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4/26/2008 4:55 PM
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Here is the text of the address delivered by the Holy Father, mostly in English but partly in French, to the bishops of the Antilles/West Indies region at the conclusion of their ad limina visit.

Dear Brother Bishops,

"What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord with ourselves as servants" (2 Cor 4:5).

With these stirring words of Saint Paul I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of the Antilles. I thank Archbishop Burke for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf and I warmly reciprocate them and assure you of my prayers for yourselves and those entrusted to your pastoral care.

Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is an occasion to strengthen your commitment to make the face of Jesus increasingly visible within the Church and society through consistent witness to the Gospel.

The great ‘drama’ of Holy Week and the joyful liturgical season of Easter express the very essence of the hope which defines us as Christians.

Jesus, who indicates to us the way beyond even death, is the one who shows us how to overcome trials and fear. He is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). Indeed, filled with the light of Christ we too illuminate the way which dispels all evil, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride (cf. Exsultet).

The image of the paschal light I trust, dear Brothers, will draw you forward as you engage with the considerable challenges you face. Your own reports articulate with frankness both the light and the shadows cast upon your Dioceses.

Undoubtedly the religious soul of the peoples of your region is capable of great things! Generosity of heart and openness of mind attest to a spirit willing to be shaped by the truth and love of our Lord. Yet there is also much that seeks to quench the dimly burning wick (cf. Is 42:3).

To varying degrees, your shores have been battered by negative aspects of the entertainment industry, exploitative tourism and the scourge of the arms and drugs trade; influences which not only undermine family life and unsettle the foundations of traditional cultural values, but tend to affect negatively local politics.

Brothers, against this disturbing backdrop, stand tall as heralds of hope! Be audacious witnesses to the light of Christ, which gives families direction and purpose, and be bold preachers of the power of the Gospel, which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour.

I am confident that your lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2 Cor 1:20) will encourage your peoples to reject destructive social trends and to seek ‘faith in action’, embracing all that begets the new life of Pentecost!

Pastoral renewal is an indispensable task for each of your Dioceses. Already there are examples where this challenge has been embraced with enthusiasm; it must include priests, Religious and the lay faithful.

Of vital importance is the tireless promotion of vocations together with the guidance and ongoing formation of priests. You are the primary formators of your priests and, supported by the laity, you bear the responsibility for assiduous and prudent encouragement of vocations.

Your solicitude for the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of your seminarians and priests is a sure expression of your care and concern for the constant deepening of their pastoral commitment (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 2).

I encourage you to support attentively Saint John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs Seminary, to supervise in a fatherly way especially your young priests and to offer regular programmes of ongoing formation necessary for building priestly identity (cf. ibid., 71).

In turn, your priests will surely nurture their parish communities with growing maturity and spiritual wisdom. The establishment of a francophone seminary in the region is a welcome sign of hope; please convey to its staff and seminarians the assurance of my prayers.

The contribution of Religious Brothers, Priests and Sisters to the mission of the Church and the building up of civil society has been of immeasurable worth to your countries. Innumerable boys, girls and families have benefited from the selfless commitment of Religious to spiritual guidance, education, and social and medical work. Of special value and beauty is the life of prayer found in the contemplative communities of the region.

Your pastoral concern for the decline in Religious vocations exemplifies your deep appreciation of consecrated life. I too appeal to your Religious communities, encouraging them to reaffirm their calling with confidence and, guided by the Holy Spirit, to propose afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission; the spiritual treasures of their respective charisms splendidly illuminate the paths by which the Lord calls young people to the adventure of the life of love offered to him for every member of the human family (cf. Vita Consecrata, 3).

He said the following in French:

Dear brothers, each of you feels the great responsibility you have to do all that is possible to support marriage and family life, the primary source of cohesion within the community adn therefore of capital importance in the eyes of civilian authorities.

In this respect, the large network of Catholic schools in your region can contribute much. Values which are rooted in the way of truth offered by Christ enlighten the spirit and the heart of young people, and leads them to follow the way of faith, of responsibility adn true freedom. Good young Christians make good citizens.

I am sure that everything will be done to encourage the Catholic specificity of your schools which, in teh course of past generations, has rendered remearkable services to your peoples.

Therefore, I do not doubt that the young adults of your dioceses will be able to discern that it devolves on them, urgently, to cotribute to the economic and social development of the region, because that, too, is an essential dimension of the Christian testimony.

He concluded in English:

With fraternal affection I offer these reflections wishing to affirm you in your desire to intensify the summons to witness and evangelization which ensue from the encounter with Christ.

United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, go forward in hope! Please assure all your seminarians and priests, Religious, and lay faithful - including in a special way the considerable immigrant communities - of my prayers and spiritual communion. To you all, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/29/2008 5:29 AM]
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4/26/2008 4:57 PM
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Here is the Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered April 7 at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome. The visit marked the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Community of Sant'Egidio, and the basilica is the site of a memorial of those who have died for the faith during the 20th century.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We may see our meeting in the ancient Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island as a pilgrimage in memory of the martyrs of the 20th century, countless men and women, known and unknown, who shed their blood for the Lord in the 1900s.

It is a pilgrimage guided by the Word of God which, like a lamp to our feet, a light on our way (cf. Ps 119[118]: 105), brightens the life of every believer with its light.

This church was especially designated by my beloved Predecessor John Paul II as a place for the memorial of the 20th century martyrs and entrusted by him to the Community of Sant'Egidio, which this year is thanking the Lord for the 40th anniversary of its foundation.

I greet with affection the Cardinals and Bishops who have wished to take part in this liturgy. I greet Prof. Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, and I thank him for his words; I greet Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community, the Chaplain, Mons. Matteo Zuppi, as well as Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia.

In this place full of memories let us ask ourselves: why did these martyr brothers and sisters of ours not seek to save the irreplaceable good of life at all costs? Why did they continue to serve the Church in spite of grave threats and intimidation?

In this Basilica where the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew are preserved and the mortal remains of St Adalbert venerated, we hear the resonance of the eloquent witness of those who, not only in the 1900s but from the very beginning of the Church, putting love into practice, offered their lives to Christ in martyrdom.

In the icon set above the main altar, which portrays some of these witnesses of faith, the words of the Book of Revelation stand out: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation" (Rv 7: 13). The old man who asks who the people dressed in white are and where they came from is told: "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rv 7: 14).

At first it appears a strange answer. However, in the coded language of the Seer of Patmos it contains a precise reference to the clear flame of love that impelled Christ to pour out his blood for us. By virtue of that blood, we have been purified. Sustained by that flame, the martyrs too poured out their blood and were purified in love: in the love of Christ who made them capable of sacrificing themselves for love in their turn.

Jesus said: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15: 13). Every witness of faith lives this "greater love" and, after the example of the Divine Teacher, is ready to sacrifice his life for the Kingdom. In this way we become friends of Christ; thus, we are conformed to him, accepting the extreme sacrifice without limiting the gift of love and the service of faith.

Stopping by the six altars that commemorate the Christians who fell under the totalitarian violence of Communism, Nazism, those killed in America, Asia and Oceania, in Spain and Mexico, in Africa, we retrace in spirit numerous sorrowful events of the past century. So many fell while they were carrying out the evangelizing mission of the Church: their blood mingled with that of the indigenous Christians to which they had transmitted the faith.

Others, often in a minority condition, were killed in hatred of the faith. Lastly, many sacrificed themselves, undaunted by threats and dangers, in order not to abandon the needy, the poor or the faithful entrusted to them. They were Bishops, priests, men and women religious and faithful lay people. How many they are!

At the Ecumenical Jubilee Commemoration for the new martyrs celebrated at the Colosseum on 7 May 2000, the Servant of God John Paul II said that these brothers and sisters of ours in the faith stand as a vast panorama of Christian humanity in the 20th century, a panorama of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, lived even to the shedding of blood. And he was in the habit of repeating that Christ's witness to the point of bloodshed speaks with a stronger voice than the divisions of the past.

It is true: it seems as though violence, totalitarianism, persecution and blind brutality got the upper hand, silencing the voices of the witnesses to the faith who humanly speaking appeared to be defeated by history. But the Risen Jesus illumines their testimony and thus we understand the meaning of martyrdom.

Tertullian says of this: "Plures efficimur quoties metimur a vobis: sanguis martyrum semen christianorum -- Our numbers increase every time we are cut down by you: the blood of martyrs is the seed of [new] Christians" (Apol. 50, 13; CCC, PL 1,603).

A force that the world does not know is active in defeat, in the humiliation of those who suffer for the Gospel: "for when I am weak", the Apostle Paul exclaims, "then I am strong" (II Cor 12: 10). It is the power of love, defenseless and victorious even in apparent defeat. It is the force that challenges and triumphs over death.

This 21st century also opened under the banner of martyrdom. When Christians are truly the leaven, light and salt of the earth, they too become the object of persecution, as was Jesus; like him they are "a sign of contradiction".

Fraternal life in common and the love, faith and decisions in favour of the lowliest and poorest that mark the existence of the Christian community sometimes give rise to violent aversion. How useful it is then to look to the shining witness of those who have preceded us in the sign of heroic fidelity to the point of martyrdom!

And in this ancient Basilica, thanks to the care of the Sant'Egidio Community, the memory of so many witnesses to the faith who died in recent times is preserved and venerated.

