Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pope’s brother reveals unknown details of Benedict XVI's life

Pope Benedict XVI / Msgr. Georg Ratzinger

Rome, Sep 30, 2008 / 10:58 am (CNA).- In an interview by Andrea Tornielli for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Pope Benedict XVI’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, revealed several unknown details from the childhood of the Pontiff, such as when he said one time that Benedict would be a good name for a pope, and that he never attended Hitler Youth meetings he was obliged to sign up for.

During the interview in Ratisbona, Germany, Msgr. Ratzinger said his brother was “a lively child, but not an earthquake. I remember him as always being joyful. From the time he was a child he showed a great sensitivity to animals, flowers and in general to all nature. Perhaps that’s why he was always given pets as Christmas gifts. His care for nature and for living beings was characteristic of him.”

Speaking later about their family, Msgr. Ratzinger said his family was “very united” and his father was a “police commissioner who came from an old family of farmers from lower Bavaria. My mother was a daughter of artisans, and before getting married she had worked as a cook. When it was possible, as kids we went to daily Mass.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Benedict XVI recalls the humility of John Paul I on the 30th anniversary of his death

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2008 / 08:38 am (CNA).- On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the death of John Paul I, Pope Benedict I dedicated his Sunday Angelus to the Pontiff whose reign lasted 33 days.

Speaking from a balcony in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict recalled Sunday’s readings. In the Parable of the Two Sons, Jesus calls on sinners to convert and teaches humility as the means to accepting the gift of salvation.

In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” St. Paul’s sentiments are the same as those of Jesus, who out of love for humankind, became man and died on the cross. The verb used – ekenôsen – literally means that Jesus “emptied himself” and “makes clear the profound humility and infinite love of Jesus, humble servant par excellence.”

The Pope said that the biblical texts brought to mind John Paul I. The deceased Pontiff chose the same episcopal motto as St. Charles Borromeo: Humilitas. One word synthesizes the Christian life and indicates the indispensible virtue of who, in the Church, is called to serve in a position of authority. In one of his four General Audiences, John Paul I repeated Jesus’ words: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart.” Humility can be considered John Paul I’s spiritual testament.

Italian TV to broadcast Bible reading

Most of the recital, which begins Sunday, will be held at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, in Rome. (Contrasto-REA)

International Herald Tribune
By Elisabetta Povoledo
Published: September 28, 2008

ROME: It may have taken God a week to create the world, but it will take nearly as long to read the Bible from beginning to end in what is being described as the longest live television broadcast in Italian history.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI will read the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. The nonstop Bible recital will end 139 hours later when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, tackles the final verses from the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation.

In between, about 1,250 readers from many walks of life and religious faiths will take turns until every word in the 73 books that make up the Roman Catholic Bible has been uttered (mostly in Italian but also with some ancient Greek and Hebrew). The first and the last hour of the Bible-a-thon will be broadcast live on the main channel of RAI, the state broadcaster; the rest will be shown on RAI's satellite education channel.

"Please don't call it a marathon - it's more of a nonstop relay," said Giuseppe De Carli, the chief of the RAI division that covers the Vatican and the organizer of the event, which will be held during six days at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. "It's not a race, after all, but a reflection on God's way."

De Carli said his bosses at the public broadcaster were mostly enthusiastic when he approached them with the idea, presenting it as an alternative to the cheesy variety shows and gory dramas that have proliferated on television.

"My Summers with the Popes in Castel Gandolfo." The Director of the Pontifical Villas Reminisces

The children born in the bedroom of Pius XII. The secret getaways of John XXIII. John Paul II went swimming. Benedict XVI plays sonatas on the piano. This and more, in an interview with a unique eyewitness

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, September 26, 2008 – At the end of the month, Benedict XVI will leave the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo and will return to the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Since the beginning of July, the pope has been staying in this hillside town about twenty-five miles from St. Peter's Square. Summer vacation in Castel Gandolfo has been the custom of the last few popes. But few know what is different about their daily lives when they come here.

A first glimpse of the "popes in the countryside" was provided in a book with this title ("I papi in campagna"), published in 1953 by the director of the Pontifical Villas at the time, Emilio Bonomelli. Another book was published in 2000, under the signature of his successor, Saverio Petrillo: "Le Ville Pontificie di Castel Gandolfo," published by the Vatican Museums. It confirms for us that the Pontifical Villas occupy the central and most significant place in one of the most luxurious villas of Roman antiquity, the "Albanum Domitianum," the residence of the Emperor Domitian, who reigned from the years 81 to 96. Eight centuries before this, present-day Castel Gandolfo was the site of Alba Longa, a city that rivaled Rome at the beginning of its history.

But now, the director of the Pontifical Villas, Petrillo, has returned to this subject with a long interview in "L'Osservatore Romano," in which he reveals a number of previously unknown aspects of the time spent in Castel Gandolfo by the recent popes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Benedict: Gift to Our Times


A response to: New Book Skewers Moral Relativism

This author and everyone else would do well to read the indicated book "On Conscience" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger which contains then Cardinal Ratzinger's 1984 and 1991 talks on the subject of conscience which are excellent indeed. These have been reprinted in 2007 by Ignatius Press. Further many of now Pope Benedict XVI extensive lectures, homilies, and writings are filled with references to the subject. And no one does a better job in clarifying, simplifying, and making this or any subject pure joy to read and so understand.

Pope Benedict XVI is well known as "the conscience of our age" by thousands of his students, contemporaries, and those of us just discovering the great gift he is to our times and our Church since his earliest years.

God bless.

Carole Winder

Women's Privilege


A response to: Congress Marks 20 Years of "Mulieris Dignitatem"

"Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter "Mulieris Dignitatem," which made history 20 years ago as the first letter of its kind devoted entirely to the subject of women, continues to guide reflection on women and their contribution to society."

