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22/12/2007 13.37
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At 11 a.m. in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received the Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia and the Governatorate of Vatican state for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings.

After a homage by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, the Pope delivered the following address, translated here:

Lord Cardinals,
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Already we breathe during this meeting the joy of Christmas which is a few days away. I am profoundly grateful to you for your participation in this traditional appointment, whose particular atmosphere has been well evoked by the Cardinal Dean, Angelo Sodano, who referred to the central theme of my recent encyclical on Christian hope.

I thank him from the heart for the warm expressions with which he conveyed the Christmas wishes of the College of Cardinals, the members of the Roman Curia and the Governatorate, as well as those of all Pontifical Representatives dispersed around the world.

Ours is truly, as you described it, dear Cardinal, a 'community of work' held together by fraternal love, which the Christmas festivities can only make firmer.

In this spirit, he has not forgotten to remind us of those who once belonged to our curial family and in the past 12 months, have passed beyond the threshold of time to enter the peace of God. On an occasion like this, it is good for the heart to feel close to those who were with us in the service of the Church, and who now, being near God's throne, are interceding for us.

Thank you then, dear Cardinal Dean, for your words, and thanks to you all for the contribution each one has made to the fulfillment of the mission which the Lord has entrusted to me.

Another year is about to end. As the first outstanding event of a year which has passed so quickly, I wish to mention the trip to Brazil. Its purpose was the meeting with the Fifth General Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, and in general, an encounter with the Church in the vast Latin American continent.

Before dwelling on the conference in Aparecida, I wish to speak of some culminating moments of the trip. Above all, I remember that solemn evening with the youth in the stadium of Sao Paulo. Notwithstanding the rigid temperature, we found ourselves united in great joy, in a vivid experience of communion and a clear will to be - in the spirit of Jesus Christ - servants of reconciliation, friends of the poor and the suffering, and messengers of the good whose splendor we have met in the Gospel.

There are mass manifestations which result only in self-affirmation, in which one lets himself be carried away by rhythm and sounds, ending up by deriving a selfish joy. That night, however, our spirits opened up. The profound communion that was spontaneously established among us, each one being with one another, also each one being for the other. It was not a flight from daily routine, because the event was transformed into the strength to accept life in a new way.

And so, I would like to thank from my heart all those young people who animated that night, for 'being-with' - with their singing, speaking, praying - which purified us all, and made us better, better even for others.

Also unforgettable was the day on which, together with a large number of bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful, I was able to preside at the canonization of Frei Galvao, a son of Brazil, proclaiming him a saint of the universal Church. Everywhere, we were greeted by his image, from which shone the goodness of heart which he found in the encounter with Christ and his relationship with the religious community.

About the definitive return of Christ, of parousia, it has been said that he will not be coming alone, but together with all his saints. So, every saint who enters history already constitutes a small part of that return of Christ, of his new entry into time, which is presented to us in a new way all the time and assures us of his presence.

Jesus Christ does not belong to the past nor is he confined to a remote future, the 'when' of which we do not even have the courage to ask. He will arrive with a great procession of saints. Together with them, he is already on his way to us, towards our present.

And I recall with special vividness the day at the Fazenda da Esperanca, in which persons who had fallen into the slavery of drugs, find freedom and hope again. Arriving there, the first thing I perceived in a new way was the healing power of God's creation. Green mountains surround the wide valley; they raise one's sight upwards and at the same time, give a sense of protection.

From the tabernacle of the chapel of the Carmelite nuns, there flows a spring of clear water that recalls the prophecy of Ezekiel about the water flowing forth from the Temple, which would detoxify the salty earth and allow the tree of life to grow.

We should defend Creation not only for our own good but for itself - as a message of the Creator, a gift of beauty that is both beauty and hope. Because man has need of transcendence.

God alone suffices, said Teresa of Avila. If he is absent, then man would seek to overcome by himself the limits of the world, to open to himself the unbounded space for which he was created. Then, drugs become a necessity for him. But he will soon discover that this is but an illusory de-confinement - a mockery, one might say, that the devil plays on man.

There, at the Fazenda da Esperanza, the limits of the world are truly overcome, one's sight is opened towards God, towards the amplitude of life, and thus comes healing. To all those who work there, I address my sincere thanks, and to all who seek healing there, my most heartfelt blessing.

Then, I remember the meeting with the Brazilian bishops at the cathedral of Sao Paulo. The solemn music which accompanied us was unforgettable. And making it even more beautiful was that it was executed by a choir and an orchestra from the poor youth of the city. They offered us the experience of beauty which is one of those gifts through which one can overcome the limits of daily routine in this world, and we can perceive greater realities which assure us of the beauty of God.

Then, the experience of "affective and effective collegiality" in the fraternal communion of the common ministry which has made as experience the joy of Catholicism - beyond all the geographical and cultural confines, we are all brothers, together with the risen Christ who has called us to his service.

Finally, Aparecida. In a specially particular way, the little statue of the Madonna moved me. Some poor fishermen who had been casting their nets repeatedly in vain, drew out this little figurine from the river, and afterwards, they found abundant fish.

She is the Madonna of the poor, who herself became poor and small. And through the faith and love of the poor, this great Sanctuary took shape around her figure, which - recalling always the poverty of God, the humility of the Mother - constitutes day after day a home and a refuge for those persons who pray and hope.

It was a good thing that we were gathered there to elaborate this document on the theme "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ - so that in Him they may have life".

Certainly, one could right away ask the question: Was this the right theme for this moment in our history? Was it not perhaps an excessive turn towards interiority at a moment when the great challenges of history, the urgent questions on justice, peace and freedom require the full commitment of all men of good will, particularly of Christianity and the Church? Should we not have faced these problems instead of retreating to the interior world of the faith?

Let us come back to this objection later. Before answering it, in fact, it is necessary to understand the conference theme itself in its true meaning. Once we have done this, the answer to the objection will delineate itself.

The key word of the theme is: to find life - true life. Thus, the theme supposes that this objective, on which perhaps everyone agrees, would be reached through discipleship to Christ and commitment to his word and his presence.

The Christians of Latin America, and with them, those of the whole world, are therefore invited to become better 'disciples of Jesus Christ' - we already are by virtue of Baptism, but that does not take away our duty to always actively make use of the gifts of that sacrament.

To be disciples of Christ - what does it mean? In the first place, it means to get to know him. How does this happen? By listening to how He speaks to us in the text of Sacred Scripture, how he addresses us and comes to us in the common prayers of the Church, in the Sacraments and in the testimony of the saints.

One can never know Christ only in theory. One can know everything about Sacred Scripture without ever having encountered him. An integral part of knowing him is to walk with him, enter into his feelings, as the letter to the Philippians says (2,5). Paul describes those sentiments briefly this way: to have the same love, to be of the same mind (sym-psychoi), doing nothing out of selfishness or vainglory, not looking at one's own interests only, but also for those of others (cfr 2,2-4).

Catechesis can never be only an intellectual teaching. It should always become, as well, a way of gaining experience in the communion of life with Christ, an exercise in humility, in justice and in love. Only this way do we walk with Jesus Christ along his way. Only this way are the eyes of our hearts opened. Only this way do we learn to understand Scripture and meet him.

Meeting Jesus means listening; it requires an answer in prayer and in practising what he says. In coming to know Christ, we come to know God, and only starting with God will we understand man and the world, a world which would otherwise remain a question without sense.

To become disciples of Christ is therefore a way of education towards our true being, towards the right way of being human. In the Old Testament, the fundamental attitude of the man who lives the Word of God was summarized in the term zadic - the just one. Whoever lives according to the Word of God becomes a just man - he practises and lives justice.

In Christianity, the attitude of the disciples of Christ was expressed with a different word - the faithful. Faith comprehends everything. This word means both being with Christ and being with his justice. In the faith, we receive the justice of Christ, we live it first-hand and we transmit it.

The final document at Aparecida concretizes all this, in speaking of the good news about the dignity of man, life, the family, science and technology, human labor, the universal destination of the goods of the earth, ecology - dimensions in which our justice is expressed, faith is lived, and answers are given to the challenges of our time.

The disciple of Jesus should also be a 'missionary', a messenger of the Gospel, the document tells us. Even here the objection is raised: Is it still licit to evangelize? Should not perhaps all the religions and concepts of the world coexist peacefully and seek to do their best for mankind, each in its own way?

Well, it is indisputable that we we should all live and cooperate in reciprocal tolerance and respect. The Catholic Church is committed to this with great energy, and with the two encounters in Assisi, has given evident signs of that commitment - signs which were once again evident at the encounter in Naples this year.

In this respect, I am happy to recall here the letter kindly sent last October 13 by 138 Muslim religious leaders to show their common commitment to the promotion of peace in the world. I answered them with joy, expressing my own adherence to such noble intentions and underscoring at the same time the urgency of a mutual commitment to guard and protect the values of reciprocal respect, dialog and collaboration.

The shared acknowledgment of the existence of one God, who is provident Crestor as well as Universal Judge of everyone's actions, constitutes the premise of a common action in defense of effective respect for the dignity of every human being so we may build a society that is more just and fraternal.

But does this desire for dialog and collaboration also mean that we can no longer transmit the message of Jesus Christ, that we can no longer propose to men and to the world the call and the hope which goes with it?

Whoever has come to know a great truth, whoever has found great joy, should transmit it, and cannot, in fact, keep it to himself. Gifts that are this great are never destined for just one person. In Jesus Christ, a great light emerged for us, the great Light: we cannot hide it under a bushel, but we should set it on a lampstand so that it may bring light to all in the house (cfr Mt 5,15).

St. Paul was tireless in travelling, bringing the Gospel with him. He felt himself under a sort of 'constraint' to announce the Gospel (cfr 1 Cor 9, 16) – not so much because of concern for the salvation of a single non-baptized person whom the Gospel had not yet reached, but because he was aware that history in its entirety could not arrive at its fulfillment until the Gospel had reached the totality (pieroma) of peoples (cfr Rm 11,25).

To reach that fulfillment, history needs the proclamation of the Good News to all the peoples, to all men (cfr Mk 13,10). Indeed, how important it is for humanity that forces of reconciliation, peace, love and justice should converge! How important it is that in the 'balance sheet' of mankind, in the face of sentiments and realities of violence and injustice which threaten it, opposing forces should be awakened and given new vigor!

That is precisely what happens in Christian mission. Through the encounter with Jesus Christ and his saints, through the encounter with God, the balance sheet of mankind will be credited with these forces of good without which all our plans for social order will not become reality, but rather - in the face of very powerful interests working against peace and justice - will only remain abstract theories.

And so we come back to the question posed at the start: Did the conference at Aparecida do right, if in its quest for the true life in this world, it gave priority to discipleship in Christ and to evangelization? Was it not a mistaken involution? No. Aparecida decided correctly, because it is precisely through a new encounter with Christ and his Gospel - and only thus - that we can raise the forces necessary to make us able to give the right answers to the challenges of our time.

At the end of June, I sent a letter to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and the faithful laymen of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China. With this letter, I intended to show my profound spiritual affection for all the Catholics in China as well as my cordial esteem for the Chinese people.

I recalled the perennial principles of Catholic tradition and of the Second Vatican Council on ecclesiology. In the light of the 'original design' that Christ had for his Church, I indicated some guidelines for confronting and resolving, in a spirit of communion and truth, the delicate and complex problems of the Church in China.

I also indicated the readiness of the Holy See for a calm and constructive dialog with the civil authorities in order to find solutions to the various problems that concern the Catholic community.

The Letter was received with joy and gratitude by the Catholics in China. And I express the hope that with God's help, it may produce the fruits we expect.

I can only, unfortunately, refer briefly to the other highlights of the year. They were all events that had the same purpose, to place in evidence the same orientations.

So it was with the wonderful visit to Austria. The Osservatore Romano, using a beautiful expression, characterized the rain which accompanied us during the trip, as 'the rain of faith'. The thunderstorms not only failed to diminish the joy in Christ that we experience when we look at his Mother but reinforced it. And that joy penetrated the curtain of clouds that hung over us.

