Consider the Source. Then Consider the Rock.

Pope Benedict XVI gives the final blessing at the Nov. 14, 2012 general audience in Paul VI Hall. Credit: Matthew Rarey-CNA.

I haven’t had time to watch the news today, but I gather that some venues moved to negativity about the Church and the Holy Father almost as soon as the news of his resignation was delivered.

I also heard some crude things about both Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church at work today.

My feeling about all this is, Consider the source.

I mean that literally. Think about the source, the basis for this nastiness. It comes from anger because Pope Benedict XVI held the line on 2,000 years of Christian teaching. He did it in the face of enormous pressure and widespread Christian/Catholic/Pope bashing.

Consider the source. It comes from people who are so arrogant that they want the Pope to abrogate Church teaching and Christian morality and follow their lead in these things instead of Christ the Lord.

Consider the source. Then, be proud of our Papa for holding that line and refusing to budge when it comes to Jesus Christ, even in the face of criticism, calumny and apostasy.

Apostasy is the new trendy of our times. People are oh-so-fond of telling us how they “love” Jesus but hate His Church. What that usually means is that they love the cheap grace of a Jesus made in their image and reject a Church that refuses to bend on the moral teachings that tell them they are wrong in this.

Apostasy is nothing for us to fear. It is not new, and it is not surprising. It is prophesied.

I am thankful for Pope Benedict’s time as Pope. He has kept the barque of Peter on the steady Gospel course. The Church he will hand to his successor is one whose teachings have not faltered in the face of public opprobrium from certain quarters. It is a Church that has shown a willingness to stand alone, if necessary, rather than compromise on 2,000 years of Christian morality. His successor will inherit a Church that is a beacon in a time where the lights of basic morality are going out all over the world.

I have no doubt that our new Pope, whoever he may be, will disappoint these pundits, along with my Church-hating co-workers by keeping the same steady course of consistent Catholic Truth that Pope Benedict has done.

After all, our Church is built on a rock. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. 

A Few Quick Takes on Holy Father’s Resignation

Quick takes from news reports on the Holy Father’s resignation:

  • Pope Benedict XVI will revert to his old title of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger after his resignation.
  • Cardinal Josef Ratzinger will be able to participate in the conclave to elect the new pope, but Vatican sources says he will not do so.
  • The resignation announcement was a surprise, even to Vatican officials:   “The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address.
  •  Pope Benedict XVI has been pope from 2005 to 2013, a total of 8 years.
  • The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415
  • The Vatican says that after his resignation, Pope Benedict will move to a monastery in the Vatican.
  • Pope Benedict turns 86 in April.
  • The pope’s 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, told a German news agency that the pope has had difficulty walking recently and has considered stepping down for months. “His age is weighing on him,” Georg Ratzinger said. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”

Sources for these facts and news stories about the Holy Father’s resignation can be found here, here, here, and here.

Pope Benedict XVI Will Resign

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that he will resign, effective February 28.

A conclave to elect a new pope will convene in March. According to the Associated Press, this is the first papal resignation in 600 years.

My prayers go with His Holiness as he moves into retirement. My mother is two years older than he is. I have often thought about the Holy Father as I have cared for her. To be honest, I did not see how he — or anyone his age — could handle the tumultuous affairs of state that must be necessary for a pope to administer.

I am grateful to him for the years of faithful service to Our Lord that he has given us. He has remained true to the Gospels and 2,000 years of Christian teaching in the face of criticism and what must have been painful attacks.

I hope that this retirement comes in time for him to have at least a few years of quiet and happiness on this earth before he goes to heaven.

Deacon Greg Kandra has written an excellent news roundup of this announcement. I encourage you to go here to read it. 

The announcement from Vatican radio is below. 

From the Vatican Radio website:

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Full text of Pope’s declaration

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

Holy Father: Faith Includes Trust in the Dark Moments of Life

Pope Benedict XVI gives the final blessing at the Nov. 14, 2012 general audience in Paul VI Hall. Credit: Matthew Rarey-CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2012 / 10:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of reflections on faith this Wednesday, saying that at times it includes an element of darkness.

“We encounter moments where God seems absent, his silence weighs on our hearts and his will doesn’t correspond to our own as we would like it to,” the Pope told pilgrims on Dec. 19.