It seems to me that very few women recognize the privilege of having "Mulieris Dignitatem" written about them. For instance, don't most assume that the Church speaks disproportionately to men and their particular concerns to the neglect of women? Yet when in Church history have men ever had an encyclical published exclusively on the dignity and vocation of their person such as has been done for women with "Mulieris?" It is truly a privilege that women enjoy in the Church.

John Erb

Friday, September 26, 2008

With the help of God, marriage crises can be overcome, says Pope

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2008 / 10:24 am (CNA).- Meeting with participants of the Retrouvaille Association, Pope Benedict XVI explained that when a marriage is suffering, the spouses are facing an opportunity that "will help them to grow." Guided by Mary and with the help of the Lord, their love will be purified, deepened and strengthened.

This morning at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father received 300 participants of the Retrouvaille Association, an international movement which aims to assist married couples in crisis. In his meeting with them, the Pontiff recalled how the group was formed in Canada in 1977, by husband and wife, Guy and Jeannine Beland, "to help couples in serious crisis to face their problems with a specific program aimed at rebuilding their relationship, not as an alternative to psychological therapies but following a different and complementary route."

The Pope then stressed that though the members are not professionals, they are married couples who have faced similar marital difficulties and have "overcome them with the grace of God and the support of Retrouvaille."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Catholic and State schools should have equality, Pope Benedict asserts

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2008 / 10:14 am (CNA).- On Thursday at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict raised the topic of the role of Catholic schools in contributing to the good of society. All who desire the "good of the young and the country" should work for real equality between State schools and private schools," the Holy Father said.

The Pope’s remarks were made to participants in a seminar sponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and entitled: "Beyond the Educational Emergency. Catholic schools at the service of young people."

The mission of Catholic schools, said the Pope, is to help build a "civil coexistence" for society, while at the same time, they serve as "an expression of the right of all citizens to freedom of education."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pope to Visit Padre Pio's Tomb in '09

Cardinal Bertone Says Trip Is Prepared

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's secretary of state says everything is prepared for a papal trip to the tomb of Padre Pio in 2009.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone affirmed this today in San Giovanni Rotondo during a Mass that marked the 40th anniversary of the saint's death, as well as his liturgical feast day.

"Benedict XVI asked me to announce that everything is prepared. The Pope will come to San Giovanni Rotondo in 2009," said the cardinal to the thousands of faithful gathered for the celebration.

During the homily, Cardinal Bertone recalled the figure of Padre Pio, describing him as "a disciple of Christ who sought no other glory than to love and suffer for him. He was a priest who wanted nothing other than to be consumed in love for God and his brethren."

"He was a sincere son of the Church, and preferred not to defend himself, even on the most painful occasions, dying to himself in the docile silence of difficult but fruitful obedience," he added.

Forty years after his death, "Saint Pio is like a channel of water that gushes richly, and at whose source all can drink the fresh water of truth and love that the Lord offers in abundance to all," added the cardinal.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Parable of Workers in the Vineyard is about being called by God, Pope says

Pope Benedict delivers his Angelus message

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2008 / 11:45 am (CNA).- After returning from the dedication of the altar at the cathedral in Albano, Italy, Sunday morning, Pope Benedict spoke about Sunday’s Gospel, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The Holy Father encouraged his audience with the examples of Sts. Matthew and Paul, who are respectively the narrator of Sunday’s Gospel and the focus of this jubilee year.

Speaking to thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled the day of his election and his spontaneous presentation to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square as a humble worker in God’s vineyard. In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus recounts the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where workers are called by the vineyard owner to work in his vineyard at different hours of the day but are all given the same pay. The equal reward represents “eternal life, a gift that God reserves for all.” Further, the parable is about being called, “being able to work in God’s vineyard, putting oneself at his service, collaborating with his work.” Being called by God is itself a form of compensation. But those who work only for payment, Pope Benedict said, “will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure."

Pope Benedict reflected upon the narrator of the parable, St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, whose Feast the Church celebrates today. Before Jesus called Matthew, “he was a tax collector, and for this reason he was considered a public sinner, excluded from God’s vineyard. But everything changed when Jesus, passing nearby his post, saw him and told him: 'Follow me'. Matthew got up and followed him. He immediately changed from being a tax collector to being a disciple of Christ. Instead of being 'last', he found himself 'first', thanks to the logic of God, which - fortunately for us! - is different from that of the world.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pope Seeks Greater Role for Catholics in Europe on Policy Issues

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Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI offered communion at a special Mass in Lourdes, the pilgrimage site in France, during a recent visit.

New York Times
Published: September 19, 2008

ROME — Is the Catholic Church a beleaguered underdog, fighting for a voice in secular Europe, or a still-mighty power, wielding its influence on European law through friendly center-right governments?

That question, which has been building momentum throughout Pope Benedict XVI’s three-year-old papacy, came mightily to the fore in his recent trip to France.

Yet even as the pope calls for more animated discussion of church and state and more interreligious dialogue, no one, probably not even at the Vatican, expects Europe to become newly devout any time soon. Mass attendance is at record lows, as is the number of priests.

Nor does anyone expect France to overturn its dearly held tenet of “laïcité,” a strict separation of church and state, in spite of the pope’s admonition that secularism leads to nihilism and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s calls for a more “positive laïcité.”

But Benedict’s insistence that religion and politics be “open” to each other — coupled with his strong renewal while in Lourdes of the church’s opposition to same-sex couples, communion for the divorced and euthanasia — sends a direct message: the church doesn’t want European law to be at odds with church teaching, and he wants Catholics to make some noise about it.

This pope is looking to reconquer Europe, if not in numbers, then at the political table.