Looking towards Christ with Mary, we found the light that shows the way through all the shadows of the world. I wish to thank from my heart the Austrian bishops, priests, religious and all the faithful who in those days joined me along the path to Christ, for this encouraging sign of faith that they gave.

The meeting with the Italian youth at the Agora of Loreto was likewise a great sign of joy and hope: If so many young people wanted to meet Mary, and with Mary, Christ, and allowed themselves to be infected by the joy of faith, then we can calmly walk towards the future.

In this sense, I addressed myself on various occasions to young people: in the visit to the Institute for Minors in Casal del Marmo, as in the addresses I gave during the audiences and in at the Sunday Angelus.

I have taken account of their expectations and their generous intentions, by relaunching initiatives for education and soliciting the commitment of the local churches for the vocational ministry. Obviously, I have not failed to denounce the manipulations to which youth today are exposed and the dangers these can become for the society of the future.

Very briefly, I referred to the meeting in Naples. Even there, we encountered much rain - rather unusual for the city of sun and light. But though surrounded by rain, the warm humanity and living faith of the people penetrated the clouds, and allowed us to experience the joy that comes from the Gospel.

Of course, we should not delude ourselves: the problems posed by the secularism of our time and the pressures of ideological presumptions - towards which secular consciousness tends with its exclusive claim to definitive rationality - are certainly not minor. We know that, and we recognize the effort of the struggle which has been imposed on us at this time.

But we also know that the Lord keeps his promise" "Behold, I will be with you all the days to the end of the world" (Mt 28,20).

In this happy certainty, taking the cue from the reflections at Aparecida that we may ourselves renew our being with Christ, let us trustingly face the new year. Let us walk under the maternal look of Our Lady Aparecida, of she who described herself as 'the handmaid of the Lord'. May her protection render us secure and full of hope.

With these words, I impart the Apostolic Blessing from my heart to all of you present here and to all who are part of the great family of the Roman Curia.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 29/12/2007 23.41]
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01/01/2008 20.11
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On the last day of 2007, the Holy Father presided at Vespers and other ceremonies at St. Peter's Basilica, during which he delivered the homily translated here. Vespers was followed by a Te Deum to give thanks for the past year, the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Pope's Eucharistic Benediction.

Dear brothers and sisters!

As this year closes, we are gathered again at the Vatican Basilica to celebrate the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, the Most Blessed Mother of God. The liturgy makes this significant Marian feast coincide with the end and beginning of the solar year.

To our contemplation of the mystery of the divine maternity, we also unite our song of gratitude for 2007 which is departing and for 2008 which we are about to greet.

Time passes, and its inexorable flow leads us to turn our look of intimate acknowledgment to Him who is eternal, to the Lord of time. Let us thank him together, dear brothers and sisters, in the name of the entire diocesan community of Rome.

I greet each of you - first of all, the Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the priests, consecrated persons and so many lay faithful who are gathered here today.

I great the Mayor and other authorities present and extend my thoughts to the entire population of Rome, and in a special way, to those who are in difficulty and trouble. I assure everyone of my heartfelt closeness, and constant remembrance in my prayers.

In the brief reading which we heard earlier, taken from the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul, speaking of the liberation of man worked by God through the mystery of the Incarnation, refers very discreetly to her through whom the Son of God entered the world: ":When the fullness of time came," he wrote, "God sent his son, born of a woman" (Gal 4,4).

In that 'woman', the Church sees the lineaments of Mary of Nazareth, a singular woman who she was chosen to realize a mission that placed her in the closest relationship to Christ - an absolutely unique relationship, because Mary is the Mother of the Savior.

But on the same evidence, we can and should affirm that she is our mother, too, because in living her most singular maternal relationship with her Son, she shared in the mission for us and for the salvation of all men.

In contemplating her, the Church sees itself: Mary lived in faith and charity; Mary is a creature who was saved herself by the only Savior; Mary collaborates in the initiative of salvation for all mankind. That is how Mary constitutes for the Church her own true image: she in whom the church community must continue discovering the authentic sense of its vocation and its own mystery.

This short but dense Pauline passage proceeds by showing how the fact that the Son had assumed human nature opens the perspective to a radical change in man's very condition. It says that "God sent his ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Gal 4,5).

The Word incarnate internally transforms human existence, making us take part in his being as the Son of God. He made himself like us so we may become like him: Children in the Son, therefore men released from the law of sin.

Is this not a fundamental reason for us to raise to God our gratitude? A gratitude which can only be even more motivated at the end of the year, considering the many benefits of his constant assistance that we experienced in the past twelve months.

That is why every Christian community tonight gathers to sing the Te Deum, traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity. This we will do ourselves, at the end of this our liturgical encounter, before the Blessed Sacrament.

Singing, we will pray: "Te ergo, quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti" – Help, we pray to you, your children, Lord, whom you have redeemed with your precious blood.

This is our prayer tonight: Help, Lord, with your mercy, the residents of our city, in whom, among other things, grave deficiencies and poverty weigh on the life of persons and families, preventing them from looking at the future with confidence; not a few, above all young people, are attracted by a false exaltation, or better, a profanation of the body, and the banalization of sexuality. How to even enumerate the multiple challenges linked to consumerism and secularism which face believers and men of goodwill?

In short, even in Rome, one notes that deficit of hope and trust in life which constitutes the 'hidden' evil of modern Western society.

But if the deficiencies are evident, there is no lack of bright points and causes for hope about which to ask for special divine blessing. Precisely in this perspective, in singing the Te Deum, we will pray: "Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae" - Save your [people, Lord, guard and protect, in particular, the diocesan community, committed with growing vigor on the frontiers of education, to respond to that great 'educational emergency' of which I spoke last July to the participants of the diocesan convention - the difficulty that one notes in transmitting to the new generations the base values for existence and of correct behavior (cfr L'Osservatore Romano, 13 June 2007, p. 4).

Without great noise, with patient trust, we are seeking to cope with such an emergency, especially where the family is concerned, and it is comforting to note that the work that has been undertaken in these past few years by the parishes, by movements and associations for family ministry continues to develop and to bear fruit.

Also protect, Lord, the missionary initiatives which involve the world of the youth: they are growing, and we are now seeing a very relevant number of young people assuming firsthand the responsibility and the joy of announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel.

In this context, how can we not thank God for the precious pastoral service offered to the world by the Roman universities? It is right that something analogous should happen, although with not a few difficulties, even in the schools.

Bless, Lord, the many young people and adults who in the last decades have consecrated themselves to the priesthood in the Diocese of Rome. Right now, 28 deacons are awaiting priestly ordination this April. This way, the median age of the clergy is getting younger, and it will be possible to face the expansion if pastoral needs as well as to help other dioceses.

The need is increasing, especially in the peripheries, for new parochial facilities, eight of which are under construction. I myself had the pleasure of consecrating the last one completed: the parish church of Santa Maria del Rosario at Martiri Portuensi. It is beautiful to experience firsthand the joy and the gratitude of the residents of a district when they enter their new church for the first time.

"In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum" – Lord, you are our hope, and we will not be confused in eternity. The majestic hymn of the Te Deum ends with this cry of faith, of total trust in God, with this solemn proclamation of our hope.

Christ is our 'reliable' hope, to which theme I dedicated the recent encyclical Spe salvi. But our hope is always essentially hope for others as well, and only thus is it truly hope for each of us (cfr No. 48).

Dear brothers and sisters of the Church of Rome, let us ask the Lord to make of each of us a true ferment of hope in various fields so that we may construct a better future for our city. This is my wish for everybody on the eve of a new year, a wish which I entrust to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Star of Hope. Amen!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 02/01/2008 07.23]
02/01/2008 00.57
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Utente Gold

Pope Benedict XVI opened the New Year by presiding at a concelebrated mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m. to mark the Solemnity of the Maternity of Mary as well ass the 41st World Day for Peace. Concelebrating were Cardinals Bertone and Martino; Mons. Fernando Filoni, deputy secretary of state; Mons. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for external relations; and Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary-general of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here is a translation of the Pope's homily:


Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we begin the new year, with Christian hope in hand. Let us begin by invoking divine blessing on this new year and imploring through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the gift of peace: for our families, for our cities, for the entire world.

With this wish, I greet all who are present here, starting with the distinguished ambassadors of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, who have gathered for this celebration on the occasion of World Day for Peace.

I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all the members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am particularly grateful to them for their commitment in spreading the message for the 2008 World Day for Peace which this year has the theme "The human family: A community of peace".

Peace. In the first Reading, taking from the book of Numbers, we heard the invocation: "May the Lord grant you peace" (6.26); may the Lord give peace to each of you, to your families, to the entire world.

We all aspire to live in peace, but true peace, that which was announced by the angels on Christmas night, is not simply a conquest by man or the fruit of political accords; it is above all a divine gift to be implored constantly, and at the same time, a commitment to be carried on with patience, always obedient to the commandments of the Lord.

This year, in the message for today's World Day for Peace, I wished to highlight the close relationship that exists between the family and the task of building peace in the world. The natural family, founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, is "the first and irreplaceable educator for peace". Precisely because of this, the family is 'the principal agent for peace' and "the denial or even the restriction of family rights, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace" (cfr Nos. 1-5).

Because mankind is a 'great family', if it wants to live in peace, it cannot not be inspired by those values on which the familial community is founded and by which it is regulated.

The providential coincidence of various occasions urges us this year to an even more deeply felt effort to realize peace in the world.

Sixty years ago, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations made public the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Forty years ago, my venerated predecessor Paul VI celebrated the first World Day for Peace. This year, we also remember the 15th anniversary of the adoption by the Holy See of the Charter of Family Rights.

"In the light of these significant occasions" - I return here to the conclusion of my Message for today - "I invite every man and woman today to be more lucidly aware of his common belonging to the only human family and to commit himself so that coexistence on earth may always mirror ever more this conviction on which depends the establishment of a true and lasting peace."

Our thoughts today go naturally to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who transferred to January 1 the Feast of the Maternity of Mary, which used to be celebrated on October 11.

Before the liturgical reform which followed Vatican-II, January 1 commemorated the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth - as a sign of submission to the law, his official enrolment among the Chosen People - and the following Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

We can see traces of these celebrations in the Gospel page which was just proclaimed, in which St. Luke says that eight days after he was born, the Baby was circumcised and given the name Jesus, "as he was called by the angel before being conceived in the womb of his mother" (Lk 2,21).

But the feast today, besides being a very important Marian feast, still contains something strongly Christologic, because, we might say, even before the Mother, it concerns the Son himself, Jesus who is true God and true man.

Paul refers to the mystery of Mary's divine maternity, the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. "When the fullness of time came," he wrote, "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (6,4). In those few words, we find synthesized the mystery of the Incarnation of the eternal Word and the divine maternity of Mary. The great privilege of the Virgin was precisely to be the Mother of the Son who is God.

And so this Marian feast finds its most correct and most logical placement eight days after the Nativity. In fact, on that night in Bethlehem, "when she gave birth to her firstborn son" (Lk 2,7), the prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled. "A Virgin shall conceive and bear a child", as Isaiah had pre-announced (7,14). "Behold, you will conceive and bear a child", the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1,31). And once again, it was an Angel of the Lord, according to the evangelist Matthew - who, 'appearing in a dream to Joseph, reassured him, saying: "Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son..." (Mt 1, 20-21).

The title of Mother of God is the foundation for all the other titles with which Our Lady has been venerated and continues to be invoked by generation after generation, in the East and in the West.

References to the mystery of her divine maternity are found in many hymns and so many prayers of the Christian tradition, like a Marian antiphon during the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris Nater, with which we pray: "Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius" – You, among the wonders of all Creation, have generated your Creator, ever virgin Mother."

Dear brothers and sisters, today we contemplate Mary, ever Virgin Mother of the Father's Only-begotten Son. Let us learn from her to welcome the Baby who was born for us in Bethlehem.

If in the Son born of her, we can recognize the eternal Son of God and welcome him as our only Savior, we can be truly said to be - and are - children of God: children in the Son. The Apostle wrote: "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Gal 4,4).

The evangelist Luke repeats many times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We heard that, even in the brief Gospel passage that the liturgy offers us today: "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" )Lk 2,19).

