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24/11/2007 21.31
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at the Consistory held in St. Peter's Basilica today.

Lord Cardinals,
venerated brothers in the Episcopate and priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters!

In this Vatican Basilica, heart of the Christian world, we renew today a significant and solemn church event: the Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of 23 new Cardinals, with the imposition of the biretta and the assignment of titles.

It is an event that always elicits a special emotion, not only in those who, with these rites, will be admitted to the College of Cardinals, but in the whole Church, joyful at this eloquent sign of Catholic unity.

The ceremony itself is structured to highlight the value of the task that the new Cardinals are called to carry out, cooperating closely with the Successor of Peter, and invites the People of God to pray so that in rendering their service, our brothers may always remain faithful to Christ, up to sacrificing their life if necessary, and will let themselves be guided only by his Gospel.

Therefore we are gathered around them in faith and raise to the Lord our prayerful gratitude.

In this atmosphere of joy and intense spirituality, I extend my greeting to each of you, dear brothers, who will be members from this day on, of the College of Cardinals, amd who have been chosen to be - according to ancient institution - the closest advisers and co-workers of the Successor of Peter in guiding the Church.

I greet and thank Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who in your name has addressed courteous and devoted words towards me, while underscoring the significance and importance of this ecclesial moment that we are living through.

I also wish to turn a dutiful thought to our dear departed Mons. Ignacy Jeæz [emeritus bishop of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg, Poland], whom the God of all graces called back to his side just before the nominations, in order to give him another crown: that of eternal glory in Christ.

My cordial greetings go to all the Cardinals present today and to those who were unable to be physically present but are united with us in spirit.

The celebration of a Consistory is always a providential occasion to offer urbi et orbi, to the city of Rome and to the entire world, testimony of that singular unity which keeps the cardinals together with and around the Pope, Bishop of Rome.

In these solemn circumstances, I am happy to address a respectful and deferential greeting to the government representatives and other personalities who have come her from various parts of the world, as well as to the families, friends, priests, religious and lay faithful of the individual local churches from which the new cardinals come.

Finally, I greet all who are gathered here to crown the occasion and to express in festive joy their regard and their affection.

With today's celebration, your, dear brothers, are taking your place with full title within the venerable Church of Rome, of which the Successor of Peter is Pastor. The College of Cardinals revives the ancient Presbyterium of the Bishop of Rome, whose members, while continuing to carry out their pastoral and liturgical functions in their respective churches, do not fail to give him their precious collaboration to help him fulfill his tasks in carrying out his universal apostolic ministry.

Times have changed, and the great family of the disciples of Christ is spread out today in every continent, to the most remote corneers of the eart; it speaks practically all the languages of the world; and people of every culture belong to it.

The diversity of the College of Cardinals, by geographic and cultural origin, highlights this providential growth, and proves at the same time the changed pastoral demands to which the Pope must respond.

The universality and catholicity of the Church is well reflected in the composition of the College of Cardinals: the great majority are pastors of diocesan communities, some are in the direct service of the Apostolic See, and some have rendered meritorious service in specific pastoral sectors.

Each of you, dear and venerated brother cardinals, represent a part of the articulated Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church disseminated everywhere.

I know very well the effort and sacrifice required today for the care of souls, but I also know the generosity that sustains your daily apostolic activity. Because of this, in the circumstances we live in, it is with great pleasure that I convey to you my sincere appreciation for the service that you have faithfully rendered in so many years of work in different fields of the church ministry - a service that, now, with your elevation to cardinal rank, you are called on to fulfill with even greater responsibility, in closest communion with the Bishop of Rome.

I think affectionately of the communities entrusted to your care and, particularly, those who are most tried by suffering, challenges and difficulties of various kinds.

Among these, how can we not turn our eyes, with apprehension and affection, in these moments of joy, to the beloved Christian communities of Iraq? There, our brothers and sister in the faith are experiencing in the flesh the tragic consequences of a continuing conflict and live today in a political situation that is more delicate and fragile than ever.

By naming the Patriach of the Chaldean Church to the College of Cardinals, I wishedr to express concretely my spiritual nearness and affection for the Iraqi people.

So together, dear and venerated brothers, let us reaffirm the solidarity of the entire Church with the Christians of that beloved land, and invite all to invoke the merciful God, in behalf of all the peoples involved, for the coming of reconciliation and peace that we all desire.

Just now, we listened to the Word of God which helps us to better understand ther solemn time in which we live. In the gospel passage, Jesus has just reminded his disciples for the third time of the destiny that awaits him in Jerusalem, but the ambition of the disciples takes precedence over the fear that had assailed them briefly.

After the confession of Peter in Caesarea and the discussion along the way over which of them was the greatest, ambition impelled the sons of Zebedee to lay claim for themselves to the best places in the messianic Kingdom to the end of times.

In the race for privilege, both knew well what they wanted, just like the other ten, notwithstanding their 'virtuous' indignation. In fact, they did not know what they were asking for. It was Jesus who made them understand, speaking in terms much different from the 'ministry' that awaited them. He corrected their grossly mistaken idea of merit according to which tey thought one could acquire rights with respect to God.

The evangelist Mark reminds us, dear and venerated brothers, that every true disciple of Christ can aspire to one thing only: to share his passion without expecting any reward. The Christian is called to assume the condition of 'servant' following the footsteps of Christ, thus living his life for others freely and in disinterested manner.

It is not the search for power and success, but the humble gift of oneself for the good of the Church, that should characterize every act and word of ours. True Christian greatness, in fact, is not in domination but in service.

Jesus repeats to each of us today that he "did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10,45). That is the ideal that should orient your service.

Dear brothers, as you enter into the College of Cardinals, the Lord asks of you and entrusts to you a service of love: love for God, love for his Church, love for our brothers, with maximum and unconditional dedication, 'usque ad sanguinis effusionem' - up to shedding your blood - as the ritual says, during the imposition of the biretta , and as symbolized by the red of the garments you wear.

Be apostles of God who is Love, and witnesses of evangelical hope - this is what the Christian people expect of you. Today's ceremony underlines the great responsibility that weighs on each of you, venerated and dear brothers, confirmed in the words of the Apostle Peter that we just heard: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1 Pt 3,15).

Such responsibility does not exempt us from risks but, as St. Peter also reminds us: "It is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil." (1 Pt 3,17).

Christ asks you to confess before men his truth, to embrace and share his cause, and to fulfill all of this "with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear" (1 Pt 3,15-16), that is, with that interior humility which is the fruit of cooperating with the grace of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, tomorrow, in this same Basilica, I will have the joy of celebrating the Eucharist, on the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, together with the new cardinals, to whom I shall give their rings.

It will be an even more important and timely occasion to reaffirm our unity in Christ and to renew our common will to serve him with total generosity. Accompany them with prayer so that they may respond with full and constant dedication to the gift they have received.

Let us turn now with confidence to Mary, Queen of the Apostles. May her spiritual presence today in this singular Cenacle be a guarantee -for the new cardinals and all of us - of the constant effusion of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in her journey through history. Amen.

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25/11/2007 19.46
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at the concelebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica today.

Lord Cardinals,
venerated brothers in the Episcopatea nd priesthood,
distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
dear brothers and sisters!

This year, the solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, which crowns the liturgical year, is enriched by the welcome into the College of Cardinals of 23 new members whom, following tradition, I have invited today to concelebrate the Eucharist with me.

To each of them, I address my heatfelt greeting, which I extend with fraternal affection to all the cardinals present.

I am happy to greet the delegations that have come from various nations and the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See; the bishops, prietsts, religious and lay faithful, especially those coming from the dioceses entrusted to the leadership of many among our new cardinals.

The liturgical recurrence of Christ the King offers our celebration a background that makes it more significant, illuminated by its Biblical passages. We find ourselves in the presence of three great scenes: in the center is the Crucifixion, according to the account of the evangelist Luke; on the one hand, the kingly anointing of David by the ancients of Israel; and on the other, Che christologic hymn with which St. Paul introduces the Letter to the Colossians.

Dominating all is the figure of Christ, the only Lord, before whom we are all brothers. The entire hierarchy of the Church, every charism and service, everything and everyone - we are all at the service of his Lordship.

We must start with the central event: the Cross, on which Christ manifests his singular kingliness.

On Calvary, two opposite attitudes confronted each other. Some persons at the foot of the Cross, and even one of the two thieves, addressed the Crucified One with contempt: If you are Christ, the Mesiah and King - they said - save yourself and come down from the scaffold.

Jesus instead reveals his glory by staying there, on the Cross, as the sacrificed Lamb. The other thief unexpectedly takes his side, implicitly acknowledging the kingliness of the justly innocent, and implores: "Remember me when you enter into your kingdom: (Lk 23,42).

St. Cyril of Alexandria commented: "You see him crucified and call him King. You believe that he who undergoes mockery and suffering will reach divine glory" (Comment on Luke, homily 153).

According to the evangelist John, divine glory is already present although hidden by the disfigurement of the Cross. But even in the language of Luke, the future is already anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23,43).

St. Ambrose observed: "This man prayed that the Lord remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord answered him: 'In truth, in truth, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'. Life is to be with Christ, because where Christ is, there is the Kingdom" (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10,121).

The attribution "This is the King of the Jews", written on a tablet nailed above the head of Jesus, thus becomes a proclamation of the truth. St. Ambrose notes further: "The writing is properly at the top of the Cross, because although the Lord jesus Christ is on the Cross, he nevertheless shines above it with regal majesty" (ivi, 10,113).

The Crucifixion scene, in the four Gospels, constitutes the moment of truth, when the 'veil of the Temple' is rent to reveal the Holy of Holies. Jesus crucified is the maximum possible revelation of God in this world, because God is Love, and Jesus's death on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all history.

The Crucifixion is represented in the cardinal's ring, which I will shortly consign to the new members of the Sacred College. May this, dear brothers and sisters, always be for you an invitation to remember which King you serve, the throne on which he was raised, and how he was faithful to the very end in order to defeat sin and death with the power of divine mercy.

Mother Church, bride of Christ, gives you this token in memory of her Spouse who loved her and delivered himself up for her (cfr Eph 5,25). Thus, in carrying the cardinal's ring, you are constantly called on to give your life for the Church.

If we turn our attention to the scene of David's kingly anointing, presented in the first Reading, we are struck by an important aspect of kingliness, that is, its 'corporative' dimension. The ancients of Israel went to Hebron, concluded a pact of alliance with David, declaring tthat they considered themselves united to him and to wish to be one single entity with him.

If we refer this kingly figure to Christ, I think this same profession of alliance lends itself very well to be made by you, dear brother cardinals.