Dear friends of the Community of Sant'Egidio, looking at these heroes of the faith, may you too strive to imitate their courage and perseverance in serving the Gospel, especially among the poorest.

Be builders of peace and reconciliation among those who are enemies or who fight one another. Nourish your faith by listening to and meditating on the Word of God, daily prayer and active participation in Holy Mass.

Authentic friendship with Christ will be the basis of your mutual love. Sustained by his Spirit you will be able to help build a more fraternal world. May the Blessed Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, sustain you and help you to be genuine witnesses of Christ.


© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/29/2008 5:28 AM]
4/26/2008 5:00 PM
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[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/26/2008 5:00 PM]
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4/26/2008 5:40 PM
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Here is a translation of the remarks given by the Holy Father at the end of a cocnert held in Aula Paolo VI Thursday evening, April 24 ,to mark the third annviersary of his Pontificate. The concert was offered by President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy.

The Giuseppe Verdi Sympony Orchestra and Symphonic Choir of Milan performed music by Berio, Brahms, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Mr. President,
Lord Cardinals,
Venerated brothers in the episcopate asnd priesthood,
Ladies and gentlemen!

At the end of this splendid concert, it is my pleasure to address my heartfelt greetings to all of you who have taken part: civil and military authorities, illustrious personages, and friemds who came to share this moment of high cultural value.

I wish above all to express my sincere acknowledgment to the President of the Iralian REpublic, the Honorable Giorgio Napolitano, who on the occasion of the third anniversary of my Pontificate, has offered me this gift, along with expressions of fine courtesy that I appreciate very much.

Thank you, Mr. President, for this thoughtful and deferential act which I have received with great pleasure! In it I also see the great affection that the Italian people have for me as the Pope. I extend my greetings to your kind spouse and to your co-workers.

Certain that I speak for everyone present, I address a sincere acclamation to the Giuseppe Verdi Symphonic Orchestra and Symphonic Choir of Milan, who, under the notable direction of Mr. Oleg Caetani, have performed and sung with extraordinary talent great effect. I extend my appreciation as well to the choirmaster, Madame Erina Gamarini.

I express heartfelt gratitude to the directors of the meritorious Giussepe Verdi Foundation, and encourage them to continue the prestigious artistic and cultural course they have undertaken, which I know is much appreciated, including their commitment to bring music to help alleviate conditions of human difficulty as in hospitals and prisons.

And of course, my acknowledgment also goes to all who contributed to the organization and realization of this inspiring event, supporting it in various ways.

We had the joy of listening with attentive participation to demanding concert pieces by Luciano Berio, Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven.

I am happy to underscore that Brahms's music has enriched Hoelderlin's "Song od destiny' with religious faithfulness. This leads us to consider the spiritual value of the musical art, which is called upon, in a singular manner, to instill hope in the human spirit that is so affected and often hurt by our earthly condition.

There is a mysterious and profound kinship between music and hope, between song and eternal life: There is a reason that Christian tradition depicts the blessed spirits in the act of singing together, rapt and ecstatic at the beauty of God.

But authentic art, like prayer, does not alienate us from the reality of every day, but rather enables us to return to our routine in order to 'irrigate' it and make it sprout to bear fruits of goodness and pace.

The masterful itnterpretations which we have just heard also remind us of the value and universal importance of the artistic patrimony. I think especially of the younger generations, who by coming close to such patrimony, may always draw new inspiration to construct a world of justice and solidarity, by appreciating, in the service of mankind, the multiform expressions of world culture.

I am also thinking of the importance that education must give to authentic beauty in the formation of young people. Art in its entirety contributes to refine their spirit and to orient them towards building a society that is open to the ideals of the spirit.

Italy, with its exceptional artistic patrimony, can play, in this respect, an important role in the world: the quantity and quality of the monuments and works of art that it possesses make it, in fact, the universal 'messenger' of all those values that art expresses and promotes at the same time.

Moreover, the festiveness of song and music is in itself a constant invitation to believers and men of good will to commit themselves in order to give mankind a future rich with hope.

Mr. President of the Republic, thank you once again for this stupendous gift and for the sentiments that came with it. I will respond by assuring you of my prayers that the Lord may protect yourself, your kind spouse, and the authorities and people of Italy.

With these wishes, that I entrust to the Mother of Good Counsel, I invoke the blessing of God on all present and their respective families.

Thank you, and good evening to all!

4/28/2008 3:43 AM
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At 9:30 this morning, the sixth Sunday of Easter, the Holy Father presided at Holy Mass in St. Peter's Basilica during which he conferred priestly orders on 29 deacons - 28 from the Diocese of Rome and one from the Pontifical Urban College of the Propaganda Fide.

Concelebrating with the Holy Father were Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, Mons. Luigi Moretti, Vice-Regent, the auxiliary bishops, the superiors of the Roman seminaries involved, and the parish priests of the ordinands.

Here is a translation of the Pope's homily during the Liturgy of Ordination:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, in a very special way, the words "You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing" (Is 9,2) are realized for us. Indeed, to the joy of celebrating the Eucharist on the Lord's day, is also added the spiritual exultation of Eastertide which has now reached the sixth Sunday, and above all, the feast of ordaining new priests.

Together with you, I greet affectionately the 29 deacons who will be ordained priests shortly. I express my great acknowledgment to those who led them along their path of discernment and preparation, and I invite you all to give thanks to God for the gift to the Church of these new priests.

Let us support them with intense prayer during this celebration, in a spirit of fervent praise to the Father who called them, to the Son who drew them to him, to the Spirit which formed them.

Usually, the ordination of new priests takes place on the fourth Sunday of Easter, called the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, but this year, it was not possible because I was setting off for my pastoral visit to the United States of America.

The icon of the Good Shepherd seems to be that which more than any other brings to light the role and the ministry of the priesthood in the Christian community.

But even the Biblical passages which today's liturgy offers for our meditation, illumine, from a different angle, the mission of the priest.

The first Reeading, taken from chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles, narrates the mission of the deacon Phillip to Samaria. I wish to call attention right away to the sentence that closes the first part of the text: "And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8,8).

This expression does not communicate an idea, a theological concept, but refers to an event in detail, something that changed the life of people: in a certain city of Samaria, in the time that followed the first violent persecution against the Church of Jerusalem (cfr Acts 8,1), something happened which brought 'great joy'.

What had happened? The sacred author narrates that, in order to escape the persecution that had broken out in Jerusalem against those who had converted to Christianity, all the disciples, including the Apostles, abandoned the Holy City and dispersed throughout the surrounding countryside.

But this sad event led, in a mysterious and providential manner, to a renewed impulse to spread the Gospel. Among those who were dispersed was Phillip, one of the seven deacons of the Community, a deacon like you, dear ordinands, even if in a very different manner, because in that irrepeatable season of the early Church, the Apostles and the deacons were endowed by the Holy Spirit with an extraordinary power for preaching as well as for thaumaturgical action.

It so happens that the inhabitants of that Samaritan locality, which is spoken of in this chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, unanimously welcomed the preaching of Phillip, and thanks to their adhesion to the Gospel, he was able to heal many sick persons.

In that city of Samaria, among a people who were traditionally despised and almost excommunicated by the Judeans, the proclamation of Christ resounded and opened to joy the hearts of all those who received him with trust. That is why, St. Luke underscores, in that city "there was great joy."

Dear friends, this is also your mission: to bring the Gospel to everyone, so that everyone may experience the joy of Christ and there may be joy in every city. What can be more beautiful than this? What can be greater, more worthy of enthusiasm, than to cooperate in spreading throughout the world the Word of life, than to communicate the living water of the Holy Spirit?

To announce and testify to joy: this is the central nucleus of your mission, dear deacons who, in a short while, will be priests.

The Apostle Paul calls the ministers of the Gospel 'servants of joy'. To the Christians of Corinth, in his Second Letter, he writes: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith" (2 Cor 1,24). These are programmatic words for every priest.

To be collaborators in the joy of others, in a world that is often sad and negative, the fire of the Gospel must burn within you, the joy of the Lord must dwell within you. Then and only then can you be messengers and multipliers of this joy, bringing it to everyone, especially those who are sad and have lost trut.

Let us return to the first Reading which offers us another element for meditation. It talks of a prayer meeting which takes place in that same Samaritan city that had been evangelized by the deacon Phillip. Presiding over it were the apostles Peter and John, two 'pillars' of the Church, who came from Jer4usalem to visit this new community and confirm it in the faith.

Thanks to their laying of hands, the Holy Spirit descended on those who had been baptized. We can see in this episode a first attestation of the rite of Confirmation, the second sacrament in Christian initiation.

Even for us who are gathered here, the reference to the ritual gesture of the laying of hands is very significant. It is, in fact, also the central gesture of the rite of Ordination, through which shortly I will confer on the candidates the dignity of priesthood.

It is a sign that is inseparable from prayer, of which it is a silent prolongation. Without saying a word, the consecrating Bishop and after him, other priests, lay their hands on the heads of the ordinands, expressing thereby an invocation to God that he may instill his Spirit in them and transform them by making them take part in the Priesthood of Christ. It only takes a few seconds, a very brief time, but it is charged with extraordinary spiritual density.