The Greek verb used - sumbállousa - literally means 'to put together' and makes us a think of a great mystery to be uncovered little by little. The Baby who cries in the manger, although apparently like all other babies in the world, is also at the same time completely different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man.

This mystery - the Incarnation of the Word and Mary's divine maternity - is great and certainly not easy to understand with human intelligence alone.

In Mary's school, we can catch with the heart what the eyes and the mind cannot succeed to perceive nor contain. It is about a gift so great that it is given to us to accept only on faith without understanding it all.

It is precisely in this path of faith that Mary comes to meet us, to be our guide and our support. She is a mother because she generated Jesus in her flesh. She is so, because she adhered totally to the will of the Father.

St. Augustine wrote: "Her own divine maternity would have been of no value to her if she had not borne Christ in her heart, with a destiny more fortunate than when she bore him in the flesh" (De sancta Virginitate, 3,3).

And in her heart, Mary continued to 'keep', to 'put together', all the successive events of which she would be witness as well as protagonist, until the death on the Cross and the resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, only by keeping in the heart - that is, keeping together and finding a unity in all that we live through - can we enter, following Mary, into the mystery of a God who became man out of love for us and calls us to follow him on the road of love - a love to be translated every day into generous service to our brothers.

May the New Year, which we trustingly begin today, be a time during which we can advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of the saints.

Let us pray so that, as we heard in the first Reading today, the Lord 'may make his face shine' on us, 'be gracious' to us (cfr Nm 6,24-7) and bless us. We can be sure of this: if we do not tire of looking for his face, if we don't yield to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if - despite all the difficulties which we encounter - we remain always anchored to him, then we will experience the power of his love and his mercy.

May the fragile Baby whom the Virgin presented to the world today make us workers for peace, witnesses to him the Prince of Peace. Amen.

05/01/2008 11.43
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At 11 a.m. today, the Holy Father visited the Casa 'Dono di Maria' of the Missionaries of Charity at the Vatican. He was welcomed by the novices with an Indian dance, and by the Regional Superior Sister Maria Pia; the outgoing Mother Superior, Sr. Mark; and the new superior, Sr. Agnes-Marie.

The Pope proceeded to the women's dining hall, where, after welcome words by Sr. Mark. he gave the following address, translated here:

Dear friends,

I have come to visit you at the start of the new year while we still breathe the familiar atmosphere of Christmas, and I take this occasion to express to all my most fervent and heartfelt wishes.

I greet everyone present with affection, including those who are able to follow us by television linkage and are thus united with us in this house called "Gift of Mary'.

For so many years, when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was able to spend several hours on many occasions at your praiseworthy institution which was realized by my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, and entrusted by him to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

I was therefore able to appreciate the generous service of evangelical charity which the Missionaries of Charity have rendered for almost 20 years now with the aid and collaboration of so many people of goodwill.

Today, I am here among you to renew my gratitude to the sisters, the volunteers and their various co-workers.

I am here above all to show my spiritual closeness to you, dear friends, who find in this home a loving welcome, listening ears, understanding, and daily sustenance, material as well as spiritual. I am here to tell you that the Pope loves you and feels close to you.

I thank the Superior of the Missionaries of Charity who is ending her service here and who expressed kind words towards me in your behalf . And I greet the new Superior who is taking on responsibility for this home with that obedient willingness which is typical of the spiritual children of Mother Teresa.

When this house was born, the Blessed Teresa wanted it called 'Gift of Mary' almost as a wish that here, the love of the Blessed Virgin may always be felt. For anyone who knocks at your door, it is, in fact, a gift of Mary, to feel the welcome from the loving arms of the sisters and volunteers.

Also a gift of Mary is the presence of persons who stay and listen to those who are in difficulty and serve them with the same attitude that led the Mother of the Lord to hurry promptly to St. Elizabeth.

May this style of evangelical love seal and distinguish your vocation always, so that besides material aid, you may also communicate to those whom you encounter daily the same passion for Christ and that luminous 'smile of God' that inspired the existence of Mother Teresa.

She liked to say that it is Christmas everytime we allow Jesus to love others through us. Christmas is the mystery of love, the mystery of his love. The Christmas season, which presents the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem for our contemplation, shows us the infinite goodness of God who, by making himself a Baby, comes to respond to the need and loneliness of men. He did not hesitate to carry with us the burden of existence, with its difficulties and concerns.

He was born for us, to offer - to whoever opens the door of his heart - the gift of his joy, his peace, his love. Born in a cave because there was no room for him anywhere else, Jesus knew the discomforts that many of you have experienced.

Christmas helps us to understand that God never abandons us and always comes to us, protects us and cares about each of us, because every person, especially the least and the most helpless, is precious to the eyes of a Father rich with kindness and mercy. For us and for our salvation, he sent to the world His son whom we contemplate in the mystery of Christmas as Emmanuel, God-with-us.

With these thoughts, I renew to all my most fervent wishes for the new year that has just begun, assuring you of daily remembrance in my prayers.

As I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of Christ and ours, I grant my blessing to all with affection.

After visiting the sick at the House, the Pope went to the adjacent Church of San Salvatore in Ossibus, to meet with the entire community of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome, led by Fr. Robert Conroy, their Superior General, and Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, Superior-General of the contemplative brothers of the order, along with their lay co-workers.

Sr. Maria Pia, regional superior, read a greeting from Sister Nirmala, who succeeded Mother Teresa at the head of the order, after which the Pope gave this address:

Dear brothers and dear sisters,

I greet you with affection and I thank you for your warm welcome. I ask you to extend to Sr. Nirmala my most heartfelt greeting, assuring her and the Congregation of my prayers.

I am glad to meet the Superiors General of both branches of the family founded by the Blessed Teresa - the Missionaries of Charity and the Contemplative Brothers.

I also greet your lay co-workers and others invited here today, extending my appreciation to those who lend your services here so that every person who comes here may feel at home.

Together, you form a chain of Christian charity without which this House, like any other volunteer mission, could not exist and continue to alleviate so many forms of discomfort and need. Thus, my acknowledgment and encouragement go to each of you, because I know that whatever you do here for every brother and sister, you are doing for Christ himself.

The visit which I wished to make today links to those numerous visits made by my beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. He wanted very much the presence of this House of welcome for the poorest, here at the center of the Church itself, next to Peter who served, followed and loved Jesus, our Lord.

Our meeting today comes almost 20 years after the construction and inauguration of this house within the Leonine walls. John Paul II inaugurated the "gift of Mary' House on May 21, 1988. Since then, how many gestures of sharing and concrete charity have been performed within these walls! They are a sign and an example for Christian communities so that they may always be welcoming and open.

The beautiful name of this House, "Gift of Mary', invites us at the start of the new year, to tirelessly make a gift of our life. May the Virgin Mary, who offered all of herself to the Almighty and was filled with every grace and blessing with the coming of the Son of God, teach us to make of our existence a daily offering to God the Father, in the service of our brothers and in listening to his word and his will.

Like the Holy Magi who came from afar to adore the Messiah-King, go forth yourselves, dear brothers and sisters, through the roads of the world, following the example of Mother Teresa, always testifying with joy to the love of Jesus, specially towards the least and the poorest, and from heaven, may your blessed founder accompany and protect you.

To you who are present here, to the guests of the House and all those who work with you, I renew my Apostolic Blessing from the heart.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 23/05/2013 17.01]
06/01/2008 15.50
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The Holy Father presided at Mass today at St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Here is a translation of his homily.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we celebrate Christ, Light of the world, and his manifestation to the peoples of the world.

On the day of the Nativity, the liturgy said: "Hodie descendit lux magna super terram" – Today, a great light descends on the earth (Roman Missal). In Bethlehem, this 'great light' appeared to a small nucleus of persons, a minuscule representation of Israel: the Virgin Mary, her husband Joseph, and some shepherds.

A humble light, in the manner of the true God; a flame lit in the night: a fragile newborn child, who wailed in the silence of the world... But that hidden and unknown birth was accompanied by a hymn of praise from the celestial ranks who sang glory and peace (cfr Lk 2,13-14).

And so that light, appearing so modestly on earth, projected powerfully into the heavens. The birth of the King of the Jews was announced by the rising of a star that was visible from afar.

This was the testimony of 'some Magi', who arrived from the East in Jerusalem shortly after the birth of Jesus, in the time of King Herod (cfr Mt 2,1-2). Once more, heaven and earth, the cosmos and history, had called and responded to each other.

The ancient prophecies found a correspondence in the language of the stars. "A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel" (Num 24,17), the pagan seer Balaam had announced, when he was called to curse the people of Israel; but he blessed them instead because - God had revealed it to him - 'that people is blessed' (Num 22,12).

Cromatius of Aquileia, in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, placed Balaam in relation to the Magi, and wrote: "He (Balaam)prophesied that Christ would come; the latter saw him with the eyes of faith." And he adds an important observation: "The star was seen by everyone, but not everyone understood its meaning. Likewise, our Lord and Savior is born for everyone, but not everyone welcomes him" (ivi, 4,1-2).

Here we see the significance, in the historical perspective, of the symbol of light applied to the birth of Christ. It expresses the special blessing of God on the descendants of Abraham, a blessing destined to extend to all the peoples of the earth.

The Gospel event which we commemorate with the Epiphany - the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem - thus refers us back to the history of the People of God, to Abraham's call from God in Chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis.

The first 11 chapters are like great frescoes that respond to some of mankind's fundamental questions: What is the origin of the universe and the human species? Where does evil come from? Why are there different languages and civilizations?

In the initial accounts of the Bible, there is a first 'alliance', established by God with Noah after the flood. It is a universal alliance which concerns all of mankind. The pact with the family of Noah was also a pact with 'all flesh'.

Then, before the call to Abraham, there is another great fresco that is very important in order to understand the meaning of the Epiphany: that of the Tower of Babel. The sacred text says that in the beginning, "all the earth had one language and the same words" (Gn 11,1). Then, some men said to each other, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth" (Gen 11,4). This is what Babel meant, and it was a kind of curse, similar to Adam and Eve being chased out of the earthly Paradise.

The story of benediction begins with the call to Abraham. God's grand design to make mankind one family begins with an alliance with a new people, chosen by him so that it would be a blessing among all the peoples of the world (cfr Gen 12,1-3).

The divine plan is still being carried out but it had its culmination in the mystery of Christ. From then on, the 'last times' began, in the sense that God's design had been fully revealed and realized in Christ, but must be heard throughout human history, which is always, for God, a story of loyalty, but unfortunately, too, a story of unfaithfulness on the part of men.

The Church itself, repository of God's blessing, is holy, even if it is made up of sinners who are marked by the tension between 'what is already' and 'what is not yet'.

In the fullness of time, Jesus came to bring the alliance to fulfillment: He himself, true God and true man, is the Sacrament of God's faithfulness to his design of salvation for all humanity, for us all.

The arrival of the Magi from the East in Bethlehem, to adore the newborn Messiah, is the sign of the universal King's manifestation to all peoples and to all men who seek the truth. It was the start of a movement opposed to that of Babel: from confusion to understanding, from dispersion to reconciliation.

Thus we see a link between Epiphany and Pentecost. If the Nativity of Christ, who is the Head, is also the birth of the Church, his mystical body, then we see the Magi as the peoples who join the rest of Israel, pre-announcing the great sign of the 'polyglot Church' activated by the Holy spirit 50 days after the Resurrection.

God's faithful and tenacious love never falls short of his pact, from generation to generation. This is the 'mystery' which St. Paul speaks of in his Letters, as in the verse from the Letter to the Ephesians read today. The Apostle affirms that such a mystery "was made known to me by revelation" (Eph 3,2) and that he was charged with making it known.

This 'mystery' of God's loyalty constitutes the hope of history. Certainly, it is opposed by divisions and conquests that tear mankind apart because of sin and selfishness. In history, the Church is at the service of this 'mystery' of benediction for all mankind. In this mystery of God's loyalty, the Church fully absolves its mission only when it reflects the light of Christ the Lord and is therefore helpful to the peoples of the world on the way to peace and authentic progress.