You, too, who make up the 'senate' of the Church, can say to Jesus: "We consider ourselves your flesh and bone" (2 Sam 5,1). We belong to you, and with you, we wish to be one sole entity. You are the shepherd of the people of God, you are the head of the Church" (cfr 2 am 5,2). In this solemn eucharisetic celebration, we wish to renew this pact with you, our friendship, because only in this intimate and profound relationship with you, Jesus our King and Lord, is there sense and value to the honor which has been conferred on us and the responsiblity that it brings."

Now, let us admire the third part of the 'triptych' which the Word of God has placed before us today: the Christologic hyymn from the Letter to the Colossians. Above all, let us take as our own the joy and gratitude that gushes forth from it because of the fact that Christ, "the fate of the saints who are in the light", is not something who can only be glimpsed from afar, but a reality of whom we are called to be part, into which we have been 'transferred', thanks to the redemptive work of the Son of God (cfr Col 1,12-14).

This action of grace opened St. Paul's spirit to the contemplation of Christ and his mystery in its two principal dimensions: the creation of all things, and their reconciliation.

For the first aspect, the lordship of Christ consists in the fact that "all things were created through him and for him " (Col 1,16). The second dimension centers on the Paschal mystery: Through the death of his Son on the Cross, God reconciled very creature to him; he made peace between heaven and earth.

Resurrecting him from the dead, he gave him the primacy of the firstborn in the new creation, the 'fullness' of every reality, 'head of the mystical Body' of the Church (cfr Col 1,18-20).

We are once again before the Cross, the central event in the mystery of Christ. In the Pauline vision, the Cross is framed within the entire economy of salvation, where the kingliness of Jesus is seen in all its cosmic amplitude.

This text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith so powerful that we cannot but remain profoundly admiring. The Church is the repository of the mystery of Christ: It is so, in all humility and without a shadow of pride or arrogance, because it is a gift that she received freely, not through any merit, and which she is called on to give freely to mankind in every age as the horizon of meaning and salvation.

Itr is not philosophy, or gnosis, even if it does embrace wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ - Christ himself, Logos incarnate, who died and resurrected to become King of the Universe.

How can we not feel a wave of enthusiasm filled with gratitude for having been admitted to contemplate the splendor of this revelation? How can we not feel at the same time the joy and the responsibity of serving this King, to testify with our life and words to his Lordship?

This, in a particular manner, is our task, venerated brothers cardinals: to announce to the world the truth of Christ, hope for every man and the entire human family.

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, my venerated predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, were authentic heralds of the kingliness of Christ to the contemporary world.

For me, it is a reason for comfort to be able to count always on you, collegially as well as individually, so that I, too, may fulfill the fundamental mission of the Petrine minsitry.

Closely united to this mission is an aspect which I wish, in conclusion, to touch upon and entrust to your prayers: peace among all the disciples of Christ as a sign of the peace which Jesus came to establish in the world.

We heard the great news in the Christologic hymn: It pleased God to 'make peace' in the universe through the Cross of Christ (cfr Col 1,20).

The Church is that part of humanity in which the kingliness of Christ is already manifest and whose preferential manifestation is peace. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect while it is a pilgrim through history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem.

Here we can also refer to the text of the Responsorial Psalm, the 121st (122nd) - it belongs to the so-called 'songs of ascent' and it is the hymn of joy of the pilgrims who, reaching the gates of the holy city, address it with a greeting of peace: Shalom!

According to popular etymology, the word Jerusalem meant 'city of peace' - the peace which the Messiah, son of David, would install in the fullness of time. In Jerusalem, we recognize a metaphor for the Church, sacrament of Christ and his Kingdom.

Dear brother cardinals, this Psalm expreses well the ardent song of love for the Church which you certainly carry in your hearts. You have dedicated your life in the service of the Church, and now you are called on to carry out a higher responsibility within it.

May the words of the Psalm have your full adherence: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!" (v. 6) The prayer for peace and unity constitutes your first and principal mission, so that the Church may be 'firm and compact' (v. 3), sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cfr Lumen gentium, 1).

I wish to place - or rather, let us all together - place this mission under the vigilant protection of the Mother of the Church, the Most Holy mary. To her, united with her Son on Calvary and assumed as Queen to glory at his side, let us entrust the new cardinals, the College of Cardinals, and the entire Catholic community, committed to sow in the furrows of history the seeds of the Kingdom of Christ, Lord of life and Prince of peace.

26/11/2007 23.47
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's plurilingual address at a special audience today for the 23 new cardinals and their families, friends and diocesan delegations.

He began in Italian:

Lord Cardinals,
dear brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
dear friends!

This encounter of ours prolongs the climate of prayer and communion which we have been living in these days of feasting the creation of 23 new cardinals.

The Consistory and the Eucharistic Celebration yesterday, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, has offered us a singular opportunity to experience the catholicty of the Church, well represented in the various provenances of the members of the College of Cardinals, gathered in close commuinion around the Succesor of Peter.

I am therefore happy to address yet again my heartfelt greeting to the new cardinals, and with them, to all of you, their families and friends, who have come to crown a moment that is very important in ther life.

I first greet you, dear Italian cardinals:
Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Pontifical Commission and Governatorate of the state of Vatican city;
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Arch-Priest of the Vatican Basilica, my Vicar-General for Vatican City, and President of the Fabbrica di San Pietro;
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archvist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian bishops conference; and
Cardinal Umberto Betti, former Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Venerated and dear brothers, so many friends, related to you in various ways, have been with you during this occasion which is both solemn and familial. I ask all of them to always give you their friendship, respect and prayers, thus helping you to continue serving the Church faithfully and rendering - in the various tasks and ministries that Providence entrusts you with - ever more generous testimony of Christ's love.

He then said in French:

I am happy to greet the new members of the College of Cardinals - the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois; the Archbishop of Dakar, Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr; and their families and diocesan faithful who have accompanied them here for this happy occasion.

May the ceremonies which we lived together in the preceding days reaffirm your faith and your love for Christ and the Church.

I ask you, their families and friends, to support your pastors and to sustain them with your prayers, so that they may always attentively guide the people who have been entrusted to their care.

And let us not forget to ask Christ that more young men may accept to take the way of priesthood.

In English, he said:

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking Prelates whom I had the joy of raising to the dignity of Cardinal in last Saturday’s Consistory.

Cardinal John Patrick Foley, Grand Master of the Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady, Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (India); Cardinal Daniel Dinardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston (USA); Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi (Kenya); and Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

I am also pleased to have this opportunity to welcome their family members and friends, and all the faithful who have accompanied them to Rome.

The College of Cardinals, whose origin is linked to the ancient clergy of the Roman Church, is charged with electing the Successor of Peter and advising him in matters of greater importance.

Whether in the offices of the Roman Curia or in their ministry in the local Churches throughout the world, the Cardinals are called to share in a special way in the Pope’s solicitude for the universal Church.

The vivid colour of their robes has traditionally been seen as a sign of their commitment to defending Christ’s flock even to the shedding of their blood.

As the new Cardinals accept the burden of this office, I am confident that they will be supported by your constant prayers and your cooperation in their efforts to build up the Body of Christ in unity, holiness and peace.

In German, he said:

I address a very heartfelt greeting to Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, his family, his friends and guests from Germany, as well as the faithful from his home diocese of Paderborn, where he served earlier as Suffragan Bishop.

Together with you, I thank our new Cardinal for the meritorious service that, as President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, he has rendered over so many years for the Successor of Peter.

Continue to accompany him with your prayers and support him in his important mission to bring concrete help in the name of the Pope to the poor and the needy. May the Lord grant you all his rich graces.

In Spanish, he said:

I cordially greet the new Spanish-speaking cardinals who are accompanied by their famlies and so many bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful from Argentina, Spain and Mexico.

Argentina celebrates with joy in behalf of Cardinal Leandro Sandri, who after his service to the Holy See as Deputy Secretary of State, now presides over the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and in behalf of Cardinal Estanislao Esteban Karlic, emeritus Archbishop of Parana, who for so many years served that ecclesial community with great solicitude and abnegation.

The Church of Spain rejoices for Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gazco Vicente, Archbishop of Valencia, a city I visited last year for the World Encounter of Families; for Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, who had earlier carried out a fruitful ministry in Tortosa and Tarragona; and for Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, who has dedicated his life to studying and teaching canon law.

The pilgrim Church of Mexico rejoices for Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Monterrey, whose constant pastoral commitment was first evident in Toluca.

Let us turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary, to whom your nations are so devoted, and ask her to intercede with her Divine Son for these Cardinals, that he may make their services for the Church even more fecund.

In Portuguese, he said:

I greet Cardinal Odilo Paulo Scherer, the bishops who have accompanied him, along with his family, friends and guests. The occasion is propitious for me to recall the days of my visit earlier this year to Sao Paulo, and to renew my thanks for the welcome given to me by the Archdiocese.

I pray that this appointment to the honor of Cardinal may contribute to deepen your love for the Church and strengthen the faith of your people in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

In Polish, he said:

I greet Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko and his guests. I thank him for all he is doing for the participation of the laity in the life of the Church, and I wish him abundant graces. I commend you all to the love of God and bless you from my heart.

He ended the address in Italian:

Finally, I renew to you, venerated and beloved new cardinals, my brotherly greeting, and as I assure you of my prayers, I ask you also to accompany me always with your very valuable human and pastoral experience.

I count very much on your precious support so that I may better carry out my ministry of service to the entire People of God. I need this support.

And to you, dear brothers and sisters, who are united with them in affection, once more I thank you for your participation in the various rites and events of the Consistory.

Continue to pray for them and also for me, so that the communion between the Pastors and the Pope may always be firm, in order that, together, we may offer the whole world testimony of a church that is faithful to Christ and ready to face with prophetic courage the spiritual expectations and demands of humanity in our time.

In returning to your respective dioceses, please convey to everyone my greetings and assurances that I constantly remember them in my prayers.

I invoke on you, dear Cardinals, and to all you present, the protection of the heavenly Mother of God and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. With these feelings, and from my heart, I impart to you all my benediction.

28/11/2007 12.48
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The Holy Father's message for the 94th World Day for Mgirants and Refugees to be marked on Sunday, January 13, 2008, was released in the Vatican's official languages today, at a news conference. The Holy Fahter chose the theme "Young Migrants". Here is the English text:

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


01/12/2007 18.06
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Here is the English original text of thelettr sent by the Holy Father to the Patriarch of Constantinople on the occasion of the Feast of St. Andrew, Nov. 30, 2007. The letter was signed November 23 but was delivered yesterday to Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

The feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, brother of Peter and Patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, gives me the opportunity to convey to Your Holiness my prayerful good wishes for an abundance of spiritual gifts and divine blessings.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice
(Phil 4:4)

These words of Saint Paul inspire us to share our joy on this happy occasion. The feast of Saint Andrew, like that of Saints Peter and Paul, has enabled us each year to express our common apostolic faith, our union in prayer and our joint commitment to reinforce the communion between us.