“But the more we open ourselves to God, we receive the gift of faith and put our trust in him completely, the more he empowers us with his presence to live every situation in peace assured by his loyalty and love,” he said during his weekly general audience.

He emphasized that this happens after opening one’s soul to God through faith, just as Abraham did after he was asked to sacrifice his son and as Mary did when she had to watch her son be crucified. (Read more here.)

Onion: “Pope To Identify With Catholic Youth By Giving Up On Catholicism”

Will Sommers. He kept his head.

Henry VIII had Will Sommers, the court jester, who got away with saying things to Henry that would have made anyone else who said them “shorter by a head.”

In present-day America, we have jesters from every point on the political compass vying for our laughs. Unfortunately, a good number of these people are soooo political and their humor is soooo mean that it’s only funny in a nasty, gotcha sort of way. The power of good humor is its pretense-stripping honesty. But a lot of today’s politically-motivated humor is as dishonest as most campaign ads.

Humor can show us truths that are right in front of us but that we don’t see, probably because they are right in front of us. If it’s well done, it can do this in a way that illuminates and edifies. If it’s powered by malice, it can simply hurt.

Every so often a bit of humor comes along that illuminates a current reality and gives us a laugh along with it. That’s satire, and satire is what The Onion dishes up in its latest offering on the Holy Father, titled “Pope To Identify With Catholic Youth By Giving Up On Catholicism.”

The attitudes this bit of spoofery points out regularly show up in Public Catholic’s comboxes. That may be why I found it so funny. First Things put this Onion piece on their site, and I’m going to link to it here:

Onion: “Pope To Identify With Catholic Youth By Giving Up On Catholicism”

And, oh yes Bill S, this one’s for you.

Pope Benedict: Christmas is more than a party

I had just clicked on “buy” for a couple of Christmas gifts when I saw this reflection by the Holy Father.

In this buy, buy, buy society of ours, we all need reminding that, while Christmas is a time of rejoicing, feasting and fun, what we are celebrating is the coming of the Son of God.

Read the Pope’s thoughts on this below and have a blessed Sunday.

 

 

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2012 / 07:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pope asked Catholics to prepare for Christmas amid a consumerist society by listening to the voice of John the Baptist, who teaches us to celebrate Christmas as more than a party.

“Our aim today is listening to that voice to give space and welcome to the heart of Jesus, the word that saves us,” said Pope Benedict XVI from his apartment window to pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.

The Pope asked Catholics to “prepare to see with the eyes of faith the humble stable of Bethlehem, God’s salvation, in this time of Advent.”

“In the consumer society, in which we seek joy in things, John the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so Christmas is experienced not only as an outward party outside, but as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.”

“John plays a great role, but always in relation to Christ,” said the Pope on Dec. 9, following the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.(Read more here.)

Full Text of Wednesday Synod Interventions

I thought you might like to read the Interventions from last Wednesday’s Synod.

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Official Summary and Full Texts of Wednesday afternoon’s Interventions at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.
* * *
SIXTEENTH GENERAL CONGREGATION (WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17 2012 – AFTERNOON)
- RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM
- AUDITIO AUDITORUM (III)
Today, Wednesday, October 17 2012, at 4:30 p.m, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the prayer Pro felici Synodi exitu, the Sixteenth General Congregation began for the reading of theRelatio post disceptationem (Report after the Discussion).
President delegate on duty H. Em. Card. Laurent MONSENGWO PASINYA, Archbishop of Kinshasa (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO).
Some auditors also intervened.
A period for free discussion followed.
At this General Congregation, which ended at 7:00 pm with the prayer of Angelus Domini 254 Fathers were present.
RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM
The General Relator, H. Em. Card. Donald William WUERL, Archbishop of Washington (USA), intervened for the reading of the Relatio post disceptationem (Report after the Discussion).
In his second report, at the conclusion of the general discussion of the Synodal theme in the Hall, the General Relator summarized the different interventions heard in these days in the General Congregations and offered several guidelines for orientation to facilitate the works of the working groups.
Full text is published below.
Holy Father
Synod Fathers
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord
“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

The Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith began with the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy in Saint Peter’s Square. Our Holy Father offered us guidance with the reminder that one of the ideas that came forth from the Second Vatican Council and that has such an important emphasis in the New Evangelization is the understanding of the universal call to holiness and how every Christian is by definition a protagonist in the work of evangelization. “One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42).”