Indeed, the word of God revealed through the prophet Isaiah remains valid always: "...darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; But upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory" (Is 60,2). What the prophet announced to Jerusalem is fulfilled in the Church of Christ: "Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance" (Is 60,3).

With Jesus Christ, the blessing on Abraham was extended to all the peoples, to the universal church as the new Israel who welcomes into her bosom all of mankind. Even today, in many ways, the words of the prophet ring true: "thick clouds cover the nations' and our history.

In fact, we cannot say that globalization is synonymous to global order - it is everything but that. The conflicts for economic supremacy and the monopoly of energy, water and raw material resources
make the work difficult for those who are trying to build a just and fraternal world.

The world needs a greater hope, which allows us to choose the common good over the luxury of a few and the poverty of the many.

"This great hope can only be God... not any god, but the God who has a human face" (Spe salvi, n,31): the God who showed himself in the Baby of Bethlehem and in he who was crucified and resurrected.

If there is a great hope, then one can persevere in moderation. If true hope is absent, then happiness is sought in intoxication, in the superfluous, in excesses - and one ruins oneself and the world.

Moderation is therefore not just an ascetic rule but also a way of salvation for mankind. It has become evident that only by adapting a moderate lifestyle, accompanied by a serious commitment to an equitable distribution of resources, will it be possible to install an order of development which is just and sustainable.

This requires men nourished by great hope and thus possessed of much courage. The courage of the Magi, who undertook a long journey following a star, and who knew to kneel before a Baby and offer him their precious gifts. We all need this courage, anchored in firm hope.

May Mary obtain it for us in accompanying us on our earthly pilgrimage with her maternal protection. Amen.

07/01/2008 12.28
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The Vatican has provided the English translation of the Holy Father's traditional New Year address to the diplomatic corps today at the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace. The speech was delivered in French.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I extend cordial greetings to your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, and I thank him for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. To each of you I offer respectful greetings, particularly to those who are present at this meeting for the first time.

Through you, I express my fervent prayers for the peoples and governments that you represent with such dignity and competence. Your community suffered a bereavement some weeks ago: the Ambassador of France, Monsieur Bernard Kessedjian, ended his earthly pilgrimage; may the Lord welcome him into his peace!

My thoughts today go especially to the nations that have yet to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See: they too have a place in the Pope’s heart. The Church is profoundly convinced that humanity is a family, as I wanted to emphasize in this year’s World Day of Peace Message.

2. It was in a family spirit that diplomatic relations were established last year with the United Arab Emirates. In the same spirit, I was also able to visit certain countries that I hold dear.

The enthusiastic welcome that I received from the Brazilians continues to warm my heart! In that country, I had the joy of meeting the representatives of the great family of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered at Aparecida for the Fifth General Conference of CELAM.

In the economic and social sphere, I was able to note eloquent signs of hope for that continent, as well as certain reasons for concern. We all look forward to seeing increasing cooperation among the peoples of Latin America, and, within each of the countries that make up that continent, the resolution of internal conflicts, leading to a consensus on the great values inspired by the Gospel.

I wish to mention Cuba, which is preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the visit of my venerable Predecessor. Pope John Paul II was received with affection by the authorities and by the people, and he encouraged all Cubans to work together for a better future. I should like to reiterate this message of hope, which has lost none of its relevance.

3. My thoughts and prayers are directed especially towards the peoples affected by appalling natural disasters. I am thinking of the hurricanes and floods which have devastated certain regions of Mexico and Central America, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, especially Bangladesh, and parts of Oceania; mention must also be made of the great fires.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, who went to Peru at the end of August, brought me a first-hand account of the destruction and havoc caused by the terrible earthquake, but he spoke also of the courage and faith of the peoples affected.

In the face of tragic events of this kind, a strong joint effort is needed. As I wrote in my Encyclical on hope, "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society" (Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 38).

4. The international community continues to be deeply concerned about the Middle East. I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favour of a global approach respectful of the rights and legitimate interests of all the peoples of the region.

I appeal once more to the Israelis and the Palestinians to concentrate their energies on the implementation of commitments made on that occasion, and to expedite the process that has happily been restarted. Moreover, I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears.

Who can remain unmoved by the plight of Lebanon, amid its trials and all the violence that continues to shake that beloved country? It is my earnest wish that the Lebanese people will be able to decide freely on their future and I ask the Lord to enlighten them, beginning with the leaders of public life, so that, putting aside particular interests, they will be ready to pledge themselves to the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Only in this way will the country be able to progress in stability and to become once more an example of the peaceful coexistence of different communities.

In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed! At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern; it is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities.

Important humanitarian aid is necessary for the peoples affected by the war; I am thinking especially of displaced persons within the country and refugees who have fled abroad, among whom there are many Christians.

I invite the international community to be generous towards them and towards their host countries, whose capacities to absorb them have been sorely tested.

I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family.

5. Turning our gaze now towards the whole of Asia, I should like to draw your attention to some other crisis situations, first of all to Pakistan, which has suffered from serious violence in recent months. I hope that all political and social forces will commit themselves to building a peaceful society, respectful of the rights of all.

In Afghanistan, in addition to violence, there are other serious social problems, such as the production of drugs; greater support should be given to efforts for development, and even more intensive work is required in order to build a serene future.

In Sri Lanka it is no longer possible to postpone further the decisive efforts needed to remedy the immense sufferings caused by the continuing conflict.

And I ask the Lord to grant that in Myanmar, with the support of the international community, a season of dialogue between the Government and the opposition will begin, ensuring true respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

6. Turning now to Africa, I should like first of all to reiterate my deep anguish, on observing that hope seems almost vanquished by the menacing sequence of hunger and death that is unfolding in Darfur. With all my heart I pray that the joint operation of the United Nations and the African Union, whose mission has just begun, will bring aid and comfort to the suffering populations.

The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo is encountering strong resistance in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, especially in the Eastern regions, while Somalia, particularly Mogadishu, continues to be afflicted by violence and poverty. I appeal to the parties in conflict to cease their military operations, to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and to respect civilians.

In recent days Kenya has experienced an abrupt outbreak of violence. I join the Bishops in their appeal made on 2 January, inviting all the inhabitants, especially political leaders, to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue, based on justice and fraternity.

The Catholic Church is not indifferent to the cries of pain that rise up from these regions. She makes her own the pleas for help made by refugees and displaced persons, and she pledges herself to foster reconciliation, justice and peace.

This year, Ethiopia is marking the start of the third Christian millennium, and I am sure that the celebrations organized for this occasion will also help to recall the immense social and apostolic work carried out by Christians in Africa.

7. And finally, focussing upon Europe, I rejoice at the progress that has been made in various countries of the Balkan region, and I express once again the hope that the definitive status of Kosovo will take account of the legitimate claims of the parties involved and will guarantee security and respect for the rights of all the inhabitants of this land, so that the spectre of violence will be definitively removed and European stability strengthened.

I should like also to mention Cyprus, recalling with joy the visit of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II last June. It is my earnest wish that, in the context of the European Union, no effort will be spared in the search for a solution to a crisis that has already lasted too long.

Last September, I made a visit to Austria, partly in order to underline the essential contribution that the Catholic Church is able and willing to give to European unification.

On the subject of Europe, I would like to assure you that I am following attentively the new phase which began with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. This step gives a boost to the process of building the "European home", which "will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions" (Meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Vienna, 7 September 2007) and if it does not deny its Christian roots.

8. From this rapid overview it appears clearly that the security and stability of the world are still fragile. The factors of concern are varied, yet they all bear witness to the fact that human freedom is not absolute, but is a good that is shared, one for which all must assume responsibility. It follows that law and order are guarantees of freedom.

Yet law can be an effective force for peace only if its foundations remain solidly anchored in natural law, given by the Creator. This is another reason why God can never be excluded from the horizon of man or of history. God’s name is a name of justice, it represents an urgent appeal for peace.

9. This realization could help, among other things, to give direction to initiatives for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. These ever increasing initiatives can foster cooperation on matters of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the search for the common good, peace-building and development.

In this regard, the Holy See attaches particular importance to its participation in high-level dialogue on understanding among religions and cultures and cooperation for peace, within the framework of the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations (4-5 October 2007).

In order to be true, this dialogue must be clear, avoiding relativism and syncretism, while at the same time it must be marked by sincere respect for others and by a spirit of reconciliation and fraternity. The Catholic Church is deeply committed to this goal.

It is a pleasure for me to recall once again the letter that was addressed to me, on 13 October last, by 138 Muslim Religious Leaders, and to renew my gratitude for the noble sentiments which were expressed in it.

10. Our society has rightly enshrined the greatness and dignity of the human person in various declarations of rights, formulated in the wake of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted exactly sixty years ago. That solemn act, in the words of Pope Paul VI, was one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations.

In every continent the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed but put into practice. It is to be hoped that agencies created for the defence and promotion of human rights will devote all their energies to this task and, in particular, that the Human Rights Council will be able to meet the expectations generated by its creation.

11. The Holy See for its part never tires of reaffirming these principles and rights, founded on what is essential and permanent in the human person. The Church willingly undertakes this service to the true dignity of human persons, created in the image of God. And on the basis of these considerations, I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life.

I would like to recall, together with many men and women dedicated to research and science, that the new frontiers reached in bioethics do not require us to choose between science and morality: rather, they oblige us to a moral use of science.

On the other hand, recalling the appeal made by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Jubilee Year 2000, I rejoice that on 18 December last the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and I earnestly hope that this initiative will lead to public debate on the sacred character of human life.

I regret, once again, the disturbing threats to the integrity of the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Political leaders, of whatever kind, should defend this fundamental institution, the basic cell of society. What more should be said?

Even religious freedom, "an essential requirement of the dignity of every person [and] a cornerstone of the structure of human rights" (Message for the 1988 World Day of Peace, Preamble) is often undermined. There are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised. The Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.

12. Peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change.

Only in this way can we build the future of humanity; only in this way can we facilitate an integral development valid for today and tomorrow. With a particularly felicitous expression, Pope Paul VI stressed forty years ago in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, that "development is the new name for peace".

Hence, in order to consolidate peace, the positive macroeconomic results achieved by many developing countries during 2007 must be supported by effective social policies and by the implementation of aid commitments by rich countries.

13. Finally, I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective.

I welcome the agreement reached on the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and I encourage the adoption of suitable measures for the reduction of conventional weapons and for dealing with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

14. Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope. It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope.

The celebration of Christmas reminds us each year that, when God became a little child, Hope came to live in our world, in the heart of the human family. Today this certainty becomes a prayer: May God open the hearts of those who govern the family of peoples to the Hope that never disappoints!

With these sentiments, I offer to each one of you my very best wishes, so that you, your staff, and the peoples you represent may be enlightened by the Grace and Peace which come to us from the Child of Bethlehem.

09/01/2008 03.45
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The Vatican today released the statement made by Mons. Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See at UN headquarters in Geneva, on December 10, at the sixth session of the Council for Human Rights marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The speech was given in English.

Mr. President,

First of all, the Delegation of the Holy See congratulates you and the High Commissioner of Human Rights and her Office on the important initiative to organize appropriate celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

On December 10th 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, the United Nations General Assembly took an historical decision and adopted the UDHR.

The Universal Declaration remains the single most important reference point for cross-cultural discussion of human freedom and dignity in the world and represents the customary-law base for any discussion about Human Rights.

The rights presented in the UDHR are not conferred by States or other institutions but they are acknowledged as inherent to every person, independent of, and in many ways the result of all ethical, social, cultural and religious traditions.

Human dignity goes beyond any difference and it unites all humans in one family; as such, it requires all political and social institutions to promote the integral development of any person, as an individual and in his or her relation with the community.

Human dignity concerns democracy and sovereignty, but goes at the same time beyond them. It calls upon all actors, both governmental and non-governmental, both faith and other communities, state and non-state actors to work for freedom, equality, social justice for all human beings, while respecting the world’s cultural and religious mosaic.

The very fact that we share a common human dignity provides the indispensable base that sustains the inter-relatedness and indivisibility of human rights, social, civil and political, cultural and economic.