A delegation from the Holy See, led by my venerable brother Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will attend the solemn Divine Liturgy presided over by Your Holiness together with members of the Holy Synod. In my heart

I vividly recall my personal participation last year in the celebration of this feast at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and I remember with deep gratitude the warm welcome extended to me on that occasion.

That encounter, the presence of my delegate this year at the Phanar, as well as the visit from a delegation of the See of Constantinople for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, all represent authentic signs of the commitment of our Churches to an ever deeper communion, strengthened through cordial personal relations, prayer and the dialogue of charity and truth.

This year we thank God in particular for the meeting of the Joint Commission which took place in Ravenna, a city whose monuments speak eloquently of the ancient Byzantine heritage handed down to us from the undivided Church of the first millennium.

May the splendour of those mosaics inspire all the members of the Joint Commission to pursue their important task with renewed determination, in fidelity to the Gospel and to Tradition, ever alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the Church today.

While the meeting in Ravenna was not without its difficulties, I pray earnestly that these may soon be clarified and resolved, so that there may be full participation in the Eleventh Plenary Session and in subsequent initiatives aimed at continuing the theological dialogue in mutual charity and understanding.

Indeed, our work towards unity is according to the will of Christ our Lord. In these early years of the third millennium, our efforts are all the more urgent because of the many challenges facing all Christians, to which we need to respond with a united voice and with conviction.

I therefore wish to assure you once more of the Catholic Church commitment to nurture fraternal ecclesial relations and to persevere in our theological dialogue, in order to draw closer to full communion, as stated in our Common Declaration issued last year at the conclusion of my visit to Your Holiness.

Once again we take our inspiration from Saint Paul words to the Christians of Philippi, with which he urges them to seek perfection through the imitation of Christ, and reminds them to old true to what we have attained (Phil 3:16).

With these sentiments of fraternal affection in the Lord, I embrace Your Holiness and all the members of the Holy Synod. I greet also the Orthodox faithful, praying that the peace and the grace of the Lord may be with you all.

From the Vatican, 23 November 2007


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At noon today, at the Sala clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father met participants of the forum of 85 Catholic non-governmental organizatiions (NGOs) meeting in Rome. These NGOs, in carrying out activities on the international level, are guided by the Gospel teaching and the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Here is the address delivered by the Holy Father in English:

Your Excellencies,
Representatives of the Holy See to International Organizations,
Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet all of you who are assembled in Rome to reflect on the contribution which Catholic-inspired Non-governmental Organizations can offer, in close collaboration with the Holy See, to the solution of the many problems and challenges associated with the various activities of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations. To each of you I offer a cordial welcome.

In a particular way I thank the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, who has graciously interpreted your common sentiments, while at the same time informing me of the goals of your Forum. I also greet the young representative of the Non-governmental Organizations present.

Taking part in this important meeting are representatives of groups long associated with the presence and activity of the Catholic laity at the international level, along with members of other, more recent groups which have come into being as part of the current process of global integration.

Also present are groups mainly committed to advocacy, and others chiefly concerned with the concrete management of cooperative projects promoting development.

Some of your organizations are recognized by the Church as public and private associations of the lay faithful, others share in the charism of certain institutes of consecrated life, while still others enjoy only civil recognition and include non-Catholics and non-Christians among their members.

All of you, however, have in common a passion for promoting human dignity. This same passion has constantly inspired the activity of the Holy See in the international community.

The real reason for the present meeting, then, is to express gratitude and appreciation for what you are doing in active collaboration with the papal representatives to international organizations.

In addition, this meeting seeks to foster a spirit of cooperation among your organizations and consequently the effectiveness of your common activity on behalf of the integral good of the human person and of all humanity.

This unity of purpose can only be achieved through a variety of roles and activities. The multilateral diplomacy of the Holy See, for the most part, strives to reaffirm the great fundamental principles of international life, since the Church’s specific contribution consists in helping "to form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly" (Deus Caritas Est, 28).

On the other hand, "the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful" – and in the context of international life this includes Christian diplomats and members of Non-governmental Organizations – who "are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity" and "to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility" (ibid., 29).

International cooperation between governments, which was already emerging at the end of the nineteenth century and which grew steadily throughout the last century despite the tragic disruption of two world wars, has significantly contributed towards the creation of a more just international order.

In this regard, we can look with satisfaction to achievements such as the universal recognition of the juridical and political primacy of human rights, the adoption of shared goals regarding the full enjoyment of economic and social rights by all the earth’s inhabitants, the efforts being made to develop a just global economy and, more recently, the protection of the environment and the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

At the same time, international discussions often seem marked by a relativistic logic which would consider as the sole guarantee of peaceful coexistence between peoples a refusal to admit the truth about man and his dignity, to say nothing of the possibility of an ethics based on recognition of the natural moral law.

This has led, in effect, to the imposition of a notion of law and politics which ultimately makes consensus between states – a consensus conditioned at times by short-term interests or manipulated by ideological pressure – the only real basis of international norms.

The bitter fruits of this relativistic logic are sadly evident: we think, for example, of the attempt to consider as human rights the consequences of certain self-centred lifestyles; a lack of concern for the economic and social needs of the poorer nations; contempt for humanitarian law, and a selective defence of human rights.

It is my hope that your study and reflection during these days will result in more effective ways of making the Church’s social doctrine better known and accepted on the international level.

I encourage you, then, to counter relativism creatively by presenting the great truths about man’s innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity. This in turn will contribute to the forging of a more adequate response to the many issues being discussed today in the international forum. Above all, it will help to advance specific initiatives marked by a spirit of solidarity and freedom.

What is needed, in fact, is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain non-negotiable.

A spirit of solidarity imbued with a strong sense of fraternal love leads to a better appreciation of the initiatives of others and a deeper desire to cooperate with them.

Thanks to this spirit, one will always, whenever it is useful or necessary, work in collaboration either with the various non-governmental organizations or the representatives of the Holy See, with due respect for their differences of nature, institutional ends and methods of operation.

On the other hand, an authentic spirit of freedom, lived in solidarity, will help the initiative of the members of non-governmental organization to create a broad gamut of new approaches and solutions with regard to those temporal affairs which God has left to the free and responsible judgement of every individual.

When experienced in solidarity, legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness. The activities of your organizations will bear genuine fruit provided they remain faithful to the Church’s magisterium, anchored in communion with her pastors and above all with the successor of Peter, and meet in a spirit of prudent openness the challenges of the present moment.

Dear friends, I thank you once again for your presence today and for your dedicated efforts to advance the cause of justice and peace within the human family.

Assuring you of a special remembrance in my prayers, I invoke upon you, and the organizations you represent, the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of the World. To you, your families and your associates, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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Here is a translation of the homily delivered by the Holy Father during the celebration at St. Peter's Basilica of the First Vespers before the Frist Sunday of Advent.

Dear brothers and sisters!

Advent is, par excellence, the time of hope. Every year, this fundamental attitude of the spirit is awakened in the hearts of Christians who, while preparing themselves for the great feast of the birth of Christ the Savior, also relive the waiting for his glorious return at the end of time.

The first part of Advent indeed insists on parousia, the final coming of the Lord. The antiphons of this First Vespers are all oriented, with different nuances, towards such a prospect.

The brief Reading, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians (5,23-24), refers explicitly to the final coming of Christ, using the Greek word parousia (v. 23).

The Apostle exhorts the Christians to hold themselves irreproachably, but above all, he encourages them to trust in God who 'is faithful' (v. 24) and will never fail to work sanctification on all who earn his grace.

All this Vespertine liturgy invites us to hope, indicating, on the horizon of history, the light of the Savior who is coming: "That day a great light will shine" (Ant. 2); 'The Lord will come in all his glory" (Ant. 3); "His splendor fills the universe" (Ant. to the Magnificat).

This light, which comes from the future God, is already manifested in the fullness of time. That is why our hope is not devoid of basis, but rests on an event that is situated in history but at the same time goes beyond time: it is the event represented by Jesus of Nazareth.

The evangelist John uses for Jesus the title 'Light'. It is a title that belongs to God. Indeed, in the Creed, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is "God from God, Light from Light".

I wished to dedicate my second encyclical, published yesterday, to the subject of hope. It is my pleasure to offer it symbolically to all the world in this first Sunday of Advent, so that, during our preparation for the Holy Nativity, communities and single individuals may read and meditate on it, in order to rediscover the beauty and profundity of Christian hope.

Hope, in effect, is inseparably linked to knowing the face of God, the face that Jesus, the Only-begotten Son, showed to us in his incarnation, his earthly life and his preaching, but above all, in his death and resurrection.

True and certain hope is based on faith in God-who-is-Love, merciful Father, who "so loved the world to give his only-begotten Son" (Jn 4,16), so that men, and with them, all creatures, may have life in abundance (cfr Jn 10,10).

Advent is therefore a favorable time to rediscover a hope which is not vague nor illusory, but sure and reliable, because it is 'anchored' in Christ, God-made-man, the rock of our calvation.

Fronm the beginning, as it says in the New Testament and most markedly in the Letters of the Apostles, a new hope distinguished the Christians from those who lived a pagan religion. Writing to the Ephesians, St. Paul reminded them that, before they embraced the Christian faith, they had been "without hope and without God in this world" (2,12).

This statement seems even more relevant for the paganism of our days. We could use it to describe contemporary nihilism, which corrodes hope in the heart of man, leading him to think that within him and around him, what reigns is nothing: nothing before birth, nothing after death.

In truth, if God is absent, then there is no hope. Everything loses 'density'. It is as though there is no dimension of depth and everything is flattened out, devoid of any symbolic importance, of any projection beyond mere materiality.

What's in play is the relationship between existence here and now, and that which we call the 'beyond' - which is not a place where we end up after death. Instead, it is the reality of God, the fullness of life which every human being, one might say, is reaching for. To this expectation of man, God has answered in Christ with the gift of hope.

Man is the only creature free to say Yes or No to eternity, meaning, to God. The human being can extinguish hope in himself by eliminating God from his life. How can this happen? How can it be that the creature 'made for God', intimately oriented to him, the closest to the Eternal, could deprive himself of this treasure?

God knows the heart of man. He knows that whoever refuses him does not know his true face, and so, he does not tire of knocking at our door, like a humble pilgrim in search of welcome.

That is why the Lord has granted a new time for humanity: so that everyone may come to know him. This, too, is the sense of the new liturgical year that is beginning. It is a gift of God, who wishes once again to reveal himself in the mystery of Christ, through the Word and the Sacraments.