The saints are evangelizers who bring the Word of God into the world through the witness of their lives. Two examples of this efficacious work of inculturation of the Gospel are St. John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who were declared Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of this synod.

As we began our deliberations in this aula, once again our Holy Father offered us words of inspiration. In his meditation during the opening prayer, Pope Benedict reminded us that confessio is the first of the two great pillars of evangelization. We must know and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. But the second of these pillars is caritas – love. It is only when we have the word inseparably lived in love that we achieve the evangelization so hoped for in this synod. “Faith has a content: God communicates himself, but this ‘I’ of God really reveals itself in the figure of Jesus and is interpreted in the ‘confession’ that speaks to us of his virginal conception at the Nativity, the Passion, the Cross, the Resurrection” (Meditation, October 8, 2012).
Also in the October 11th celebration at which the beginning of the Year of Faith was proclaimed and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Council was recognized, the Holy Father indicated another important direction for our work. He said: “During the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today” (Homily, October 11, 2012).

For the past several weeks, we have listened attentively to the reflections on what the New Evangelization means and how the Church might best address concerns that have led to this call by our Holy Father for a New Evangelization. Thoughtful interventions on the part of the synod fathers, as well as the auditores, fraternal delegates and special guests, have enriched our sessions. The ng1033 Ordo Synodi Episcoporum states that it is the task of the Relator Generalto produce a relatio post disceptationem that summarizes as best as possible the discussions so that the next step of the process can continue.
These following reflections are intended in some way to help the discussion in the language groups (circoli minori) as they prepare propositions to offer to the Holy Father at the conclusion of our work. With these observations I also include a number of points for development.

In this relatio, I will summarize some of the observations presented under the following headings:
1. The Nature of the New Evangelization;
2. The Context of the Church’s Ministry Today;
3. Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of Our Day; and4. Agents / Participants of the New Evangelization.
1. The Nature of the New Evangelization

In the synodal discussions there emerged very clearly the understanding that the foundation of the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith is above all the work of the most Holy Trinity in history. God the Father sends his Son who brings with himself the authentic Good News of who we are in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is involved in this movement of Divine Self-revelation which begins with the Blessed Virgin Mary under the action of the Holy Spirit receiving in her womb the Word of God who became flesh in her to be able to be given to the whole world. It is the Word made flesh who offers his words of everlasting life to those who place their faith in him. After his death and Resurrection, Jesus sent the Church, his Spouse and new Body, into the world to continue his evangelizing mission.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Jesus has freed us from the power of sin and saved us from death. The Church receives from her Lord not only the tremendous grace he has won for her, but also the commission to share and make known his victory. We are summoned to transmit faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Church’s primary mission is evangelization.
In his opening reflection, our Holy Father reminded us that the Church has taken the word “evangelium” and interpreted it in a new and life-giving manner so that our proclamation of it is a share in the prophetic ministry of the apostles – of the Church.
In the same reflection, our Holy Father underlined the primacy of God in evangelization. It is God who speaks and acts in history. We, by means of the fire of the Holy Spirit, are called to work humbly with God through our profession of faith and love through which the Word of God passes through us to touch others.

The Church never tires of announcing the gift she has received from the Lord. The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that evangelization is at the very heart of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the fundamental text and nucleus of the Council’s reflection on the life of the Church, the Council fathers emphasized “the Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and to carry it out to the very ends of the earth” (17).

The duty to announce the saving truth is not just the responsibility of clergy and religious. On the contrary, this synod highlighted the important role of every disciple of Christ in the mission of spreading the faith. The discussion accentuated the crucial and vital participation of every Catholic, especially through the eager dedication and gifts of the lay faithful to the mission of evangelization.

Question 1. Through baptism, all Christians are given a personal calling which gives them the dignity of being evangelizers. How can the Church foster greater consciousness among all the baptized of their missionary and evangelizing responsibility?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) and as such, he makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5). This Good News involves the many moments of evangelization. One is the mission ad gentes, that is, the announcement of the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Another moment in evangelization is the ongoing catechesis and growth in the faith that is a normal part of Christian development. Then there is also the New Evangelization which involves the pastoral outreach to those who have heard of Christ and began once to practice the faith but for one reason or another discontinued.