Dear Ordinands, in the future you will always return to this moment, to this gesture which has nothing of magic in it, and yet it is very rich in mystery, because this is the start of your new mission.

In that silent prayer, an encounter between two freedoms takes place: the freedom of God, working through the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of man.

The laying of hands expresses graphically the specific modality of this encounter: the Church, represented by the Bishop on his feet with his hands extended, prays to the Holy Spirit to consecrate the candidate; the deacon, on his knees, receives the imposition of hands and entrusts himself to such mediation.

The ensemble of the gestures is significant, but infinitely more important is the spiritual movement, unseen, that it expresses: a movement well evoked in sacred silence which envelops everything outside as well as inside.

We find this mysterious trinitarian movement, which leads the Holy Spirit and the Son to dwell in the disciples, even in the evangelical pericope (passage cited in the Mass). Here it is Jesus himself who promises that he will pray to the Father sho that he will send his Spirit, defined as 'aother Paraclete" (Jn 14,16), a Greek term which is equivalent to the Latin'ad-vocatus', advocate and defender.

The first Paraclete is the Incarnate Son, who came to defend man from Satan, the accuser by definition. From the moment Christ, having completed his mission, returns to the Father, the latter sends the Spirit as Defender and Comforter, so that he may stay for always with believers, dwelling within them.

Thus, between God the Father and the disciples, thanks to the mediation of the Son and the Holy Spirit, an intimate relationship fo reciprocity is established: "I am in the Father, you are in me, and I in you", says Jesus (Jn 14,20).

But all this depends on a condition that Christ sets clearly at the start: "If you love me" (Jn 14,15), and which he repeats at the end: "Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him" (Jn 14,21).

Without love for Jesus, which is shown by observing his commandments, a person excludes himself from the trinitarian communion and starts to fold back into himself, losing the capacity to receive and communicate God.

"If you love me". Dear friends, Jesus said these words at the Last Supper at the moment when, contextually, he instituted the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Although addressed to the Apostles, in a certain sense, the words are addressed to all their successors and to the priests, who are the closest collaborators of the successors to the Apostles.

We listen to it again today as an invitation to live ever more consistently our vocation in the Church: you, dear Ordinands, hear it with particular emotion, because it is today that Christ makes you participants in his Priesthood. Receive it with faith and with love!

Let it be impressed in your heart. Let it accompany you along the course of your entire existence. Do not forget it. Do not lose your way. Reread it, meditate on it often, and above all, pray with those words in mind. In that way, you will remain faithful to the love of Christ and you will always be aware - with a joy that is ever new - how this divine Word 'walks' with you and 'grows' in you.

One more obsevration about the second Reading: it is taken from the First Letter of Peter, near whose tomb we find ourselves and to whose intercession I wish to entrust you most specially. I will make his words mine and pass them on to you with affection: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3,15).

Adore Christ the Lord in your hearts; that means, cultivate a personal relationship of love with him, the first and greatest love, unique and totalizing, within which to love, purify, illumine and sanctify all your other relationships.

'The hope that is in you' is bound to this adoration, to this love of Christ, who through the Spirit, as we say, dwells in us. Our hope, your hope, is God, in Jesus and in the Spirit. A hope which from today becomes 'priestly hope' in you, that of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who dells in you and gives form to your desires according to the divine heart: hope of life and of forgiveness for the persons who will be entrusted to your pastoral care; hope of holiness and of apostolic fruitfulness for you and for all the Church; hope of an opening to faith and to an encounter with God for all those who come to you in their search for truth; hope of peace and comfort for the suffering and those who are injured by life.

Dearest ones, this is my wish for you on this day that is so significant to you: that hope rooted in faith may always be yours! And may you always be witnesses and givers, wise and generous, kind and strong, respectful and convincing.

On this mission, may you be accompanied always and protected by the Virgin Mary, whom I exhort you to welcome anew, as did the apostle John at the foot of the Cross, as Mother and Star of your life and your priesthood. Amen.
5/3/2008 6:00 PM
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Christians and Buddhists: Caring for the Planet Earth

Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. On the occasion of the festival of Vesakh, I am writing to you and your communities worldwide to convey my own warm greetings, as well as those of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

2. It gives me much joy to recall the positive relationships that Catholics and Buddhists have enjoyed for many years. I am confident that this foundation will serve to strengthen and deepen our understanding of each other as we continue to work together to build a better world not only for ourselves but also for the entire human family.

Experience teaches us that dialogue fosters the desire within the person and the community to share the goodwill and harmony which already exists, and indeed to reach out ever more courageously to others, ready to embrace the challenges and difficulties that may arise.

3. Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2008 Message for the World Day of Peace, observed: “For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion” (no. 7).

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2008 as The International Year of Planet Earth. As inhabitants of the earth and believers, Christians and Buddhists respect the same creation and have a common concern to promote care for the environment which we all share.

4. Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for everyone.

Many governments, NGOs, multi-national companies, and research and tertiary institutes, in recognizing the ethical implications present in all economic and social development, are investing financial resources as well as sharing expertise on biodiversity, climate change, environmental protection and conservation.

Religious leaders, too, are contributing to the public debate. This contribution is of course not just a reaction to the more recent pressing threats associated with global warming. Christianity and Buddhism have always upheld a great respect for nature and taught that we should be grateful stewards of the earth.

Indeed it is only through a profound reflection on the relationship between the divine Creator, creation and creatures that attempts to address environmental concerns will not be marred by individual greed or hampered by the interests of particular groups.

5. On a practical level can we Christians and Buddhists not do more to collaborate in projects which confirm the responsibility that falls to each and everyone of us?

Recycling, energy conservation, the prevention of indiscriminate destruction of plant and animal life, and the protection of waterways all speak of careful stewardship and indeed foster goodwill and promote cordial relations among peoples. In this way Christians and Buddhists together can be harbingers of hope for a clean, safe and harmonious world.

6. Dear Friends, I trust that we can promote this message within our respective communities through public education and our good example in respecting nature and acting responsibly towards our one common planet Earth. Once again let me renew my heartfelt greetings and wish you a Happy Feast of Vesakh.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata

5/3/2008 6:02 PM
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5/3/2008 6:10 PM
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At noon today, the Holy Father received participants of the XIV Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace. The session is taking place at the Pius V Casina inside the Vatican from May 2-6 on the theme "Pursuing the common good: How solidarity adn subsidiarity can work together". The Holy Father addressed the assembly in English.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you as you gather for the fourteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Over the last two decades, the Academy has offered a valuable contribution to the deepening and development of the Church’s social doctrine and its application in the areas of law, economics, politics and the various other social sciences.

I thank Professor Margaret Archer for her kind words of greeting, and I express my sincere appreciation to all of you for your commitment to research, dialogue and teaching, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may continue to shed light on the complex situations arising in a rapidly changing world.

In choosing the theme 'Pursuing the Common Good: How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together', you have decided to examine the inter-relationships between four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 160-163).

These key realities, which emerge from the living contact between the Gospel and concrete social circumstances, offer a framework for viewing and addressing the imperatives facing mankind at the dawn of the twenty-first century, such as reducing inequalities in the distribution of goods, expanding opportunities for education, fostering sustainable growth and development, and protecting the environment.

How can solidarity and subsidiarity work together in the pursuit of the common good in a way that not only respects human dignity, but allows it to flourish? This is the heart of the matter which concerns you.

As your preliminary discussions have already revealed, a satisfactory answer can only surface after careful examination of the meaning of the terms (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Chapter 4).

Human dignity is the intrinsic value of a person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ.

The totality of social conditions allowing persons to achieve their communal and individual fulfilment is known as the common good.

Solidarity refers to the virtue enabling the human family to share fully the treasure of material and spiritual goods, and subsidiarity is the coordination of society’s activities in a way that supports the internal life of the local communities.

Yet definitions are only the beginning. What is more, these definitions are adequately grasped only when linked organically to one another and seen as mutually supportive of one another.

We can initially sketch the interconnections between these four principles by placing the dignity of the person at the intersection of two axes: one horizontal, representing "solidarity" and "subsidiarity", and one vertical, representing the "common good".

This creates a field upon which we can plot the various points of Catholic social teaching that give shape to the common good.

Though this graphic analogy gives us a rudimentary picture of how these fundamental principles imply one another and are necessarily interwoven, we know that the reality is much more complex.

Indeed, the unfathomable depths of the human person and mankind’s marvellous capacity for spiritual communion – realities which are fully disclosed only through divine revelation – far exceed the capacity of schematic representation.

The solidarity that binds the human family, and the subsidiary levels reinforcing it from within, must however always be placed within the horizon of the mysterious life of the Triune God (cf. Jn 5:26; 6:57), in whom we perceive an ineffable love shared by equal, though nonetheless distinct, persons (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 42).

My friends, I invite you to allow this fundamental truth to permeate your reflections: not only in the sense that the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity are undoubtedly enriched by our belief in the Trinity, but particularly in the sense that these principles have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny.

The natural human inclination to live in community is confirmed and transformed by the "oneness of Spirit" which God has bestowed upon his adopted sons and daughters (cf. Eph 4:3; 1 Pet 3:8).

Consequently, the responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman.

In this regard, the tranquillitas ordinis of which Saint Augustine speaks refers to "all things": that is to say both "civil peace", which is a "concord among citizens", and the "peace of the heavenly city", which is the "perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God" (De Civitate Dei, XIX, 13).