“Let’s not make mistakes, there are laws in Europe that the Vatican would like to change,” said John L. Allen Jr., a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. Benedict’s remarks in France were “not an apolitical reflection,” he said.

The Vatican, Mr. Allen added, is concerned about “a progressive secularization of European institutions” that is “heavily influenced by the French model.”

For one, European Union legislation forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In an ongoing clash in Britain, Catholic orphanages have said they will have to shut down or break ties with the church if they are required to place children with same-sex couples. Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, following the Netherlands and Belgium.

Some say the pope’s visit might encourage Catholics to speak up in opposition.

For its part, the Vatican seemed pleased with Benedict’s trip. The pope’s reception in France was “encouraging,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in an interview this week. The climate in France, he said, indicated that “the church has a contribution to make and it’s accepted and respected as a cultural and moral force, a force of moral commitment.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pope Benedict praises symposium on Pius XII for uncovering the historic truth

Pope Pius XII

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2008 / 10:40 am (CNA). Pope Pius XII, has drawn the interest and scrutiny of many people over the last few decades, but as Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Pave the Way Foundation at Castel Gandolfo today, he highlighted that previous investigation into the late Pope’s efforts to save Jews from the Nazis and fascists have been biased.

Around noon today at the Pope’s summer residence, he received Mr. Gary Krupp, the president of the Pave the Way Foundation and other members of the organization.

Mr. Krupp and his wife, who are Jewish, founded Pave the Way to fight against religious intolerance and prejudice through educational, cultural and technological means. As part of those efforts, Pave the Way organized a symposium to conduct an in-depth investigation into Pius XII’s life and his pastoral and humanitarian work.

Noting that 50 years have passed since the October 9, 1958 death of the Servant of God Pius XII, the Holy Father pointed out that although "so much has been written and said of him during these last five decades, ... not all of the genuine facets of his diverse pastoral activity have been examined in a just light.”

The symposium aimed to address some of these deficiencies by “conducting a careful and documented examination of many of his interventions, especially those in favor of the Jews who in those years were being targeted all over Europe, in accordance with the criminal plan of those who wanted to eliminate them from the face of the earth,” the Pope said.

"When one draws close to this noble Pope,” observed Benedict XVI, “one can come to appreciate the human wisdom and pastoral intensity which guided him in his long years of ministry, especially in providing organized assistance to the Jewish people.”

Pope Benedict then went on to thank the foundation for “the vast quantity of documented material which you have gathered, supported by many authoritative testimonies,” because, as he explained “your symposium offers to the public forum the possibility of knowing more fully what Pius XII achieved for the Jews persecuted by the Nazi and fascist regimes.”

One of the many aspects of the symposium that Pope Benedict praised was how the foundation’s work “had drawn attention to Pope Pius' many interventions, made secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews. This courageous and paternal dedication was recognized and appreciated during and after the terrible world conflict by Jewish communities and individuals who showed their gratitude for what the Pope had done for them."

One special event that Benedict XVI recalled, “Pius XII’s meeting on the 29th of November 1945 with eighty delegates of German concentration camps who during a special Audience granted to them at the Vatican, wished to thank him personally for his generosity to them during the terrible period of Nazi-fascist persecution.”

Pope Benedict thanked the Pave the Way Foundation "for its ongoing activity in promoting relationships and dialogue between religions, as witnesses of peace, charity and reconciliation.

"It is my great hope," he concluded, "that this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of my venerated predecessor's death, will provide the opportunity to promote in-depth studies of various aspects of his life and his works in order to come to know the historical truth, overcoming every remaining prejudice.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Translation of Pope's General Audience: On the Message of Lourdes

On the Message of Lourdes

"There Is No True Love Without Suffering"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org). Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience held in the Paul VI Hall, during which he evaluated his Sept. 12-15 apostolic trip to Paris and Lourdes.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's meeting gives me the opportunity to review again the moments of the pastoral visit that I made in recent days to France; a visit that culminated with the pilgrimage to Lourdes on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Virgin's apparitions to St. Bernadette. While giving fervent thanks to the Lord, who granted me such a providential possibility, I again express my sincere gratitude to the archbishop of Paris, to the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, to the respective collaborators and to all those who in different ways cooperated in the success of my pilgrimage. I also cordially thank the president of the republic and the other authorities who welcomed me so courteously.

The visit began in Paris, where, ideally, I met with all the French people, thus honoring a beloved nation in which the Church, since the 2nd century, has played a fundamental civilizing role. It is interesting that, precisely in this context, the need matured of a healthy distinction between the political and religious spheres, according to Jesus' famous saying: "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17).

If the effigy of Caesar was imprinted on Roman coins, then imprinted on the heart of man must be the mark of the Creator, only Lord of our life. Genuine secularism, therefore, is not to do without the spiritual dimension, but to acknowledge that precisely the latter is, radically, the guarantor of our liberty and of the autonomy of earthly realities, thanks to the dictates of creative Wisdom that the human conscience is able to receive and fulfill.

Framed in this perspective is the extensive reflection on the topic "The Origins of Western Theology and the Roots of European Culture," which I developed in the meeting with the world of culture, in a place chosen for its symbolic value. It was held at the Collège des Bernardins, which deceased Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger wished to re-establish as a center of cultural dialogue, a 12th century building built by the Cistercians, where young people have studied. The monastic theology that gave origin to our Western culture is present there.

The starting point of my address was a reflection on monasticism, whose objective was to seek God, "quaerere Deum." In an age of profound crisis of the ancient civilization, the monks, guided by the light of faith, chose the "via maestra": the way of listening to the word of God. They were, therefore, the great cultivators of sacred Scripture, and monasteries became schools of wisdom and schools of "dominici servitii," "of the service of the Lord," as St. Benedict called them.