Question 2. One urgent activity, usually part of parish life, involves the initial proclamation of the faith and its gradual development. How can the Christian community become more aware of the importance of this catechetical and educational activity?

2. The context of the Church’s ministry today
In the beginning of our efforts we were greatly aided by the reflections from bishops representing five continents who spoke to us of challenges and at the same time of the communion of the Church. All of the interventions expressed aspects of the actual situation making reference to continental synodal documents and apostolic exhortations offered by both Blessed John Paul II and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
Even as they were diverse in particulars, all of the continents manifested a need for the New Evangelization insofar as their own cultures are affected by the process of secularization, even though it is displayed differently in diverse geographic areas.
Signs of the New Evangelization in Africa, America, Asia, Oceania and Europe include the small Christian communities in a variety of forms that have become living centers of evangelization. Revitalized parishes continued to be the focal point of Church renewal. The action of the laity is an essential and fruitful development. Some also highlighted the mega-trend of globalization and its effects, especially on the young. At the same time, all emphasized that at the heart of the New Evangelization is Jesus.

One particularly delicate situation emerged in the interventions regarding the Middle East. We were reminded of the importance of the presence of Christians in that area and that those Catholics have great gratitude for the recent exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, and particularly for the visit for our Holy Father to Lebanon that was a greatly appreciated testimony to the Church in that part of the world dominated now by Muslim influence. There was a clear effort to promote interreligious dialogue as an instrument of peace. There was also recognition of the difficulties that Christian communities face.

The presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams and the fraternal delegates, demonstrated the strong ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church. This was also noted by a number of synod fathers.
Question 3. Many interventions made clear that there is a consensus that this is a moment of reappraisal of the ministry of the Church in a way that recognizes the new situation in which the Church exercises her perennial ministry of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the world. What have been some fruitful experiences of this activity?
Many fathers spoke of the secularism and indifference to religion that are a part of the culture in many parts of the world. Therefore the Church needs to face the challenges of a world that looks elsewhere for its inspiration.

Many interventions noted the great ignorance of the faith – even of the most basic elements of the faith – that is prevalent throughout even those countries that have a long Christian history.

Question 4. In view of the diminished knowledge of the content of the faith and the lack of appreciation for the Gospel message, what new steps have been taken to promote clear, engaging and complete teaching, particularly to the young?

Globalization also presents unique challenges. The emigration and immigration of large numbers of people have caused dislocation of them from the cultural, social and religious context of their faith. Many religious and human values have been overshadowed by secularism.

Much of culture today presents a vision that weakens the social fabric of society. Some fathers offered examples of local violence and others of a diminished religious freedom. All of this is a challenge the Church faces in many parts of the world. Many fathers spoke of the importance of the means of social communications, particularly new electronic media, as the Church attempts to carry out her ministry of proclaiming the Good News. Some pointed out that it is not enough simply to present Christianity and Christian values on the internet or in religious films. It is necessary to enter into the language of the new media. The Church needs to learn the art of communication from the actual practice of modern social communication.

Question 5. The synod highlighted the seriousness of the challenges facing the Church today that hinder the transmission of the faith, among them an absence of the transcendent in a secularized culture. What are some of the challenges of secularization and what are some potential and existing remedies?

3. Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of Our Day
There is a need to reinforce the idea of ecclesial communion, a bonding with God and therefore among ourselves as Church. We heard of the need to address the sacraments, particularly the Sacraments of Initiation, the Sacrament of Penance, and above all the focus on the Eucharist.

The overriding need of this age is a spiritual renewal that is the task of the Church to proclaim and effect. Spiritual renewal is the most important element of the New Evangelization insofar as it involves the renewal of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and a catechesis that fosters our spiritual growth.

Question 6. The proclamation of the Gospel is primarily a spiritual matter rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Church. How can the Church better create spaces and moments for an encounter with Christ, and better foster a spiritual renewal, conversion and faith formation among all the baptized?

Our personal commitment does not rest on our own individual resolve alone. The First Letter of Saint Peter reminds us, “You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt 1:23).