Through the church, he wants to speak to humanity and save the men of today. And he does that going forth to meet them, "to seek and save those who have been lost" (Lk 19,10).

In this perspective, the celebration of Advent is the answer of the Church as Bride to the ever-newe initiative of God the Bridegroom, "who is, who was and who will come" (Ap 1,8).

To mankind who no longer has time for him, God offers new time, new space to enter into himself again, to resume the journey and to rediscover the sense of hope.

Then comes the surprising discovery: my hope, our hope, is preceded by the waiting that God himself has with regard to us. Yes, God loves us, and so he waits for us to return to him, that we open our heart to his love, that we put our hand in his, and that we remember we are his children.

This waiting by God always comes before our hope, exactly as he loved us first (cfr 1 Jn 4,10). In this sense, Christian hope is called theological: God is its source, its support and its end. What great comfort there is in this mystery!

My Creator has placed in my spirit a reflection of his desire that everyone may live. Every man is called on to hope, according to the expectation that God has of him. And experience has shown us that it is so.

What makes the world go forward if not the trust that God has in man? It is a trust that is reflected in the heart of the little people, the humble, as they go through the difficulties and efforts to do their best every day and so conribute their bit of goodness, which in the eyes of the Lord, is much more - whether in the family, at work, in school, or in different areas of social activity.

Hope is indelibly written in the heart of man, because God our Father is life, and we were made for eternal and blessed life.

Every baby who is born is the sign of God's trust in man and is a confirmation, at least implicit, of the hope that man nourishes in a future that is open to God's eternity.

To this hope in man, God answered, by being born into time as a small human being. St, Augustine wrote; "We might have thought that your word was far distant from union with man, and so we might have despaired of ourselves, if this Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us" (Conf. X, 43,69, cit. in Spe salvi, 29).

Let us allow ourselves,then, to be guided by her who carried in her heart and womb the Word incarnate. O Mary, Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope, revive in all the Church the Siriit of Advent so that all humanity may take the journey towards Bethlehem, where he came, and thee Sun which comes from on high will come to visit us again (cfr Lk 1,78), Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 02/12/2007 23.05]
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Here is a translation of the homily delivered by the Holy Fahter at the Mass he celebrated today at the San Giovanni Battista hospital in Rome, where he made a pastoral visit.

Dear brothers and sisters!

"Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord."

These words which we repeated in the refrain to the Responsorial Psalm, express well the feelings which occupy our hearts today, the first Sunday of Advent.

The reason we can go forward in joy, as the Apostle Paul has asked us to do, is in the fact that our salvation is at hand. The Lord is coming!

With this awareness, we undertake the itinerary of Advent, preparing ourselves to celebrate with faith the extraordinary event of the Nativity of our Lord.

During the next few weeks, day after day, the liturgy will offer for our reflection texts from the Old Testament, which recall the living and constant desire that kept alive in the Jewish people the expectation of the coming of the Messiah.

Vigilant in prayer, we too seek to prepare our hearts to welcome the Savior who comes to show us his mercy and give us salvation.

Precisely because it is a time of waiting, Advent is a time of hope, and it is to Christian hope that I dedicated my second Encyclical presented officially last Friday. It starts with the words that St. Paul addressed to the Christians of Rome: "Spe salvi facti sumus" - in hope we have been saved (8,24).

In the Encyclical, I write, among other things, that "we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain" (No. 31).

The certainty that only God can be our firm hope inspires us all, who are gathered here today in this house where illness is fought, sustained together in solidarity.

I wish to avail of my visit to your hospital, managed by the Association of Italian Knights of the Sovereign order of Malta, to symbolically offer my encyclical to the Christian community of Rome, and in particular, to those who, like you, are in direct contact with suffering and illness.

It is a text that I invite you to examine deeply in order to find the reasons of that "trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous" (No. 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, "May the God of hope who fills us with every joy and peace in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, be with you all"!

With this wish that the priest addresses to the assembly at the beginning of the Holy Mass, I greet you all cordially.

I greet first of all, the Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini and Cardinal Pio Laghi, Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, the prelates and priests present, the chaplains and sisters who render their services here.

I greet with deference His Most Eminent Highness Fra Andrew Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me in the name of the management, the administrative, health care and nursing personnel and all others who work for this hospital in any way.

I extend my greeting to the different auhtorities, with a particular thought for the health director and for the representative of the patients, whom I thank for the words they addressed to me before the Mass.

But my most affectionate greeting goes to you, dear patients and your families, who share your worries and your hopes. The Pope is spiritually close to you and assures you of his daily prayers, as he invites you to find comfort and support in Jesus, and never to lose your trust in him.

The liturgy of Advent will repeat to us during the next few weeks never to tire of calling on him. It will exhort us to go forth and meet him, knowing that he constantly comes to visit us. In trial and in sickness, God visits us mysteriously, and if we abandon ourselves to his will, we can experience the power of his love.

Hospitals and treatment homes, precisely because they are inhabited by persons tried by suffering, can become favorable places to testify to Christian love which nourishes hope and inspires acts of fraternal solidarity.

In the Collect today, we prayed, "Oh Lord, inspire in us the will to go forward wth good works towards the Christ who is coming." Yes, let us open our heart to every person, especially those in difficulty, because in doing good to those who are in need, we welcome Jesus who in them comes to visit us.

It is what you, dear brothers and sisters, seek to do in this hospital, where the center of everyone's concern is the loving and competent accommodatiion of patients, the protection of their dignity and the commitment to improve their quality of life.

The Church, through the centuries, has made itself particularly 'close' to those who suffer. This is the spirit of your meritorious Sovereign Order of Malta, which started by dedicating itself to assisting pilgrims in the Holy Land with hospices and infirmaries. Even as it fought in defense of Christianity, the Sovereign Order of Malta did all it could to heal the sick, especially thje poor and the marginalized.

This hospital itself is a testimony of that fraternal love. Since it was founded in the 1970s, it has become an institution of high technological level and a home of solidarity, in which numerous volunteers work with generous dedication alongside your health care personnel.

Dear Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, dear doctors, nurses and those who work here, you are all called to render an important service to the sick and to society, a service which demands abnegation and a spirit of sacrifice.

In every sick person, whoever he may be, you recognize and serve Christ himself. Let your patients perceive, through your words and deeds, the signs of his merciful love.

To carry out your mission well, try, as St. Paul reminds us in the second Reading, "to put on the weapons of light" (Rm 13,12), which is the Word of God, the gifts of the Spirit, the grace of the Sacraments, the theological and cardinal vairtues. Fight against evil and abandon sin which makes our existence dark and shadowy.

At the start of a new liturgical year, let us renew our good intentions for an evangelical life. "It is the hour now to awake from sleep" (Rm 13,11), the Apostle exhorts. It is time, that is, to convert ourselves, to wake up from the lethargy of sin in order to prepare ourselves trustfully to welcome 'the Lord who is coming'. That is why Advent is a time of prayer and watchful waiting.

To this 'vigilance', which among others, is the key word of this liturgical period, the Gospel we heard a while ago exhorts us: "Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Mt 24,42).

Jesus, who comes to us at Christmas and will return gloriously at the end of time, does not tire to visit us continually, in the events of every day. He asks us to wait for him watchfully, because his coming cannot be programmed or foretold, but will be sudden and unforeseeable. Only he who remains awake will not be caught by surprise.

Christ warns - may it not be with you as it was in Noah's time, when men were eating and drinking thoughtlessly and were caught unawares by the deluge (cfr Mt 24,37-38).

What does the Lord want us to understand with this admonition, except that we should not allow ourselves to be absorbed by material concerns and realities to the point of becoming too entangled in them?

"Therefore stay awake!..." Let us heed the Lord's invitation in the Gospel and prepare ourselves to relive with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer who filled the unverse with joy.

Let us prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord in his incessant coming to us in the events of life, in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness. Let us prepare ourselves to meet him in his last definitive coming.

His passage is always a source of peace, and if suffering, part and parcel of human nature, sometimes becomes insupportable, with the coming of the Lord, "suffering - without ceasing to be suffering - becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise" (Spe salvi, 37).

Comforted by these words, let us proceed with the Eucharistic celebration, invoking on the sick, their families and those who work in this hospital, and the entire Order of the Knights of Malta, the maternal protection of Mary, Virgin of expectaton and of hope.

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The Holy Father today addressed all the Bishops of South Korea who have been on ad limina visit, and whom he saw earlier in 5 separate groups, as well as the Apostolic Prefect to Ulanbaatar (Ulan Bator, Mongolia). The address was delivered in English.

Dear Brother Bishops,

"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16).

With fraternal greetings I welcome you, the Bishops of Korea and the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, and I thank the Most Reverend John Chang Yik, President of the Episcopal Conference, for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude.

As servants of the Gospel, you have come to see Peter (cf. Gal 1:18) and to strengthen the bonds of collegiality which express the Church’s unity in diversity and safeguard the tradition handed down by the Apostles (cf. Pastores Gregis, 57).

The Church in your countries has made remarkable progress since the arrival of missionaries in the region over four hundred years ago, and their return to Mongolia just fifteen years ago. This growth is due in no small part to the outstanding witness of the Korean Martyrs and others throughout Asia who remained steadfastly faithful to Christ and his Church. The endurance of their testimony speaks eloquently of the fundamental concept of communio that unifies and vivifies ecclesial life in all its dimensions.

The Evangelist John’s numerous exhortations to abide in the love and truth of Christ evoke the image of a sure and safe dwelling place. God first loves us and we, drawn towards his gift of living water, "constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" (Deus Caritas Est, 7).

Yet Saint John also had to urge his communities to remain in that love, for already some had been enticed by the distractions which lead to interior weakness and eventual detachment from the communio of believers.

This admonition to remain in Christ’s love also has a particular significance for you today. Your reports attest to the lure of materialism and the negative effects of a secularist mentality.

When men and women are drawn away from the Lord’s dwelling place they inevitably wander in a wilderness of individual isolation and social fragmentation, for "it is only in the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Dear Brothers, from this perspective it is evident that to be effective shepherds of hope you must strive to ensure that the bond of communion which unites Christ to all the baptized is safeguarded and experienced as the heart of the mystery of the Church (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 24).

With their eyes fixed on the Lord, the faithful must echo anew the Martyrs’ cry of faith: "we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). Such faith is sustained and nurtured by an ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ who comes to men and women through the Church: the sign and sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all people (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1).

The gateway to this mystery of communion with God is of course Baptism. This sacrament of initiation, far more than a social ritual or welcome into a particular community, is the initiative of God (cf. Rite of Baptism, 98). Those reborn through the waters of new life enter the door of the universal Church and are drawn into the dynamism of the life of faith.