The integral development of the person finds its full and complete realisation in community life which, in turn, finds the root of its existence in the fundamental rights and the dignity with which each person is endowed.

The rights, recognized in the UDHR, are not subject to historical ups and downs or convenient interpretations, but find their balance and reference in the centrality of human dignity.

In this context, the important debate on the relation between freedom of speech and expression, on the one hand, and respect for religion and religious symbols on the other, finds a solution in human dignity.

I can only increase my own dignity, that is to enjoy human rights to the full, when I respect the dignity of others. Freedom of religion for all, and education to implement such freedom, become the main road for respect of all beliefs and convictions.

In fact, human dignity is the basis for the implementation of all human rights and, at the same time, the point of reference to identify national interests, thus avoiding the "double danger" of extreme individualism and of collectivism.

It is also normative in the adoption of measures in any field where the human person expresses himself, in work and economy, science and security, health and similar areas.

The Universal Declaration recognizes that the respect of all human rights is the source of peace. The concept of peace, as expressed in article 28, affirms that "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized".

Peace is not only conceived as an absence of violence but includes also cooperation and solidarity, at the local and international levels, as a necessary way in order to promote and to defend the common good of all people.

Sixty years after the Declaration many members of the human family are still far from the enjoyment of their rights and basic needs. Human security is still not ensured.

The occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration, launched today, can show that every person, as an individual or as a member of a community, has the right and the responsibility to defend and implement all human rights. An African aphorism puts it like this: "To be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others, and on that basis, to establish humane relations with any person".

Thank you, Mr. President.
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at the Sistine Chapel today, at a Mass during which he also administered Baptism to 13 babies.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today's celebration always gives me special joy. To administer the sacrament of Baptism, on the day of the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, is indeed one of the most expressive moments of our faith, in which we can almost see, through the signs of the liturgy, the mystery of life.

In the first place, human life, represented here in particular by 13 babies who are the fruit of your love, dear parents, to whom I address my heartfelt greeting, extending it to the godparents and other relatives and friends present.

Then there is the mystery of divine life, which today, God gives to these babies in their rebirth through water and the Holy Spirit. God is life, as some of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel wondrously represent.

But it will not be out of place if we set side by side with the experience of life its opposite, namely, the reality of death. Everything which begins on earth ends sooner or later, like grass in the field which shoots up in the morning and withers at night.

But in Baptism, the tiny human being receives new life, the life of grace, which makes it capable of entering into a personal relationship with the Creator, for always, for eternity.

Unfortunately, man is also capable of extinguishing this new life by sinning, reducing himself to a situation which Sacred Scripture calls a 'second death'.

While in other creatures who are not meant for eternity, death only means the end of their earthly existence, sin creates in us an abyss which risks swallowing us for always if our Father who is in heaven does not hold out a hand to us.

And this, dear brothers and sisters, is the mystery of Baptism. God wants to save us, having gone himself to that abyss of death, so that every man - even he who has fallen so low as to lose sight of heaven altogether - may find the hand of God to grasp ,and come out of the darkness to see the light for which he was made.

We all feel and perceive interiorly that our existence is a desire for life that calls for fullness and for salvation. This fullness of life is given to us through Baptism.

We just heard the narration of Jesus's Baptism in the Jordan. It was a Baptism different from that which these babies are about to receive but not without a profound relationship with it.

Basically, all the mystery of Christ in the world could be summarized in the word 'baptism', which in Greek means 'immersion'. The Son of God, who from eternity shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was 'immersed' in our reality as sinners to make us participants in his own life. He was incarnated, born like us, grew up like us to be an adult, and then manifested his mission starting with his 'baptism of conversion' by John the Baptist.

His first public act, as we just heard, was to go down to the Jordan, mixing with penitent sinners, to receive that baptism. John naturally did not want to, but Jesus insisted, because it was the will of the Father (cfr Mt 3,13-15).

Why then did the Father want this? Why did he send his only Son to the world like a Lamb to take on himself the sins of the world (cfr Jn 1,29)? The evangelist narrates that when Jesus emerges from the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, while the voice of the Father in heaven proclaimed him 'my beloved son' (Mt 3,17).

From that moment, therefore, Jesus was revealed as he who came to baptize mankind in the Holy Spirit; he came to bring men life in abundance (cfr Jn 10,10), eternal life, which resurrects the human being and heals him entirely, body and spirit, restoring him to the original plan for which he was created.

The purpose of Christ's existence on earth was precisely to give mankind the life of God, his Spirit of love, so that every man may draw from this inexhaustible spring of salvation.

That is why St. Paul would write to the Romans that we are baptized in the death of Christ to have life in his Resurrection (cfr Rm 6,3-4). That is why Christian parents like you bring their children as soon as they can to the baptismal font, knowing that the life which they have transmitted to them calls for the fullness and salvation that only God can give. In this way, parents become co-workers with God in transmitting to their children not just physical life but also spiritual life.

Dear parents, together with you, I thank the Lord for the gift of these children and I call on his assistance so he may help you to educate them and place them within the spiritual Body of the church.

As you offer them what they need for growth and for health, you, with the aid of the godparents, are also committed to develop in them faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues which belong to the new life given them by the sacrament of Baptism.

Assure them of these virtues by your presence, your affection. Assure it, first of all and above all ,with prayer, presenting them to God daily, entrusting them to him at every stage of their life.

In order to grow healthy and strong, these babies will, of course, need material care and much attention, but what they will need most, indispensably, is to know, love and serve God faithfully in order to have eternal life. Dear parents, be for them the first witnesses to authentic faith in God.

The sacrament of Baptism has an eloquent ritual which expresses precisely this transmission of the faith. It is the offering, for each of the baptized, of a candle lit from the Easter candle. It is the light of the resurrected Christ which you are committed to transmit to your children.

Thus, from generation to generation, we Christians pass on the light of Christ so that when he returns, he may find us with this flame burning in our hands.

In the course of the ritual, I will tell you: "To you, parents and godparents, is entrusted this Paschal sign, a flame that you must feed". Feed it always, dear brothers and sisters. Feed the flame of faith by listening to the Word of God and meditating on it, and by assiduous communion with Jesus in the Eucharist.

May you be helped in this wonderful but not easy mission by the holy protectors from whom these thirteen children take their names. May these saints help, above all, the baptized children themselves to respond to your attention as Christian parents.

Above all, may the Virgin Mary accompany them and you, dear parents, now and for always. Amen.

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Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Fahter's message to participants in the sixth meeting of the 11th Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The next General Ordinary Assembly of the synod is scheduled for Oct. 5-26 in the Vatican and will focus on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Dear and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am pleased to welcome you while you are participating at the meeting of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the General Ordinary Assembly, convoked for this coming 5-26 October.

I greet and thank Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General, for his kind words; and I extend my grateful sentiments to all members of both the General Secretariat of the Synod and the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat. I greet all and each of you with sincere affection.

In the recent Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi on Christian hope, I wished to underline the "social character of hope" (n. 14).

"Being in communion with Jesus Christ", I wrote, "draws us into his "being for all'; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become truly possible to be there for others", since there exists a "connection between the love of God and responsibility for others" (ibid., n. 28) that enables one to avoid falling into the individualism of salvation and hope.

I believe that one can discover this fruitful principle effectively applied in the synodal experience, where the encounter becomes communion and solicitude for all the Churches (cf. II Cor 11: 28) emerges in the concern for all.

The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will reflect on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church".

Among the Ecclesial Community's many and great duties in today's world, I emphasize evangelization and ecumenism. They are centred on the Word of God and at the same time are justified and sustained by it.

As the Church's missionary activity with its evangelizing work is inspired and aims at the merciful revelation of the Lord, ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on words of human wisdom (cf. I Cor 2: 13) or on neat, expedient strategies, but must be animated solely by constant reference to the original Word that God consigned to his Church so that it be read, interpreted and lived in communion with her.

In this area, St Paul's doctrine reveals a very special power, obviously founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience, which confirmed anew the awareness that not wisdom and human eloquence, but only the power of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in the faith (cf. I Cor 1: 22-24; 2: 4ff.).

By a happy coincidence, St Paul will be particularly venerated this year, thanks to the celebration of the Pauline Year. The next Synod taking place on the Word of God will therefore offer to the Church's contemplation, and principally to her Pastors' contemplation, the witness also of this great Apostle and herald of God's Word.

To the Lord, whom he first persecuted and then to whom he consecrated his entire being, Paul remains faithful even to death. May his example be an encouragement for all to accept the Word of salvation and translate it into daily life through the faithful following of Christ.

The various ecclesial organisms consulted in view of the Assembly next October have dedicated their attention to the Word of God. The Synod Fathers will focus on it once they have become familiar with the preparatory documents, the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris, which you yourselves in the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops have contributed to creating.

Thus, they will be able to discuss among themselves, but above all, gathered in collegial communion, to listen to the Word of life which God has entrusted to the loving care of his Church, so that it is courageously and convincingly proclaimed, with the parresia of the Apostles, to those near and far.

Indeed, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, everyone is given the possibility to encounter the living Word that is Jesus Christ.

Dear and venerable Brothers, as members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, you render a praiseworthy service to the Church, since the synodal organism constitutes a qualified institution to promote the truth and unity of pastoral dialogue within the Mystical Body of Christ. Thank you for what you do, and not without sacrifice. May God reward you!

Let us continue to pray together so that the Lord will make the Synodal Assembly fruitful for the whole Church. With this wish, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to the Communities entrusted to your pastoral care, invoking the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of the Lord and of Sts Peter and Paul, who in the Liturgy, together with the other Apostles, we call the "pillars and foundation of the city of God".

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Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Fahter's address to participants of the plenary meeting of the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic palace on Jan. 21.

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

Thank you for your visit which you are making on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education: my cordial greeting to each one of you.

I greet in the first place Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of your Dicastery, and together with him, the new Secretary and other Officials and Collaborators. I extend special thanks to you, Your Eminence, for your words to me, presenting the various topics on which the Congregation intends to reflect on in these days. They are subjects of great interest and timeliness to which, especially at this moment in history, the Church addresses her attention.

The education sector is particularly dear to the Church, called to make her own the concern of Christ, who, the Evangelist recounts, in seeing the crowds, took "compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (Mk 6: 34).

The Greek word that expresses this attitude of "compassion" calls to mind the depths of mercy and refers to the profound love that the Heavenly Father feels for man.

Tradition has seen teaching - and more generally, education - as a concrete manifestation of spiritual mercy, which constitutes one of the first works of love which is the Church's mission to offer to humanity.

It is particularly appropriate that people in our time are reflecting on how to make current and effective this apostolic task of the Ecclesial Community, entrusted to Catholic universities and in a special manner to ecclesiastical faculties.

I therefore rejoice with you that you have chosen a theme of such great interest for your Plenary Meeting, just as I also believe it will be useful to make a careful analysis of the projects for reform that are currently being studied by your Dicastery concerning the above-mentioned Catholic universities and ecclesiastical faculties.

In the first place, I refer to the reform of ecclesiastical studies of philosophy, a project which has now reached the last stages of its elaboration, in which the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy, mentioned by John Paul II in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio (cf. n. 81), will certainly be emphasized.

It would likewise be useful to assess the expediency of a reform of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana. Desired by my venerable Predecessor in 1979, it constitutes the magna carta of ecclesiastical faculties and serves as a basis for formulating criteria for evaluating the quality of these institutions, an evaluation required by the Bologna Process which the Holy See joined in 2003.

Today, the ecclesiastical disciplines, especially theology, are subjected to new questions in a world tempted on the one hand by rationalism which follows a falsely free rationality disconnected from any religious reference, and on the other, by fundamentalisms that falsify the true essence of religion with their incitement to violence and fanaticism.

Schools should also question themselves on the role they must fulfil in the contemporary social context, marked by an evident educational crisis. The Catholic school, whose primary mission is to form students in accordance with an integral anthropological vision while remaining open to all and respecting the identity of each one, cannot fail to propose its own educational, human and Christian perspective.

Here then, a new challenge is posed which globalization and increasing pluralism make even more acute: in other words, the challenge of the encounter of religions and cultures in the common search for the truth.