The Holy Spirit enlivens our commitment as we seek to rediscover the truths expressed in the creed. The Spirit strengthens us as we entrust ourselves to the life of grace and virtue promised in the sacraments. The Spirit bolsters our confidence as we open the deepest places of our hearts so that his gifts might strengthen us to live our faith. The New Evangelization should overflow into the very society in which we live. Culture is the field of the New Evangelization. Culture refers to the daily ethos, the various networks of understanding and meaning that give rise to the many, everyday connections between the person, community and society. Culture forms the vital link that relates the person to the community and the community to society.

Along these lines the opportunity to promote the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” was highlighted as a great contribution to the evangelization of culture.

Still others reminded the synod that care of the sick and those who suffer participates in the very essence of evangelization. The sick, those who have disabilities and those with special needs are also able to be agents of evangelization.

One of the repeated themes is the need to highlight the role of the Church as the very presence of Christ in the world today. The Church is not extraneous to the plan of Christ for salvation. A number of bishops spoke of the need to reinforce the role of the Magisterium of the Church when dealing with all of those who are engaged in teaching the faith, whether at the level of theological speculation or teaching at the elementary, secondary or university levels, and in all the expressions of catechesis.

Question 7. The Christian life is characterized by the transformation of the whole person in response to the call to holiness. How can the Church assist all the baptized to live the Christian faith and serve as a witness to the transforming power of God in our history?

Among the pastoral responses that received considerable mention were the works of social justice and the works of charity as an identifying part of the life and ministry of the Church. The ability of the Church to carry out her many works of love, whether in the area of social justice, service, health care or education were seen as part of her identity and a sign for others to recognize the presence of God working in our world.

Question 8. Testimony to Christ’s charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part of the New Evangelization. How can the Church’s rich social doctrine better proclaim and bear witness to the faith?

Many synod fathers called for a new Pentecost. They spoke of seeing the action of the Church today, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of the energy in the early Church when the apostles set out to bring the first disciples to the Lord. Many of the fathers spoke of the similarity between those early days of the Church and our moment in time today. In this context, it was suggested that there be a formal consecration of the world to the Holy Spirit.

Parishes throughout the Church are the recognized place where for the most part the life of the Church unfolds. Many times the significance of parishes in the unfolding of the New Evangelization was highlighted since this is the “locus” of so much of the experience of people with the Church.

At the same time, the need was affirmed to emphasize the importance of small faith communities as foundational to the work of the Church today in effecting a new Pentecost.

Several synod fathers drew attention to small communities and made the point that they should not become detached from the larger parish family. Each pastor has to be able to work with all of the people entrusted to his care and not be limited to one small part of it.

Question 9. Parishes and small Christian communities occupy a key place in the New Evangelization. How can the parish and these small faith communities better foster and coordinate pastoral initiatives for the New Evangelization? How can the customary pastoral practices in the day-to-day life of these Christian communities be moments in the New Evangelization?

We heard of education into the faith as the starting point for renewal or reinforcement of the New Evangelization, the reintroducing of the world to Jesus Christ. Some fathers highlighted the educational element, especially of the young, as constitutive of the New Evangelization and how we will be able to move into the future bringing people back to the experience of Christ. Synod fathers pointed to the need to find practical and concrete ways to provide young people the proper education in the faith. It is particularly apparent that these moments include instruction of children and adolescents.

Question 10. Since the release of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, great progress has been made in catechetical renewal. How can the Church devise a program of catechesis which is both basic, complete and inspiring in the search for truth, goodness and beauty? The youth are the future of the Church. How can the Church better educate and catechize the youth to the greatness of a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Church, challenging them to commit their lives more fully to Him?

In this perspective, there were those who spoke of putting a renewed emphasis on the minister of catechesis. Catechists can be of great help in the New Evangelization and particularly in the context of families as they communicate the faith to their children.
Question 11. Catechists play a crucial role in the transmission of the faith. Is now the time to give the catechist an instituted, stable ministry within the Church? How can the Church better assist catechists in their important ministry?

Synod fathers spoke of the need to reclaim the Catholic kerygmatic tradition in order to speak the Word of God boldly, in season and out of season, to reclaim the prophetic voice of the Church, to discern the signs of the times that call for the New Evangelization and to engage in proclaiming and living a Catholic response to these signs of the times.

In the same light, a number of synod fathers highlighted the importance of popular piety as an expression by the people of God of their faith.

