letter to the Corinthians”).

Then follows adolescence and boyhood: "The sea of adolescence follows that of childhood, where violent winds blow … because concupiscence grows within us” (Homily 81:5 "On the Gospel of Matthew”).

Lastly there is engagement and marriage: "After boyhood comes the age of maturity, in which the duties of family life abound: It is the time to look for a wife” (ibid). He recalls the goals of marriage, enriching them -- with an appeal to the virtue of temperance -- with a rich tapestry of personalized relationships. Spouses who are well prepared block, in this way, the road to divorce: Everything is carried out joyfully and one can educate their children to virtue. When the first child is born, this is "like a bridge; the three become one flesh, so that the child links the two parts (Homily 12:5 "On the Letter to the Colossians”), and the three make up "one family, a little Church” (Homily 20:6 "On the Letter to the Ephesians”).

Chrysostom's preaching took place regularly during the liturgy, the "place” in which the community is built up by the word and the Eucharist. Here the assembly, gathered together, expresses the only Church (Homily 8:7 "On the Letter to the Romans”), the same word is addressed to everyone in every place (Homily 24:2 "On the First Letter to the Corinthians”), and the Eucharistic Communion becomes an efficacious sign of unity (Homily 32:7 "On the Gospel of St. Matthew”).

His pastoral project was inserted into the life of the Church, in which the lay faithful, through baptism, assume the priestly, kingly and prophetic office. To the lay faithful he said: "Baptism also makes you king, priest and prophet” (Homily 3:5 "On the Second Letter to the Corinthians”). From this comes the Church's fundamental task of mission, because each one in some way is responsible for the salvation of others: "This is the principle of our social life … to think not just of ourselves!” (Homily 9:2 "On Genesis”). Everything takes place between these two poles: the big Church and the "little Church," the family, in a reciprocal relationship.

As you can see, dear brothers and sisters, this lesson of Chrysostom on the authentically Christian presence of the lay faithful in the family and in society, is important today more than ever. Let us pray that the Lord render us docile to the lessons of this great teacher of the faith.


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Papal Homily in Loreto
"Jesus Has a Fondness for Young People"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Sept. 2 homily at the Mass celebrated with youth in Loreto, Italy.

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Plain of Montorso
Sunday, 2 September 2007

After last night's Vigil, our Meeting in Loreto is now coming to an end around the altar with the solemn Eucharistic celebration. Once again, my most cordial greeting to you all. I extend a special greeting to the Bishops and I thank Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco who has expressed your common sentiments. I greet the Archbishop of Loreto who has welcomed us with affection and kindness. I greet the priests, the men and women religious and all those who have carefully prepared this important event of faith. I offer a respectful greeting to the Civil and Military Authorities present, with a particular remembrance for Hon. Mr Francesco Rutelli, Vice-President of the Council of Ministers.

This is truly a day of grace! The Readings we have just heard help us to understand the marvellous work the Lord has done in bringing so many of us here to Loreto, to meet in a joyful atmosphere of prayer and festivity. In a certain sense, our gathering at the Virgin's Shrine fulfils the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God". Celebrating the Eucharist in the shadow of the Holy House, we too come to the "festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven". Thus, we can experience the joy of having come "to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect". With Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, let us above all go to meet "the Mediator of a New Covenant", Our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 12:22-24). The Heavenly Father, who in many and various ways spoke to our fathers (cf. Heb 1:1), offering his Covenant and often encountering resistance and rejection, desired in the fullness of time to make a new, definitive and irrevocable agreement with human beings, sealing it with the Blood of his Only-Begotten Son, who died and rose for the salvation of all humanity. Jesus Christ, God made man, took on our own flesh in Mary, participated in our life and chose to share in our history. To realize his Covenant God sought a young heart and he found it in Mary, "a young woman".

God also seeks young people today. He seeks young people with great hearts who can make room for him in their lives to be protagonists of the New Covenant. To accept a proposal as fascinating as the one Jesus offers us, to make the covenant with him, it is necessary to be youthful within, to be capable of letting oneself be called into question by his newness, to set out with him on new roads. Jesus has a fondness for young people, as the conversation with the rich young man clearly shows (cf. Mt 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22); he respects their freedom but never tires of proposing loftier goals for life to them: the newness of the Gospel and the beauty of holy behaviour. Following her Lord's example, the Church continues to show the same attention. This is why, dear young people, she looks at you with immense affection, she is close to you in moments of joy and festivity, in trials and in loss. She sustains you with the gifts of sacramental grace and accompanies you in the discernment of your vocation. Dear young people, let yourselves be involved in the new life that flows from the encounter with Christ and you will be able to be apostles of his peace in your families, among your friends, within your Ecclesial Communities and in the various milieus in which you live and work.

But what is it that makes people "young" in the Gospel sense? Our Meeting, which is taking place in the shadow of a Marian Shrine, invites us to look to Our Lady. Let us therefore ask ourselves: How did Mary spend her youth? Why was it that in her the impossible became possible? She herself reveals it to us in the Canticle of the Magnificat. God "regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" (Lk 1:48a). It was Mary's humility that God appreciated more than anything else in her. And it is precisely of humility that the other two Readings of today's liturgy speak to us. Is it not a happy coincidence that this message is addressed to us exactly here in Loreto? Here, we think spontaneously of the Holy House of Nazareth, which is the Shrine of humility: the humility of God who took flesh, who made himself small, and the humility of Mary who welcomed him into her womb; the humility of the Creator and the humility of the creature. Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born from this encounter of humility. "The greater you are, the more you humble yourself, so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord. For great is the might of the Lord" (3:18-20) says the passage in Sirach; and in the Gospel, after the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus concludes: "Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk 14:11). Today, this perspective mentioned in the Scriptures appears especially provocative to the culture and sensitivity of contemporary man. The humble person is perceived as someone who gives up, someone defeated, someone who has nothing to say to the world. Instead, this is the principal way, and not only because humility is a great human virtue but because, in the first place, it represents God's own way of acting. It was the way chosen by Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, who "being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8).

Dear young people, I seem to perceive in these words of God about humility an important message which is especially current for you who want to follow Christ and belong to his Church. This is the message: do not follow the way of pride but rather that of humility. Go against the tide: do not listen to the interested and persuasive voices that today are peddling on many sides models of life marked by arrogance and violence, by oppression and success at any cost, by appearances and by having at the expense of being. How many messages, which reach you especially through the mass media, are targeting you! Be alert! Be critical! Do not follow the wave produced by this powerful, persuasive action. Do not be afraid, dear friends, to prefer the "alternative" routes pointed out by true love: a modest and sound lifestyle; sincere and pure emotional relationships; honest commitment in studies and work; deep concern for the common good. Do not be afraid of seeming different and being criticized for what might seem to be losing or out of fashion; your peers but adults too, especially those who seem more distant from the mindset and values of the Gospel, are crying out to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity revealed by Jesus Christ.

Therefore, dear friends, the way of humility is not the way of renunciation but that of courage. It is not the result of a defeat but the result of a victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility; we must entrust ourselves humbly to the Lord, because only in this way will we be able to become docile instruments in his hands and allow him to do great things in us. The Lord worked great miracles in Mary and in the Saints! I am thinking, for example, of Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena, Patrons of Italy. I am thinking also of splendid young people like St Gemma Galgani, St Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, St Louis Gonzaga, St Dominic Savio, St Maria Goretti, born not far from here, and the Blesseds, Piergiorgio Frassati and Alberto Marvelli. And I am also thinking of numerous young men and women who belong to the ranks of the "anonymous" Saints, but who are not anonymous to God. For him, every individual person is unique, with his or her own name and face. All, and you know it, are called to be Saints!

As you see, dear young people, the humility the Lord has taught us and to which the Saints have borne witness, each according to the originality of his or her own vocation, is quite different from a renunciatory way of life. Let us look above all at Mary. At her school, we too, like her, can experience that "yes" of God to humanity from which flow all the "yeses" of our life. It is true, the challenges you must face are many and important. The first however, is always that of following Christ to the very end without reservations and compromises. And following Christ means feeling oneself a living part of his body which is the Church. One cannot call oneself a disciple of Jesus if one does not love and obey his Church. The Church is our family in which love for the Lord and for our brothers and sisters, especially through participation in the Eucharist, enables us to experience the joy of already having a foretaste, now, of the future life that will be totally illuminated by Love. May our daily commitment be to live here below as though we were already in Heaven above.

Thus, feeling oneself as Church is a vocation to holiness for all; it is a daily commitment to build communion and unity, overcoming all resistance and rising above every incomprehension. In the Church we learn to love, teaching ourselves to accept our neighbour freely, to show caring attention to those in difficulty, to the poor and to the lowliest. The fundamental motivation that unites believers in Christ is not success but goodness, a goodness that is all the more authentic the more it is shared, and which does not primarily consist in having or in being powerful, but in being. In this way one builds the city of God with human beings, a city which at the same time grows on earth and comes down from Heaven because it develops in the encounter and collaboration between people and God (cf. Rv 21:2-3).

Following Christ, dear young people, also entails the constant effort to make one's own contribution to building a society that is more just and sober and in which all may enjoy the goods of the earth.
I know that many of you are generously dedicated to witnessing to your faith in the various social environments, active as volunteers and working to promote the common good, peace and justice in every community. There is no doubt that one of the fields in which it seems urgent to take action is that of safeguarding creation. The future of the planet is entrusted to the new generations, in which there are evident signs of a development that has not always been able to protect the delicate balances of nature. Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that can recreate a strong alliance between humankind and the earth. A decisive "yes" is needed to protect creation and also a strong commitment to invert those trends which risk leading to irreversibly degrading situations. I therefore appreciated the Italian Church's initiative to encourage sensitivity to the problems of safeguarding creation by establishing a National Day, which occurs precisely on 1 September. This year attention is focused above all on water, a very precious good which, if it is not shared fairly and peacefully, will unfortunately become a cause of harsh tensions and bitter conflicts.

Dear young friends, after listening to your reflections yesterday evening and last night, letting myself be guided by God's Word, I now want to entrust to you my considerations which are intended as a paternal encouragement to follow Christ in order to be witnesses of his hope and love. For my part, I will continue to be beside you with my prayers and affection, so that you may persevere enthusiastically on the journey of the Agora, this unique triennial journey of listening, dialogue and mission. Today, concluding the first year with this wonderful Meeting, I cannot fail to invite you to look ahead already to the great event of World Youth Day that will be held in July next year in Sydney. I ask you to prepare yourselves for this important manifestation of youthful faith by meditating on the Message which examines in depth the theme of the Holy Spirit, to live together a new springtime of the Spirit. Therefore, I am expecting many of you even in Australia, at the end of your second year of the Agora. Lastly, let us turn our gaze, our eyes, once again to Mary, model of humility and courage. Virgin of Nazareth, help us to be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, as you were; help us to become ever more holy, disciples in love with your Son Jesus; sustain and guide these young people so that they may be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their peers in every corner of Italy. Amen!

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Papal Message on Cardinal Van Thuân
"We Remember Him With Great Admiration"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received in audience at Castel Gandolfo the officials and collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

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Cardinal,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopacy and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

I cordially welcome all of you, gathered to remember Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who the Lord called to himself five years ago on Sept. 16. Five years have passed, but the noble figure of this faithful servant of the Lord is still alive in our hearts and minds. I too have many personal memories of the meetings I had with him during his years of service here, in the Roman Curia.

I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with their collaborators. I greet the members of the St. Matthew Foundation established in memory of Cardinal Van Thuân, of the International Observatory, which bears his name, created to spread the Church's social doctrine, along with the relatives and friends of the deceased cardinal. To Cardinal Martino I express lively sentiments of gratitude for his greeting in the name of all those present.

I gladly take this occasion to recall, once more, the luminous witness of faith that this heroic pastor left us. Bishop Francis Xavier -- as he liked to introduce himself -- was called to the house of the Father during the autumn of 2002, after a long period of sickness that he faced with total abandonment to God's will. Years before he had been named by my venerable predecessor John Paul II as vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of which he was later named president, setting in motion the publication of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

How can we forget the outstanding marks of his simple and quick cordiality? How can we not highlight his ability to dialogue and to become everyone's neighbor? We remember him with great admiration, while recalling the great visions, full of hope, which animated him and which he knew how to propose in an easy and riveting way; his fervent effort to spread the Church's social doctrine among the world's poor, how he yearned for the evangelization of his continent, Asia, the ability he had to coordinate the activities of charity and human promotion that he promoted and sustained in the remotest corners of the earth.

Cardinal Van Thuân was a man of hope; he lived hope and spread it among everyone he met. It was because of this spiritual energy that he resisted all his physical and moral difficulties. Hope sustained him as a bishop when he was isolated for 13 years from his diocesan community; hope helped him to see beyond the absurdity of the events that happened to him -- he was never put on trial during his long imprisonment -- a providential plan of God. The news of his sickness, a tumor, which led to his death, reached him almost at the same time as his elevation to cardinal by John Paul II, who held him in great esteem and affection. Cardinal Van Thuân loved to repeat that the Christian is a man of hour, of the now, beginning from the present moment to welcome and live with Christ's love. In this ability to live the present moment his intimate abandonment in God’s hands shines through as does the evangelical simplicity which we all admired in him. Is it possible -- he would ask -- that he who trusts in the Father would refuse to let himself be embraced in his arms?

Dear brothers and sisters I welcomed with profound joy the news that the cause for beatification of this singular prophet of Christian hope has begun and, while we entrust this chosen soul to the Lord, we pray that his example will be for us a valuable teaching. With that, I bless you all from my heart.

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Pope's Message for Catholic-Orthodox Symposium
"We All Look With Hope" Toward Full Communion

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Sept. 12 message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on the occasion of the 10th Inter-Christian Symposium, dedicated to dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

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With great joy I learned that the Tenth Inter-Christian Symposium, promoted by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical Antonianum University and by the Department of Theology of the Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, will take place on the Island of Tinos, where Catholics and Orthodox live together in brotherly love.

The ecumenical cooperation in the academic field contributes to maintaining an impetus toward the longed for communion among all Christians. To this regard, the Second Vatican Council had glimpsed in this field a possible opportunity to involve all of God's people in the search for full unity. "This importance is the greater because the instruction and spiritual formation of the faithful and of religious depends so largely on the formation which their priests have received" ("Unitatis Redintegratio," 10).

The theme of the symposium: "St. John Chrysostom: Bridge Between East and West," coinciding with the 1,600th anniversary of his death on Sept. 14, 497, will offer the occasion to commemorate an illustrious Father of the Church venerated in the East as in the West -- a valiant, illuminated and faithful preacher of the Word of God, upon which he founded his pastoral action; such an extraordinary hermeneutist and speaker that, from the fifth century, he was given the title of Chrysostom, which means golden-mouthed. A man whose contribution to the formation of the Byzantine liturgy is known to everyone.

For the courage and faithfulness of his evangelical witness he was able to suffer persecution and exile. After complex historical events, from May 1, 1626, his body reposed in St. Peter's Basilica, and on Nov. 27, 2004, my venerated predecessor John Paul II gave part of the relics to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and, thus, this great Father of the Church is now venerated in the Vatican basilica as well as in the Church of St. George in Fanar.

The reflection of your symposium, which will deal with a theme related to John Chrysostom and communion with the Church of the West while analyzing some problems that exist today, will contribute to upholding and corroborating the real -- though imperfect -- communion that exists between Catholics and Orthodox, so that we may reach that fullness which will one day enable us to concelebrate the one Eucharist. And it is to that blessed day that we all look with hope, organizing practical initiatives such as this one.

With these sentiments, I invoke God's abundant blessing upon your meeting and all of the participants: May the Holy Spirit illuminate the minds, warm the hearts and fill each one with the joy and peace of the Lord.

I would like to take this opportunity to send a brotherly greeting to the Orthodox and Catholic faithful in Greece, and in a truly special way, to the archbishop of Athens and all Greece, His Beatitude Chrystodoulos, wishing him a full recovery in health, so that he may return to his pastoral service as soon as possible, and I assure my prayers for this intention. May the "Theotokos," loved and venerated with special devotion on the island of Tinos, offer her motherly intercession so that our shared intentions will be crowned by the much wished for spiritual successes.

From Castel Gandolfo, Sept. 12, 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Parables of Mercy
"The Road That Jesus Shows"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy re-proposes for our meditation the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, one of the high points and one of the most moving of all pages of sacred Scripture. It is beautiful to think that wherever in the whole world the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, there resounds on this day this good news of truth and of salvation: God is merciful love. The evangelist Luke has gathered together three parables of divine mercy in this chapter. The two shorter ones that are also found in Matthew and Mark are those of the lost sheep and the lost coin; the third one -- long, detailed and unique to Luke’s Gospel -- is the celebrated parable of the merciful Father, typically referred to as the "parable of the prodigal son."

In this page of the Gospel it seems as though we can almost hear the voice of Jesus, who reveals the countenance of his Father and our Father. At bottom, this is what he came into the world for: To speak to us of the Father; to make him known to us, lost children, and to reawaken in our hearts the joy of belonging to him, the hope of being forgiven and restored to our full dignity, the desire to live in his house forever, the house that is also our house.

Jesus recounted the three parables of mercy because the Pharisees and the scribes spoke ill of him, seeing that he allowed sinners to draw near to him and he even ate with them (cf. Luke 15:1-3). Thus, he explained, with his usual language, that God does not want even one of his children to be lost and his soul overflows with joy when a sinner converts. True religion therefore consists in being in tune with this heart "rich in mercy," which asks us to love everyone, even those who are distant and those who are our enemies, imitating the heavenly Father who respects everyone’s freedom and draws all to himself with the invincible force of his fidelity. This is the road that Jesus shows to those who want to be his disciples: "Do not judge … do not condemn … forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you … be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful" (Luke 6:36-38). In these parables we find very concrete indications for our daily conduct as believers.

In our time, humanity needs the mercy of God to be vigorously proclaimed and witnessed to. The beloved John Paul II, who was a great apostle of divine mercy, intuited this pastoral urgency. He dedicated his second encyclical to the merciful Father and throughout his pontificate he was a missionary of mercy to all nations. After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, which obscured the dawn of the third millennium, he invited Christians and men of good will to believe that God’s mercy is stronger than every evil and that in the cross of Christ there is found the salvation of the world. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, whom we contemplated yesterday as the sorrowful one at the foot of the cross, obtain for us the gift of always trusting in the love of God, and may she help us to be merciful as our Father in heaven.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo in Italian, saying:]

This morning in Poland, at the shrine of Lichen, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state, in my name proclaimed as blessed Father Stanislao Papczynski, founder of the Congregation of Marian Clerics. I address a cordial greeting to the faithful gathered together for this happy occasion and to the many people who are devoted to this newly beatified son of the Church in whom they venerate a priest who was exemplary in preaching, in the formation of the laity, a father of the poor and an apostle of intercessory prayer for the dead.

And also this morning in Bordeaux, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, in my name proclaimed as blessed Sister Marie Celine of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a professed nun of the Second Order of St. Francis. She wanted her life, which was marked by the cross, to be a sign of Christ’s love, as she herself said: "I thirst to be a rose of charity."

I would also like to mention Father Basile Antoine-Marie Moreau, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who was beatified yesterday in Le Mans by Cardinal Saraiva Martins. I entrust in a special way to the intercession of these newly beatified their spiritual sons and daughters, that they follow with ardor the luminous testimony of the prophets of God, who is Lord of every life.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the "Montreal Protocol" on the substances that deplete the ozone layer, causing grave damage for human beings and the ecosystem. In the last two decades, thanks to exemplary collaboration between politicians, scientists and economists within the international community, important results have been obtained with positive repercussions on present and future generations. I desire that, on the part of everyone, cooperation intensify to the end of promoting the common good, development, and the safeguarding of creation, returning to the alliance between man and the environment, which must be a mirror of God the Creator, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.

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Pope's Address to New Irish Ambassador
"The Church Serves All Members of Society"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's address Saturday upon receiving the letters of credence of the new Irish ambassador to the Holy See, Noel Fahey.


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Your Excellency,

1. It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ireland to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to your President, Mrs Mary McAleese, and to the Government and people of your country my gratitude for their good wishes. I warmly reciprocate them and assure the citizens of your nation of my prayers for their spiritual well-being.

2. As Your Excellency has observed, for over sixteen hundred years Christianity has shaped the cultural, moral and spiritual identity of the Irish people. This is not simply a matter of historical importance. It lies at the heart of Irish civilization and it remains as a ‘leaven’ in the life of your nation. Indeed, the Christian faith has lost nothing of its significance for contemporary society since it touches "man’s deepest sphere" and gives "meaning to his life in the world" ("Redemptor Hominis," 10), enabling both civic and religious leaders to uphold the absolute values and ideals inherent in the dignity of every person and necessary for every democracy.

3. In recent years Ireland has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth. This prosperity has undoubtedly brought material comfort to many, but in its wake secularism has also begun to encroach and leave its mark. Against the backdrop of these developments, I was interested to learn of the recent launch of a ‘structured dialogue’ between the Church and the Government. I applaud the initiative. Some might question whether the Church is entitled to make a contribution to the governance of a nation. In a pluralist democratic society should not faith and religion be restricted to the private sphere? The historical rise of brutal totalitarian regimes, contemporary scepticism in the face of political rhetoric, and a growing uneasiness with the lack of ethical points of reference governing recent scientific advances -- one need only think of the field of bio-engineering -- all point to the imperfections and limitations found within both individuals and society. Recognition of those imperfections indicates the importance of a rediscovery of moral and ethical principles, and the need both to recognize the limits of reason and to understand its essential relationship of complementarity with faith and religion.

The Church, in articulating revealed truth, serves all members of society by shedding light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths and draws upon wisdom. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, or usurping the role of the State, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable. When truth is disregarded, relativism takes its place: instead of being governed by principles, political choices are determined more and more by public opinion, values are overshadowed by procedures and targets, and indeed the very categories of good and evil, and right and wrong, give way to the pragmatic calculation of advantage and disadvantage.

4. The Northern Ireland Peace Process has been a long and arduous endeavour. At last, there is hope that it will bear enduring fruit. Peace has been achieved through widespread international support, determined political resolve on the part of both the Irish and the British Governments, and the readiness of individuals and communities to embrace the sublime human capacity to forgive. The entire international human family has taken heart from this outcome and welcomes this wave of hope sent across the world that conflict, no matter how engrained, can be overcome. It is my fervent prayer that the peace which is already bringing renewal to the North will inspire political and religious leaders in other troubled zones of our world to recognize that only upon forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect can lasting peace be built. To this end, I welcome your own Government’s commitment to deploy both experience and resources in the prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as its pledge to increase various forms of assistance to developing countries.

5. Your Excellency, like many nations around the globe, Ireland has in recent years made care of the environment one of its priorities in both domestic policy and international relations. The promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are indeed matters of grave importance for the entire human family, and no nation or business sector should ignore them. As scientific research demonstrates the worldwide effects that human actions can have on the environment, the complexity of the vital relationship between the ecology of the human person and the ecology of nature becomes increasingly apparent (cf. "Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace," 8).

The full understanding of this relationship is found in the natural and moral order with which God has created man and endowed the earth (ibid., 8-9). Curiously, while the majesty of God’s fingers in creation (cf. Ps 8:3) is readily recognized, the full acknowledgement of the glory and splendour with which he has specifically crowned man (cf. Ps 8:5) is at times less readily understood. A kind of split morality ensues. The great and vital moral themes of peace, non-violence, justice, and respect for creation do not in themselves confer dignity on man. The primary dimension of morality stems from the innate dignity of human life ) from the moment of conception to natural death ) a dignity conferred by God himself. God’s loving act of creation must be understood as a whole. How disturbing it is that not infrequently the very social and political groups that, admirably, are most attuned to the awe of God’s creation pay scant attention to the marvel of life in the womb. Let us hope that, especially among young people, emerging interest in the environment will deepen their understanding of the proper order and magnificence of God’s creation of which man and woman stand at the centre and summit.

6. Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Ireland and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the various offices of the Roman Curia are most ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God. 

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Pope's Address at Prayer Vigil in Loreto
"Christ Can Fill Your Heart's Deepest Aspirations"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address to the youth gathered in Loreto, Italy, on Sept. 1, for a prayer vigil.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Dear young people who are the hope of the Church in Italy! I am happy to meet you in this remarkable place, on this special evening, rich in prayer, song, periods of silence, full of hope and profound emotion. This valley, where in the past also my beloved Predecessor John Paul II met many of you, has henceforth become your agora, your square without walls and barriers, where a thousand streets converge and from which they branch out.

I listened with attention to those who have spoken on behalf of you all. You have come to this peaceful, authentic and joyful place of encounter for thousands of different reasons: some of you because you belong to a group or were invited by some friend, some by deep conviction, some with several doubts in your heart and some merely out of curiosity.... Whatever the reason that drew you here, I can tell you, although it requires courage to say it, that it was the Holy Spirit who has brought us together. Yes, that is exactly the case; the Spirit has led you here; you have come here with your doubts and certainties, with your joys and your anxieties. It is now up to all of us, to all of you, to open your hearts and offer everything to Jesus.

Say to him: here I am; of course, I am not yet as you would like me to be, I cannot even manage to understand myself fully but with your help I am ready to follow you. Lord Jesus, this evening I would like to speak to you, making my own the inner attitude and trusting abandonment of that young woman who, 2,000 years ago, said her "yes" to the Father who chose her to be your Mother. The Father chose her because she was docile and obedient to his will. Like her, like little Mary, each one of you, dear young friends, should say to God with faith: "Here I am; let it be done to me according to your word".

What an amazing spectacle of young and stirring faith we are experiencing this evening! And this evening, thanks to you, Loreto has become the spiritual capital of youth; the centre towards which multitudes of the young people who populate the five Continents converge in spirit.

At this moment, we feel as though we were surrounded by the expectations and hopes of millions of young people across the world: at this very minute there are some who are watching, others who are asleep, yet others who are studying or working; some are hoping and some despairing, some believe and others are not able to believe, some love life and others, instead, are throwing it away.

I would like my words to reach them all: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pain, and he especially shares in the most intimate hopes that are in your soul. For each one of you he asks the Lord for the gift of a full and happy life, a life filled with meaning, a true life.

Today, unfortunately, all too often a full and happy existence is seen by many young people as a difficult dream -- we heard so many testimonies -- sometimes almost impossible to accomplish. So many of your peers are looking to the future with apprehension and ask many questions. Worried, they ask: How is it possible to be integrated in a society marked by a multitude of grave injustices and suffering? How should I react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can I give life full meaning?

With love and conviction, I repeat to you young people present here, and through you to your peers throughout the world: Do not be afraid, Christ can fill your heart's deepest aspirations! Are there dreams that cannot come true when it is God's Spirit who inspires and nourishes them in your heart? Can anything block our enthusiasm when we are united with Christ? Nothing and no one, the Apostle Paul would say, will ever separate us from God's love, in Christ Jesus Our Lord (cf. Rom 8: 35-39).

Let me tell you again this evening: if you stay united with Christ, each one of you will be able to do great things. This is why, dear friends, you must not be afraid to dream with your eyes open of important projects of good and you must not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties. Christ has confidence in you and wants you to be able to realize all your most noble and lofty dreams of genuine happiness. Nothing is impossible for those who trust in God and entrust themselves to him.

Look at the young Mary; the Angel proposed something truly inconceivable to her: participation, in the most involving way possible, in the greatest of God's plans, the salvation of humanity. Facing this proposal, Mary, as we heard in the Gospel, was distressed for she realized the smallness of her being before the omnipotence of God; and she asked herself: "How is it possible? Why should it be me?". Yet, ready to do the divine will, she promptly said her "yes" which changed her life and the history of all humanity. It is also thanks to her "yes" that we are meeting here this evening.

I ask myself and I ask you: can God's requests to us, however demanding they may seem, ever compare with what God asked the young Mary? Dear young men and women, since Mary truly knows what it means to respond generously to the Lord's requests, let us learn from her to say our own "yes".

Mary, dear young people, knows your noblest and deepest aspirations. Above all, she well knows your great desire for love, with your need to love and to be loved. By looking at her, by following her docilely, you will discover the beauty of love; not a "disposable" love that is transient and deceptive, imprisoned in a selfish and materialistic mindset, but true, deep love.

In the very depths of their hearts, every young man, every young woman who are looking out on life, cherish the dream of a love that will give full meaning to their futures. For many, this is fulfilled in the choice of marriage and in the formation of a family in which the love between a man and a woman is lived as a definitive gift, sealed by the "yes" spoken before God on their wedding day, a "yes" for their whole life.

I know well that today this dream is always less easy to realize. How many failures of love surround us! How many couples bow their heads, give up and separate! How many families fall to pieces! How many young people, even among you, have witnessed the separation and divorce of their parents!

I would like to say to those in such sensitive and complex situations: the Mother of God, the Community of believers and the Pope are beside you and are praying that the crisis that marks today's families may not become an irreversible failure. May Christian families, with the support of divine Grace, stay faithful to that solemn commitment of love joyfully assumed before the priest and the Christian community on the solemn day of their marriage.

In the face of so many failures these questions are often asked: Am I any better than my friends and my parents who have tried and failed? Why should I myself succeed where so many have given up? This human fear can be daunting to even the more courageous spirits but in this night that awaits us, in front of her Holy House, Mary will repeat to each one of you, dear young friends, the words that she herself heard the Angel say to her: Do not be afraid, do not fear!

The Holy Spirit is with you and will never leave you. Nothing is impossible to those who trust in God. This applies for those who are destined to married life and still more for those to whom God proposes a life of total detachment from earthly goods, to be dedicated full time to his Kingdom. Some of you have set out towards the priesthood, towards the consecrated life; some of you aspire to be missionaries, knowing how many and what risks this entails.

I am thinking of the missionaries, priests, women religious and lay people, who have fallen in the trenches of love at the service of the Gospel. Fr Giancarlo Bossi, for whom we prayed when he was kidnapped in the Philippines, will have much to tell us about this and today we rejoice to have him with us. Through him, I would like to greet and thank all those who spend their lives for Christ on the frontiers of evangelization.

Dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live more intimately at his service, respond generously. You may be certain: life dedicated to God is never spent in vain.

Dear young people, I shall end my talk here, not without first having embraced you with a father's heart. I embrace you one by one and greet you warmly. I greet the Bishops present, starting with Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Archbishop Gianni Danzi who has welcomed us into his Ecclesial Community. I greet the priests, the Religious and the animators who have accompanied you. I greet the Civil Authorities and all who organized this Meeting. We will be "virtually" united later and we will see one another again tomorrow morning, at the end of this night of Vigil, for the crowning point of our Meeting when Jesus makes himself truly present in his Word and in the mystery of the Eucharist.

From this moment, I would like to make an appointment with you young people in Sydney where, in a year's time, the next World Youth Day will be held. I know Australia is far away and for young Italians it is literally at the other end of the world.... Let us pray that the Lord who works every miracle will grant that many of you may be there. May he grant it to me, may he grant it to you. This is one of our many dreams which tonight, as we pray together, we entrust to Mary. Amen.

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Pope's Address to New Slovak Ambassador
"Strong Societies Are Built on the Foundation of Strong Families"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's address Thursday upon receiving the letters of credence of the new Slovak ambassador to the Holy See, Jozef Dravecky.

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Your Excellency,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for the cordial greetings which you have brought to me from President Gašparovic(, and I ask you kindly to convey to him my own respectful greetings, together with my prayerful good wishes for the well-being and prosperity of the Republic. Indeed, the bonds uniting the Bishop of Rome to the people of your country stretch back to the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and your presence here today is but another example of the mutual respect and affection the Holy See and Slovakia have for one another.

Next year will mark the Fifteenth Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See. This cooperation has been especially fruitful in recent years, as evidenced by your Government’s ratification of two of the four items contained in the Basic Agreement signed in 2000. I am grateful for Your Excellency's reassurance that the Republic is committed to fulfilling the other two points of the Basic Agreement regarding conscientious objection and the financing of Church activities. In this regard, I reaffirm the Holy See's readiness to assist you and your colleagues in whatever way possible to bring these important matters to a successful conclusion.

A key approved item of the Basic Agreement, as noted by Your Excellency, concerns education. It is important that States continue to guarantee the Church the freedom to establish and administer Catholic schools, affording parents the opportunity to choose a means of education that fosters the Christian formation of their children. As they grasp Christian teaching, young people appreciate their personal dignity as creatures made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27), and thus recognize a purpose and direction for their lives. Indeed, a solid education that nourishes all the dimensions of the human person, including the religious and spiritual, is in the interest of both Church and State. In this way, young people can acquire habits that will enable them to embrace their civic duties as they enter adulthood.

The combined efforts of Church and civil society to instruct young people in the ways of goodness are all the more crucial at a time when they are tempted to disparage the values of marriage and family so vital to their future happiness and to a nation’s social stability. The family is the nucleus in which a person first learns human love and cultivates the virtues of responsibility, generosity and fraternal concern. Strong families are built on the foundation of strong marriages. Strong societies are built on the foundation of strong families. Indeed, all civic communities should do what they can to promote economic and social policies that aid young married couples and facilitate their desire to raise a family. Far from remaining indifferent to marriage, the State must acknowledge, respect and support this venerable institution as the stable union between a man and a woman who willingly embrace a life-long commitment of love and fidelity (cf. "Familiaris Consortio," 40). The members of your National Council are engaged in serious discussions on how to promote marriage and foster family life. The Catholic Bishops, too, in your country are worried about increases in the rate of divorce and the number of children conceived out of wedlock. Thanks to the efforts of the Council for Family and Youth, the Conference of Bishops has expanded educational initiatives that raise awareness of the noble vocation to marriage, thus preparing young people to assume its responsibilities. Such programmes open the door to further collaboration between Church and State and help to ensure a healthy future for your country.

As the Republic strives to achieve social progress at home, she also looks beyond her borders towards the wider international community. The rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Slovakia holds great potential for revitalizing the soul of the European continent. Your Excellency has drawn attention to the heroic sacrifices made by countless men and women in your nation’s history who, in times of persecution, laboured at great cost to preserve the right to life, religious liberty, and the freedom to place oneself at the charitable service of one’s neighbour (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 28). Such essential values are imperative to building a peaceful and just European Union. I am confident that the celebrations marking the 1150th Anniversary of Saints Cyril and Methodius will renew Slovakia’s vigour to bear witness to these timeless values. In this way, she will inspire other member States of the European Union to strive for unity while recognizing diversity, to respect national sovereignty while engaging in joint activity, and to seek economic progress while upholding social justice.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic ties between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See, which already enjoy a spirit of goodwill and mutual esteem, will continue to support the integral development of your nation. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are eager to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all the beloved people of the Slovak Republic abundant divine blessings.

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Wednesday's Audience: On the Trip to Austria
"Above All It Was a Pilgrimage" (September 12, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father reflected on his recent pastoral visit to Austria.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I intend to focus on the pastoral visit that I had the joy of making a few days ago to Austria, a country that is especially familiar to me, because it borders my native land and because of the numerous contacts that I have always had with it. The specific motive for this visit was the 850th anniversary of the Shrine of Mariazell, the most important in Austria, favored also by the faithful in Hungary and visited by pilgrims of other neighboring nations.

Above all it was a pilgrimage, which had as its theme "To Look to Christ": to meet Mary who shows Jesus to us. I offer my heartfelt thanks to Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and all of the Austrian bishops for the great effort with which they prepared and followed my visit. I thank the Austrian government and all of the civil and military authorities who offered their valuable cooperation. In a special way, I would like to thank the president for the cordiality with which he welcomed and accompanied me during various moments of the trip.

The first stop was Mariensaule, the historic column upon which stands the statue of the Immaculate Virgin. There I met with thousands of young people and I began my pilgrimage. I did not miss the chance to go to Judenplatz to render homage to the monument that commemorates the Shoah.

Aware of Austria’s history and its close ties with the Holy See, as well as Vienna’s important role in international politics, the program of my pastoral visit included meetings with the president of the republic and the diplomatic corps. These are valuable opportunities, in which the Successor of Peter has the chance to exhort the leaders of nations to favor the cause of peace and authentic economic and social development.

Focusing on Europe, I renewed my encouragement to go forward with the current process of unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage. Mariazell, in the end, is one of the symbols of the meeting in faith of European peoples. How can we forget that Europe bears a tradition of thought that holds together faith, reason and sentiment? Illustrious philosophers, even outside the faith, recognized the central role of Christianity in preserving the modern conscience from nihilistic or fundamentalist derivatives. Given the current situation of the European continent it was therefore favorable to make time for the meeting with the political and diplomatic leaders in Vienna.

I carried out the actual pilgrimage on Saturday, Sept. 8, feast of the Nativity of Mary, from whom Mariazell takes its name. Its origins go back to 1157, when a Benedictine monk from the nearby Abbey of St. Lambrecht, sent to preach there, experienced the special help of Mary. The monk carried a small wooden statue of Mary. The cell ("zell") where the monk placed the statue later became a place of pilgrimage and upon which, over the last two centuries, an important shrine was built, where Our Lady of Grace, so-called Magna Mater Austriae, is venerated still today.

It was a great joy for me to return as the Successor of Peter to that holy place, so dear to the people of Central and Eastern Europe. There I admired the exemplary courage of thousands and thousands of pilgrims who, despite the rain and cold, wanted to be present for this festive occurrence, with great joy and faith, and where I explained to them the central theme of my visit: "To Look to Christ," a theme that the Austrian bishops wisely elaborated on during the nine-month period of preparations.

It was only when we reached the shrine that we fully understood the full sense of that theme: to look to Christ. Before us was the statue of Our Lady that with one hand pointed to the Baby Jesus, and above her, above the basilica’s altar, the Crucified One. There our pilgrimage reached its goal: We contemplated the face of God in that Child in the arms of his Mother and in that Man with the outstretched arms. To look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary means to meet God who is Love, who was made man and died on a cross for us.

At the end of the Mass in Mariazell, I conferred a "mandate" to members of the parish pastoral councils, which have recently been renewed in all of Austria -- an eloquent ecclesiastical gesture with which I placed under Mary’s protection the great network of parishes that are at the service of communion and mission.

At the shrine I experienced joyous moments of fraternity with the bishops of the country and the Benedictine community. I met with priests, religious, deacons and seminarians and celebrated vespers with them. Spiritually united to Mary, we magnified the Lord for the humble devotion of many men and women who trust in his mercy and consecrate themselves to God’s service. These people, despite their human limitations, or rather, in the simplicity and humility of their humanity, work to offer to all a reflection of the goodness and beauty of God, following Jesus on the path of poverty, chastity and obedience, three vows that must be well understood in their true Christological meaning, not individualistic but relational and ecclesial.

Sunday morning I celebrated the solemn Eucharist in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. In the homily, I wanted to elaborate on the meaning and value of Sunday, in support of the movement "Alliance in Defense of a Free Sunday." Many non-Christian people and groups belong to this movement. As believers, naturally, we have deep motives for living the Day of the Lord, as the Church has taught us: "Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without his Day we cannot live, declared the martyrs of Abitene (present-day Tunisia) in the year 304.

We too, we Christians of the 21st century, cannot live without Sunday: A day that gives meaning to work and rest, fulfills the meaning of creation and redemption, expresses the value of freedom and the service of our neighbor … all of this is Sunday -- much more than just a precept! If the populations of ancient Christian civilizations had abandoned this meaning and let Sunday be reduced to a weekend or an opportunity for mundane and commercial interests, it would have meant that they had decided to renounce their very culture.

Not far from Vienna is the Abbey of "Heiligenkreuz," of the Holy Cross, and it was a joy for me to visit that flowering community of Cistercian monks, that have existed for 874 years without interruption! Annexed to the abbey is the High Academy of Philosophy and Theology, which has recently been granted the "Pontifical" title. In speaking with the monks, I recalled the great teaching of St. Benedict on the Divine Office, underlining the value of prayer as a service of praise and adoration due to God for his infinite beauty and goodness.

Nothing should come before this sacred service -- says the Benedictine Rule (43:3) -- so that all of life, with its times for work and rest, will be recapitulated in the liturgy and oriented toward God. Even theological study cannot be separated from the spiritual life and the life of prayer, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, father of the Cistercian order, so strongly maintained. The presence of the Academy of Theology next to the abbey shows this union between faith and reason, between heart and mind.

The last meeting of my trip was with the network of volunteer organizations. I wanted to show my appreciation to the many people, of all ages, who work freely in service of their neighbor, in the ecclesial community as well as in the civil community.

Volunteering is not only "doing": It is first of all a way of being, which begins in the heart, from a grateful way of viewing life, and it encourages us to "give back" and share the gifts we have received with our neighbor. In this perspective, I wanted to encourage yet again the culture of charity work.

Volunteer work should not be seen as "stopgap" assistance with regard to state and public institutions, but rather as a complimentary and always necessary presence to keep attentive to the most marginalized in society and to promote a personalized style in the assistance programs. Furthermore, there is no one who cannot be a volunteer. Surely even the most needy and disadvantaged person has much to share with others by offering his own contribution to building a civilization of love.

In conclusion, I renew my thanksgiving to the Lord for this visit-pilgrimage to Austria. The focal point was yet again a Marian shrine, in which I was able to live a strong ecclesial experience, as I did the week before in Loreto with the Italian youth. Moreover, in Vienna and Mariazell, it has been possible to see the living, faithful and varied reality of the Catholic Church, so numerously present in the scheduled events.

It was a joyful and radiant presence of a Church that, like Mary, is called to always "look to Christ" in order to show and offer him to everyone; a Church that is teacher and witness of a generous "yes" to life in each of its dimensions; a Church that carries out its 2,000-year tradition at the service of a future of peace and true social progress for the entire human family.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

My recent Pastoral Visit to Austria was above all a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mariazell on its 850th anniversary. The venerable statue of Our Lady pointing to her infant Son inspired the theme of the visit -- To Look to Christ. Austria is a land of ancient Christian culture, and its capital, Vienna, is today a centre of international institutions. In my meeting with the President and the Diplomatic Corps I expressed the Church’s support for global efforts to foster peace and authentic development, and I encouraged the process of Europe’s unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage. At Mass in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, I stressed the importance of respecting the rich religious and cultural meaning of our tradition of Sunday rest. While visiting Heiligenkreuz Abbey I spoke of the value of monasticism and liturgical prayer, and the inseparable link between theology and the spiritual life. At the end of my journey, I met with representatives of Austria’s impressive network of volunteer organizations and expressed appreciation for their generosity to others. Throughout my visit, I saw the vitality of the Church, which, in today’s Europe, is called "to look to Christ" ever anew, as she carries out her mission in service of the Gospel and the true progress of the human family.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Malta and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Benedict XVI's Q-and-A Session With Youth in Loreto
"The Pope Is Close to You, He Shares Your Joys and Your Pain"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI held with the youth gathered in Loreto, Italy, on Sept. 1.

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PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO LORETO
ON THE OCCASION OF THE AGORÀ OF ITALIAN YOUTH
PRAYER VIGIL WITH YOUNG PEOPLE

Plain of Montorso
Saturday, 1 September 2007

RESPONSES OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO QUESTIONS POSED BY YOUNG PEOPLE

Question posed by Piero Tisti and Giovanna Di Mucci:

"Many of us young people in the suburbs do not have a centre, a place or people with whom we can identify. Often we are without a history, a perspective or even a future. It seems that what we really wait for never happens. From this come the experience of solitude and at times, an improper dependence on others. Your Holiness, is there someone or something by means of which we can become important? How is it possible to hope when reality negates every dream of happiness, every project of life?".

Response of the Holy Father:

Thank you for this question and for your very realistic presentation of the situation. It is not always easy to respond concerning the peripheries of this world with great problems and we do not want to live an easy optimism; but on the other hand, we must have the courage to go forward.

I will therefore anticipate the essence of my answer: Yes, there is hope today too; each one of you is important because each is known and desired by God and God has his plan for each one. It is our task to discover and respond to it, so that despite these precarious and marginalized situations, we will be able to put into practice God's plan for us.

However, to go into detail, you have realistically presented to us the situation of a society: in the outskirts it seems hard to move ahead, to change the world for the better. Everything seems concentrated in the great centres of economic and political power, the great bureaucracies dominate, and those in the outskirts truly seem excluded from this life.

Then, one aspect of this situation of marginalization that affects so many people is that the important cells of social life that can also build centres on the fringes are fragmented: the family, which should be the place where generations meet - from great grandfather to grandchild -, should not only be a place where generations meet but also where they learn to live, learn the essential virtues, and this is in danger.

Thus, all the more should we do our utmost to ensure that the family survives, that today too, it is the vital cell, the centre in the periphery.

Therefore, the parish, the living cell of the Church, must also really be a place of inspiration, life and solidarity which helps people build together centres in the periphery. And I must say here, there is often talk about the Church in the suburbs and in the centre, which would be Rome, but in fact in the Church there are no suburbs because where Christ is, the whole centre is there.

Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, wherever the Tabernacle stands, there is Christ; hence, there is the centre and we must do all we can to ensure that these living centres are effective, present and truly a force that counters this marginalization.

The living Church, the Church of the little communities, the parish Church, the movements, must form as many centres in the outskirts and thus help to overcome the difficulties that the leading politics obviously cannot manage to resolve, and at the same time, we must also think that despite the great focuses of power, contemporary society itself is in need of solidarity, of a sense of lawfulness, of the initiative and creativity of all.

I know that this is easier said than done, but I see here people who are working to increase the number of centres in the peripheries, to increase hope, and thus it seems to me that we should take up the initiative. The Church must be present precisely in the suburbs; Christ must be present, the centre of the world must be present.

We have seen and we see today in the Gospel that for God there are no peripheries. In the vast context of the Roman Empire, the Holy Land was situated on the fringe; Nazareth was on the margins, an unknown town. Yet that very situation was, de facto, to become the centre that changed the world!

And thus, we must form centres of faith, hope, love and solidarity, centres of a sense of justice and lawfulness and of cooperation. Only in this way will modern society be able to survive. It needs this courage, it needs to create centres even if, obviously, hope does not seem to exist. We must counter this desperation, we must collaborate with great solidarity in doing our best to increase hope, so that men and women may collaborate and live.

The world -- we see it -- must be changed, but it is precisely the mission of young people to change it! We cannot change it with our own strength alone but in communion of faith and in journeying on together. In communion with Mary, with all the Saints, in communion with Christ, we can do something essential, and I encourage you and invite you to trust in Christ, to trust in God.

Being in the great company of the Saints and moving forward with them can change the world, creating centres in the outskirts, so that the company of Saints may truly become visible and thus the hope of all may become realistic, and every one may say: "I am important in the totality of history. The Lord will help us". Thank you.

Question posed by Sara Simonetta :

"I believe in the God who has touched my heart, but I have many insecurities, questions and fears that I carry within. It is not easy to speak about God with my friends; many of them see the Church as a reality that judges youth, that opposes their desire for happiness and love. Faced with this refusal, I feel all of my solitude as human and I want to feel near God. Your Holiness, in this silence, where is God?".

Response of the Holy Father:

Yes, even though we are believers, we all know God's silence. In the Psalm we have just recited, there is this almost despairing cry: "Make haste to answer me, O Lord... Do not hide your face!", and a little while ago a book of the spiritual experiences of Mother Teresa was published and what we already all knew was a little more clearly shown: with all her charity and the power of her faith, Mother Teresa suffered from God's silence.

On the one hand, we must also bear God's silence in order to understand our brothers who do not know God.

On the other, with the Psalm we can always cry to God once again: "Answer us, show your face!".

And without a doubt, in our life, if our hearts are open, we can find the important moments when God's presence really becomes tangible even for us.

I now remember a little story that John Paul II told at the Spiritual Exercises he preached in the Vatican when he was not yet Pope. He recounted that after the war he was visited by a Russian official who was a scientist and who said to him as a scientist: "I am certain that God does not exist. Yet, if I am in the mountains, surrounded by his majestic beauty, by his grandeur, I am equally sure that the Creator does exist and that God exists".

The beauty of creation is one of the sources where we can truly touch God's beauty, we can see that the Creator exists and is good, which is true as Sacred Scripture says in the Creation Narrative, that is, that God conceived of this world and made it with his heart, his will and his reason, and he found it good.

We too must be good in order to have an open heart and to perceive God's true presence.

Then, hearing the Word of God in the solemn liturgical celebrations, in celebrations of faith, in the great music of faith, we feel this presence. I remember at this moment another little story which a Bishop on his ad limina visit told me a little while ago.

There was a very intelligent woman who was not a Christian. She began to listen to the great music of Bach, Handel and Mozart. She was fascinated and said one day: "I must find the source of this beauty", and the woman converted to Christianity, to the Catholic faith, because she had discovered that this beauty has a source, and the source is the presence of Christ in hearts, it is the revelation of Christ in this world.

Hence, great feasts of faith, of liturgical celebration, but also personal dialogue with Christ: he does not always respond, but there are times when he really responds. Then there is the friendship, the company of faith.

Now, gathered here in Loreto, we see that faith unites, friendship creates a company of travelling companions. And we sense that all this does not derive from nothing but truly has a source, that the silent God is also a God who speaks, that he reveals himself and above all, that we ourselves can be witnesses of his presence, and from our faith a light truly shines also for others.

Thus, I would say on the one hand, we must accept that God is silent in this world, but we must not be deaf to his words or blind to his appearance on so many occasions. We see the Lord's presence, especially in creation, in the beautiful liturgy, in friendship within the Church, and full of his presence, we can also give light to others.