Benedict XVI: No Suffering, No Love

Reflects on True Message of Lourdes

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The lesson many learn when they visit the Marian shrine in Lourdes, which is a school of faith, hope and charity, is that true love implies suffering, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today at the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall when he gave summarized his trip last weekend to Paris and Lourdes. His Sept. 12-15 trip took place in the context of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

The Holy Father remarked that it was a "happy coincidence" that his visit to Lourdes coincided with the liturgical memorial of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. He explained that Mary's first gesture upon appearing to Bernadette in the Grotto of Massabielle was to make the Sign of the Cross.

The entire message of Lourdes, the Pontiff said, can be found in that first gesture of Our Lady: "[She] gave a first initiation on the essence of Christianity: The Sign of the Cross is the height of our faith, and doing it with an attentive heart we enter into the full mystery of our salvation."

"In Lourdes, in the school of Mary, first and perfect disciple of Christ, pilgrims learn to regard the crosses of their lives in the light of the glorious cross of Christ," he said. "God has so loved us that he gave himself up for us: This is the message of the Cross, 'mystery of death and of glory.'"

Lourdes is a place to encounter God's healing love, Pope remarks

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2008 / 10:46 am (CNA).- As is traditional at the general audience following a papal visit, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated today's audience to commenting on his trip to France for the 150th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions in Lourdes. He asked his audience to praise the Lord, for "Mary, appearing to St. Bernadette, opened a privileged place to encounter the divine love which heals and saves."

Pope Benedict began his speech by thanking the archbishop of Paris and the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes for guaranteeing the success of the trip. The Pontiff also offered his gratitude to the President of the French Republic for his hospitality.

He proceeded, then, to recall Paris, where his trip began. There, "a healthy distinction" between the political and religious spheres matured according to Jesus' words: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." "A true separation between church and state does not leave out the spiritual dimension," the Holy Father explained, "but acknowledges that the latter is, in a radical way, a guarantee of our freedom and autonomy in earthly matters."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Holy Father asks U.N. to build a world of greater solidarity

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2008 / 10:21 am (CNA).- In an address sent for the opening of the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the participants to continue upholding the dignity of each human person and to build a world of “ever greater solidarity, freedom and peace.”

The message, sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B on behalf of the Holy Father, is addressed to participants of a prayer meeting being held for the opening of the General Assembly.

The message explains that the Pontiff, along with “the members of the diplomatic community and U.N. officials present,” join in “imploring from Almighty God the guidance and strength needed to carry out the urgent tasks facing the United Nations in the coming months.” The letter specifically called the General Assembly to pray for the “continuing implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the NEPAD program (New Partnership for Africa's Development) and other initiatives aimed at ensuring that the whole human family shares in the benefits of globalization.

The Pope also gratefully recalled his visit to the General Assembly last April on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and renewed his appeal to international leaders to “re-appropriate the lofty moral vision and the transcendent principles of justice embodied in the United Nations' founding documents.”

Finally, the message says, “The Holy Father invokes upon all in attendance an abundance of divine blessings, trusting that these moments of reflection and prayer will strengthen them in their commitment to upholding the dignity of each human person and building a world of ever greater solidarity, freedom and peace.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Holy Father concludes his visit, saying, ‘I prayed for France and for the world!’

Lourdes, Sep 15, 2008 / 12:54 pm (CNA).- The Holy Father thanked the French for their hospitality during his four-day trip that ended with a departure ceremony on Monday afternoon. During his closing remarks, the Pontiff recalled that before the Grotto of Massabielle, he spent time praying for the pilgrims, for the Church, for France, and for the world.

Following this morning’s Mass for the sick, the Pope traveled to the airport of Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees for his farewell ceremony. Present for the celebration were the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, political and civil authorities, the bishops of the Mini-Pyrenees region, and the president, vice president and secretary general of the Conference of Bishops of France.

Benedict XVI thanked all who had worked “devotedly and whole-heartedly for the successful outcome,” of his four day visit to France.

He described his journey in terms of the two panel piece of art called a diptych.

The first panel of the visit was “Paris, a city that I know well and the scene for several important meetings. There I met a vibrant people, proud of their firm faith; I came to encourage them to persevere courageously in living out the teaching of Christ and His Church," he said.

Pope: Accept death "at the hour chosen by God'

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: September 15, 2008

LOURDES, France: People must accept death at "the hour chosen by God," Pope Benedict XVI told ailing pilgrims Monday in an anti-euthanasia message at Lourdes, the shrine that draws the desperate, sick and dying.

At the chilly open-air service outside the sanctuary reputed for its curative spring water, some faithful lay on gurneys, tucked into quilts and comforters. A few breathed with oxygen tanks. The 81-year-old pontiff administered the sacrament of the sick to 10 people, most in wheelchairs, gently anointing their foreheads and palms with oil.

While several European countries permit euthanasia, the Vatican vehemently maintains that life must continue to its natural end. The pope said in his homily that the ill should pray to find "the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homily of Pope Benedict at Lourdes

Vatican Radio
14/09/2008 13.03.28

Apostolic Voyage to France, Homily by the Holy Father at the Prarie for the 150th Anniversary of the Lourdes Apparitions

Dear Cardinals,
Dear Bishop Perrier,
Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear pilgrims, brothers and sisters,

“Go and tell the priests that people should come here in procession, and that a chapel should be built here.” This is the message Bernadette received from the “beautiful lady” in the apparition of 2 March 1858. For 150 years, pilgrims have never ceased to come to the grotto of Massabielle to hear the message of conversion and hope which is addressed to them. And we have done the same; here we are this morning at the feet of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, eager to learn from her alongside little Bernadette.

I would like to thank especially Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes for the warm welcome he has given me, and for the kind words he has addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all of you, dear Lourdes pilgrims, especially the sick. You have come in large numbers to make this Jubilee pilgrimage with me and to entrust your families, your relatives and friends, and all your intentions to Our Lady. My thanks go also to the civil and military Authorities who are here with us at this Eucharistic celebration.