Indeed, the profound importance of this sacrament underscores your growing concern that not a few of the numerous adults received into the Church in your region every year fail to maintain a commitment to "the full participation in liturgical celebrations which is … a right and obligation by reason of … Baptism" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14).

I encourage you to ensure, especially through a joyous mystagogia, that the "flame of faith" is kept "alive in the hearts" (Rite of Baptism, 100) of the newly baptized.

The word communio also refers of course to the Eucharistic centre of the Church as Saint Paul eloquently teaches (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17). The Eucharist roots our understanding of the Church in the intimate encounter between Jesus and humanity and reveals the source of ecclesial unity: Christ’s act of giving himself to us makes us his body.

The commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection in the Eucharist is the "supreme sacramental manifestation of communio in the Church" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 38) whereby local Churches allow themselves to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord and strengthened in unity within the one Body (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 15).

Your programmes designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful. I

join you in urging the laity – and in a special way the young people in your region – to explore the depth and breadth of our Eucharistic communion. Gathered every Sunday in the Lord’s House, we are consumed by Christ’s love and truth and empowered to bring hope to the world.

Dear Brothers, consecrated men and women are rightly recognized as "witnesses and artisans of that plan of communion which stands at the centre of history according to God" (Vita Consecrata, 39). Please assure the men and women Religious in your territories of my appreciation of the prophetic contribution they are making to ecclesial life in your nations.

I am confident that, faithful to their essential nature and respective charisms, they will bear bold witness to the specifically Christian "gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family" (ibid., 3).

For your own part, I encourage you to ensure that Religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God’s Kingdom. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Church’s history is surely her schools of spirituality.

By articulating and sharing these living treasures with the laity, Religious will do much to enhance the vibrancy of ecclesial life within your jurisdictions. They will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity as they witness to the vitality of the Holy Spirit enlivening the Church in every generation.

I wish to conclude by briefly reiterating the importance of the promotion of marriage and family life in your region. Your efforts in this field stand at the heart of the evangelization of culture and contribute much to the well-being of society as a whole.

This vital apostolate, in which many priests and Religious are already engaged, rightly belongs also to the laity. The growing complexity of matters regarding the family – including the advances in biomedical science about which I spoke recently to Korea’s Ambassador to the Holy See – raises the question of providing appropriate training for those committed to working in this area.

In this regard, I wish to draw your attention to the valuable contribution made by the Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Life now present in many parts of the world.

Lastly, dear Brothers, I ask you to convey to your people my particular gratitude for their generosity to the universal Church. Both the growing number of missionaries and the contributions offered by the laity are an eloquent sign of their selfless spirit.

I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the well-being of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God’s providential care upon all North Koreans.

Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith who are commemorated in the great song of praise: Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus. May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim.

With fraternal affection I commend you to the intercession of Mary, model of all disciples, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses and Prefecture.

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Here is the text of the Holy Father's address delivered in English today to a delegation of the World Baptist Alliance at the Hall of the Popes in the Apostolic Palace.

Dear Friends,

I offer a cordial welcome to you, the members of the joint international commission sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

I am pleased that you have chosen as the site of your meeting this city of Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel and crowned their witness to the Risen Lord by the shedding of their blood. It is my hope that your conversations will bear abundant fruit for the progress of dialogue and the increase of understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Baptists.

The theme which you have chosen for this phase of contacts – The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia – offers a promising context for the examination of such historically controverted issues as the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, the understanding of Baptism and the sacraments, the place of Mary in the communion of the Church, and the nature of oversight and primacy in the Church’s ministerial structure.

If our hope for reconciliation and greater fellowship between Baptists and Catholics is to be realized, issues such as these need to be faced together, in a spirit of openness, mutual respect and fidelity to the liberating truth and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As believers in Christ, we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5), our Saviour, our Redeemer. He is the cornerstone (Eph 2:21; 1 Pet 2:4-8); and the head of the body, which is the Church (Col 1:18). In this Advent season, we look to his coming with prayerful expectation.

Today, as ever, the world needs our common witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel. Obedience to the Lord’s will should constantly spur us, then, to strive for that unity so movingly expressed in his priestly prayer: "that they may all be one… so that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).

For the lack of unity between Christians "openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and harms the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

Dear friends, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the important work which you have undertaken. Upon your conversations, and upon each of you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding, strength and peace.

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Here is a translation of the Pope's homily after the traditional papal Act of Veneration before the pillar bearing an image of Mary the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In an appointment that has become traditional, we find ourselves together here at Piazza di Spagna to offer our floral homage to the Madonna on the day when the whole Church celebrates the feast of her Immaculate Conpcetion.

In the footsteps of my predecessor, I join you, dear faithful of Rome, in coming to Mary's feet with affection and filial love, here where for 150 years, she has looked down from this pillar on our city.

This is an act of faith and devotion that our Christian community repeats every year, as though to reiterate our own commitment of loyalty to her who, in all the circumstances of our daily life, assures us of her aid and maternal protection.

This religious manifestation is at the same time an occasion to offer to those who live in Rome or are spending a few days here as tourists or pilgrims, the opportunity to feel themselves, despite the diversity of cultures, as one single family gathered around a Mother who has shared the daily labors of every woman and mother.

She is a mother, however, who is completely singular, having been pre-selected by God for a unique and mysterious mission - to generate into earthly existence the eternal Word of the Father, who came to the world for the salvation of all men.

Mary, immaculate in her virginal conception - as we venerate her today with devout recognition - carried on her earthly pilgrimage sustained by intrepid faith, unshakeable hope and a humble and boundless love, in the footsteps of her son Jesus.

She was beside him with maternal solicitude from his birth to Calvary, where she watched his crucifixion, petrified with sorrow but unshakable in hope. Then she experienced the joy of the resurrection, on the dawn of the third day, of the new day when the Crucified One left the sepulchre, triumphing forever and definitvely over the power of sin and death.

Mary, in whose virginal womb God became man, is our Mother! From the Cross, in fact, Jesus, before consummating his sacrifice, gave her to us as mother, and entrusted us to her as her children. Mystery of mercy and love, a gift that enriches the Church with fecund spiritual maternity.

Today let us turn our eyes to her, dear brothers and sisters, and invoking her aid, let us dispose ourselves to treassure every maternal teaching of hers.

Does not our heavenly Mother invite us to flee evil and do good, obediently following the divine law written in the heart of every Christian?

Does she not, who kept hope even at the peak of her suffering, ask us not to lose heart when suffering and death knock at our door? Does she not ask us to look trustingly to the future? Does the Immaculate Virgin not exhort us to be brothers to each other, in the common commitment to build together a world that is more just, fraternal and peaceful?

Yes, dear friends, once more, on this solemn day, the Church indicates Mary to the world as a sign of sure hope and the definitive victory of good over evil. She whom we call 'full of grace' reminds us that we are all brothers and that God is our Creator and our Father.

Without him, or worse still, against him, we men can never find the path to love, we can never defeat the power of hate and violence, we can never construct a stable peace.

May all men of every nation and culture welcome this message of light adn hope: we receive it as a gift from the hands of Mary, Mother of all mankind.

If life is a journey, and the journey is often dark, hard and laborious, what star can illuminate it? In my encyclical Spe salvi, I wrote that the Church looks to Mary and invokes her as the 'star of hope' (n. 49). In our common journey through the sea of history, we need 'lights of hope', persons who bring the light of Christ "and thus offer orientation for our passage" (ibid).

Who better than Mary can be the 'star of hope' for us? She, with her Yes, with the generous offer of the freedom she received from the Cereator, allowed the hope of millennia to become reality, to enter this world and its history. Through her, God became flesh, he became one of us, and set up his tent in our midst.

Because of this, animated by filial conidence, we say: "Teach us, Mary, to believe, to hope and to love with you. Show us the way that leads to peace, the way towards the Kingdom of jesus. You, star of Hope, who await us in the never-setting light of the eternal Fatherland, shine on us and guide us in the events of every day, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

The Pope then delievered a message in French that was broadcast to the faithful assembled in Lourdes and Fourviere (Lyons) to mark the beginning of the Jubilee year celebrating Mary's apparitions in Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous.

I join the pilgrims assembled in the Marian shrines of Lourdes and Fourviere to honor the Virgin Mary, on this jubilee year of the 150th anniversaary of Our Lady's apparitions to St. Bernadette.

Thanks to their trust in Mary and her example, they have become true disciples of the Savior. Through pilgrimages, they are the numeerous faces of the Church presented to others who are in search and who visit the shrines.

In their spiritual path, they are called on to deploy the grace of their Baptism, to nourish themselves with the Eucharist, to draw from prayer the strength for Christian testimony and for solidarity with all their brothers in humanity.

May the shrines develop their calling to prayer and to hospitality for those who desire, especially through the sacrament of Pardon, to find the way back to God.

I also address my heartfelt greetings to all the persons, especially the young ones, who joyfully celebrate today the feast of the Immaculate Conception, as with the illuminations in the Lyons metropolis.

I ask the Virgin Mary to watch over the residents of Lourdes and Lyons, and I impart to all, including the pilgrims present at the ceremonies, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

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1 JANUARY 2008


1. At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message.

It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace. The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family.

But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family: “All peoples” — as the Second Vatican Council declared — “are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God”(1).

The family, society and peace

2. The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman(2), constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”(3), and a “cradle of life and love”(4).

The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order”(5).

3. Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them.

For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living cell of society”(6), something essential is being stated.

The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family.

Where can young people gradually learn to savour the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them?

The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words.

4. The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”(7).

For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter of the Rights of the Family.

In its Preamble we read: “the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family”(8).

The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explicitation of the natural law written on the heart of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.

5. Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.

This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.

The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.

When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace.

The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.

Humanity is one great family

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth.

Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive “yes” of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious “yes” of the children who gradually join it.

The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family.

We need to say our own “yes” to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.

Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others.

By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.

The family, the human community
and the environment

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility.

We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole.

Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all.

Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations.

Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.

Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation.

The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony.

One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency.

The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

Family, human community and economy

9. An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values.

Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony — the fruit of the labour of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all —i s well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste.

The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and inter-personal relationships. The failure of the latter results in the breakdown of reciprocal trust in the face of the uncertainty threatening the future of the nuclear family.

10. Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope.

Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing.

Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies.

Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.

The family, the human community
and the moral law

11. A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work.

This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself. For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong.

The family of peoples experiences many cases of arbitrary conduct, both within individual States and in the relations of States among themselves. In many situations the weak must bow not to the demands of justice, but to the naked power of those stronger than themselves. It bears repeating: power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States.