Thus, I come to the second part, or rather, the first part of your question: it is difficult to speak to friends today about God and perhaps even more difficult to talk about the Church, because they see in God only the limit of our freedom, a God of commandments, of prohibitions, and the Church as an institution that limits our freedom, that imposes prohibitions upon us.

Nonetheless, we must try to make the living Church visible to them, not this idea of a centre of power in the Church with these labels, but the community of companions where, in spite of all life's problems that exist for everyone, is born our joy of living.

Here, a third memory springs to mind. I was in Brazil, in Fazenda da Esperança, this great community where drug addicts are treated and rediscover hope, the joy of living in this world; and they witnessed what the actual discovery that God exists meant for their recovery from despair.

They thus understood that their life has meaning and they rediscovered the joy of being in this world, the joy of facing the problems of human life.

Therefore, in every human heart, despite all the problems that exist, is a thirst for God, and when God disappears, the sun that gives light and joy also disappears.

This thirst for the infinite that is in our hearts is also demonstrated even in the reality of drugs: the human being wants to extend the quality of life, to have more than life, to have the infinite, but drugs are a lie, they are a fraud, because they do not extend life but destroy it.

The great thirst that speaks to us of God and sets us on the path that leads to him is true, but we must help one another. Christ came to create a network of communion in the world, where all together we might carry one another, and thus help one another together to find the ways that lead to life and to understand that the Commandments of God are not limits to our freedom but the paths that guide us to the other, toward the fullness of life.

Let us pray to the Lord to help us understand his presence, to be full of his Revelation, his joy, to help one another to go forward in the company of faith and with Christ to increasingly find the true Face of God, and hence, true life.


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Pope's Address to Austrian Volunteer associations
"God Wants Persons Who Love Together With Him"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI's gave Sunday at a meeting with Austrian volunteers in Vienna.

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Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mr President,
Archbishop Kothgasser,
Dear Volunteers and Honorary Members
of the different Charitable Agencies in Austria,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
and above all: Dear young friends,

I have looked forward with particular joy to this meeting, which takes place near the end of my visit to Austria. And naturally there is the further joy of having heard not only a marvellous piece by Mozart, but also, unexpectedly, the "Vienna Choir Boys". Heartfelt thanks! It is good to meet people who are trying to give a face to the Gospel message in our communities; to see people, young and old, who concretely express in Church and society the love which we, as Christians, must be overwhelmed: the love of God which enables us to see others as our neighbours, our brothers and sisters! I am filled with gratitude and admiration when I think of the generous volunteer work done in this country by so many people of all ages. To all of you, and to those who hold honorary and unremunerated positions in Austria, I would like today to express my special appreciation. I thank you, Mr. President, you, Archbishop Kothgasser, and, above all, you, the young people representing volunteer workers in Austria, for your beautiful and profound words of greeting.

Thanks be to God, many people consider it an honour to engage in volunteer service to individuals, groups and organizations, or to respond to specific needs concerning the common good. This kind of involvement is first of all an occasion for personal growth and for active and responsible participation in the life of society. The willingness to take up volunteer work can have various motivations. Frequently it is simply born of a desire to do something meaningful and helpful, and out of a desire for new experiences. Young people rightly and naturally also discover in volunteer work a source of joy, positive experiences and genuine camaraderie in carrying out a worthwhile project alongside others. Often these personal ideas and initiatives are linked to a practical love of neighbour; the individual thus becomes part of a wider community of support. I would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks for the remarkable "culture of volunteerism" existing in Austria. I wish to thank every woman and every man, all the young people and all the children -- the volunteer work carried out by children is at times impressive; we need only think of the activity of the Sternsinger at Christmastime; you, dear Archbishop, have already mentioned this. I would also like to express gratitude for the efforts, large and small, which often go unnoticed. Thank you and Vergelt's Gott [May God reward you!] for your contribution to building a "civilization of love" at the service of everyone and the betterment of the nation. Love of neighbour is not something that can be delegated; the State and the political order, even with their necessary concern for the provision of social services, -- as you, Mr President, have said -- cannot take its place. Love of neighbour always demands a voluntary personal commitment, and the State, of course, can and must provide the conditions which make this possible. Thanks to such involvement, assistance maintains a human dimension and does not become depersonalized. Volunteers like yourselves, then, are not "stopgaps" in the social fabric, but people who truly contribute to giving our society a humane and Christian face.

Young people especially long to have their abilities and talents "awakened and discovered". Volunteers want to be asked, they want to be told: "I need you" -- "You can do it!" How good it feels to hear words like these! In their human simplicity, they unwittingly point us to the God who has called each of us into being and given us a personal task, the God who needs each of us and awaits our response. Jesus called men and women, and gave them the courage needed to embark on a great undertaking, one to which, by themselves, they would never have dared to aspire. To allow oneself to be called, to make a decision and then to set out on a path -- without the usual questions about whether it is useful or profitable - this attitude will naturally bring healing in its wake. The saints have shown us this path by their lives. It is a fascinating and thrilling path, a path of generosity and, nowadays, one which is much needed. To say "yes" to volunteering to help others is a decision which is liberating; it opens our hearts to the needs of others, to the requirements of justice, to the defence of life and the protection of creation. Volunteer work is really about the heart of the Christian image of God and man: love of God and love of neighbour.

Dear Volunteers, Ladies and Gentlemen. Volunteer work reflects gratitude for, and the desire to share with others, the love that we ourselves have received. In the words of the fourteenth-century theologian Duns Scotus,[1] Deus vult condiligentes -- God wants persons who love together with him. Seen in this light, unremunerated service has much to do with God's grace. A culture which would calculate the cost of everything, forcing human relationships into a strait jacket of rights and duties, is able to realize, thanks to the countless people who freely donate their time and service to others, that life is an unmerited gift. For all the many different or even contradictory reasons which motivate people to volunteer their services, all are ultimately based on a profound solidarity born of "gratuitousness". It was as a free gift that we received life from our Creator, it was as a free gift that we were set free from the blind alley of sin and evil, it was as a free gift that we were given the Spirit with his many gifts. In my Encyclical I wrote: "Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends".[2] "Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace".[3] By our commitment to volunteer work, we freely pass on what we ourselves have received. This "inner logic" of gratuitousness goes beyond strict moral obligation.

Without volunteer service, society and the common good could not, cannot and will not endure. A readiness to be at the service of others is something which surpasses the calculus of outlay and return: it shatters the rules of a market economy. The value of human beings cannot be judged by purely economic criteria. Without volunteers, then, no state can be built up. A society's progress and worth constantly depend on people who do more than what is strictly their duty.

Ladies and Gentlemen! Volunteer work is a service to human dignity, inasmuch as men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. As Irenaeus of Lyons, in the second century, said: "The glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God".[4] And Nicholas of Cusa, in his treatise on the vision of God went on to develop this insight: "Since the eye is where love is found, I know that you love me… Your gaze, O Lord, is love…. By gazing upon me, you, the hidden God, enable me to catch a glimpse of you… Your gaze bestows life… Your gaze is creative".[5] God's gaze -- the gaze of Jesus fills us with God's love. Some ways of looking at others can be meaningless or even contemptuous. There are looks that reveal esteem and express love. Volunteer workers have regard for others; they remind us of the dignity of every human being and they awaken enthusiasm and hope. Volunteer workers are guardians and advocates of human rights and human dignity.

Jesus' gaze is connected with another way of seeing others. In the Gospel the words: "He saw him and passed by" are said of the priest and the Levite who see the man lying half-dead on the wayside, yet do not come to his help (Lk 10:31-2). There are people who see, but pretend not to see, who are faced with human needs yet remain indifferent. This is part of the coldness of our present time. In the gaze of others, and particularly of the person who needs our help, we experience the concrete demands of Christian love. Jesus Christ does not teach us a spirituality "of closed eyes", but one of "alertness", one which entails an absolute duty to take notice of the needs of others and of situations involving those whom the Gospel tells us are our neighbours. The gaze of Jesus, what "his eyes" teach us, leads to human closeness, solidarity, giving time, sharing our gifts and even our material goods. For this reason, "those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, -- as important as this is -- but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern… This heart sees where love is needed, and acts accordingly".[6] Yes, "I have to become like someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another's need. Then I find my neighbour or -- better -- then I am found by him".[7]

Finally, the commandment of love for God and neighbour (cf. Mt 22:37-40; Lk 10:27) reminds us that it is through our love of neighbour that we Christians honour God himself. Archbishop Kothgasser has already quoted the saying of Jesus: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40). If Jesus himself is present in the concrete man or woman whom we encounter, then unremunerated service can bring us to an experience of God. Sharing in human situations and needs leads to a "new" and meaningful kind of togetherness. In this way, volunteer work can help bring people out of their isolation and make them part of a community.

To conclude, I would like to mention the power of prayer and its importance for everyone engaged in charitable work. Praying to God sets us free from ideologies or a sense of hopelessness in the face of endless needs. "Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world about them, Christians continue to believe in the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God' (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible".[8]

Dear members and volunteer workers of charitable organizations in Austria, Ladies and Gentlemen! Whenever people do more than their simple duty in professional life and in the family -- and even doing this well calls for great strength and much love -- , and whenever they commit themselves to helping others, putting their precious free time at the service of man and his dignity, their hearts expand. Volunteers do not understand the term "neighbour" in the literal meaning of the word; for them, it includes those who are far away, those who are loved by God, and those who, with our help, need to experience the work of redemption accomplished by Christ. The other, whom the Gospel calls our "neighbour", thus becomes our privileged partner as we face the pressures and constraints of the world in which we live. Anyone who takes seriously the "priority" of his neighbour lives and acts in accordance with the Gospel and shares in the mission of the Church, which always looks at the whole person and wants everyone to experience the love of God. Dear volunteers, the Church fully supports your service. I am convinced that the volunteers of Austria will continue to be a source of great blessing and I assure you of my prayers. Upon all of you I invoke the joy of the Lord which is our strength (cf. Neh 8:10). May God in his goodness be ever close to you and guide you constantly by the help of his grace.

[1] Opus Oxoniense III d. 32 q. 1 n. 6.

[2] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7.

[5] De visione Dei / Die Gottesschau, in Philosophisch-Theologische Schriften, hg. und endgef. von Leo Gabriel, übersetzt von Dietlind und Wilhelm Dupré, Wien, 1967, Bd. III, 105-111.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31.

[7] JOSEPH RATZINGER / BENEDICT XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, New York, 2007, p. 194.

[8] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 38.

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Papal Farewell to Austria
"Gratitude and Joy Fill My Heart at This Moment"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address delivered Sunday at the international airport of Vienna as he left Austria.

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International Airport of Vienna/Schwechat
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mr President,

As I prepare to leave Austria at the conclusion of my pilgrimage for the 850th anniversary of the National Shrine of Mariazell, I recall with gratitude these days filled with memorable experiences. I feel that I have come to know even better this beautiful country and its people.

I offer heartfelt thanks to my Brother Bishops, to the Government, to the public authorities and, not least, to the many volunteers who assisted in the organization of this visit. I pray that you will share richly in the graces we have received in these days. My warm, personal thanks go in particular to you, Mr President, for your gracious words of farewell, for having accompanied me on this pilgrimage, and for all the attention you have shown me. Thank you!

Once again I was able to experience Mariazell as a particularly grace-filled place, a place which in these days welcomed all of us and gave us inner strength for the road ahead. The throngs of people who joined in our celebration in the Basilica, in Mariazell itself and throughout Austria should inspire us, with Mary, to look to Christ and, as persons whom God looks upon with love, and to face with confidence the path to the future. It was nice that the wind and the bad weather could not stop us, but, in the end, added even more to our joy.

At the very beginning of my pilgrimage, our common prayer in the Square "Am Hof" brought us together in a way which transcended national borders and directly showed us Austria's open hospitality, which is one of this country's finest qualities.

May the quest for mutual understanding, and the creative development of ever new ways of building trust between individuals and peoples, continue to inspire the national and international policies of this nation. Vienna, faithful to its rich history and its location in the vital centre of Europe, can offer a specific contribution in this regard, by consistently upholding the traditional values of the continent, values shaped by the Christian faith, to the European institutions and to the work of promoting international, intercultural and interreligious relations.

On life's pilgrimage we frequently pause to consider with gratitude the progress already made, and to look with prayerful hope at the road still before us. I made just such a stop at the monastery of Heiligenkreuz. The tradition cultivated there by the Cistercian monks puts us in touch with our roots, whose strength and beauty ultimately derive from God himself.

Today I was able to celebrate Sunday, the Lord's Day with you -- representing all the parishes of Austria -- in the Cathedral of Saint Stephen. This gave me an opportunity to be united in a special way with the faithful in all the parishes of Austria.

Finally, a very moving moment for me was my meeting with volunteers from the charitable organizations which are so many and varied in Austria. The thousands of volunteers I was able to see represent the many thousands more who, throughout the country, by their readiness to help others, show forth humanity's noblest features and help believers to recognize the love of Christ.

Gratitude and joy fill my heart at this moment. To all of you who have been with me during these days, to all who put so much effort and hard work into making this very full programme proceed so smoothly, and to all who joined in my pilgrimage and shared in our celebrations, I once more express my deep gratitude. As I leave you, I entrust the present and the future of this country to the intercession of the Gracious Mother of Mariazell, Magna Mater Austriae, and to all the saints and beati of Austria. With them we want to look to Christ, our life and our hope. With great affection I offer to one and all a sincere "Vergelt's Gott"!

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On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
"She Allowed God to Fill Her With Love"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the German-language address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus at the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It was a particularly beautiful experience this morning to be able to celebrate the Lord's Day with all of you in such a dignified and solemn manner in the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Stephen. The celebration of the Eucharist, carried out with due dignity, helps us to realize the immense grandeur of God's gift to us in the Holy Mass. In this way, we also draw near to each another and experience the joy of God. So I thank all those who, by their active contribution to the preparation of the liturgy or by their recollected participation in the sacred mysteries, created an atmosphere in which we truly felt God's presence. Heartfelt thanks and Vergelt's Gott to all!

In my homily I wished to say something about the meaning of Sunday and about today's Gospel, and I think that this led us to discover that the love of God, who surrendered himself into our hands for our salvation, gives us the inner freedom to let go of our own lives, in order to find true life. Mary's participation in this love gave her the strength to say "yes" unconditionally. In her encounter with the gentle, respectful love of God, who awaits the free cooperation of his creature in order to bring about his saving plan, the Blessed Virgin was able to overcome all hesitation and, in view of this great and unprecedented plan, to entrust herself into his hands. With complete availability, interior openness and freedom, she allowed God to fill her with love, with his Holy Spirit. Mary, the simple woman, could thus receive within herself the Son of God, and give to the world the Saviour who had first given himself to her.

In today's celebration of the Eucharist, the Son of God has also been given to us. Those who have received Holy Communion, in a special way, carry the Risen Lord within themselves. Just as Mary bore him in her womb -- a defenceless little child, totally dependent on the love of his Mother -- so Jesus Christ, under the species of bread, has entrusted himself to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us love this Jesus who gives himself so completely into our hands! Let us love him as Mary loved him! And let us bring him to others, just as Mary brought him to Elizabeth as the source of joyful exultation! The Virgin gave the Word of God a human body, and thus enabled him to come into the world as a man. Let us give our own bodies to the Lord, and let them become ever more fully instruments of God's love, temples of the Holy Spirit! Let us bring Sunday, and its immense gift, into the world!

Let us ask Mary to teach us how to become, like her, inwardly free, so that in openness to God we may find true freedom, true life, genuine and lasting joy.

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Benedict XVI's Address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey
"All People Have a Yearning for God"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he visited Heiligenkreuz Abbey.

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APOSTOLIC VISIT TO AUSTRIA

Address of the Holy Father
Visit to Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Most Reverend Father Abbot,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Cistercian Monks of Heiligenkreuz,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,
Distinguished Guests and Friends of the Monastery and the Academy,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

On my pilgrimage to the Magna Mater Austriae, I am pleased to visit this Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, which is not only an important stop on the Via Sacra leading to Mariazell, but the oldest continuously active Cistercian monastery in the world. I wished to come to this place so rich in history in order to draw attention to the fundamental directive of Saint Benedict, according to whose Rule Cistercians also live. Quite simply, Benedict insisted that "nothing be put before the divine Office".(1)

For this reason, in a monastery of Benedictine spirit, the praise of God, which the monks sing as a solemn choral prayer, always has priority. Monks are certainly not the only people who pray; others also pray: children, the young and the old, men and women, the married and the single -- all Christians pray. Or at least, they should!

In the life of monks, however, prayer takes on a particular importance: it is the heart of their calling. Their vocation is to be men of prayer. In the patristic period the monastic life was likened to the life of the angels. It was considered the essential mark of the angels that they are worshippers. Their very life is worship. This should hold true also for monks. Monks pray first and foremost not for any specific intention, but simply because God is worthy of being praised. "Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus! -- Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy is eternal!": so we are urged by a number of Psalms (e.g. Ps 106:1). Such prayer for its own sake, intended as pure divine service, is rightly called officium. It is "service" par excellence, the "sacred service" of monks. It is offered to the triune God who, above all else, is worthy "to receive glory, honour and power" (Rev 4:11), because he wondrously created the world and even more wondrously redeemed it.

At the same time, the officium of consecrated persons is also a sacred service to men and women, a testimony offered to them. All people have deep within their hearts, whether they know it or not, a yearning for definitive fulfilment, for supreme happiness, and thus, ultimately, for God. A monastery, in which the community gathers several times a day for the praise of God, testifies to the fact that this primordial human longing does not go unfulfilled: God the Creator has not placed us in a fearful darkness where, groping our way in despair, we seek some ultimate meaning (cf. Acts 17:27); God has not abandoned us in a desert void, bereft of meaning, where in the end only death awaits us. No! God has shone forth in our darkness with his light, with his Son Jesus Christ. In him, God has entered our world in all his "fullness" (cf. Col 1:19); in him all truth, the truth for which we yearn, has its source and summit.(2)

Our light, our truth, our goal, our fulfilment, our life -- all this is not a religious doctrine but a person: Jesus Christ. Over and above any ability of our own to seek and to desire God, we ourselves have already been sought and desired, and indeed, found and redeemed by him! The roving gaze of people of every time and nation, of all the philosophies, religions and cultures, encounters the wide open eyes of the crucified and risen Son of God; his open heart is the fullness of love. The eyes of Christ are the eyes of a loving God. The image of the Crucified Lord above the altar, whose romanesque original is found in the Cathedral of Sarzano, shows that this gaze is turned to every man and woman. The Lord, in truth, looks into the hearts of each of us.

The core of monasticism is worship -- living like the angels. But since monks are people of flesh and blood on this earth, Saint Benedict and Saint Bernardo added to the central command: "pray", a second command: "work". In the mind of Saint Benedict, part of monastic life, along with prayer, is work: the cultivation of the land in accordance with the Creator's will. Thus in every age monks, setting out from their gaze upon God, have made the earth live-giving and lovely. Their protection and renewal of creation derived precisely from their looking to God. In the rhythm of the ora et labora, the community of consecrated persons bears witness to the God who, in Christ, looks upon us, while human beings and the world, as God looks upon them, become good.

Monks are not the only ones who pray the officium; from the monastic tradition the Church has derived the obligation for all religious, and also for priests and deacons, to recite the Breviary. Here too, it is appropriate for men and women religious, priests and deacons -- and naturally Bishops as well -- to come before God in their daily "official" prayer with hymns and psalms, with thanksgiving and pure petition.

Dear brother priests and deacons, dear brothers and sisters in the consecrated life! I realize that discipline is needed, and sometimes great effort as well, in order to recite the Breviary faithfully; but through this officium we also receive many riches: how many times, in doing so, have we seen our weariness and despondency melt away! When God is faithfully praised and worshipped, his blessings are unfailing. In Austria, people rightly say: "Everything depends on God's blessing!".

Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of "putting nothing before the divine Office". The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centred on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity. Otherwise, how could our forefathers, hundreds of years ago, have built a sacred edifice as solemn as this? Here the architecture itself draws all our senses upwards, towards "what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined: what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God -- he speaks to us and we speak to him. Whenever in our thinking we are only concerned about making the liturgy attractive, interesting and beautiful, the battle is already lost. Either it is Opus Dei, with God as its specific subject, or it is not. In the light of this, I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed on God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every time and place, so that it will truly be an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends.

The soul of prayer, ultimately, is the Holy Spirit. Whenever we pray, it is he who "helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom 8:26). Trusting in these words of the Apostle Paul, I assure you, dear brothers and sisters, that prayer will produce in you the same effect which once led to the custom of calling priests and consecrated persons simply "spirituals" (Geistliche). Bishop Sailer of Regensburg once said that priests should be first and foremost spiritual persons. I would like to see a revival of the word "Geistliche". More importantly, though, the content of that word should become a part of our lives: namely, that in following the Lord, we become, by the power of the Spirit, "spiritual" men and women.

Austria (Österreich) is, in an old play on words, truly Klösterreich: a realm of monasteries and a land rich in monasteries. Your ancient abbeys whose origins and traditions date back many centuries are places where "God is put first". Dear friends, make this priority given to God ever more apparent to people! As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today's world of the most important, and indeed, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living: God and his unfathomable love.

And I ask you, dear members of the faithful: see your abbeys and monasteries for what they are and always wish to be: not mere strongholds of culture and tradition, or even simple business enterprises. Structure, organization and finances are necessary in the Church too, but they are not what is essential. A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power. Coming to one of your monasteries here in Austria, we have the same impression as when, after a strenuous hike in the Alps, we finally find refreshment at a clear mountain spring… Take advantage of these springs of God's closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities, the monasteries and abbeys; and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated person are willing to offer you!

Finally, I have come also to visit the Academy, now the Pontifical Academy, which is 205 years old and which, in its new status, the Abbot has named after the present Successor of Peter. Important though it is that the discipline of theology be part of the universitas of knowledge through the presence of Catholic theological faculties in state universities, it is equally important that there should be academic institutions like your own, where there can be a deeper interplay between scientific theology and lived spirituality. God is never simply the "object" of theology; he is always its living "subject" as well. Christian theology, for that matter, is never a purely human discourse about God, but always, and inseparably, the logos and "logic" of God's self-revelation. For this reason scientific rationality and lived devotion are two necessarily complementary and interdependent aspects of study.

The father of the Cistercian Order, Saint Bernard, in his own day fought against the detachment of an objectivizing rationality from the main current of ecclesial spirituality. Our situation today, while different, nonetheless has notable similarities. In its desire to be recognized as a rigorously scientific discipline in the modern sense, theology can lose the life-breath given by faith. But just as a liturgy which no longer looks to God is already in its death throes, so too a theology which no longer draws its life-breath from faith ceases to be theology; it ends up as a array of more or less loosely connected disciplines. But where theology is practised "on bent knee", as Hans Urs von Balthasar (3) urged, it will prove fruitful for the Church in Austria and beyond.

This fruitfulness is shown through fostering and forming those who have vocations to the priesthood or the religious life. Today, if such a vocation is to be sustained faithfully over a lifetime, there is a need for a formation capable of integrating faith and reason, heart and mind, life and thought. A life devoted to following Christ calls for an integration of one's entire personality. Neglect of the intellectual dimension can give rise all too easily to a kind of superficial piety nourished mostly by emotions and sentiments, which cannot be sustained over a lifetime. Neglect of the spiritual dimension, in turn, can create a rarified rationalism which, in its coldness and detachment, can never bring about an enthusiastic self-surrender to God. A life devoted to following Christ cannot be built on such one-sided foundations; half-measures leave a person unhappy and, consequently, also spiritually barren. Each vocation to the religious life or to the priesthood is a treasure so precious that those responsible for it should do everything possible to ensure a formation which promotes both fides et ratio -- faith and reason, heart and mind.

At the advice of his son, Blessed Otto of Freising, who was my predecessor in the episcopal see of Freising, Saint Leopold of Austria founded your abbey in 1133, and called it Unsere Liebe Frau zum Heiligen Kreuz -- Our Lady of Holy Cross. This monastery is dedicated to Our Lady not simply by tradition -- like every Cistercian monastery --, but among you there burns the Marian flame of a Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard, who entered the monastery along with thirty of his companions, is a kind of patron saint of vocations. Perhaps it was because of his particular devotion to Our Lady that he exercised such a compelling and infectious influence on his many young contemporaries called by God. Where Mary is, there is the archetype of total self-giving and Christian discipleship. Where Mary is, there is the pentecostal breath of the Holy Spirit; there is new beginning and authentic renewal.

From this Marian sanctuary on the Via Sacra, I pray that all Austria's shrines will experience fruitfulness and further growth. Here, as at Mariazell, I would like, before leaving, to ask the Mother of God once more to intercede for all of Austria. In the words of Saint Bernard, I invite everyone to become a trusting child before Mary, even as the Son of God did: "Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart … If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination". (4)

(1) Regula Benedicti 43,3.

(2) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 22.

(3) Cf. HANS URS VON BALTHASAR, Theologie und Heiligkeit, an essay written in 1948, in Verbum Caro. Schriften zur Theologie I, Einsiedeln, 1960, 195-224.

(4) BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, In laudibus Virginis Matris, Homilia 2, 17.

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Papal Address at Vespers
A Reflection on the Evangelical Counsels

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Saturday address at the celebration of vespers at the Shrine of Mariazell.

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VESPERS WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, DEACONS AND SEMINARIANS
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Shrine of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Venerable and dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,
Dear Men and Women of Consecrated Life,
Dear Friends,

We have come together in the venerable Basilica of our Magna Mater Austriae in Mariazell. For many generations people have come to pray here to obtain the help of the Mother of God. We too are doing the same today. We want to join Mary in praising God's immense goodness and in expressing our gratitude to the Lord for all the blessings we have received, especially the great gift of the faith. We also wish to commend to Mary our heartfelt concerns: to beg her protection for the Church, to invoke her intercession for the gift of worthy vocations for Dioceses and religious communities, to implore her assistance for families and her merciful prayers for all those longing for freedom from sin and for the grace of conversion, and, finally, to entrust to Mary's maternal care our sick and our elderly. May the great Mother of Austria and of Europe bring all of us to a profound renewal of faith and life!

Dear friends, as priests, and as men and women religious, you are servants of the mission of Jesus Christ. Just as two thousand years ago Jesus called people to follow him, today too young men and women are setting out at his call, attracted by him and moved by a desire to devote their lives to serving the Church and helping others. They have the courage to follow Christ, and they want to be his witnesses. Being a follower of Christ is full of risks, since we are constantly threatened by sin, lack of freedom and defection. Consequently, we all need his grace, just as Mary received it in its fullness. We learn to look always, like Mary, to Christ, and to make him our criterion and measure. Thus we can participate in the universal saving mission of the Church, of which he is the head. The Lord calls priests, religious and lay people to go into the world, in all its complexity, and to cooperate in the building up of God's Kingdom. They do this in a great variety of ways: in preaching, in building communities, in the different pastoral ministries, in the practical exercise of charity, in research and scientific study carried out in an apostolic spirit, in dialogue with the surrounding culture, in promoting the justice willed by God and, in no less measure, in the recollected contemplation of the triune God and the common praise of God in their communities.

The Lord invites you to join the Church "on her pilgrim way through history". He is inviting you to become pilgrims with him and to share in his life which today too includes both the way of the Cross and the way of the Risen One through the Galilee of our existence. But he remains always one and the same Lord who, through the one Baptism, calls us to the one faith. Taking part in his journey thus means both things: the dimension of the Cross -- with failure, suffering, misunderstanding and even contempt and persecution -- , but also the experience of profound joy in his service and of the great consolation born of an encounter with him. Like the Church, individual parishes, communities and all baptized Christians find in their experience of the crucified and risen Christ the source of their mission.

At the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ and of every Christian is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Proclaiming the Kingdom in the name of Christ means for the Church, for priests, men and women religious, and for all the baptized, a commitment to be present in the world as his witnesses. The Kingdom of God is really God himself, who makes himself present in our midst and reigns through us. The Kingdom of God is built up when God lives in us and we bring God into the world. You do so when you testify to a "meaning" rooted in God's creative love and opposed to every kind of meaninglessness and despair. You stand alongside all those who are earnestly striving to discover this meaning, alongside all those who want to make something positive of their lives. By your prayer and intercession, you are the advocates of all who seek God, who are journeying towards God. You bear witness to a hope which, against every form of hopelessness, silent or spoken, points to the fidelity and the loving concern of God. Hence you are on the side of those who are crushed by misfortune and cannot break free of their burdens. You bear witness to that Love which gives itself for humanity and thus conquered death. You are on the side of all who have never known love, and who are no longer able to believe in life. And so you stand against all forms of injustice, hidden or apparent, and against a growing contempt for man. In this way, dear brothers and sisters, your whole life needs to be, like that of John the Baptist, a great, living witness to Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. Jesus called John "a burning and shining lamp" (Jn 5:35). You too must be such lamps! Let your light shine in our society, in political and economic life, in culture and research. Even if it is only a flicker amid so many deceptive lights, it nonetheless draws its power and splendour from the great Morning Star, the Risen Christ, whose light shines brilliantly -- wants to shine brilliantly through us -- and will never fade.

Following Christ -- we want to follow him -- following Christ means taking on ever more fully his mind and his way of life; this is what the Letter to the Philippians tells us: "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ!" (cf. 2:5). "To Look to Christ" is the theme of these days. In looking to him, the great Teacher of life, the Church has discerned three striking features of Jesus' basic attitude. These three features -- with the Tradition we call them the "evangelical counsels" -- have become the distinctive elements of a life committed to the radical following of Christ: poverty, chastity and obedience. Let us reflect now briefly on them.

Jesus Christ, who was rich with the very richness of God, became poor for our sake, as Saint Paul tells us in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 8:9); this is an unfathomable statement, one to which we should always return for further reflection. And in the Letter to the Philippians we read: He emptied himself; he humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a Cross (cf. 2:6ff.) The one who himself became poor, called the poor "blessed". Saint Luke, in his version of the Beatitudes, makes us understand that this statement -- calling the poor blessed -- certainly refers to the poor, the truly poor, in Israel at that time, where a sharp distinction existed between rich and poor. But Saint Matthew, in his version of the Beatitudes, explains to us that material poverty alone is not enough to ensure God's closeness, since the heart can be hard and filled with lust for riches. Matthew -- like all of Scripture -- lets us understand that in any case God is particularly close to the poor. So it becomes evident: in the poor Christians see the Christ who awaits them, who awaits their commitment. Anyone who wants to follow Christ in a radical way must renounce material goods. But he or she must live this poverty in a way centred on Christ, as a means of becoming inwardly free for their neighbour. For all Christians, but especially for us priests, and for religious, both as individuals and in community, the issue of poverty and the poor must be the object of a constant and serious examination of conscience. In our own situation, in which we are not badly off, we are not poor, I think that we ought to reflect particularly on how we can live out this calling in a sincere way. I would like to recommend it for your -- for our -- examination of conscience.

To understand correctly the meaning of chastity, we must start with its positive content. Once again, we find this only by looking to Christ. Jesus' life had a two-fold direction: he lived for the Father and for others. In sacred Scripture we see Jesus as a man of prayer, one who spends entire nights in dialogue with the Father. Through his prayer, he made his own humanity, and the humanity of us all, part of his filial relation to the Father. This dialogue with the Father thus became a constantly-renewed mission to the world, to us. Jesus' mission led him to a pure and unreserved commitment to men and women. Sacred Scripture shows that at no moment of his life did he betray even the slightest trace of self-interest or selfishness in his relationship with others. Jesus loved others in the Father, starting from the Father -- and thus he loved them in their true being, in their reality. Entering into these sentiments of Jesus Christ -- in this total communion with the living God and in this completely pure communion with others, unreservedly at their disposition -- this entering into the mind of Christ inspired in Paul a theology and a way of life consonant with Jesus' words about celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:12). Priests and religious are not aloof from interpersonal relationships. Chastity, on the contrary, means -- and this is where I wished to start -- an intense relationship; it is, positively speaking, a relationship with the living Christ and, on the basis of that, with the Father. Consequently, by the vow of celibate chastity we do not consecrate ourselves to individualism or a life of isolation; instead, we solemnly promise to put completely and unreservedly at the service of God's Kingdom -- and thus at the service of others - the deep relationships of which we are capable and which we receive as a gift. In this way priests and religious become men and women of hope: staking everything on God and thus showing that God for them is something real, they open up a space for his presence -- the presence of God's Kingdom -- in our world. Dear priests and religious, you have an important contribution to make: amid so much greed, possessiveness, consumerism and the cult of the individual, we strive to show selfless love for men and women. We are living lives of hope, a hope whose fulfilment we leave in God's hands, because we believe that he will fulfil it. What might have happened had the history of Christianity lacked such outstanding figures and examples? What would our world be like, if there were no priests, if there were no men and women in religious congregations and communities of consecrated life -- people whose lives testify to the hope of a fulfilment beyond every human desire and an experience of the love of God which transcends all human love? Precisely today, the world needs our witness.

We now come to obedience. Jesus lived his entire life, from the hidden years in Nazareth to the very moment of his death on the Cross in listening to the Father, in obedience to the Father. We see this in an exemplary way at Gethsemane. "Not my will, but yours be done". In this prayer Jesus takes up into his filial will the stubborn resistance of us all, and transforms our rebelliousness into his obedience. Jesus was a man of prayer. But at the same time he was also someone who knew how to listen and to obey: he became "obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). Christians have always known from experience that, in abandoning themselves to the will of the Father, they lose nothing, but instead discover in this way their deepest identity and interior freedom. In Jesus they have discovered that those who lose themselves find themselves, and those who bind themselves in an obedience grounded in God and inspired by the search for God, become free. Listening to God and obeying him has nothing to do with external constraint and the loss of oneself. Only by entering into God's will do we attain our true identity. Our world today needs the testimony of this experience precisely because of its desire for "self-realization" and "self-determination".

Romano Guardini relates in his autobiography how, at a critical moment on his journey, when the faith of his childhood was shaken, the fundamental decision of his entire life -- his conversion -- came to him through an encounter with the saying of Jesus that only the one who loses himself finds himself (cf. Mk 8:34ff.; Jn 12:25); without self-surrender, without self-loss, there can be no self-discovery or self-realization. But then the question arose: to what extent it is proper to lose myself? To whom can I give myself? It became clear to him that we can surrender ourselves completely only if by doing so we fall into the hands of God. Only in him, in the end, can we lose ourselves and only in him can we find ourselves. But then the question arose: Who is God? Where is God? Then he came to understand that the God to whom we can surrender ourselves is alone the God who became tangible and close to us in Jesus Christ. But once more the question arose: Where do I find Jesus Christ? How can I truly give myself to him? The answer Guardini found after much searching was this: Jesus is concretely present to us only in his Body, the Church. As a result, obedience to God's will, obedience to Jesus Christ, must be, really and practically, humble obedience to the Church. I think that this too is something calling us to a constant and deep examination of conscience. It is all summed up in the prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola -- a prayer which always seems to me so overwhelming that I am almost afraid to say it, yet one which, for all its difficulty, we should always repeat: "Take O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All that I have and all that I possess you have given me: I surrender it all to you; it is all yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more".

Dear brothers and sisters! You are about to return to those places where you live and carry out your ecclesial, pastoral, spiritual and human activity. May Mary, our great Advocate and Mother, watch over and protect you and your work. May she intercede for you with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for your prayers and your labours in the Lord's vineyard, and I join you in praying that God will protect and bless all of you, and everyone, particularly the young people, both here in Austria and in the various countries from which many of you have come. With affection I accompany all of you with my blessing.

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Papal Homily in Cathedral of Vienna
"Give the Soul Its Sunday, Give Sunday Its Soul"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during the Mass he presided over in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the gift of the Lord, without the Lord's day, we cannot live: That was the answer given in the year 304 by Christians from Abitene in present-day Tunisia, when they were caught celebrating the forbidden Sunday Eucharist and brought before the judge. They were asked why they were celebrating the Christian Sunday Eucharist, even though they knew it was a capital offence. "Sine dominico non possumus": in the word dominico two meanings are inextricably intertwined, and we must once more learn to recognize their unity. First of all there is the gift of the Lord -- this gift is the Lord himself: the Risen one, whom the Christians simply need to have close and accessible to them, if they are to be themselves. Yet this accessibility is not merely something spiritual, inward and subjective: the encounter with the Lord is inscribed in time on a specific day. And so it is inscribed in our everyday, corporal and communal existence, in temporality. It gives a focus, an inner order to our time and thus to the whole of our lives. For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives with his love, life itself is empty. To do without or to betray this focus would deprive life of its very foundation, would take away its inner dignity and beauty.

Does this attitude of the Christians of that time apply also to us who are Christians today? Yes, it does, we too need a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives. We too need access to the Risen one, who sustains us through and beyond death. We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God's creative love, from which we come and toward which we are travelling.

Of course, if we listen to today's Gospel, if we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, it frightens us: "Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has and all links with his family cannot be my disciple." We would like to object: What are you saying, Lord? Isn't the family just what the world needs? Doesn't it need the love of father and mother, the love between parents and children, between husband and wife? Don't we need love for life, the joy of life? And don't we also need people who invest in the good things of this world and build up the earth we have received, so that everyone can share in its gifts? Isn't the development of the earth and its goods another charge laid upon us? If we listen to the Lord more closely, if we listen to him in the context of everything he is saying to us, then we understand that Jesus does not demand the same from everyone. Each person has a specific task, to each is assigned a particular way of discipleship. In today's Gospel, Jesus is speaking directly of the specific vocation of the Twelve, a vocation not shared by the many who accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. The Twelve must first of all overcome the scandal of the Cross, and then they must be prepared truly to leave everything behind; they must be prepared to assume the seemingly absurd task of travelling to the ends of the earth and, with their minimal education, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world filled with claims to erudition and with real or apparent education -- and naturally also to the poor and the simple. They must themselves be prepared to suffer martyrdom in the course of their journey into the vast world, and thus to bear witness to the Gospel of the Crucified and Risen Lord. If Jesus's words apply in the first instance to the Twelve, his call naturally extends beyond the historical moment into all subsequent centuries. He calls people of all times to count exclusively on him, to leave everything else behind, so as to be totally available for him, and hence totally available for others: to create oases of selfless love in a world where so often only power and wealth seem to count for anything. Let us thank the Lord for giving us men and women in every century who have left all else behind for his sake, and have thus become radiant signs of his love. We need only think of people like Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Clare, Elizabeth of Hungary and Hedwig of Silesia, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and in our own day, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio. With their whole lives, these people have become a living interpretation of Jesus's teaching, which through their lives becomes close and intelligible to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant to people in our own day the courage to leave everything behind and so to be available to everyone.

Yet if we now turn once more to the Gospel, we realize that the Lord is not speaking merely of a few individuals and their specific task; the essence of what he says applies to everyone. The heart of the matter he expresses elsewhere in these words: "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Lk 9:24f.). Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life. In other words: only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it demands leaving oneself. Anyone who looks just to himself, who wants the other only for himself, will lose both himself and the other. Without this profound losing of oneself, there is no life. The restless craving for life, so widespread among people today, leads to the barrenness of a lost life. "Whoever loses his life for my sake … ", says the Lord: a radical letting-go of our self is only possible if in the process we end up, not by falling into the void, but into the hands of Love eternal. Only the love of God, who loses himself for us and gives himself to us, makes it possible for us also to become free, to let go, and so truly to find life. This is the heart of what the Lord wants to say to us in the seemingly hard words of this Sunday's Gospel. With his teaching he gives us the certainty that we can build on his love, the love of the incarnate God. Recognition of this is the wisdom of which today's reading speaks. Once again, we find that all the world's learning profits us nothing unless we learn to live, unless we discover what truly matters in life.

"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish. Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus -- the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul.

Because Sunday is ultimately about encountering the risen Christ in word and sacrament, its span extends through the whole of reality. The early Christians celebrated the first day of the week as the Lord's day, because it was the day of the resurrection. Yet very soon, the Church also came to realize that the first day of the week is the day of the dawning of creation, the day on which God said: "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3). Therefore Sunday is also the Church's weekly feast of creation -- the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God's creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God's rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God's creatures.

In this Sunday's Opening Prayer we call to mind firstly that through his Son God has redeemed us and made us his beloved children. Then we ask him to look down with loving-kindness upon all who believe in Christ and to give us true freedom and eternal life. We ask God to look down with loving-kindness. We ourselves need this look of loving-kindness not only on Sunday but beyond, reaching into our everyday lives. As we ask, we know that this loving gaze has already been granted to us. What is more, we know that God has adopted us as his children, he has truly welcomed us into communion with himself. To be someone's child means, as the early Church knew, to be a free person, not a slave but a member of the family. And it means being an heir. If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, then we are fearless and free. And we are heirs. The inheritance he has bequeathed to us is himself, his love. Yes, Lord, may this inheritance enter deep within our souls so that we come to know the joy of being redeemed. Amen.

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Papal Homily at Shrine of Mariazell
"Whenever We Look Toward Mary, She Shows Us Jesus"

MARIAZELL, Austria, SEPT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the Marian shrine of Mariazell, to mark the 850th anniversary of its foundation.

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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO AUSTRIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 850th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHRINE OF MARIAZELL

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With our great pilgrimage to Mariazell, we are celebrating the patronal feast of this Shrine, the feast of Our Lady's Birthday. For 850 years pilgrims have been travelling here from different peoples and nations; they come to pray for the intentions of their hearts and their homelands, bringing their deepest hopes and concerns. In this way Mariazell has become a place of peace and reconciled unity, not only for Austria, but far beyond her borders. Here we experience the consoling kindness of the Madonna. Here we meet Jesus Christ, in whom God is with us, as today's Gospel reminds us -- Jesus, of whom we have just heard in the reading from the prophet Micah: "He himself will be peace" (5:4). Today we join in the great centuries-old pilgrimage. We rest awhile with the Mother of the Lord, and we pray to her: Show us Jesus. Show to us pilgrims the one who is both the way and the destination: the truth and the life.

The Gospel passage we have just heard broadens our view. It presents the history of Israel from Abraham onwards as a pilgrimage, which, with its ups and downs, its paths and detours, leads us finally to Christ. The genealogy with its light and dark figures, its successes and failures, shows us that God can write straight even on the crooked lines of our history. God allows us our freedom, and yet in our failures he can always find new paths for his love. God does not fail. Hence this genealogy is a guarantee of God's faithfulness; a guarantee that God does not allow us to fall, and an invitation to direct our lives ever anew towards him, to walk ever anew towards Jesus Christ.

Making a pilgrimage means setting out in a particular direction, travelling towards a destination. This gives a beauty of its own even to the journey and to the effort involved. Among the pilgrims of Jesus's genealogy there were many who forgot the goal and wanted to make themselves the goal. Again and again, though, the Lord called forth people whose longing for the goal drove them forward, people who directed their whole lives towards it. The awakening of the Christian faith, the dawning of the Church of Jesus Christ was made possible, because there were people in Israel whose hearts were searching -- people who did not rest content with custom, but who looked further ahead, in search of something greater: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph, the Twelve and many others. Because their hearts were expectant, they were able to recognize in Jesus the one whom God had sent, and thus they could become the beginning of his worldwide family. The Church of the Gentiles was made possible, because both in the Mediterranean area and in those parts of Asia to which the messengers of Jesus travelled, there were expectant people who were not satisfied by what everyone around them was doing and thinking, but who were seeking the star which could show them the way towards Truth itself, towards the living God.

We too need an open and restless heart like theirs. This is what pilgrimage is all about. Today as in the past, it is not enough to be more or less like everyone else and to think like everyone else. Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us his face and opened his heart to us: Jesus Christ. Saint John rightly says of him that only he is God and rests close to the Father's heart (cf. Jn 1:18); thus only he, from deep within God himself, could reveal God to us -- reveal to us who we are, from where we come and where we are going. Certainly, there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences, and therefore finite. Only He is God and therefore only He is the bridge that truly brings God and man together. So if we Christians call him the one universal Mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and, ultimately, needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions, nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we, in turn, can offer gifts to others. In fact, our faith is decisively opposed to the attitude of resignation that considers man incapable of truth -- as if this were more than he could cope with. This attitude of resignation with regard to truth, I am convinced, lies at the heart of the crisis of the West, the crisis of Europe. If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. And then the great and wonderful discoveries of science become double-edged: they can open up significant possibilities for good, for the benefit of mankind, but also, as we see only too clearly, they can pose a terrible threat, involving the destruction of man and the world. We need truth. Yet admittedly, in the light of our history we are fearful that faith in the truth might entail intolerance. If we are gripped by this fear, which is historically well grounded, then it is time to look towards Jesus as we see him in the shrine at Mariazell. We see him here in two images: as the child in his Mother's arms, and above the high altar of the Basilica as the Crucified. These two images in the Basilica tell us this: truth prevails not through external force, but it is humble and it yields itself to man only via the inner force of its veracity. Truth proves itself in love. It is never our property, never our product, just as love can never be produced, but only received and handed on as a gift. We need this inner force of truth. As Christians we trust this force of truth. We are its witnesses. We must hand it on as a gift in the same way as we have received it, as it has given itself to us.

"To gaze upon Christ" is the motto of this day. For one who is searching, this summons repeatedly turns into a spontaneous plea, a plea addressed especially to Mary, who has given us Christ as her Son: "Show us Jesus!" Let us make this prayer today with our whole heart; let us make this prayer above and beyond the present moment, as we inwardly seek the Face of the Redeemer. "Show us Jesus!" Mary responds, showing him to us in the first instance as a child. God has made himself small for us. God comes not with external force, but he comes in the powerlessness of his love, which is where his true strength lies. He places himself in our hands. He asks for our love. He invites us to become small ourselves, to come down from our high thrones and to learn to be childlike before God. He speaks to us informally. He asks us to trust him and thus to learn how to live in truth and love. The child Jesus naturally reminds us also of all the children in the world, in whom he wishes to come to us. Children who live in poverty; who are exploited as soldiers; who have never been able to experience the love of parents; sick and suffering children, but also those who are joyful and healthy. Europe has become child-poor: we want everything for ourselves, and place little trust in the future. Yet the earth will be deprived of a future only when the forces of the human heart and of reason illuminated by the heart are extinguished -- when the face of God no longer shines upon the earth. Where God is, there is the future.

"To gaze upon Christ": let us look briefly now at the Crucified One above the high altar. God saved the world not by the sword, but by the Cross. In dying, Jesus extends his arms. This, in the first place, is the posture of the Passion, in which he lets himself be nailed to the Cross for us, in order to give us his life. Yet outstretched arms are also the posture of one who prays, the stance assumed by the priest when he extends his arms in prayer: Jesus transformed the Passion, his suffering and his death, into prayer, and in this way he transformed it into an act of love for God and for humanity. That, finally, is why the outstretched arms of the Crucified One are also a gesture of embracing, by which he draws us to himself, wishing to enfold us in his loving hands. In this way he is an image of the living God, he is God himself, and we may entrust ourselves to him.

"To gaze upon Christ!" If we do this, we realize that Christianity is more than and different from a moral code, from a series of requirements and laws. It is the gift of a friendship that lasts through life and death: "No longer do I call you servants, but friends" (Jn 15:15), the Lord says to his disciples. We entrust ourselves to this friendship. Yet precisely because Christianity is more than a moral system, because it is the gift of friendship, for this reason it also contains within itself great moral strength, which is so urgently needed today on account of the challenges of our time. If with Jesus Christ and his Church we constantly re-read the Ten Commandments of Sinai, entering into their full depth, then a great, valid and lasting teaching unfolds before us. The Ten Commandments are first and foremost a "yes" to God, to a God who loves us and leads us, who carries us and yet allows us our freedom: indeed, it is he who makes our freedom real (the first three commandments). It is a "yes" to the family (fourth commandment), a "yes" to life (fifth commandment), a "yes" to responsible love (sixth commandment), a "yes" to solidarity, to social responsibility and to justice (seventh commandment), a "yes" to truth (eighth commandment) and a "yes" to respect for other people and for what is theirs (ninth and tenth commandments). By the strength of our friendship with the living God we live this manifold "yes" and at the same time we carry it as a signpost into this world of ours today.

"Show us Jesus!" It was with this plea to the Mother of the Lord that we set off on our journey here. This same plea will accompany us as we return to our daily lives. And we know that Mary hears our prayer: yes, whenever we look towards Mary, she shows us Jesus. Thus we can find the right path, we can follow it step by step, filled with joyful confidence that the path leads into the light -- into the joy of eternal Love. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Austrian Politicians
"The Fundamental Human Right ... Is the Right to Life"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to the members of government and diplomatic corps in Austria, during an address in the reception hall of Vienna's Hofburg Palace, the seat of the Austrian presidency.

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Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the National Council,
Mr Chancellor,

Members of the Federal Government,
Deputies to the National Council
and Members of the Federal Council,

Presidents of the Provinces,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

It is my great joy and honour to meet you today, Mr President, together with the members of the Federal Government and representatives of the political and civic life of the Republic of Austria. Our meeting here in the Hofburg reflects the good relations, marked by reciprocal trust, which exist between your country and the Holy See, as you have mentioned. For this I am most pleased.

Relations between Austria and the Holy See are part of that vast network of diplomatic relations in which Vienna serves as an important crossroads, inasmuch as a number of international Organizations have their headquarters in this city. I am pleased by the presence of many diplomatic representatives, whom I greet with respect. I thank you, distinguished Ambassadors, for your dedicated service, not only to the countries which you represent and to their interests, but also to the common cause of peace and understanding between peoples.