“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross! He who possesses it possesses a treasure” (Saint Andrew of Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross, PG 97, 1020). On this day when the Church’s liturgy celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that men might be saved (cf. Jn 3:16). The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the condition of a slave, obedient even to death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). By his Cross we are saved. The instrument of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God’s judgement on the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of reconciliation and peace. “In order to be healed from sin, gaze upon Christ crucified!” said Saint Augustine (Treatise on Saint John, XII, 11). By raising our eyes towards the Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world and to give us eternal life. And the Church invites us proudly to lift up this glorious Cross so that the world can see the full extent of the love of the Crucified one for all. She invites us to give thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has burst out anew. On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign majesty, he reveals to us that he is exalted in glory. Yes, “Come, let us adore him!” In our midst is he who loved us even to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to draw near to him with trust.

Pope leads pilgrims in Mass at Lourdes shrine

By Jean-Pierre Muller, AFP/Getty Images

Faithfuls attend mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at La Prairie in Lourdes on Sept.14. More than 150,000 people were expected to attend the open-air mass given at the shrine.

USA Today
9/14/2008 5:43 AM

LOURDES, France (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI led tens of thousands of people Sunday in celebrating the 150th anniversary of a peasant girl's religious visions in Lourdes, where believers in miracles have since prayed for physical or spiritual healing.

Benedict was giving a late-morning Mass at the Lourdes shrine during a three-day pilgrimage to the sanctuary.

SHRINE VISIT: Pope drinks water from Lourdes spring

About 50,000 pilgrims, singing hymns and some shouldering a life-sized crucifix, streamed through the rain-soaked countryside near the Pyrenees to attend the Mass on a grassy expanse known as the Lourdes prairie.

MESSAGE: Pope speaks of secularism in first France visit

The spot is visited each year by 6 million pilgrims who believe miracles can be delivered by Bernadette Soubirous — the 14-year-old daughter of peasants who in 1858 told local clergy she had seen the Virgin Mary 18 times.

Benedict spent the night at a hermitage, after praying at the Lourdes grotto where a spring of water broke through the ground during the months Bernadette saw the apparitions of Mary.
On Saturday night, the pope drank some of the water in the grotto.

He had said Friday night he was not coming to seek miracles at Lourdes, which he has likened to a citadel of hope.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pope Says Hope Still Strong in France

Affirms Church Is Where to Find Promises of Eternal Life

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Though some speak of Europe turning its back on Christianity, Benedict XVI today in Paris affirmed that hope will continue to be stronger than all else.

The Pope spoke of hope in his homily at a Mass celebrated at the Esplanade des Invalides, which gathered some 260,000 people.

"Hope will always remain stronger than all else," he said. "The Church, built upon the rock of Christ, possesses the promises of eternal life, not because her members are holier than others, but because Christ made this promise to Peter: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.'"

Leading up to the Pope's visit, which is underway through Monday, the press published statistics about the decline of religious practice among the French.

In this context, the Holy Father told them: "In this unfailing hope in God's eternal presence to the souls of each of us, in this joy of knowing that Christ is with us until the end of time, in this power that the Holy Spirit gives to all those who let themselves be filled with him, I entrust you, dear Christians of Paris and France, to the powerful and merciful action of the God of love who died for us upon the cross and rose victorious on Easter morning."

French Prime Minister François Fillon was among those who attended the Mass. The Pope was joined by some 90 cardinals and bishops and 1,500 priests. A choir of 1,200 voices led the songs.

The offerings were presented by members of Aux Captifs La Libération (To Captives, Freedom) an association dedicated to caring for those who live on the street.

And Benedict XVI left a demanding message: "Do not be afraid," he said, directing himself especially to youth who hear the call to consecrated or priestly life. "Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ.

"Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church. Nothing will ever replace a Mass for the salvation of the world."

Reuters Sat Sep 13, 4:09 PM ET
Enlarge photo...

A girl dress as Bernadette Soubirous hands Pope Benedict XVI spring water at the Grotto of the Apparitions, also called Grotto of Massabielle, on September 13, 2008 in the Sanctuary of Lourdes. Pope Benedict makes a pilgrimage to Lourdes to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
REUTERS/Eric Cabanis/Pool (FRANCE)

Pope in Lourdes after Paris mass for 260,000

Photo: AFP

Yahoo! Asia News
Sunday September 14, 3:49 AM

LOURDES, France (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday prayed at one of the most revered Christian shrines hours after leading an open-air mass in central Paris attended by 260,000 people.

The leader of the world's one billion Catholics traveled to Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwest France to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Vatican-recognised apparitions of Mary to peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous.

After visiting a church where Bernadette was baptised and the small room where her family lived in poverty, the pope went aboard his popemobile to the grotto where she had her "encounters" with the Madonna.

The pontiff knelt in prayer at the grotto of Masiabelle where Mary is said to have appeared 18 times to Bernadette in 1858 and drank a glass of water from the "miracle" springs presented to him by a young girl.

The 81-year-old pontiff was making his first visit to France since his election in 2005.

Under bright sunshine at the historic Invalides esplanade in central Paris, Benedict earlier appealed to young Catholics to shun the false "idols" of the modern world and told them not to be "afraid" of a religious life.

Pope draws huge crowd in Paris

By Francois Durand, Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI arrives at the Invalides to celebrate a Mass with the 200,000 people who gathered on Saturday in Paris, France. The four-day trip to Paris and Lourdes is seen as an attempt to reinvigorate Catholicism in France.

USA Today

PARIS (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned unbridled "pagan" passion for power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague on Saturday, as he led more than a quarter million Catholics at an outdoor Mass in Paris.