The eyes of faith permit us to see that the heavenly and earthly cities interpenetrate and are intrinsically ordered to one another, inasmuch as they both belong to God the Father, who is "above all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:6).

At the same time, faith places into sharper focus the due autonomy of earthly affairs, insofar as they are "endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order" (Gaudium et Spes, 36).

Hence, you can be assured that your discussions will be of service to all people of good will, while simultaneously inspiring Christians to embrace more readily their obligation to enhance solidarity with and among their fellow citizens, and to act upon the principle of subsidiarity by promoting family life, voluntary associations, private initiative, and a public order that facilitates the healthy functioning of society’s most basic communities (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 187).

When we examine the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in the light of the Gospel, we realize that they are not simply "horizontal": they both have an essentially vertical dimension.

Jesus commands us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (cf. Lk 6:31); to love our neighbour as ourselves (cf. Mat 22:35). These laws are inscribed by the Creator in man’s very nature (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31).

Jesus teaches that this love calls us to lay down our lives for the good of others (cf. Jn 15:12-13). In this sense, true solidarity – though it begins with an acknowledgment of the equal worth of the other – comes to fulfilment only when I willingly place my life at the service of the other (cf. Eph 6:21).

Herein lies the "vertical" dimension of solidarity: I am moved to make myself less than the other so as to minister to his or her needs (cf. Jn 13:14-15), just as Jesus "humbled himself" so as to give men and women a share in his divine life with the Father and the Spirit (cf. Phil 2:8; Mat 23:12).

Similarly, subsidiarity – insofar as it encourages men and women to enter freely into life-giving relationships with those to whom they are most closely connected and upon whom they most immediately depend, and demands of higher authorities respect for these relationships – manifests a "vertical" dimension pointing towards the Creator of the social order (cf. Rom 12:16, 18).

A society that honours the principle of subsidiarity liberates people from a sense of despondency and hopelessness, granting them the freedom to engage with one another in the spheres of commerce, politics and culture (cf. Quadragesimo Anno, 80).

When those responsible for the public good attune themselves to the natural human desire for self-governance based on subsidiarity, they leave space for individual responsibility and initiative, but most importantly, they leave space for love (cf. Rom 13:8; Deus Caritas Est, 28), which always remains "the most excellent way" (cf. 1 Cor 12:31).

In revealing the Father’s love, Jesus has taught us not only how to live as brothers and sisters here on earth; he has shown us that he himself is the way to perfect communion with one another and with God in the world to come, since it is through him that "we have access in one Spirit to the Father" (cf. Eph 2:18).

As you strive to articulate the ways in which men and women can best promote the common good, I encourage you to survey both the "vertical" and "horizontal" dimensions of solidarity and subsidiarity.

In this way, you will be able to propose more effective ways of resolving the manifold problems besetting mankind at the threshold of the third millennium, while also bearing witness to the primacy of love, which transcends and fulfils justice as it draws mankind into the very life of God (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace).

With these sentiments, I assure you of my prayers, and I cordially extend my Apostolic Blessing to you and your loved ones as a pledge of peace and joy in the Risen Lord.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/3/2008 6:11 PM]
5/5/2008 1:40 AM
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At 6 p.m., the Holy Father led the recitation of the Holy Rosary at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Here is a translation of the remarks he gave after the prayers:

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this moment of Marian prayer, I wish to address my heartfelt greetings to all of you and thank you for your

In particular, I greet Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Arch-Priest of this stupendous Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. In Rome, this is the Marian temple par excellence, in which the people of the city venerate with great affection the icon of Maria Salus Popoli Romani (Protector of the Roman people).

I gladly accepted the invitation to lead the Holy Rosary here on this first Saturday of May according to a beautiful tradition that I have experienced since I was a child.

Indeed, in the experience of my generation, May evenings bring back sweet memories liked to those Vespertine appointments to pay homage to Our Lady. How could one forget praying the rosary together in parish churches or in the courtyards of our homes or in our villages?

Today, we confirm together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, nor a prayer from other times which we only think about with nostalgia. The Rosary is, in fact, undergoing a new spring almost. This is undoubtedly one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the new generations feel for Jesus and for Mary his mother.

In the present world that is so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ in the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated in her heart on all that was said about her Son, and on all that he said and did.

In reciting the Rosary, one relives the important and significant moments in the story of salvation - we retrace the various stages of the mission of Christ.

With Mary, our hearts are oriented towards the mystery of Jesus, Christ is placed at the center of our lives, of our time, of our cities, through meditating on the holy mysteries of joy and light and sorrow and glory in his life.

May Mary help us receive the grace that comes from these mysteries, so that through us, this grace may 'irrigate' society, starting with our daily relationships, and purify it of so many negative forces, opening it up to the news of God.

The Rosary, when it is prayed authentically, not mechanically or superficially, but profoundly, brings peace and reconciliation. It contains the healing power of the most holy name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the center of every Hail Mary.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God who has conceded us this evening made beautiful by grace, and in the succeeding nights of this Marian month, even if we shall be apart, each in his own family and community, we will feel ourselves just as close together and united in prayer.

Especially during these days which prepare us for the Solemnity of Pentecost, let us stay united with Mary, invoking for the Church a new effusion of the Holy Spirit. As at the beginning, may the Most Holy Mary help each Christian community to form one heart and one soul.

I entrust to you the most urgent intentions of my ministry, the needs of the Church, the great problems of mankind - peace in teh world, Christian unity, dialog among all cultures.

Thinking of Rome and of Italy, I invite you to pray for the pastoral objectives of the Diocese, and for the fraternal development of this beloved nation.

To the new Mayor of Rome, the Honorable Gianni Alemanno, whom I see here tonight, I express my best wishes for fruitful service towards the good of the entire city.

To all of you who are gathered here, and to those who are joined with us through radio and television, particularly the sick and the infirm, I impart the Apostolic Blessing from my heart.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/5/2008 3:06 AM]
5/5/2008 1:41 AM
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After the recitation of the Regina caeli today, the Holy Father addressed some 100,000 members of Italian Catholic Action gathered in St. Peter's Square, who earlier took part in a Eucharistic Celebration presided by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops conference and Archbishop of Genoa.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address:

Dear boys and girls, youths and adults of Catholic Action:

It is a great joy for me to welcome you today at St. Peter's Square, where your meritorious association has met not a few times in the past with the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your visit.

I affectionately greet all of you who have come from all parts of Italy, as well as the members of your International Forum who have come from 40 nations of the world.

In particular, I greet your national president, Prof. Luigi Alici, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me; your spiritual adviser, Mons. Domenico Sigalini, and your national and diocesan officials.

I also thank you for the special gift that you gave me through your representatives which is a testimony of your solidarity with the neediest in society.

And I express my sincere acknowledgement to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops conference, who celebrated the Holy Mass for you.

You have come to Rome in the spiritual company of your many saints,. blesseds, venerables and servants of God: man and women, young people and children, educators and priest advisers, all rich in Christian virtues, who have grown in the ranks of Catholic Action which completes 140 years of existence today.

The magnificent crown of faces that symbolically embrace St. Peter's Square is a tangible testimony of saintliness that is rich in light and love. These witnesses, who followed Jesus with all their strength, who gave themselves generously for the Church and for the Kingdom of God, represent your most authentic identification card.

Is it not possible, even today, for you - children, young people and adults - to make your lives a testimony to communion with the Lord, to transform them into an authentic masterwork of saintliness? Is this not the real purpose of your Association?

This will certainly be possible if Catholic Action continues to be faithful to its profound roots in faith, nourished by pious adherence to the Word of God, by unconditional love for the Church, by vigilant participation in civic life and by a constant formative commitment.

Dear friends, respond generously to the call to saintliness, according to the form most consonant with your particular lay vocation. Continue to be inspired by the three great 'assignments' that my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, entrusted to you in Loreto in 2004: meditation, communion, mission.

Catholic Action was born as a special association of lay faithful, distinguished by a special and direct link to the Pope, and it soon became a precious form of 'lay collaboration with the apostolate of the hierarchy', recommended most urgently by the Second Vatican Council, which identified its irrenunciable and 'well-known characteristics' (cfr Decreto Apostolicam actuositatem, 20).

This vocation of yours remains valid today. Therefore, I encourage you to pursue your service to the Church with generosity. In assuming its general apostolic objective, and in a spirit of intimate union with the Successor of Peter, as well as industrious co-responsibility with your Pastors, you embody a ministry in fecund equilibrium between the universal Church and local Churches, which call on you to offer your unceasing and irreplaceable contribution to communion.

This ample ecclesial breadth which marks your association's charism, is not the sign of an identity that has become uncertain or outgrown. Rather it imposes a great responsibility on your lay vocation: Enlightened and sustained by the action of the Holy Spirit, and constantly rooted in the course of the Church, you are urged to courageously look for new syntheses between the tasks of announcing Christ's salvation to the men of our time, and the promotion of the integral good of the human being and the entire human family.

In my address at the Fourth National Church Convention held in Verona in October 2006, I described the Italian Church "as a living reality which conserves a detailed involvement and presence in the lives of persons of every age and condition."