This is my first visit as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pastor of the universal Catholic Church to this country, which I know well from many earlier visits. It is -- may I say -- a joy for me to be here. I have many friends here and, as a Bavarian neighbour, Austria's way of life and traditions are entirely familiar to me. My great predecessor of blessed memory, Pope John Paul II, visited Austria three times. Each time he was received most cordially by the people of this country, his words were listened to attentively, and his apostolic journeys left their mark.

Austria

In recent years and decades, Austria has registered advances which were inconceivable even two generations ago. Your country has not only experienced significant economic progress, but has also developed a model of social coexistence synonymous with the term "social solidarity". Austrians have every reason to be grateful for this, and they have demonstrated it not only by opening their hearts to the poor and the needy in their native land, but also by demonstrating generous solidarity in the event of catastrophes and disasters worldwide. The great initiatives of Licht ins Dunkel ("Light in the Darkness") at Christmastime, and Nachbar in Not ("Neighbour in Need") bear eloquent testimony to this attitude.

Austria and the expansion of the European Union

We are gathered in an historical setting, which for centuries was the seat of an Empire uniting vast areas of Central and Eastern Europe. This time and place offer us a good opportunity to take a far-ranging look at today's Europe. After the horrors of war and traumatic experiences of totalitarianism and dictatorship, Europe is moving towards a unity capable of ensuring a lasting order of peace and just development. The painful division which split the continent for decades has come to an end politically, yet the goal of unity remains in great part still to be achieved in the minds and hearts of individuals. If, after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, certain excessive hopes were disappointed, and on some points justified criticisms can be raised about certain European institutions, the process of unification remains a most significant achievement which has brought a period of unwonted peace to this continent, formerly consumed by constant conflicts and fatal fratricidal wars. For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in particular, participating in this process is a further incentive to the consolidation of freedom, the constitutional state and democracy within their borders. Here I should recall the contribution made by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to that historic process. Austria too, as a bridge-country situated at the crossroads of West and East, has contributed much to this unification and has also -- we must not forget -- greatly benefited from it.

Europe

The "European home", as we readily refer to the community of this continent, will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions. Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots. These represent a dynamic component of our civilization as we move forward into the third millennium. Christianity has profoundly shaped this continent: something clearly evident in every country, and particularly in Austria, not least from the number of churches and important monasteries. Above all, the faith is seen in the countless people whom in the course of history, and in our own day as well, it has brought to a life of hope, love and mercy. Mariazell, Austria's great national shrine, is also a meeting-place for the different peoples of Europe. It is one of those places where men and women have drawn, and continue to draw, "strength from on high" for an upright life.

During these days, the witness of Christian faith at the heart of Europe is also finding expression in the Third European Ecumenical Assembly meeting in Sibiu (Romania), whose motto is: "The Light of Christ Shines on All. Hope for Renewal and Unity in Europe". One spontaneously recalls the 2004 Central European Katholikentag, on the theme: "Christ -- The Hope of Europe", which brought so many believers together in Mariazell!

Nowadays we hear much of the "European model of life". The term refers to a social order marked by a sound economy combined with social justice, by political pluralism combined with tolerance, generosity and openness, and at the same time the preservation of the values which have made this continent what it is. This model, under the pressure of modern economic forces, faces a great challenge. The oft-cited process of globalization cannot be halted, yet it is an urgent task and a great responsibility of politics to regulate and limit globalization, so that it will not occur at the expense of the poorer nations and of the poor in wealthier nations, and prove detrimental to future generations.

Certainly Europe has also experienced and suffered from terribly misguided courses of action. These have included: ideological restrictions imposed on philosophy, science and also faith, the abuse of religion and reason for imperialistic purposes, the degradation of man resulting from theoretical and practical materialism, and finally the degeneration of tolerance into an indifference with no reference to permanent values. But Europe has also been marked by a capacity for self-criticism which gives it a distinctive place within the vast panorama of the world's cultures.

Life

It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite. It is "a deep wound in society", as the late Cardinal Franz König never tired of repeating.

In stating this, I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, I am acting as advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

I appeal, then, to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system's acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity. But that is only one side of this disturbing problem. The other is the need to do everything possible to make European countries once again open to welcoming children. Encourage young married couple to establish new families and to become mothers and fathers! You will not only assist them, but you will benefit society as a whole. We also decisively support you in your political efforts to favour conditions enabling young couples to raise children. Yet all this will be pointless, unless we can succeed in creating once again in our countries a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all.

Another great concern of mine is the debate on what has been termed "actively assisted death". It is to be feared that at some point the gravely ill or elderly will be subjected to tacit or even explicit pressure to request death or to administer it to themselves. The proper response to end-of-life suffering is loving care and accompaniment on the journey towards death -- especially with the help of palliative care -- and not "actively assisted death". But if humane accompaniment on the journey towards death is to prevail, urgent structural reforms are needed in every area of the social and healthcare system, as well as organized structures of palliative care. Concrete steps would also have to be taken: in the psychological and pastoral accompaniment of the seriously ill and dying, their family members, and physicians and healthcare personnel. In this field the hospice movement has done wonders. The totality of these tasks, however, cannot be delegated to it alone. Many other people need to be prepared or encouraged in their willingness to spare neither time nor expense in loving care for the gravely ill and dying.

The dialogue of reason

Yet another part of the European heritage is a tradition of thought which considers as essential a substantial correspondence between faith, truth and reason. Here the issue is whether or not reason stands at the beginning and foundation of all things. The issue is whether reality originates by chance and necessity, and thus whether reason is merely a chance by-product of the irrational and, in an ocean of irrationality, it too, in the end, is meaningless, or whether instead the underlying conviction of Christian faith remains true: In principio erat Verbum -- in the beginning was the Word; at the origin of everything is the creative reason of God who decided to make himself known to us human beings.

In this context, permit me to quote Jürgen Habermas, a philosopher not of the Christian faith: "For the normative self-understanding of the modern period Christianity has been more than a mere catalyst. The egalitarian universalism which gave rise to the ideas of freedom and social coexistence, is a direct inheritance from the Jewish notion of justice and the Christian ethics of love. Substantially unchanged, this heritage has always been critically reappropriated and newly interpreted. To this day an alternative to it does not exist".

Europe's tasks in the world

Given the uniqueness of its calling, Europe also has a unique responsibility in the world. First of all, it must not give up on itself. The continent which, demographically, is rapidly aging, must not become old in spirit. Furthermore, Europe will grow more sure of itself if it accepts a responsibility in the world corresponding to its singular intellectual tradition, its extraordinary resources and its great economic power. The European Union should therefore assume a role of leadership in the fight against global poverty and in efforts to promote peace. With gratitude we can observe that the countries of Europe and the European Union are among those making the greatest contribution to international development, but they also need to make their political importance felt, for example, with regard to the urgent challenges presented in Africa, given the immense tragedies afflicting that continent, such as the scourge of AIDS, the situation in Darfur, the unjust exploitation of natural resources and the disturbing traffic in arms. Nor can the political and diplomatic efforts of Europe and its countries neglect the continuing serious situation in the Middle East, where everyone's contribution is needed to promote the rejection of violence, reciprocal dialogue and a truly peaceful coexistence. Europe's relationship with the nations of Latin America and Asia must also continue to grow through suitable trade agreements.

Conclusion

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen! Austria is a country which is greatly blessed: by an immense natural beauty which attracts millions of holiday-makers each year; unique cultural treasures, created and amassed by many generations; and many culturally talented and creative individuals. Everywhere one can see the fruits of the diligence and gifts of industrious men and women. This is a reason for pride and gratitude. But Austria is certainly not an "enchanted island" nor does it consider itself such. Self-criticism is always a good thing, and, of course, is also widespread in Austria. A country which has received so much must also give much. It can be rightly self-assured, while also sensing the need for a certain responsibility with regard to neighbouring countries, in Europe and in the world.

Much of what Austria is and possesses, it owes to the Christian faith and its beneficial effects on individual men and women. The faith has profoundly shaped the character of this country and its people. Consequently it should be everyone's concern to ensure that the day will never come when only its stones speak of Christianity! An Austria without a vibrant Christian faith would no longer be Austria.

Upon you and all the people of Austria, especially the elderly and infirm, as well as the young whose lives lie ahead of them, I invoke hope, confidence, joy and God's blessings!


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Benedict XVI's Greeting at Vienna's Airport
I "Go As a Pilgrim to Mariazell"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's greeting upon arriving at the Vienna International Airport today.

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Mr President,
Mr Chancellor,

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear young friends!

With great joy I am now setting foot, for the first time since the beginning of my Pontificate, in the land of Austria, a country which I know well, not least from its geographical closeness to my birthplace. I thank you, Mr President, for the cordial words with which you have welcomed me in the name of the whole Austrian people. You know how close I feel to your native land and to many of the people and places in your country. This cultural space in the heart of Europe transcends borders and brings together ideas and energies from various parts of the continent. The culture of this country is deeply imbued with the message of Jesus Christ and the activity which the Church has carried out in his name. All this, and much more, gives me a vivid sense, dear Austrian friends, of being "at home" here in your midst.

The reason for my coming to Austria is the 850th anniversary of the shrine of Mariazell. This Marian sanctuary in some way represents the maternal heart of Austria, and has always had a particular importance also for Hungarians and the Slavic peoples. It symbolizes an openness which not only transcends physical and national frontiers, but, in the person of Mary, reminds us of an essential dimension of human beings: their capacity for openness to God and his word of truth.

In this way, I would like, during these three days here in Austria, to go as a pilgrim to Mariazell. In recent years, I have been pleased to notice among many people an increased interest in the idea of pilgrimage. Journeying as pilgrims, young people in particular have found a new way to reflect and meditate; they come to know one another and together they encounter creation and the history of faith which, often and perhaps unexpectedly, they experience as a source of strength for the present. I intend my pilgrimage to Mariazell to be a journey made in the company of all the pilgrims of our time. In this spirit I will soon lead the people in prayer in the centre of Vienna, prayer which, like a spiritual pilgrimage, will accompany these days throughout your country.

Mariazell does not only represent 850 years of history, but shows us on the basis of that history -- as reflected in the statue of the Blessed Mother pointing to Christ her Son -- the way to the future. In view of this, today I would like, along with Austria's political authorities and the representatives of international organizations, to take another look at our present and our future.

Tomorrow, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the patronal feast of Mariazell, will bring me to that holy place. In the Eucharistic celebration in front of the Basilica we will gather, as Mary has shown us, around Christ who comes into our midst. We will ask him to help us better to contemplate him, to see him in our brothers and sisters, to serve him in them, and to walk with him on the way that leads to the Father. As pilgrims to the Shrine, we will be united in prayer and, thanks to the communications media, united also with the faithful and all men and women of good will within this country and far beyond its borders.

Pilgrimage means more than just journeying to a shrine. The journey back to our everyday life is also fundamental. Each week of our ordinary life begins with Sunday -- with this liberating gift of God which we wish to receive and treasure. And so we will celebrate Mass this Sunday in Saint Stephen's Cathedral -- in communion with all those gathered for Holy Mass in the parish churches of Austria and throughout the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen! I know that in Austria many people, on Sunday, the day of rest from work, and during their free time on other days of the week, engage in volunteer work and service to others. Such commitment, offered generously and disinterestedly for the welfare of others, also marks the pilgrimage of our life. Whoever, "looks to" his neighbour -- seeing him and helping him -- looks to Christ and serves him. Guided and encouraged by Mary, we wish to sharpen our gaze as Christians, in order to see the challenges which need to be met in the spirit of the Gospel and, full of gratitude and hope, to walk from a past which has been at times difficult, yet always filled with grace, towards a future of promise.

Mr. President, dear Friends! I am looking forward to spending these days in Austria. At the beginning of my pilgrimage, I greet all of you with a heartfelt Grüß Gott!

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Pope's Prayer at the Mariensaeule
Mary "Personifies Our True Humanity"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's greeting and prayer he delivered today from the balcony of the Church of the Nine Angelic Choirs, to those gathered around the Mariensaeule -- a bronze column dedicated to the Virgin Mary -- located in the Am Hauf Plaza in Vienna.

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Your Eminence,
Your Honour,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As the first stop of my pilgrimage to Mariazell I have chosen the Mariensäule, to reflect briefly with all of you on the significance of the Mother of God for Austria past and present, and her significance for each one of us. I offer a cordial greeting to all those gathered here to pray beneath the Mariensäule. I thank you, dear Eminence, for the warm words of welcome at the beginning of our celebration. I greet the Mayor and the other Authorities present. I particularly greet the young people and the representatives of the foreign-language Catholic communities in the Archdiocese of Vienna, who will gather after this Liturgy of the Word in the church and will remain until tomorrow in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. In this way, they will very concretely accomplish what all of us wish to do in these days: with Mary, to look to Christ.

From earliest times, faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, has been linked to a particular veneration for his Mother, for the Woman in whose womb he took on our human nature, sharing even in the beating of her heart. Mary is the Woman who accompanied Jesus with sensitivity and deference throughout his life, even to his death on the Cross. At the end, he commended to her maternal love the beloved disciple and, with him, all humanity. In her maternal love, Mary continues to take under her protection people of all languages and cultures, and to lead them together, within a multiform unity, to Christ. In our problems and needs we can turn to Mary. Yet we must also learn from her to accept one another lovingly in the same way that she has accepted all of us: each as an individual, willed as such and loved by God. In God's universal family, in which there is a place for everyone, each person must develop his gifts for the good of all.

The Mariensäule, built by the Emperor Ferdinand III in thanksgiving for the liberation of Vienna from great danger and inaugurated by him exactly 360 years ago, must also be a sign of hope for us today. How many persons, over the years, have stood before this column and lifted their gaze to Mary in prayer! How many have experienced in times of trouble the power of her intercession! Our Christian hope includes much more than the mere fulfilment of our wishes and desires, great or small. We turn our gaze to Mary, because she points out to us the great hope to which we have been called (cf. Eph 1:18), because she personifies our true humanity!

This is what we have just heard in the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians: even before the creation of the world, God chose us in Christ. From eternity he has known and loved each one of us! And why did he choose us? To be holy and immaculate before him in love! This is no impossible task: in Christ he has already brought it to fulfilment. We have been redeemed! By virtue of our communion with the Risen Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Let us open our hearts; let us accept this precious legacy! Then we will be able to sing, together with Mary, the praises of his glorious grace. And if we continue to bring our everyday concerns to the immaculate Mother of Christ, she will help us to open our little hopes ever more fully toward that great and true hope which gives meaning to our lives and is able to fill us with a deep and imperishable joy.

With these sentiments I would now like to join you in looking to Mary Immaculate, entrusting to her intercession the prayers which you have just now presented, and imploring her maternal protection upon this country and its people:

Holy Mary, Immaculate Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, in you God has given us the model of the Church and of genuine humanity. To you I entrust the country of Austria and its people. Help all of us to follow your example and to direct our lives completely to God! Grant that, by looking to Christ, we may become ever more like him: true children of God! Then we too, filled with every spiritual blessing, will be able to conform ourselves more fully to his will and to become instruments of his peace for Austria, Europe and the world. Amen.

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Papal Message to Environmental Conference
"Highly Industrialized Countries Must Share 'Clean-technologies'"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message Benedict XVI sent to Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on the occasion of the VII Symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment, being held in Greenland through Sept. 12.

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To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

It gives me great joy to greet you and all those taking part in the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment movement, which this year turns its attention to the subject: "The Arctic: Mirror of Life". Your own dedication and personal commitment to the protection of the environment demonstrates the pressing need for science and religion to work together to safeguard the gifts of nature and to promote responsible stewardship. Through the presence of Cardinal McCarrick I wish to reaffirm my fervent solidarity with the aims of the project and to assure you of my hope for a deepening global recognition of the vital relationship between the ecology of the human person and the ecology of nature (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 8).

Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family. No nation or business sector can ignore the ethical implications present in all economic and social development. With increasing clarity scientific research demonstrates that the impact of human actions in any one place or region can have worldwide effects. The consequences of disregard for the environment cannot be limited to an immediate area or populus because they always harm human coexistence, and thus betray human dignity and violate the rights of citizens who desire to live in a safe environment (cf. ibid., 8-9).

This year's symposium, dedicated again to the earth's water resources, takes you and various religious leaders, scientists, and other interested parties to the Ilulissat Icefjord on the west coast of Greenland. Gathered in the magnificent beauty of this unique glacial region and World Heritage site your hearts and minds turn readily to the wonders of God and in awe echo the words of the Psalmist praising the name of the Lord who is "majestic in all the earth". Immersed in contemplation of the "work of his fingers" (Ps 8), the perils of spiritual alienation from creation become plainly evident. The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment ultimately stems from their relationship with God. When "man turns his back on the Creator's plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order" (Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 5).

Your Holiness, the international and multi-disciplinary nature of the symposium attests to the need to seek global solutions to the matters under consideration. I am encouraged by the growing recognition that the entire human community -- children and adults, industry sectors, States and international bodies -- must take seriously the responsibility that falls to each and every one of us. While it is true that industrializing countries are not morally free to repeat the past errors of others, by recklessly continuing to damage the environment (cf. ibid., 10), it is also the case that highly industrialized countries must share 'clean-technologies' and ensure that their own markets do not sustain demand for goods whose very production contributes to the proliferation of pollution. Mutual interdependence between nations' economic and social activities demands international solidarity, cooperation and on-going educational efforts. It is these principles which the Religion, Science and the Environment movement courageously upholds.

With sentiments of deep appreciation, and mindful of our commitment to encourage and support all efforts made to protect God's works, (cf. Common Declaration, 30 November 2006), I pray that the Almighty will abundantly bless this year's symposium. May he accompany you and all those gathered with you, so that all creation may give praise to God!

From the Vatican, 1 September 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Address on Ministry to Prisoners
"Called to Be Heralds of God’s Infinite Compassion"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the participants at a world congress on pastoral care in prisons.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE TWELFTH WORLD CONGRESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF CATHOLIC PRISON PASTORAL CARE

Castel Gandolfo
Thursday, 6 September 2007

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you as you gather in Rome for the Twelfth World Congress of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care. I thank your President, Doctor Christian Kuhn, for the kind words expressed on behalf of the Executive Board of the Commission.

The theme of your Congress this year, “Discovering the Face of Christ in Every Prisoner” (Mt 25:36), aptly portrays your ministry as a vivid encounter with the Lord. Indeed, in Christ the “love of God and love of neighbour have become one”, so that “in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in him…God” ("Deus Caritas Est," 15).

Your ministry requires much patience and perseverance. Not infrequently there are disappointments and frustrations. Strengthening the bonds that unite you with your bishops will enable you to find the support and guidance you need to raise awareness of your vital mission. Indeed, this ministry within the local Christian community will encourage others to join you in performing corporal works of mercy, thus enriching the ecclesial life of the diocese. Likewise, it will help to draw those whom you serve into the heart of the universal Church, especially through their regular participation in the celebration of the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist (cf. "Sacramentum Caritatis," 59).

Prisoners easily can be overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, shame and rejection that threaten to shatter their hopes and aspirations for the future. Within this context, chaplains and their collaborators are called to be heralds of God’s infinite compassion and forgiveness. In cooperation with civil authorities, they are entrusted with the weighty task of helping the incarcerated rediscover a sense of purpose so that, with God’s grace, they can reform their lives, be reconciled with their families and friends, and, insofar as possible, assume the responsibilities and duties which will enable them to conduct upright and honest lives within society.

Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266). At the same time, they are to aid in rebuilding “social relationships disrupted by the criminal act committed” (cf. "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," 403). By their very nature, therefore, these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders, facilitating their transition from despair to hope and from unreliability to dependability. When conditions within jails and prisons are not conducive to the process of regaining a sense of a worth and accepting its related duties, these institutions fail to achieve one of their essential ends. Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances” (Ibid., 404).

I am confident that your Congress will provide an opportunity to share your experiences of the mysterious countenance of Christ shining through the faces of the imprisoned. I encourage you in your efforts to show that face to the world as you promote greater respect for the dignity of the detained. Finally, I pray that your Congress will be an occasion for you yourselves to appreciate anew how, in attending to the needs of the imprisoned, your own eyes are opened to the marvels God does for you each day (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 18).

With these sentiments I extend my heartfelt wishes to you and all the participants in the Congress for the success of your meeting and willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your loved ones.

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Wednesday's Audience: Gregory of Nyssa on Perfection
"God Continually Expands the Possibilities of the Soul" (September 5, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I offer you some aspects of St. Gregory of Nyssa's teaching, which we already talked about last Wednesday.

First of all, Gregory of Nyssa shows a highly elevated sense of man's dignity. Man's aim, says the bishop-saint, is to make himself like God, and he reaches this end above all through love, knowledge and the practice of the virtues, "luminous rays that come down from the divine nature" ("De beatitudinibus" 6: PG 44,1272C), in a perpetual and dynamic adherence to good, like a runner stretching forward.

Gregory uses, to this end, an effective image, already present in the Letter of Paul to the Philippians: "épekteinómenos" (3:13), which means "stretching oneself out" toward that which is greater, toward the truth and love.

This representative expression indicates a profound reality: The perfection we seek is not something that is conquered once and for all; perfection is a permanent journey, a constant commitment to progress, because complete likeness to God can never be achieved; we are always on the path (cf. "Homilia in Canticum" 12: PG 44,1025d).

The story of each soul is that of a love which is totally fulfilled, and at the same time open to new horizons, because God continually expands the possibilities of the soul, so as to make it capable of ever greater good. God himself, who placed the seeds of good within us, and from whom comes every initiative of holiness, "forms the block of clay … polishing and cleaning our spirit, forming Christ in us" ("In Psalmos" 2:11: PG 44,544B).

Gregory is careful to clarify: "It is not the result of our efforts, neither is it the result of human strength to become like the Deity, but rather it is the result of God's generosity, who even from his origin offered to our nature the grace of likeness with him" ("De virginitate" 12:2: SC 119,408-410).

For the soul, therefore, "it is not a matter of knowing something about God, but in having God within us" ("De beatitudinibus" 6: PG 44, 1269c). As Gregory notes, "divinity is purity, it is freedom from the passions and removal from all evil: If all these things are in you, God is truly in you" ("De beatitudinibus" 6: PG 44,1272C).

When we have God within us, when man loves God, through that reciprocity that is part of the law of love, he wants what God himself wants (cf. "Homilia in Canticum" 9: PG 44,956ac), and therefore cooperates in forming the divine image within himself, so that "our spiritual birth is the result of a free choice, and we are parents of ourselves in some way, creating ourselves as we want to be, and forming ourselves through our will according to the model we choose" ("Vita Moysis" 2:3: SC 1bis,108).

To ascend to God, man must be purified: "The path, that leads human nature to heaven, is nothing more than separation from the evils of this world. … Becoming like God means becoming just, holy and good. … If therefore, according to Ecclesiastes (5:1), 'God is in heaven' and if, according to the prophet (Psalm 72:28) you 'belong to God,' it necessarily follows that you must be there where God is, from the moment that you are united to him. Because he has commanded that, when you pray, you call God Father, he tells you to become like your heavenly Father, with a life worthy of God, as the Lord commands us more explicitly in other passages, saying: 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!' (Matthew 5:48)" ("De oratione dominica" 2: PG 44,1145ac).

In this journey of spiritual ascent, Christ is the model and the master, who shows us the beautiful image of God (cf. "De perfectione Christiana": PG 46,272a). Looking at him, each one of us discovers ourselves to be "the painter of our own life," in which our will undertakes the work and our virtues are the colors at our disposal (ibid.: PG 46,272b).

Therefore, if man is considered worthy of Christ's name, how must he act?

Gregory responds in this way: "[He must] always examine his inner thoughts, his words and actions, to see if they are focused on Christ or if they are far from him" (ibid.: PG 46,284c).

Gregory, as we mentioned earlier, speaks of ascent: ascent to God in prayer through purity of heart; but ascent to God also through love of neighbor. Love is the ladder that leads us to God. Therefore, he heartily encourages each one his listeners: "Be generous with these brothers, victims of the plight. Give to the hungry that which you deny your own stomach" (ibid.: PG 46,457c).

With great clarity Gregory reminds us that we are all dependent on God, and therefore he exclaims: "Do not think that everything is yours! There must also be something for the poor, the friends of God. The truth, in fact, is that everything comes from God, the universal Father, and that we are brothers, and we belong to the same progeny" (ibid PG 46,465b).

And so the Christian must examine himself, Gregory insists: "What does it profit you to fast and abstain from meat, if with your wickedness you bite your brother? What do you gain from it, in God's eyes, from not eating what is yours, if you unjustly strip from the hands of a poor man what is his?" (ibid.: PG 46,456a).

We conclude our catecheses on the three great Cappadocian Fathers by recalling the important aspect of the spiritual doctrine of Gregory of Nyssa, which is prayer.

To make progress on the journey toward perfection and to welcome God within ourselves, to carry within us the Spirit of God, the love of God, man must turn to him in prayer with faith: "Through prayer we are able to be with God. He who is with God is far from the enemy. Prayer is the support and defense of chastity, the restraint of anger, the quieting and control of pride. Prayer is the guardian of virginity, protection of fidelity in marriage, hope for those who keep vigil, abundance of fruit for farmers, security for the traveler" ("De oratione dominica" 1: PG 44,1124A-B).

The Christian prays, inspired by the Lord's prayer: "If we want to pray for God's Kingdom to descend upon us, we ask this with the power of the Word: That I be removed from corruption, freed from death, released from the chains of error; that death will never reign over me, that the tyranny of evil will never have power over us, that the enemy never rule over me or make me a prisoner through sin, but may your kingdom come, so that the passions that rule me may be removed from me or, better yet, be obliterated" (ibid., 3: PG 44,1156d-1157a).

At the end of his earthly life, the Christian can approach God in serenity. In speaking about this, St. Gregory refers to the death of his sister Macrina and writes that at the moment of her death she prayed: "You who have the power on earth to remit sins forgive me, so that I can have the Risen One" (Psalm 38:14), and that I can be found spotless in your eyes, in the moment in which I am stripped of my body (cf. Collosians 2:11), so that my spirit, holy and immaculate (cf. Ephesians 5:27) will be welcomed into your hands, "like incense before you" (Psalm 140:2)" ("Vita Macrinae" 24: SC 178,224).

This teaching of Gregory's remains valid: not only speaking about God, but bringing God within us. We do this through prayer and by living in the spirit of love for all of our brothers.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Holy Father addressed the audience in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the teachers of the early Church, we once again consider Saint Gregory of Nyssa, one of the great Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century. At the heart of Saint Gregory's teaching is the innate dignity of every man and woman, made in the image of God and called to grow more fully into his likeness. Human fulfillment is found in a dynamic process of growth towards that perfection which has its fullness in God; daily we "press forward" (cf. Phil 3:13) towards union with God through love, knowledge and the cultivation of the virtues. This ascent to God calls for a process of purification which, by his grace, perfects our human nature and produces fruits of justice, holiness and goodness. In all of this, Jesus Christ, the perfect image of the Father, is our model and teacher. Gregory insists on Christ's presence in the poor, who challenge us to acknowledge our own dependence on God and to imitate his mercy. Finally, Gregory points to the importance of prayer modeled on the Lord's own prayer for the triumph of God's Kingdom. May his teaching inspire us to seek that holiness and purity of heart which will one day enable us to see God face to face!
 
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On the Home and the Public Square
"Let Us Spiritually Enter Into the Holy House" (September 2, 2007)

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with young people gathered in Loreto.

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At the close of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us recite, my dear young people, the Angelus, in spiritual communion with all those who are joined to us via radio and television. Loreto, after Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray meditating on the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.

So, in this moment, my invitation is for us all to enter with our minds and hearts into the sanctuary of the Holy House, within those walls which according to tradition come from Nazareth, the place where the Virgin said “yes” to God and conceived in her own womb the Eternal Word incarnate.

Before we depart from this assembly, let us leave for a moment the "agora," the public square, and spiritually enter into the Holy House. There is a reciprocal relationship between the public square and the home. The square is large, it is open, it is the place of the encounter with others, of dialogue, of contact; home, on the other hand, is the place of meditation and interior silence, where the Word can be deeply welcomed.

To bring God into the public square, we must have received him interiorly at home, like Mary in the annunciation. And vice versa, the house is opened onto the square: This is also suggested by the fact that the Holy House has three walls, not four. It is an open home, opened onto the world, life, and also onto this agora of young Italians.

Dear friends, it is a great privilege for Italy, in this wonderful corner of the Marche, to give hospitality to the shrine of the Holy House. Be rightly proud about this and profit from it!

In the most important moments of your life come here, at least in your heart, to spiritually recollect yourselves between the walls of the Holy House. Pray to the Virgin Mary that you might obtain the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, to respond fully and generously to the voice of God. Thereby you will become true witnesses in the public square, in society, bearers of a Gospel that is not abstract but incarnate in your life.

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On St. Gregory of Nyssa
"A Pillar of Orthodoxy" (August 29, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the last few catecheses I spoke about two great doctors of the Church of the fourth century, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, bishop of Cappadocia, in present-day Turkey. Today we add a third, Basil's brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, who showed himself to be a man of meditative character, with a great capacity for reflection, and a vivacious intellect, open to the culture of his time. He showed himself in this way to be an original and deep thinker in Christian history.

Born in 335, his Christian formation was carried out largely by his brother Basil -- whom he defined as "father and teacher" (Ep 13,4: SC 363, 198) -- and by his sister Macrina. He completed his studies, with a particular appreciation for philosophy and rhetoric. At the beginning, he dedicated himself to teaching and got married. Then he too, like his brother and sister, dedicated himself entirely to the aesthetic life. Later he was elected bishop of Nyssa, and showed himself to be a zealous pastor, earning the esteem of the community. Accused of economic embezzlements by heretical adversaries, he had to abandon his episcopal see for a brief time, but then made a triumphant return (cf. Ep. 6: SC 363, 164-170), and continued to commit himself to the defense of the true faith.

Especially after Basil's death, almost garnering his spiritual legacy, Gregory cooperated in the triumph of orthodoxy. He participated in various synods; he tried to settle divisions between the Churches; he took an active part in the Church's reorganization; and, as "a pillar of orthodoxy," he was a protagonist at the Council of Constantinople in 381, which defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He received various official appointments from Emperor Theodosius, he gave important homilies and eulogies, and dedicated himself to writing various theological works. In 394, he participated yet again in a synod held in Constantinople. The date of his death is unknown.

Gregory expresses with clarity the scope of his studies, the supreme goal for which he aims in his theological work: to not engage one's life in vane pursuits, but to find the light that enables one to discern that which is truly useful (cf. "In Ecclesiasten Hom" 1: SC 416, 106-146).

He found this supreme good in Christianity, thanks to which "imitation of the divine nature" is possible ("De Professione Christiana": PG 46, 244C). With his acute intelligence and his vast knowledge of philosophy and theology, he defended the Christian faith against heretics, who negated the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit (like Eunomios and the Macedonians), or negated Christ's perfect humanity (like Apollinaris).

He commented on sacred Scripture, concentrating on the creation of man. For him the essential theme was creation. He saw the reflection of the Creator in the creature and therein found the path to God. But he also wrote an important book on the life of Moses, which shows him as a man on the path toward God. This hill leading to Mt. Sinai becomes for him an image of our own hill in human life toward true life, toward the meeting with God. He also interpreted the Lord's prayer, the Our Father, and the beatitudes. In his "Great Catechetical Discourse" ("Oratio Catechetica Magna") he laid out the fundamental points of theology, not for an academic theology closed in on itself, but to offer catechists a system of reference to keep in mind in their teaching, a sort of framework within which a pedagogic interpretation of the faith could move.

Gregory is also outstanding because of his spiritual doctrine. His theology was not an academic reflection, but an expression of a spiritual life, of a lived life of faith. His reputation as a "father of mysticism" can be seen in various treatises -- like "De Professione Christiana" and "De Perfectione Christiana" -- the path that Christians must take to reach true life, perfection. He exalted consecrated virginity ("De Virginitate"), and likewise offered his sister Macrina as an outstanding model of life, who remained a guide for him always, an example (cf. "Vita Macrinae").

He gave various discourses and homilies, and wrote numerous letters. In commenting on the creation of man, Gregory highlights the fact that God, "the best artist, forges our nature so as to make it suitable for the exercise of royalty. Through the superiority given by the soul, and through the very make-up of the body, he arranges things in such a way that man is truly fit for regal power" ("De Hominis Opificio" 4: PG 44, 136B).

But we see how man, in the web of sins, often abusive of creation, does not act in a regal fashion. For this reason, in fact, in order to obtain true responsibility toward creatures, he must be penetrated by God and live in his light. Man is a reflection of that original beauty which is God: "Everything created by God was very good," writes the holy bishop.

And he adds: "The story of creation witnesses to it (cf. Genesis 1:31). Man was also listed among those very good things, adorned with a beauty far superior to all of the good things. In fact, what else could be good, on par with one who was similar to pure and incorruptible beauty? ... Reflection and image of eternal life, he was truly good, no he was very good, with the shining sign of life on his face" ("Homilia in Canticum" 12: PG 44, 1020C).

Man was honored by God and placed above every other creature: "The sky was not made in God's image, not the moon, not the sun, not the beauty of the stars, no other things that appear in creation. Only you (human soul) were made to be the image of nature that surpasses every intellect, likeness of incorruptible beauty, mark of true divinity, vessel of blessed life, image of the true light, that when you look upon it you become that which he his, because through the reflected ray coming from your purity you imitate he who shines within you. Nothing that exists can measure up to your greatness" ("Homilia in Canticum" 2: PG 44,805D).

Let us meditate on this praise of man. We see how man has been debased by sin. And let us try to return to that original greatness: Only if God is present will man arrive at this his true greatness.

Man, therefore, recognized within him the reflection of the divine light. Purifying his heart, he returns to being, as he was in the beginning, a clear image of God, beauty itself (cf. "Oratio Catechetica" 6: SC 453, 174). In this way man, purifying himself, can see God, as do the pure in heart (cf. Matthew 5:8): "If, with a diligent and attentive standard of living, you will wash away the bad things that have deposited upon your heart, the divine beauty will shine in you. … Contemplating yourself, you will see within you he who is the desire of your heart, and you will be blessed" ("De Beatitudinibus," 6: PG 44,1272AB). Therefore, one must wash away the bad things that have deposited upon our heart and find again God's light within us.

Man has as his end the contemplation of God. Only in him can he find his fulfillment. To somehow anticipate this objective already in this life, he must work incessantly toward a spiritual life, a life in dialogue with God. In other words -- and this is the most important lesson that St. Gregory of Nyssa gives us -- man's total fulfillment consists in holiness, in a life lived with God, that, in this way, becomes luminous for others and for the world.

[After the audience, the Holy Father addressed the audience in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now turn to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, the younger brother and spiritual heir of Saint Basil. Gregory's outstanding education and intellectual gifts led him first to teaching. He then embraced the ascetic life, and eventually was ordained Bishop of Nyssa. Like the other Cappadocian Fathers, Gregory contributed greatly to defence of the faith in the period following the Council of Nicaea, and played a leading role at the Council of Constantinople, which defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit. For Gregory, the purpose of all learning and culture is the discernment of the supreme human good, the truth that enables us to find authentic and lasting fulfilment. This supreme good is found in Christianity. In his many catechetical, spiritual and exegetical writings, Gregory emphasizes our creation in the image of God, our royal vocation as stewards of the created order, and our responsibility to cultivate our inner beauty, which is a participation in the uncreated beauty of the Creator. By purifying our hearts and progressing in holiness, we are drawn to the vision of God and thus to the satisfaction of the deepest longings of every human heart.

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On Passing Through the Narrow Gate
"We Must Commit Ourselves to Being Little" (Aug 26, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Even today's liturgy proposes to us an illuminating and troubling phrase of Christ. During his last trip up to Jerusalem someone asks him: "Lord will those who are saved be few?" And Jesus answers: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24). What is meant by this "narrow gate"? Why is it that many people do not succeed in entering through it? Is it perhaps a passage that is reserved only for a few elect?

When we consider it, in effect, the way of reasoning of Jesus' interlocutors is always with us: the temptation to think of religious practice as a source of privileges and certainties is always waiting in ambush for us. In truth, Christ's message goes in exactly the opposite direction: Everyone can enter into life, but the gate is "narrow" for everyone. There is no privileged group. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is "narrow" because it is demanding, it requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one's own egoism.

Once again, as we have seen in past Sundays, the Gospel invites us to consider the future that awaits us and for which we must prepare during our pilgrimage on earth. The salvation that Jesus worked through his death and resurrection is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life. But with one and the same condition: that of making the effort to follow him and imitate him, taking up one's cross, as he did, and dedicating one's life to the service of our brothers. One and universal, therefore, is this condition for entering into the life of heaven.

On the last day -- Jesus observes in the Gospel -- we will not be judged on the basis of presumed privileges, but by our works. The "workers of iniquity" will find themselves excluded, while those who have done good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifice, will be welcomed. For this reason it will not be enough to declare oneself a "friend" of Christ, bragging about false merits: "We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets" (Luke 13:26).

True friendship with Christ is expressed by one's way of life: it is expressed by goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love of justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the "I.D. card" that qualifies us as authentic "friends"; this is the "passport" that permits us to enter into eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we too want to pass through the narrow gate we must commit ourselves to being little, that is, humble of heart, like Jesus. Like Mary, his and our Mother. She was the first, following the Son, to travel the way of the cross and she was assumed into the glory of heaven, as we recalled some days ago. The Christian people call on her as "launa Caeli," Gate of Heaven. Let us ask her to guide us, in our daily choices, along the road that leads to the "Gate of Heaven."

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On Mary's Glorification
"She Sits in Splendor at the Right Hand of Her Son"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
BENEDICT XVI
ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is an ancient feast deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture: indeed, it presents the Virgin Mary closely united to her divine Son and ever supportive of him.

Mother and Son appear closely bound in the fight against the infernal enemy until they completely defeat him. This victory is expressed in particular in overcoming sin and death, that is, in triumphing over the enemies which St Paul always presents as connected (cf. Rom 5: 12, 15-21; I Cor 15: 21-26).

Therefore, just as Christ's glorious Resurrection was the definitive sign of this victory, so Mary's glorification in her virginal body is the ultimate confirmation of her total solidarity with the Son, both in the conflict and in victory.

The Servant of God Pope Pius XII interpreted the deep theological meaning of this mystery on 1 November 1950 when he pronounced the solemn Dogmatic Definition of this Marian privilege.

He declared: "Hence, the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages" (Apostolic Constitution "Munificentissimus Deus": AAS 42, [1 November 1950]).

Dear brothers and sisters, after being taken up into Heaven, Mary did not distance herself from us but continues to be even closer to us and her light shines on our lives and on the history of all humanity. Attracted by the heavenly brightness of the Mother of the Redeemer, let us turn with trust to the One who looks upon us and protects us from on high.

We all need her help and comfort to face the trials and challenges of daily life; we need to feel that she is our mother and sister in the concrete situations of our lives.

And so that we too may one day be able to share in her same destiny, let us imitate her now in her meek following of Christ and her generous service to the brethren. This is the only way to have a foretaste, already on our earthly pilgrimage, of the joy and peace which those who reach the immortal destination of Paradise live to the full.

After the Angelus:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we too may attain the glory of the Resurrection and the fulfilment of our hope in her Son's promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's richest blessings.
I wish you all a good Feast of the Assumption!

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St. Gregory Nazianzen's Teachings
"You Have the Task to Find the True Light"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Gregory Nazianzen, a fourth-century bishop.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

During the last reflection on the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church of this catechesis, I spoke about St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop of the fourth century, and today I would like to continue with the portrait of this great teacher. Today we will summarize some of his teachings.

Reflecting on the mission that God had confided in him, St. Gregory Nazianzen concludes: "I have been created to ascend to God with my actions" (Oratio, 14,6 "De Pauperum Amore": PG 35,865). In fact, he put his talent as a writer and orator at the service of God and the Church. He wrote numerous discourses, homilies and panegyrics, many letters and poetic works (nearly 18,000 verses!): a truly prodigious level of activity.

He understood what the mission was that God had confided in him: "Servant of the word, I adhere to the ministry of the word, which never allows me to neglect this good. I appreciate and enjoy this vocation, it gives me more joy than everything else" (Oratio 6,5: SC 405,134; cf. Oratio 4,10).

The Nazianzen was a meek man, and in his life he always worked to promote peace in the Church of his time, torn by discord and heresy. With evangelical audacity he endeavored to overcome his shyness to proclaim the truth of the faith. He deeply felt the desire to draw near to God, to unite himself to him. He expresses this in his poetry, in which he writes: "great waves of the ocean of life, tossed here and there by the impetuous winds ... there was only one thing that I wanted, my only treasure, consolation and oblivion of weariness, the light of the Holy Trinity" ("Carmina [historical]" 2,1,15: PG 37, 1250ss.)

Gregory made the light of the Trinity glow, defending the faith proclaimed in the Council of Nicea: one God in three equal and distinct Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- "triple light that unites in one single splendor" ("Himno vespertino: Carmina [histórica]" 2,1,32: PG 37,512). In this way, Gregory, following St. Paul (1 Corinthians 8:6), affirms: "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are; one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit, in whom all things are" (Oratio 39, 12: SC 358,172).

Gregory brings Christ's full humanity to the forefront: To redeem man in his totality of body, soul and spirit, Christ assumed all the components of human nature, otherwise man would not have been saved.

Against the heresy of Apollinaris, who assured that Jesus Christ had not assumed a rational soul, Gregory confronts the problem in the light of the mystery of salvation: "What had not been assumed had not been cured" (Epistle 101, 32: SC 208,50), and if Christ had not had a "rational intellect, how could he have been a man?"

Precisely our intellect, our reason, was in need of a relationship, an encounter with God in Christ. Upon becoming man, Christ gave us the possibility to become like him. The Nazianzen exhorts: "We try to be like Christ, well Christ also made himself like us; to be like gods through him, well he made himself man for us. He carried the worst to give us the best" (Oratio 1,5: SC 247,78).

Mary, who gave human nature to Christ, is truly the Mother of God ("Theotókos": cf. Epistle 101, 16: SC 208,42), and with a view to her lofty mission was "prepurified" (Oratio 38,13: SC 358,132, presenting a type of distant prelude to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception). He proposes Mary as a model for Christians, above all for virgins, and as an aid that should be invoked in need (cf. Oratio 24, 11: SC 282,60-64).

Gregory reminds us that, as human persons, we need to be in solidarity with one another. He writes: "'We, though many, are one body in Christ.' (cf. Romans 12:5), rich and poor, slaves and freemen, healthy and sick; and there is one head from which everything originates: Jesus Christ. And as happens with the members of a single body, each one takes care of each one, and everybody of everybody."

Later, referring to the sick and those suffering hardship, he concludes: "This is the only salvation for our flesh and our soul: Charity toward others" (Oratio 14,8 "De Pauperum Amore": PG 35,868ab).

Gregory underlines that man must imitate the goodness and love of God, and for that he recommends: "If you are healthy and rich, alleviate the need of the one who is sick and poor; if you have not fallen, help the one who has fallen and lives in suffering; if you are happy, console the one who is sad; if you are fortunate, help the one who has been bitten by misfortune.

"Show God your gratitude, for you are one that can do good, and not the one that has to be helped. ... Don't be merely rich in wealth, but also in piety; not only in gold, but also in virtue, or better yet, only in this. Surpass the fame of your neighbor by being better than everybody; be God for the unfortunate, imitating the mercy of God" (Oratio 14, 26 "De Pauperum Amore": PG 35,892bc).

Gregory teaches us, before all, the importance and necessity of prayer. He affirms that "it is necessary to remind oneself of God more frequently than one breathes" (Oratio 27,4: PG 250,78), since prayer is the encounter of the thirst of God with our thirst. God thirsts that we thirst for him (cf. Oratio 40,27: SC 358,260).

In prayer, we have to direct our heart to God to surrender ourselves to him as an offering that should be purified and transformed. In prayer, we see everything in the light of Christ, we let down our guard and we submerge ourselves in the truth and in listening to God, nurturing the fire of our love.

In a poem, that at the same time is a meditation on the meaning of life and an implicit supplication to God, Gregory writes: "My soul, you have a task -- if you want -- a great task. Thoughtfully scrutinize your interior, your being, your destiny; where do you come from and where are you going, try to know if it is life that you live, or if it is something more.

"My soul, you have a task then, purify your life: Consider, please, God and his mysteries, investigate what you were before this universe, and what it is for you, where you came from and what will be your destiny. This is your task then, dear soul, purify your life" ("Carmina [historical] 2," 1,78: PG 37,1425-1426).

The holy bishop continually asks Christ for help to raise himself up and to begin again: "I have been disappointed, dear Christ, by my considerable presumption: From the heights I have fallen very low. But, I raise myself up again now, because I see that I have deceived myself; if I rely on myself too much once more, I will immediately fall again, and the fall will be fatal" ("Carmina [historical] 2," 1,67: PG 37,1408).

Gregory, therefore, felt the need to draw near to God to overcome the weariness of his own being. He experienced the urging of the soul, the vivacity of a sensitive spirit and the instability of fleeting happiness. For him, in the drama of a life in which the awareness of his weakness and misery weighed heavily, the experience of the love of God was always stronger.

You have a task -- St. Gregory says to us as well -- the task to find the true light, to find the true measure of your life. And your life consists in encountering God, who thirsts for our thirst.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now continue our reflection on Saint Gregory Nazianzen. Gregory considered it his mission to employ his learning and literary talent in the service of the Gospel.

Inclined to study and prayer, he nonetheless took part in the many controversies which followed the Council of Nicaea. Gregory forcefully defended the Church's faith in one God in three equal and distinct persons. He upheld the full humanity of the Incarnate Son, arguing that Christ took on our human nature in its integrity, including a rational soul, in order to bring us the fullness of redemption. He likewise defended Mary's dignity as the Mother of God, her purity and her intercessory power.

Gregory often stresses our Christian responsibility to imitate God's goodness and love through charity and solidarity with others, especially the sick and those in need. He also speaks eloquently of the importance of prayer, in which we see everything in the light of Christ, are immersed in God's truth and inflamed by his love. The life and teaching of Saint Gregory are a celebration of the divine love which is revealed in Christ. Let us open our hearts to this love, which overcomes our weakness and gives lasting joy and happiness to our lives.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially the groups from England, Ireland, Hungary, Sweden, Japan, Australia and the United States of America. Upon all of you, I invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace.

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ANGELUS

On Wealth
"Although a Good in Itself, Not an Absolute Good"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation provided by the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, of Benedict XVI's Aug. 5 address before praying the Angelus at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Word of God spurs us to reflect on what our relationship with material things should be.

Although wealth is a good in itself, it should not be considered an absolute good. Above all, it does not guarantee salvation; on the contrary, it may even seriously jeopardize it.

In today's Gospel, Jesus puts his disciples on guard precisely against this risk. It is wisdom and virtue not to set one's heart on the goods of this world for all things are transient, all things can suddenly end.

For us Christians, the real treasure that we must ceaselessly seek consists in the "things above ... where Christ is seated at God's right hand"; St Paul reminds us of this today in his Letter to the Colossians, adding that our life "is hid with Christ in God" (cf. 3:1-3).

The Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we shall be celebrating tomorrow, invites us to turn our gaze "above", to Heaven. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration on the mountain, we are given a premonitory sign that allows us a fleeting glimpse of the Kingdom of the Saints, where we too at the end of our earthly life will be able to share in Christ's glory, which will be complete, total and definitive. The whole universe will then be transfigured and the divine plan of salvation will at last be fulfilled.

Servant of God Paul VI

The day of the Solemnity of the Transfiguration remains linked to the memory of my venerable Predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI, who in 1978 completed his mission in this very place, here at Castel Gandolfo, and was called to enter the house of the Heavenly Father. May his commemoration be an invitation to us to look on high and to serve the Lord and the Church faithfully, as he did in the far-from-easy years of the last century.

May the Virgin Mary, whom we remember today in particular while we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of the Basilica of St Mary Major, obtain this grace for us. As is well known, this is the first Western Basilica to have been built in honour of Mary; it was rebuilt in 432 by Pope Sixtus III to celebrate the divine motherhood of the Virgin, a Dogma that had been solemnly proclaimed the previous year at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus.

May the Virgin, who was more closely involved in Christ's mystery than any other creature, sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith so that, as the liturgy invites us to pray today, "we do not let ourselves be dominated by greed or selfishness as we toil with our efforts to subdue the earth but seek always what is worthwhile in God's eyes" (cf. Entrance Antiphon).

H.B. Patriarch Teoctist

At this time, a few days after the death of H.B. Teoctist, the Patriarch, I would like to address a special thought to the leaders and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church. I sent Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to take part as my representative in his solemn funeral, celebrated last Friday at Bucharest's Patriarchal Cathedral.

I remember with esteem and affection this noble figure of a Pastor who loved his Church and made a positive contribution to relations between Catholics and Orthodox, constantly encouraging the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (as a whole).

The two visits he paid my venerable Predecessor John Paul II and the hospitality which he in turn offered the Bishop of Rome during his historic Pilgrimage to Romania in 1999, are clear proof of his ecumenical commitment.