The acceptance of the cultural plurality of pupils and parents must necessarily meet two requirements: on the one hand, not to exclude anyone in the name of his or her cultural or religious membership; on the other, once this cultural and religious difference has been recognized and accepted, not to stop at the mere observation of it.

This would in fact be equivalent to denying that cultures truly respect one another when they meet, because all authentic cultures are oriented to the truth about man and to his good. Therefore, people who come from different cultures can speak to one another and understand one another over and above distances in time and space, because in the heart of every person dwells the same great aspirations to goodness, justice, truth, life and love.

Another theme being studied at your Plenary Assembly is the question concerning the reform of the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis for seminaries. The basic document, dated 1970, was updated in 1985, especially subsequent to the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1983. In the decades that followed, various texts of special importance were promulgated, in particular the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992).

The present atmosphere in society, with the massive influence of the media and the expansion of the phenomenon of globalization, is profoundly changed. It would thus seem necessary to question oneself on the expediency of the reform of the Ratio fundamentalis, which should emphasize the importance of a correct articulation of the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of the Church-communion, following the instructions of the Second Vatican Council.

This implies a solid formation in the faith of the Church and true familiarity with the revealed Word given by God to his Church. The formation of future priests, moreover, must offer useful guidelines and directions for carrying on a dialogue with the contemporary cultures.

Human and cultural formation should therefore be significantly reinforced and sustained, also with the help of the modern sciences, since certain destabilizing social factors that exist in the world today (for example, the plight of so many broken families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.) render the new generations fragile.

At the same time, an adequate formation in the spiritual life, which makes Christian communities and especially parishes ever more aware of their vocation and able to respond satisfactorily to the question of spirituality that comes especially from young people, must take place. This requires that the Church not lack well-qualified and responsible apostles and evangelizers.

Consequently, the problem of vocations arises, especially to the priesthood and the consecrated life. While in some parts of the world vocations are visibly flourishing, elsewhere the number is dwindling, especially in the West.

The care of vocations involves the whole Ecclesial Community: Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and also families and parishes. The publication of the Document on the vocation to the presbyteral ministry which you are preparing will certainly be a great help to your pastoral action.

Dear brothers and sisters, I recalled earlier that teaching is an expression of Christ's charity and is the first of the spiritual works of mercy that the Church is called to carry out.

Those who enter the offices of the Congregation for Catholic Education are welcomed by an icon that shows Jesus washing his disciples' feet during the Last Supper. May the One who "loved [us] to the end" (cf. Jn 13: 1) bless your work at the service of education and, with the power of his Spirit, make it effective.

For my part, I thank you for all you do daily with competence and dedication, and while I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, the Wise Virgin and Mother of Love, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.

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Here is a translation of the letter sent by the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome to the Diocese and City of Rome, to discuss his concerns about education for young people.

Dear faithful of Rome,

I thought of addressing you with this letter to speak to you about a problem that your yourselves feel and which is the concern of various elements of our church: the problem of education.

We all have at heart the good of the persons we love, particularly our children, adolescents and young people. We know that the future of our city depends on them.

We cannot be not solicitous about the formation of the new generations, about their capacity to orient themselves in life and to discern good from bad, about their health, both physical and moral.

But education was never easy, and today it seems to be even more difficult. Parents, teachers, priests and all those who have direct responsibilities for education know this well.

That is why one speaks of an 'educative emergency', confirmed by the lack of success that very often our efforts meet in trying to form persons who are solid, capable of collaborating with others and of giving a sense to their own life. And often, the new generations are blamed, as though the babies born today are different from those born in the past.

Then there is the so-called generation gap, which certainly exists and weighs in, but which is the effect, rather than the cause, of the failure to transmit certainties and values.

So must we blame today's adults to blame for no longer being able to educate? Certainly, the temptation is strong - among parents, teachers, and educators in general - to give up, or even before that, to risk not even to understand their own role. Or better still, the mission that is entrusted to them.

In fact, what's in question is not only the personal responsibilities of adults and young people - though these exist and should not be hidden - but also a widespread climate, a mentality and a form of culture which lead to doubting the value of the human being, of the meaning itself of truth and goodness, and ultimately, of the very goodness of life itself.

Thus it becomes difficult to transmit from one generation to the next something valid and certain, rules of behavior, cre4dible objectives around which to construct one's life.

Dear brothers and sisters of Rome, at this point, I wish to say something very simple: Do not fear!~ All these difficulties are not insurmountable. They are, so to speak, the other side of the coin of that great and precious gift which is our freedom, with the responsibility that rightly accompanies it.

Unlike what takes place in the technical or economic fields, where progress today can be added up to the progress of yesterday, there is no similar possibility of accumulation in the field of formation and moral growth of persons, because human freedom is always new, and so, every person and every generation must make their own decisions anew, and on their own.

Even the greatest values of the past cannot simply be inherited, they must be made ours, and renewed through personal choice, often difficult and tormented.

But when the foundations are shaken and essential certainties are lacking, the need for such values becomes felt in compelling manner: that is why, the demand for an education that is truly an education is increasing in our day.

It is demanded by parents, concerned and often anguished for the future of their own children; by so many teachers, who experience the sad degradation of their schools; by society as a whole, which sees the bases for coexistence placed in doubt; and in their intimate selves, by the children and youth themselves, who do not want to be left alone facing the challenges of life.

Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has other and stronger reasons not to fear: he knows that God does not abandon us, that his love reaches us where wee are and as we are, with our miseries and weaknesses, to offer us a new possibility of the good.

Dear brothers and sisters, to make these reflections of mine more concrete, it could be useful to identify some common requirements for an authentic education.

It needs above all that nearness and trust which come from love: I think of the first and fundamental experience of love that babies have - or at least should have - with their parents. But every true educator knows that to educate, one must give something of oneself, and only that way can one help pupils and students to overcome selfishness and become, in turn, capable of authentic love.

Already in every small baby there is a great desire to know and to understand, which is shown in his continuous questions and requests for explanation. But it would be a poor education which limits itself to just teaching ideas anr providing information, but leaves aside the great questions about truth, above all, the truth that can be a guide for life.

Suffering, too, is part of the truth about life. Therefore, if we seek to keep young people sheltered from every difficulty and from eeperiencing pain, we risk raising - despite our good intentions - fragile and not very generous persons. The capacity to love corresponds to a capacity to suffer and to suffer together.

And so we arrive, dear friends of Rome, at the point that is perhaps most delicate in educative work: to find the right equiilibrium between freedom and discipline. Without rules of behavior and life, valid everyday even in the little things, character cannot be formed and children cannot be prepared to face the trials which will not be lacking in the future.

But the educative relationship is above all the encounter between two freedoms, and successful education is formation in the right use of freedom. The child grows, becomes an adolescent, and then a youth. We must therefore accept the risk of freedom, remaining always attentive to help him to correct wrong ideas and choices. What we must never do is to allow mistakes, pretend not to see them or worse, to share them, as if these were new frontiers in human progress.

Education therefore cannot do without that authoritativeness which makes the exercise of authority credible. It is a fruit of experience and competence, but it is acquired above all through consistency in one's own life and with personal involvement, expression of true love. The educator is therefore a witness of truth and goodness: of course, even he is fragile and could be deficient, but he will always try to be in tune with his mission.

Dearest faithful of Rome, from these simple considerations what emerges is how education is decisive for the semse of responsibility: the responsibility of an educator, certainly, but - in the measure that the child grows - the responsibility of the child, the schoolboy, and the youth who enters the workplace. Responsibility is knowing how to respond to himself and to others. The believer also seeks beyond, and above all, responds to God who loved him frist.

Responsibility is personal above all, but there is also a responsibility that we share as citizens in a city and a nation, as members of the human family, and, if we are believers, as children of the one God and members of the Church.

In fact, ideas, lifestyles, laws, the overall orientations of the society in which we live, is the image it gives of itself through the media, exercising great influence on the formation of new generations, for the good, but often also for the bad.

But society is not an abstraction. In the end, we are ourselves all together, each of us with orientations, rules and responsibilities , although our roles and responsibilities may be different. There is a need for each of us to contribute - every person, family or social group - so that society, starting with our city of Rome, may become an environment more favorable to education.

Finally I wish to propose to you a thought in the recent encyclical Spe salvi on Christian hope: only a trustworthy hope can animate education and all of life, Today our hope is undermined in many ways and we risk becoming like the ancient pagans, men "without hope and without God in this world", as the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2,12). It is from this that perhaps the most profound difficulty in education arises: at the root of the crisis in education is, in fact, a crisis of confidence in life.

I cannot therefore end this letter without a warm invitation to place our hope in God. Only He is the hope which resists all delusions; only his love cannot be destroyed by death; only his justice and his mercy can heal injustices and compensate for the sufferings we undergo.

The hope we place in God is never just hope only for oneself, it is always also hope for others: it doesn't isolate us, but makes us fraternal in goodness, and stimulates us to educate each other in truth and love.

I greet you with affection and assure you of a special memory in my prayers, while I impart my blessing to everyone.

From the Vatican, 21 January 2008

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The Media: At the crossroads between
between self-promotion and service -
Searching for the truth to share it with others

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. The theme of this year’s World Communications Day – "The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others" – sheds light on the important role of the media in the life of individuals and society.

Truly, there is no area of human experience, especially given the vast phenomenon of globalization, in which the media have not become an integral part of interpersonal relations and of social, economic, political and religious development.

As I said in my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace (1 January 2008): "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" (No. 5).

2. In view of their meteoric technological evolution, the media have acquired extraordinary potential, while raising new and hitherto unimaginable questions and problems.

There is no denying the contribution they can make to the diffusion of news, to knowledge of facts and to the dissemination of information: they have played a decisive part, for example, in the spread of literacy and in socialization, as well as the development of democracy and dialogue among peoples.

Without their contribution it would truly be difficult to foster and strengthen understanding between nations, to breathe life into peace dialogues around the globe, to guarantee the primary good of access to information, while at the same time ensuring the free circulation of ideas, especially those promoting the ideals of solidarity and social justice.

Indeed, the media, taken overall, are not only vehicles for spreading ideas: they can and should also be instruments at the service of a world of greater justice and solidarity.

Unfortunately, though, they risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products.

While claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimize or impose distorted models of personal, family or social life. Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark.

The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries.

3. Humanity today is at a crossroads. One could properly apply to the media what I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi concerning the ambiguity of progress, which offers new possibilities for good, but at the same time opens up appalling possibilities for evil that formerly did not exist (cf. No. 22).

We must ask, therefore, whether it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate "self-promotion" or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences. Should it not be a priority to ensure that they remain at the service of the person and of the common good, and that they foster "man’s ethical formation … man’s inner growth" (ibid.)?

Their extraordinary impact on the lives of individuals and on society is widely acknowledged, yet today it is necessary to stress the radical shift, one might even say the complete change of role, that they are currently undergoing.

Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses. It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to "create" events. This dangerous change in function has been noted with concern by many Church leaders.

Precisely because we are dealing with realities that have a profound effect on all those dimensions of human life (moral, intellectual, religious, relational, affective, cultural) in which the good of the person is at stake, we must stress that not everything that is technically possible is also ethically permissible.

Hence, the impact of the communications media on modern life raises unavoidable questions, which require choices and solutions that can no longer be deferred.

4. The role that the means of social communication have acquired in society must now be considered an integral part of the "anthropological" question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium. Just as we see happening in areas such as human life, marriage and the family, and in the great contemporary issues of peace, justice and protection of creation, so too in the sector of social communications there are essential dimensions of the human person and the truth concerning the human person coming into play.

When communication loses its ethical underpinning and eludes society’s control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person. As a result it risks exercising a negative influence on people’s consciences and choices and definitively conditioning their freedom and their very lives.

For this reason it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for "info-ethics", just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life.

5. The media must avoid becoming spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, true scourges of our time. Instead, they can and must contribute to making known the truth about humanity, and defending it against those who tend to deny or destroy it.

One might even say that seeking and presenting the truth about humanity constitutes the highest vocation of social communication. Utilizing for this purpose the many refined and engaging techniques that the media have at their disposal is an exciting task, entrusted in the first place to managers and operators in the sector.