There was considerable consensus around the value of pilgrimages, especially to Marian shrines. This phenomenon offers a great possibility for evangelization.

Finally, the New Evangelization was recognized as not just a program for the moment but a way of looking at the future of the Church and seeing all of us engaged in inviting, first ourselves to a renewal of the faith and then all those around us into the joyful acceptance of life in the Risen Christ.

4. The Agents / Participants in the New Evangelization
Attention was given to the role of the family. It represents the instrument by which the faith is passed on, even in the most difficult situations. Encouragement has to be given to family life and particularly today when it is suffering so much under the pressures of the new secular vision of reality.

Question 12. As the domestic Church, the family is indispensable not only to the transmission of the faith, but also to the formation of the human person. How can the Church better support and guide the family in its crucial ministry to proclaim the Gospel and take a more active role in the transmission of the faith and human values?
The synod also spoke about the fundamental role of women in the life of the Church and the place of the mother of the family in the transmission of faith.

Systemic and coherent pastoral outreach requires the ongoing permanent formation of priests in the understanding of the joyful proclamation of the Gospel to an age that has little formation into the mystery of Christ.

Those who are preparing for priesthood have to be formed in an understanding of the uniqueness of their ministry and its relationship to evangelization. They also need to be formed in a recognition that they will be dedicating their lives to the service of the Church as celibate priests.

Question 13. The priest occupies a unique place in evangelization and the transmission of the faith. How can the Church foster a renewed missionary imperative to the ministry of priests?

The Church has been blessed by the ministry and witness of women and men in the consecrated life who continue to bring Christ’s love to the world through a great variety of activities. Consecrated life is itself a sign that points out to others the truth of the Gospel.

Many highlighted the role of the laity in the work of the New Evangelization. At every level, whether in the professional areas of education, law, politics, business or in all of the areas of engagement of lay people, it is the task of the individual Catholic to invite people back to the practice of the faith. This is done in word but also and primarily in deed, action and our way of living.

Question 14. The laity are indispensable to the New Evangelization. How can the Church more fully integrate the laity in the organization of the local Church, so that both laymen and laywomen are involved with priests in the evangelization of the community?
A certain number of interventions also highlighted the phenomenon of migration, which is so widespread in our time. It often happens that Catholics arrive in a new environment and are no longer active in their faith. Welcoming and embracing them in the community can be a form of New Evangelization.

The emphasis of Mary, Mother of the Church and of the New Evangelization as a model and patron for our efforts was highlighted a number of times. Above all, her faith prompts us to respond in the same way. It was because of her faith that the Word of God entered into our world. In imitation of Mary, we can bring about through our faith and witness to the life of the Spirit, a change in the world in which we live.

As we begin our work now in determining the propositions that will guide the efforts of this synod in presenting to the Holy Father a frame of reference for his reflection, it seems appropriate therefore to list a number of points among many possible themes:
1. The gratuitous intervention into our existence of God’s love expressed in various ways, but finally and fully in his Word made flesh – Jesus Christ;
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit that enlightens our minds and strengthens our hearts to accept God’s Word and live it;
3. Christ is the subject of our faith and the personal encounter with him invites us to become disciples;
4. We encounter Christ in and through his Church which is his new Body;
5. Christ and his Gospel are at the heart of the Church’s proclamation;
6. All the faithful, laity, religious, and clergy are called to be open to a new Pentecost in their lives;
7. Passing on the content of the faith, the creed, is the task of everyone, but especially in families, in parishes and small communities.
8. The parish is the place where most experience the life of the Church;
9. Some themes of the New Evangelization include the family, marriage, faith formation, religious freedom, care for the poor and the role of the laity; and
10. Mention should be made of practical expressions of the evangelizing work of the Church that seem to be successful.

Conclusion
The growth of the seed takes time. The intentional and deliberate action of diligent and consistent outreach to inactive Catholics on a personal level will plant new seeds as we renew our efforts to proclaim God’s Word and repropose it to those who are now distant from the Church.

The Sower entrusts the seeds to us. We already know our difficulties, the tensions, our restlessness, our faults and our human weakness. Nonetheless, he calls us and places the seeds in our hands and entrusts them to our stewardship. The seed is the beginning of fruitfulness. Planting the seed calls us to live the Word of God and share it with joy.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and example for every disciples, missionary and evangelizer, intercede for us that the work of this synod may result in abundant fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of all men and women.
Thank you.