"Christian traditions are often still firmly rooted and continue to produce fruits, even while there is a great new effort for evangelization and catechesis, particularly addressed to the new generations, but now also, increasingly to families" (Teachings of Benedict XVI, vol. II/2, 2006, pp. 468-469).

How can we not see in this capillary presence the discreet and tangible mark of Catholic Action? The beloved Italian nation, in fact, has always been able to count on the men and women formed in your association, who have been ready to serve disinterestedly the cause of the common good, in order to build a just order in society and the state.

Therefore, remember to live up always to your Baptism, which has immersed you in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, for the salvation of every man that you encounter, and for a world that thirsts for peace and truth.

Be 'citizens worthy of the Gospel' and 'ministers of Christian wisdom for a a more humane world', as your motto proclaims. This is the commitment that you assume towards the Church in Italy, represented here by yourselves, your priest advisers, your Bishops and their President.

In a missionary Church, facing an educative emergency as that which we now have in Italy, may you who love and serve it be tireless announcers of the Gospel and well-prepared, generous educators.

In a Church undergoing very demanding tests of faith and tempted to adapt, be courageous witnesses and prophets of evangelical radicalness.

In a Church which is confronted daily with a mentality that is relativist, hedonist and consumerist, know how to widen the space of rationality in the name of a faith that is a friend of intelligence, whether it be in the context of popular widespread culture or in a more elaborate and reflective manner.

In a Church that calls you to the heroism of holiness, answer without fear, trusting always in the mercy of God.

Dear friends of Italian Catholic Action, in the journey that you face, you are not alone: your saints accompany you. Other figures have had significant roles in your association: I think, among others, of a Giuseppe Toniolo or an Armida Barelli.

Stimulated by these examples of lived Christianity, you have undertaken an extraordinary year, a year that we may qualify as a year of saintliness, in which you are committed to translated into concrete life the teaching of the Gospel.

I encourage you in this purpose. Intensify prayer, re-form your conduct according to the eternal values of the Gospel, allowing yourself to be guided by the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

The Pope accompaneis you with a constant prayer to the Lord, and from my heart, I impart the Apostolic Blessing on those who are present here and the entire Association.

5/8/2008 11:48 PM
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At 6 p.m. yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI was honored with a concert presented by the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shanghai Opera Chorus.

Before the program began, the orchestra's music director Long Yu gave opening remarks.

Here is the Vatican translation of the brief remarks given by the Holy Father after the concert. He delivered them in Italian and English, ending with a sentence in Chinese.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends!

Another high-quality musical performance sees us gathered once again in the Paul VI Audience Hall. For me and for all of us here, it takes on a particular value and meaning.

Since it is offered and performed by the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, it puts us in touch, as it were, with the living reality of the world of China.

I thank the choir and orchestra for this generous tribute and I congratulate the organizers and the artists for their skilful, refined and elegant performance of a musical work that forms part of the artistic heritage of all humanity.

In a group of such accomplished artists, we see represented the great cultural and musical tradition of China, and this performance helps us to understand better the history of the Chinese people, their values and their noble aspirations. Heartfelt thanks for this gift!

Thanks also for the music that is about to be performed! I extend sincere thanks not only to the promoters and the artists, but to all those who, in different ways, took part in arranging this truly unique event.

The following part was delivered in English:

It is worth emphasizing that this performance by Chinese artists of one of Mozart’s greatest works brings together their own musical talent and Western music. Conductor Long Yu, with his orchestra, the soloists and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus have comfortably risen to the challenge.

Music, and art in general, can serve as a privileged instrument for encounter and reciprocal knowledge and esteem between different populations and cultures; a means attainable by all for valuing the universal language of art.

There is another aspect that I wish to emphasize. I note with pleasure the interest shown by your orchestra and choir in European religious music. This shows that it is possible, in different cultural settings, to enjoy and appreciate sublime manifestations of the spirit such as Mozart’s Requiem which we have just heard, precisely because music expresses universal human sentiments, including the religious sentiment, which transcends the boundaries of every individual culture.

He resumed in Italian:

I should also like to say a word regarding this place where we have come together this evening. It is the great hall in which the Pope receives his guests and meets those who come to visit him.

It is like a window opening onto the world, a place where people from all over the world often meet, with their own personal stories and their own culture, all of them welcomed with esteem and affection.

In greeting you this evening, dear Chinese artists, the Pope intends to reach out to your entire people, with a special thought for those of your fellow citizens who share faith in Jesus and are united through a particular spiritual bond with the Successor of Peter.

The Requiem came into being through this faith as a prayer to God, the just and merciful judge, and that is why it touches the hearts of all people, as an expression of humanity’s universal aspirations.

Finally, as I thank you once again for this most welcome tribute, I send my greetings, through you, to all the people of China as they prepare for the Olympic Games, an event of great importance for the entire human family.

He concluded with a few words in Chinese:

I thank you all and I offer you my best wishes.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/8/2008 11:49 PM]
5/9/2008 1:32 PM
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5/9/2008 1:38 PM
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Here is the address delivered in English by teh Holoy Fahter today after celebrating Mid-Day Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours at the Sala Clementina with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all the Armenians, adn his delegation.

The Holy Father met with the Patriarch and his delegation in separate audiences earlier in the day.

Your Holiness,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with heartfelt joy that I welcome Your Holiness, and the distinguished delegation accompanying you. I cordially greet the prelates, priests and lay-people who represent the worldwide family of the Catholicosate of All Armenians.

We come together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who promised his disciples that "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Mt 18:20). May the spirit of brotherly love and service, which Jesus taught to his disciples, enlighten our hearts and minds, as we exchange our greetings, hold our conversations and gather in prayer.

I gratefully recall the visits of Catholicos Vasken I and Catholicos Karekin I to the Church of Rome, and their cordial relations with my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Their striving for Christian unity opened a new era in relations between us.

I recall with particular joy Your Holiness’ visit to Rome in 2000 and your meeting with Pope John Paul II. The ecumenical liturgy in the Vatican Basilica, celebrating the gift of a relic of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was one of the most memorable events of the Great Jubilee in Rome.

Pope John Paul II returned that visit by travelling to Armenia in 2001, where You graciously hosted him at Holy Etchmiadzin. The warm welcome you gave him on that occasion further increased his esteem and respect for the Armenian people.

The Eucharist celebrated by Pope John Paul II on the great outdoor altar, within the enclosure of Holy Etchmiadzin, was a further sign of growing mutual acceptance, in expectation of the day when we will be able to celebrate together at the one table of the Lord.

Tomorrow evening, each of us, in our respective traditions, will begin the liturgical celebration of Pentecost. Fifty days after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will pray earnestly to the Father, asking him to send his Holy Spirit, the Spirit whose task it is to maintain us in divine love and lead us into all truth. We will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church.

On Pentecost day, it was the Holy Spirit who created from the many languages of the crowds assembled in Jerusalem one single voice to profess the faith. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about the Church’s unity.

The path towards the restoration of full and visible communion among all Christians may seem long and arduous. Much remains to be done to heal the deep and painful divisions that disfigure Christ’s Body. The Holy Spirit, however, continues to guide the Church in surprising and often unexpected ways. He can open doors that are locked, inspire words that have been forgotten, heal relations that are broken.

If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father’s plan, in conformity with the will of Christ.

The recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colours of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re-birth. Your Holiness and the members of your delegation have personally lived through these contrasting experiences in your families and in your own lives.

The restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all. An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders.

I cannot but voice my great esteem for the remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time, both in Armenia and abroad, for the Christian education of young people, for the training of new clergy, for building new churches and community centres, for charitable assistance to those in need, and for promoting Christian values in social and cultural life.

Thanks to your pastoral leadership, the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on the social, cultural and spiritual levels.

In this regard, I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good.

In our ecumenical dialogue, important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology.

During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member. I thank Your Holiness for the support given to the work of the Joint Commission and for the valuable contribution made by your representatives.

We pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist.

Until that day, the bonds between us are best consolidated and extended by agreements on pastoral issues, in line with the degree of doctrinal agreement already attained. Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples.

Your Holiness, dear friends: in the twelfth century, Nerses of Lambron addressed a group of Armenian Bishops. He concluded his famous Synodal Discourse on the restoration of Christian unity with visionary words, that still affect us today:

"You are not wrong, Venerable Fathers: it is meritorious to weep over days past in discord. However, today is the day that the Lord has made, a day of gladness and joy (…) Let us then pray in order that our Lord give tenderness, sweetness in greater abundance still, and that He develop on earth, by the dew of the Holy Spirit, this seed; perhaps, thanks to His power may we also produce fruits; so that we may restore the peace of the Church of Christ today in intention, tomorrow in fact".

This is also my prayerful wish on the occasion of your visit. I thank you most warmly and assure you of my deep affection in the Lord.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/9/2008 1:39 PM]
5/11/2008 8:02 PM
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address to Hungarian bishops who were on ad-limina visit to Rome last week. He met with them in 3 separate groups during the week and addressed them all on Friday morning. He delivered his remarks in Hungarian, but the Vatican provided an Italian translation, on which this translation was based:

Dear and venerated brothers in the Episcopate!

With great joy I welcome all of you, pastors of the Church in Hungary, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum.

I affectionately greet Cardinal Peter Erdo and I thank him for the words that he addressed to me in behalf of the entire Bishops Conference.