"May his memory live for ever", as the Orthodox liturgical tradition concludes the funeral service of all who fall asleep in the Lord. Let us make this invocation our own, asking the Lord to welcome this Brother of ours into his Kingdom of infinite light and to grant him the repose and peace promised to faithful servants of the Gospel.

I thank everyone and wish you all a good Sunday!

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Papal Message to Interreligious Meeting
"Peace Is Both a Gift From God and an Obligation"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's statement to Kahjun Handa on the 20th anniversary of the religious summit meeting on Mount Hiei.

Mount Hiei, in Japan, is home to the headquarters of the Tendai sect of Buddhism.

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To Venerable KAHJUN HANDA

I am glad to greet you and all the religious leaders gathered on the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei. I wish also to convey my best wishes to Venerable Eshin Watanabe, and to recall your distinguished predecessor as Supreme Head of the Tendai Buddhist Denomination, Venerable Etai Yamada. It was he who, having participated in the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi on that memorable day of 27 October 1986, initiated the "Religious Summit Meeting" on Mount Hiei in Kyoto in order to keep the flame of the spirit of Assisi burning. I am also happy that Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is able to take part in this meeting.

From the supernatural perspective we come to understand that peace is both a gift from God and an obligation for every individual. Indeed the world’s cry for peace, echoed by families and communities throughout the globe, is at once both a prayer to God and an appeal to every brother and sister of our human family. As you assemble on the sacred Mount Hiei, representing different religions, I assure you of my spiritual closeness. May your prayers and cooperation fill you with God’s peace and strengthen your resolve to witness to the reason of peace which overcomes the irrationality of violence!

Upon you all I invoke an abundance of divine blessings of inspiration, harmony and joy.

From the Vatican, 23 June 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Angelus: On the Peace Christ Brought
"Not the Simple Absence of Conflict"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

There is an expression of Jesus’ in this Sunday’s Gospel that always draws our attention and which needs to be properly understood. As he is on his way to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him, Christ confides in his disciples: "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division."

And he adds: "From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Luke 12:51-53).

Whoever knows the least amount about the Gospel of Christ knows that it is the message of peace par excellence; Jesus himself, as St. Paul writes, "is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14); he died and rose from the dead to break down the wall of enmity and inaugurated the Kingdom of God, which is love, joy, and peace.

How, then, are we to explain these words of his? To what is the Lord referring when he says that he has come to bring -- according to St. Luke’s redaction -- "division," or -- according to St. Matthew’s -- the "sword" (Matthew 10:34)?

Christ’s expression means the peace that he came to bring is not synonymous with the simple absence of conflict. On the contrary, the peace of Jesus is the fruit of a constant struggle against evil. The battle that Jesus has decided to fight is not against men or human powers but against the enemy of God and man, Satan.

Those who desire to resist this enemy, remaining faithful to God and the good, must necessarily deal with misunderstandings and sometimes very real persecution. Thus, those who intend to follow Jesus and commit themselves without compromises to the truth must know that they will face opposition and will become, despite themselves, a sign of division among persons, even within their own families.

Love of one’s parents is indeed a sacred commandment, but for it to be lived authentically it cannot be set in opposition to the love of God and Christ. In such a way, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, Christians must become "instruments of his peace," according to the celebrated expression of St. Francis of Assisi. This is not an inconsistent and superficial peace but a real one, pursued with courage and tenacity in the daily commitment to defeat evil with good (cf. Romans 12:21), paying in person the price that this carries with it.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, shared the struggle of her son Jesus against the evil one, to the point of spiritual martyrdom, and she continues to share this struggle until the end of time. Let us invoke her maternal intercession, that she may help us always to be faithful witnesses to Christ’s peace, never giving in to compromises with evil.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

In these days our thoughts and our prayers are turned constantly to the people of Peru, who have been stricken by a devastating earthquake. For the many who have died, I invoke the peace of the Lord, for those who have been injured, I ask for quick recovery, and for those thrown into miserable circumstances I assure you that the Church is with you, in spiritual and material solidarity. My secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who for some time had planned a visit to Peru, in the next few days, will, in person, bring the testimony of my sentiments and the concrete help of the Holy See.

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Papal Q-and-A Session With Priests, Part 3
On Sports, Priorities and Vatican II

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final part of a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's July 24 question-and-answer session with priests from the dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso, Italy, during the Pope's vacation.

Parts 1 and 2 were published Thursday and Friday.

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MEETING OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI WITH THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESES OF BELLUNO-FELTRE AND TREVISO

Church of St Justin Martyr, Auronzo di Cadore
Tuesday, 24 July 2007

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I am Fr Lorenzo, a parish priest. Holy Father, the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be experts in encouraging the encounter of human beings with God. These are not my own words but something Your Holiness said in an Address to the clergy. My spiritual director at the seminary, in those trying sessions of spiritual direction, said to me: "Lorenzino, humanly we've made it, but...", and when he said "but", what he meant was that I preferred playing football to Eucharistic Adoration. And he meant that this did my vocation no good and that it was not right to dispute lessons of morals and law, because the teachers knew more about them that I did. And with that "but", who knows what else he meant. I now think of him in Heaven, and in any case I say some requiems for him. In spite of everything, I have been a priest for 34 years and I am happy about that, too. I have worked no miracles nor have I known any disasters or perhaps I did not recognize them. I feel that "humanly we've made it" is a great compliment. However, does not bringing man close to God and God to man pass above all through what we call humanity, which is indispensable even for us priests?

Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would simply say "yes" to what you said at the end. Catholicism, somewhat simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great "et et": not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of "Catholic" is "synthesis". I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law. Let us do both these things. It is great to do sports. I am not a great sportsman, yet I used to like going to the mountains when I was younger; now I only go on some very easy excursions, but I always find it very beautiful to walk here in this wonderful earth that the Lord has given to us. Therefore, we cannot always live in exalted meditation; perhaps a Saint on the last step of his earthly pilgrimage could reach this point, but we normally live with our feet on the ground and our eyes turned to Heaven. Both these things are given to us by the Lord and therefore loving human things, loving the beauties of this earth, is not only very human but also very Christian and truly Catholic. I would say - and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier - that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the "et et"; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this "et et"; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God's light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer. (Applause)

I am Fr Arnaldo. Holy Father, pastoral and ministerial requirements in addition to the reduced number of priests impel our Bishops to review the distribution of clergy, resulting in an accumulation of tasks for one priest as well as responsibility for more than one parish. This closely affects many communities of the baptized and requires that we priests -- priests and lay people -- live and exercise the pastoral ministry together. How is it possible to live this change in pastoral organization, giving priority to the spirituality of the Good Shepherd? Thank you, Your Holiness.

Benedict XVI: Yes, let us return to this question of pastoral priorities and how to be a parish priest today. A little while ago, a French Bishop who was a Religious and so had never been a parish priest, said to me: "Your Holiness, I would like you to explain to me what a parish priest is. In France we have these large pastoral units covering five, six or seven parishes and the parish priest becomes a coordinator of bodies, of different initiatives". But it seemed to him, since he was so busy coordinating the different bodies he was obliged to deal with, that he no longer had the possibility of a personal encounter with his sheep. Since he was a Bishop, hence, the Pastor of a large parish, he wondered if this system were right or whether we ought to rediscover a possibility for the parish priest to be truly a parish priest, hence, pastor of his flock. I could not, of course, come up with the recipe for an instant solution to the situation in France, but the problem in general is: to ensure that, despite the new situations and new forms of responsibility, the parish priest does not forfeit his closeness to the people, his truly being in person the shepherd of this flock entrusted to him by the Lord. Situations are not the same: I am thinking of the Bishops in their dioceses with widely differing situations; they must see clearly how to ensure that the parish priest continues to be a pastor and does not become a holy bureaucrat. In any case, I think that a first opportunity in which we can be present for the people entrusted to us is precisely the sacramental life. In the Eucharist we are together and can and must meet one another; the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a very personal encounter; Baptism is a personal encounter and not only the moment of the conferral of the Sacrament. I would say that all these sacraments have a context of their own: baptizing entails offering the young family a little catechesis, speaking to them so that Baptism may also become a personal encounter and an opportunity for a very concrete catechesis. Preparation for First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage is likewise always an opportunity for the parish priest, the priest, to meet people personally; he is the preacher and administrator of the sacraments in a way that always involves the human dimension. A sacrament is never merely a ritual act, but the ritual and sacramental act strengthens the human context in which the priest or parish priest acts. Furthermore, I think it very important to find the right ways to delegate. It is not right that the parish priest should only coordinate other bodies. Rather, he should delegate in various ways, and obviously at Synods -- and here in this Diocese you have had the Synod -- a way is found to free the parish priest sufficiently. This should be done in such a way that on the one hand he retains responsibility for the totality of pastoral units entrusted to him. He should not be reduced to being mainly and above all a coordinating bureaucrat. On the contrary, he should be the one who holds the essential reins himself but can also rely on collaborators. I believe that this is one of the important and positive results of the Council: the co-responsibility of the entire parish, for the parish priest is no longer the only one to animate everything. Since we all form a parish together, we must all collaborate and help so that the parish priest is not left on his own, mainly as a coordinator, but truly discovers that he is a pastor who is backed up in these common tasks in which, together, the parish lives and is fulfilled. Thus, I would say that, on the one hand, this coordination and vital responsibility for the whole parish, and on the other, the sacramental life and preaching as a centre of parish life, could also today, in circumstances which are of course more difficult, make it possible to be a parish priest who may not know each person by name, as the Lord says of the Good Shepherd, but one who really knows his sheep and is really their pastor who calls and guides them.

I am asking the last question and I am very tempted to keep quiet for it is a small question, Your Holiness, and after you have nine times found the way to speak to us of God and so exalt us, I feel that what I am about to ask you is trivial and poor, as it were; yet I shall do so! Just a word for those of my generation who trained during the years of the Council and set out with enthusiasm and perhaps also the ambition to change the world. We worked very hard and today we are in a somewhat tricky position because we are worn out, many of our dreams failed to come true and we feel somewhat lonely. The oldest say to us, "You see, we were right to have been more prudent"; and the younger ones sometimes taunt us for being "nostalgic for the Council". This is our question: Can we still bring a gift to our Church, especially with that attachment to people which we feel has marked us? Please help us to recover our hope and serenity.

Benedict XVI: Thank you. This is an important question with which I am well acquainted. I also lived at the time of the Council. I was in St Peter's Basilica with great enthusiasm and saw new doors opening. It really seemed to be the new Pentecost in which the Church could once again convince humanity, after the world had distanced itself from the Church in the 18th and 19th centuries; it seemed that the Church and the world were meeting again and that a Christian world and a Church of the world, truly open to the world, were being born anew. We had so many hopes but in fact things turned out to be more difficult. However, the great legacy of the Council which opened up a new road endures; it is still a magna carta of the Church's journey, very essential and fundamental. Why did this happen? Perhaps I would like to begin with a historical observation. A post-conciliar period is almost always very difficult. The important Council of Nicea -- which for us really is the foundation of our faith, in fact, we confess the faith formulated at Nicea -- did not lead to a situation of reconciliation and unity as Constantine, who organized this great Council, had hoped. It was followed instead by a truly chaotic situation of in-fighting. In his book on the Holy Spirit, St Basil compares the situation of the Church subsequent to the Council of Nicea to a naval battle at night in which no one recognizes the other but everyone fights everyone else. It really was a situation of total chaos: thus, St Basil painted in strong colours the drama of the post-conciliar period, the aftermath of Nicea. Fifty years later, for the First Council of Constantinople, the Emperor invited St Gregory of Nazianzus to take part in the Council. St Gregory answered: "No. I will not come because I know these things, I know that all Councils produce nothing but confusion and fighting so I shall not be coming". And he did not go. Thus, in retrospect, today is not as great a surprise as it would have been at the outset for us all to digest the Council, its important message. To integrate it in the Church's life, to accept it so that it may become the life of the Church, to assimilate it in the various milieus of the Church, means suffering. And it is only in suffering that growth is achieved. Growing always brings suffering because it means emerging from one stage and moving on to the next; and we must note that in the concrete post-conciliar period there are two great historical caesurae. In the post-conciliar period, we had the pause in 1968, the beginning or "explosion" -- I would dare to call it -- of the great cultural crisis of the West. The post-war generation had come to an end. This was the generation that, after all the destruction and seeing the horrors of war and fighting and noting the tragedy of the great ideologies which truly led people to the brink of war, rediscovered the Christian roots of Europe. And we had begun to rebuild Europe with these lofty inspirations. However, once this generation had disappeared, all the failures, the shortcomings in this reconstruction and the widespread poverty in the world became visible. Thus, the crisis in Western culture, I would call it a cultural revolution that wanted radical change, burst out. It was saying: in 2,000 years of Christianity, we have not created a better world. We must start again from zero in an entirely new way. Marxism seems to be the scientific recipe for creating a new world at last. And in this -- we said -- serious clash between the new and healthy modernity desired by the Council and the crisis of modernity, everything becomes difficult, just as it was after the First Council of Nicea. Some were of the opinion that this cultural revolution was what the Council desired. They identified this new Marxist cultural revolution with the Council's intentions. This faction said: "This is the Council. Literally, the texts are still somewhat antiquated but this is the spirit behind the written words, this is the will of the Council, this is what we have to do". On the other hand, however, was a reaction that said: "This is the way to destroy the Church". This reaction -- let us say -- was utterly opposed to the Council, the anti-conciliar approach and -- let us say -- the timid, humble effort to achieve the true spirit of the Council. And as a proverb says: "If a tree falls it makes a great crash, but if a forest grows nothing can be heard for a silent process is happening". Thus, in the din of an anti-Council sentiment and erroneous progressivism, the journey of the Church silently gathered momentum, with great suffering and great losses, as she built up a new cultural process. Then came the second phase in 1989 -- the collapse of the Communist regimes; but the response was not a return to the faith as one might have expected. It was not the rediscovery that the Church herself, with the authentic Council, had come up with the answer. The response instead was the total scepticism of so-called "post-modernity". It held that nothing is true, that everyone must live as best he can. Materialism gained ground, a pseudo-rationalist, blind scepticism that led to drugs and ended in all the problems we know. Once again, it closed the ways to faith because it was something so simple and so obvious. No, there was nothing true about it. The truth is intolerant, we cannot take this route. Here, in the contexts of these two cultural ruptures: the first, the cultural revolution of 1968 and the second, the collapse, we might call it, into nihilism after 1989, the Church humbly set out among the afflictions of the world and the glory of the Lord. On this path we must grow, patiently, and must now learn in a new way what it means to give up triumphalism. The Council had said that triumphalism should be given up -- and was thinking of the baroque, of all these great cultures of the Church. People said: Let us begin in a new and modern way. But another triumphalism had developed, that of thought: we now do things, we have found our way, and on this path we will find the new world. Yet, the humility of the Cross, of the Crucified One, excludes this same triumphalism. We must renounce the triumphalism which holds that the great Church of the future is now truly being born. Christ's Church is always humble and in this very way is great and joyful. It seems to me very important that our eyes are now open and can see all that is positive which developed in the period subsequent to the Council: in the renewal of the liturgy, in the Synods, the Roman Synods, the universal Synods, the diocesan synods, the parish structures, in collaboration, in the new responsibility of lay people, in the great intercultural and intercontinental co-responsibility, in a new experience of the Church's catholicity, of the unanimity that grows in humility and yet is the true hope of the world. Thus, I think we have to rediscover the Council's great legacy. It is not a spirit reconstructed from texts but consists of the great Council texts themselves, reinterpreted today with the experiences we have had which have borne fruit in so many movements and so many new religious communities. I went to Brazil knowing that the sects were spreading and that the Catholic Church there seemed somewhat fossilized; but once I arrived there, I saw that a new religious community is born in Brazil almost every day, a new movement is born. Not only are the sects growing, the Church is growing with new situations full of vitality, not in order to complete the statistics -- this is a false hope, statistics are not our god -- but these situations are growing in souls and create the joy of faith, the presence of the Gospel; consequently, they are also creating a true development of the world and of society. It seems to me, therefore, that we must combine the great humility of the Crucified One, of a Church which is always humble and always opposed by the great economic and military powers, etc., but with this humility we must also learn the true triumphalism of catholicity that develops in all the centuries. Today too, the presence of the Crucified and Risen One, who has preserved his wounds, is increasing. He is wounded but it is in this way that he renews the world and gives his breath which also renews the Church, despite all our poverty. And I would say that it is in this combination of the humility of the Cross and the joy of the Risen Lord, who in the Council gave us a great signpost for our journey, that we can go ahead joyously and full of hope.

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On 3 Lessons From St. Basil
"Only If We Are Open to God Can We Build a Just World"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 1 at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Basil, continuing with the Pope's last catechesis from July 4.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After this three-week break, we are continuing with our Wednesday meetings. Today, I would simply like to resume my last Catechesis, whose subject was the life and writings of St Basil, a Bishop in present-day Turkey, in Asia Minor, in the fourth century A.D. The life and works of this great Saint are full of ideas for reflection and teachings that are also relevant for us today.

First of all is the reference to God's mystery, which is still the most meaningful and vital reference for human beings. The Father is "the principal of all things and the cause of being of all that exists, the root of the living" (Hom. 15, 2 de fide: PG 31, 465c); above all, he is "the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ" ("Anaphora Sancti Basilii"). Ascending to God through his creatures, we "become aware of his goodness and wisdom" (Basil, "Adversus Eunomium" 1, 14: PG 29, 544b).

The Son is the "image of the Father's goodness and seal in the same form" (cf. "Anaphora Sancti Basilii"). With his obedience and his Passion, the Incarnate Word carried out his mission as Redeemer of man (cf. Basil, "In Psalmum" 48, 8; PG 29, 452ab; cf. also "De Baptismo" 1, 2: SC 357, 158).

Lastly, he spoke fully of the Holy Spirit, to whom he dedicated a whole book. He reveals to us that the Spirit enlivens the Church, fills her with his gifts and sanctifies her.

The resplendent light of the divine mystery is reflected in man, the image of God, and exalts his dignity. Looking at Christ, one fully understands human dignity.

Basil exclaims: "[Man], be mindful of your greatness, remembering the price paid for you: look at the price of your redemption and comprehend your dignity!" ("In Psalmum" 48, 8: PG 29, 452b). ?Christians in particular, conforming their lives to the Gospel, recognize that all people are brothers and sisters; that life is a stewardship of the goods received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other, and whoever is rich must be as it were an "executor of the orders of God the Benefactor" (Hom 6 de avaritia: PG 32, 1181-1196). We must all help one another and cooperate as members of one body (Ep 203, 3).

And on this point, he used courageous, strong words in his homilies. Indeed, anyone who desires to love his neighbour as himself, in accordance with God's commandment, "must possess no more than his neighbour" ("Hom. in divites": PG 31, 281b).

In times of famine and disaster, the holy Bishop exhorted the faithful with passionate words "not to be more cruel than beasts ... by taking over what people possess in common or by grabbing what belongs to all ("Hom. tempore famis": PG 31, 325a).

Basil's profound thought stands out in this evocative sentence: "All the destitute look to our hands just as we look to those of God when we are in need".

Therefore, Gregory of Nazianzus' praise after Basil's death was well-deserved. He said: "Basil convinces us that since we are human beings, we must neither despise men nor offend Christ, the common Head of all, with our inhuman behaviour towards people; rather, we ourselves must benefit by learning from the misfortunes of others and must lend God our compassion, for we are in need of mercy" (Gregory Nazianzus, "Orationes" 43, 63; PG 36, 580b).

These words are very timely. We see that St Basil is truly one of the Fathers of the Church's social doctrine.
Furthermore, Basil reminds us that to keep alive our love for God and for men, we need the Eucharist, the appropriate food for the baptized, which can nourish the new energies that derive from Baptism (cf. "De Baptismo" 1, 3: SC 357, 192).

It is a cause of immense joy to be able to take part in the Eucharist (cf. "Moralia" 21, 3: PG 31, 741a), instituted "to preserve unceasingly the memory of the One who died and rose for us" ("Moralia" 80, 22: PG 31, 869b).

The Eucharist, an immense gift of God, preserves in each one of us the memory of the baptismal seal and makes it possible to live the grace of Baptism to the full and in fidelity.

For this reason, the holy Bishop recommended frequent, even daily, Communion: "Communicating even daily, receiving the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is good and useful; for he said clearly: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life' (Jn 6: 54). So who would doubt that communicating continuously with life were not living in fullness?" (Ep. 93: PG 32, 484b).

The Eucharist, in a word, is necessary for us if we are to welcome within us true life, eternal life (cf. "Moralia" 21, 1: PG 31, 737c).

Finally, Basil was of course also concerned with that chosen portion of the People of God, the youth, society's future. He addressed a Discourse to them on how to benefit from the pagan culture of that time.

He recognized with great balance and openness that examples of virtue can be found in classical Greek and Latin literature. Such examples of upright living can be helpful to young Christians in search of the truth and the correct way of living (cf. "Ad Adolescentes" 3).

Therefore, one must take from the texts by classical authors what is suitable and conforms with the truth: thus, with a critical and open approach -- it is a question of true and proper "discernment" -- young people grow in freedom.

With the famous image of bees that gather from flowers only what they need to make honey, Basil recommends: "Just as bees can take nectar from flowers, unlike other animals which limit themselves to enjoying their scent and colour, so also from these writings ... one can draw some benefit for the spirit. We must use these books, following in all things the example of bees. They do not visit every flower without distinction, nor seek to remove all the nectar from the flowers on which they alight, but only draw from them what they need to make honey, and leave the rest. And if we are wise, we will take from those writings what is appropriate for us, and conform to the truth, ignoring the rest" ("Ad Adolescentes" 4).

Basil recommended above all that young people grow in virtue, in the right way of living: "While the other goods ... pass from one to the other as in playing dice, virtue alone is an inalienable good and endures throughout life and after death" ("Ad Adolescentes" 5).

Dear brothers and sisters, I think one can say that this Father from long ago also speaks to us and tells us important things.

In the first place, attentive, critical and creative participation in today's culture.

Then, social responsibility: this is an age in which, in a globalized world, even people who are physically distant are really our neighbours; therefore, friendship with Christ, the God with the human face.

And, lastly, knowledge and recognition of God the Creator, the Father of us all: only if we are open to this God, the common Father, can we build a more just and fraternal world.

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, including groups from Iceland, Japan, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the musicians present and to the large group from Cherry Hill, Colorado. May the peace and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and may God bless you all!

I greet the group of European Scouts, who with their presence this morning desire to reaffirm their membership in the Church, after renewing their scout promise which binds them to doing their duty to God and serving others generously. My thoughts also turn to all the scouts and guides in the world who are renewing their promise this very day, the centenary of the Scout movement, founded on 1 August 1907 with the first scout camp in history on Brownsea Island. I warmly hope that this educational movement, which was born from the profound insight of Lord Robert Baden Powell, will continue to bear fruit in the spiritual and civil formation of human beings in all countries in the world.

Lastly, as usual I would like to greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds, and to express to them the wish that enlivened by Christ's charity they will lead a life that sets an example for all. May Jesus sustain you in your hope, dear young people, in your suffering, dear sick people, and in your fruitful love, dear newly-weds. ?I impart my Blessing to you all.

[After greeting the faithful, the Holy Father said:]

At the end of the General Audience, I would like to record some good news about Iraq which has sparked an explosion of popular joy throughout the Country. I am referring to the victory of the Iraqi football team, which won the Asian Cup and for the first time has become the football champion of Asia. I was happily impressed by the enthusiasm that infected all the inhabitants, driving them out onto the streets to celebrate the event. Just as I have so often wept with the Iraqis, on this occasion I rejoice with them. This experience of joyful sharing shows a people's desire to have a normal, quiet life. I hope that the event may help in building in Iraq a future of authentic peace with the contribution of all, in freedom and reciprocal respect. Congratulations!

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Papal Q-and-A Session With Priests
On Conscience, Pastoral Organization and Immigrants

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's July 24 question-and-answer session with priests from the dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso, Italy, during the Pope's vacation.


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MEETING OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI WITH THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESES OF BELLUNO-FELTRE AND TREVISO

Church of St Justin Martyr, Auronzo di Cadore
Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Your Holiness, I am Fr Claudio. The question I wanted to ask you is about the formation of conscience, especially in young people, because today it seems more and more difficult to form a consistent conscience, an upright conscience. Good and evil are often confused with having good and bad feelings, the more emotive aspect. So I would like to hear your advice. Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Your Excellency, dear Brothers, I would like first of all to express my joy and gratitude for this beautiful meeting. I thank the two Pastors, Bishop Andrich and Bishop Mazzocato, for their invitation. I offer my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have come here in such large numbers during the holiday season. To see a church full of priests is encouraging because it shows us that there are priests. The Church is alive, despite the increasing problems in our day and especially in the Western hemisphere. The Church is still alive and has priests who truly desire to proclaim the Kingdom of God; she is growing and standing up to these complications that we perceive in our cultural situation today. Now, to a certain extent, this first question reflects a problem of Western culture, since in the last two centuries the concept of "conscience" has undergone a profound transformation. Today, the idea prevails that only what is quantifiable can be rational, which stems from reason. Other things, such as the subjects of religion and morals, should not enter into common reason because they cannot be proven or, rather, put to the "acid test", so to speak. In this situation, where morals and religion are as it were almost expelled from reason, the subject is the only ultimate criterion of morality and also of religion, the subjective conscience which knows no other authority. In the end, the subject alone decides, with his feelings and experience, on the possible criteria he has discovered. Yet, in this way the subject becomes an isolated reality and, as you said, the parameters change from one day to the next. In the Christian tradition, "conscience", "con-scientia", means "with knowledge": that is, ourselves, our being is open and can listen to the voice of being itself, the voice of God. Thus, the voice of the great values is engraved in our being and the greatness of the human being is precisely that he is not closed in on himself, he is not reduced to the material, something quantifiable, but possesses an inner openness to the essentials and has the possibility of listening. In the depths of our being, not only can we listen to the needs of the moment, to material needs, but we can also hear the voice of the Creator himself and thus discern what is good and what is bad. Of course, this capacity for listening must be taught and encouraged. The commitment to the preaching that we do in church consists of precisely this: developing this very lofty capacity with which God has endowed human beings for listening to the voice of truth and also the voice of values. I would say, therefore, that a first step would be to make people aware that our very nature carries in itself a moral message, a divine message that must be deciphered. We can become increasingly better acquainted with it and listen to it if our inner hearing is open and developed. The actual question now is how to carry out in practice this education in listening, how to make human beings capable of it despite all the forms of modern deafness, how to ensure that this listening, the Ephphatha of Baptism, the opening of the inner senses, truly takes place. In taking stock of the current situation, I would propose the combination of a secular approach and a religious approach, the approach of faith. Today, we all see that man can destroy the foundations of his existence, his earth, hence, that we can no longer simply do what we like or what seems useful and promising at the time with this earth of ours, with the reality entrusted to us. On the contrary, we must respect the inner laws of creation, of this earth, we must learn these laws and obey these laws if we wish to survive. Consequently, this obedience to the voice of the earth, of being, is more important for our future happiness than the voices of the moment, the desires of the moment. In short, this is a first criterion to learn: that being itself, our earth, speaks to us and we must listen if we want to survive and to decipher this message of the earth. And if we must be obedient to the voice of the earth, this is even truer for the voice of human life. Not only must we care for the earth, we must respect the other, others: both the other as an individual person, as my neighbour, and others as communities who live in the world and have to live together. And we see that it is only with full respect for this creature of God, this image of God which man is, and with respect for our coexistence on this earth, that we can develop. And here we reach the point when we need the great moral experiences of humanity. These experiences are born from the encounter with the other, with the community. We need the experience that human freedom is always a shared freedom and can only function if we share our freedom with respect for the values that are common to us all. It seems to me that with these steps it will be possible to make people see the need to obey the voice of being, to respect the dignity of the other, to accept the need to live our respective freedom together as one freedom, and through all this to recognize the intrinsic value that can make a dignified communion of life possible among human beings. Thus, as has been said, we come to the great experiences of humanity in which the voice of being is expressed. We especially come to the experiences of this great historical pilgrimage of the People of God that began with Abraham. In him, not only do we find the fundamental human experiences but also, we can hear through these experiences the voice of the Creator himself, who loves us and has spoken to us. Here, in this context, respecting the human experiences that point out the way to us today and in the future, I believe that the Ten Commandments always have a priority value in which we see the important signposts on our way. The Ten Commandments reinterpreted, relived in the light of Christ, in the light of the life of the Church and of her experiences, point to certain fundamental and essential values. Together, the Fourth and Sixth Commandments suggest the importance of our body, of respecting the laws of the body and of sexuality and love, the value of faithful love, of the family; the Fifth Commandment points to the value of life and also the value of community life; the Seventh Commandment regards the value of sharing the earth's goods and of a fair distribution of these goods and of the stewardship of God's creation; the Eighth Commandment points to the great value of truth. If, therefore, in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Commandments we have love of neighbour, in the Seventh we have the truth. None of this works without communion with God, without respect for God and God's presence in the world. In any case, a world without God becomes an arbitrary and egoistic world. There is light and hope only if God appears. Our life has a meaning which we must not produce ourselves but which precedes us and guides us. In this sense, therefore, I would say that together, we should take the obvious routes which today even the lay conscience can easily discern. We should therefore seek to guide people to the deepest voices, to the true voice of the conscience that is communicated through the great tradition of prayer, of the moral life of the Church. Thus, in a process of patient education, I think we can all learn to live and to find true life.

I am Fr Mauro. Your Holiness, in exercising our pastoral ministry we are increasingly burdened by many duties. Our tasks in the management and administration of parishes, pastoral organization and assistance to people in difficulty are piling up. I ask you, what are the priorities we should aim for in our ministry as priests and parish priests to avoid fragmentation on the one hand and on the other, dispersion? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: That is a very realistic question, is it not? I am also somewhat familiar with this problem, with all the daily procedures, with all the necessary audiences, with all that there is to do. Yet, it is necessary to determine the right priorities and not to forget the essential: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. On hearing your question, I remembered the Gospel of two weeks ago on the mission of the 70 disciples. For this first important mission which Jesus had them undertake, the Lord gave them three orders which on the whole I think express the great priorities in the work of a disciple of Christ, a priest, in our day too. The three imperatives are: to pray, to provide care, to preach. I think we should find the balance between these three basic imperatives and keep them ever present as the heart of our work. Prayer: which is to say, without a personal relationship with God nothing else can function, for we cannot truly bring God, the divine reality or true human life to people unless we ourselves live them in a deep, true relationship of friendship with God in Jesus Christ. Hence, the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a fundamental encounter where the Lord speaks to me and I speak to the Lord who gives himself through my hands. Without the prayer of the Hours, in which we join in the great prayer of the entire People of God beginning with the Psalms of the ancient people who are renewed in the faith of the Church, and without personal prayer, we cannot be good priests for we would lose the essence of our ministry. The first imperative is to be a man of God, in the sense of a man in friendship with Christ and with his Saints. Then comes the second command. Jesus said: tend the sick, seek those who have strayed, those who are in need. This is the Church's love for the marginalized and the suffering. Rich people can also be inwardly marginalized and suffering. "To take care of" refers to all human needs, which are always profoundly oriented to God. Thus, as has been said, it is necessary for us to know our sheep, to be on good terms with the people entrusted to us, to have human contact and not to lose our humanity, because God was made man and consequently strengthened all dimensions of our being as humans. However, as I said, the human and the divine always go hand in hand. To my mind, the sacramental ministry is also part of this "tending" in its multiple forms. The ministry of Reconciliation is an act of extraordinary caring which the person needs in order to be perfectly healthy. Thus, this sacramental care begins with Baptism, which is the fundamental renewal of our life, and extends to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. Of course, all the other sacraments and also the Eucharist involve great care for souls. We have to care for people but above all -- this is our mandate -- for their souls. We must think of the many illnesses and moral and spiritual needs that exist today and that we must face, guiding people to the encounter with Christ in the sacrament, helping them to discover prayer and meditation, being silently recollected in church with this presence of God. And then, preaching. What do we preach? We proclaim the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God is not a distant utopia in a better world which may be achieved in 50 years' time, or who knows when. The Kingdom of God is God himself, God close to us who became very close in Christ. This is the Kingdom of God: God himself is near to us and we must draw close to this God who is close for he was made man, remains man and is always with us in his Word, in the Most Holy Eucharist and in all believers. Therefore, proclaiming the Kingdom of God means speaking of God today, making present God's words, the Gospel which is God's presence and, of course, making present the God who made himself present in the Holy Eucharist. By interweaving these three priorities and, naturally, taking into account all the human aspects, including our own limitations that we must recognize, we can properly fulfil our priesthood. This humility that recognizes the limitations of our own strength is important as well. All that we cannot do, the Lord must do. And there is also the ability to delegate and to collaborate. All this must always go with the fundamental imperatives of praying, tending and preaching.

My name is Fr Daniele. Your Holiness, the Veneto is an area with a steady influx of immigrants where a sizable number of non-Christians are present. This situation confronts our dioceses with a new, internal task of evangelization. Moreover, this represents a certain difficulty since we have to reconcile the needs of Gospel proclamation with those of a respectful dialogue with other religions. What pastoral instructions can you suggest? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: You are naturally in close touch with this situation. And in this regard, I may be unable to give you much practical advice, but I can say that in all the ad limina visits, whether the Bishops come from Asia, Africa, Latin America or every part of Italy, I am always confronted with such situations. A uniform world no longer exists. All the other continents, the other religions, the other ways of living human life are present especially in the West. We are living a permanent encounter where we resemble the ancient Church because she experienced the same situation. Christians formed a tiny minority, a mustard seed that began to sprout, surrounded by very different religions and ways of life. We must learn once again, therefore, all that the first generations of Christians experienced. In his First Letter, St Peter said: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (3:15). Thus, he formulated for the ordinary person of that time, for the ordinary Christian, the need to combine proclamation and dialogue. He did not say formally: "Proclaim the Gospel to everyone". He said: "You must be able, ready, to account for the hope that is in you". I think that this is the necessary synthesis between dialogue and proclamation. The first point is that the reason for our hope must be ever present within us. We must be people who live faith and think faith, people with an inner knowledge of it. So it is that faith becomes reason within us, it becomes reasonable. Meditation on the Gospel and in this case, proclamation, the homily and catechesis to enable people to ponder faith, already constitute fundamental elements in this web of dialogue and proclamation. We ourselves must think faith, live faith and, as priests, find different ways to make faith present so that our Christian Catholics can find the conviction, readiness and ability to account for their faith. This proclamation which transmits the faith to today's conscience must have many forms. The homily and catechesis are indisputably two of its principal forms, but there are also many ways of meeting, such as seminars on faith, lay movements, etc., where people talk about faith and learn the faith. All this makes us capable, first of all, of truly living as the neighbours of non-Christians -- here, mainly Orthodox Christians, Protestants and also exponents of other religions, Muslims and others. ?The first aspect is to live beside them, recognizing with them their neighbour, our neighbour; thus, living love of neighbour on the front line as an expression of our faith. I think that this is already a very powerful witness and also a form of proclamation: truly living love of neighbour with these others, recognizing the latter, recognizing them as our neighbour so that they can see: this "love of neighbour" is for me. If this happens, we will be able to more easily present the source of our behaviour, in other words, that love of neighbour is an expression of our faith. Thus, our dialogue cannot move on suddenly to the great mysteries of faith, although Muslims have a certain knowledge of Christ that denies his divinity but at least recognizes him as a great Prophet. They love Our Lady. These are consequently elements that we have in common, even in faith, and are starting points for dialogue. A perception of fundamental understanding on the values we should live is practical, feasible and above all necessary. Here too, we have a treasure in common because Muslims come from the religion of Abraham, reinterpreted and relived in ways to be studied and to which we should finally respond. Yet, the great substantial experience of the Ten Commandments is present and this seems to me a point that requires further investigation. Moving on to the great mysteries seems to me to be moving to a level that is far from easy and impossible to attain at large meetings. Perhaps the seed should enter hearts, so that here and there the response of faith in a more specific dialogue may mature. But what we can and must do is to seek a consensus on the fundamental values expressed in the Ten Commandments, summed up in love of neighbour and love of God, and which can thus be interpreted in the various life contexts. We are at least on a common journey towards the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who is ultimately the God with the human face, the God present in Jesus Christ. But if the latter step is to be made in intimate, personal encounters or small groups, the journey towards this God, from which derives these values that make life in common possible, I think this is feasible also at larger meetings. As a result, in my opinion a humble, patient form of proclamation should be undertaken here, which awaits but already realizes our life in accordance with knowledge enlightened by God.

I am Fr Samuele. We have accepted your invitation to pray, care for people and preach. We are taking you seriously by caring for you yourself; so, to express our affection, we have brought you several bottles of wholesome wine from our region, which we will make sure that you receive through our Bishop. So now for my question. We are seeing an enormous increase in situations of divorced people who remarry, live together and ask priests to help them with their spiritual life. These people often come to us with a heartfelt plea for access to the sacraments. These realities need to be faced and the sufferings they cause must be shared. Holy Father, may I ask you what are the human, spiritual and pastoral approaches with which one can combine compassion and truth? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Yes, this is indeed a painful problem and there is certainly no simple solution to resolve it. This problem makes us all suffer because we all have people close to us who are in this situation. We know it causes them sorrow and pain because they long to be in full communion with the Church. The previous bond of matrimony reduces their participation in the life of the Church. What can be done? I would say: as far as possible, we would naturally put prevention first. Hence, preparation for marriage becomes ever more fundamental and necessary. Canon Law presupposes that man as such, even without much education, intends to contract a marriage in harmony with human nature, as mentioned in the first chapters of Genesis. He is a human being, his nature is human and consequently he knows what marriage is. He intends to behave as human nature dictates to him. Canon Law starts from this presupposition. It is something compulsory: man is man, nature is what it is and tells him this. Today, however, this axiom, which holds that man prompted by his nature will make one faithful marriage, has been transformed into a somewhat different axiom. "Volunt contrahere matrimonium sicut ceteri homines". It is no longer nature alone that speaks, but the "ceteri homines": what everyone does. And what everyone does today is not simply to enter into natural marriage, in accordance with the Creator, in accordance with creation. What the "ceteri homines" do is to marry with the idea that one day their marriage might fail and that they will then be able to move on to another one, to a third or even a fourth marriage. This model of what "everyone does" thus becomes one that is contrary to what nature says. In this way, it becomes normal to marry, divorce and remarry, and no one thinks this is something contrary to human nature, or in any case those who do are few and far between. Therefore, to help people achieve a real marriage, not only in the sense of the Church but also of the Creator, we must revive their capacity for listening to nature. Let us return to the first query, the first question: rediscovering within what everyone does, what nature itself tells us, which is so different from what this modern custom dictates. Indeed, it invites us to marry for life, with lifelong fidelity including the suffering that comes from growing together in love. Thus, these preparatory courses for marriage must be a rectification of the voice of nature, of the Creator, within us, a rediscovery, beyond what all the "ceteri homines" do, of what our own being intimately tells us. In this situation, therefore, distinguishing between what everyone else does and what our being tells us, these preparatory courses for marriage must be a journey of rediscovery. They must help us learn anew what our being tells us. They must help couples reach the true decision of marriage in accordance with the Creator and the Redeemer. Hence, these preparatory courses are of great importance in order to "learn oneself", to learn the true intention for marriage. But preparation is not enough; the great crises come later. Consequently, ongoing guidance, at least in the first 10 years, is of the utmost importance. In the parish, therefore, it is not only necessary to provide preparatory courses but also communion in the journey that follows, guidance and mutual help. May priests, but not on their own, and families, which have already undergone such experiences and are familiar with such suffering and temptations, be available in moments of crisis. The presence of a network of families that help one another is important and different movements can make a considerable contribution. The first part of my answer provides for prevention, not only in the sense of preparation but also of guidance and for the presence of a network of families to assist in this contemporary situation where everything goes against faithfulness for life. It is necessary to help people find this faithfulness and learn it, even in the midst of suffering. However, in the case of failure, in other words, when the spouses are incapable of adhering to their original intention, there is always the question of whether it was a real decision in the sense of the sacrament. As a result, one possibility is the process for the declaration of nullity. If their marriage were authentic, which would prevent them from remarrying, the Church's permanent presence would help these people to bear the additional suffering. In the first case, we have the suffering that goes with overcoming this crisis and learning a hard-fought for and mature fidelity. In the second case, we have the suffering of being in a new bond which is not sacramental, hence, does not permit full communion in the sacraments of the Church. Here it would be necessary to teach and to learn how to live with this suffering. We return to this point, to the first question of the other diocese. In our generation, in our culture, we have to rediscover the value of suffering in general, and we have to learn that suffering can be a very positive reality which helps us to mature, to become more ourselves, and to be closer to the Lord who suffered for us and suffers with us. Even in the latter situation, therefore, the presence of the priest, families, movements, personal and communitarian communion in these situations, the helpful love of one's neighbour, a very specific love, is of the greatest importance. And I think that only this love, felt by the Church and expressed in the solidarity of many, can help these people recognize that they are loved by Christ and are members of the Church despite their difficult situation. Thus, it can help them to live the faith.

My name is Fr Saverio, so of course my question concerns the missions. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical "Fidei Donum." Many priests in our Diocese, myself included, have accepted the Pope's invitation; they, we, have lived and are living the experience of the mission ad gentes. There can be no doubt that this is an extraordinary experience which in my modest opinion could be shared by a great number of priests with a view to exchanges between Sister Churches. Since the instruction in the Encyclical is still timely today, given the dwindling number of priests in our countries, how and with what attitude should it be accepted and lived both by the priests who are sent out and by the whole diocese? Thank you.

Pope Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would first like to thank all these fidei donum priests and the dioceses. As I have already mentioned, I have received a great number of ad limina visits from Bishops of Asia, Africa and Latin America and they all tell me: "We are badly in need of fidei donum priests and we are deeply grateful for the work they do. They make present, often in extremely difficult situations, the catholicity of the Church and they make visible the great universal communion which we form, as well as the love for our distant neighbour who becomes close in the situation of the fidei donum priest". In the past 50 years I have almost tangibly felt and seen this great gift, truly given, in my conversations with priests who say to us: "Do not think that we Africans are now quite self-sufficient; we are still in need of the visibility of the great communion of the universal Church". I would say that we all need to be visible as Catholics and we need to love the neighbour who comes from afar and thus finds his neighbour. Today, the situation has changed in the sense that we in Europe also receive priests from Africa, Latin America and even from other parts of Europe. This enables us to perceive the beauty of this exchange of gifts, this gift of one to the other, because we all need one another: it is precisely in this way that the Body of Christ grows. To sum up, I would like to say that this gift was and is a great gift, perceived in the Church as such: in so many situations that I cannot describe here, which involve social problems, problems of development, problems of the proclamation of the faith, problems of loneliness, the need for the presence of others, these priests are a gift in which the dioceses and particular Churches recognize the presence of Christ who gives himself for us. At the same time, they recognize that Eucharistic Communion is not only a supranatural communion but becomes concrete communion in this gift of self of diocesan priests who make themselves available to other dioceses, and that the network of particular Churches thus truly becomes a network of love. Thanks to all those who have made this gift. I can only encourage Bishops and priests to continue making this gift. I know that today, with the shortage of vocations, it is becoming more and more difficult in Europe to make this gift; but we already have the experience that other continents in turn, such as especially India and Africa, also give us priests. Reciprocity continues to be of paramount importance. Precisely the experience that we are the Church sent out into the world which everyone knows and loves, is very necessary and also constitutes the power of proclamation. Thus, people can see that the mustard seed bears fruit and ceaselessly, time and again, becomes a great tree in which the birds of the air find repose. Thank you and be strong.

Fr Alberto: Holy Father, young people are our future and our hope: but they sometimes see life as a difficulty rather than an opportunity; not as a gift for themselves and for others but as something to be consumed on the spot; not as a future to be built but as aimless wandering. The contemporary mindset demands that young people be happy and perfect all of the time. The result is that every tiny failure and the least difficulty are no longer seen as causes for growth but as a defeat. All this often leads to irreversible acts such as suicide, which wound the hearts of those who love them and of society as a whole. What can you tell us educators who feel all too often that our hands are tied and that we have no answers? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: I think you have just given us a precise description of a life in which God does not figure. At first sight, it seems as if we do not need God or indeed, that without God we would be freer and the world would be grander. But after a certain time, we see in our young people what happens when God disappears. As Nietzsche said: "The great light has been extinguished, the sun has been put out". Life is then a chance event. It becomes a thing that I must seek to do the best I can with and use life as though it were a thing that serves my own immediate, tangible and achievable happiness. But the big problem is that were God not to exist and were he not also the Creator of my life, life would actually be a mere cog in evolution, nothing more; it would have no meaning in itself. Instead, I must seek to give meaning to this component of being. Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called "creationism" and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance. This is what I wanted to say in my lecture at Regensburg: that reason should be more open, that it should indeed perceive these facts but also realize that they are not enough to explain all of reality. They are insufficient. Our reason is broader and can also see that our reason is not basically something irrational, a product of irrationality, but that reason, creative reason, precedes everything and we are truly the reflection of creative reason. We were thought of and desired; thus, there is an idea that preceded me, a feeling that preceded me, that I must discover, that I must follow, because it will at last give meaning to my life. This seems to me to be the first point: to discover that my being is truly reasonable, it was thought of, it has meaning. And my important mission is to discover this meaning, to live it and thereby contribute a new element to the great cosmic harmony conceived of by the Creator. If this is true, then difficulties also become moments of growth, of the process and progress of my very being, which has meaning from conception until the very last moment of life. We can get to know this reality of meaning that precedes all of us, we can also rediscover the meaning of pain and suffering; there is of course one form of suffering that we must avoid and must distance from the world: all the pointless suffering caused by dictatorships and erroneous systems, by hatred and by violence. However, in suffering there is also a profound meaning, and only if we can give meaning to pain and suffering can our life mature. I would say, above all, that there can be no love without suffering, because love always implies renouncement of myself, letting myself go and accepting the other in his otherness; it implies a gift of myself and therefore, emerging from myself. All this is pain and suffering, but precisely in this suffering caused by the losing of myself for the sake of the other, for the loved one and hence, for God, I become great and my life finds love, and in love finds its meaning. The inseparability of love and suffering, of love and God, are elements that must enter into the modern conscience to help us live. In this regard, I would say that it is important to help the young discover God, to help them discover the true love that precisely in renunciation becomes great and so also enables them to discover the inner benefit of suffering, which makes me freer and greater. Of course, to help young people find these elements, companionship and guidance are always essential, whether through the parish, Catholic Action or a Movement. It is only in the company of others that we can also reveal this great dimension of our being to the new generations.

I am Fr Francesco. Holy Father, one sentence you wrote in your book made a deep impression on me: "[But] what did Jesus actually bring if not world peace, universal prosperity and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is very simple: "God. He has brought God'" (Jesus of Nazareth, English edition, p. 44); I find the clarity and truth of this citation disarming. This is my question: there is talk about the new evangelization, the new proclamation of the Gospel -- this was also the main theme of the Synod of our Diocese, Belluno-Feltre -- but what should we do so that this God, the one treasure brought by Jesus and who all too often appears hazy to many, shines forth anew in our homes and becomes the water that quenches even the thirst of the many who seem no longer to be thirsting? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Thank you. Yours is a fundamental question. The fundamental question of our pastoral work is how to bring God to the world, to our contemporaries. Of course, bringing God is a multi-dimensional task: already in Jesus' preaching, in his life and his death we see how this One develops in so many dimensions. I think that we should always be mindful of two things: on the one hand, the Christian proclamation. Christianity is not a highly complicated collection of so many dogmas that it is impossible for anyone to know them all; it is not something exclusively for academicians who can study these things, but it is something simple: God exists and God is close in Jesus Christ. Thus, to sum up, Jesus Christ himself said that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Basically, what we preach is one, simple thing. All the dimensions subsequently revealed are dimensions of this one thing and all people do not have to know everything but must certainly enter into the depths and into the essential. In this way, the different dimensions also unfold with ever increasing joy. But in practice what should be done? I think, speaking of pastoral work today, that we have already touched on the essential points. But to continue in this direction, bringing God implies above all, on the one hand, love, and on the other, hope and faith. Thus, the dimension of life lived, bearing the best witness for Christ, the best proclamation, is always the life of true Christians. If we see that families nourished by faith live in joy, that they also experience suffering in profound and fundamental joy, that they help others, loving God and their neighbour, in my opinion this is the most beautiful proclamation today. For me too, the most comforting proclamation is always that of seeing Catholic families or personalities who are penetrated by faith: the presence of God truly shines out in them and they bring the "living water" that you mentioned. The fundamental proclamation is, therefore, precisely that of the actual life of Christians. Of course, there is also the proclamation of the Word. We must spare no effort to ensure that the Word is listened to and known. Today, there are numerous schools of the Word and of the conversation with God in Sacred Scripture, a conversation which necessarily also becomes prayer, because the purely theoretical study of Sacred Scripture is a form of listening that is merely intellectual and would not be a real or satisfactory encounter with the Word of God. If it is true that in Scripture and in the Word of God it is the Living Lord God who speaks to us, who elicits our response and our prayers, then schools of Scripture must also be schools of prayer, of dialogue with God, of drawing intimately close to God: consequently, the whole proclamation. Then, of course, I would say the sacraments. All the Saints also always come with God. It is important -- Sacred Scripture tell us from the very outset -- that God never comes by himself but comes accompanied and surrounded by the Angels and Saints. In the great stained glass window in St Peter's which portrays the Holy Spirit, what I like so much is the fact that God is surrounded by a throng of Angels and living beings who are an expression, an emanation, so to speak, of God's love. And with God, with Christ, with the man who is God and with God who is man, Our Lady arrives. This is very important. God, the Lord, has a Mother and in his Mother we truly recognize God's motherly goodness. Our Lady, Mother of God, is the Help of Christians, she is our permanent comfort, our great help. I see this too in the dialogue with the Bishops of the world, of Africa and lately also of Latin America; I see that love for Our Lady is the driving force of catholicity. In Our Lady we recognize all God's tenderness, so, fostering and living out Our Lady's, Mary's, joyful love is a very great gift of catholicity. Then there are the Saints. Every place has its own Saint. This is good because in this way we see the range of colours of God's one light and of his love which comes close to us. It means discovering the Saints in their beauty, in their drawing close to me in the Word, so that in a specific Saint I may find expressed precisely for me the inexhaustible Word of God, and then all the aspects of parochial life, even the human ones. We must not always be in the clouds, in the loftiest clouds of Mystery. We must have our feet firmly planted on the ground and together live the joy of being a great family: the great little family of the parish; the great family of the diocese, the great family of the universal Church. In Rome I can see all this, I can see how people from every part of the world who do not know one another are actually acquainted because they all belong to the family of God. They are close to one another because they all possess the love of the Lord, the love of Our Lady, the love of the Saints, Apostolic Succession and the Successor of Peter and the Bishops. I would say that this joy of catholicity with its many different hues is also the joy of beauty. We have here the beauty of a beautiful organ; the beauty of a very beautiful church, the beauty that has developed in the Church. I think this is a marvellous testimony of God's presence and of the truth of God. Truth is expressed in beauty, and we must be grateful for this beauty and seek to do our utmost to ensure that it is ever present, that it develops and continues to grow. In this way, I believe that God will be very concretely in our midst.