12. The Church has often spoken on the subject of the nature and function of law: the juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself.

Human reason is capable of discerning this moral norm, at least in its fundamental requirements, and thus ascending to the creative reason of God which is at the origin of all things.

The moral norm must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behaviour.

Do juridic norms exist for relationships between the nations which make up the human family? And if they exist, are they operative? The answer is: yes, such norms exist, but to ensure that they are truly operative it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm; otherwise the latter constantly remains at the mercy of a fragile and provisional consensus.

13. Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being.

Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice.

It is essential to go back to this fundamental law, committing our finest intellectual energies to this quest, and not letting ourselves be discouraged by mistakes and misunderstandings.

Values grounded in the natural law are indeed present, albeit in a fragmentary and not always consistent way, in international accords, in universally recognized forms of authority, in the principles of humanitarian law incorporated in the legislation of individual States or the statutes of international bodies. Mankind is not “lawless”.

All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights.

The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons.

Overcoming conflicts and disarmament

14. Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person.

Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence.

On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons.

The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry.

In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms.

At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.

15. Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008).

With that document the human family reacted against the horrors of the Second World War by acknowledging its own unity, based on the equal dignity of all men and women, and by putting respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples at the centre of human coexistence.

This was a decisive step forward along the difficult and demanding path towards harmony and peace.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968-2008).

Born of a providential intuition of Pope Paul VI and carried forward with great conviction by my beloved and venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, the celebration of this Day of Peace has made it possible for the Church, over the course of the years, to present in these Messages an instructive body of teaching regarding this fundamental human good.

In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace.

I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother.

To all my best wishes for a joyful New Year!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2007




(1) Declaration Nostra Aetate, 1.
(2) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48.
(3) John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 40: AAS 81 (1989), 469.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 211.
(6) Second Vatican Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.
(7) Art. 16/3.
(8) Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, 24 November 1983, Preamble, A.

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I will work first on translating of the Pope's address last night to the university students of Rome.
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Here is a translation of the address given by the Holy Father last night to the university students of Rome, after the traditional pre-Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, celebrated for them by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's Vicar for Rome.


Dear friends!

I am very happy to meet you in such numbers to this traditional appointment so close to the Nativity of Christ.

I greet and thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who celebrated the Eucharist with university chaplains, to whom I address a heartfelt thought. I greet the authorities, first of all the Minister for Universities, the university rectors, professors and all students.

I am grateful to the Rector of the Biomedical University and to the student from the Faculty of Jurisprudence at the Roma-3 University, who addressed expressions of affection and wishes to myself i the name of all. I reciprocate these sentiments from my heart, and wish each of you a peaceful and holy Christmas.

I would like to address a special greeting to the delegation of Albanian youth who have brought back to Rome the icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae, and the delegation of Romanian youth, who will receive this image of Mary tonight to be the 'pilgrim' of peace and hope in their country.

Dear university youth, allow me to offer you at this familial encounter two brief reflections.

The first addressed the course of your spiritual formation. The Diocese of Rome has highlighted the preparation of university youth for Holy Confirmation. Thus, your pilgrimage to Assisi last November 10 represented the moment of 'calling' and tonight is your 'response.'

In fact, some 150 among you have applied as candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation, which they will receive on the vigil of Pentecost. This is a very relevant initiative that fits very well into the itinerary of preparation for the World Youth Day to be held in Sydney in July 2008.

To these candidates for Confirmation, and to all of you, dear young friends, I wish to say: turn your attention to the Virgin Mary and from her Yes, learn to say your own Yes to the divine calling.

The Holy Spirit enters our life to the degree that we open our heart with our Yes: the fuller this Yes is, the fuller will be the gift of his presence.

To better understand this, we can refer to a very simple fact: light. If the windows are hermetically sealed, the sun, no matter how bright, will never enter the house. If there is a small fissure, then a ray of light enters; if the shutter is opened a little bit more, the room begins to light up; but only when the shutters are completely thrown open will the sun illuminate and warm the room.

Dear friends, Mary was greeted by the angel with the words 'full of grace' which means this: her heart and her life were totally open to God and therefore completely pervaded by his grace. May she help you to give your full and free Yes to God, so that you may be renewed, or better yet, transformed by the light and joy of the Holy Spirit.

The second reflection that I wished to offer is my recent encyclical on Christian hope entitled, as you know, Spe salvi - saved in hope - words taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans (8,24).

I offer it to you symbolically, dear university students of Rome, and through you, to the entire world of the universities, schools, culture and education. The theme of hope, I think, would be particularly congenial to young people.

In particular, I invite you to reflect and confront - in discussion groups, even - the part of the encyclical in which I wrote about hope in the modern era. In the 17th century, Europe underwent an authentic epochal turn, and since then, has gone on affirming ever more a mentality according to which human progress can only be the product of science and technology, while faith can only be concerned with the salvation of the soul, a salvation that is purely personal.

The two great motivating ideas of modernity - reason and freedom - were dissociated from God to become autonomous forces that would work together to construct a 'kingdom of man', virtually in opposition to the Kingdom of God.

Thus the spread of a materialistic concept, nourished by the hope that, by changing economic and political structures, there would finally be a just society, in which peace, liberty and equality would reign.

This process, which is not without its values and historical reasons, nevertheless contained a fundamental error: man, in fact, is not just the product of specific social and economic conditions; technological progress does not necessarily come with the moral growth of humanity, but rather, without ethical principles, science, technology and politics may be used - as it has and as it continues to be unfortunately - not for good but for evil, and not just of the individual but all mankind.

Dear friends, these are themes that are so actual today that they should stimulate your reflection and favor even more the positive confrontation and collaboration which now exists among all the state, private and pontifical universities in Rome.

The city of Rome continues to be a privileged place of study and cultural ferment, as in the meeting last June of more than 3000 European university professors.

Rome is also a a model of hospitality for foreign students, and I am glad to greet, in this setting, the university delegations from different European and American cities.

May the light of Christ, which we invoke through the intercession of Mary, Star of Hope, and the virgin and martyr St. Lucy, whose memorial we mark today, always illumine your lives.

With this prayer, I also wish you and your families a Christmas rich with grace and peace, while I impart to you all from the heart the Apostolic Blessing.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/12/2007 21.17]
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Here is a translation of the eulogy delivered by the Holy Father at the Mass he celebrated yesterday afternoon at the Altar of Peter's Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, for Austrian Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler.

Lord Cardinals,
venerated brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters!

Gathered in prayer around his mortal remains, we render our last greeting to Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler. He shared with us so many years of labor in the vineyard of the Lord. Now God has called him after a long earthly sojourn to welcome him into his paternal and merciful arms.

As we affectionately join his family, the Salesian Congregation in which he was ordained in August 15, 1928, and all those who knew and appreciated him, we also look trustingly to heaven from which comes the only light which can illuminate the mystery of life and death.

The liturgical season of Advent, while it prepares us to relive the gift of the Redeemer's Nativity, also stimulates us to project ourselves with trust towards his last and definitive coming.

For this, our brother has now achieved the 'blessed hope' which we look forward to, as we repeat everyday in the Eucharistic celebration, in trying to live our pilgrimage on earth 'free of sin and safe from every trouble'.

The Apostle of the Gentiles has reminded us just now that if we die in Christ, "we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us" (2 Tim 2,11-12).

The Christian's entire plan for life can only be modelled after Christ: everything with him, for him, and in him, for the glory of God the Father. And was it not this fundamental truth that oriented the existence of our brother?

He chose for his episcopal motto, "Omnia et in omnibus Christus", and explained, in the sunset of his years, how these words had been the guide for his every choice and decision.

"The basis of my activities," he wrote a few years ago, "has always been the ideal of faith and of Christian living which is centered in Christ the Redeemer, and founder of the Church. All my efforts and my studies have served above all to deepen my religious knowledge with full loyalty to the Pope."

And he added: "As a Salesian, I follow the three ideals transmitted to us by Don Bosco: love for the Eucharist, devotion to Our Lady, and loyalty to the Holy Father."

He knew that to love Christ is to love his Church, which is always holy, as he noted in his spiritual testament, "notwithstanding the weaknesses, sometimes scandalous, of us who are its representatives and members, in the past and at present".

He recognized the misfortunes and challenges that Christians must face in our epoch, and concluded that only a true love for Christ can make us courageous and persevering in defending the truths of the Catholic faith.

In this regard, how many times must Cardinal Stickler have read and meditated the Gospel page which was proclaimed today to our assembly! The evangelist Matthew, who will be with us throughout this liturgical year, adds to the eight Beatitudes which open the Sermon on the Mount, as follows: "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me", concluding with "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven..." (Mt 5,11-12).

All of us, dear brothers and sisters, who with Baptism were called to follow and serve Jesus, know that we cannot and should not expect applause and recognition on this earth. The true reward of the faithful disciple is 'in heaven': Christ himself. Let us never forget this truth!

Let us never yield to the temptation of looking for success and human acclaim rather than counting only and always on him who came to the world to save us and who redeemed us on the Cross! Whatever service God calls us to render in his vineyard, may it always be animated by humble adherence to his will.

That this was the orientation of our dear Cardinal Stickler's entire life, even with its human frailties and weaknesses, emerges in his spiritual testament: "All my life has been according to a superior plan and realization, for which I could do nothing other than consent, often without a full appreciation of the reasons. And so all my life has been and is the work of Divine Providence."

It was a life spent totally first in teaching and then in service to the Holy See. Born in Neukirchen, Lower Austria, on August 23, 1910, Alfons Maria entered as a boy into the novitiate of the Salesian Congregation in Germany, and having completed his philosophical and theological studies in Germany, Austria, then in Turin and Rome, he was ordained a priest 70 years ago, on March 27, 1937, at the Lateran Basilica.

After completing the academic course at the Institutum Utriusque Iuris dell’Apollinare, he started to teach at the Faculty of Canon Law at the Salesian University, first in Turin then in Rome. He became dean of his Faculty from 1953-1958, then Rector Magnificus (1958-1966), as well as chairman till 1968 of the newly-founded
Institutum Altioris Latinitatis.

It was a real surprise for him to be nominated in 1971 by the Servant of God Paul VI as Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, where he carried out intense activity as a scholar researcher, with concrete proof in various books and essays written or edited by him on the history of Canon Law.

He was a member of three Commissions in the Second Vatican Council, and a member of the Commission for the new Code [of Canon Law] and the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, in addition to his membership in so many other international cultural institutions.

On September 8, 1983, he was named Pro-Librarian of the Holy Roman church, and the next November 1, as he writes in his testament, he received "in advanced age, the great grace of fullness in the priesthood from the hands of the Holy Father himself" John Paul II, who also named him Pro-Archivist of the Holy Roman Church and on May 25, 1985, distinguished him with the cardinalate.