Besides expressing your fraternal sentiments, he also outlined with clarity the salient characteristics of the Catholic community and society in your country, summarizing what I have heard in my encounters with each of you in the past few days.

Thus, dear brothers, the people entrusted to your care are spiritually before us now, with their joys and plans, their sorrows, their problems and their hopes.

And above all, we pray that through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, the faithful may find the strength, even with some help from this Apostolic See which presides in charity, to persevere in their journey towards the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately the long period of the Communist regime has weighed heavily on the Hungarian people, so that even now, the consequences are still evident: in particular, these are highlighted in many by a certain difficulty in trusting others, typical of those who have lived for so long in a climate of suspicion.

The sense of insecurity is accentuated by difficult economic circumstances, which thoughtless consumerism does not help to improve. People, including Catholics, generally feel the effects of that 'weakness' of thought and will which is too common in our time.

As you yourselves have observed, it is difficult today to propose a serious theological and spiritual examination in depth because often, the people lack, on the one hand, the intellectual preparation, and on the other, an objective reference to the truths of the faith.

In this context, the Church should surely be a teacher, but it must show itself first of all as a mother in order to favor the growth of reciprocal trust and the promotion of hope.

The first reality which unfortunately pays the price of widespread secularization is the family which even in Hungary is going through a serious crisis. Its symptoms are the remarkable decrease in marriages and the impressive increase in divorces, in most cases, even premature ones. So-called de facto couples are multiplying. Rightly, you have criticized the public recognition of homosexual unions because this is contrary not only to the teaching of the Church but even to the Hungarian Constitution.

This situation, joined with the lack of assistance to families with many children, has resulted in a drastic drop in the birth rate, made even more dramatic by the widespread practice of abortion.

Of course, the crisis of the family constitutes a great challenge for the Church. Conjugal faithfulness and, more generally, the values on which society is based, are at issue.

It is obvious, therefore, that after the family, it is the young people who are affected the most. In the cities, they are lured by new forms of entertainment, and in the villages, they are usually left to themselves.

Nonetheless, I express my most sincere appreciation for the multiple initiatives that your Church promotes, despite the limited means at your disposal, to animate the world of the young, with moments of formation and friendship which can stimulate their sense of responsibility.

I think, for instance, of the activity of the choirs, which take part in the laudable commitment of the parishes to incentivize the spread of sacred music.

Also in the context of attention to the new generations, the support you give to Catholic schools is praiseworthy, particularly to the Catholic University of Budapest, which I hope will always preserve and develop its original identity.

I encourage you to continue your efforts in scholastic and university pastoral care, as also, more generally, in the evangelization of culture, which in our days, should avail of modern means of social communications, in which area your Church has recently made significant progress.

Venerated brothers, to keep alive the faith of the people, you rightly seek to value and update traditional initiatives, such as pilgrimages and expressions of devotion to Hungarian saints, particularly to St. Elizabeth, St. Emmerich, and of course, to St. Stephen.

With regard to pilgrimages, while I appreciate the continued custom of making a pilgrimage to the Seat of Peter (significantly, in the Apostle's Basilica, there is a Hungarian Chapel), I have appreciated with great pleasure that pilgrimages are being made more often to Mariazell, Czestochowa, Lourdes, Fatima, and to the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Cracow, where your Episcopal Conference recently constructed a Hungarian Chapel.

In the 20th century, your community has not lacked for heroic witnesses to the faith. I call on you to safeguard their memory, so that the sufferings faced by them with Christian spirit may continue to inspire courage and faith among believers and whoever is committed to truth and justice.

There is another concern that I share with you: the lack of priests adn the resulting overload of pastoral work for the present ministers of the Church. It is a problem that is found in many countries of Europe.

Nevertheless, it is also necessary that the existing priests may adequately nourish their spiritual life so that, despite difficulties adn urgent work, they may not lose sight of the center of their existence and their ministry, and consequently, that they may know how to discern the essential from the secondary, identifying the right priorities in their daily activities.

I must repeat that a joyous adherence to Christ, manifested by the priest among his flock, is still the most effective stimulus to reawaken in young people a sensibility for an eventual call from God.

In particular, it is fundamental that the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penitence be practised with maximum assiduity and devotion, above all by the priests themselves, who can then administer them generously to the faithful.

Equally indispensable is the exercise of priestly brotherhood to avoid any dangerous isolation. Also important is to encourage positive and respectful relationships between priests and the lay faithful, according to the Conciliar decree Presbyterorum ordinis.

Even the relationship between the regular clergy and religious orders, which are already good, deserve to be further improved. In this regard, I wish to address my encouragement to female religious congregations, who with humble discretion, carry out invaluable activities among the poorest.

Venerated brothers, notwithstanding secularization, the Catholic Church remains for many Hungarians the religious community to which they belong, or at least, a significant point of reference. It is therefore even more to be hoped for that relationships with state authorities be characterized by respectful collaboration, thanks to bilateral accords, the correct compliance of which is overseen by a designated bilateral commission. This can only be of benefit to the entire Hungarian society, particularly in the field of education and culture.

And since the Church, thanks to it its commitment in the schools and in social services, brings a noteworthy contribution to the civilian community, how can we not hope than its activities may be sustained by public institutions, especially in favor of the poorer social classes?

On the part of the Church, notwithstanding general economic difficulties at present, her commitment cannot be less in the service of those who find themselves in situations of need.

Venerated brothers, finally, how can I omit to say that the unity which characterizes your following the teachings of the Church is for me a reason for serenity and comfort? May you always maintain and develop that!

Moreover, I am happy that lately, you have increased your contacts with the episcopal conferences of neighboring countries, especially with Slovakia and Romania, where there are Hungarian minorities. I heartily approve this line of action, which is inspired by a sincere evangelical spirit and at the same time, by wise concern for harmonious coexistence.

Tensions are not always easy to overcome, but the road undertaken by the Church is right and promising. For this and for every other pastoral initiative of yours, I assure you of my support: In particular, I am thinking of the 'Year of the Bible', which you are promoting in a timely manner this year, in accordance with the coming Ordinary Assembly of the Bishops' Synod. This will be for you an excellent occasion to deepen relations with our brother Christians from other confessions.

Giving thanks to God for your constant help, I invoke for you and your ministry the maternal protection of the Most Blessed Mary. On my part, I accompany you with prayer, and with affection I impart the Apostolic Blessing which I gladly extend to your diocesan communities and to the entire Hungarian nation.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/12/2008 6:15 AM]
5/11/2008 8:03 PM
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On Saturday, at 12:15 p.m., the Holy Father spoke to the participants of the international Congress promoted by the Pontifical Lateran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of human life). Here is a translation of his address:

Venerated brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters,

It is with special pleasure that I welcome you at the end of the work that you undertook to reflect on a subject which is old but always new, such as the responsibility and respect for the emergence of human life.

I greet in particular Mons. Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical Lateran University, who promoted this international congress, and I thank him for the greetings that he addressed to me.

I also greet the distinguished moderators, professors and all the participants, who have enriched these days of intense work with their contributions.

Your contributions now form part of a vast production which has been growing in the course of decades, on an issue that is so controversial but nonetheless so decisive for the future of mankind.

Already, the Second Vatican Council, in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, addressed men of science, asking them to join forces to reach a unity of knowledge and a consolidated certainty on the conditions that could favor an 'honest regulation of human procreation' (GS, 52).

My predecessor of venerated memory, the Servant of God Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968, the encyclical letter Humanae vitae. That document became very quickly a sign of contradiction.

Elaborated in the light of anguished decision, it constitutes a significant act of courage in reaffirming the doctrine and tradition of the Church. That text, so often misunderstood and wrongly interpreted, provoked much discussion if only because it provided the beginnings of a profound dispute that has marked the lives of entire generations.

Forty years since its publication, that teaching not only manifests its truth unchanged but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem was confronted.

Indeed, it describes conjugal love is described within a global process that is not arrested by a division between body and soul nor rest only on sentiment that is often precarious and fleeting, but assumes the unity of spouses and their total sharing in a reciprocal acceptance of offering themselves to each other with the promise of faithful and exclusive love that is their own free choice.

How can such love be closed to the gift of life? Life is always an invaluable gift. Every time we witness its emergence, we perceive the power of the creative action of God, who trusts in man, and in this way, calls on him to build the future with the strength of hope.

The Magisterium of the Church cannot exempt itself from reflecting in a way that is always new and profound on the fundamental principles regarding matrimony and procreation. But what was true yesterday remains true today.

The truth expressed in Humanae vitae does not change, Rather, precisely in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching had been made more actual and urges reflection on its intrinsic value.

The key word to enter consistently into its contents is 'love'. As I wrote in my first encyclical Deus caritas est, "Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united... It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves" (No. 5).

Without this unity, a person loses value and one falls into the great danger of considering the body as an object that can be sold and bought (cfr ibid.).

In a culture subjected to the dominance of 'having' over 'being', human life risks losing its value. If the exercise of sexuality becomes a drug which would subject a partner to one's own desires and interests, without respecting the wishes and rhythms of the beloved person, then what needs to be defended is not only the true concept of love but, in the first place, human dignity itself.

As believers, we could never permit that the dominance of technology should infect the quality of love and the sacredness of life.