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On Nuclear Technology
"Let Us Pray That Men Live in Peace"  (July 29, 2007)

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Arriving the other day from Lorenzago di Cadore, I am happy to find myself again here at Castel Gandolfo, in the familiar environment of this beautiful little town, where I plan to stay, if it pleases God, for the rest of the summer. I feel the strong desire to thank the Lord once again for having been able to spend tranquil days in the mountains of Cadore and I am grateful to all those who efficiently organized my stay there and watched over it with care.

With equal affection I would like to greet and express my grateful sentiments to you, dear pilgrims, and above all to you, dear citizens of Castel Gandolfo, who have welcomed me with your usual cordiality and have always accompanied me with discretion during the my sojourns with you.

Last Sunday, recalling the Note published 90 years ago on August 1 by Pope Benedict XV directed at the warring countries of the First World War, I reflected on the theme of peace. Now a new occasion invites me to reflect on another important question connected to this theme. This very day, in fact, is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was instituted with the mandate to "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world" (IAEA "Statute," No. II).

The Holy See, fully approving of the IAEA's goal, has been a member since the organization's foundation and continues to support its activity. The epochal changes of the last 50 years are evidence of how, in the difficult crossroads at which humanity finds itself, the commitment to encourage the nonproliferation of nuclear arms, to promote a progressive and agreed-upon nuclear disarmament, and to favor the peaceful and safe use of nuclear technology for authentic development -- respectful of the environment and always attentive to the most disadvantaged populations -- is always relevant and urgent.

For this reason I ardently hope for the success of the efforts of those who work to pursue the three objectives with determination and the intention to make things such that "the resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor." ("Message for the World Day of Peace 2006," No. 13).

It is well, in fact, to re-emphasize on this occasion how in the place of "the arms race there must be substituted a common effort to mobilize resources toward objectives of moral, cultural and economic development, 'redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2438).

We again entrust to the intercession of Mary Most Holy our prayer for peace, in particular that scientific and technological knowledge be used with a sense of responsibility and for the common good, in complete respect for international law. Let us pray that men live in peace and all feel as brothers, sons of one Father: God.


[The Holy Father made the following remarks after the Angelus:]

And now a plea for the Korean hostages in Afghanistan. The practice by armed groups of manipulating innocent persons for promoting their own goals is becoming widespread.

These are grave violations of human dignity, which go against every elementary norm of civilization and rights and gravely offend the divine law. I make my plea so that the authors of such criminal acts desist from the evil done and return their victims unharmed.

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Papal Address to Puerto Rican Bishops
"You Should Develop a Specific Vocations Apostolate"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF THE BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF PUERTO RICO ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT
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.

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Papal Letter on Scouts
"A Forceful Presentation of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 22 letter to Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Scout camp.

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LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO CARD. JEAN-PIERRE RICARD PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH BISHOPS' CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF THE FIRST SCOUT CAMP

To His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard,
Archbishop of Bordeaux
President of the Bishops' Conference of France

The first of August 2007 will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening on Brownsea Island, England, of the first Scout camp organized by Lord Baden-Powell.

On this occasion, all those in the world, young people and adults who once made their Scout promise individually or as a group, will be invited to renew it and to make a gesture for peace, thereby stressing how close the vocation of a "peacemaker" is to the Scout ideal.

For a century, through games, action, adventure, contact with nature, a team spirit and service to others, an integral formation of the human person is offered to everyone who becomes a Scout.

Made fruitful by the Gospel, scouting is not only a place for true human growth but also for a forceful presentation of Christianity and real spiritual and moral development, as well as being an authentic path of holiness.

It would be appropriate to recall the words of Fr Jacques Sevin, S.J., the founder of Catholic Scouts: "Holiness does not belong to any specific period and has no specific uniform". The sense of responsibility inspired by the scouting pedagogy leads to a life in charity and the desire to serve one's neighbour in the image of Christ the servant, relying on the grace that he bestows especially in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

With all those in your Country who have benefited from belonging to a Scouts' association -- the Scouts and Guides of France, the Scouts and Guides of Europe or the United Scouts and Guides of France -- I rejoice that since the appeal for greater communion among Catholic Scouts launched by my Predecessor in 1997, there have been outstanding instances of collaboration, which have respected the sensibilities of each movement with a view to greater unity in the heart of the Church.

Indeed, Scout leaders will remember that their priority task is to awaken and form the personalities of the young people entrusted to them by their families, teaching them to encounter Christ and making them familiar with Church life.

It is also important that "Scout fellowship" is manifested and develops among Scouts and between the different movements, which was part of their initial ideal.

Furthermore, especially for the young generations, this "membership" demonstrates what the Body of Christ is, or, to use St Paul's image, all are called to carry out a mission in their own province, to rejoice in the progress of others and to help their brothers and sisters in their trials (cf. I Cor 12:12-26).

I thank the Lord for all the fruits which scouting has yielded in the past century. With the entire Church, I trust that the different movements, Scouts of France, Scouts and Guides of Europe, United Scouts and Guides of France, may pursue the route with ever greater interaction, and offer to today's boys and girls a pedagogy that forms in them a strong personality based on Christ, with the aspiration to live the high ideals of the faith and human solidarity.

From this viewpoint, the Scout promise and prayer form a basis and an ideal to develop throughout life. Lord Baden-Powell used to say this: "Always be faithful to your Scout Promise, even when you are no longer a child -- and may God help you to succeed!". When a person does his utmost to keep his promises, the Lord himself strengthens him on his way.

I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to the Scouts and Guides who make up the three movements, to the young people and adults and to the chaplains who supervise them, to the families, to former Scouts and Guides and to you yourself as well as all the Pastors of the Church in France.

From the Vatican, 22 June 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Homily for Sts. Peter and Paul
"I Am Pleased to Announce a Special Jubilee Year"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at vespers for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on June 28.

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CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS
OF THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls
Thursday, 28 June 2007

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

At this First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, let us commemorate with gratitude these two Apostles whose blood with that of so many other Gospel witnesses made the Church of Rome fruitful.

On their memorial, I am glad to greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, starting with the Cardinal Archpriest and the other Cardinals and Bishops present, Father Abbot and the Benedictine Community to which this Basilica is entrusted, the clerics, the women and men religious and lay faithful gathered here.

I address a special greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is reciprocating the presence of the Holy See's Delegation in Istanbul for the Feast of St Andrew.

As I had an opportunity to say a few days ago, these meetings and initiatives are not merely an exchange of courtesies between Churches but are intended to express the common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West.

I address with these sentiments Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Gennadios, sent by my beloved Brother Bartholomew I, to whom I express a grateful and cordial thought.

This Basilica, which has hosted profoundly significant ecumenical events, reminds us how important it is to pray together to implore the gift of unity, that unity for which St Peter and St Paul spent their lives, to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of their blood.

A very ancient tradition which dates back to apostolic times claims that their last meeting before their martyrdom actually took place not far from here: the two are supposed to have embraced and blessed each other. And on the main portal of this Basilica they are depicted together, with scenes of both martyrdoms.

Thus, from the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish.

Peter professed his faith in Christ first; Paul obtained as a gift the ability to deepen its riches. Peter founded the first community of Christians who came from the Chosen People; Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. With different charisms they worked for one and the same cause: the building of Christ's Church.

In the Office of Readings, the liturgy offers us for meditation this well-known text of St Augustine: "One day is assigned for the celebration of the martyrdom of the two Apostles. But those two were one. Although their martyrdom occurred on different days, they were one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We celebrate this feast day which is made sacred for us by the blood of these Apostles" (Sermon 295, 7, 8).

And St Leo the Great comments: "About their merits and virtues, which surpass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election, alike in their toils, undivided in their death" (In natali apostol., 69, 7).

In Rome, since the earliest centuries, the bond that unites Peter and Paul in their mission has acquired a very specific significance. Like Romulus and Remus, the two mythical brothers who are said to have given birth to the City, so Peter and Paul were held to be the founders of the Church of Rome.

Speaking to the City on this topic, St Leo the Great said: "These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid" (Sermon 82, 7).

However humanly different they may have been from each other and despite the tensions that existed in their relationship, Peter and Paul appear as the founders of a new City, the expression of a new and authentic way of being brothers which was made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For this reason, it can be said that the Church of Rome is celebrating her birthday today, since it was these two Apostles who laid her foundations.

Furthermore, Rome in our day perceives with greater awareness both her mission and her greatness. St John Chrysostom wrote: "Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the City of Rome, sending out these two lights (Peter and Paul) into all parts of the world... Therefore, I admire the City... for these pillars of the Church" (Homily on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans, 32, 24).

We will commemorate St Peter specifically tomorrow, celebrating the Divine Sacrifice in the Vatican Basilica, built on the site of his martyrdom. This evening we turn our gaze to St Paul, whose relics are preserved with deep veneration in this Basilica.

At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, as we have just heard, St Paul greeted the community of Rome, introducing himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (1: 1). He uses the term "servant", in Greek, doulos, to indicate a relationship of total and unconditional belonging to the Lord Jesus; moreover, it is a translation of the Hebrew, 'ebed, thus alluding to the great servants whom God chose and called for an important and specific mission.

Paul knew he was "called to be an apostle", that is, that he had not presented himself as a candidate, nor was his a human appointment, but solely by a divine call and election.

The Apostle to the Gentiles repeats several times in his Letters that his whole life is a fruit of God's freely given and merciful grace (cf. I Cor 15:9-10; II Cor 4:1; Gal 1:15). He was chosen to proclaim "the Gospel of God" (Rom 1:1), to disseminate the announcement of divine Grace which in Christ reconciles man with God, himself and others.

From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account" (II Cor 10:10), his adversaries said of him.

The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies.

The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.

"Neither death, nor life", he wrote to the Romans, "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (8:38-39).

From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church's action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance. When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent.

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this "Pauline Year" in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle's tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension. The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Amen.

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Papal Message to Franciscan General Chapter
"To Everyone Take Peace, Received and Given"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the June 17 message Benedict XVI addressed to the participants of the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual during the Pope's trip to Assisi.

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PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS

MEETING WITH THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE FRIARS MINOR CONVENTUAL
AND THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRO CONVENTO
IN THE UPPER BASILICA OF ST FRANCIS

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

To Reverend Fr Marco Tasca
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual

I greet you with great joy, Most Reverend Father, and all the Friars Minor Conventual gathered in Assisi for the 199th General Chapter. I am pleased to do so in this Papal Basilica in which splendid works of art tell of the marvels of grace that the Lord wrought in St Francis.

I find it providential that this should happen in the context of the Eighth Centenary of the conversion of St Francis. With my Visit today, in fact, I wished to emphasize the meaning of this event to which we must always refer if we are to understand Francis and his message.

Francis himself, as if to sum up his inner experience in a single word, found no concept more pregnant with meaning than that of "penance". "Thus did the Lord grant to me, Friar Francis, to begin to do penance" (Testament, 1).

So it was that he saw himself essentially as a "penitent", as it were, in a permanent state of conversion. Abandoning himself to the Holy Spirit's action, Francis was converted ever more closely to Christ, transformed into a living image of him on the paths of poverty, love and mission.

Thus, it is your task to witness to his message with enthusiasm and coherency! You are called to do so with that ecclesial harmony which distinguished Francis in his relationship with the Vicar of Christ and with all the Church's Bishops.

In this regard, I am grateful to you for the prompt obedience with which, together with the Friars Minor and complying with the special ties of affection which have always bound you to the Apostolic See, you accepted the measures of the "Motu Proprio" Totius Orbis concerning the new relationship of the two Papal Basilicas, St Francis and St Mary of the Angels, with this particular Church which gave birth to the "Poverello" and played such an important part in his life.

I address a special greeting to you, Friar Marco Tasca, whom the trust of your Confreres has called to the demanding office of Minister General.

May the event of the 750th anniversary of St Bonaventure's election as Minister of the Order also be a good omen for you.

After the examples of St Francis and St Bonaventure, together with the elected Definitors, may you guide the great Family of the Order with wise prudence, faithful to the origins of the Franciscan experience and with attention to the "signs of the times".

The General Chapter gathers together Friars from many countries and different cultures to listen and speak to one another in the one language of the Spirit, thereby reviving the memory of Francis' holiness. This is truly an extraordinary opportunity to share the "marvellous things" that the Lord still works today through the sons of the "Poverello" scattered across the world.

I therefore hope that while the Chapter Fathers thank God for the growth of the Order, especially in the mission countries, they will make the most of this meeting to question themselves on all that the Spirit is asking of them, so that they may continue to proclaim passionately, in the footsteps of their Seraphic Father, the Kingdom of God in this first part of the Third Christian Millennium.

I learned with interest that "Formation for the mission" has been chosen as the principal theme for reflection during the Chapter Meeting, stressing that this formation is never imparted once and for all, but rather must be considered as an ongoing journey. In fact, it is a process with multiple dimensions but is centred on the ability to let oneself be moulded by the Spirit, to be ready to go wherever he calls you.

It cannot be based on anything except listening to the Word in an atmosphere of intense and ceaseless prayer. Only on this condition is it possible to understand the true needs of the men and women of our time and offer them responses drawn from God's wisdom, proclaiming what one has experienced profoundly in one's own life.

The large Family of Friars Minor Conventual must continue to let itself be inspired by the words that Francis heard from the Crucifix in San Damiano: "Go and repair my house" (2 Cel I, 6, 10).

It is therefore necessary for every Friar to be a true contemplative, his eyes fixed on the eyes of Christ. Like St Francis when he came face to face with the leper, the Friar must be able to see the Face of Christ in the suffering brethren, bringing to them all the proclamation of peace.

To this end, he must make his own the process of conformation to the Lord Jesus which Francis lived out in the various symbolic places on his journey of holiness: from San Damiano to Rivotorto, from St Mary of the Angels to La Verna.

Thus, for every son of St Francis may the firm principle be what the "Poverello" said with simple words: "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Reg. B. I, 1).

In this regard, I am pleased to know that the Minors Conventual too, together with the whole large Franciscan Family, are engaged in reliving the stages which led Francis to formulate his "propositum vitae", approved by Innocent III in about 1209.

Called to live "according to the form of the Holy Gospel" (Test. 21), the "Poverello" completely understood himself in the light of the Gospel.

It was precisely this that gave birth to the perennial timeliness of his witness.

His "prophecy" teaches us how to make the Gospel the criterion for dealing with the challenges of every epoch, including our own, resisting the deceptive fascination of fleeting fashions, to be rooted in God's plan and thus to discern the true needs of humanity.

My hope is that the Friars will be able to accept this "programme" with renewed impetus and courage, trusting in the power that comes from on high.

The Minors Conventual are called in the first place to be heralds of Christ. May they approach everyone with gentleness and trust in the attitude of dialogue, but always bearing a passionate witness to the one Saviour.

May they be witnesses of God's "beauty", which Francis praised as he contemplated the marvels of creation. Among the wonderful pictorial cycles which decorate this Basilica and in every other corner of that marvellous temple which is nature, may they have on their lips the prayer that Francis uttered after his mystical ecstasy on Mount La Verna, which made him exclaim twice: "You are beauty!" (The Praises of God Most High, 4, 6).

Yes, Francis was a great teacher of the "via pulchritudinis". May the Friars imitate him in radiating the beauty that saves; may they do so in particular in this stupendous Basilica, not only by means of the art treasures preserved here, but also and above all in the intensity and decorum of the liturgy and fervent proclamation of the Christian mystery.

I express to the Chapter Religious the hope that they will return to their respective communities with the freshness and timeliness of the Franciscan message. I say to you all: take back to your Confreres the experience of brotherhood of these days as light and strength that can illumine the horizon which is not always clear of the clouds of daily life; to everyone take peace, received and given.

Thinking of the Immaculate Virgin, the "Tota pulchra", and imploring the intercession of St Francis and of St Clare, to whom I entrust the success of the work of this General Chapter, I impart as a pledge of my special affection to you, Most Reverend Father, to the Chapter Fathers and to all the members of the Order my Apostolic Blessing.

Assisi, 17 June 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Address to Bishops of Togo
"Visible Communion of Christ's Disciples Is Essential"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE BISHOPS OF TOGO ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT

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.

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On the Heart of Christian Life
"Love Renders Us Witnesses to Christ"

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus at Mirabello Castle, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that also this year he offers me the possibility to pass some days of rest in the mountains, and I am grateful to those who have welcomed me here in Lorenzago, in this enchanting panorama in which the summit of Mount Cadore forms the background and where my beloved predecessor John Paul II visited several times.

I offer a special thanks to the bishop of Treviso and the bishop of Belluno-Feltre, and to all who in various ways are contributing to assure me a serene and profitable sojourn. Before this scene of meadows, of woods, of peaks ascending toward heaven, the desire to praise God for the marvel of his works spontaneously arises in the soul and easily transforms itself into prayer.

Every good Christian knows that vacations are an opportune time to stretch one's body and to nourish the spirit in more ample spaces of prayer and meditation, to grow in one's personal relationship with Christ, and to conform more and more to his teachings. Today, for example, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the celebrated parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37), that introduces love for God and neighbor into the heart of the evangelical message.

But who is my neighbor? Jesus' interlocutor asks. And the Lord answers, reversing the question, showing through the story of the Good Samaritan that each one of us must be the neighbor of each person we meet. "Go and do the same!" (Luke 10:37). To love, Jesus says, is to conduct oneself like the Good Samaritan. We know that Jesus is the Good Samaritan par excellence: Although he was God, he did not hesitate to abase himself to the point of becoming man and giving his life for us.

Love, therefore, is the "heart" of Christian life; in fact, only the love awakened in us by the Holy Spirit renders us witnesses to Christ.

I wanted to re-propose this important spiritual truth in the message for the 23rd World Youth Day, which will be made known next Friday, July 20: "You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you" (Acts 1:8).

This is what I invite you to reflect on in the next months, dear young people, to prepare for our big meeting in Sydney, Australia, that, precisely in these days of July, will take place one year from now. The Christian communities of that beloved nation are actively working to welcome you and I am grateful to them for their efforts in organizing.

Let us entrust to Mary, who tomorrow we will invoke as the Virgin of Mount Carmel, the preparation and unfolding of the next meeting with the young people of the whole world, to which I invite you, dear friends of every continent.

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Papal Address at Vatican Library
"A Welcoming House of Knowledge, Culture and Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave during his June 25 visit to the Vatican Library and Secret Archives.

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VISIT TO THE VATICAN APOSTOLIC LIBRARY AND THE VATICAN SECRET ARCHIVES
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Monday, 25 June 2007

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

I accepted with joy the invitation addressed to me by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Librarian of Holy Roman Church, to visit the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Secret Archives of the Vatican.

Because of the important service they render to the Apostolic See and to the world of culture, both these institutions certainly deserve special attention on the part of the Pope. I have therefore gladly come to meet you and as I thank you for your warm welcome, I address my cordial greeting to you all.

In the first place, I greet Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, whom I thank for his words and the sentiments he has expressed on your behalf. With equal affection I greet Bishop Raffaele Farina and the Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, Fr Sergio Pagano, as well as those of you who are present here and all who collaborate in various capacities in the Library and in the Archives.

Your work, dear friends, is not merely work but, as I have just said, a unique service that you offer to the Church and especially to the Pope.

Moreover, it is well known that the Vatican Library, which -- as Cardinal Tauran has just announced -- is getting ready for an immense restoration project, is not called "Apostolic" by chance, since it is an institution which since its foundation has been held to be the "Pope's library", belonging directly to him.

In recent times too, the Servant of God John Paul II desired to recall this bond which binds the Vatican Apostolic Library to the Successor of Peter and which sheds light on its special mission, stressed by Pope Sixtus IV in former times: "Ad decorem militantis Ecclesiae et fidei augmentum -- for the decorum of the militant Church and for the dissemination of the faith".

This was echoed by another of my Predecessors, Pope Nicholas V, who mentioned its purpose in these words: "Pro communi doctorum virorum commodo -- for the use and common interest of scholars".

Down the centuries, the Vatican Library has assimilated and refined this mission, giving it an unmistakeable character so that it has become a welcoming house of knowledge, culture and humanity, which opens its doors to scholars from every part of the world, irrespective of their origin, religion or culture.

Your task, dear friends who work here every day, is to foster the synthesis between culture and faith which transpires from the valuable documents and treasures in your custody, from the walls that surround you, from the Museums near you and from the splendid, luminous Basilica which can be seen from your windows.

I am very familiar with the work you carry out with humble and almost hidden daily commitment in the Secret Archives, the destination of so many researchers who come from across the world: in the manuscripts, less grand than the rich codices in the Apostolic Library but equally important for their historical interest, these researchers seek the roots of many ecclesiastical and civil institutions and study the history of remote and more recent times.

Furthermore, they can trace the outline of the distinguished figures of the Church and of civilization and make the many-faceted work of the Roman Pontiffs and numerous other Pastors better known.

The Vatican Archives were opened for consultation to scholars in 1881 by Leo XIII with his wise foresight; entire generations of historians have referred to them, as indeed have the European nations themselves.

The latter, to encourage research into such an ancient and rich scrinium as the Church of Rome, founded specific cultural Institutes in the Eternal City.

Today, people turn to the Secret Archives not only for erudite research concerning periods remote from us -- although this in itself is praiseworthy and highly commendable -- but also for their interest in ages and times that are close to us, even very close.

This is proven by the initial results produced to date thanks to the recent opening to scholars of the Pontificate of Pius XI, on which I decided in June 2006.

Besides research projects, studies and publications, polemics may sometimes arise. In this regard I have nothing but praise for the unselfish and unbiased service which the Vatican Secret Archives has carried out, steering clear of barren and also often weak and partisan historical views and offering to researchers, without exceptions or preconceptions, the documentary material in its possession, which has been seriously and competently organized.

The Secret Archives, as also the Apostolic Library, receive from many places tokens of the appreciation and esteem of cultural institutes and private scholars from different nations. This seems to me to be the best recognition to which the two Institutions can aspire. And I would like to assure them both, their Superiors and all their Personnel at the different structural levels of my gratitude and closeness.

I confess that, on reaching 70 years of age, I would have liked for beloved John Paul II to permit me to devote myself to study and research into the interesting documents and materials that you carefully conserve, true masterpieces that help us to review the history of humanity and of Christianity.

In his providential design the Lord had other plans for me and here I am with you today, not as a passionate scholar of ancient texts but rather as a Pastor who is required to encourage all the faithful to cooperate in the world's salvation, each one doing God's will wherever God places us to work.

For you, dear friends, this means fulfilling your Christian vocation in contact with the rich testimonies of culture, knowledge and spirituality, spending your days and in the end a large part of your lives in study, publication and service to the public and particularly to the bodies of the Roman Curia.

For your multifaceted activity you avail yourselves of the most advanced information technology, in cataloguing, restoration, photography and in general in everything that concerns the protection and fruition of the very rich patrimony that you preserve.

In praising you for your commitment, I urge you always to view your work as a true mission to be carried out with passion and patience, kindness and a spirit of faith. Always be concerned to present a welcoming image of the Apostolic See, aware that the Gospel message also passes through your consistent Christian testimony.

Now, at the end of our meeting, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. I have appointed Bishop Raffaele Farina to replace him as Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church, and have raised him at the same time to the dignity of Archbishop.

I have called upon Mons. Cesare Pasini, until now Vice-Prefect of the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, to succeed him as Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library. Straightaway, I wish both of them success in their new offices.

I now thank all of you once again for your precious service in the Apostolic Library and in the Vatican Archives. I impart my Blessing warmly and with special affection to each one of you and willingly extend it to your respective families and loved ones.

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Pope's Letter on Florentine Saint
"A Symbolic Figure of a Living Love"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent in to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, archbishop of Florence, on the fourth centenary of the death of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi.

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LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE FOURTH CENTENARY OF THE DEATH
OF ST. MARY MAGDALENE DE' PAZZI

To His Eminence
Cardinal Ennio Antonelli
Archbishop of Florence

On the occasion of the Fourth Centenary of the death of St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, I am pleased to unite myself to the beloved Florentine Church who wishes to remember her illustrious daughter, particularly dear as a symbolic figure of a living love that recalls the essential mystical dimension of every Christian life.

While with affection I greet you, Your Eminence, and the entire diocesan community, I give thanks to God for the gift of this Saint, which every generation rediscovers as uniquely close by knowing how to communicate an ardent love for Christ and the Church.

Born in Florence on 2 April 1566 and baptized at the "beautiful St John" font with the name Caterina, St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi showed a particular sensitivity to the supernatural from childhood and was attracted by intimate colloquy with God.

As was the custom for children of noble families, her education was entrusted to the Dames of Malta, in whose monastery she received her First Holy Communion on 25 March 1576, and just some days later she consigned herself to the Lord for ever with a promise of virginity.

Returning to her family, she deepened her prayer life with the help of the Jesuit Fathers, who used to come to the palace. She cleverly did not allow herself to be conditioned by the worldly demands of an environment that, although Christian, was not sufficient to satisfy her desire to become more similar to her crucified Spouse.

In this context she reached the decision to leave the world and enter the Carmel of St Mary of the Angels at Borgo San Frediano, where on 30 January 1583 she received the Carmelite habit and the name of Sr Mary Magdalene.

In March of 1584, she fell gravely ill and asked to be able to make her profession prior to the time, and on 27 May, Feast of the Trinity, she was carried into the choir on her pallet, where she pronounced before the Lord her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience for ever.

From this moment an intense mystical season began which was also the source of the Saint's great ecstatic fame. The Carmelites of St Mary of the Angels have five manuscripts in which are recorded the extraordinary experiences of their young Sister.

"The Forty Days" of the summer of 1584 are followed by "The Colloquies" of the first half of the following year. The apex of the mystical knowledge that God granted of himself to Sr Mary Magdalene is found in "Revelations and Intelligences", eight days of splendid ecstacies from the vigil of Pentecost to the Feastday of the Trinity in 1585. This was an intense experience that made her able at only 19 years of age to span the whole mystery of salvation, from the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Five long years of interior purification followed - Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi speaks of it in the book of "The Probation" - in which her Spouse, the Word, takes away the sentiment of grace and leaves her like Daniel in the lions' den, amid many trials and great temptations.

This is the context in which her ardent commitment to renew the Church takes place, after which, in the summer of 1586, splendours of light from on high came to show her the true state of the post-Tridentine era.

Like Catherine of Siena, she felt "forced" to write some letters of entreaty to the Pope, Curial Cardinals, her Archbishop and other ecclesial personages, for a decisive commitment to "The Renovation of the Church", as the title of the manuscript that contains them says. It consists of 12 letters dictated in ecstasy, perhaps never sent, but which remain as a testimony of her passion for the Sponsa Verbi.

With Pentecost of 1590 her difficult trial ended. She promised to dedicate herself with all her energy to the service of the community and in particular to the formation of novices. Sr Mary Magdalene had the gift to live communion with God in an ever more interior form, so as to become a reference point for the whole community who still today continue to consider her "mother".

The purified love that pulsated in her heart opened her to desire full conformity with Christ, her Spouse, even to sharing with him the "naked suffering" of the Cross. Her last three years of life were a true Calvary of suffering for her. Consumption began to clearly manifest itself: Sr Mary Magdalene was obliged to withdraw little by little from community life to immerse herself ever more in "naked suffering for love of God".

She was oppressed by atrocious physical and spiritual pain which lasted until her death on Friday, 25 May 1607. She passed away at 3 p.m., while an unusual joy pervaded the entire monastery.

Within 20 years of her death the Florentine Pontiff Urban VIII had already proclaimed her Blessed. Pope Clement IX inscribed her in the Roll of Saints on 28 April 1669.

Her body has remained incorrupt and is the destination of constant pilgrimages. The monastery where the Saint lived is today the seat of the Archiepiscopal Seminary of Florence, which venerates her as their Patron, and the cell where she died has become a chapel in whose silence one can still feel her presence.

St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi continues to be an inspiring spiritual figure for the Carmelites Nuns of the Ancient Observance. They see in her the "Sister" who has travelled the entire way of transforming union with God and who finds in Mary the "star" of the way to perfection.

This great Saint has for everyone the gift of being a spiritual teacher, particularly for priests, to whom she always nourished a true passion.

I truly hope that the present jubilee celebrations commemorating her death will contribute to making this luminous figure ever better known, who manifests to all the dignity and beauty of the Christian vocation. As, while she was alive, grasping the bells she urged her Sisters with the cry: "Come and love Love!", may the great Mystic, from Florence, from her Seminary, from the Carmelite monasteries that draw their inspiration from her, still make her voice heard in all the Church, spreading to every human creature the proclamation to love God.

With this wish, I entrust you, Venerable Brother, and the Florentine Church to the heavenly protection of St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi and heartily impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 29 April 2007
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On Being Missionaries of Christ (Angelus)
"In God's Field There Is Work for Everyone" (July 8, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Gospel (cf. Luke 10:1-12,17-20) presents Jesus sending out 72 disciples to the villages where he is about to arrive so that they will prepare the way.

This is unique to the evangelist Luke, who emphasizes that the mission is not reserved to the Twelve Apostles, but is extended to other disciples. In fact, Jesus says that "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2).

In God's field there is work for everyone. But Christ does not limit himself to sending out. He also gives the disciples clear and precise rules of conduct.

First of all he sends them out "two by two," so that they help each other and give an example of fraternal love. He notes that they will be "like lambs among wolves" -- despite everything they must be peaceful and in every situation bring a message of peace; they will not take clothes or money with them, so as to live by what Providence offers them; they will care for the sick, as a sign of God's mercy; where they are rejected, they will leave, limiting themselves to warning those who reject them that they are responsible for rejecting the kingdom of God.

St. Luke highlights the enthusiasm of the disciples over the good fruits of the mission, and records this beautiful expression of Jesus: "Do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). This Gospel reawakens in all the baptized the awareness of being missionaries of Christ, called to prepare the way for him with words and with the testimony of their lives.

Tomorrow I leave for Lorenzago di Cadore, where I will be the guest of the bishop of Treviso, in the house where the venerable John Paul II was already welcomed. The mountain air will be good for me and I will be able to dedicate myself more freely to reflection and prayer.

I wish all of you, especially those most in need, the possibility of taking a little vacation to reinvigorate your physical and spiritual energies and recover a salutary contact with nature. The mountains, in particular, evoke the upward ascent of the spirit, the elevation toward the "high measure" of our humanity, which daily life unfortunately tends to abase.

In this connection I would like to recall the fifth Pilgrimage of Young People to the Cross of Adamello, where twice the Holy Father John Paul II went. The pilgrimage took place recently and a short while ago culminated in the Holy Mass celebrated at a height of 3,000 meters. In greeting the archbishop of Trent and the general secretary of the Italian bishops' conference, as well as the government officials of Trent, I also renew my appointment with all Italian young people for two days at Loreto, Sept. 1-2.

May the Virgin Mary always protect us, whether on mission or in just repose, so that we carry out our task with joy and with fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

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Papal Address to Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus
"The Lord Has Not Ceased to Guide Our Steps"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during the June 16 visit of Chrysostomos II, Orthodox archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus.

* * *

VISIT OF HIS BEATITUDE CHRYSOSTOMOS II
ARCHBISHOP OF NEW JUSTINIANA AND ALL CYPRUS
TO HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saturday, 16 June 2007

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Your Beatitude and Dear Brother,

I welcome you today with joy, hearing the words of the Apostle ring out in my heart: "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:5-6).

Your visit is a gift of the God of steadfastness and encouragement of which St Paul speaks, addressing those who heard the message of salvation for the first time in Rome. Today, we are experiencing the gift of perseverance because, despite the presence of centuries-old divisions, diverging paths and the effort required in stitching up grievious wounds, the Lord has not ceased to guide our steps on the path of unity and reconciliation. And for all of us this is a cause of consolation because our meeting today is part of an ever more intense process in the search of that full communion so longed for by Christ: "ut omnes unum sint" (cf. Jn 17:21).

We know well that adherence to the Lord's ardent desire cannot and must not be proclaimed solely in words or in a purely formal manner. For this reason, Your Beatitude, in following in the footsteps of the Apostle to the Gentiles, you did not come from Cyprus to Rome merely for an "exchange of ecumenical courtesy", but rather to reaffirm your firm decision to persevere in praying to the Lord to show us how to achieve full communion. At the same time, your visit is a cause of intense joy, for in our encounters we have already been granted to sample the beauty of the desired full Christian unity.

Thank you, Your Beatitude, for this gesture of esteem and brotherly friendship. In you, I greet the Pastor of an ancient and illustrious Church, a shining tessera of that bright mosaic, the East, which, to use a favourite phrase of the Servant of God John Paul II of venerable memory, constitutes one of the two lungs with which the Church breathes.

Your appreciated presence reminds me of the fervent preaching of St Paul in Cyprus (cf. Acts 13:4ff.) and the adventurous voyage which brought him to Rome, where he proclaimed the same Gospel and sealed his luminous witness of faith with martyrdom.

Does not the memory of the Apostle to the Gentiles perhaps invite us to turn our hearts with humility and hope to Christ, who is our one Teacher?

With his divine help we must not tire of seeking together the ways of unity, overcoming those difficulties which in the course of history have given rise to divisions and reciprocal diffidence among Christians. May the Lord grant us that we may soon be able to approach the same altar, to partake together of the one Banquet of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine.

In welcoming you, dear Brother in the Lord, I would like to pay homage to the ancient and venerable Church of Cyprus, rich in saints, among whom I would like to remember in particular Barnabas, a companion and collaborator of the Apostle Paul, and Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, once called Salamis, today Famagusta.

Epiphanius, who exercised his episcopal ministry for 35 years in a turbulent period for the Church because of the Arian revival and the controversies of the "Pneumatomachians", wrote works with a clear catechetical and apologetic intention, as he himself explained in his Ancoratus.

This interesting treatise contains two Creeds, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Creed of the Baptismal Tradition of Constantia, which corresponds to the Nicene faith but is differently formulated and amplified and "more suited", Epiphanius himself pointed out, "to combating the errors that arise because it conforms to that [faith] determined by the aforementioned Holy Fathers" of the Nicean Council (Ancoratus, n. 119). In it, he explained, we affirm our faith in the "holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the perfect Spirit. The Spirit Consoler, not created, who proceeds from the Father and comes from the Son, the object of our faith" (ibid.).

As a good Pastor, Epiphanius pointed out to the flock entrusted to him by Christ, the truth in which to believe, the way to take and the pitfalls to avoid.

This is a method for proclaiming the Gospel that is also effective today, especially to the new generations strongly influenced by currents of thought contrary to the Gospel spirit. At the beginning of this Third Millennium, the Church finds herself facing challenges and problems not at all unlike those which Bishop Epiphanius had to tackle.

It was as necessary then as it is now to be on the alert in order to put the People of God on their guard against false prophets and the errors and superficiality of proposals that are not in conformity with the teaching of the divine Teacher, our one Saviour.

At the same time, it is urgently necessary to find a new language in which to proclaim the faith that brings us together, a shared language, a spiritual language that can transmit faithfully the revealed truths and thereby help us to reconstruct, in truth and charity, communion among all members of the one Body of Christ.

This need, for which we are all aware, impels us to persevere without being discouraged in the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole. It leads us to using effective and permanent instruments to ensure that the search for communion is not interrupted or sporadic in our Churches' life and mission.

As we face the immense task expected of us, whose implementation is far beyond human capacities, we must entrust ourselves first of all to prayer. This does not mean that it is not only right to have recourse, today as well, to every effective human means that can serve this purpose.

In this perspective, I consider your visit a particularly useful initiative for enabling us to progress towards the unity desired by Christ. We know that this unity is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit; but we also know that it requires at the same time a constant effort, enlivened by a sure will and steadfast hope in the power of the Lord.

Thank you, therefore, Your Beatitude, for coming to pay me a visit, together with the brothers who have accompanied you; thank you for this presence, which gives concrete expression to the desire to seek full communion together.

For my part, I assure you that I share in this same desire, sustained by firm hope. Yes, "may the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus".

Thus, let us turn confidently to the Lord, so that he may guide our footsteps on the path of peace, joy and love.

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On St. Basil
"He Shows Us How to Be Real Christians"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience. The audience took place in two phases: The Pope first greeted a crowd in St. Peter's Basilica. Then he went to a packed Paul VI Hall, where he delivered the catechesis. The reflection focused on St. Basil and concluded with an appeal to young people to attend World Youth Day '08 in Australia.

* * *

[Before giving the catechesis, the Pope greeted crowds in St. Peter's Basilica. In English, he said:]

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. May your visit to this Basilica and to the city of Rome inspire you to imitate the apostles in following Christ and serving the Church. I assure you of my prayers for your families and friends at home, especially those afflicted by illness or suffering of any kind. God bless you all!

[Then, in Paul VI Hall, the Pope gave a catechesis on St. Basil]

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we remember one of the great Fathers of the Church, St. Basil, defined by Byzantine liturgical texts as a "light of the Church." He was a great bishop of the fourth century, to whom the Churches of the East and West look with great admiration because of his sanctity of life, the excellence of his doctrine and the harmonious synthesis of his speculative and practical skills.

He was born around the year 330 to a family of saints, "a true domestic Church," who lived in an atmosphere of profound faith. He carried out his studies with the best teachers of Athens and Constantinople. Unfulfilled by his worldly successes, and aware of having lost much time in vain pursuits, he himself confesses: "One day, waking up from a deep sleep, I turned to the wonderful light of the truth of the Gospels … and cried over my miserable life" (cf. Letters 223: PG 32, 824a). Attracted by Christ, I began to look to him and listen to him alone (cf. "Moralia" 80, 1: PG 31, 860bc).

He dedicated himself with determination to the monastic life in prayer, meditation on the sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and to the exercise of charity (cf. Letters 2 and 22), following the example of his sister, St. Macrina, who was already living monastic asceticism. He was later ordained a priest and then, in 370, bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia in what is present day Turkey.

Through preaching and writing, he carried out intense pastoral, theological and literary activities. With wise balance, he was able to blend service to souls with dedication to prayer and meditation in solitude. Taking advantage of his own personal experience, he favored the foundation of many "fraternities" or Christian communities consecrated to God, which he frequently visited (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus. "Oratio 43,29 in Laudem Basilii": PG 36,536b). Through his words and his writings, many of which still exist today (cf. "Regulae Brevius Tractatae, Proemio": PG 31,1080ab), he exhorted them to live and to grow in perfection. Many drew from his writings to establish norms of ancient monasticism, including St. Benedict, who considered St. Basil his teacher (cf. "Regula" 73:5).

In reality, St. Basil created a special kind of monasticism, not closed off from the local Church, but open to it. His monks were part of the local Church, they were its animating nucleus. Preceding others of the faithful in following Christ and not merely in having faith, they showed firm devotion to him -- love for him -- above all in works of charity. These monks, who established schools and hospitals, were at the service of the poor and showed Christian life in its fullness. The Servant of God, John Paul II, speaking about monasticism, wrote: "Many believe that monasticism, an institution so important for the whole Church, was established for all times principally by St. Basil -- or that, at least, the nature of monasticism would not have been so well defined without Basil's decisive contribution" ("Patres Ecclesiae," 2).

As bishop and pastor of his vast diocese, Basil constantly worried about the difficult material conditions in which the faithful lived; he firmly condemned evils; he worked in favor of the poor and marginalized; he spoke to rulers in order to relieve the sufferings of the people, above all in moments of disaster; he looked out for the freedom of the Church, going up against those in power to defend the right to profess the true faith (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, "Oratio 43: 48-51 in Laudem Basilii": PG 36,557c-561c). To God, who is love and charity, Basil gave witness by building hospitals for the needy (cf. Basil, Letters 94: PG 32,488bc), much like a city of mercy, that took its name from him "Basiliade" (cf. Sozomeno, "Historia Eccl." 6,34: PG 67, 1387a). It has been the inspiration for modern hospital institutions of recovery and cure of the sick.

Aware that "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," 10), Basil, though he was concerned with charity, the sign of faith, was also a wise "liturgical reformer" (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, "Oratio 43,34 in Laudem Basilii": PG 36,541c). He left us a wonderful Eucharistic prayer (or anaphora) which is named after him, and helped to organize the prayer and the psalmody:

Because of him the people loved and knew the Psalms, and came to pray them even during the night (cf. Basil, "In Psalmum" 1,1: PG 29,212a-213c). In this way we can see how liturgy, adoration and prayer come together with charity, and depend upon each other.

With zeal and courage, Basil opposed heretics, who denied that Jesus Christ is God like the Father (cf. Basil, Letters 9,3: PG 32,272a; "Ep." 52: 1-3: PG 32,392b-396a; "Adv. Eunomium" 1,20: PG 29,556c). In the same way, contrary to those who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he taught that the Spirit is also God, and "must be numbered and glorified with the Father and the Son" (cf. "De Spiritu Sancto": SC 17bis, 348). Because of this, Basil is one of the great Fathers that formulated the doctrine of the Trinity: one God, because he is love, he is God in three persons, who form the most profound unity in existence, divine unity.

In his love for Christ and his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also worked to heal the divisions within the Church (cf. Letters 70 and 243), working so that all might be converted to Christ and his word (cf. "De Iudicio" 4: PG 31,660b-661a), a unifying force, which all believers must obey (cf. ibid. 1-3: PG 31,653a-656c).

In conclusion, Basil spent himself completely in faithful service to the Church in his multifaceted episcopal ministry. According to the program laid out by him, he became "apostle and minister of Christ, dispenser of the mysteries of God, herald of the kingdom, model and rule of piety, eye of the body of the Church, pastor of Christ's sheep, merciful physician, father and nurturer, cooperator with God, God's farmer and builder of God's temple" (cf. "Moralia" 80: 11-20: PG 31: 864b-868b).

This is the program that the holy bishop gives to those who proclaim the word -- yesterday like today -- a program that he himself generously put into practice. In 379, Basil, not yet 50 years old, consumed by hard work and asceticism, returned to God, "in the hope of eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ" ("On Baptism" 1,2,9). He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ, a man of love for his neighbor. Full of the hope and the joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be real Christians.


[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis on the church Fathers today brings us to the great fourth-century bishop, Saint Basil, whom the Byzantine liturgy refers to as a "light of the Church." Though he had received the best education possible, at the conclusion of his studies he yearned to learn more. He discovered that only Christ could fulfill him, and so dedicated himself completely to a monastic life of prayer and charitable works. Ordained Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in 370, Basil tirelessly cared for his people and devoted himself continuously to meditation on the sacred word. He attended to the material needs of his flock, supported the poor and marginalized, and defended the freedom to profess the Christian faith. A special love for the sick led him to found many hospitals. Basil's pastoral activity flowed from a deep devotion to the sacred liturgy; in fact, the Church still possesses a Eucharistic prayer bearing his name. Basil also firmly corrected those who denied the divinity of either Christ or the Holy Spirit. We find in Basil an outstanding model of free, total, and uncompromising service to the Church. May God give us the courage to imitate him.

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, especially the athletes and organizers of the European Maccabi Games. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you!

[The Pope then made an appeal to young people:]

Dear Young People,

One year from now we will meet at World Youth Day in Sydney! I want to encourage you to prepare well for this marvelous celebration of the faith, which will be spent in the company of your bishops, priests, Religious, youth leaders and one another. Enter fully into the life of your parishes and participate enthusiastically in diocesan events! In this way you will be equipped spiritually to experience new depths of understanding of all that we believe when we gather in Sydney next July.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). As you know, these words of Jesus form the theme of World Youth Day 2008. How the Apostles felt upon hearing these words, we can only imagine, but their confusion was no doubt tempered with a sense of awe and of eager anticipation for the coming of the Spirit. United in prayer with Mary and the others gathered in the Upper Room (cfr Acts 1:14), they experienced the true power of the Spirit, whose presence transforms uncertainty, fear, and division into purpose, hope and communion.

A sense of awe and eager anticipation also describes how we feel as we make preparations to meet in Sydney. For many of us, this will be a long journey. Yet Australia and its people evoke images of a warm welcome and wondrous beauty, of an ancient aboriginal history and a multitude of vibrant cities and communities. I know that already the ecclesial and government authorities, together with numerous young Australians, are working very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all. I offer them my heartfelt thanks.

World Youth Day is much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal, the fruits of which benefit the whole of society. Young pilgrims are filled with the desire to pray, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the wonder of the human soul and shows the way to be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" (Deus Caritas Est, 33).

It is this love -- Christ's love -- for which the world yearns. Thus you are called by so many to "be his witnesses." Some of you have friends with little real purpose in their lives, perhaps caught up in a futile search for endless new experiences. Bring them to World Youth Day too! In fact, I have noticed that against the tide of secularism many young people are rediscovering the satisfying quest for authentic beauty, goodness and truth. Through your witness you help them in their search for the Spirit of God. Be courageous in that witness! Strive to spread Christ's guiding light, which gives purpose to all life, making lasting joy and happiness possible for everyone.

My dear young people, until we meet in Sydney, may the Lord protect you all. Let us entrust these preparations to Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians. With her, let us pray: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love."

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On the Freedom of Christ
"A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, "as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

With the expression "resolutely" we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he "filled" with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an "empty" possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who "resolutely" gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: "You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love" (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: "If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!" He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. "The truth will set you free." Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. Today's Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.

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Vatican Declaration on Letter to Chinese Catholics
"A Pressing Invitation to Charity, Unity and Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the declaration published by the Holy See upon releasing the letter Benedict XVI wrote to the Catholics in China.

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Declaration: Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China

By means of his Letter, which is made public today, Pope Benedict XVI wishes to express his love for the Catholic community in China and his closeness to it.

From the text of the Papal document two basic attitudes are clear: on the one hand, deep spiritual affection for all Catholics in China and cordial esteem for the Chinese people, and, on the other, an earnest appeal to the perennial principles of the Catholic tradition and the Second Vatican Council in the ecclesiological sphere. It is, therefore, a pressing invitation to charity, unity and truth.

The Letter is directed to the Church in China and deals with eminently religious questions, responding to precise queries which have been addressed for some time to the Holy See by Chinese Bishops and priests. It is not, therefore, a political document, nor, much less, an indictment of the government authorities, although it does not ignore the well-known difficulties which the Church in China must daily tackle.

The Holy Father recalls the "original plan" which Christ had for his Church and which he entrusted to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops. In this light, he takes into consideration various problems of the Church in China which emerged during the past fifty years. From this "plan" he also draws inspiration and formulates guidelines to tackle and resolve, in a spirit of communion and truth, the said problems.

In the Letter, Benedict XVI declares himself fully available and open to a serene and constructive dialogue with the civic authorities in order to find a solution to the various problems concerning the Catholic community, and to reach the desired normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, in the certainty that Catholics, by freely professing their faith and by giving generous witness of life, contribute also, as good citizens, to the good of the Chinese people.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

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Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics


"Willingness to Engage in Respectful and Constructive Dialogue"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI wrote to the Catholics in China, signed by the Pope on May 27, the solemnity of Pentecost. The Vatican press office released the letter today.

* * *

LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS,
CONSECRATED PERSONS
AND LAY FAITHFUL
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

Greeting

1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: ''We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven ... We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy'' (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).

These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.

Purpose of the Letter

2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested ''sometimes at the price of grave sufferings'',[1] since ''it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake'' (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.

Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, ''the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history''[2] wants from you.