Yet it is a task which to some degree concerns us all, because we are all consumers and operators of social communications in this era of globalization. The new media – telecommunications and internet in particular – are changing the very face of communication; perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to reshape it, to make more visible, as my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II said, the essential and indispensable elements of the truth about the human person (cf. Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, 10).

6. Man thirsts for truth, he seeks truth; this fact is illustrated by the attention and the success achieved by so many publications, programmes or quality fiction in which the truth, beauty and greatness of the person, including the religious dimension of the person, are acknowledged and favourably presented.

Jesus said: "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8:32). The truth which makes us free is Christ, because only he can respond fully to the thirst for life and love that is present in the human heart. Those who have encountered him and have enthusiastically welcomed his message experience the irrepressible desire to share and communicate this truth.

As Saint John writes, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete" (1 Jn 1:1-3).

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ’s mandate and enthusiastic for the message of the faith, communicators who will "interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples" (John Paul II, Address to the Conference for those working in Communications and Culture, 9 November 2002).

With these wishes, I cordially impart my Blessing to all.

From the Vatican
24 January 2008
Feast of Saint Francis de Sales


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Here is the text of the address delivered by the Holy Father in English this morning to the members of the working group of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Geneva-based Ecumenical Council of Churches.

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you, the members of the Joint Working Group between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, as you gather in Rome to begin a new phase of your work. Your meeting takes place in this City where the Apostles Peter and Paul bore supreme witness to Christ and shed their blood in his name.

I greet you warmly in the words which Paul himself addressed to the first Christians in Rome: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7).

The World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church have enjoyed a fruitful ecumenical relationship dating back to the time of the Second Vatican Council. The Joint Working Group, which began in 1965, has worked assiduously to strengthen the "dialogue of life" which my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, called the "dialogue of charity" (Ut Unum Sint, 17). This cooperation has given vivid expression to the communion already existing between Christians and has advanced the cause of ecumenical dialogue and understanding.

The centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity offers us an opportunity to thank Almighty God for the fruits of the ecumenical movement, in which we can discern the presence of the Holy Spirit fostering the growth of all Christ’s followers in unity of faith, hope and love.

To pray for unity is itself "an effective means of obtaining the grace of unity" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 8), since it is a participation in the prayer of Jesus himself. When Christians pray together, "the goal of unity seems closer" (Ut Unum Sint, 22), for the presence of Christ in our midst (cf. Mt 18:20) fosters a profound harmony of mind and heart: we are able to look at each other in a new way, and to strengthen our resolve to overcome whatever keeps us apart.

On this day, then, we think back with gratitude to the work of so many individuals who, over the years, have sought to spread the practice of spiritual ecumenism through common prayer, conversion of heart and growth in communion.

We also give thanks for the ecumenical dialogues which have borne abundant fruit in the past century. The reception of those fruits is itself an important step in the process of promoting Christian unity, and the Joint Working Group is particularly suited to studying and encouraging that process.

Dear friends, I pray that the new Joint Working Group will be able to build on the commendable work already done, and thus open the way to ever greater cooperation, so that the Lord’s prayer "that they all may be one" (Jn 17:21) will be ever more fully realized in our time.

With these sentiments, and with deep appreciation for your important service to the ecumenical movement, I cordially invoke upon you and your deliberations God’s abundant blessings.



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On Saturday, 26 January, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father spoke to members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the opening of the judicial year. The Dean, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, began the meeting with a tribute to the Pope. The following is the Vatican translation of the Pontiff's Address, given in Italian.

Dear Prelate Auditors,
Officials and Collaborators
of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

The occurrence of the first centenary of the restoration of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, ratified by St Pius X in 1908 with his Apostolic Constitution Sapienti Consilio, has just been recalled in the cordial words of your Dean, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz.

This circumstance enhances the sense of appreciation and gratitude with which I am meeting you, already for the third time. I offer my cordial greeting to each and every one of you.

I see personified in you, esteemed Prelate Auditors, and in all those who take part in various capacities in the work of this Tribunal, an institution of the Apostolic See whose roots, embedded in canonical tradition, have proven an inexhaustible source of vitality. It is your task to keep this tradition alive, in the conviction that you are thereby rendering an ever timely service to the overall administration of justice in the Church.

This centenary is a favourable opportunity for reflecting on a fundamental aspect of the Rota's activity: the value of rotal jurisprudence in the ensemble of the administration of justice in the Church. It is a dimension highlighted in the very description of the Rota given by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus: "The Roman Rota is a court of higher instance at the Apostolic See, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church; it fosters unity of jurisprudence, and, by virtue of its own decisions, provides assistance to lower tribunals" (art. 126).

In their annual Discourses, my beloved Predecessors frequently spoke with appreciation and trust of the Roman Rota's jurisprudence, both in general and with reference to practical matters and especially matrimonial topics.

If it is only right and proper to remember the ministry of justice exercised by the Rota during its centuries-old existence - and especially in the last 100 years - it is also appropriate on this occasion to endeavour to examine the meaning of this service, the annual volume of whose decisions demonstrate that it is a practical instrument.

We might wonder in particular why rotal sentences possess a juridical importance that exceeds the immediate context of the causes in which they are issued.

Regardless of the formal value that every ordinary juridical process can attribute to previous proceedings, there is no doubt that in a certain way, its individual decisions concern the whole of society.
Indeed, they continue to determine what all can expect from the tribunals, which undoubtedly influences the tenor of social life.

Any legal system must seek to offer solutions in which, as well as the prudential evaluation of individual cases, the same principles and general norms of justice are applied. Only in this way is a trusting atmosphere created in the tribunals' activity and the arbitrary nature of subjective criteria avoided.

Furthermore, within each judicial organization the hierarchy that exists between the various tribunals is such that possible recourse to higher tribunals in itself provides for the unity of jurisprudence.

The above-mentioned considerations are also perfectly applicable to ecclesiastical tribunals. Indeed, since canonical processes concern the juridical aspects of salvific goods or of other temporal goods which serve the Church's mission, the requirement of unity in the essential criteria of justice and the need to be able to reasonably foresee the direction that judicial decisions will take becomes a public ecclesial good of particular importance for the People of God's internal life and its institutional witness in the world.

In addition to the intrinsic value of reasonableness inherent in the work of a Tribunal that usually decides cases in the last instance, it is clear that the value of the Roman Rota's jurisprudence is dependent upon its nature as a higher instance which can appeal to the Apostolic See.

The legal measures which recognize this value (cf. can. 19, Code of Canon Law; Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 126) do not create, but rather, declare this value. It derives ultimately from the need to administer justice in accordance with equal parameters in all that is precisely in itself essentially equal.

As a result, the value of rotal jurisprudence is not a factual sociological issue since it has a properly juridical character, placed at the service of substantial justice. It would therefore be improper to admit to any opposition between rotal jurisprudence and the decisions of local tribunals that are called to play an indispensable role in rendering the administration of justice immediately accessible, and in being able to investigate and resolve practical cases at times linked to peoples' culture and mentality.

In any case, all rulings must always be based on the principles and common norms of justice. This requirement, common to any juridical order, has specific significance in the Church to the extent that the requirements of communion are at stake. This involves the protection of what is common to the universal Church, entrusted in a particular way to the Supreme Authority and to the bodies that participate ad normam iuris in its sacred authority.

In the matrimonial context, rotal jurisprudence has carried out very conspicuous work in the past 100 years. In particular, it has made significant contributions that are expressed in the codification in force. In this light, one cannot think that the importance of the jurisprudential interpretation of law by the Rota has diminished. Indeed, the application of current canon law requires precisely that it reflect the true sense of justice, linked first of all to marriage's very essence.

The Roman Rota is constantly called to carry out an arduous task which has a strong influence on the work of all tribunals: that of understanding the existence or non-existence of the matrimonial reality, which is intrinsically anthropological, theological and juridical.

For a better understanding of the role of jurisprudence, I would like to insist on what I said to you last year concerning the "intrinsic juridical dimension of marriage" (cf. Address to Roman Rota, 27 January 2007; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 31 January, p. 3).

Law cannot be reduced to a mere collection of positive rules that tribunals are required to apply. The only way to give a solid foundation to the jurisprudential task is to conceive of it as a true exercise of prudentia iuris. This prudence is quite the opposite of arbitrariness or relativism, for it permits events to reveal the presence or absence of the specific relationship of justice which marriage is, with its real human and saving meaning.

Only in this way do jurisprudential maxims acquire their true value without becoming a compilation of abstract and repetitive rules, exposed to the risk of subjective or arbitrary interpretations.

The objective assessment of the facts in the light of the Magisterium and the law of the Church thus constitutes a very important aspect of the Roman Rota's activity and exercises great influence on ministers of justice of the tribunals of local Churches.

Rotal jurisprudence should be seen as exemplary juridical wisdom carried out with the authority of the Tribunal permanently constituted by the Successor of Peter for the good of the whole Church.

Thanks to this work, the concrete reality in causes of matrimonial nullity is objectively judged in light of criteria that constantly reaffirm the reality of matrimonial indissolubility, open to every man and woman in accordance with the plan of God, Creator and Saviour. Constant effort is needed to attain that unity of the criteria of justice which essentially characterizes the notion of jurisprudence itself and is a fundamental presupposition for its activity.

In the Church, precisely because of her universality and the diversity of the juridical cultures in which she is called to operate, there is always a risk that "local forms of jurisprudence" develop, sensim sine sensu, ever more distant from the common interpretation of positive law and also from the Church's teaching on matrimony.

I hope that appropriate means may be studied to make rotal jurisprudence more and more manifestly unitive as well as effectively accessible to all who exercise justice, in order to ensure its uniform application in all Church tribunals.

The value of interventions of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium on matrimonial and juridical issues, including the Roman Pontiff's Discourses to the Roman Rota, should also be seen in this realistic perspective. They are a ready guide for the work of all Church tribunals, since they authoritatively teach the essential aspects of the reality of marriage.

In his last Address to the Rota, my venerable Predecessor John Paul II put people on guard against the positivistic mentality in the understanding of law, which tends to make a distinction between laws and jurisprudential approaches and the Church's doctrine.

He affirmed: "In fact, the authentic interpretation of God's Word, exercised by the Magisterium of the Church, has juridical value to the extent that it concerns the context of law, without requiring any further formal procedure to become juridically and morally binding.

"For a healthy juridical interpretation, it is indispensable to understand the whole body of the Church's teachings and to place every affirmation systematically in the flow of tradition. It will thus be possible to avoid selective and distorted interpretations and useless criticisms at every step" (John Paul II, Address to Roman Rota, 29 January 2005; ORE, 2 February, p. 3).

This centenary is destined to go beyond the formal commemoration. It will become an opportunity for a reflection that must temper your commitment, enlivening it with an ever deeper ecclesial sense of justice which is a true service to saving communion.

I encourage you to pray daily for the Roman Rota and for all who work in the sector of the administration of justice in the Church, with recourse to the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Speculum iustitiae.

This invitation might seem merely devotional and somewhat extrinsic to your ministry; but we must not forget that everything in the Church is brought about through the force of prayer, which transforms our entire existence and fills us with the hope that Jesus brings to us.

This prayer, inseparable from daily commitment that is serious and competent, will bring light and strength, faithfulness and authentic renewal to the life of this venerable Institution through which, ad normam iuris, the Bishop of Rome exercises his primatial solicitude for the administration of justice throughout the People of God.

Therefore, may my Blessing today, full of affection and gratitude, embrace both you who are present here and all those worldwide who serve the Church and all the faithful in this field.

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Here is a translation of the homily delivered by the Holy Father at the celebration of Vespers tonight at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The feast of the Conversion of St. Paul brings us once again in the presence of this great Apostle, chosen by God to be his 'witness before all men" (Acts 22,15).

For Saul of Tarsus, the moment of encounter with the resurrected Christ on the way to Damascus marked a decisive turn in his life. His complete transformation took place then, a true and proper spiritual conversion.

In one instant, by divine intervention, the dogged persecutor of the Church of God found himself blindly groping in the dark, but from then on, a great light in his heart would bring him shortly to becoming an ardent apostle of the Gospel. The awareness that only divine grace could have realized such a conversion never left Paul.