Benedict was making his first visit as pontiff to the French capital, renowned for its luxury goods and cultural riches.

"Has not our modern world created its own idols?" Benedict said in his homily, and wondered aloud whether people have "imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity?"

"This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask," the pontiff said.

The 260,000 or so people gathered on the lawns of the Esplanade des Invalides was a joyful outpouring of faith for the traditionally Roman Catholic country, which has witnessed a sharp decline in churchgoing in recent years.

Benedict has continued with a campaign started by his predecessor, John Paul II, who worried that the ever-more affluent West was turning consumerism into a kind of religion and ignoring its Christian roots of spiritual values.

Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried "insatiable greed" and said "the love of money is the root of all evil."

"Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?" the pope asked.

In his homily, Benedict blasted modern society's thirst for these new "pagan" idols as a "scandal, a real plague."

The pope urged the faithful to "shun the worship of idols. Do not tire of doing good!"'

Listeners welcomed his message.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pope Benedict calls on France to make religion part of a new Europe

President Nicolas Sarkozy / Pope Benedict XVI

Paris, Sep 12, 2008 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Upon arriving in France on Friday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI called on the French people to engage in a new level openness to the Church, one which recognizes the “irreplaceable role” of religion in forming consciences and in creating a “basic ethical consensus within society.”

The Pope delivered his address to President Nicolas Sarkozy, numerous civil and religious authorities, and the entire nation of France from the Elysee Palace, just after having held a private meeting with the president at 12:30 p.m.

After thanking the French for the “warm reception” they have given him, the Holy Father explained that the principal reason for his visit is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

“It is my desire to join the multitude of countless pilgrims from the whole world who during this year are converging on the Marian shrine, filled with faith and love. It is this faith and this love that I will celebrate here in your land during these four days of grace which have been granted to me,” the Pope said.

Benedict XVI then launched into a recounting of the pivotal importance of the Church in the history of Gaul, which later became France. This history, he reflected, should lead people to look at the modern relationship between the Church and State, a relationship which has been characterized during the last two centuries by secular society dismissing anything influenced by faith. In practice, this strict division between secular and religious life has been implemented under a policy know as laïcité.

Pope Benedict arrives in France

Television New Zealand
Sep 12, 2008 10:00 PM

Pope Benedict began a four-day visit to France aimed at persuading the French that religion can contribute to modern secular societies.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has also said he sees a positive role for faith in public life, broke with protocol and greeted the German-born pontiff as he descended from his plane at Orly airport south of the French capital.

At his side was his third wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a glamorous Italian-born singer and former supermodel.

The two men were due to go directly to the president's Elysee Palace in central Paris and deliver short speeches the French will follow closely to see how far they advocate a role for religion in the public sphere.

France maintains a strict separation of church and state and even mentioning one's faith used to be taboo for politicians.

But religion has returned to public life in recent years and Sarkozy has taken the lead in welcoming it.

On the flight from Rome, Benedict told journalists that laicite - France's version of secularism - was not incompatible with religion.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pope hopes to use visit to loosen France's secularism

Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent , Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, September 11, 2008

LOURDES, France - Pope Benedict XVI, despite having little of his predecessor's charisma or popularity, arrives in France on Friday, hoping to inspire renewed interest in the Catholic Church in an adamantly secular and increasingly faithless country known as the church's oldest daughter.

His four-day visit begins with a meeting at the Elysee Palace with President Nicolas Sarkozy who, despite his status as a twice-divorced man, has spoken openly of loosening up France's strict rules that keep religion far from the public square.

That will be followed by several public events in Paris, capped by an outdoor celebration of mass Saturday afternoon, expected to draw more than 200,000.

Pope Benedict's ultimate hope would be that the French secular model move closer to the more 'tolerant and open' American model, a spokesman said.
Vincenzo PintoAFP/Getty Images

He then flies to Lourdes to mark the 150th anniversary of apparitions of the Virgin Mary experienced by Bernadette Soubirous, a poor, sickly teen who experienced 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary that were eventually recognized by the Vatican.

"France is the oldest Christian nation in Europe, the most important country in Western Europe and, traditionally, a centre of Catholic thought and art," Pierre Bellemare, a professor and self-described "pope-watcher" at St. Paul's University in Ottawa, said in an interview Thursday.

"So, naturally, he would like to see Catholicism thrive and be more present there - free to express itself in public debates."

He said Benedict's ultimate hope would be that the French secular model, based in a 1905 law once so harshly enforced that priests were arrested for wearing their clerical clothing in public, move closer to the more "tolerant and open" American model.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pope Expresses Appreciation for French Culture and Faith

10-September-2008 -- Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, 10 SEP 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has written a Message to the French for his first pastoral visit to that country, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Lourdes.

"On the eve of my arrival", writes the Holy Father, "I send cordial greetings to the French people and to all the inhabitants of that beloved nation. I am coming as a messenger of peace and fraternity. I know your country well. On various occasions I have had the pleasure of visiting it and of appreciating its generous tradition of welcome and tolerance, as well as the solidity of its Christian faith and of its exalted human and spiritual culture.

"On this occasion the reason for my trip is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes", he adds. "After visiting Paris, the capital of your country, it will be my immense joy to join the multitude of pilgrims as they follow the stages of the Jubilee journey, in the footsteps of St. Bernadette, to the grotto of Massabielle. At the feet of Our Lady, I will pray intensely for the intentions of the entire Church, particularly the sick and the needy, as well as for peace in the world".

"For all of you, and especially for the young, may Mary be a mother ever- ready to meet the needs of her children, a light of hope that illuminates and guides you on your way".

The Pope concludes by inviting everyone to pray for the success of his journey, and by invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin.