[00228-02.05] [NNNNN] [Original text: English]

AUDITIO AUDITORUM (III)
The following Auditors intervened:
- Rev. Sister Maria Antonieta BRUSCATO, F.S.P., Superior General of the Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (BRAZIL)
- Mr. Francisco José GÓMEZ ARGÜELLO WIRTZ, Co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way (SPAIN)
- Rev. Zoltán KUNSZABÓ, Permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest (HUNGARY)
- Dr. Michel ROY, Secretary General of “Caritas Internationalis” (ITALY)
- Mrs. Lydia JIMÉNEZ GONZÁLEZ, Director General of the “Cruzadas de Santa María” Secular Institute (SPAIN)
- Dr. Florence DE LEYRITZ, Member of Alpha France Association (FRANCE) and Dr. Marc DE LEYRITZ, President of Alpha France Association (FRANCE)
- Prof. Franco MIANO, President of Italian Catholic Action (ITALY)
The summaries of the interventions are published below:
- Rev. Sister Maria Antonieta BRUSCATO, F.S.P., Superior General of the Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (BRAZIL)

In my intervention I refer to numbers 59 and 62 of the Instrumentum laboris, which I find answers the challenges facing the Church today by the media and digital culture, “the forum of civic life and social experience” (IL 59) and a space for an evangelization, from which to widely spread the Good News of the Gospel.
I praise and bless God for the growing ecclesial sensitivity towards the communication known as new civilization (Ecclesia in Africa, 71), the first aeropagus of modern times (Redemptoris missio, 37), a true and proper culture: that is to say a way of existing, of being in the world.

Paul VI knew this well, from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi he stated: “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims ‘from the housetops’” (no. 45).

The enlightened interventions by the last Pontiffs, especially on the occasion of the World Day for Social Communication, have moved and supported the local Churches and other ecclesial organizations to use professionally the various instruments of communication and today’s new media for the proclamation of the message of salvation.
No. 62 of the Instrumentum laboris indicates some of the dangers of the digital culture which however do not cloud the potential of this new communication, able to offer greater possibilities of knowledge, of exchange, of solidarity. The questions call with great for those in the Church that are bold enough “in entering these ‘new aeropaghi’”: how to be effective communicators of the Mystery of God who is communion, witnesses of the love of God who is hope?

In distant 1926, Blessed Giacomo Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, wrote: “The world needs a new, long and profound evangelization… Proportionate instruments are needed, and souls lit by faith”.

And this is the big challenge that we must also answer today.
[00317-02.02] [UD037] [Original text: Italian]
- Mr. Francisco José GÓMEZ ARGÜELLO WIRTZ, Co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way (SPAIN)
The Letter to the Hebrews states, “Since all the children share the same human nature, he too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death”.

Do we really believe that men, for fear of death, are held in the slavery of the devil all their lives? If we do, then this Synod should say with St Paul: “Caritas Christi urget nos. For the love of Christ overwhelms us when we consider that if one man died for all, then all have died; his purpose in dying for all humanity was that those who live should live not any more for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life”.

St Paul says that God wanted to save the world through the foolishness of the kerygma, which announces this news.

Faith comes from listening and today we find ourselves in a secularized society that has closed its ears.

If we want to evangelize, we need to give the signs that open the ears of contemporary man. But how can a Christian community reach this stature of loving faith in the dimension of the Cross and perfect unity? Here we find the need for the post-baptismal catechumenate to make faith grow.
[00311-02.02] [UD031] [Original text: Italian]

- Rev. Zoltán KUNSZABÓ, Permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest (HUNGARY)
This intervention is based on twenty years of mission experience in Budapest, Hungary and central Europe. The lives of hundreds of people, often entire families have changed thanks to the following principals. This key is a very simple one: to hold fast and believe the spiritual law of evangelization, which the Church, explaining to us Holy Scripture reveals. These are also referring to Instrumentum Laboris points 131 to 141 on the first proclamation of the Gospel and in point 28 on the content of the Gospel.
Because of the Conciliar and post-conciliar documents the entire process of transmitting the faith is clear before us. It begins with a proclamation, which is the Kerygma, that is to say the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including a call to conversion and repentance. Then a process of catechesis, based on the faith born of the first hearing of the Good News. It is very important that we clearly see this process and we follow this order.
It is also very important for New evangelization to be clear about the content of the basic Gospel. We must make it clear that this is a salvific message today just as much as long ago. Sin tears men from God just as much today as it did in the time of the Apostles. If we preach the Gospel faithfully, we will also see that this leads to the sacramental life, people will want to be cleansed by the water of baptism, to be reconciled through the sacrament of repentance, and to commune with Christ through the Holy Eucharist.