When he had already given the best of himself, consecrating himself tirelessly to preaching the Gospel, he wrote with renewed fervor: "I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me" (1Cor 15,10).

Indefatigable - as though the work of mission depended entirely on his efforts - St. Paul was nonetheless always animated by the profound persuasion that all his strength came from the grace of God operating in him.

This evening, the words of the Apostle on the relationship between human effort and divine grace re-echo full of a very particular significance. At the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are even more conscious of how much the work of reconstituting our unity, which demands our energy and efforts, is infinitely superior to our possibilities.

Unity with God and with our brothers and sisters is a gift that comes from on high, which comes from the communion of love among Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and grows and perfects itself in such communion. It is not in our power to decide when or how this unity will be fully realized. Only God can do it!

Like St. Paul, we too place our hope and trust "in the grace of God which is with us". Dear brothers and sisters, this calls for us to raise prayers together to the Lord so that He may illuminate and sustain us in our constant quest for unity.

Here is where Paul's exhortation to the Christians of Thessalonia assumes its fullest value: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5,17), which was chosen as the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year.

The Apostle knew that community well, which had been born from his missionary activity, and nourished great hopes for it. He knew its merits as well as its weaknesses. Among its members, in fact, behavior, attitudes and debates susceptible o9 creating tensions and conflicts were not lacking, and Paul intervened to help the community walk in unity and peace.

At the end of the epistle, with an almost paternal kindness, he added a series of very concrete exhortations, inviting the Christians to favor the participation of all, to sustain the weak, to be patient, not to answer evil with evil, to always seek the good, to be joyful always, and to give thanks in every circumstance (cfr 1 Thes 5,12-22).

At the center of these exhortations, he places the imperative to "pray without ceasing". The other admonitions would, in fact, lose force and coherence, if they were not sustained by prayer.

Unity with God and others is built, above all, through a life of prayer, in the constant quest for "the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (cfr 1 Thes 5,18).

The invitation addressed by St. Paul to the Thessalonians is always actual. Before the weaknesses and sins which still impede full communion among all Christians, each of these exhortations have kept their relevance, but this is particularly true for the command to 'pray without ceasing'.

What would become of the ecumenical movement without personal or communal prayer that "so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you" (Jn 17,21)?

Where shall we find the 'supplemental impulse' of faith, charity and hope which our quest for unity has particular need today? Our desire for unity should not be limited to sporadic occasions, but should become an integral part of our life of prayer.

There have been men and women formed in the Word of God and in prayer into artisans of reconciliation and unity in every phase of history. It is the way of prayer that has opened the road to the ecumenical movement as we know it today.

Starting from the mid-18th century, various movements of spiritual renewal emerged, desirous of contributing through prayer to the promotion of unity among Christians. From the beginning, groups of Catholics, inspired by outstanding religious personalities, have participated actively in similar initiatives.

The prayer for unity has been supported even by my venerated predecessors, like Pope Leo XIII, who in 1895, recommended the introduction of a novena of prayers for Christian unity. These efforts, carried out according to the possibilities of the Church in that time, were meant to actualize the prayer pronounced by Jesus himself at the Cenacle "so that they may all be one" (Jn 17,21). There is no genuine ecumenism that is not rooted in prayer.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 'Octave for the unity of the Church' which became the 'Week of Prayer for Christian Unity' . A hundred years ago, Fr. Paul Wattson, who was then still an Episcopalian minister, thought up the idea for an octave of prayer for unity, which was celebrated for the first time in Graymoor (New York), from January 18-25, 1908.

Tonight, it is with great joy that I address my greeting to the Minister General and the international delegation of the Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of Atonement, the congregation founded by Fr. Wattson and promoter of his spiritual legacy.

In the 1930s, the Octave of Prayer had important adaptations under the impulse above all of the Abbe Paul Coutourier of Lyons, another great promoter of spiritual ecumenism. His invitation "to pray for the unity of the Church as Christ wanted and according to the means that he wanted" allowed Christians of all traditions to unite together in one single prayer for unity.

Let us give thanks to God for the great prayer movement which, for a hundred years, has accompanied and sustained believers in Christ in their quest for unity. The boat of ecumenism would never have left port if if had not been moved by this ample current of prayer and pushed along by the breath of the Holy Spirit.

In conjunction with the Week of Prayer, many religious and monastic communities have invited and helped their members to 'pray without ceasing' for Christian unity. On this occasion that sees us all gathered together, let us remember in particular the life and testimony of Sister Maria Gabriella dell'Unita (1914-1936), a Trappist nun in the monastery of Grottaferrata (now in Vitorchiano).

When her superior, encouraged by the Abbe Paul Coutourier, invited the sisters to pray and offer themselves for Christian unity, Suor Maria Gabriella immediately felt herself involved and did not hesitate to offer her young life for this great cause. Today is the 25th anniversary of her beatification by my predecessor, John Paul II. That event took place in this Basilica precisely on January 25, 1983, during the celebration of the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Unity.

In his homily on that occasion, the Servant of God underlined the three elements on which the quest for unity is built: conversion, the cross, and prayer. Suor Maria Gabriella's life and testimony were founded on these three elements as well.

Ecumenism has a strong need, today as yesterday, for the great 'invisible monastery' that Abbe Paul Coutourier spoke about, of that vast community of Christians of all traditions who, without clamor, pray and offer their life so that this unity may be realized.

Moreover, exactly 40 years ago, the Christian communities all over the world received, for the Week of Prayer, meditations and prayers that had been prepared by the Commission 'Faith and Constitution' of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

This happy collaboration has permitted widening the vast circle of prayer and to prepare its contents in a more appropriate manner. Tonight, I cordially greet the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, secretary-general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, who came to Rome to join us on the centenary of the Week of Prayer.

I am happy at the presence of the members of the Mixed Working Group, whom I greet with affection. The Mixed Group is the instrument of cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Council of Churches in our common quest for unity.

And, as every year, I address my fraternal greeting to the bishops, priests, and pastors of the different churches and ecclesial communities who have representatives in Rome. Your participation in this prayer is a tangible expression of the bonds which unite us in Jesus Christ: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18,20).

In this historic Basilica, next June 28, the year consecrated to the testimony and teaching of the apostle Paul will open. May his tireless fervor in building the Body of Christ in unity help us to pray incessantly for the full unity of all Christians. Amen!

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Here is a translation of the address delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the participants of an inter-academy conference jointly sponsored by the Academie des Sciences of Paris and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Hall of the Popes in the Apostolic Palace on Monday, Jan. 28. The address was delivered in French.

Honorable Chancellors,
My fellow academicians,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you at the end of your colloquium here in Rome, which started at the Institut de France* in Paris, on the theme "The changing identity of the individual."

I thank first of all Prince Gabriel de Broglie for the words with which he opened our meeting.

I also wish to greet the members of all the institutions under whose patronage this colloquium was organized: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Academy of Political and Moral Sciences and the Academy of Sciences [both of the Institut de France] and the Institut Catholique of Paris.

I am glad that for the first time, an inter-academy collaboration of this nature has been established, opening the way to vast pluri-disciplinary studies that will be ever more fecund.

Since the exact sciences - natural as well as human - have achieved prodigious advances in knowledge about man and his universe, there is a great temptation to want to totally circumscribe the identity of the human being and enclose it within the knowledge that one can have about him.

In order not to be committed to such a way, it is important to give the same importance to anthropological, philosophical and theological studies which allow man's mystery to emerge and be maintained, because no science can say what man is, where he comes from, and where he is going.

Thus the science of man becomes the most necessary of all sciences. As John Paul II said in his encyclical Fides et ratio, "We face a great challenge at the end of this millennium to move from phenomenon to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent. We cannot stop short at experience alone; even if experience does reveal the human being's interiority and spirituality, speculative thinking must penetrate to the spiritual core and the ground from which it rises" (No. 83).

Man is always something beyond what we can see or what we can perceive through experience. Not to question the essence of man leads inevitably to a refusal to study the objective truth of the human being in in his integralness, and because of this, no longer to be capable of recognizing the foundation on which human dignity rests, from the embryonic stage to his natural death.

In the course of your colloquium, you experienced how the sciences, philosophy and theology can aid each other to perceive the identity of man, which is always in the process of becoming.

Starting from an investigation into the new being borne out of the union between two cells, which carries a new and specific genetic patrimony of its own, you have shown the essential elements of the human mystery, which is distinguished by otherness - a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and made to be loved.

As a human being, man is never closed in on himself; he is always the bearer of otherness, and finds himself from the start in interaction with other human beings, as the human sciences more and more reveal to us.

How can we not evoke that wonderful meditation of the psalmist on the human being 'knit in the secret of his mother's womb' but known, in his identity and his mystery, by God alone who loves and protects him" (cf. Ps 138[1390, 1-16)!

Man is not the result of chance, nor of convergences, determinisms, or physico-chemical interactions. He is a being who enjoys a freedom which, while taking human nature into account, transcends it and is the sign of that mystery of otherness that he inhabits.

Through this freedom, man can know there is a sense to his existence. In exercising authentic freedom, a person realizes his calling; he fulfills himself; he gives shape to his deepest identity.

It is also through the exercise of freedom that he can take responsibility for his actions. In this sense, the dignity that is particular to the human being is both a gift of God and the promise of a future.

Man carries in himself a specific ability to discern what is good. Placed in him by the Creator like a stamp, synderesis [principle of moral consciousness which pushes an agent to good] impels him to do what is good. Thus impelled, man is called on to develop his conscience by training and by exercise to guide himself freely during his existence, based on the essential laws which are natural law and moral law.

In our time, when scientific progress attracts and seduces through the possibilities it offers, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries so that science does not become the criterion for what is good, and so man may be respected as the center of creation who should not be the object of ideological manipulations, arbitrary decisions, nor of abuses by the strong over the weak. All these dangers we have known in various manifestations throughout human history, but most especially during the twentieth century.

Every scientific initiative should also be an initiative of love, to be carried out in the service of man and humanity, and to make its contribution to the construction of personal identity.

In effect, as I underscored in the encyclical Deus caritas est, "love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time...Love is indeed 'ecstasy'.. in the sense of a journey, an ongoing exodus from the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery..."(No. 6).

Love makes a man come out of himself to discover and know the other - in opening to the other, he also affirms the identity of that other, because the other reveals me to myself. Throughout the Bible, it is the experience which, beginning with Abraham, numberless believers have had.

The model par excellence of love is Christ. In the act of giving his life for his brothers, of giving himself totally, he manifests his profound identity and gives us the key to reading the unfathomable mystery of his being and his mission.

In entrusting your studies to the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, whom the Church honors today and who remains 'an authentic model for you who search for the truth' (Fides et ratio, No. 78), I assure you of my prayers, as well as for your families and co-workers, and I impart to all with affection the Apostolic Blessing.


*The Institut de France, which calls itself 'the Parliament of the intellectual world', is perhaps the world's most prestigious intellectual institution. It is composed of five academies, inclduing its parent academy, The Academie Francaise, and the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, to which Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as an associate member [the designation does not imply 'lower' status - just that only Frenchmen can be 'full' members] in 1992, taking the seat vacated by Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov. That is why in his salutation, the Pope says 'my fellow academicians'. Prince De Broglie, the current Chancellor of the Institut, belongs to the same Academy as the Pope, but was elected to it later, in 1997.

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“Christ made Himself poor for you” (2 Cor 8,9)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters.

In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods.

The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13).

Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world.

In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17).

In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

3. The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4).

Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2).

The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16).

Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention.

If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision.

In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us.

How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35).

When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy.

Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8).

As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift.

In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

5. Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends: “Never keep an account of the coins you give, since this is what I always say: if, in giving alms, the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself” (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201).

In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury “all she had to live on” (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example.

In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation.

In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to “train ourselves” spiritually, also through the practice of almsgiving, in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk” (Acts 3,6).

In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ, in whose name is found true life. Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love.

May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the “spiritual battle” of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 30 October 2007



I haven't figured out why the date for this message is October 2007! I thought it might have been an oversight, probably should have been December, but it's the same in all the different language versions.

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