Apostles bring the true joy of Christ to all, says the Pope

Vatican City, Sep 10, 2008 / 09:59 am (CNA).- Speaking to 9,000 pilgrims gathered at the Paul VI Hall this morning, Pope Benedict reflected on St. Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though he did not belong to the group of the Twelve that Jesus called during his ministry, Paul nevertheless claims the title for himself, he explained.

The Pope recalled St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes, "For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me." The grace of God transformed Paul from a persecutor to a founder of Churches.

St. Paul, the Holy Father continued, "shared the three principal characteristics of a true apostle."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Pope sends SMS asking Catholics to pray for French youth

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Agence France-Presse
First Posted 22:42:00 09/09/2008

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI sent a text message to the participants of World Youth Day asking them to pray for the young people in France which he will visit shortly, the Vatican said Tuesday in a statement.

World Youth Day took place July 15-21 in Sydney and is organized by the Roman Catholic Church as a meeting place for young Catholics.

"Dear friends, fifty days ago we were together for the celebration of mass. Today I greet you on the birthday of Mary, Mother of the Church. Empowered by the Spirit and courageous like Mary, your pilgrimage of faith fills the Church with life!" the pope wrote in a text message on Monday.

"Soon I am to visit France. I ask you all to join me in praying for the young people of France. May we all be rejuvenated in hope!" the pope said.

Benedict XVI will visit France next week. He will be in Paris from September 12 to September 15, before moving on to Lourdes to mark the 150th anniversary of the "apparitions" of the Virgin Mary.

Visiting Pope hopes to give Church shot in arm

Pope Benedict will hold a Mass at Lourdes to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1858. Photo / AP

New Zealand Herald
4:00AM Tuesday September 09, 2008
By Catherine Field

PARIS - Pope Benedict XVI visits France this week in a bid to push back anticlericalism and revive Catholicism in one of the world's most secular countries.

The four-day tour, starting on Friday, will be crowned by a papal Mass at Lourdes to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to a 14-year-old miller's daughter, Bernadette Sourbirous.

The visit comes in a context of mounting concern in the Vatican about falling numbers of faithful in a country that once was a Catholic bastion - a decline the conservative pontiff clearly links to France's hard-edged secularism.

On Friday, the 81-year-old Pope is scheduled to make a speech in Paris to guests from France's cultural scene, when he is expected to pound out the message that loss of faith leads to national regression.

"There's no doubt about it, this speech is going to be a big moment," said a source in the French Catholic Church.

The speech will be about "restoring trust in human reason when it opens to the transcendental", but the sub-text is about papal concern about secularist extremism, the source said.

France believes strongly in having a public arena where worship and religious symbols are banned. Politicians may be devout Catholics in private, but are careful never to make references to their faith in public.

In the face of a perceived rise in Islamism, the state has acted firmly to defend secularist principles, banning notably the wearing of crucifixes and Muslim headscarves in state schools.

In the latest controversy, a public prosecutor in the city of Rennes has been blasted for postponing a criminal case after one of the defendants, accused of armed robbery, said he observed the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which entails daytime fasting, and thus would be too weak to stand trial.

Defenders of France's secularism say it is essential to have a space open to all that is free of the toxicity of religious extremism and rivalry.

Critics say it panders to anti-clericalism, which emerged among French intellectuals and leftwingers in the 19th century and persists to this day, sometimes to the point of intolerance.

As guardian of the Catholic doctrine under his predecessor John Paul II, the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has long had France in his sights. In a speech in 1992, he warned the country of the danger of ignoring its Christian roots.

"For a culture and a nation to cut itself from the religious and ethical forces of its history is tantamount to suicide," the future Pope said.

Monday, September 08, 2008

St. Bernadette an Example Worth Following

Journalist and Author Shares Insight on Lourdes

By Karna Swanson

COLOMBUS, Ohio, SEPT. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The world today could learn a lot from visionary Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, said the author of a new book on the Marian apparitions to the French girl.

Elizabeth Ficocelli, journalist and author of "Lourdes: Font of Faith, Hope and Charity" (Paulist Press), added that she hopes Benedict XVI will highlight the example of the saint when he visits Lourdes this September.

In this interview with ZENIT, Ficocelli comments on the popularity of the pilgrimage site, her own experience at Lourdes, and what she hopes Benedict XVI will highlight during his Sept. 13-15 visit there.

Q: What is the particular draw to Lourdes, especially from those who visit the shrine from abroad?

Ficocelli: There are many factors that draw people to Lourdes, even across oceans and continents. Certainly, there is still the hope for physical miracles, as there has been since the earliest days of the apparitions. This is evidenced by the number of pilgrims with physical illness and disability that visit the shrine each year from all parts of the world -- upward of 70,000 -- and the 100,000 volunteers who travel with these individuals to assist them during their pilgrimage.

Less visible, but in no means less important, are the pilgrims who come to Lourdes in hopes for mental and emotional healing. This can include the healing of depression, bipolar disease, and addictions of all kinds.

Of course, individuals are also drawn to Lourdes for spiritual reasons. Some come in thanksgiving for favors bestowed upon them. Others come out of respect for Our Lady and the messages of prayer and penance she imparted in the grotto.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pope Benedict prays for ‘every earthly mother’ in Sardinia visit

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2008 / 10:53 am (CNA).- Before the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict spoke about the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, dedicated to the Queen of All Sailors. Addressing an audience of almost 100,000 people, which included Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Sard Governor Renato Soru, the Holy Father noted that tomorrow the Church celebrates the feast of the birth of Mary. He further reminded them that each grace the Lord granted to Mary, “he granted thinking of each of us, her children.”