Even after his active service to the Holy See, our friend continued to carry out his cultural and pastoral activities, while dedicating himself even more to reflection and prayer.

Every day, as he had done since the first year of his religious profession, he invoked the Holy Spirit with the hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus, and he was convinced that if he had been in any way useful to his Congregation and to the Church, 'it was all due to the Holy Spirit". Last Wednesday, death introduced him to the kingdom of peace and eternal light.

Our brotherly wish is that he may bow enjoy his well-deserved reward and contemplate the splendor of eternal Truth. In the first Reading today, the prophet Daniel recalls that "the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever" (Dn 12,3). May it be so for our esteemed brother in the priesthood and episcopate!

May he be welcomed by the Most Blessed Mary, of whom he wrote: "Our Lady shall be, even at the moment of my death, the true mother who gives her love and mercy even to her less faithful children."

May he be accompanied by St. John Bosco and all the Salesian saints and blessed ones. With affection and recognition, we join in the invocation with which Cardinal Stickler closes his spiritual testament: "I believe, I hope, I love. Pardon my weakness in faith, in hope and in charity, and lead me, o my God, to the kingdom of your love". Amen.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/12/2007 19.11]
15/12/2007 18.02
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Utente Gold

Here is the address delivered in English today by the Holy Father to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Japan at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, at the end of their ad-limina visit to Rome. The Pope met separately with the bishops in 4 different groups during the past few days.

Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you on your ad Limina visit, as you come to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you my warmest good wishes and prayers for yourselves and all the people entrusted to your pastoral care.

You have come to the city where Peter carried out his mission of evangelization and bore witness to Christ even to the shedding of his blood — and you have come to greet Peter’s Successor.

In this way you strengthen the apostolic foundations of the Church in your country and you express visibly your communion with all the other members of the College of Bishops and with the Roman Pontiff (cf. Pastores Gregis, 8).

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my sorrow at the recent passing of Cardinal Stephen Hamao, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants, and to express my appreciation for his years of service to the Church. In his person he exemplified the bonds of communion between the Church in Japan and the Holy See. May he rest in peace.

Last year the Church celebrated with great joy the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of Japan. I join you in giving thanks to God for the missionary work that he carried out in your land, and for the seeds of Christian faith that he planted at the time of Japan’s first evangelization.

The need to proclaim Christ boldly and courageously is a continuing priority for the Church; indeed it is a solemn duty laid upon her by Christ who enjoined the Apostles to "go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation" (Mk 16:16).

Your task today is to seek new ways of bringing alive the message of Christ in the cultural setting of modern Japan. Even though Christians form only a small percentage of the population, the faith is a treasure that needs to be shared with the whole of Japanese society.

Your leadership in this area needs to inspire clergy and religious, catechists, teachers, and families to offer an explanation for the hope that they possess (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). This in turn requires sound catechesis, based on the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium. Let the light of the faith so shine before others, that "they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

Indeed the world is hungry for the message of hope that the Gospel brings. Even in countries as highly developed as yours, many are discovering that economic success and advanced technology are not sufficient in themselves to bring fulfilment to the human heart.

Anyone who does not know God "is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life" (Spe Salvi, 27). Remind people that there is more to life than professional success and profit. Through the practice of charity, in the family and in the community, they can be led towards "that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others" (Deus Caritas Est, 31).

This is the great hope that Christians in Japan can offer their compatriots; it is not foreign to Japanese culture, but rather it reinforces and gives new impetus to all that is good and noble in the heritage of your beloved nation.

The well-merited respect which the citizens of your country show towards the Church, on account of her fine contribution in education, health care and many other fields, gives you an opportunity to engage with them in dialogue and to speak joyfully to them of Christ, the "light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9).

Young people especially are at risk of being deceived by the glamour of modern secular culture. Yet, like all the greater and lesser hopes that appear on first sight to promise so much (cf. Spe Salvi, 30), this turns out to be a false hope – and tragically, disillusion not infrequently leads to depression and despair, even to suicide.

If their youthful energy and enthusiasm can be directed towards the things of God, which alone are sufficient to satisfy their deepest longings, more young people will be inspired to commit their lives to Christ, and some will recognize a call to serve him in the priesthood or the religious life.

Invite them to consider whether this may be their vocation. Never be afraid to do so. Encourage your priests and religious likewise to be active in promoting vocations, and lead your people in prayer, asking the Lord to "send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38).

The Lord’s harvest in Japan is increasingly made up of people of diverse nationalities, to the extent that over half of the Catholic population is formed of immigrants. This provides an opportunity to enrich the life of the Church in your country and to experience the true catholicity of God’s people. By taking steps to ensure that all are made to feel welcome in the Church, you can draw on the many gifts that the immigrants bring.

At the same time, you need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the liturgical and disciplinary norms of the universal Church are carefully observed. Modern Japan has wholeheartedly chosen to engage with the wider world, and the Catholic Church, with its universal outreach, can make a valuable contribution to this process of ever greater openness to the international community.

Other nations can also learn from Japan, from the accumulated wisdom of her ancient culture, and especially from the witness to peace that has characterized her stance on the world political stage in the last sixty years. You have made the voice of the Church heard on the enduring importance of this witness, all the greater in a world where armed conflicts bring so much suffering to the innocent.

I encourage you to continue to speak on matters of public concern in the life of your nation, and to ensure that your statements are promoted and widely disseminated, so that they may be properly heard at all levels within society.

In this way, the message of hope that the Gospel brings can truly touch hearts and minds, leading to greater confidence in the future, greater love and respect for life, increasing openness towards the stranger and the sojourner in your midst. "The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life" (Spe Salvi, 2).

In this regard, the forthcoming Beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs offers a clear sign of the strength and vitality of Christian witness in your country’s history. From the earliest days, Japanese men and women have been ready to shed their blood for Christ. Through the hope of these people "who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope" (Spe Salvi, 8).

I join you in giving thanks to God for the eloquent testimony of Peter Kibe and his companions, who have "washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb" and now serve God day and night within his temple (Rev 7:14f.).

In this Advent season, the whole Church looks forward eagerly to the celebration of our Saviour’s birth. I pray that this time of preparation may be for you and for the whole Church in Japan an opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love, so that the Prince of Peace may truly find a home in your hearts.

Commending all of you and your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Saint Francis Xavier and the Martyrs of Japan, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

17/12/2007 15.29
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Here is a translation of the homily given by the Holy Father at the Gaudete Mass which he celebrated yesterday at the new parish church of Santa Maria del Rosario di Pompeii in Rome's Magliana district.

Dear brothers and sisters!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! The Lord is near!" (Phil 4,4-5).

This invitation to joy starts the entrance antiphon of the Holy Mass on this third Sunday of Advent which, because of this, is called Gaudete Sunday. Actually, all of Advent is an invitation to rejoice because "the Lord is coming", and he is coming to save us.

Almost every day this week, the words of the prophet Isaiah will resound, speaking to the Hebrew people exiled in Babylon after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, mistrustful that they could ever return to the Holy City in ruins.

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint" (Is 40,31). Also, "They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee" (ibid 35,10).

The liturgy of Advent constantly repeats that we should wake up from the sleep of habit and mediocrity; we should abandon sadness and discouragement; we should cheer up our hearts because "the Lord is near".

Today, we have another reason to rejoice, dear faithful of the Parish of Santa Maria del Rosario ai Martiri Portuensi - the dedication of your new parish church which stands on the same place where my beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, on November 8, 1998, celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of his pastoral visit to your community.

The solemn liturgy of the dedication of this temple constitutes an intense spiritual joy for all the People of God who live in this zone. And I gladly join you in your contentment to finally have a welcoming and functional church.

The place where it is located evokes a past of shining Christian testimony. In this neighborhood are found the catacombs of Generosa, where according to tradition, three siblings - Simplicius, Faustinus and Viatrice (Beatrice) - were buried, victims of the persecutions unleashed in 303, and whose relics are kept in part here in Rome, at the church of St. Nicholas in Carcere and at Monte Savello, and in part, in Fulda, Germany - a city which, since the eighth century, thanks to St. Boniface who brought the relics there, has honored the Portuensi martyrs as its co-patrons.

In this connection, I greet the representative of the Bishop of Fulda, and also Mons. Carlo Liberati, Archbishop-Prelate of Pompeii, a Marian sanctuary with which your parish has established a spiritual twinship.

The dedication of this parish church acquires a truly special meaning for those of you who live in this district. Are not the young martyrs who died to render testimony to Christ a powerful stimulus for you, Christians today, to persevere in following Christ faithfully? And does the protection of the Virgin of the Holy Rosary no call on you to be men and women of profound faith and prayer as she was?

Even now, although in different forms, the saving message of Christ is opposedin the world, and Christians, in other ways no less than in the past, are called to give a reason for their hope, to offer the world witness of the Truth about the Only One who saves and redeems.

May this new church be a privileged space for growing in the knowledge and love of him who, in a few days, we will welcome in the joy of his Nativity, the Redeemer of the world and our Savior.

Allow me now, taking the opportunity of the dedication of this beautiful new church, to thank all those who have contributed to its construction. I know how much the Diocese of Rome has been committed for many years now to assure adequate parochial facilities to every district of this constantly growing city.

I greet and thank, first of all, the Cardinal Vicar, and with him, Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, secretary of the Opera Romana for the preservation of the faith and the provision of new churches in Rome.

I greet and thank you all, dear parishioners, who in various ways have been committed to the realization of this parish center, which joins more than 50 such centers already functioning, thanks to the noteworthy fiscal efforts of the diocese, of so many faithful and citizens of good will, and the collaboration of public institutions.

On this Sunday which is also dedicated to the support of such meritorious works, I ask all of you to continue with this commitment with generosity.

I wish to greet affectionately the Auxiliary Bishop of the west sector, Mons. Benedetto Tuzia; and your parish priest, Fr. Gerard Charles McCarthy, whom I thank from my heart for the warm words which he addressed to me at the start of this solemn celebration.

I greet the priests who assist him, members of the Priestly Fraternity of San Carlo Borromeo, to whom the care of this parish was entrusted in 1997, and represented here today by the Superior-General, Mons. Massimo Camisasca.

I greet the Oblate Sisters of Divine Love and the missionary Women of San Carlo who lend their dedicated services to this community, and all the groups of children, youth, families and older people who animate the life of the parish.

I cordially greet all the various church movements present, among them the Gioventù Ardente Mariana, Comunione e Liberazione, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Fraternity of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the Santa Teresina volunteer group.