PART ONE

THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
THEOLOGICAL ASPECTS

Globalization, modernity and atheism

3. As I turn my attention towards your People, which has distinguished itself among the other peoples of Asia for the splendour of its ancient civilization, with all its experience of wisdom, philosophy, art and science, I am pleased to note how, especially in recent times, it has also moved decisively towards achieving significant goals of socio-economic progress, attracting the interest of the entire world.

As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II once said, ''The Catholic Church for her part regards with respect this impressive thrust and far-sighted planning, and with discretion offers her own contribution in the promotion and defence of the human person, and of the person's values, spirituality and transcendent vocation. The Church has very much at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management of the phenomenon of globalization''.[3]

The pressure to attain the desired and necessary economic and social development and the search for modernity are accompanied by two different and contrasting phenomena, both of which should nonetheless be evaluated with equal prudence and a positive apostolic spirit. On the one hand, especially among the young, one can detect a growing interest in the spiritual and transcendent dimension of the human person, with a consequent interest in religion, particularly in Christianity. On the other hand, there are signs, in China too, of the tendency towards materialism and hedonism, which are spreading from the big cities to the entire country.[4]

In this context, in which you are called to live and work, I want to remind you of what Pope John Paul II emphasized so strongly and vigorously: the new evangelization demands the proclamation of the Gospel[5] to modern man, with a keen awareness that, just as during the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent.[6]

" 'Duc in altum' (Lk 5:4). 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)''[7] In China too the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look forward with hope, and -- in proclaiming the Gospel -- to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese People must face.

The word of God helps us, once again, to discover the mysterious and profound meaning of the Church's path in the world. In fact ''the subject of one of the most important visions of the Book of Revelation is [the] Lamb in the act of opening a scroll, previously closed with seven seals that no one had been able to break open. John is even shown in tears, for he finds no one worthy of opening the scroll or reading it (cf. Rev 5:4). History remains indecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read it. Perhaps John's weeping before the mystery of a history so obscure expresses the Asian Churches' dismay at God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at the time. It is a dismay that can clearly mirror our consternation in the face of the serious difficulties, misunderstandings and hostility that the Church also suffers today in various parts of the world. These are trials that the Church does not of course deserve, just as Jesus himself did not deserve his torture. However, they reveal both the wickedness of man, when he abandons himself to the promptings of evil, and also the superior ordering of events on God's part''.[8]

Today, as in the past, to proclaim the Gospel means to preach and bear witness to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the new Man, conqueror of sin and death. He enables human beings to enter into a new dimension, where mercy and love shown even to enemies can bear witness to the victory of the Cross over all weakness and human wretchedness. In your country too, the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the Gospel, in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church, you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity (''even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another ... even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me'' -- Jn 13:34-35; 17:21).

Willingness to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue

4. As universal Pastor of the Church, I wish to manifest sincere gratitude to the Lord for the deeply-felt witness of faithfulness offered by the Chinese Catholic community in truly difficult circumstances. At the same time, I sense the urgent need, as my deep and compelling duty and as an expression of my paternal love, to confirm the faith of Chinese Catholics and favour their unity with the means proper to the Church.

I am also following with particular interest the events of the entire Chinese People, whom I regard with sincere admiration and sentiments of friendship, to the point where I express the hope ''that concrete forms of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China may soon be established. Friendship is nourished by contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations, by solidarity and mutual assistance''[9] And pursuing this line of argument, my venerable predecessor added: ''It is no secret that the Holy See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of dialogue with the authorities of the People's Republic of China. Once the misunderstandings of the past have been overcome, such a dialogue would make it possible for us to work together for the good of the Chinese People and for peace in the world''.[10]

I realize that the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties. For its part, the Holy See always remains open to negotiations, so necessary if the difficulties of the present time are to be overcome.

This situation of misunderstandings and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving the interests of neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China. As Pope John Paul II stated, recalling what Father Matteo Ricci wrote from Beijing,[11] ''so too today the Catholic Church seeks no privilege from China and its lead- ers, but solely the resumption of dialogue, in order to build a relationship based upon mutual respect and deeper understanding''.[12] Let China rest assured that the Catholic Church sincerely proposes to offer, once again, humble and disinterested service in the areas of her competence, for the good of Chinese Catholics and for the good of all the inhabitants of the country.

As far as relations between the political community and the Church in China are concerned, it is worth calling to mind the enlightening teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which states: ''The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor is she tied to any political system. She is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person''. And the Council continues: ''The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better cooperation according to the circumstances of place and time''.[13]

Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State; rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the Saviour of the world, basing herself -- in carrying out her proper apostolate -- on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," ''The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply''.[14]

In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.

Communion between particular Churches in the universal Church

5. Beloved Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and active within the vastness of an immense People journeying through history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you: ''Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom'' (Lk 12:32)! ''You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world'': therefore ''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 5:13, 14, 16).

In the Catholic Church which is in China, the universal Church is present, the Church of Christ, which in the Creed we acknowledge to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, that is to say, the universal community of the Lord's disciples.

As you know, the profound unity which binds together the particular Churches found in China, and which likewise places them in intimate communion with all the other particular Churches throughout the world, has its roots not only in the same faith and in a common Baptism, but above all in the Eucharist and in the episcopate.[15] Likewise, the unity of the episcopate, of which ''the Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation'',[16] continues down the centuries through the apostolic succession and is the foundation of the identity of the Church in every age with the Church built by Christ on Peter and on the other Apostles.[17]

Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible source and foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry.[18] But in every particular Church, in order that she may be fully Church, there must be present the supreme authority of the Church, that is to say, the episcopal College together with its Head, the Roman Pontiff, and never apart from him. Therefore the ministry of the Successor of Peter belongs to the essence of every particular Church ''from within''.[19] Moreover, the communion of all the particular Churches in the one Catholic Church, and hence the ordered hierarchical communion of all the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, with the Successor of Peter, are a guarantee of the unity of the faith and life of all Catholics. It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope.

No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ. The bond of sacramental communion is the Eucharist, guaranteed by the ministry of Bishops and priests.[20]

The whole of the Church which is in China is called to live and to manifest this unity in a richer spirituality of communion, so that, taking account of the complex concrete situations in which the Catholic community finds itself, she may also grow in a harmonious hierarchical communion. Therefore, Pastors and faithful are called to defend and to safeguard what belongs to the doctrine and the tradition of the Church.

Tensions and divisions within the Church: pardon and reconciliation

6. Addressing the whole Church in his Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, stated that an ''important area in which there has to be commitment and planning on the part of the universal Church and the particular Churches [is] the domain of communion (koinonia), which embodies and reveals the very essence of the mystery of the Church. Communion is the fruit and demonstration of that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit whom Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5), to make us all 'one heart and one soul' (Acts 4:32). It is in building this communion of love that the Church appears as 'sacrament', as the 'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race.' The Lord's words on this point are too precise for us to diminish their import. Many things are necessary for the Church's journey through history, not least in this new century; but without charity (agape) all will be in vain. It is again the Apostle Paul who in his hymn to love reminds us: even if we speak the tongues of men and of angels, and if we have faith 'to move mountains', but are without love, all will come to 'nothing' (cf. 1 Cor 13:2). Love is truly the 'heart' of the Church''.[21]

These matters, which concern the very nature of the universal Church, have a particular significance for the Church which is in China. Indeed you are aware of the problems that she is seeking to overcome -- within herself and in her relations with Chinese civil society -- tensions, divisions and recriminations.

In this regard, last year, while speaking of the nascent Church, I had occasion to recall that ''from the start the community of the disciples has known not only the joy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and love, but also trials that are constituted above all by disagreements about the truths of faith, with the consequent wounds to communion. Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue to the end (cf. 1 Jn 1:1ff.), so also, from the start, division unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists today ... Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and brotherhood. Consequently it is a specific duty of those who believe in the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too''.[22]

The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation.[23] Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible.

For this reason, my venerable predecessor on several occasions addressed to you an urgent invitation to pardon and reconciliation. In this regard, I am pleased to recall a passage from the message that he sent you at the approach of the Holy Year 2000: ''In your preparation for the Great Jubilee, remember that in the biblical tradition this moment always entailed the obligation to forgive one another's debts, to make satisfaction for injustices committed, and to be reconciled with one's neighbour. You too have heard the proclamation of the 'great joy prepared for all peoples': the love and mercy of the Father, the Redemption accomplished in Christ. To the extent that you yourselves are ready to accept this joyful proclamation, you will be able to pass it on, by your lives, to the men and women around you. My ardent desire is that you will respond to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit by forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven, by drawing closer to one another, by accepting one another and by breaking down all barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division. Do not forget the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: 'By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35). I rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity with the Successor of Peter. This intention can only be a fruit of the Spirit who guides the Church along the arduous paths of reconciliation and unity''.[24]

We all realize that this journey cannot be accomplished overnight, but be assured that the whole Church will raise up an insistent prayer for you to this end.

Keep in mind, moreover, that your path of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many ''witnesses of the faith'' who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China. Their very existence represents a permanent blessing for you in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and their memory will not fail to produce abundant fruit.

Ecclesial communities and State agencies: relationships to be lived in truth and charity.

7. A careful analysis of the aforementioned painful situation of serious differences (cf. section 6 above), involving the lay faithful and their Pastors, highlights among the various causes the significant part played by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the life of the Catholic community. Still today, in fact, recognition from these entities is the criterion for declaring a community, a person or a religious place legal and therefore ''official''. All this has caused division both among the clergy and among the lay faithful. It is a situation primarily dependent on factors external to the Church, but it has seriously conditioned her progress, giving rise also to suspicions, mutual accusations and recriminations, and it continues to be a weakness in the Church that causes concern.

Regarding the delicate issue of the relations to be maintained with the agencies of the State, particular enlightenment can be found in the invitation of the Second Vatican Council to follow the words and modus operandi of Jesus Christ. He, indeed, ''did not wish to be a political Messiah who would dominate by force[25] but preferred to call himself the Son of Man who came to serve, and 'to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45). He showed himself as the perfect Servant of God[26] who 'will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Mt 12:20). He recognized civil authority and its rights when he ordered tribute to be paid to Caesar, but he gave clear warning that the greater rights of God must be respected: 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). Finally, he brought his revelation to perfection when he accomplished on the Cross the work of redemption by which he achieved salvation and true freedom for the human race. For he bore witness to the truth[27] but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke out against it. His Kingdom does not establish its claims by force,[28] but is established by bearing witness to and listening to the truth and it grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the Cross, draws people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32)''.[29]

Truth and charity are the two supporting pillars of the life of the Christian community. For this reason, I have observed that ''the Church of love is also the Church of truth, understood primarily as fidelity to the Gospel entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his followers ... However, if the family of God's children is to live in unity and peace, it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to do. And here we come to an important point. The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes ... The Apostles and their successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are likewise the ministers of charity. These are two aspects that go together ... Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that comes from God and, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and handed down to us, to our present time!''.[30]

Therefore the Second Vatican Council underlines that "those also have a claim on our respect and charity who think and act differently from us in social, political, and religious matters. In fact, the more deeply, through courtesy and love, we come to understand their ways of thinking, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them''. But, as the same Council admonishes us, "love and courtesy of this kind should not, of course, make us indifferent to truth and goodness''.[31]

Considering "Jesus' original plan'',[32] it is clear that the claim of some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine, according to which the Church is "apostolic'', as the Second Vatican Council underlined. The Church is apostolic "in her origin because she has been built on 'the foundation of the Apostles' (Eph 2:20). She is apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She is apostolic by reason of her structure insofar as she is taught, sanctified, and guided until Christ returns by the Apostles through their successors who are the Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter''.[33] Therefore, in every individual particular Church, "it is in the name of the Lord that the diocesan Bishop [and only he] leads the flock entrusted to him, and he does so as the proper, ordinary and immediate Pastor'';[34] at a national level, moreover, only a legitimate Episcopal Conference can formulate pastoral guidelines, valid for the entire Catholic community of the country concerned.[35]

Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church''[36] is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic''.

In the light of the principles here outlined, Pastors and lay faithful will recall that the preaching of the Gospel, catechesis and charitable activity, liturgical and cultic action, as well as all pastoral choices, are uniquely the competence of the Bishops together with their priests in the unbroken continuity of the faith handed down by the Apostles in the Sacred Scriptures and in Tradition, and therefore they cannot be subject to any external interference.

Given this difficult situation, not a few members of the Catholic community are asking whether recognition from the civil authorities -- necessary in order to function publicly -- somehow compromises communion with the universal Church. I am fully aware that this problem causes painful disquiet in the hearts of Pastors and faithful. In this regard I maintain, in the first place, that the requisite and courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of sacramental and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to dialogue with the authorities concerning those aspects of the life of the ecclesial community that fall within the civil sphere. There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics. I understand, therefore, how in such varied conditions and circumstances it is difficult to determine the correct choice to be made. For this reason the Holy See, after restating the principles, leaves the decision to the individual Bishop who, having consulted his presbyterate, is better able to know the local situation, to weigh the concrete possibilities of choice and to evaluate the possible consequences within the diocesan community. It could be that the final decision does not obtain the consensus of all the priests and faithful. I express the hope, however, that it will be accepted, albeit with suffering, and that the unity of the diocesan community with its own Pastor will be maintained.

It would be good, finally, if Bishops and priests, with truly pastoral hearts, were to take every possible step to avoid giving rise to situations of scandal, seizing opportunities to form the consciences of the faithful, with particular attention to the weakest: all this should be lived out in communion and in fraternal understanding, avoiding judgements and mutual condemnations. In this case too, it must be kept in mind, especially where there is little room for freedom, that in order to evaluate the morality of an act it is necessary to devote particular care to establishing the real intentions of the person concerned, in addition to the objective shortcoming. Every case, then, will have to be pondered individually, taking account of the circumstances.

The Chinese Episcopate

8. In the Church -- the People of God -- only the sacred ministers, duly ordained after sufficient instruction and formation, may exercise the office of ''teaching, sanctifying and governing''. The lay faithful may, with a canonical mission from the Bishop, perform an ancillary ecclesial ministry of handing on the faith.

In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have encountered difficulties, since persons who are not "ordained'', and sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies. Consequently, we have witnessed a demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision of the Church according to which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without power. Yet in fact, as stated earlier, the Petrine and episcopal ministries are essential and integral elements of Catholic doctrine on the sacramental structure of the Church. The nature of the Church is a gift of the Lord Jesus, because "his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'' (Eph 4:11-13).

Communion and unity -- let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) -- are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is ''independent'' of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

I am aware of the grave difficulties which you have to address in the aforementioned situation in order to remain faithful to Christ, to his Church and to the Successor of Peter. Reminding you that -- as Saint Paul said (cf. Rom 8:35-39) -- no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, I am confident that you will do everything possible, trusting in the Lord's grace, to safeguard unity and ecclesial communion even at the cost of great sacrifices.

Many members of the Chinese episcopate who have guided the Church in recent decades have offered and continue to offer a shining testimony to their own communities and to the universal Church. Once again, let a heartfelt hymn of praise and thanksgiving be sung to the "chief Shepherd'' of the flock (1 Pet 5:4): in fact, it must not be forgotten that many Bishops have undergone persecution and have been impeded in the exercise of their ministry, and some of them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood. Modern times and the consequent challenge of the new evangelization highlight the role of the episcopal ministry. As John Paul II said to the Pastors from every part of the world who gathered in Rome for the celebration of the Jubilee, "the Pastor is the first to take responsibility for and to encourage the ecclesial community, both in the requirement of communion and in the missionary outreach. Regarding the relativism and subjectivism which mar so much of contemporary culture, Bishops are called to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful. Concerned for every situation in which the faith has been lost or is unknown, they work with all their strength for evangelization, preparing priests, religious and lay people for this task and making the necessary resources available''.[37]

On the same occasion, my venerable predecessor recalled that "the Bishop, a successor of the Apostles, is someone for whom Christ is everything: 'For to me to live is Christ ...' (Phil 1:21). He must bear witness to this in all his actions. The Second Vatican Council teaches: 'Bishops should devote themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all' (Decree Christus Dominus, 11)''.[38]

Concerning episcopal service, then, I take the opportunity to recall something I said recently: "The Bishops are primarily responsible for building up the Church as a family of God and a place of mutual help and availability. To be able to carry out this mission, you received with episcopal consecration three special offices: the munus docendi, the munus sanctificandi and the munus regendi, which all together constitute the munus pascendi. In particular, the aim of the munus regendi is growth in ecclesial communion, that is, in building a community in agreement and listening to the Apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship. Closely linked to the offices of teaching and of sanctifying, that of governing -- the munus regendi precisely -- constitutes for the Bishop an authentic act of love for God and for one's neighbour, which is expressed in pastoral charity''.[39]

As in the rest of the world, in China too the Church is governed by Bishops who, through episcopal ordination conferred upon them by other validly ordained Bishops, have received, together with the sanctifying office, the offices of teaching and governing the people entrusted to them in their respective particular Churches, with a power that is conferred by God through the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The offices of teaching and governing ''however, by their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college'' of Bishops.[40] In fact, as the Council went on to say, "a person is made a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college''.[41]

Currently, all the Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are sons of the Chinese People. Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the Catholic Church in China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has never been deprived of the ministry of legitimate Pastors who have preserved the apostolic succession intact. We must thank the Lord for this constant presence, not without suffering, of Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.

Some of them, not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration. The clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church's life. For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects too -- insofar as these are necessary -- and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in the social context in which they live.

Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances, have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate. The Pope, considering the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation, and taking into account the opinion of neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper responsibility as universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction. This initiative of the Pope resulted from knowledge of the particular circumstances of their ordination and from his profound pastoral concern to favour the reestablishment of full communion. Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have not been adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and this has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter.
Finally, there are certain Bishops -- a very small number of them -- who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected. Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do so illegitimately. What great spiritual enrichment would ensue for the Church in China if, the necessary conditions having been established, these Pastors too were to enter into communion with the Successor of Peter and with the entire Catholic episcopate! Not only would their episcopal ministry be legitimized, there would also be an enrichment of their communion with the priests and the faithful who consider the Church in China part of the Catholic Church, united with the Bishop of Rome and with all the other particular Churches spread throughout the world.

In individual nations, all the legitimate Bishops constitute an Episcopal Conference, governed according to its own statutes, which by the norms of canon law must be approved by the Apostolic See. Such an Episcopal Conference expresses the fraternal communion of all the Bishops of a nation and treats the doctrinal and pastoral questions that are significant for the entire Catholic community of the country without, however, interfering in the exercise of the ordinary and immediate power of each Bishop in his own diocese. Moreover, every Episcopal Conference maintains opportune and useful contacts with the civil authorities of the place, partly in order to favour cooperation between the Church and the State, but it is obvious that an Episcopal Conference cannot be subjected to any civil authority in questions of faith and of living according to the faith (fides et mores, sacramental life), which are exclusively the competence of the Church.

In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China[42] cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine'' Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

Appointment of Bishops

9. As all of you know, one of the most delicate problems in relations between the Holy See and the authorities of your country is the question of episcopal appointments. On the one hand, it is understandable that governmental authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will carry out the important role of leading and shepherding the local Catholic communities, given the social implications which -- in China as in the rest of the world -- this function has in the civil sphere as well as the spiritual. On the other hand, the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline.

The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its sovereignty.

The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is understood, also in international documents, as a constitutive element of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom.[43] The Holy See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops;[44] therefore, considering the recent particular developments of the Church in China, I trust that an accord can be reached with the Government so as to resolve certain questions regarding the choice of candidates for the episcopate, the publication of the appointment of Bishops, and the recognition -- concerning civil effects where necessary -- of the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities.

Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while knowing your difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you that they should be worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful, models of life in the faith, and that they should possess a certain experience in the pastoral ministry, so that they are equipped to address the burdensome responsibility of a Pastor of the Church.[45] Whenever it proves impossible within a diocese to find suitable candidates to occupy the episcopal see, the cooperation of Bishops in neighbouring dioceses can help to identify suitable candidates.

PART TWO

GUIDELINES FOR PASTORAL LIFE

Sacraments, governance of dioceses, parishes

10. In recent times difficulties have emerged, linked to individual initiatives taken by Pastors, priests and lay faithful, who, moved by generous pastoral zeal, have not always respected the tasks or responsibilities of others.

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, if on the one hand individual Bishops "as members of the episcopal college and legitimate successors of the Apostles, by Christ's arrangement and decree [are] bound to be solicitous for the entire Church'', on the other hand they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over other Churches nor over the Church universal''.[46]

Moreover, faced with certain problems that have emerged in various diocesan communities during recent years, I feel it incumbent upon me to recall the canonical norm according to which every cleric must be incardinated in a particular Church or in an Institute of consecrated life and must exercise his own ministry in communion with the diocesan Bishop. Only for good reasons may a cleric exercise his ministry in another diocese, but always with the prior agreement of the two diocesan Bishops, that is, the Ordinary of the particular Church in which he is incardinated and the Ordinary of the particular Church for whose service he is destined.[47]

In not a few situations, then, you have faced the problem of concelebration of the Eucharist. In this regard, I remind you that this presupposes, as conditions, profession of the same faith and hierarchical communion with the Pope and with the universal Church. Therefore it is licit to concelebrate with Bishops and with priests who are in communion with the Pope, even if they are recognized by the civil authorities and maintain a relationship with entities desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, provided -- as was said earlier (cf. section 7 above, paragraph 8) -- that this recognition and this relationship do not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of the faith and of ecclesiastical communion.

The lay faithful too, who are animated by a sincere love for Christ and for the Church, must not hesitate to participate in the Eucharist celebrated by Bishops and by priests who are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and are recognized by the civil authorities. The same applies for all the other sacraments.

Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination -- as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) -- is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.

I consider it opportune, finally, to point out to you what canonical legislation provides in order to help diocesan Bishops to carry out their respective pastoral duty. Every diocesan Bishop is invited to make use of indispensable instruments of communion and cooperation within the diocesan Catholic community: the diocesan curia, the presbyteral council, the college of consultors, the diocesan pastoral council and the diocesan finance council. These agencies express communion, they favour the sharing of common responsibilities and are of great assistance to the Pastors, who can thus avail themselves of the fraternal cooperation of priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.

The same is true of the various councils that canon law provides for parishes: the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council.

Both for dioceses and for parishes, particular attention must be devoted to the Church's temporal goods, moveable and immoveable, which must be legally registered in the civil sphere in the name of the diocese or parish and never in the name of individual persons (that is, the Bishop, parish priest or a group of the faithful). Meanwhile, the traditional pastoral and missionary guideline that can be neatly summarized in the principle: "nihil sine Episcopo''; retains all its validity.

From the analysis of the problems outlined above, it emerges clearly that any real solution will be rooted in the promotion of communion, which draws its vigour and impetus, as from a source, from Christ, the icon of the Father's love. Charity, which is always above everything (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-12), will be the force and the criterion in pastoral work for the construction of an ecclesial community capable of making the Risen Christ present to modern man.

Ecclesiastical provinces

11. Numerous administrative changes have taken place in the civil sphere during the last fifty years. This has also involved various ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which have been eliminated or regrouped or have been modified in their territorial configuration on the basis of the civil administrative circumscriptions. In this regard, I wish to confirm that the Holy See is prepared to address the entire question of the circumscriptions and ecclesiastical provinces in an open and constructive dialogue with the Chinese Episcopate and -- where opportune and helpful -- with governmental authorities.

Catholic communities

12. I am well aware that the diocesan and parochial communities, spread over the vast Chinese territory, demonstrate a particular liveliness of Christian life, witness of faith and pastoral initiative. It is consoling for me to note that, despite past and present difficulties, the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful have maintained a profound awareness of being living members of the universal Church, in communion of faith and life with all the Catholic communities throughout the world. They know in their hearts what it means to be Catholic. And it is precisely from this Catholic heart that the commitment must likewise issue forth to make manifest and effective, both within individual communities and in relations between different communities, that spirit of communion, understanding and forgiveness which -- as was said earlier (cf. section 5 above, paragraph 4, and section 6) -- is the visible seal of an authentic Christian life. I am sure that the Spirit of Christ, just as he helped the communities to keep the faith alive in time of persecution, will today help all Catholics to grow in unity.

As I have already observed (cf. section 2 above, paragraph 1, and section 4, paragraph 1), members of Catholic communities in your country -- especially Bishops, priests and consecrated persons -- are unfortunately not yet allowed to live and to express fully and visibly certain aspects of their belonging to the Church and their hierarchical communion with the Pope, since free contact with the Holy See and with other Catholic communities in various countries is ordinarily impeded. It is true that in recent years the Church has enjoyed greater religious freedom than in the past. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that grave limitations remain that touch the heart of the faith and that, to a certain degree, suffocate pastoral activity. In this regard I renew my earnest wish (cf. section 4 above, paragraphs 2, 3, 4) that in the course of a respectful and open dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese Bishops on the one hand, and the governmental authorities on the other, the difficulties mentioned may be overcome and thus a fruitful understanding may be reached that will prove beneficial to the Catholic community and to social cohesion.

Priests

13. I would now like to address a special reflection and an invitation to priests -- especially those ordained in recent years -- who have undertaken the path of the pastoral ministry with such generosity. It seems to me that the current ecclesial and socio-political situation renders ever more urgent the need to draw light and strength from the well-springs of priestly spirituality, which are God's love, the unconditional following of Christ, passion for proclamation of the Gospel, faithfulness to the Church and generous service of neighbour.[48] How can I fail to recall, in this regard, as an encouragement for all, the shining examples of Bishops and priests who, in the difficult years of the recent past, have testified to an unfailing love for the Church, even by the gift of their own lives for her and for Christ?

My dear priests! You who bear "the burden of the day and the scorching heat'' (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not look back (cf. Lk 9:62): think of those places where the faithful are waiting anxiously for a priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of a priest, they have not ceased to pray for one to arrive. I know that among you there are confrères who have had to deal with difficult times and situations, adopting positions that cannot always be condoned from an ecclesial point of view and who, despite everything, want to return to full communion with the Church. In the spirit of that profound reconciliation to which my venerable predecessor repeatedly invited the Church in China,[49] I turn now to the Bishops who are in communion with the Successor of Peter, so that with a paternal spirit they may evaluate these questions case by case and give a just response to that desire, having recourse -- if necessary -- to the Apostolic See. And, as a sign of this desired reconciliation, I think that there is no gesture more significant than that of renewing as a community -- on the occasion of the priestly day of Holy Thursday, as happens in the universal Church, or on another occasion that might be considered more opportune -- the profession of faith, as a witness to the full communion attained, for the edification of the Holy People of God entrusted to your pastoral care, and to the praise of the Most Holy Trinity.

Furthermore, I realize that in China too, as in the rest of the Church, the need for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging. Hence the invitation, addressed to you Bishops as leaders of ecclesial communities, to think especially of the young clergy who are increasingly subject to new pastoral challenges, linked to the demands of the task of evangelizing a society as complex as present-day Chinese society. Pope John Paul II reminded us of this: ongoing formation of priests "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 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''.[50]

Vocations and religious formation

14. During the last fifty years, the Church in China has never lacked an abundant flowering of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life. For this we must thank the Lord, because it is a sign of vitality and a reason for hope. Moreover, in the course of the years, many indigenous religious congregations have emerged: Bishops and priests know from experience what an indispensable contribution women religious make to catechesis and to parish life in all its forms; moreover, care for the most needy, offered in cooperation with the local civil authorities, is an expression of that charity and service of neighbour that are the most credible witness of the power and vitality of the Gospel of Jesus.

I am aware, however, that this flowering is accompanied, today, by not a few difficulties. The need therefore emerges both for more careful vocational discernment on the part of Church leaders, and for more in-depth education and instruction of aspirants to the priesthood and religious life. Notwithstanding the precariousness of the means available, for the future of the Church in China it will be necessary to take steps to ensure, on the one hand, particular attention in the care of vocations and, on the other hand, a more solid formation with regard to the human, spiritual, philosophical-theological and pastoral aspects, to be carried out in seminaries and religious institutes.

In this regard, the formation for celibacy of candidates for the priesthood deserves particular mention. It is important that they learn to live and to esteem celibacy as a precious gift from God and as an eminently eschatological sign which bears witness to an undivided love for God and for his people, and configures the priest to Jesus Christ, Head and Bridegroom of the Church. This gift, in fact, in an outstanding way "expresses the priest's service to the Church in and with the Lord'' [51] and has a prophetic value for today's world.

As for the religious vocation, in the present context of the Church in China it is necessary that its two dimensions be seen ever more clearly: namely, on the one hand, the witness of the charism of total consecration to Christ through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and on the other hand, the response to the demand to proclaim the Gospel in the socio- historical circumstances of the country today.

The Lay Faithful and the Family

15. In the most difficult periods of the recent history of the Catholic Church in China, the lay faithful, both as individuals and families and as members of spiritual and apostolic movements, have shown total fidelity to the Gospel, even paying a personal price for their faithfulness to Christ. My dear lay people, you are called, today too, to incarnate the Gospel in your lives and to bear witness to it by means of generous and effective service for the good of the people and for the development of the country: and you will accomplish this mission by living as honest citizens and by operating as active and responsible co-workers in spreading the word of God to those around you, in the country or in the city. You who in recent times have been courageous witnesses of the faith, must remain the hope of the Church for the future! This demands from you an ever more engaged participation in all areas of Church life, in communion with your respective Pastors.

Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values and safeguard the needs of the family. Lay people, whose faith enables them to know God's marvellous design for the family, have an added reason to assume this concrete and demanding task: the family in fact "is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation. The family occupies a very important place in Asian cultures; and, as the Synod Fathers noted, family values like filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of children and harmony are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious traditions''.[52]

The above-mentioned values form part of the relevant Chinese cultural context, but also in your land there is no lack of forces that influence the family negatively in various ways. Therefore the Church which is in China, aware that the good of society and her own good are profoundly linked to the good of the family,[53] must have a keener and more urgent sense of her mission to proclaim to all people God's plan for marriage and the family, ensuring the full vitality of each.[54]

Christian initiation of adults

16. The recent history of the Catholic Church in China has seen a large number of adults coming to the faith, thanks partly to the witness of the local Christian community. You, Pastors, are called to devote particular care to their Christian initiation via an appropriate and serious period of catechumenate aimed at helping them and preparing them to lead the life of Jesus' disciples.

In this regard, I would mention that evangelization is never purely intellectual communication, but rather includes experience of life, purification and transformation of the whole of existence, and a journey in communion. Only in this way is a proper relationship established between thought and life.

Looking then to the past, it is unfortunately the case that many adults have not always been sufficiently initiated into the complete truth of Christian life and have not even known the richness of the renewal brought by the Second Vatican Council. It therefore seems necessary and urgent to offer them a solid and thorough Christian formation, in the shape of a post-baptismal catechumenate.[[55]

The missionary vocation

17. The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher.

Addressing young pilgrims on the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy Year 2000, John Paul II said: "At the moment of his Ascension, Jesus gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ... and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Mt 28:18-20). For two-thousand years Christ's followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the third millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ's Kingdom''.[56]

Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous.

CONCLUSION

Revocation of faculties and of pastoral directives

18. Considering in the first place some positive developments of the situation of the Church in China, and in the second place the increased opportunities and greater ease in communication, and finally the requests sent to Rome by various Bishops and priests, I hereby revoke all the faculties previously granted in order to address particular pastoral necessities that emerged in truly difficult times.

Let the same be applied to all directives of a pastoral nature, past and recent. The doctrinal principles that inspired them now find a new application in the directives contained herein.

A day of prayer for the Church in China

19. Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: ''First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'' (1 Tim 2:1-4).

On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world -- in particular those who are of Chinese origin -- will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.

Farewell

20. At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ'' (1 Pet 1:6-7).

May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the hour of the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in the silence of hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and intercede for all of you, together with Saint Joseph and the countless Holy Martyrs of China.

I assure you of my constant prayers and, with affectionate remembrance of the elderly, the sick, the children and young people of your noble Nation, I bless you from my heart.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.

* * *

[1] Benedict XVI, Angelus of 26 December 2006: "With special spiritual closeness, I also think of those Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the See of Peter without ceding to compromises, sometimes at the price of grave sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and prays that they will have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are the fount of victory, even if at that moment they can seem a failure''. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 12.

[2] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 10.

[3] Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.

[4] Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia" (6 November 1999), 7: AAS 92 (2000), 456.

[5] Cf. ibid., 19, 20: AAS 92 (2000), 477-482.

[6] Cf. Address to members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Manila, 15 January 1995), 11: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 25 January 1995, p. 6.

[7] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" (6 January 2001), 1: AAS 93 (2001), 266.

[8] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 23 August 2006), L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 30 August 2006, p. 3.

[9] John Paul II, Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, pp. 3-4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Cf. Fonti Ricciane, ed. Pasquale M. D'Elia, S.J., vol. 2, Rome 1949, no. 617, p. 152.

[12] Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.

[13] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 76.

[14] Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (25 December 2005), 28: AAS 98 (2006), 240. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 76.

[15] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 26.

[16] Ibid., 23.

[17] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion "Communionis Notio" (28 May 1992), 11-14: AAS 85 (1993), 844-847.

[18] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 23.

[19] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 13: AAS 85 (1993), 846.

[20] See also Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" (22 February 2007), 6: ''The Church's faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: 'faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.' For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church's life: 'thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!' The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people''.

[21] Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" (6 January 2001), 42: AAS 93 (2001), 296. See also Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (25 December 2005), 12: "Divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the 'stray sheep', a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form'': AAS 98 (2006), 228.

[22] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[23] The lived experience of the ancient Church in time of persecution should be a source of enlightenment for all, as should the teaching given on this matter by the Church of Rome herself. Rome rejected the rigorist positions of the Novatians and the Donatists, and appealed for a generous attitude of pardon and reconciliation towards those who had apostatized during the persecutions (the "lapsi''), and wished to be readmitted to the communion of the Church.

[24] John Paul II, Message to the Catholic community in China Alla Vigilia (8 December 1999), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 15 December 1999, p. 5.

[25] Cf. Mt 4:8-10; Jn 6:15.

[26] Cf. Is 42:1-4.

[27] Cf. Jn 18:37.

[28] Cf. Mt 26:51-53; Jn 18:36.

[29] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 11.

[30] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[31]Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 28.

[32] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[33] Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 174. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 857 and 869.

[34] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 10: AAS 90 (1998), 648.

[35] Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 447.

[36] Statutes of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), 2004, art. 3.

[37] Homily for the Jubilee of Bishops (8 October 2000), 5: AAS 93 (2001), 28. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "Christus Dominus," 6.

[38] Ibid., 27.

[39] Benedict XVI, Address to new Bishops (21 September 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 696.

[40] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21. Cf. also Code of Canon Law, c. 375 § 2.

[41]Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium", 22. Cf. also "Preliminary Explanatory Note'', No. 2.

[42] China Catholic Bishops' College (CCBC).

[43] At the universal level, see, for example, the provisions of art. 18, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966 ("Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching'') and the interpretation, binding for Member States, given to it by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in "General Comment 22'' (paragraph 4) of 30 July 1993 ("the practice and teaching of religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs, such as freedom to choose their religious leaders, priests and teachers, the freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or publications'').
At the regional level, then, see, for example, the following commitments, assumed at the Vienna Meeting of the Representatives of States participating in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE): "In order to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise religion or belief, the participating States will, inter alia ... respect the right of these religious communities to ... organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and institutional structure ... select, appoint and replace their personnel in accordance with their respective requirements and standards as well as with any freely accepted arrangement between them and their State''. (Concluding Document of 1989, Principle No. 16 of the Section 'Questions relating to Security in Europe''). Cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty "Dignitatis Humanae," 4.

[44] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "Christus Dominus," 20.

[45]See, in this regard, the relevant norms of the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 378).

[46] Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 23.

[47]Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 265-272.

[48] For a reflection on the doctrine and spirituality of the priest and on the charism of celibacy, I refer to my address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 6.

[49] Cf. John Paul II, Message to the Church which is in China on the Seventieth Anniversary of the Ordination in Rome of the First Group of Chinese Bishops and on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Institution of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in China La Memoria Liturgica (3 December 1996), 4: AAS 89 (1997), 256.

[50] Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 70: AAS 84 (1992), 782.

[51] Ibid., 29: AAS 84 (1992), 704.

[52] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia" (6 November 1999), 46: AAS 92 (2000), 521. Cf. Benedict XVI, Address at Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain (Valencia, 8 July 2006): ''The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all ... Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of our life and thus of the lives of families: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends' (Jn 15:12-13). The love of God himself has been poured out upon us in Baptism. Consequently, families are called to experience this same kind of love, for the Lord makes it possible for us, through our human love, to be sensitive, loving and merciful like Christ'': AAS 98 (2006), 591-592.

[53] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 47.

[54] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" (22 November 1981), 3: AAS 74 (1982), 84.

[55] As the Synod Fathers of the Seventh Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops observed (1-30 October 1987), in the formation of Christians "a post-baptismal catechesis in the form of a catechumenate can also be helpful by presenting again some elements from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at Baptism'': John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici" (30 December 1988), 61: AAS 81 (1989), 514. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1230-1231.

[56] Homily on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Israel, 24 March 2000), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 March 2000, p. 9.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Cyril of Jerusalem
"His Catechesis Spans God's Entire Plan of Salvation" (June 27, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our attention today will be focused on St. Cyril of Jerusalem. His life represents the coming together of two dimensions: on one side, pastoral care and, on the other, involvement in the controversies that weighed upon the Church of the East at that time.

Born in 315 in Jerusalem, or in the surrounding areas, Cyril received a fine literary formation that became the basis of his ecclesiastical knowledge through the study of the Bible.

He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus. When Maximus died and was buried, in 348, Cyril was ordained a bishop by Acacius, the influential metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a follower of Arius who was convinced he had an ally in Cyril. Hence, Cyril was suspected to have received the episcopal nomination through concessions given to Arianism.

Cyril soon found himself at odds with Acacius for doctrinal as well as juridical reasons, because Cyril reinstated the autonomy of his own see, separating it from that of the metropolitan of Caesarea. During 20 years or so, Cyril suffered three exiles: the first in 357, by decree of a synod of Jerusalem; a second in 360 by Acacius; and a third in 367 -- the longest, lasting 11 years -- by Emperor Valens, a follower of Arianism. Not until 378, after the death of the emperor, was Cyril able to resume possession of his see, bringing back unity and peace to the faithful.

Despite certain writings from his day that call into question his orthodoxy, others of the same epoch defend it. Among the most authoritative is the synodal letter of 382, after the ecumenical council of Constantinople in 381, in which Cyril had a significant role. In that letter, sent to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern bishops officially recognize the absolute authority of Cyril, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which death brought to an end in 387.

We have 24 of his celebrated catecheses, which he wrote as a bishop around the year 350. Introduced by a "Procatechesis" of welcome, the first 18 are addressed to catechumens or illuminandi (in Greek "photizomenoi") and were kept in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

The first five deal with the dispositions required to receive baptism, conversion from pagan customs, the sacrament of baptism and the ten dogmatic truths contained in the creed or symbol of faith.

The following catecheses, Nos. 6-18, make up a "continual catechesis" of the Symbol of Jerusalem, which is anti-Arian. Of the last five, Nos. 19-23, the so-called mystagogical ones, the first two develop a commentary on the rites of baptism, the last three deal with confirmation, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic liturgy. There is also an explanation of the Our Father ("Oratio Dominica"), which establishes a path of initiation to prayer that develops parallel to the initiation with the three sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

The foundation of instruction in the Christian faith developed, although amid controversy against the pagans, Judeo-Christians and followers of Manichaeism. The development of the instruction was based on the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament, with a language rich with images. Catechesis was an important moment, inserted into the broad context of the entire life, and especially the liturgical life, of the Christian community. Within this maternal womb, the gestation of the future Christian took place, accompanied by the prayer and witness of the brethren.

Taken together, Cyril's homilies make up a systematic catechesis on the rebirth of the Christian through baptism. To the catechumen, Cyril says: "You have fallen into the nets of the Church (cfr. Matthew 13:47). Let yourself be taken alive: Do not run away, because it is Jesus who takes you to his love, not to give you death but the resurrection after death. You must die and rise again (cfr. Romans 6:11-14). … Die to sin, and live for justice, starting today" (Pro-Catechesis, No. 5).

From a "doctrinal" point of view, Cyril comments on the symbol of Jerusalem with recourse to the use of typology in the Scriptures, in a "symphonic" relationship between the two Testaments, pointing to Christ, the center of the universe. Typology will later be wisely described by Augustine of Hippo with these words: "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is revealed in the New" ("De Catechizandis Rudibus," 4:8).

His catechesis on morality is anchored in profound unity to the doctrinal one: Dogma slowly descends into souls, which are asked to change their pagan ways to adopt new life in Christ, the gift of baptism. The "mystagogical" catechesis, was the height of instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens, but to the newly baptized and neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter vigil. Enlightened by the light of a faith, deepened in the strength of baptism, the neophytes were finally able to better understand the mysteries, having just celebrated the rites.

In particular, with the neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril focused on visual aspects, most suited to them. It was the passage from rite to mystery, which availed of the psychological effect of surprise and the experience lived in the Easter vigil. Here is a text explaining the mystery of baptism: "You were immersed in water three times and from each of the three you re-emerged, to symbolize the three days that Christ was in the tomb, imitating, that is, with this rite, our savior, who spent three days and three nights in the womb of the earth (cfr. Matthew 12:40).

"With the first emersion from the water you celebrated the memory of the first day that Christ spent in the tomb, with the first immersion you witnessed to the first night spent in the tomb: As he who in the night is unable to see, and he who in the day enjoys the light, you too experience the same thing. While at first you were immersed in the night and unable to see anything, reemerging, you found the fullness of day. Mystery of death and of birth, this water of salvation was for you a tomb and mother. … For you … the time to die coincides with the time to be born: One is the moment that achieved both events" ("Second Mystagogical Catechesis," No. 4).

The mystery to behold is God's design; this is achieved through the salvific actions of Christ in the Church. The mystagogical dimension complements that of symbols, expressing the lived spiritual experience that they cause to "explode." From St. Cyril's catechesis, based on the three components described previously -- doctrinal, moral and mystagogical -- there results a global catechesis in the Spirit. The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the first two, directing them to the sacramental celebration, in which the salvation of the entire person is realized.

It is an integral catechesis, which -- involving the body, soul and spirit -- remains emblematic of the catechetical formation of today's Christians.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the great teachers of the early Church, we now turn to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Cyril is best known for his Catecheses, which reveal his orthodox doctrine and his pastoral wisdom. The Catecheses prepared the catechumens of the Church of Jerusalem first to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then, after their Baptism, to understand more deeply the Church's faith as expressed in the sacred mysteries. Based on the "symphonic" harmony of the Old and the New Testaments, and centered on the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the coming of Christ, the Catecheses explained the articles of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, the reality of Baptism as an event of spiritual rebirth, and the importance of the sacramental life and personal prayer for every Christian. Cyril's catechesis spans God's entire plan of salvation, accomplished through the work of Christ in the Church. With their rich doctrinal, moral and mystagogical teaching, the Catecheses remain a model for instruction today, leading the whole person -- body, soul and spirit -- to a living experience of Christ's gift of salvation.
                                           
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On the Birth of John the Baptist

"The First 'Witness' of Jesus" (June 24, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, June 24, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, whose life was totally oriented toward Christ, as was the life of Christ's mother, Mary.

John the Baptist was the precursor, the "voice" sent to announce the Incarnate Word. For this reason, to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist in reality means to celebrate Christ, the fulfillment of the promises of all the prophets, of whom John was the greatest, called to "prepare the way" before the Messiah (cf. Matthew 11:9-10).

All the Gospels begin the narrative of Jesus' public life with the account of the Jesus' baptism in the Jordan by John. St. Luke sets John's appearance on the scene in a solemn historical frame. My book "Jesus of Nazareth" also takes cues from Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, an event that had enormous resonance at that time.

From Jerusalem and from every part of Judea people came to listen to John the Baptist and be baptized by him in the river, confessing their sins (cf. Mark 1:5). The fame of the baptizer grew to such an extent that many asked whether he might be the Messiah. But John -- the Gospel writer emphasizes -- resolutely denied it: "I am not the Christ" (John 1:20).

Nevertheless, he is still the first "witness" of Jesus, having received instruction about him from heaven: "The man on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is he who will baptize in the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33). This happened precisely when Jesus, having received baptism, came out of the water: John saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove.

It was then that he "knew" the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began "to make it known to Israel" (John 1:31), naming him as Son of God and redeemer of man: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

As an authentic prophet, John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced transgressions of God's commandments, even when the protagonists were people in power. Thus, when he accused Herod and Herodius of adultery, he paid for it with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ, who is the truth in person.

Let us call on his intercession together with that of Mary Most Holy so that the Church of our time will know how to be ever faithful to Christ and testify with courage to his truth and his love for all.

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Pope's Address to European Professors

"A New Humanism for Europe. The Role of the Universities"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave to participants of the European Meeting of University Professors, gathered in Paul VI Hall. The four-day meeting ended today in Rome.

* * *

Your Eminence,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends!

I am particularly pleased to receive you during the first European Meeting of University Lecturers, sponsored by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and organized by teachers from the Roman universities, coordinated by the Vicariate of Rome's Office for the Pastoral Care of Universities. It is taking place on the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which gave rise to the present European Union, and its participants include university lecturers from every country on the continent, including those of the Caucasus: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I thank Cardinal Péter Erdo", President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, for his kind words of introduction. I greet the representatives of the Italian government, particularly those from the Ministry for Universities and Research, and from the Ministry for Italy's Cultural Heritage, as well as the representatives of the Region of Lazio and the Province and City of Rome. My greeting also goes to the other civil and religious authorities, the Rectors and the teachers of the various universities, as well as the chaplains and students present.

The theme of your meeting -- "A New Humanism for Europe. The Role of the Universities" -- invites a disciplined assessment of contemporary culture on the continent. Europe is presently experiencing a certain social instability and diffidence in the face of traditional values, yet her distinguished history and her established academic institutions have much to contribute to shaping a future of hope. The "question of man", which is central to your discussions, is essential for a correct understanding of current cultural processes. It also provides a solid point of departure for the effort of universities to create a new cultural presence and activity in the service of a more united Europe. Promoting a new humanism, in fact, requires a clear understanding of what this "newness" actually embodies. Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history. Historically, it was in Europe that humanism developed, thanks to the fruitful interplay between the various cultures of her peoples and the Christian faith. Europe today needs to preserve and reappropriate her authentic tradition if she is to remain faithful to her vocation as the cradle of humanism.

The present cultural shift is often seen as a "challenge" to the culture of the university and Christianity itself, rather than as a "horizon" against which creative solutions can and must be found. As men and women of higher education, you are called to take part in this demanding task, which calls for sustained reflection on a number of foundational issues.

Among these, I would mention in the first place the need for a comprehensive study of the crisis of modernity. European culture in recent centuries has been powerfully conditioned by the notion of modernity. The present crisis, however, has less to do with modernity's insistence on the centrality of man and his concerns, than with the problems raised by a "humanism" that claims to build a regnum hominis detached from its necessary ontological foundation. A false dichotomy between theism and authentic humanism, taken to the extreme of positing an irreconcilable conflict between divine law and human freedom, has led to a situation in which humanity, for all its economic and technical advances, feels deeply threatened. As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, stated, we need to ask "whether in the context of all this progress, man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible and more open to others" ("Redemptor Hominis," 15). The anthropocentrism which characterizes modernity can never be detached from an acknowledgment of the full truth about man, which includes his transcendent vocation.

A second issue involves the broadening of our understanding of rationality. A correct understanding of the challenges posed by contemporary culture, and the formulation of meaningful responses to those challenges, must take a critical approach towards narrow and ultimately irrational attempts to limit the scope of reason. The concept of reason needs instead to be "broadened" in order to be able to explore and embrace those aspects of reality which go beyond the purely empirical. This will allow for a more fruitful, complementary approach to the relationship between faith and reason. The rise of the European universities was fostered by the conviction that faith and reason are meant to cooperate in the search for truth, each respecting the nature and legitimate autonomy of the other, yet working together harmoniously and creatively to serve the fulfilment of the human person in truth and love.

A third issue needing to be investigated concerns the nature of the contribution which Christianity can make to the humanism of the future. The question of man, and thus of modernity, challenges the Church to devise effective ways of proclaiming to contemporary culture the "realism" of her faith in the saving work of Christ. Christianity must not be relegated to the world of myth and emotion, but respected for its claim to shed light on the truth about man, to be able to transform men and women spiritually, and thus to enable them to carry out their vocation in history. In my recent visit to Brazil, I voiced my conviction that "unless we do know God in and with Christ, all of reality becomes an indecipherable enigma" (Address to Bishops of CELAM, 3). Knowledge can never be limited to the purely intellectual realm; it also includes a renewed ability to look at things in a way free of prejudices and preconceptions, and to allow ourselves to be "amazed" by reality, whose truth can be discovered by uniting understanding with love. Only the God who has a human face, revealed in Jesus Christ, can prevent us from truncating reality at the very moment when it demands ever new and more complex levels of understanding. The Church is conscious of her responsibility to offer this contribution to contemporary culture.