It is not by chance that Jesus, speaking of human love, refers to what God achieved at the start of creation (cfr Mt 19,4-6). His teaching recalls the freely-given act with which the Creator intended to express not only the richness of his love, which openly gives itself to everyone, but also wished to impress a paradigm on which mankind's behavior should model itself.

In the fecundity of conjugal love, man and woman participate in the Father's creative act and make evident that at the origin of their married life is a genuine Yes that is pronounced and truly lived in reciprocity, and that is always open to life.

This word of teh Lord remains unchanged in its profound truth and cannot be annulled by the different theories which, in the course of the years, have succeeded each other and sometimes contradict each other.

Natural law, which is the basis of recognizing the true equality among men and peoples, deserves to be recognized as the source which can inspire even the relationship between spouses in their responsibility to generate children.

The transmission of life is inscribed in nature, and its laws remain as the unwritten standard to which everyone should refer. Every attempt to ignore this principle will remain sterile itself and has no future.

It is urgent that we rediscover again an alliance which has always been fruitful when it is respected, and which has love and reason in the forefront.

An acute teacher like Willian St. Thierry could write words that we feel to be profoundly valid even for our time: "If reason instructs love, and love enlightens reason, if reason is converted to love, and love allows itself to be confined within the bounds of reason, then together they can result in something great" (Nature and greatness of love, 21,8).

What is this 'something great' that we may expect? It is the emergence of a responsibility for life which makes fruitful the gift of self that spouses make to each other. It is the fruit of a love that can think and choose in full freedom, without allowing itself to be conditioned disproportionately by the eventual sacrifice it will entail.

From this comes the miracle of life that parents experience for themselves, something extraordinary that is fulfilled in them and through them. No mechanical technique can replace the act of love that two spouses exchange as a sign of the greater mystery which sees them as protagonists and participants in the act of creation.

Unfortunately, one is witnessing more often sad incidents involving adolescents, whose behavior shows an incorrect idea of the mystery of life and of the risky implications of their actions. The emergency in education, which I have often referred to, has a special urgency with regard to the issue of life.

I hope that very special attention may be given to young people above all, so that they may learn the true sense of love and may be prepared through an adequate education in sexuality, without being distracted by ephemeral messages that prevent them from getting to the essence of truth which is in play.

To provide false illusions about love or to deceive them about the genuine responsibilities that they are called on to assume with the exercise of their own sexuality does not do honor to a society that claims to have principles of freedom and democracy.

Freedom should unite itself to truth, and responsibility to strength of dedication to the other to the point of sacrifice. Without these components, the community of men cannot grow, and the risk of enclosing oneself in a circle of asphyxiating selfishness is always lying in ambush.

The teaching expressed in the encyclical Humanae vitae is not easy. Nonetheless, it conforms to the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the creation of the world, respecting nature and in conformity with its demands.

Respect for human life and the safekeeping of human dignity require us
to leave nothing undone so that everyone may participate in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love, in full adherence to the laws written in the heart of every man.

With these sentiments, I impart the Apostolic Blessing on all of you.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/14/2008 8:09 AM]
5/11/2008 8:04 PM
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Here is a translation of the homily by the Holy Father at the Pentecost Sunday Mass he celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

The narrative of the event of Pentecost which we heard in the first Reading is placed by St. Luke in the second chapter of the Acts of teh Apostles.

The chapter is introduced by the words: "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together" (Acts 2,1). They are words which refer to the preceding episode, in which Luke had described the small group of disciples who gathered assiduously in Jerusalem after Jesus's ascension to heaven (cfr Acts 1,12-14).

It is a description rich in details: the place 'where they lived' - the Cenacle - is a place 'on the upper floor'; the eleven Apostles are enumerated by name, and the first named are Peter, John and James, the 'pillars' of the community; with them are mentioned 'some women', 'Mary, the mother of Jesus' and 'his brothers', who had now been added to this new family, no longer based on blood bonds but on faith in Christ.

Clearly it is this 'new Israel' that is alluded to in the total number of persons who were 'nearly 120', a multiple of the 12 associated with the apostolic college.

The group constituted an authentic qāhāl, an 'assembly' modelled after the first Alliance, the community convoked to listen to the voice of the Lord and walk in his ways.

The Book of the Acts underscores that "all these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer" (1,14). Therefore, prayer was the principal activity of the Church being born, through which it received its unity from the Lord and allowed itself to be guided by his will, as shown even by their choice to draw lots to elect him who would take the place of Judas (cfr Acts 2,25).

This community found itself assembled in the same place, the Cenacle, on the morning of the Jewish feast of Pentecost, feast of the Alliance, which commemorated the event on Sinai when God, through Moses, said that Israel would be his special possession among all the peoples, to be a sign of his holiness (cfr Ex 19).

According to the Book of Exodus, that ancient pact was accompanied by a terrifying manifestation of power on the part of the Lord: "Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke," we read, "for the LORD came down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently" (Ex 19,18).

We find the elements of wind and fire again in the Pentecost of the New Testament, but without resonances of fear.

In particular, the fire takes the form of tongues of flame which came to rest on each of the disciples, who were "all filled with the Holy Spirit", and as a result, "began to speak in tongues" (Acts 2,4).

It was a true 'baptism of fire' for the community, a sort of new creation. On Pentecost, the Church was constituted not by human will, but by the power of the Spirit of God.

It soon became apparent how this Spirit gave life to a community which is at the same time one and universal, thus overcoming the curse of Babel (cfr Jn 11,7-9).

Indeed, only the Holy Spirit, who creates unity in love and in the reciprocal acceptance of diversity, can liberate mankind from the constant temptation of a will to earthly power which wants to dominate and homogenize everything.

"Societas Spiritus" - society of the Spirit - is how St. Augustine calls the Church in one of his sermons (71, 19, 32: PL 38, 462). But before him, St. Irinaeus had formulated a truth which I like to recall: "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every grace, and the Spirit is the truth. To distance oneself from the Church is to refuse the Spirit" and therefore, "to exclude oneself from life" (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1).

Since the event of Pentecost, this marriage between the Spirit of Christ and his mystical Body, namely, the Church, has been fully manifested.

I would like to linger on a peculiar aspect of the action of the Holy Spirit, which is the weaving together of multiplicity and unity. The second Reading today deals with it - the harmony of different charisms in communion with the same Spirit.

Already in the Acts narrative that we heard, this interweaving is demonstrated with extraordinary evidence. In what took place at Pentecost, it is clear that the Church counts with many different languages and cultures - and that, in the faith, they can all understand and enrich each other reciprocally.

St. Luke clearly wished to convey a fundamental idea: that at the very moment of its birth, the Church was already 'catholic', universal. From the very beginning, it spoke all languages, because the Gospel that was entrusted to it is destined for all peoples, according to the will and the mandate of the resurrected Christ (cfr Mt 28,19).

The Church that was born at Pentecost was not above all a local Church - the Church of Jerusalem - but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From it would be born other communities in every part of the world - local Churches which are all and always realizations of the one and only Church of Christ.

The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches, but a single reality: the ontological priority [priority of origin] pertains to the universal Church. A community that is not catholic in this sense would not even be a church.

To this, one must add another aspect: the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles regarding the journey of the Church from Jerusalem to Rome. Among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, Luke also cites "strangers from Rome' (Acts 2,10).

At that time, Rome was still remote, "foreign' for the newborn Church - it was the symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit would guide the steps of his witnesses "up to the extreme limits of the earth" (Acts 1,8), including Rome.

The Acts of the Apostles ends, in fact when St. Paul, through providential design, reaches the capital of the empire and announces the Gospel there (cfr Acts 28,30-31).

Thus, the journey of the Word of God, begun in Jerusalem, reached its goal, because Rome represented the whole world and thus incarnated the Lucan idea of catholicity. The universal Church was thereby realized - the Catholic Church, which is the continuation of the chosen people whose history and mission it made its own.

At this point, and to conclude, the Gospel of John offers us a word which is in great harmony with the mystery of the Church created by the Spirit. The word that came out twice from the lips of the resurrected Christ when he appeared among his disciples at the Cenacle on Easter night was "Shalom" - peace be to you! (Jn 20,19-21).

The expression Shalom is not simply a greeting; it is so much more - it is the gift of the peace that was promised (cfr Jn 14,27) and conquered by Jesus at the price of his blood. It is the fruit of his victory in the struggle against the spirit of evil. Therefore, it is not a peace 'such as the world gives' but only that which God can give.

In this feast of the Spirit and of the Church, we wish to thank God for having given his people, chosen and formed among all peoples, the invaluable gift of peace, his peace!

At the same time, let us renew our awareness of the responsibility connected to this gift: the responsibility of the Church to be constitutionally a sign and instrument of the peace of God for all peoples.

I sought to bring this message in my recent visit to United Nations headquarters to address the representatives of the world's peoples. But one should not only think of such events 'at the summit'. The Church realizes its service to the peace of Christ above all in its ordinary presence and action in the midst of men, with the preaching of the Gospel, and with the signs of love and mercy that accompany it (cfr Mk 16,20).

Among these signs one must underscore principally the Sacrament of Reconciliation, instituted by the resurrected Christ at the same time that he gave the disciples his peace and his Spirit.

As we heard in today's Gospel, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20,21-23).