I also wish to encourage those working in the parish Caritas to continue to meet the many needs of this district, especially the expectations of the poor and the needy.

Finally, I greet all the authorities present and other personalities who have joined our liturgical gathering.

Dear friends, today we live a day which crowns the efforts, the hardships, and the sacrifices made in the community's commitment to become a mature Christian community, desirous of having a space specifically reserved for the worship of God.

Today's celebration is rich with words and symbols that allow us to understand the profound value of what has been achieved. Therefore, let us review briefly the teaching from the Reading that was proclaimed to us earlier.

The first Reading is taken from the book of Nehemiah, which tells us of the reconstitution of the Jewish community after the exile that followed their dispersion and the destruction of Jerusalem. It is therefore the book about the new origins of a community, and is full of hope, even if the difficulties are still great.

In the passage that was read, there are two great figures in the center: a priest, Esdra, and a layman, Nehemiah, who were, respectively, the religious and civilian authorities of their time. The text describes the solemn moment when the small Jewish community, after the dispersion, was being officially reconstituted. It was the moment of public re-proclamation of the law which was the basis of community life, and everything takes place in an atmosphere of simplicity, poverty and hope.

The proclamation was received with great spiritual intensity. Some started to cry for joy that they cvould once again, after the tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem, listen to the word of God in freedom and recommence with the history of salvation.

Nehemiah advised them, saying that it was a day of celebration, and in order to have strength from the Lord, they should rejoice, expressing their acknowledgment of the gifts of God. The Word of God is strength and it is joy.

Does not this Old Testament reading inspire us, too, and move us? In this moment, how many memories must swarm in our minds! All the hardships to construct a community, year after year. How many dreams, how many plans, how many difficulties!

But now we are given the occasion to proclaim and listen to the Word of God in a beautiful church, which favors meditation and inspires joy, the joy of knowing that not only is the Word of God present, but the Lord himself. It is a church which should be a constant call to a firm faith and to the commitment to grow as a united community.

Let us give thanks to God for his gifts and thank all those who were responsible for the construction of this church and the living community assembled in it.

In the second Reading, taken from the Apocalypse, a stupendous vision is narrated. God's design for his Church and for all mankind is a holy city, Jerusalem, which descends from the heavens resplendent with divine glory.

The author describes it as a wondrous city, comparing it to precious gems, and finally, states that it all rests on the person and message of the Apostles. Saying this, the evangelist John suggests to us that the living community is the new Jerusalem, and that this living community is more sacred than the material temple which we consecrate.

And to construct this living temple, this new city of God in our cities, to construct this temple - which is you - so much prayer is needed, that we should treasure every occasion offered by liturgy, by catechesis and the multiple pastoral, charitable, missionary and cultural activities which keep your promising community ever young.

The attention that we show rightly for the material edifice - sprinkling it with holy water, anointing the altar with oil, blessing it with incense - this attention should be a sign and a stimulus for more intense attention to defending and promoting the temple of persons, formed by you, dear parishioners.

Finally, the Gospel page which we heard tells of the dialog between Jesus and his disciples, particularly with Peter. It is a conversation that is totally centered on the divine teacher.

The people sensed something about him - some thinking he was John the Baptist come back to life, others that he was Elijah returned to earth, still others that he was the prophet Jeremiah - in any case, for the people, he belonged to the category of great religious personages.

However, Peter, in the name of the disciples who know Jesus from up close, declares that Jesus is more than a mere prophet, more than a great religious personality in history: that he is the Messiah, he is Christ, Son of the living God.

And Christ the Lord tells him solemnly: "You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church."

Peter, a poor man with all his weaknesses and his faith, became the rock, precisely because of the faith he had in Jesus, the rock on which the Church is founded.

In the same way today, we see that Jesus Christ is the true
indifectible rock on which our faith rests, on which the whole Church is built, and so also, this parish. We meet Jesus when we listen to Sacred Scripture; he is present and nourishes us in the Eucharist; he lives in the community, in the faith of the parish community.

Everything, therefore, in the church edifice and in the church community, speaks of Jesus, everything is relative to him, everything refers back to him.

Jesus the Lord gathers us within the great community of the church of all times and all places, in close communion with the Successor of Peter as the rock of unity. The work of the Bishop and priests, the apostolic and missionary commitment of each faithful, is to proclaim and to testify with our words and with our life that He, the Son of God made man, is our only Savior.

Let us ask Jesus to guide your community and make it grow ever more in faithfulness to his Gospel. Let us ask him to inspire many more holy vocations - priestly, religious and missionary - and to make all parishioners ready to follow the example of the holy Portuensi martyrs.

Let us entrust this prayer of ours to the maternal hands of Mary, Queen of the Rosary. May she obtain that the concluding words of today's First Reading be realized for us: "May the joy of the Lord be our strength" (cfr Neh 8,10).

Only the joy of the Lord and the strength of our faith in him will render the way of this parish profitable. So be it!

Later, in the new parish hall named after him, Pope Benedict XVI addressed some 300 children who are candidates for First communion and confirmation:

Dear children and young people,
dear friends:

It is a great joy for me to see so many young people who love Christ and are preparing for Christmas, for the birth of our Lord, which we mark every year, and who are preparing for First Communion and Confirmation - in which Jesus really comes and is with us, in our hearts.

You have great examples in the saints who shed their blood for Jesus Christ. This way, we can follow the great procession of believers thorough all the centuries and be sure that we are on the right way.

Today we are filled with joy because you have here a great common house, which is your house as well as the house of the Lord. Precisely because it is the house of Jesus, it is your house - where we can all be together, and together feel the joy of the fact that the Lord unites us and helps us to find peace everyday.

Thank you for your presence and for your joy! I wish everyone a good Advent and happy Christmas holidays. I thank you all.

17/12/2007 15.29
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On Friday, 18 January, the Holy Father spoke to the Bishops of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Region on the occasion of their ad limina Apostolorum visit. The following is the Vatican translation of the Pontiff's Discourse, given in French.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

I am pleased to welcome you while you are making your ad limina visit, thus strengthening your communion with the Successor of Peter as well as with the local Churches whose Pastors you are.

I warmly thank His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins and President of your Bishops' Conference, for his presentation of the salient features of the Church's life in your Countries. May your pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles be an opportunity based on Christ's Person for the spiritual renewal of your communities.

The Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Region covers a great diversity of situations. Frequently, the faithful who come from numerous countries are grouped together in small communities, in societies composed of a majority of believers of other religions.
Tell them how spiritually close the Pope is to them, and that he shares in their anxieties and their hopes. I address my affectionate wishes to everyone so that they may live in serenity and peace.

I would first like to tell you again of the importance I attach to the witness of your local Churches, reminding you of the Message I addressed to Catholics in the Middle East on 21 December 2006, expressing the solidarity of the universal Church (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 January 2007, p. 10).

In your Region, the endless outbursts of violence, insecurity and hatred make coexistence extremely difficult for everyone, sometimes even giving rise to fear for the life of your communities.

This poses a serious challenge to your pastoral service. It impels you to strengthen the faith and sense of brotherhood of the faithful so that all may live with a hope based on the certainty that the Lord never abandons those who turn to him, for he alone is our true hope by virtue of which we can face our present (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 1).

I warmly invite you to remain close to the people entrusted to your ministry, supporting them in trials and always showing them the way of authentic fidelity to the Gospel while they do their duty as disciples of Christ.

In the difficult situations with which they are familiar, may they all have the strength and courage to live as ardent witnesses of Christ's charity.

It is understandable that circumstances sometimes force Christians to leave their homeland in search of a welcoming country that enables them to live in dignity.

Nevertheless, it is essential to give firm support and encouragement to those who choose to remain faithful to their homeland in order to prevent it from becoming an archaeological site deprived of ecclesial life. By developing a solid fraternal life, they will find support in their trials.

I therefore give my full support to the initiatives you are taking to contribute to the creation of social and financial conditions that help the Christians who remain in their country, and I appeal to the entire Church to wholeheartedly support these efforts.

The vocation of Christians in your Countries has an essential importance. As artisans of peace and justice, they are a living presence of Christ, who came to reconcile the world with the Father and to gather together all his dispersed children.

Thus, authentic communion and serene and respectful collaboration among Catholics of different rites needs to be increasingly affirmed and developed. These are in fact eloquent signs for other Christians and for society as a whole.

In addition, Christ's prayer in the Upper Room "that they may all be one" is a pressing invitation to strive ceaselessly for unity among Christ's disciples.

I am therefore pleased to know that you are placing importance on deepening fraternal relations with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. They are a fundamental element on the path to unity and a witness borne to Christ "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17: 21).

Obstacles on the paths to unity must never extinguish enthusiasm for creating the conditions for a daily dialogue, which is a prelude to unity.

Meeting with members of other religions, Jews and Muslims, is a daily reality for you. In your Countries, the quality of relations between believers acquires a very special meaning, since it is at the same time a witness borne to the one God and a contribution to establishing more brotherly relations between people and between the various components of your societies.

A better mutual knowledge is therefore necessary in order to foster ever greater respect for human dignity, the equality of rights and duties of people and renewed attention to the needs of each one, particularly those who are the poorest.

Moreover, I firmly hope that authentic religious freedom may be effective everywhere and that the right of each individual to practise his or her religion freely, or to change it, may not be hindered. This is a primordial right of every human being.

Dear Brothers, the support of Christian families who are facing numerous challenges such as religious relativism, materialism and all the threats to the social moral values of the family, must continue to be one of your priorities.

I ask you in particular to pursue your efforts to give a sound formation to young people and adults in order to help them strengthen their Christian identity and face courageously and serenely the situations they encounter, with respect for those who do not share their own convictions.

I know of your communities' commitment in the fields of education, health care and social assistance, appreciated by both the Authorities and populations of your Countries. In the conditions in which you live, by developing the values of solidarity, brotherhood and mutual love, you proclaim in your societies God's universal love, especially for the poorest of the poor and the least privileged.
Indeed, "a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 31c).

I also acknowledge the courageous commitment of priests and men and women religious to accompanying your communities in their daily life and witness. Human and spiritual support for them must be an essential concern of their Pastors, whom you are.

Lastly, I would like to express to you once again my closeness to all those in your region who suffer from many forms of violence. You may count on the solidarity of the universal Church.

In addition, I appeal to the wisdom of all people of good will, especially those who hold responsible positions in public life, so that by giving priority to dialogue between all parties, violence may cease, true and lasting peace may be built and relations of solidarity and collaboration may be established.

As I entrust each one of your Countries and your Communities to the maternal intercession of Mary, I implore God for the gift of peace for everyone.

I wholeheartedly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, as well as to the priests, men and women religious and all the faithful of your Dioceses.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 05/02/2008 12.28]
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