In Europe, as elsewhere, society urgently needs the service to wisdom which the university community provides. This service extends also to the practical aspects of directing research and activity to the promotion of human dignity and to the daunting task of building the civilization of love. University professors, in particular, are called to embody the virtue of intellectual charity, recovering their primordial vocation to train future generations not only by imparting knowledge but by the prophetic witness of their own lives. The university, for its part, must never lose sight of its particular calling to be an "universitas" in which the various disciplines, each in its own way, are seen as part of a greater unum. How urgent is the need to rediscover the unity of knowledge and to counter the tendency to fragmentation and lack of communicability that is all too often the case in our schools! The effort to reconcile the drive to specialization with the need to preserve the unity of knowledge can encourage the growth of European unity and help the continent to rediscover its specific cultural "vocation" in today's world. Only a Europe conscious of its own cultural identity can make a specific contribution to other cultures, while remaining open to the contribution of other peoples.

Dear friends, it is my hope that universities will increasingly become communities committed to the tireless pursuit of truth, "laboratories of culture" where teachers and students join in exploring issues of particular importance for society, employing interdisciplinary methods and counting on the collaboration of theologians. This can easily be done in Europe, given the presence of so many prestigious Catholic institutions and faculties of theology. I am convinced that greater cooperation and new forms of fellowship between the various academic communities will enable Catholic universities to bear witness to the historical fruitfulness of the encounter between faith and reason. The result will be a concrete contribution to the attainment of the goals of the Bologna Process, and an incentive for developing a suitable university apostolate in the local Churches. Effective support for these efforts, which have been increasingly a concern of the European Episcopal Conferences (cf. "Ecclesia in Europa," 58-59), can come from those ecclesial associations and movements already engaged in the university apostolate.

Dear friends, may your deliberations during these days prove fruitful and help to build an active network of university instructors committed to bringing the light of the Gospel to contemporary culture. I assure you and your families of a special remembrance in my prayers, and I invoke upon you, and the universities in which you work, the maternal protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. To each of you I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Address to Rome Diocesan Convention
"There Is Talk of a Great 'Educational Emergency'"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to Rome's diocesan convention on June 11 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE CONVENTION
OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME
Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Monday, 11 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the third consecutive year our diocesan Convention gives me the possibility of meeting and speaking to you all, addressing the theme on which the Church of Rome will be focusing in the coming pastoral year, in close continuity with the work carried out in the year now drawing to a close.

I greet with affection each one of you, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, lay people who generously take part in the Church's mission. I thank the Cardinal Vicar in particular for the words he has addressed to me on behalf of you all.

The theme of the Convention is "Jesus is Lord: educating in the faith, in the "sequela', in witnessing": a theme that concerns us all because every disciple professes that Jesus is Lord and is called to grow in adherence to him, giving and receiving help from the great company of brothers and sisters in the faith.

Nevertheless, the verb "to educate", as part of the title of the Convention, suggests special attention to children, boys and girls and young people, and highlights the duty proper first of all to the family: thus, we are continuing the programme that has been a feature of the pastoral work of our Diocese in recent years.

It is important to start by reflecting on the first affirmation, which gives our Convention its tone and meaning: "Jesus is Lord". We find it in the solemn declaration that concludes Peter's discourse at Pentecost, in which the head of the Apostles said: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36). The conclusion of the great hymn to Christ contained in Paul's Letter to the Philippians is similar: "every tongue [should] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (2: 11).

Again, in the final salutation of his First Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul exclaimed: "If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranà tha: Our Lord, come!" (I Corinthians 16:22), thereby handing on to us the very ancient Aramaic invocation of Jesus as Lord.

Various other citations could be added: I am thinking of the 12th chapter of the same Letter to the Corinthians in which St Paul says: "No one can say "Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:3).

Thus, the Apostle declares that this is the fundamental confession of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. We might think also of the 10th chapter of the Letter to the Romans where the Apostle says, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9), thus reminding the Christians of Rome that these words, "Jesus is Lord", form the common confession of the Church, the sure foundation of the Church's entire life.

The whole confession of the Apostolic Creed, of the Nicene Creed, developed from these words. St Paul also says in another passage of his First Letter to the Corinthians: "Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth..." -- and we know that today too there are many so-called "gods" on earth -- for us there is only "one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (I Corinthians 8: 5-6).

Thus, from the outset the disciples recognized the Risen Jesus as the One who is our brother in humanity but is also one with God; the One who, with his coming into the world and throughout his life, in his death and in his Resurrection, brought us God and in a new and unique way made God present in the world: the One, therefore, who gives meaning and hope to our life; in fact, it is in him that we encounter the true Face of God that we find what we really need in order to live.

Educating in the faith, in the sequela, and in witnessing means helping our brothers and sisters, or rather, helping one another to enter into a living relationship with Christ and with the Father. This has been from the start the fundamental task of the Church as the community of believers, disciples and friends of Jesus. The Church, the Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit, is that dependable company within which we have been brought forth and educated to become, in Christ, sons and heirs of God.

In the Church, we receive the Spirit through whom "we cry, "Abba! Father!'" (cf. Romans 8:14-17). We have just heard in St Augustine's homily that God is not remote, that he has become the "Way" and the "Way" himself has come to us. He said: "Stand up, you idler, and start walking!". Starting to walk means moving along the path that is Christ himself, in the company of believers; it means while walking, helping one another to become truly friends of Jesus Christ and children of God.

Daily experience tells us -- as we all know -- that precisely in our day educating in the faith is no easy undertaking. Today, in fact, every educational task seems more and more arduous and precarious. Consequently, there is talk of a great "educational emergency", of the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic values of life and correct behaviour to the new generations, a difficulty that involves both schools and families and, one might say, any other body with educational aims.

We may add that this is an inevitable emergency: in a society, in a culture, which all too often make relativism its creed -- relativism has become a sort of dogma -- in such a society the light of truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and "authoritarian" to speak of truth, and the end result is doubt about the goodness of life -- is it good to be a person? is it good to be alive? -- and in the validity of the relationships and commitments in which it consists.

So how would it be possible to suggest to children and to pass on from generation to generation something sound and dependable, rules of life, an authentic meaning and convincing objectives for human existence both as an individual and as a community?

For this reason, education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavour to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is.

Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people, to the young generations, what it is our duty to pass on to them. Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.

However, this situation obviously fails to satisfy; it cannot satisfy because it ignores the essential aim of education which is the formation of a person to enable him or her to live to the full and to make his or her own contribution to the common good. However, on many sides the demand for authentic education and the rediscovery of the need for educators who are truly such is increasing.

Parents, concerned and often worried about their children's future, are asking for it, many teachers who are going through the sad experience of the deterioration of their schools are asking for it, society overall is asking for it, in Italy as in many other nations, because it sees the educational crisis cast doubt on the very foundations of coexistence.

In a similar context, the Church's commitment to providing education in the faith, in discipleship and in witnessing to the Lord Jesus is more than ever acquiring the value of a contribution to extracting the society in which we live from the educational crisis that afflicts it, clamping down on distrust and on that strange "self hatred" that seems to have become a hallmark of our civilization.

However, none of this diminishes the difficulties we encounter in leading children, adolescents and young people to meet Jesus Christ and to establish a lasting and profound relationship with him. Yet precisely this is the crucial challenge for the future of the faith, of the Church and of Christianity, and it is therefore an essential priority of our pastoral work: to bring close to Christ and to the Father the new generation that lives in a world largely distant from God.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must always be aware that we cannot carry out such a task with our own strength but only with the power of the Spirit. We need enlightenment and grace that come from God and act within hearts and consciences. For education and Christian formation, therefore, it is above all prayer and our personal friendship with Jesus that are crucial: only those who know and love Jesus Christ can introduce their brothers and sisters into a living relationship with him. Indeed, moved by this need, I thought: it would be helpful to write a book on Jesus to make him known.

Let us never forget the words of Jesus: "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:15-16).

Our communities will thus be able to work fruitfully and to teach the faith and discipleship of Christ while being in themselves authentic "schools" of prayer (cf. Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," n. 33), where the primacy of God is lived.

Furthermore, it is education and especially Christian education which shapes life based on God who is love (cf. I John 4:8,16), and has need of that closeness which is proper to love. Especially today, when isolation and loneliness are a widespread condition to which noise and group conformity is no real remedy, personal guidance becomes essential, giving those who are growing up the assurance that they are loved, understood and listened to.

In practice, this guidance must make tangible the fact that our faith is not something of the past, that it can be lived today and that in living it we really find our good. Thus, boys and girls and young people may be helped to free themselves from common prejudices and will realize that the Christian way of life is possible and reasonable, indeed, is by far the most reasonable.

The entire Christian community, with all its many branches and components, is challenged by the important task of leading the new generations to the encounter with Christ: on this terrain, therefore, we must express and manifest particularly clearly our communion with the Lord and with one another, as well as our willingness and readiness to work together to "build a network", to achieve with an open and sincere mind every useful form of synergy, starting with the precious contribution of those women and men who have consecrated their lives to adoring God and interceding for their brethren.

However, it is very obvious that in educating and forming people in the faith the family has its own fundamental role and primary responsibility. Parents, in fact, are those through whom the child at the start of life has the first and crucial experience of love, of a love which is actually not only human but also a reflection of God's love for him.

Therefore, the Christian family, the small "domestic Church", and the larger family of the Church must take care to develop the closest collaboration, especially with regard to the education of children (cf. "Lumen Gentium," n. 11).

Everything that has matured in the three years in which our diocesan pastoral ministry has devoted special attention to the family should not only be implemented but also further increased.

For example, the attempts to involve parents and even godparents more closely, before and after Baptism, in order to help them understand and put into practice their mission as educators in the faith have already produced appreciable results and deserve to be continued and to become the common heritage of each parish. The same applies for the participation of families in catechesis and in the entire process of the Christian initiation of children and adolescents.

Of course, many families are unprepared for this task and there is no lack of families which -- if they are not actually opposed to it -- do not seem to be interested in the Christian education of their own children: the consequences of the crisis in so many marriages are making themselves felt here.

Yet, it is rare to meet parents who are wholly indifferent to the human and moral formation of their children and consequently unwilling to be assisted in an educational task which they perceive as ever more difficult.

Therefore, an area of commitment and service opens up for our parishes, oratories, youth communities and above all for Christian families themselves, called to be near other families to encourage and assist them in raising their children, thereby helping them to find the meaning and purpose of life as a married couple.

Let us now move on to other subjects concerning education in the faith.

As children gradually grow up, their inner desire for personal autonomy naturally increases. Especially in adolescence, this can easily lead to them taking a critical distance from their family. Here, the closeness which can be guaranteed by the priest, Religious, catechist or other educators capable of making the friendly Face of the Church and love of Christ concrete for the young person, becomes particularly important.

If it is to produce positive effects that endure in time, our closeness must take into account that the education offered is a free encounter and that Christian education itself is formation in true freedom. Indeed, there is no real educational proposal, however respectful and loving it may be, which is not an incentive to making a decision, and the proposal of Christianity itself calls freedom profoundly into question, calling it to faith and conversion.

As I said at the Ecclesial Convention in Verona: "A true education must awaken the courage to make definitive decisions, which today are considered a mortifying bind to our freedom. In reality, they are indispensable for growth and in order to achieve something great in life, in particular, to cause love to mature in all its beauty: therefore, to give consistency and meaning to freedom itself" (Address, 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 October 2006, p. 9).

When they feel that their freedom is respected and taken seriously, adolescents and young people, despite their changeability and frailty, are not in fact unwilling to let themselves be challenged by demanding proposals: indeed, they often feel attracted and fascinated by them.

They also wish to show their generosity in adhering to the great, perennial values that constitute life's foundations. The authentic educator likewise takes seriously the intellectual curiosity which already exists in children and, as the years pass, is more consciously cultivated. Constantly exposed to, and often confused by, the multiplicity of information, and by the contrasting ideas and interpretations presented to them, young people today nevertheless still have a great inner need for truth. They are consequently open to Jesus Christ who, as Tertullian reminds us, "called himself truth, not custom" ("De virginibus velandis," I, 1).

It is up to us to seek to respond to the question of truth, fearlessly juxtaposing the proposal of faith with the reason of our time. In this way we will help young people to broaden the horizons of their intelligence, to open themselves to the mystery of God, in whom is found life's meaning and direction, and to overcome the conditioning of a rationality which trusts only what can be the object of experiment and calculation. Thus, it is very important to develop what last year we called "the pastoral care of intelligence".

The task of education passes through freedom but also requires authority. Therefore, especially when it is a matter of educating in faith, the figure of the witness and the role of witnessing is central. A witness of Christ does not merely transmit information but is personally involved with the truth Christ proposes and, through the coherency of his own life, becomes a dependable reference point.

However, he does not refer to himself, but to Someone who is infinitely greater than he is, in whom he has trusted and whose trustworthy goodness he has experienced. The authentic Christian educator is therefore a witness who finds his model in Jesus Christ, the witness of the Father who said nothing about himself but spoke as the Father had taught him (cf. John 8:28). This relationship with Christ and with the Father is for each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, the fundamental condition for being effective educators in the faith.

Our Convention very rightly speaks of education not only in faith and discipleship but also in witnessing to the Lord Jesus. Bearing an active witness to Christ does not, therefore, concern only priests, women religious and lay people who as formation teachers have tasks in our communities, but children and young people themselves, and all who are educated in the faith.

Therefore, the awareness of being called to become witnesses of Christ is not a corollary, a consequence somehow external to Christian formation, such as, unfortunately, has often been thought and today too people continue to think. On the contrary, it is an intrinsic and essential dimension of education in the faith and discipleship, just as the Church is missionary by her very nature (cf. "Ad Gentes," n. 2).

If children, through a gradual process from the beginning of their formation, are to achieve permanent formation as Christian adults, the desire to be and the conviction of being sharers in the Church's missionary vocation in all the situations and circumstances of life must take root in the believers' soul. Indeed, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy of the faith. We must spread it and pass it on, and thereby also strengthen it in our own hearts.

If faith is truly the joy of having discovered truth and love, we inevitably feel the desire to transmit it, to communicate it to others. The new evangelization to which our beloved Pope John Paul II called us passes mainly through this process.

A concrete experience that will increase in the youth of the parishes and of the various ecclesial groups the desire to witness to their own faith is the "Young People's Mission" which you are planning, after the success of the great "City Mission".

By educating in the faith, a very important task is entrusted to Catholic schools. Indeed, they must carry out their mission on the basis of an educational project which places the Gospel at the centre and keeps it as a decisive reference point for the person's formation and for the entire cultural programme.

In convinced synergy with families and with the Ecclesial Community, Catholic schools should therefore seek to foster that unity between faith, culture and life which is the fundamental goal of Christian education. State schools too can be sustained in their educational task in various ways by the presence of teachers who are believers -- in the first place, but not exclusively, teachers of Catholic religion -- and of students with a Christian formation, as well as by the collaboration of many families and of the Christian community itself.

The healthy secularism of schools, like that of the other State institutions, does not in fact imply closure to Transcendence or a false neutrality with regard to those moral values which form the basis of an authentic formation of the person. A similar discourse naturally applies for universities and it is truly a good omen that university ministry in Rome has been able to develop in all the Athenaeums, among teachers as much as students, and that a fruitful collaboration has developed between the civil and Pontifical academic institutions.

Today, more than in the past, the education and formation of the person are influenced by the messages and general climate spread by the great means of communication and which are inspired by a mindset and culture marked by relativism, consumerism and a false and destructive exaltation, or rather, profanation, of the body and of sexuality.

Therefore, precisely because of the great "yes" that as believers in Christ we say to the man loved by God, we certainly cannot fail to take interest in the overall orientation of the society to which we belong, in the trends that motivate it and in the positive or negative influence that it exercises on the formation of the new generations.

The very presence of the community of believers, its educational and cultural commitment, the message of faith, trust and love it bears are in fact an invaluable service to the common good and especially to the children and youth who are being trained and prepared for life.

Dear brothers and sisters, there is one last point to which I would like to draw your attention: it is supremely important for the Church's mission and requires our commitment and first of all our prayer. I am referring to vocations to follow the Lord Jesus more closely in the ministerial priesthood and in the consecrated life.

In recent decades, the Diocese of Rome has been gladdened by the gift of many priestly ordinations which have made it possible to bridge the gap in the previous period, and also to meet the requests of many Sister Churches in need of clergy; but the most recent indications seem less favourable and prompt the whole of our diocesan community to renew to the Lord, with humility and trust, its request for labourers for his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:37-38; Luke 10:2).

With delicacy and respect we must address a special but clear and courageous invitation to follow Jesus to those young men and women who appear to be the most attracted and fascinated by friendship with him. In this perspective, the Diocese will designate several new priests specifically to the care of vocations, but we know well that prayer and the overall quality of our Christian witness, the example of life set by priests and consecrated souls, the generosity of the people called and of the families they come from, are crucial in this area.

Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust to you these reflections as a contribution to the dialogue of these evenings, and to the work of the next pastoral year. May the Lord always give us the joy of believing in him, of growing in his friendship, of following him in the journey of life and of bearing witness to him in every situation, so that we may be able to pass on to those who will come after us the immense riches and beauty of faith in Jesus Christ. May my affection and my blessing accompany you in your work. Thank you for your attention!

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Papal Message for World Mission Sunday
"All the Churches for All the World"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 81st World Mission Sunday, to be celebrated Oct. 21.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE 81st WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2007
"All the Churches for all the world"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to invite the entire People of God -- Pastors, priests, men and women religious and lay people -- to reflect together on the urgent need and importance of the Church's missionary action, also in our time.

Indeed, the words with which the Crucified and Risen Jesus entrusted the missionary mandate to the Apostles before ascending to Heaven do not cease to ring out as a universal call and a heartfelt appeal: "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 he added, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the demanding work of evangelization we are sustained and accompanied by the certainty that he, the Lord of the harvest, is with us and continues to guide his people. Christ is the inexhaustible source of the Church's mission. This year, moreover, a further reason impels us to renew our missionary commitment: the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical of the Servant of God Pius XII, "Fidei Donum," which promoted and encouraged cooperation between the Churches for the mission ad gentes.

"All the Churches for all the world": this is the theme chosen for the next World Mission Day. It invites the local Churches of every continent to a shared awareness of the urgent need to relaunch missionary action in the face of the many serious challenges of our time.

The conditions in which humanity lives have of course changed and in recent decades, especially since the Second Vatican Council, a great effort has been made to spread the Gospel.

However, much still remains to be done in order to respond to the missionary call which the Lord never tires of addressing to every one of the baptized. In the first place, he continues to call the Churches of so-called "ancient tradition", which in the past provided the missions with a consistent number of priests, men and women religious and lay people as well as material means, giving life to an effective cooperation between Christian communities.

This cooperation has yielded abundant apostolic fruit both for the young Churches in mission lands as well as in the ecclesial situations from which the missionaries came. In the face of the secularized culture, which sometimes seems to be penetrating ever more deeply into Western societies, considering in addition the crisis of the family, the dwindling number of vocations and the progressive ageing of the clergy, these Churches risk withdrawing into themselves to view the future with ever less hope and weakening their missionary effort.

Yet, this is the very time for opening oneself with trust to the Providence of God, who never abandons his People and who, with the power of the Holy Spirit, guides them toward the fulfilment of his eternal design of salvation.

The Good Shepherd also invites the recently evangelized Churches to dedicate themselves generously to the missio ad gentes. Despite the many difficulties and obstacles they encounter in their development, these communities are constantly growing. Fortunately, some of them have a large number of priests and consecrated persons, many of whom, although there are so many needs in loco, are nevertheless sent to carry out their pastoral ministry and apostolic service elsewhere, even in lands evangelized long ago.

Thus, we are witnessing a providential "exchange of gifts" which redounds to the benefit of the entire Mystical Body of Christ.

I warmly hope that missionary cooperation will be intensified and that the most will be made of the potential and charisms of each one. I also hope that World Mission Day will contribute to making all the Christian communities and every baptized person ever more aware that Christ's call to spread his Kingdom to the very ends of the earth is universal.

"The Church is missionary by her very nature", John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio," "for Christ's mandate is not something contingent or external, but reaches the very heart of the Church. It follows that the universal Church and each individual Church is sent forth to the nations.... It is highly appropriate that young Churches "should share as soon as possible in the universal missionary work of the Church. They should themselves send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel all over the world, even though they are suffering from a shortage of clergy'" (n. 62).

Fifty years after the historical appeal for cooperation between the Churches at the service of the mission of my Predecessor, Pius XII, with his Encyclical "Fidei Donum," I would like to reaffirm that the Gospel proclamation continues to be timely and urgent.

In the Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" cited above, Pope John Paul II, for his part, recognized that "the Church's mission is wider than the "communion among the Churches'; it ought to be directed not only to aiding re-evangelization but also and primarily to missionary activity as such" (n. 64).

Therefore, as has often been said, missionary commitment remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity today to guide and evangelize the cultural, social and ethical transformations; to offer Christ's salvation to the people of our time in so many parts of the world who are humiliated and oppressed by endemic poverty, violence and the systematic denial of human rights.

The Church cannot shirk this universal mission; for her it has a binding force. Since Christ first entrusted the missionary mandate to Peter and to the Apostles, today it is primarily the responsibility of the Successor of Peter whom divine Providence has chosen as a visible foundation of the Church's unity, and of the Bishops directly responsible for evangelization, both as members of the Episcopal College and as Pastors of the particular Churches (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," n. 63).

I am thus addressing the Pastors of all the Churches chosen by the Lord to guide his one flock so that they may share in the pressing concern to proclaim and spread the Gospel.

It was precisely this concern that 50 years ago impelled the Servant of God Pius XII to bring missionary cooperation more up to date with the times.

With particular concern for the future of evangelization he asked the "long established" Churches to send priests to support the recently founded Churches.

Thus, he gave life to a new "subject of mission" which took the name of "Fidei Donum" precisely from the first words of the Encyclical.

Of it he wrote: "As We direct our thoughts, on the one hand, to the countless multitudes of Our sons who have a share in the blessings of divine faith, especially in countries that have a long Christian tradition, and on the other hand, as We consider the far more numerous throngs of those who are still waiting for the day of salvation to be proclaimed to them, We are filled with a great desire to exhort you again and again, Venerable Brethren, to support with zealous interest the most holy cause of bringing the Church to all the world". He added: "Please God, may it come to pass that Our admonitions will arouse a keener interest in the missionary apostolate among your priests and through them set the hearts of the faithful on fire!" (cf. "Fidei Donum," n. 4).

Let us give thanks to the Lord for the abundant fruits obtained by this missionary cooperation in Africa and in other regions of the earth.

Throngs of priests, after leaving their native communities, have devoted their apostolic energy to the service of communities which have sometimes only recently come into being in poor and developing areas. Among these priests are many martyrs who have combined with the witness of their words and apostolic dedication the sacrifice of their lives.

Nor can we forget the many men and women religious and lay volunteers who, together with the priests, spared no effort to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. May World Mission Day be an opportunity to remember in prayer these brothers and sisters of ours in the faith and all who continue to work in the vast field of the mission.

Let us ask God that their example may everywhere inspire new vocations and a renewed mission awareness in the Christian people. Indeed, every Christian community is born missionary, and it is precisely on the basis of the courage to evangelize that the love of believers for their Lord is measured.

Consequently, we could say that for the individual members of the faithful it is no longer merely a matter of collaborating in evangelizing work but of feeling that they themselves are protagonists and corresponsible. This corresponsibility entails the growth of communion between the communities and increases reciprocal help with regard to the personnel (priests, men and women religious and lay volunteers) and the use of the means necessary for evangelization today.

Dear brothers and sisters, the missionary mandate entrusted by Christ to the Apostles truly involves us all. May World Mission Day therefore be a favourable opportunity to acquire a deeper awareness and to work out together appropriate spiritual and formative itineraries which encourage inter-Church cooperation and the training of new missionaries to spread the Gospel in our time.

However, let it not be forgotten that the first and priority contribution that we are called to offer to the missionary action of the Church is prayer. "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few", the Lord said; "pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2).

"First of all, therefore", Pope Pius XII of venerable memory wrote 50 years ago, "Venerable Brethren, We trust that more continuous and fervent prayers will be raised to God for this cause" ("Fidei Donum," n. 49). Remember the immense spiritual needs of the numerous populations who are far from the true faith or who stand in such great need of the means of perseverance (cf. n. 55). And he urged the faithful to increase the number of Masses offered for the missions, saying that "this is in accordance with the prayers of Our Lord who loves his Church and wishes her to flourish and enlarge her borders throughout the whole world" (ibid., n. 52).

Dear brothers and sisters, I also renew this invitation, which is more timely than ever. May the unanimous invocation of the "Our Father who art in Heaven" be extended in every community, so that his Kingdom will come on earth.

I appeal in particular to children and young people, who are always ready and generous in their missionary outreach. I address the sick and the suffering, recalling the value of their mysterious and indispensable collaboration in the work of salvation. I ask consecrated people, especially those in cloistered monasteries, to intensify their prayers for the missions.

Thanks to the commitment of every believer, the spiritual network of prayer and support for evangelization is being extended throughout the Church. May the Virgin Mary who accompanied with motherly solicitude the development of the newborn Church, also guide our footsteps in our time and obtain for us a new Pentecost of love. May she especially make us all aware of being missionaries, that is, those who have been sent out by the Lord to be his witnesses at every moment of our life.

I assure my daily remembrance in prayer to the fidei donum priests, to the men and women religious and lay volunteers working on the frontiers of evangelization as well as to all who in their various capacities are dedicated to Gospel proclamation, as with affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all.

From the Vatican, 27 May 2007, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On St. Athanasius
"God Is Accessible"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Athanasius.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing with our catechetical series on the great teachers of the ancient Church, today we turn our attention to St. Athanasius of Alexandria. This true protagonist of Christian tradition, just a few years after his death, was celebrated as a "pillar of the Church" by the great theologian and bishop of Constantinople, Gregory Nazianzen (Discourses 26:26). He has always been esteemed as a model of orthodoxy, in the East as well as in the West.

It was no mistake that Gian Lorenzo Bernini placed a statue of him among the four holy doctors of the Eastern and Western Church -- together with Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Augustine -- which surround the chair of Peter in the apse of the Vatican basilica.

Athanasius was, without a doubt, one of the most important and venerated Fathers of the ancient Church. But above all, this great saint is the passionate theologian of the incarnation of the "Logos," the Word of God, which -- as the prologue of the fourth Gospel says -- "was made flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14).

For this reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time was threatening faith in Christ by reducing him to a creature between God and man, following a recurring tendency in history that we still see in various forms today.

Athanasius was most likely born in Alexandria in Egypt, around the year 300, and received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. The young cleric worked closely with his bishop, and accompanied him to, and took part in, the Council of Nicaea, the first such ecumenical council, called by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 to ensure the unity of the Church. The fathers of the Nicene Council dealt with many questions, foremost among them, the serious problems that had originated some years before with the preaching of the deacon Arius.

His theory threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the "logos" was not true God, but a created God, a being not quite God and not quite man, but in the middle. And therefore the true God remained inaccessible to us. The bishops in Nicaea responded by emphasizing and establishing the "Symbol of Faith" that, later completed by the first Council of Constantinople, remained in the tradition of various Christian confessions and in the liturgy as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

In this fundamental text -- which expresses the faith of the undivided Church, and which we still recite today, each Sunday in the Eucharistic celebration -- we see the Greek term "homooúsios," in Latin "consubstantialis," which means that the Son, the Logos, is "of the same substance" as the Father, is God from God, is his substance. Therefore the full divinity of the Son, which was negated by the Arians, is seen.

Upon the death of Bishop Alexander, Athanasius became, in 328, his successor as bishop of Alexandria. He immediately decided to fight against every compromise resulting from the Arian theories condemned by the Council of Nicaea. His resolve -- tenacious and at times very tough, even if necessary -- with those who were opposed to his election as bishop and above all against the adversaries of the Nicene Symbol, brought upon him the relentless hostility of the Arians and their supporters.

Despite the unequivocal outcome of the Council, which clearly affirmed that the Son was of the same substance as the Father, these erroneous ideas returned once more to dominate public thought -- so that even Arius himself regained popularity, and was supported for political motives by Emperor Constantine and then by his son Constantine II. The latter was not interested in theological truth but rather the unity of the empire and its political problems; he wanted to politicize the faith, making it more accessible -- in his view -- to all the subjects of the empire.

The Arian crisis, which was thought to be resolved in Nicaea, continued in this way for decades, with difficult incidents and painful divisions in the Church. And five times -- during the 30 years between 336 and 366 -- Athanasius was forced to abandon the city, living 17 years in exile and suffering for the faith.

But during his forced absences from Alexandria, the bishop was able to sustain and spread -- in the West, first in Trier and then in Rome -- the faith of the Nicene Council and the ideals of monasticism, which were embraced in Egypt by the great hermit Anthony whose choice of life Athanasius followed closely. St. Anthony, with his spiritual strength, was the most important person in sustaining the faith of St. Athanasius.

After the definitive return to his see, the bishop of Alexandria was able to dedicate himself to religious pacification and the reorganization of the Christian community. He died on May 2, 373, the day in which we celebrate his liturgical feast.

The most famous work of the Alexandrian bishop is the treatise on the "Incarnation of the Word, " the divine "Logos" made flesh, like us, for our salvation.

In this work, Athanasius says, in a phrase that has become well known, that the Word of God "became man so that we might become God. He manifested himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the unseen Father. He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality" (54:3).

In fact, with his resurrection, the Lord made death disappear like "straw in the fire" (8:4). The fundamental idea of the entire theological battle of St. Athanasius was that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is true God, and through our communion with Christ we can truly unite ourselves to God. He truly became "God with us."

Among the other works of this great Father of the Church -- which deal mainly with the events of the Arian crisis -- we recall the four letters that he addressed to his friend Serapion, bishop of Thmius, on the divine nature of the Holy Spirit, which was clearly affirmed.

And there are some 30 or so "festal" letters, written at the beginning of every year, to the Churches and monasteries of Egypt to indicate the date of Easter, but moreover to strengthen the ties among the faithful, reinforcing their faith and preparing them for that great solemnity.

Athanasius is also the author of meditative texts on the Psalms, which were vastly distributed, and a text that constituted a "best seller" of ancient Christian literature: the "Life of Anthony," the biography of St. Anthony the Abbot, written shortly after the death of this saint, while the bishop of Alexandria was in exile, living with the monks of the Egyptian desert. Athanasius was a friend of the great hermit, and even received one of the two sheepskins left by Anthony as his inheritance, together with the mantel that he himself had given him.

The biography of this beloved figure in Christian tradition contributed greatly to the spread of monasticism in the East and the West, as it became very popular and was soon translated twice in Latin and then in other Eastern languages.

The letter of this text, to Trier, is at the center of an emotional telling of the conversion of two ministers of the emperor, which Augustine mentions in the "Confessions" (VIII, 6:15) as a premise of his own conversion.

Athanasius showed that he had a clear awareness of the influence that the figure of Anthony could have on the Christian people.

In fact, he writes in the conclusion of this work: "And the fact that his fame has been blazoned everywhere; that all regard him with wonder, and that those who have never seen him long for him, is clear proof of his virtue and God's love of his soul. For not from writings, nor from worldly wisdom, nor through any art, was Anthony renowned, but solely from his piety toward God.

"That this was the gift of God no one will deny. For from whence into Spain and into Gaul, how into Rome and Africa, was the man heard of who dwelled hidden in a mountain, unless it was God who makes his own known everywhere, who also promised this to Anthony at the beginning? For even if they work secretly, even if they wish to remain in obscurity, yet the Lord shows them as lamps to lighten all, that those who hear may thus know that the precepts of God are able to make men prosper and thus be zealous in the path of virtue" ("Life of Anthony" 93, 5-6).

Yes, brothers and sisters! We have many reasons to thank St. Athanasius. His life, as that of Anthony and countless other saints, shows us that "those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them" ("Deus Caritas Est," 42).

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the great teachers of the ancient Church, we turn today to St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Athanasius is venerated in East and West alike as a pillar of Christian orthodoxy. Against the followers of the Arian heresy, he insisted on the full divinity and consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and defended the faith of the Church as expressed in the Creed of the Council of Nicea. The Arian crisis did not end with the Council; indeed, for his resolute defense of the Nicene dogma, Athanasius was exiled from his see five times in thirty years. His many writings include the treatise On the Incarnation of the Word, which defends the full divinity of the Son, whose incarnation is the source of our salvation: "he became man so that we could become God." Athanasius also wrote a celebrated Life of Anthony, a spiritual biography of St. Anthony Abbot, whom he had known personally. This popular book had an immense influence in the spread of the monastic ideal in East and West. Like Anthony, Athanasius stands out as one of the great figures of the Church in Egypt, a "lamp" whose teaching and example even today light up the path of the entire Church.

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Pope's Address to 5 New Ambassadors to Holy See
"Build a Society Where It Is Good to Live"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2007 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave June 1 upon receiving the letters of credence of the ambassadors to the Holy See from Pakistan, Iceland, Estonia, Burundi and Sudan.

Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to receive you today at the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of your respective countries: Pakistan, Iceland, Estonia, Burundi and Sudan.

You have conveyed to me the kind words of your respective Heads of State. I thank you for this, and I should be grateful if you would convey to them my respectful greetings and my cordial good wishes for their person and the lofty mission that they carry out at the service of their people.

Permit me also, through you, to address a warm greeting to all the civil and religious Authorities of your respective countries, as well as your countrymen.

My thoughts and prayers also go to the Catholic communities present in your countries. You know the spirit of fraternal collaboration in which they work with all their brethren in humanity, ready to witness to the Gospel that invites living the commandment of love for one's neighbour.

Coming from different continents, your presence here today gives our contemporaries the image of the world that, from North to South, from East to West, is concerned to establish ever stronger relationships in order to build a society where it is good to live.

In reality, in today's world, it is more important than ever to strengthen the bonds that unite countries, taking particular care of the poorest nations.

In fact, it is not possible to use the riches of the poorest countries with impunity, without their being able to take part in world growth. It is the duty of the authorities of all countries to work together for a better distribution of the riches and resources of the planet.

A collaboration of this sort will effect solidarity, peace and fraternal life in the heart of each country and between countries.

I earnestly appeal to all nations, in particular the richest, to renew their commitment so that all people become aware of their responsibility in this regard and agree to transform their lifestyle in view of an ever more equitable sharing.

Also permit me to emphasize the role that religions can have in this field. In fact, they have the duty to form their members in a spirit of fraternity among all the inhabitants of the same country, with respectful attention to all people.

May no one be the object of discrimination or be excluded from society for his or her convictions and religious practice, which are fundamental elements of the person's freedom.

May societies do credit to themselves by protecting these basic rights through the attention they manifest for the dignity of each human being.

Indeed, no true religious initiative can be the cause of division or violence between people and among human communities. On the contrary, the awareness that each person is a brother to protect and promote is fundamental.

At the moment when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I offer you, Ladies and Gentlemen Ambassadors, my best wishes for the success of your service.

I ask the Almighty to assist you, your relatives, your collaborators and all your citizens, and to shower his abundant benefits upon each of you.

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HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just sung the Sequence: "Dogma datur christianis, / quod in carnem transit panis, / et vinum in sanguinem -- this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, to his precious blood the wine".

Today we reaffirm with great joy our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery that constitutes the heart of the Church. In the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis I recalled that the Eucharistic Mystery "is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman" (n. 1).

Corpus Christi, therefore, is a unique feast and constitutes an important encounter of faith and praise for every Christian community. This feast originated in a specific historical and cultural context: it was born for the very precise purpose of openly reaffirming the faith of the People of God in Jesus Christ, alive and truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a feast that was established in order to publicly adore, praise and thank the Lord, who continues "to love us "to the end', even to offering us his body and his blood" (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 1).

The Eucharistic celebration this evening takes us back to the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Thursday, the day on which in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, Christ instituted the Most Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi is thus a renewal of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as it were, in obedience to Jesus' invitation to proclaim from "the housetops" what he told us in secret (cf. Mt 10:27). It was the Apostles who received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but it was destined for all, for the whole world. This is why it should be proclaimed and exposed to view: so that each one may encounter "Jesus who passes" as happened on the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea; in order that each one, in receiving it, may be healed and renewed by the power of his love. Dear friends, this is the perpetual and living heritage that Jesus has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. It is an inheritance that demands to be constantly rethought and relived so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, its "inexhaustible effectiveness may be impressed upon all the days of our mortal life" (cf. Insegnamenti, 25 May 1967, p. 779).

Also in the Post-Synodal Exhortation, commenting on the exclamation of the priest after the consecration: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith!", I observed: with these words he "proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding" (n. 6).

Precisely because this is a mysterious reality that surpasses our understanding, we must not be surprised if today too many find it hard to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It cannot be otherwise. This is how it has been since the day when, in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus openly declared that he had come to give us his flesh and his blood as food (cf. Jn 6:26-58).

This seemed "a hard saying" and many of his disciples withdrew when they heard it. Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a "sign of contradiction" and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis.

However, with humble trust, the Church makes the faith of Peter and the other Apostles her own and proclaims with them, and we proclaim: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). Let us too renew this evening our profession of faith in Christ, alive and present in the Eucharist. Yes, "this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, / to his precious blood the wine".

At its culminating point, in the Sequence we sing: "Ecce panis angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum: / vere panis filiorum" -- "Lo! The angel's food is given / to the pilgrim who has striven; / see the children's bread from heaven". And by God's grace we are the children.

The Eucharist is the food reserved for those who in Baptism were delivered from slavery and have become sons; it is the food that sustained them on the long journey of the exodus through the desert of human existence.

Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, parched by the ideological and economic systems that do not promote life but rather humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and possessions prevails rather than that of service and love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.

Yet Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: he himself is "the Bread of life" (Jn 6:35, 48). He repeated this to us in the words of the Gospel Acclamation: "I am the living bread from Heaven, if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever" (cf. Jn 6:51).

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke, narrating the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish with which Jesus fed the multitude "in a lonely place", concludes with the words: "And all ate and were satisfied" (cf. Lk 9:11-17).

I would like in the first place to emphasize this "all". Indeed, the Lord desired every human being to be nourished by the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is for everyone.

If the close relationship between the Last Supper and the mystery of Jesus' death on the Cross is emphasized on Holy Thursday, today, the Feast of Corpus Christi, with the procession and unanimous adoration of the Eucharist, attention is called to the fact that Christ sacrificed himself for all humanity. His passing among the houses and along the streets of our city will be for those who live there an offering of joy, eternal life, peace and love.

In the Gospel passage, a second element catches one's eye: the miracle worked by the Lord contains an explicit invitation to each person to make his own contribution. The two fish and five loaves signify our contribution, poor but necessary, which he transforms into a gift of love for all.

"Christ continues today" I wrote in the above-mentioned Post Synodal Exhortation, "to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged" (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 88).

Thus, the Eucharist is a call to holiness and to the gift of oneself to one's brethren: "Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world" (ibid.).

Our Redeemer addressed this invitation in particular to us, dear brothers and sisters of Rome, gathered round the Eucharist in this historical square.

I greet you all with affection. My greeting is addressed first of all to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Auxiliary Bishops, to my other venerable Brother Cardinals and Bishops, as well as to the numerous priests and deacons, men and women religious and the many lay faithful.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration we will join in the procession as if to carry the Lord Jesus in spirit through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse him, so to speak, in the daily routine of our lives, so that he may walk where we walk and live where we live.

Indeed we know, as the Apostle Paul reminded us in his Letter to the Corinthians, that in every Eucharist, also in the Eucharist this evening, we "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (cf. I Cor 11:26). We travel on the highways of the world knowing that he is beside us, supported by the hope of being able to see him one day face to face, in the definitive encounter.

In the meantime, let us listen to his voice repeat, as we read in the Book of Revelation, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rv 3:20).

The Feast of Corpus Christi wants to make the Lord's knocking audible, despite the hardness of our interior hearing. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart and asks to enter not only for the space of a day but for ever. Let us welcome him joyfully, raising to him with one voice the invocation of the Liturgy:

"Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, / Jesu, of your love befriend us.... /You who all things can and know, /who on earth such food bestow, / grant us with your saints, though lowest, / where the heav'nly feast you show, / fellow heirs and guests to be".

Amen!

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On Eusebius of Caesarea (June 13, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the history of ancient Christianity, there is a fundamental distinction between the first three centuries and those following the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council in the year 325. As a "hinge" between the two periods is the so-called change of Constantine and the peace for the Church, as well as the figure of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine.

He was the most qualified exponent of the Christian culture of his time in the most varied of contexts: from theology to exegesis, from history to scholarship. Eusebius is known, above all, as the first historian of Christianity, but also as the greatest philologist of the ancient Church.

In Caesarea, where he was probably born around the year 260, Origen had earlier taken refuge, fleeing from Alexandria. There, Origen had founded a school and a huge library. It is precisely from those books that the young Eusebius would receive his formation some decades later. In the year 325, as bishop of Caesarea, he played a main role in the Council of Nicaea. He authored the Creed and the affirmation of the full divinity of the Son of God, defined by Eusebius as "one in substance with the Father" (homooúsios tõ Patrí). It is practically the same Creed we recite at Mass every Sunday.

A sincere admirer of Constantine, who had given peace to the Church, Eusebius felt esteem and deference toward him. He praised the emperor, not only in his works, but also in his official addresses, delivered on both the 20th and 30th anniversary of the emperor's coming to the throne, as well as after his death in the year 337. Two or three years later, Eusebius would also die.

A tireless academic, Eusebius, in his numerous works, sought to reflect upon and take stock of the three centuries of Christianity, three centuries lived under persecution. He consulted, for the most part, the original Christian and pagan sources that had been preserved in the great library of Caesarea. Thus, despite the objective merit of his apologetic, exegetical and doctrinal work, Eusebius' long-lasting fame is linked, first and foremost, to his 10-volume "Ecclesiastical History." He was the first to write a history of the Church, and to this day his work is still foundational, mainly due to the sources Eusebius puts forever at our disposal. His "History" preserved from sure oblivion numerous events, people and literary works of the ancient Church. His work is therefore a primary source for knowing the first centuries of Christianity.

We may ask how he structured this work and what his intentions were in writing these volumes. At the beginning of the first book, the historian presents the arguments he is going to address in his work: "It is my intention to record the succession of the holy apostles from Our Savior to our day: how many and how important were the events that took place according to the history of the Church, and who were distinguished in their governance and direction of the most notable communities, including those who, in each generation, were ambassadors of the Word of God, either by means of the written word or without it, and those who, motivated by the desire for innovation to the point of error, have become promoters of what they falsely call knowledge, thus devouring the flock of Christ like fierce wolves … also the number, the customs and duration of the pagans that fought against the divine word, and the greatness of those who, because of this, endured the test of blood and torture; noting also the martyrs of our time and the merciful and favorable help which Our Savior offers everyone" (1,1,1-2).

In this manner, Eusebius covers various topics: apostolic succession, as the structure of the Church, the spreading of the Message, errors, persecutions by pagans, and the great testimonies which constitute the shining light of this "History." Amid it all, shine the mercy and goodness of the Savior.

Thus Eusebius inaugurates ecclesiastical historiography. His narrative covers up to the year 324 when Constantine, after the defeat of Licinius, was proclaimed as the only Roman emperor. This is the year that preceded the great Council of Nicaea, which later offered the "summa" of what the Church had learned over those 300 years -- doctrinally, morally and even legally.

The quote we have just mentioned from the first volume of "Ecclesiastical History" contains a repetition that is certainly intentional. In just a few sentences, he repeats the Christological title "Savior" and makes explicit reference to "his mercy" and "his benevolence." Thus we can understand the fundamental perspective of Eusebius' historiography: It is a Christocentric history, in which the mystery of God's love for men is progressively revealed. With genuine surprise, Eusebius recognizes: "Of all men of his time and of all men who have ever existed on the earth, only he is proclaimed and confessed as Christ (that is, as "Messiah" and "Savior of the World"), and all give testimony to him with this name, both Greeks and barbarians call him this. Besides, even today, across the land, he is honored as king by his followers, contemplated as superior to any prophet, and is glorified as the true and only high priest of God; and, above all, He is adored as God because he is the pre-existing Logos, who existed before all times, and has received from the Father the honor of being an object of veneration. And what is most significant about this is that we who are consecrated to Him do not honor him with our voices alone or the sound of our words, but with a complete readiness of soul, to the point of preferring martyrdom for his cause more than our own lives" (1,3,19-20).

In this manner, we see first of all another characteristic that will be a constant in ancient ecclesiastical historiography: the "moral intent" that gives direction to the narrative. Historical analysis is never an end in itself; it seeks not only to get to know the past, but it firmly points toward conversion and to an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful. It is a guide for us today.

Eusebius, then, poses poignant questions to the faithful of every age regarding the manner in which they face the changing circumstances of history and, in particular, of the Church. He questions us too: What is our attitude toward the vicissitudes faced by the Church? Is it the attitude of someone who is interested out of mere curiosity, looking for sensationalism and scandal at all costs? Or is it rather the loving attitude, open to mystery, of one who because of faith knows that he can discern in the history of the Church the signs of God's love and the great work of salvation he has accomplished?

If this is our attitude, we should feel invited to offer a more coherent and generous response, a more Christian testimony of life that will leave an imprint of God's love for future generations as well.

"There is a mystery," tirelessly repeats the eminent scholar of the Church Fathers, Cardinal Jean Daniélou: "There is a content hidden in history. … The mystery is that of the works of God that form, in time, the authentic reality that lies hidden beneath appearances. … But this history that God accomplishes through man, he doesn't accomplish without Himself. To contemplate the 'great works' of God would mean to only see one aspect of things. Before the things, there is the answer" ("Saggio sul Misterio della Storia" [Essay on the Mystery of History], Brescia 1963, p. 1982).

Many centuries later, Eusebius of Caesarea still today issues an invitation to believers. He invites us to be awed by and to contemplate the great work of salvation that God has accomplished in history. And with the same vigor, he invites us to a conversion of life. In fact, before a God who has loved us so much, we cannot remain unaffected. The very demand of love is that all of life be oriented toward the imitation of the Beloved. Let us do all within our power to leave in our lives a clear imprint of God's love.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our catechesis on the writers of the early Church, we turn today to Eusebius of Caesarea. The many theological, exegetical and historical writings of Eusebius reflect the rich Christian culture of his time, which spanned the period of the last persecutions, the peace of the Church under Constantine, and the controversies surrounding the Council of Nicaea. He attended the Council as the Bishop of Caesarea and subscribed its teaching on the Son's divinity and consubstantiality with the Father. Eusebius is best known for his Ecclesiastical History, which documented the first centuries of the Church's life and preserved much precious evidence which would otherwise be lost. His Christocentric approach to history emphasized the gradual revelation of God's merciful love for humanity, culminating in the coming of Christ, the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Church. Eusebius' writings continue to inspire Christians in every age to let their study of history bear fruit in a greater appreciation of God's saving works, a deeper conversion to Christ and a more generous witness to the Gospel in everyday life.

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Papal Homily at Canonization Mass
"Wisdom Likes to Dwell in the Midst of Human Beings" (June 3, 2007)

THE CANONIZATION OF FOUR BLESSEDS:
GEORGE PRECA,
SIMON OF LIPNICA,
CHARLES OF ST. ANDREW HOUBEN,
MARIE EUGENIE OF JESUS MILLERET

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Square
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Sunday, 3 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. After the Easter Season, after reliving the event of Pentecost which renews the Baptism of the Church in the Holy Spirit, we turn our gaze, so to speak, towards "the open Heavens", to enter with the eyes of faith into the depths of the mystery of God, one in substance and three in Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

While we allow this supreme mystery to envelop us, let us admire God's glory which is reflected in the lives of the saints. Let us contemplate it above all in those whom I have just presented for the veneration of the universal Church: George Preca, Simon of Lipnica, Charles of St Andrew Houben and Marie Eugenie of Jesus Milleret.

I address my cordial greeting to all the pilgrims gathered here to pay homage to these exemplary Gospel witnesses.

In particular, I greet the Cardinals, the Presidents of the Philippines, of Ireland, of Malta and of Poland, my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, the Government Delegations and other Civil Authorities who are taking part in this celebration.

In the First Reading from the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom comes on the scene and stands beside God as his assistant, his "architect" (cf. 8:30). The "panoramic view" of the cosmos, seen through the eyes of Wisdom, is stupendous.

Wisdom herself admits: "[I was] playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men" (8:31).

Wisdom likes to dwell in the midst of human beings, because in them she recognizes the image and likeness of the Creator. This preferential relationship of Wisdom with human beings calls to mind a famous passage from another of the wisdom books, the Book of Wisdom: We read: Wisdom "is a breath of the power of God. ... Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets" (Wis 7:25-27).

The last evocative expression is an invitation to consider the multiform and inexhaustible manifestation of holiness in the People of God down the centuries. God's Wisdom is manifest in the cosmos in the variety and beauty of its elements, but his masterpieces, where his beauty and his greatness truly appear much more, are the saints.

In the passage of the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Romans we find a similar image: that of God's love "poured out into [the] hearts" of saints, that is, of the baptized, "through the Holy Spirit" who has been given to them (cf. Rom 5:5).

The gift of the Spirit, "Person-Love" and "Person-Gift", as the Servant of God John Paul II described him, passes through Christ (cf. Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10). The Spirit of God reaches us through Christ as the beginning of new and "holy" life. The Spirit instils God's love in believers' hearts in the concrete form it had in the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Thus, what St Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians came to pass: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27). "Affliction" is not in contrast to this hope; rather, it helps bring it about through "endurance" and "proven character" (cf. Rom 5:3-4): it is the way of Jesus, the way of the Cross.