Speaking from the elevated square in front of the Shrine at Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, Pope Benedict turned his audience’s attention to the “Sweet Queen of the Sards,” venerated by illustrious individuals in the course of the centuries. Bl. Pius IX decreed her coronation; one hundred years ago St. Pius X proclaimed her patron of all of Sardinia; Pius XI gave the new church the title of “Minor Basilica;” fifty years ago Pius XII made himself spiritually present with a special message transmitted live by Vatican Radio; and in 1960 Bl. John XXIII sent a letter for the reopening of the Shrine to worship after its restoration.

The Holy Father said that the first pope to return to the island in 1650 years was the Servant of God Paul VI, who visited the Shrine on April 24, 1970. John Paul II prayed in front of the holy image of Our Lady on October 20, 1985. “Even I,” Pope Benedict continued, “have chosen the Shrine of Bonaria to make a pastoral visit that would ideally span all of Sardinia.”

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarkozy, Pope aim to ease France's secularism

Pope Benedict will deliver 11 speeches over four days to an estimated half a million people in Paris and Lourdes.
Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, September 05, 2008

PARIS - Pope Benedict's first official visit to France will unite two men who share few similarities beyond their mutual interest in relaxing this country's profoundly strict tradition of separating church and state.

Benedict, who meets President Nicolas Sarkozy shortly after arriving here next Friday, is the head of a church that preaches against abortion, homosexuality, divorce, and extramarital sex to more than one billion members worldwide, including an estimated 13 million Roman Catholics in Canada.

The 81-year-old German Pope will deliver 11 speeches over four days to an estimated half a million people in Paris and Lourdes. He will begin by discussing "the place of religion in France" with Sarkozy, 53, the hyperactive, Ray-Ban-wearing, celebrity-enamoured head of one of the world's most secular countries.

It has been noted here that Sarkozy would be ineligible to receive Holy Communion from the Pope because of his two divorces before his marriage earlier this year to ex-supermodel Carla Bruni, who once said she's "bored with monogamy" and whose list of ex-lovers includes Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Donald Trump.

Yet some analysts say Benedict, because he has a crucial ally in Sarkozy, could have a greater impact in France than his far more popular predecessor John Paul II, who made an emotional final visit here the year before his death in 2005.

Sarkozy has been outspoken in trying to ease the strict 1905 secularism law in France, a country known historically as the church's "oldest daughter" because of its deep Christian roots.

That has created an opening for Benedict, a respected intellectual who speaks fluent French, to gently urge greater public involvement among the country's practising Catholics.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Christianity is a personal encounter with Jesus, not a 'new morality,' says Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2008 / 10:20 am (CNA).- Speaking to the pilgrims gathered at the Paul VI Hall this morning, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the conversion of St. Paul, which he said shows us that Christianity is not “a new philosophy or a new form of morality,” but an encounter with the person of Christ, an event that ignites a personal relationship with Him.

Our knowledge of St. Paul’s conversion begins with the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles. Here, Saint Luke recounts the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer. The Pope also noted that in his own epistles, Paul describes the experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel.

Pope Benedict explained that Paul's encounter on the road to Damascus was not with concepts or ideas but "with the person of Jesus himself." Paul, the Pope continued, "met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Savior and Lord." The encounter on the road to Damascus, he said, caused Paul's own being to die and another to be born with the living Christ. This historical event was "true renewal, which changed all his parameters."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Freed Colombian hostage reveals 'Pope’s voice was like a light' during captivity

Pope Benedict XVI / Ingrid Betancourt

Rome, Sep 2, 2008 / 10:38 am (CNA).- During a press conference after her audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday at Castel Gandolfo, former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt revealed that during her captivity deep in the Amazon jungle, “amidst my desperation and sadness I heard the Pope’s voice on the radio pronouncing my name.” His voice, she said, “was like a light.”

Before some 200 journalists, diplomats and Italian officials, Betancourt said that after telling her story of captivity, the Holy Father told her, “You learned to pray to God because you asked that his will be done.”

“After a very long and harsh march over difficult terrain, and under the weight of all the equipment, at six in the afternoon I was able to rest, and amidst my desperation and sadness I heard the Pope’s voice on the radio pronouncing my name. It’s difficult to describe the psychological effect of that on a prisoner,” Betancourt said according to AFP.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pope asks prayers for those affected by war and for the family

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2008 / 12:58 pm (CNA).- The press office of the Holy See released the prayer intentions of Pope Benedict for the month of September this morning. The Pope’s intentions include those displaced by war or by oppressive regimes and that families will be open to the call to evangelize.

Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention is: "That those who, because of wars or oppressive regimes, are forced to leave their homes and country may be supported by Christians in the defence and protection of their rights."

His mission intention is: "That, faithful to the sacrament of matrimony, every Christian family may cultivate the values of love and communion in order to be a small evangelising community, sensitive and open to the material and spiritual needs of its brothers."

On the Reality of Evil

"It Is Not 'Optional' for Christians to Take Up the Cross"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, too, the apostle Peter is in the foreground of the Gospel reading. But while last Sunday we admired his straightforward faith in Jesus, whom he proclaimed Messiah and Son of God, this time, in the episode that immediately follows, he displays a faith that is still immature and too much influenced by the “mentality of this world” (cf. Romans 12:2).

When, in fact, Jesus begins to speak openly about the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, when he says that he must suffer much, be killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).

It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed ways of thinking. Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the cross. Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen.

On the other hand, he knows that the resurrection will be the last word. Peter’s protest, though spoken in good faith and out of sincere love of the Master, sounds to Jesus like temptation, an invitation to save himself, while it is only in losing his life that his life will be returned to him eternally for all of us.

If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father. The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood. In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God.

But the battle is not over: Evil exists and resists in every generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God? And how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood and of being abandoned by many of his followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, to complete the work of salvation, the Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the cross and follow him. Just as with Christ, it is not “optional” for Christians to take up the cross; it is rather a mission to be embraced out of love.