How important and also, unfortunately, not enough understood, is the gift of Reconciliation which pacifies hearts! The peace of Christ can be spread only through the renewed hearts of mean and women who are reconciled and who have made themselves servants of justice, ready to spread peace in the world with only the power of truth, without stooping to compromises with the mentality of the world, because the world cannot give the peace of Christ.

That is how the Church can be a ferment for the reconciliation that comes from God. It can only be so if it remains obedient to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if it carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus. And this what the saints of all ages have shown us.

In the light of this Word of life, dear brothers and sisters, may the prayer which we offer today to God, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, be ever more fervent and intense. May the Mother of listening, the Mother of the Church, obtain for our communities and for all Christians a renewed effusion of the Holy Spirit and Paraclete.

"Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae" - Send forth your spirit and renew the face of the earth. Amen!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/14/2008 7:56 AM]
5/12/2008 12:57 PM
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Here is the text of the address delivered by the Holy Father today upon receiving the credentials of Israel's new ambassador to the Holy See, H.E. Mordechay Lewy. The Holy Father spoke in English.

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Shimon Peres my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the people of your country.

Once again I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of Israel’s celebration of sixty years of statehood. The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians.

In particular, the Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Israel, established fifteen years ago, and looks forward to developing further the growing respect, esteem and collaboration that unites us.

Between the State of Israel and the Holy See there are numerous areas of mutual interest that can be profitably explored. As you have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian heritage should inspire us to take a lead in promoting many forms of social and humanitarian action throughout the world, not least by combating all forms of racial discrimination.

I share Your Excellency’s enthusiasm for the cultural and academic exchanges that are taking place between Catholic institutions worldwide and those of the Holy Land, and I too hope that these initiatives will be developed further in the years ahead.

The fraternal dialogue that is conducted on an international level between Christians and Jews is bearing much fruit and needs to be continued with commitment and generosity.

The holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem represent a source of faith and wisdom of central importance for Western civilization, and in consequence, the links between Israel and the Holy See have deeper resonances than those which arise formally from the juridical dimension of our relations.

Your Excellency, I know that you share my concern over the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration. Of course Christians are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time.

I pray that, in consequence of the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See, ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands, without feeling under pressure to move to other parts of the world in order to build new lives.

Christians in the Holy Land have long enjoyed good relations with both Muslims and Jews. Their presence in your country, and the free exercise of the Church’s life and mission there, have the potential to contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities. I pray that it may be so, and I invite your Government to continue to explore ways of harnessing the good will that Christians bear, both towards the natural descendants of the people who were the first to hear the word of God, and towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have lived and worshipped for centuries in the land that all three religious traditions call "holy".

I do realize that the difficulties experienced by Christians in the Holy Land are also related to the continuing tension between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The Holy See recognizes Israel’s legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism. It also maintains that all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish.

Accordingly, I would urge your Government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security. Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process.

The Holy See welcomes the commitment expressed by your Government to carry forward the momentum rekindled at Annapolis and prays that the hopes and expectations raised there will not be disappointed.

As I observed in my recent address to the United Nations in New York, it is necessary to explore every possible diplomatic avenue and to remain attentive to "even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation" if long-standing conflicts are to be resolved.

When all the people of the Holy Land live in peace and harmony, in two independent sovereign states side by side, the benefit for world peace will be inestimable, and Israel will truly serve as אור לגוים (“light to the nations”, Is 42:6), a shining example of conflict resolution for the rest of the world to follow.

Much work has gone into formulating the agreements which have been signed thus far between Israel and the Holy See, and it is greatly hoped that the negotiations regarding economic and fiscal affairs may soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Thank you for your reassuring words concerning the Israeli Government’s commitment to a positive and expeditious resolution of the questions that remain. I know that I speak on behalf of many when I express the hope that these agreements may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system and so provide a lasting basis for fruitful cooperation.

Given the personal interest taken by Your Excellency in the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, which is greatly appreciated, I know you understand the difficulties caused by continuing uncertainties over their legal rights and status, especially with regard to the question of visas for church personnel.

I am sure you will do what you can to facilitate the resolution of the problems that remain in a manner acceptable to all parties. Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties.

With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the State of Israel, God’s abundant blessings.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/14/2008 8:02 AM]
5/14/2008 7:45 AM
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At 12:30 Monday morning, the Holy Father received representatives of the Italian Movement for Life at the Hall of Benedictions of St. Peter's Basilica. Here is a translation of his address to them:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you today with great pleasure, and to each of you, I address my heartfelt greeting. In the first place, I greet Mons. Michele Pennisi, Bishop of Piazza Armerina, and the priests who are present.

I have a special greeting for the Honorable Carlo Casini, president of the Movement for Life, and I thank him sincerely for the kind words he addressed to me in your name.

I greet the members of the National Directorate and the Executive Board of the Movement, the presidents of the centers for aid to life, and the officials of its various services, of Project Gemma, the Green Telephone, SOS Life and the Red Telephone.

I also greet the representatives of the Pope John XXIII Association and of other European Movements for Life.

Through all of you present here, my affectionate thoughts go to all those who, even if they cannot be here in person, are spiritually joined with us. I think especially of so many volunteers who, with abnegation and generosity, share your noble ideal to promote and defend human life from its very conception.

Your visit falls on the 30th year since abortion was legalized in Italy, and it is your intention to propose a profound reflection on the human and social effects that it has produced in the civilian and Christian community during this time.

Looking at the past three decades, and considering the present situation, one cannot fail to acknowledge that to defend human life has become today practically more difficult, because a mentality has been created for the progressive debasement of its value, now entrusted to individual judgment.

As a consequence, there has been less respect for the human being himself, a value which is at the basis of every civil coexistence, regardless of the faith one professes.

Certainly, the causes which lead to painful decisions like abortion are many and complex. If, on the one hand, the Church, faithful to the command of its Lord, does not tire in reiterating that the sacred value of every man's existence has its roots in the Creator's design, on the other, it stimulates and promotes every initiative in support of women and families that will create conditions favorable to welcoming life, and to the protection of the family as an institution based on matrimony between a man and a woman.

Allowing recourse to the interruption of pregnancy not only has failed to resolve the problems which afflict many women and not a few nuclear families, but has opened a wound in our society, already aggravated by profound sufferings.

In truth, commitment has been profuse during all these years, not only from the Church, to meet the needs and respond to the difficulties faced by families. But we cannot hide from the fact that many problems continue to grip today's society, preventing many young people from getting married and raising a family, because of the unfavorable conditions in which they live.

Lack of secure employment, laws that often lack protection for mothers, the impossibility of assuring adequate sustenance to children, are some of the impediments which seem to stifle the expression of fruitful love, even as they open the door to a growing sense of mistrust in the future.

Therefore, it is necessary to unite all efforts so that the different institutions may once again place at the center of their activities the defense of human life with priority attention to the family, the cell in which life is born and develops.

The family must be helped with every legislative instrument that will facilitate its formation and its educative work in today's none-too-easy social context.

For Christians, this fundamental unit of society is always open as an urgent and indispensable field of apostolate and of testifying to the Gospel: to protect life in all its phases with courage and love.

Because of this, dear brothers and sisters, I ask the Lord to bless the activities which, as Centers of Aid to Life and as a Movement for Life, you carry out to prevent abortion even in the case of difficulty pregnancies, working at the same time on the educational and cultural levels, as well as in public debate.

It is necessary to testify concretely that respect for life is the first form of justice that must be applied. For anyone who has the gift of faith, this becomes a binding imperative, because a follower of Christ is called on to be ever more the 'prophet' of a truth that can never be eliminated: God alone is the Lord of life.

Every man is known and loved, desired and guided, by him. The greatest and most profound unity of mankind lies in the fact that every human being is the realization of a unique plan of God, and everyone has his origin from God's creative principle. Thus, one understands why the Bible says whoever profanes man, profanes a possession of God (cfr Jn 9,5).

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has the merit of having allowed different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and therefore, of rights.

As I reminded the member-nations during my recent visit to the United Nations, "human rights should be respected as an expression of justice and not simply because compliance can be compelled through the will of legislators. The promotion of human rights, therefore, remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities among nations and social groups, as well as for improving security."

Because of this, your commitment in the political field is even more praiseworthy as an aid and stimulus to institutions so that they may give the proper recognition to the word 'human dignity'.

Your initiative with the Commission for Petitions at the European Parliament, in which you affirm the fundamental values of the right to life from conception, of the family founded on the matrimony between a man and a woman, of the right of every human being conceived to be born and to be educated in a family with parents, further confirms the solidity of your commitment and your full communion with the Magisterium of the Church, which has always proclaimed and defended such values as 'non-negotiable'.

Dear brothers and sisters, when he met with you on May 22, 1998, John Paul II exhorted you to persevere in your task of love and defense of human life, and recalled that thanks to you, so many babies have experienced the joy of the invaluable gift of life.

Ten years later, it is I who thank you for the service that you have given the Church and society. How many human lives you have saved from death!

Continue along this path and do not be afraid, because the smile of life will triumph on the lips of all the babies and their mothers.

I entrust each of you, and all the persons you encounter in the Centers for Aid to Life, to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family, and as I assure you of remembrance in my prayers, I bless you all from the heart as well as all those who are part of the Movements for Life in Italy, in Europe and in the whole world.

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