In the same perspective, from the Wisdom of God incarnate in Christ and communicated by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel has suggested to us that God the Father continues to manifest his plan of love through the saints.

What we have already observed about Wisdom occurs here too: the Spirit of truth reveals God's design in the multiplicity of cosmic elements -- we are grateful for this visibility of God's beauty and goodness in the elements of the cosmos --, and he does so above all through human people and especially through the saints where his light, his truth, his love appear with great power.

Indeed, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15) is, properly speaking, Jesus Christ alone, "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14).

He is Wisdom incarnate, the Creator Logos, who finds his joy in dwelling among the sons of man and pitches his tent in their midst (cf. Jn 1:14).

God was pleased to place in him "all fullness" (cf. Col 1:19); that is, as he himself says in today's Gospel passage, "all that the Father has is mine" (Jn 16:15). Every individual saint shares in the riches of Christ taken by the Father and communicated in due time.

Jesus' holiness is always the same; it is always he, the "Holy One", whom the Spirit models in "holy souls", thereby forming friends of Jesus and witnesses of his holiness. And Jesus also wants to make us his friends.

Let us open our hearts precisely on this day so that friendship with Jesus also grows in our lives, thus enabling us to witness to his holiness, goodness and truth.

George Preca, born in La Valletta on the Island of Malta, was a friend of Jesus and a witness to the holiness that derives from him. He was a priest totally dedicated to evangelization: by his preaching, his writings, his spiritual direction and the administration of the sacraments and, first and foremost, by the example of his life.

The Johannine expression, "Verbum caro factum est" always directed his soul and his work and thus the Lord could make use of him to give life to a praiseworthy institution, the "Society of Christian Doctrine", whose purpose is to guarantee parishes the qualified service of properly trained and generous catechists.

As a profoundly priestly and mystical soul, he poured himself out in effusions of love for God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the saints. He liked to repeat: "Lord God, how obliged to you I am! Thank you, Lord God, and forgive me, Lord God!". This is a prayer that we can also repeat and make our own.

May St George Preca help the Church, in Malta and throughout the world, to be always a faithful echo of the voice of Christ, the Incarnate Word.

The new Saint, Simon of Lipnica, a great son of Poland, a witness of Christ and a follower of the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, lived in a distant age but precisely today is held up to the Church as a timely model of a Christian who -- enlivened by the spirit of the Gospel -- was ready to dedicate his life to his brethren.

Thus, filled with the mercy he drew from the Eucharist, he did not hesitate to help the sick who were struck by the plague, and he himself contracted this disease which led to his death.

Today in particular, let us entrust to his protection those who are suffering from poverty, illness, loneliness and social injustice. Let us ask through his intercession for the grace of persevering and active love, for Christ and for our brothers and sisters.

"The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us". Truly, in the case of the Passionist priest, Charles of Saint Andrew Houben, we see how that love overflowed in a life totally dedicated to the care of souls.

During his many years of priestly ministry in England and Ireland, the people flocked to him to seek out his wise counsel, his compassionate care and his healing touch.

In the sick and the suffering he recognized the face of the Crucified Christ, to whom he had a lifelong devotion. He drank deeply from the rivers of living water that poured forth from the side of the Pierced One, and in the power of the Spirit he bore witness before the world to the Father's love.

At the funeral of this much-loved priest, affectionately known as Fr Charles of Mount Argus, his superior was moved to observe: "The people have already declared him a saint".

Marie Eugenie Milleret reminds us first of all of the importance of the Eucharist in the Christian life and in spiritual growth. In fact, as she herself emphasizes, her First Holy Communion was an important moment, even if she was unaware of it at the time.

Christ, present in the depths of her heart, was working within her, giving her time to follow her own pace and to pursue her inner quest, which was to lead her to the point of giving herself totally to the Lord in the Religious life in response to the needs of her time.

In particular, she realized how important it was to pass on to the young generations, especially young girls, an intellectual, moral and spiritual training that would make them adults capable of taking charge of their family life and of making their contribution to the Church and society. Throughout her life she drew the strength for her mission from her life of prayer, ceaselessly combining contemplation and action.

May the example of St Marie Eugenie invite men and women today to pass on to young people values that will help them to become strong adults and joyful witnesses of the Risen One. May young people never be afraid to welcome these moral and spiritual values, living them patiently and faithfully. In this way, they will build their personality and prepare for their future.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the wonders he has worked in the saints, in whom his glory shines. Let us be attracted by their example and allow ourselves to be guided by their teaching, so that the whole of our life may become, like theirs, a hymn of praise to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.

May Mary, Queen of the Saints, and the intercession of these four new "older Brothers and Sister" whom we joyfully venerate today, obtain this for us. Amen.

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On Eucharistic Adoration
"Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: "This is my body … this is my blood." He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Sacramentum Caritatis" (cf. Nos. 66-69).

Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church's greatest act of adoration: "No one eats this food," St. Augustine writes, "if he has not first worshipped it" (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.

Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today's solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration. I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life.

I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community. I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one's "I" but rather in the company of that "You" full of love who is Jesus Christ, "the God who is near us."

May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.

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Papal Address to Caritas Internationalis
"You Are Called to Spread the Love of God"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's Saturday address to representatives of Caritas Internationalis, who were having their general assembly in the Vatican.

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Dear Friends,

It is a special joy for me to welcome the participants in the Eighteenth General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis. I extend particular greetings to Doctor Denis Viénot and to the President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, thanking them for their kind words a few moments ago. I also offer prayerful best wishes to the newly elected President of the Confederation, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga. You have all come together in Rome during these days for a significant moment in the life of the Confederation, so that your member organizations can reflect, in an atmosphere of fraternal communion, on the challenges facing you at the present time. Moreover, you have taken important steps shaping your immediate future by electing the major officers of Caritas Internationalis. I am confident that your deliberations during these days have been of great benefit for you personally, for the work of your member organizations worldwide, and for all those you serve.

First of all, let me take this opportunity to thank you for the outstanding witness that your Confederation has given to the world, ever since the founding of the first national Caritas in Germany over a century ago. Since that time, there has been a great proliferation of organizations bearing the name -- on parish, diocesan and national levels -- and these have been gathered, through the initiative of the Holy See, into the Confederation Caritas Internationalis, which today numbers more than 150 national organizations. It was because of the public character of your charitable activity, rooted in the love of God, that my predecessor the Servant of God John Paul II conferred public and canonical legal personality upon Caritas Internationalis through the Pontifical Letter During the Last Supper of 16 September 2004. This status seals your organization’s ecclesial membership, giving it a specific mission within the Church. It means that your Confederation does not simply work on behalf of the Church, but is truly a part of the Church, intimately engaged in the exchange of gifts that takes place on so many levels of ecclesial life. As a sign of the Holy See’s support for your work, Caritas Internationalis has been granted its wish to be accompanied and guided by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

So what is the particular mission of your Confederation? What aspect of the Church's task falls to you and to your member organizations? You are called, by means of the charitable activity that you undertake, to assist in the Church’s mission to spread throughout the world the love of God that has been "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5). The very concept of caritas draws us into the heart of Christianity, into the heart of Christ, from which "rivers of living water" flow (cf. Jn 7:38). In the work of charitable organizations like yours, we see the fruits of Christ’s love. I developed this theme in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, which I commend to you once more as a reflection on the theological significance of your action in the world. Charity has to be understood in the light of God who is caritas: God who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son (cf. Jn 3:16). In this way we come to see that love finds its greatest fulfilment in the gift of self. This is what Caritas Internationalis seeks to accomplish in the world. The heart of Caritas is the sacrificial love of Christ, and every form of individual and organized charity in the Church must always find its point of reference in him, the source of charity.

This theological vision has practical implications for the work of charitable organizations, and today I should like to single out two of them.

The first is that every act of charity should be inspired by a personal experience of faith, leading to the discovery that God is Love. The Caritas worker is called to bear witness to that love before the world. Christian charity exceeds our natural capacity for love: it is a theological virtue, as Saint Paul teaches us in his famous hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13). It therefore challenges the giver to situate humanitarian assistance in the context of a personal witness of faith, which then becomes a part of the gift offered to the poor. Only when charitable activity takes the form of Christ-like self-giving does it become a gesture truly worthy of the human person created in God’s image and likeness. Lived charity fosters growth in holiness, after the example of the many servants of the poor whom the Church has raised to the dignity of the altars.

The second implication follows closely from the first. God’s love is offered to everyone, hence the Church's charity is also universal in scope, and so it has to include a commitment to social justice. Yet changing unjust structures is not of itself sufficient to guarantee the happiness of the human person. Moreover, as I affirmed recently to the Bishops gathered in Aparecida, Brazil, the task of politics "is not the immediate competence of the Church" (Address to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 May 2007). Rather, her mission is to promote the integral development of the human person. For this reason, the great challenges facing the world at the present time, such as globalization, human rights abuses, unjust social structures, cannot be confronted and overcome unless attention is focused on the deepest needs of the human person: the promotion of human dignity, well-being and, in the final analysis, eternal salvation.

I am confident that the work of Caritas Internationalis is inspired by the principles that I have just outlined. Throughout the world there are countless men and women whose hearts are filled with joy and gratitude for the service you render them. I wish to encourage each one of you to persevere in your special mission to spread the love of Christ, who came so that all may have life in abundance. Commending all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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On St. Cyprian

"His Book on the 'Our Father' Has Helped Me to Pray Better"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. Cyprian.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,
 
Continuing with our catechetical series on the great figures of the ancient Church, we arrive today to an excellent African bishop of the third century, St. Cyprian, "the first bishop in Africa to attain the crown of martyrdom." His fame, as his first biographer, the deacon Pontius, testifies, is linked to his literary production and pastoral activity in the 13 years between his conversion and his martyrdom (cf. "Vida" 19,1; 1,1).

St. Cyprian was born in Carthage to a rich pagan family. After a squandered youth, Cyprian converted to Christianity at age 35. He himself tells us about his spiritual pilgrimage: "When I was still in a dark night," he wrote months after his baptism, "it seemed to me extremely difficult and exhausting to do what the mercy of God was proposing to me. … I was bound by many mistakes of my past life and I didn't think I could be free, to such extent that I would follow my vices and favored my sinful desires. … Later, with the help of the regenerative water, the misery of my previous life was washed away; a sovereign light illumined my heart; a second birth restored me to a completely new life. In a marvelous way, all doubt was swept away. … I understood clearly that what used to live in me were the worldly desires of the flesh and that, on the contrary, what the Holy Spirit had generated in me was divine and heavenly" ("A Donato," 3-4).
 
Immediately after his conversion Cyprian, despite envy and resistance, was chosen for the priestly office and elevated to the dignity of bishop. In the brief period of his episcopacy, he faced the two first persecutions mandated by imperial decree: Decius' in 250 and Valerian's in 257-258. After the particularly cruel persecution of Decius, the bishop had to work hard to restore order in the Christian community. Many faithful, in fact, had renounced their faith or had not reacted adequately in the face of such a test. These were the so-called lapsi, that is, "fallen," who fervently desired to re-enter the community.

The debate regarding their readmission divided the Christians of Carthage into those who were lax and those who were rigorists. To these difficulties was added a serious plague that scourged Africa and posed grave theological questions both within the Church and in regard to the pagans. Finally, we must remember the controversy between St. Cyprian and the Bishop of Rome, Stephen, regarding the validity of baptism administered to the pagans by heretical Christians.
 
Amid these truly difficult circumstances, Cyprian showed a true gift for governing: He was strict, but not inflexible with the "fallen," giving them the possibility of forgiveness after a period of exemplary penance; in regard to Rome, he was firm in his defense of the traditions of the Church in Africa; he was extremely understanding and full of a truly, authentic evangelical spirit when exhorting Christians to fraternal assistance toward pagans during the plague; he knew how to maintain the proper balance when reminding the faithful, quite afraid of losing both their lives and their material possessions, that their true life and authentic goods are not of this world; he was unyielding in fighting the corrupt practices and sins that destroy the moral life, especially avarice.
 
"Thus were his days spent," narrates Deacon Pontius, "when by the command of the proconsul, unexpectedly, the police arrived at this house" ("Vida," 15,1). That day the holy bishop was arrested and, after a brief interrogation, courageously faced martyrdom amid his people.
 
Cyprian composed numerous treatises and letters, always linked to his pastoral ministry. Seldom given to theological speculation, he wrote mostly for the edification of the community and to encourage the good behavior of the faithful. In fact, the Church was his favorite subject. He distinguishes between the hierarchical "visible Church" and the mystical "invisible Church," but he strongly affirms that the Church is one, founded on Peter.
 
He never tires of repeating that "he who abandons the Chair of Peter, upon which the Church is founded, lives in the illusion that he still belongs to the Church" ("The Unity of the Catholic Church," 4).

Cyprian knew well, and strongly stated it, that "there is no salvation outside the Church" (Epistle 4,4 and 73,21), and that "he who doesn't have the Church as his mother can't have God as his Father" ("The Unity of the Catholic Church," 4).

Unity is an irrevocable characteristic of the Church, symbolized by Christ's seamless garment (Ibid., 7): a unity that, as he says, finds its foundation in Peter (Ibid., 4) and its perfect fulfillment in the Eucharist (Epistle 63,13).

"There is only one God, one Christ," Cyprian exhorts, "one Church, one faith, one Christian people firmly united by the cement of harmony; and that which by nature is one cannot be separated" ("The Unity of the Catholic Church," 23).
 
We have spoken of his thoughts on the Church, but let us not forget, lastly, his teachings on prayer. I particularly like his book on the "Our Father" which has helped me to understand and pray better the "Lord's Prayer." Cyprian teaches us that precisely in the Our Father, Christians are offered the right way of praying; and he emphasizes that this prayer is said in plural "so that whoever prays it, prays not for himself alone."

"Our prayer," he writes, "is public and communal, and when we pray, we pray not only for ourselves but for the whole people, for we are one with the people" ("The Lord's Prayer," 8).

In this manner, personal and liturgical prayer are presented as firmly united to each other. This unity is based on the fact that they both respond to the same Word of God. The Christian does not say "My Father," but "Our Father," even in the secret of his own room, because he knows that in all places and in all circumstances, he is a member of the one Body.
 
"Let us pray then my most beloved brothers," writes the bishop of Carthage, "as God, the teacher, has taught us. It is an intimate and confident prayer to pray to God with what is his, elevating to his ears Christ's prayer. May the Father recognize the words of his Son when we lift a prayer to him: that he who dwells interiorly in the spirit would also be present in the voice. … Moreover, when we pray, we ought to have a way of speaking and praying that, with discipline, remains calm and reserved. Let us think that we are under God's gaze.

"It is necessary to be pleasing to the divine eyes both in our bodily attitude and our tone of voice. … And when we gather with the brethren and celebrate the divine sacrifice with a priest of God, we must do it with reverent fear and discipline, without throwing our prayers to the wind with loud voices, nor elevating in long speeches a petition to God that ought to be presented with moderation, for God does not listen to the voice but to the heart ('non vocis sed cordis auditor est')" (3-4).

These words are as valid today as they were then, and they help us to celebrate well the sacred liturgy.
 
Undeniably, Cyprian is at the origins of that fertile theological-spiritual tradition that sees in the "heart" the privileged place of prayer. According to the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, the heart is, in fact, the inner core of the human being where God dwells. That encounter in which God speaks to man and man listens to God takes place there; there man speaks to God and God listens to man; all this takes place through the only divine Word. It is precisely in this sense that, echoing Cyprian, Smaragdus, abbot of St. Michael, at the beginning of the ninth century, asserts that prayer "is the work of the heart, not of the lips, because God does not look at the words, but at the heart of him who prays." (Diadem of the Monks, 1.)
 
Let us have this "listening heart" of which Scriptures and the Fathers speak (cf. 1 Kings 3:9): How greatly we need it! Only then will we be able to experience fully that God is our Father and the Church, the holy Bride of Christ, is truly our Mother.

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Benedict XVI's Appeal to G-8 Leaders

"Let Us Hope That Serious Efforts Be Made"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the appeal Benedict XVI voiced today after the general audience to the heads of state meeting at the Group of Eight summit.

* * *

Today in Heiligendamm, Germany, under the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Annual Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government of the G8 -- that is, the seven most industrialized countries of the world plus the Russian Federation -- has begun. On 16 December last I had occasion to write to Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking her, in the name of the Catholic Church, for the decision to keep the theme of world poverty on the agenda of the G8, with specific reference to Africa. Doctor Merkel kindly replied to me on 2 February last, assuring me of the G8's commitment to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Now, I should like to make a further appeal to the leaders meeting at Heiligendamm, not to retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid in favour of the most needy populations, especially those of the African Continent.

In this regard, the second Millennium goal merits special attention: "to achieve universal primary education -- to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015". This is an integral part of the attainment of all the other Millennium Goals: it is a guarantee of the consolidation of goals already reached; it is the starting-point for autonomous and sustainable processes of development.

It must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront in the field of education, reaching places, particularly in the poorest countries, that State structures often fail to reach. Other Christian Churches, religious groups and organizations of civil society share this educational commitment. According to the principle of subsidiarity, this reality should be recognized, valued and supported by Governments and International Organizations, among other things by the allocation of sufficient funding, so that greater efficacy may be guaranteed in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Let us hope that serious efforts be made to reach these objectives.

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Pope's Address to Ecclesiastical Academy
"All Will Clearly See the Atypical Character of Pontifical Diplomacy"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Saturday address to the superiors and alumni of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

* * *

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Superiors and Priests,

Welcome to you who form the family of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy! I listened with attention and gratitude to the address that your president made to me in your name and I thank him from my heart. His words of congratulations for the book "Jesus of Nazareth," fruit of my personal search for the face of Christ, show that the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy rightly considers the ardent desire to know the Lord more and more a fundamental value for those who, like you, are called in diplomatic service to a special collaboration with the successor of Peter. In effect, dear alumni, the more you seek the face of Christ the better you will be able to serve the Church and people -- Christians and non-Christians -- whom you will meet along the way as pontifical representatives throughout the world.

When, like today, I have the happy opportunity to meet you, I think of your future service to the Church. I think also of your bishops, who have sent you to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to help the Pope in his universal mission for the particular Churches and for the various civil jurisdictions with whom the Holy See has a relationship. The service for which you are destined and for which you prepare here in Rome, is the service of qualified witness to the Churches and the authorities of the countries to which, if it pleases God, you will be sent.

The witness to the Gospel is asked to be faithful in every circumstance to the mission with which he has been entrusted. For you this means, in the first place, a personal and profound experience of the incarnate God, an intimate friendship with Jesus, in whose name the Church sends you for a singular apostolic task. You know that the Christian faith can never be reduced to a mere intellectual knowledge of Christ and his doctrine; it must always express itself in the imitation of the examples that Christ gave us as Son of the Father and Son of man. In particular, he who collaborates with the Successor of Peter, Supreme Shepherd of the Catholic Church, is called to do his best to be a true shepherd, ready, as Jesus the Good Shepherd, to give his life for his flock.

I was very grateful therefore for the aspiration that animates you and that you have expressed through your president, that is, to be fundamentally shepherds; always shepherds alongside the other shepherds of the Church, before also being -- along with the pontifical representatives with whom you will work -- promoters and weavers of fruitful relationships with civil authorities, as the particular Catholic tradition wishes. Cultivate this, your ardent desire, so that those who draw near to you will always be able to discover the priest that is in you. In this way, all will clearly see the atypical character of pontifical diplomacy, a diplomacy that, as the numerous accredited diplomatic missions to the Apostolic See can testify, far from defending material interests or partial visions of man, promotes the values that flow from the Gospel, as the expression of the high ideals proclaimed by Jesus, sole and universal Savior. These values, after all, are in no small part a patrimony also shared by other religions and other cultures.
Dear friends, even when you leave the academy -- more than a dozen of you are preparing to do so in the following weeks -- continue to cultivate an intimate and personal friendship with Jesus, seeking more and more to know and assimilate the thoughts and sentiments that were his (Philippians 2:5). The more deeply you know him, the more strongly will you be united to him and the more faithful you will be to your priestly commitments, all the more and better will you be able to serve people, the more fruitful will be your dialogue with them, the more accessible will appear the peace that you will propose in situations of tension and conflict, the more consoling will be the comfort that, in the name of Christ and his Church, you offer to those persons who undergo trial and are without defense. In this way the convergence between your mission and the evangelization proposed by those with pastoral responsibilities will appear with greater clarity to the eyes of the world.

Dear brothers, as I entrust these brief reflections to your attention, I am happy to renew my wish of every good to you and your families. With my whole heart I assure you a remembrance in my prayer and, invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, with pleasure I bless you, those who have care of your formation, and all your loved ones.

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Papal Discourse to Estonian Ambassador
"The Truth of the Gospel Sheds Light on the Human Situation"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the discourse Benedict XVI gave on Friday to Estonia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Juri Seilenthal.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I thank you for the cordial greetings which you have brought to me from President Ilves and I ask you kindly to convey to him my own respectful greetings, together with my prayerful good wishes for the prosperity and well-being of the Estonian people.

In recent years, while carrying forward the demanding task of social and economic reform at home, Estonia has also sought to strengthen its bonds with Europe and the international community. Your nation's membership in the European Union represents, as Your Excellency has pointed out, not only a resumption of ties stretching back over the centuries, but also the reaffirmation of a great political and spiritual heritage which has shaped the soul of your nation. Europe today, caught up in the process of rapid transformation, has made significant progress in building a common home marked by solid economic growth, the development of new models of unity that are respectful of differences, and a dedication to cooperation in the cause of justice and peace. Estonia has much to contribute to the Europe of tomorrow, thanks in no small part to her hard-won realization of the value of freedom and the sacrifices which freedom entails.

The great revolution which swept Eastern Europe in the final decade of the last century testified, in fact, to the innate and irrepressible yearning for freedom present within individuals and peoples, as well as the inseparability of authentic freedom from the pursuit of truth, respect for the transcendent dignity of each human person, and a commitment to mutual respect and solidarity. These values, a precious legacy of Estonia's millennial history, must be constantly reappropriated and given practical expression in every sphere of political and social life, in the conviction that they can ensure the breadth of vision and awaken the spiritual energies necessary for creating a future of hope. In recent years your nation has experienced at first hand the daunting challenge of fashioning a society which is genuinely free yet at the same time faithful to its defining traditions. Europe needs this witness, which will surely help the Continent as a whole to "recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity" its fundamental values, values which were decisively shaped by the Christian message (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, 109) and constitute an inalienable element of its true identity.

I am grateful for Your Excellency's kind words about the Church in Estonia, and I assure you that the nation's Catholics desire to play their part, in a spirit of respectful cooperation with other Christian believers, in the life of the nation. The Church proposes her teaching in the conviction that the truth of the Gospel sheds light on the reality of the human situation and provides the wisdom needed for individuals and communities to discern and embrace the demands of the moral law which provide the necessary and enduring foundation for just and harmonious relations within society. In a special way, the Church is committed to the promotion of the sanctity of marriage, the basic role and mission of the family, the education of children and respect for God's gift of life from conception to natural death. Since the health of any society depends in no small measure on the health of its families (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 29), I trust that this witness will contribute to the consolidation of family and community life and, together with wise and far-sighted social policies, will help to revitalize Estonia's long history of strong and united families. For it is in the family, above all, that the young are trained in goodness, generosity, forgiveness and fraternal concern for others, and given a sense of personal responsibility for building a world of freedom, solidarity and hope.

With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I offer my prayerful wishes for the work you now undertake in the service of your nation, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Estonian people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

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Pope's Address Upon Proclaiming 4 Saints
"Friends of Jesus and Witnesses of His Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily delivered today by Benedict XVI during the canonization Mass of Father George Preca, Father Szymon of Lipnica, Father Charles of St. Andrew and Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,
 
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

After Eastertide, after having relived the event of Pentecost, which renews the Church's baptism in the Holy Spirit, we turn our gaze, so to speak, to the "opened heavens" to enter with the eyes of faith into the depths of the mystery of God, one in substance and three in persons: Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

As we allow ourselves to be caught up in this great mystery, we admire the glory of God which is reflected in the life of the saints; we contemplate it above all in those whom I have a short while ago proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: George Preca, Szymon of Lipnica, Father Charles of St. Andrew and Mother Marie Eugénie of Jesus.
 
To all the pilgrims who have come to pay homage to these exemplary witnesses of the Gospel, I extend my cordial greetings.
 
I greet, in particular, the cardinals, the presidents of the Philippines, of Ireland, of Malta and of Poland, my venerable brothers in the episcopate, the government delegations, and the other civil authorities who are taking part in this celebration.
 
In the first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, wisdom comes on the scene, standing at God's side as assistant, as "architect" (Proverbs 8:30).

The panorama of the cosmos seen with wisdom's eyes is stupendous. Wisdom confesses: "I played upon the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race" (8:30). Wisdom loves to dwell among men because in them she recognizes the image and likeness of the Creator.

This preferential relationship of wisdom with men makes us think of a celebrated passage in another sapiential book, the Book of Wisdom: "Wisdom," we read there, "is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing that is sullied enters into her. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. And she, who is one, can do all things, and renews everything while herself perduring; and passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets" (Wisdom 7:25-27).

This last suggestive expression invites us to consider the manifold and inexhaustible manifestation of sanctity in the people of God through the centuries. God's wisdom is manifest in the cosmos, in variety and beauty in its elements, but its masterpieces are the saints.
 
In the passage from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans we find a similar image: that of God's love "poured out into the hearts" of the saints, that is the baptized, "through the Holy Spirit" who has been given to them (cf. Romans 5:5). It is through Christ that the gift of the Spirit passes, "Person-Love, Person-Gift," as the Servant of God John Paul II defined him ("Dominum Vivificantem," No. 10).

Through Christ, the Spirit of God comes to us as principle of new, "holy," life. The Spirit puts the love of God in the heart of believers in the concrete form it had in the man Jesus of Nazareth. In this way what St. Paul says about "Christ in you, hope of glory" (Corinthians 1:27) is realized. The "tribulations" are not in contrast to this hope, indeed, they help to realize it through "patience" and "proven virtue" (Romans 5:3-4): It is the way of Jesus, the way of the cross.
 
In the same perspective, of God's wisdom incarnate in Christ and communicated by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel suggested to us that God the Father continues to manifest his plan of love through the saints. Even here there occurs what we have already noted about wisdom: The Spirit of truth reveals God's plan in the multiplicity of the elements of the cosmos and he does it above all through human persons, in a special way through saints.

In effect, "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) is properly only Jesus Christ, "the holy and just one" (Acts 3:14). He is wisdom incarnate, creator Logos who finds his joy in dwelling among men, in whose midst he has pitched his tent (cf. John 16:15). It pleased God to pour "every fullness" (cf. Colossians 1:19); or as he himself says in today's Gospel passage: "All that the Father has is mine" (John 16:15).

Each individual saint participates in the riches of Christ taken from the Father and communicated at the right time. It is always Jesus' own holiness, it is always him, the "holy one," whom the Spirit forms in "holy souls," making them into friends of Jesus and witnesses of his holiness.
 
George Preca was a friend of Jesus and a witness of the holiness that comes from him. George was born in La Valletta on the island of Malta. He was a priest wholly dedicated to evangelization: through preaching, through writing, through spiritual direction and the administering of the sacraments, and above all by the example of his life.

The phrase from John's Gospel "Verbum caro factum est" always gave direction to his soul and to his deeds, and thus the Lord was able to use him to give life to a meritorious work, "The Society of Christian Doctrine," which aimed at providing parishes with the service of qualified, well-formed and generous catechists.

A profoundly priestly and mystical soul, he overflowed with love for God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. He loved to repeat: "Lord God, how much I owe you! Thank you, Lord God, and forgive me, Lord God!"

Saint George Preca, help the Church to always be, in Malta and in the world, the faithful echo of Christ, the incarnate Word.

[In Polish the Pope said:]

The new saint, Szymon of Lipnica, great son of land of Poland, witness to Christ and follower of the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, lived long ago, but is proposed to the Church today as a relevant model of a Christian who -- animated by the spirit of the Gospel -- is ready to give his life for his brothers and sisters.

Thus, filled with mercy that he drew from the Eucharist, did not hesitate to bring aid to those struck by the plague, contracting the sickness that also brought about his own death. Today in a special way we entrust to his protection those who suffer from poverty, sickness, loneliness and social injustice. Through his intercession we ask for ourselves the grace of persevering and active love for Christ and our brother and sisters.

[In English the Holy Father said:]

"The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us." Truly, in the case of the Passionist priest, Father Charles Houben of St. Andrew, we see how that love overflowed in a life totally dedicated to the care of souls. During his many years of priestly ministry in England and Ireland, the people flocked to him to seek out his wise counsel, his compassionate care and his healing touch.

In the sick and the suffering he recognized the face of the crucified Christ, to whom he had a lifelong devotion. He drank deeply from the rivers of living water that poured forth from the side of the Pierced One, and in the power of the Spirit he bore witness before the world to the Father's love. At the funeral of this much-loved priest, affectionately known as Father Charles of Mount Argus, his superior was moved to observe: "The people have already declared him a saint."
 
[In French he said:]

Marie-Eugénie of Jesus calls us above all to the importance of the Eucharist in Christian life and in spiritual growth. In fact, as she herself underlined, her first Communion had been the defining moment of her life, although she didn't realize it completely then. Christ, present in the depths of her heart, was working in her, he allowed time to pass according to its own rhythm, so that she could carry out her interior quest that led her to give herself completely to the Lord in religious life, in response to the needs of her times.

She perceived in particular the importance of transmitting to the young generations, and in particular to young girls, an intellectual, moral and spiritual education that would make them into adults capable of taking charge of a family, knowing that in this way they were offering their contribution to the Church and society.

Her entire life she found the strength to carry out her mission in a life of prayer, always associating contemplation with action. May the example of St. Marie-Eugénie invite the men and women of today to transmit the values that will help the youth to become strong adults and joyous witnesses of the Resurrection.

May young people not be afraid to accept these moral and spiritual values, and to live them with patience and fidelity. In this way they will construct their personalities and prepare themselves for their future.

[In Italian the Pope said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to God for the marvels that he has accomplished in the saints in whom his glory shines forth. Let us be drawn by their examples, guided by their teachings, so that our entire existence becomes, like theirs, a song of praise to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.

May Mary, the Queen of Saints, and the intercession of these four new "older brothers and sister," whom we venerate with joy today, obtain this grace for us. Amen.

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Pope's Address to Ambassador From Iceland
"Christianity Has Shaped Icelandic Culture"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a talk Benedict XVI gave Friday to Larus Stefansson, the new ambassador to the Holy See from Iceland, upon receiving her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iceland to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and to the government and people of your country my gratitude for their good wishes, which I warmly reciprocate, and to assure them of my prayers for the nation's spiritual well-being.

The Church's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. This engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that the hope of building a more just world must acknowledge man's supernatural vocation. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity and with it the capacity and the call to direct their steps towards truth and goodness (cf. Encyclical Letter "Fides et Ratio," 5). Within this broad perspective we can counter the pragmatic tendency, so prevalent today, which tends to engage only with the symptoms of social fragmentation and moral confusion. Where humanity's transcendent dimension is brought to light, individuals' hearts and minds are drawn to God and to the very essence of human life -- truth, beauty, moral values, other persons, and being itself -- (cf. ibid., 83) leading them to a sure foundation and vision of hope for society.

As Your Excellency has observed, integral to Iceland's history is the Gospel of Jesus Christ including its missionary dimension. For over a thousand years Christianity has shaped Icelandic culture. In more recent times these spiritual roots have found a degree of resonance in your relations with Europe. This common cultural and moral identity, forged by the universal values of Christianity, is not simply of historical importance. Being foundational, it can remain as a 'ferment' of civilization. In this regard, I commend your government's open recognition of Christianity's fundamental role in the life of your nation. When public moral discernment is not emptied of meaning by a secularism which neglects truth while highlighting mere opinion, both civil and religious leaders can uphold the absolute values and ideals inherent in the dignity of every person. In this way together they can offer our young people a future of happiness and fulfilment.

Iceland's significant contribution to the security and social development of the worldwide human family belies its size and the number of its citizens. Your nation's commitment to supporting peace-keeping operations and aid projects is readily recognized by the Holy See and esteemed by the international community. While your founder member status of NATO and your long history of United Nations Organization membership are well known, perhaps less known is the highly effective work of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. This well-respected service is an outstanding example, from the field of international relations, of men and women enlightened by the splendour of truth, setting out on the path of peace (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3). Such initiatives aptly illustrate how the will to resolve conflicts peacefully and the determination to govern by justice, integrity, and service of the common good can be achieved.

Preservation of the environment and promotion of sustainable development are increasingly seen as matters of grave concern for all. As reflections and studies on ecology mature, it becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation, and peace among people. The full understanding of this relationship is found in the natural and moral order with which God has created man and has endowed the earth (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 8-9).

The close connection between these two ecologies comes into sharp focus when the questions of food resources and energy supply are addressed. The international community recognizes that the world's resources are limited. Yet the duty to implement policies to prevent the destruction of that natural capital is not always observed. Any irresponsible exploitation of the environment or hoarding of land or marine resources reflect an inhumane concept of development, the consequences of which affect the poorest countries most. Iceland, acutely aware of these matters, has rightly emphasized the relationship between the Millennium Development Goals and environment protection and the sustainable use of resources, and has laudably drawn attention to the fact that the large majority of those who make their living from fisheries are families in the developing world.

Mr Ambassador, the members of the Catholic Church in your country, though few, reach out to the entire Icelandic society. Expressing the Church's belief in the "unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour" ("Deus Caritas Est," 16), they undertake works of charity from their small but vibrant parish communities. A particularly beautiful example of this is found in the Carmelite convent of contemplative life in Hafnarfjordur, where the Sisters pray daily for the needs of all Icelanders.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the mission which you begin today will help to strengthen even further the cordial bonds of understanding and cooperation between Iceland and the Holy See. Please rest assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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On Tertullian
"Accomplished a Great Step in the Development of the Trinitarian Dogma" (General Audience, May 30, 2007)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With today's catechesis we return to the series that we stopped in honor of the trip to Brazil, and we continue to talk about the great personalities of the ancient Church: They are masters of the faith for us even today and witnesses of the perennial actuality of the Christian faith.

Today we speak about an African, Tertullian, who at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third inaugurated Christian literature in Latin. With him we see the beginning of theology in that language.

His work bore decisive fruits, and it would be unforgivable to undervalue them. His influence is developed on many levels: linguistically and in the recovery of the classic culture, and the singling out of a common "Christian soul" in the world and the formulation of new proposals for living together.

We don't know the exact date of his birth or his death. We know that he was from Carthage, that he lived near the end of the second century, and that from his parents and pagan teachers, he received a solid formation in rhetoric, philosophy, law and history. He converted in Christianity, being attracted -- it seems -- by the example of the Christian martyrs.

He began publishing his most famous writings in A.D. 197. But because of a too individualistic research of the truth together with his intemperance of character -- he was a rigorous man -- he gradually left communion with the Church and joined a sect of Montanism. But the originality of his thought united with an incisive efficacy of language assured him a high position in ancient Christian literature.

Most noteworthy are his apologetic writings. They show two principal intents: that of confounding the grave accusations that pagans were hurling against the new religion, and that of a more missionary nature -- to communicate the message of the Gospel in dialogue with the culture of that time.

His most famous work, "Apologeticus," denounces the unjust actions of the political authorities toward the Church. He explains and defends the teachings and customs of Christians; he lists the differences between the new religion and the principal philosophical currents of the time; he shows the triumph of the Spirit, who pits the violence of persecutors against the blood, suffering and patience of the martyrs. "As refined as it is," he writes, "your cruelty serves no purpose: On the contrary, for our community, it is an invitation. We multiply every time one of us is mowed down: The blood of Christians is a seed" ("Apologeticus" 50:13).

Martyrdom and suffering for the truth are victorious in the end and more effective than the cruelty and violence of totalitarian regimes.

But Tertullian, like all great apologists, at the same time speaks of the need to communicate the essence of Christianity in a positive way. To do this he adopts the speculative way to show the rational foundations of Christian dogma. He studies them in a systematic manner, and begins with the description of "the God of the Christians." "He whom we adore," he writes, "is one God."

He goes on to say, using the antitheses and paradoxes that are characteristic of his language: "He is invisible, even if you see him, untouchable, even if he is present through grace; unintelligible, even if human sense can perceive him, therefore he is true and great!" (ibid., 17:1-2).

Tertullian also accomplished a great step in the development of the Trinitarian dogma; he gave us, in Latin, the terms adequate to express this great mystery, introducing the terms "one substance" and "three Persons." In a similar way, he also greatly developed the correct language to express the mystery of Christ, Son of God and true Man.

The African also speaks about the Holy Spirit, showing his personal and divine character: "We believe that, according to his promise, Jesus Christ sent by means of his Father the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of all those who believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (ibid, 2:1).

There are also in the African's writings numerous texts on the Church, which Tertullian always refers to as "mother." Even after joining Montanism, he never forgot that the Church is the Mother of our faith and of our Christian life.

He also speaks about the moral conduct of Christians and the life to come. His writings are important because they reflect the living tendencies of the Christian community about Mary most holy, the Eucharist, matrimony and reconciliation, the primacy of Peter, prayer… In a special way, during those times of persecution in which the Christians seemed to be a lost minority, the apologist exhorted them to hope; that -- in his writings -- is not merely a virtue in itself, but something that involves every aspect of Christian existence. We have the hope that the future is ours because the future is God's.

The Lord's resurrection is presented as the foundation for our future resurrection, and represents the principal object of Christian faith: "And so the flesh shall rise again, wholly in every man, in its own identity, in its absolute integrity. Wherever it may be, it is in safe keeping in God's presence, through that most faithful Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, who shall reconcile both God to man, and man to God" (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 63:1).

From a human point of view one can speak of Tertullian's drama. With the passing of time he came more demanding of Christians. He expected them at all times, and above all in times of persecution, to act heroically. He rigidly held his positions, criticized many and inevitably found himself isolated.

There are still many questions about Tertullian's theological and philosophical thought, but also about his way of dealing with the political institutions and the pagan society of that time.

This great moral and intellectual personality, this man who gave such a great contribution to Christian thought, makes me think. It is evident that at the end he lacks simplicity, the humility to belong to the Church, to accept his weaknesses, to be tolerant of others and with himself.

When you evaluate your thought in terms of your greatness, in the end it is this greatness that is lost. The essential characteristic of a great theologian is the humility to stay with the Church, to accept her and one's own faults, because only God is all holy. We, on the other hand, are always in need of forgiveness.

Tertullian remains an interesting witness of the first years of the Church, when Christians found themselves true subjects of a "new culture" between classic inheritance and the Gospel message. His famous phrase states that our soul "is naturally Christian" (Apologeticus 17:6), where Tertullian evokes the perennial continuity between authentic human values and Christian ones. And his other reflection, taken from the Gospels, says "the Christian cannot hate, not even his own enemies" (Apologeticus 37), where the moral implication of the choice of faith, proposes "nonviolence" as the law of life: And who could not see the relevance of this teaching today in light of the fervent debate on religions.

In Tertullian's writings there are many themes that we are called to face still today. They call us to a fruitful interior examination, to which I exhort all the faithful, so that they may know how to express, in an evermore convincing way, the "Rule of Faith," which -- getting back to Tertullian -- "prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that he is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through his own Word, first of all sent forth" (Prescription against Heretics 13:1).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Fathers and teachers of the early Church, we now turn to Tertullian, an African from Carthage and the first great Christian author to write in Latin. A convert to Christianity, Tertullian became an eloquent apologist for the faith, not only defending it from its detractors but striving to present positively the Gospel message in dialogue with the pagan intellectual tradition. He emphasized the unity of God while affirming the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Tertullian's terminology of three "persons" in one divine "substance" marked a significant advance in the development of the dogma of the Trinity. His works also bear witness to the emerging understanding of the dignity of Our Lady, the nature of the Church, the Petrine Primacy, and the sacraments. Tertullian grounds the Christian life in prayer and in hope based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Converted by the sufferings of the martyrs, whose blood he called the seed of the Church (cf. Ap., 50.13), Tertullian grew increasingly rigoristic, and eventually left the Church's communion. Yet he remains an influential witness to the Church's rule of faith and an important figure in the perennial dialogue between the Gospel and the world of culture.

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Papal Address to Syro-Malankara Church Leader
"Now Is a Time of New Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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.

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On Solemnity of Pentecost
"We Relive the Birth of the Church" (May 27, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. And through today's liturgy we relive the birth of the Church as it is narrated by Luke in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-13). Fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended upon the community of disciples -- "persevering with one mind in prayer" -- gathered together "with Mary, the mother of Jesus" and with the twelve apostles (cf. Acts 1:14; 2,1).

We can say, therefore, that the Church had its solemn beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit. In this extraordinary event we find the essential and qualifying marks of the Church: the Church is one, like the community of Pentecost, which was united in prayer and "of one mind": "it had but one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).

The Church is holy, not because of its own merits, but because, animated by the Holy Spirit, it keeps its gazed fixed upon Christ to become conformed to him and his love. The Church is catholic because the Gospel is destined for all people and for this reason, already at the beginning, the Holy Spirit gives the Church the ability to speak in different tongues. The Church is apostolic because, built upon the foundation of the apostles, it faithfully conserves their teaching through the uninterrupted chain of apostolic succession.

The Church, moreover, is missionary by its nature, and from the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit does not cease to move it along the roads of the world to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. This reality, which we can verify in every epoch, is already anticipated in the Book of Acts, in which the passage of the Gospel from the Jews to the pagans, from Jerusalem to Rome, is described.

Rome represents the pagan world and therefore all peoples who are outside the ancient people of God. In fact, the Acts conclude with the arrival of the Gospel in Rome. We can say, then, that Rome is the concrete name of the catholicity and missionary spirit of the Church; it expresses fidelity to the origins, to the Church of all times, to a Church that speaks in all languages and goes out to meet every culture.

Dear brothers and sisters, the first Pentecost happened when Mary Most Holy was present among the disciples in the cenacle in Jerusalem and prayed. Today also we entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession so that the Holy Spirit descend abundantly upon the Church of our time and fill the hearts of all the faithful and enkindle in them -- in us -- the fire of his love.

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BENEDICT XVI TO THE MEMBERS OF THE EXTRAORDINARY SYNOD OF THE CHURCH OF ANTIOCH FOR SYRIAN CATHOLICS
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.

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On the Journey to Brazil
"The Church Must Mobilize All of the Moral and Spiritual Energies"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on his recent trip to Brazil.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this general audience I would like to reflect on my recent apostolic journey to Brazil from May 9-14. After the first two years of my pontificate, I finally had the joy of going to Latin America, a place I love dearly and where a great number of the world's Catholics live.

The central destination of my journey was Brazil, but I also extended my embrace to the entire Latin American continent because the ecclesial event that called me there was the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I wish to reiterate my profound gratitude for the welcome I received from my dear brother bishops, in particular, those of São Paulo and Aparecida. I thank the president of Brazil and the other civil authorities for their cordial and generous cooperation, with great affection I thank the Brazilian people for the warmth with which they welcomed me -- it was great and moving -- and for the attention they paid to my words.

My journey was an act of praise to God for the "wonders" he has done in the midst of the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and their culture for more than 500 years. It was also a pilgrimage, culminating at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.

The theme of the relationship between faith and culture was always in the hearts of my venerated predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II. I also wished to take up this theme to confirm the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean in their walk of faith that has been and still is a living history -- as we see in popular piety, art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions as well as numerous European influences and influences from other continents.

A look back at a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization of the Latin American continent: It is impossible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous peoples, who often had their basic human rights trampled on. But the very mention of these unjustifiable crimes -- crimes that were condemned at the time by missionaries such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca -- must not stop us from expressing gratitude for the wonderful work carried out by divine grace among those populations in these past five centuries.

Brazil is a great country that has deeply rooted Christian values, but is experiencing enormous social and economic problems. To help resolve these problems, the Church must mobilize all of the moral and spiritual energies of its communities, to find points of convergence with the healthy energies of the country.

Among the positive elements to point out are the creativity and the fecundity of the Church there, from which many new movements and institutes of consecrated life are born. No less worthy of praise is the generous dedication of the many lay faithful, who show themselves to be very active in the various initiatives promoted by the Church.

Brazil is also a country that can offer the world a new model of development: The Christian culture can facilitate a "reconciliation" between men and creation, beginning with the recovery of personal dignity in the relationship to God the Father.

An eloquent example of this is the "Fazenda da Esperança," a network of rehabilitation centers for young people who wish to come out of the dark tunnel of drug abuse. At the one I visited, taking away a profound impression that I will keep alive in my heart, I noticed the importance of the presence of the Poor Clares.

This appeared symbolic for the world of today, which is in need of a psychological and social "rehabilitation," but an even deeper spiritual rehabilitation.

Also symbolic was the canonization, celebrated in joy, of the first native Brazilian saint: Father Antonio de Sant'Ana Galvão. This Franciscan priest of the 18th century, devoted to the Blessed Virgin, an apostle of the Eucharist and of confession, was called, while living, "a man of peace and charity." His witness is yet another confirmation that holiness is the true revolution, which can promote the authentic reform of the Church and society.

In the cathedral of São Paulo, I met with the Brazilian bishops, the largest bishops' conference in the world. Conveying to them the support of the Successor of Peter was one of the major goals of my mission, because I know the great challenges that the proclamation of the Gospel faces in that country.

I encouraged my brother bishops to promote and strengthen the task of the new evangelization, exhorting them to develop in a methodical way, the spreading of God's word, so that the innate and widespread religiosity of populations can deepen and become a mature faith, adhering personally and communally to the God of Jesus Christ.

I encouraged them to recover the style of life of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: dedicated to catechesis, the sacramental life and works of charity.

I know the dedication of these faithful servants of the Gospel -- the Gospel they wish to present without reductions or confusion, keeping watch over the deposit of faith with discernment; and their constant goal of promoting social development mainly through the formation of the laity, who are called to assume responsibility in political and economic fields. I thank God for allowing me to deepen my communion with the Brazilian bishops and I continue to remember them in my prayers.

Another important moment of the journey was, without a doubt, the meeting with young people; hope not only for the future, but a vital force also for the present -- for the Church and for society. This vigil, animated by them in São Paulo, was a festival of hope, illuminated by Christ's words to the "rich young man" who asked him: "Master, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus points out, above all, the commandments as the way of life, and then invites him to leave everything to follow him. The Church does the same thing today: First of all, it proposes the commandments, the true education of freedom for personal and social good; and, above all, it proposes the "first commandment," that of love, because without love even the commandments cannot give full meaning to life and procure true happiness.

Only the person who experiences the love of God in Christ and places himself on this path to live it among humanity, becomes his disciple and missionary. I invited the young people to be apostles of their peers; and to therefore take great care of their own human and spiritual formation; to have great esteem for marriage and the way that leads to marriage, in chastity and responsibility; to be open to the call to consecrated life for God's kingdom. To summarize, I encouraged them to take advantage of the great "riches" of their youth, to be the young face of the Church.

The high point of the journey was the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida. The theme for this important meeting, which will continue until the end of the month, is "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so That Our People Might Have Life in Him -- I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

"Disciples and missionaries" corresponds to what the Gospel of Mark says concerning the call of the Apostles: "(Jesus) called the twelve that were with him and sent them out to preach" (Mark 3:14-15).

The word "disciple" recalls the aspects of formation and following, in communion and friendship with Jesus; the term "missionary" expresses the fruit of discipleship, that is, the witness and communication of the lived experience, of the truth and love that is known and assimilated.

To be disciples and missionaries implies a close link with the Word of God, with the Eucharist and the other sacraments, living in the Church, listening obediently to his teachings. Joyously renewing the desire to be Jesus' disciples, to "stay with him," is the primary condition for being his missionaries -- "beginning again with Christ," according to John Paul II's mandate to the Church after the Jubilee of the Year 2000.

My venerated predecessor always insisted on an evangelization that was "new in its ardor, its methods and its expression," as he said when speaking to CELAM [the Latin American bishops' council] on March 9, 1983, in Haiti (Insegnamenti VI/1 [1983], 698).

With my apostolic journey, I wished to exhort them to continue along this path, holding up the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" as a unified perspective, an inseparable social and theological perspective, summarized in this expression: "It is love that gives life."

"God's presence, friendship with the Son of God incarnate, the light of his Word, are always fundamental conditions for the presence and efficacy of justice and love in our societies" (Inaugural speech of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, 4: L'Osservatore Romano, May 14-15, 2007, p. 14).

I entrust the fruits of this unforgettable apostolic journey to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary who is venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe and patroness of all Latin America, and to the new Brazilian saint, Father Antonio of Sant'Ana Galvão.



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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent Pastoral Visit to Brazil embraced not only that great nation but all Latin America and the Caribbean, home to many of the world’s Catholics. My visit was above all a pilgrimage of praise to God for the faith which has shaped their cultures for over five hundred years. While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region and provides inspiration to address the challenges of our globalized era. In the Fazenda da Esperança, a network of centres for young people recovering from drug addiction, I saw a symbol of that spiritual "recovery" which our world truly needs, a recovery of our dignity as God’s children and a reconciled relationship with all creation. The canonization of Brazil’s first native saint, Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão, reminded us that holiness is the real "revolution" which brings about authentic reform in Church