The highlight of my mission work was the Budapest City Mission in 2007. When answering the call of His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdö, the entire archdiocese, joined in unprecedented unity to declare and share the Good News. The Kerygmatic preaching, and the invitation to join the community of love that is the Church, has since changed many lives, especially among the poor, the homeless and marginalized people and many of the youth.

[00197-02.03] [UD014] [Original text: English]
- Dr. Michel ROY, Secretary General of “Caritas Internationalis” (ITALY)
The practice of charity is a constitutional element of the nature of the Church and her mission of evangelization, and all in the Church are involved.
The new evangelization must show that the diakonia of the faith and the diakonia of charity are not separate and independent, but it is a question of one single diakonia with two aspects. Even more: the motor of the mission, the bearer of the vision should always be the diakonia of charity.

Because of this, charity must be the structural element of the self-same nature of the Church if she wishes to be evangelizing. It is worthwhile for the Synod to give her the place due to her in the reflection on new evangelization and for her to be encouraged and reinforced in her evangelizing dynamism.

Charity lived in the Spirit not only makes us missionaries, but evangelizes us as well. And today, we joyfully recognize that there are many, every day more and more, workers of charity, volunteers and employed, who make of their work in the social-charitable action of the Church the explicit field of their involvement in evangelization. We would like for them to have a place among the topics dealt with, on the manner in which Christian faith should be transmitted today.

We acknowledge that the practice of charity is one of the signs of credibility of the Church. We can often see, in our Caritas, brothers and sisters who come to us from indifference, agnosticism and unbelieving, through the socio-charitable service, discovering what the joy of believing and placing one’s life in the same phase with Jesus Christ within the Church truly means. We would like for the evangelizing characteristic which they bear within themselves to be recognized in a great number of actions that are carried out in the service of charity and the way of exercising them.
This does not mean that we do not recognize the need, at the same time, to deal with the evangelizing dimension of charity and formation in this domain, so that we may know how to make this service raise questions on the reasons and meaning of what we do, inviting to conversion and easing the proclamation of Jesus and His Gospel. In the same way we must cultivate the spirituality that can give consistency to the evangelizing characteristic of charity. The Synod could provide a good service to the new evangelization if it would give us positive orientations on the attention to be brought on formation and spirituality in the charitable action, which allows the revival in her of her evangelizing force.

The fundamental question in new evangelization is not only in knowing how to proclaim the Gospel, but in asking ourselves if the Gospel we proclaim is a good news for the poor, and if we, as Church, can make this Gospel credible. The service of charity must be the motor of the mission and its sign of credibility.
[00233-02.02] [UD020] [Original text: French]

- Mrs. Lydia JIMÉNEZ GONZÁLEZ, Director General of the “Cruzadas de Santa María” Secular Institute (SPAIN)
The Instrumentum laboris (nos. 147-149) calls us to do the work of evangelization, education in the current difficult situation of the “educational emergency”. In this sense, how do we have to be Catholic educators, what should Catholic school be like? I would like to indicate some ways:
1. – Maintaining Catholic identity of our schools.
2. – Establishing in our schools serious and integral program of faith formation.
3. – Creative fidelity to the founding charisma.
4. – Practice of virtues through a serious program of education of the will.
5. – Affective Educational Program. Encourage the practice of charity.
6. – Personalized attention.We have seen, with sorrow , how many students in our Catholic schools, rigorously educated in the study, have become social leaders who are enemies of the faith and the Church. That our schools are not centers of very “educated” but “unbelieving baptized.” And we have also seen with joy, how in colleges, universities, where the identity is maintained and the education of the faith is carried out, vocations emerge from its own Congregation for all conditions of Christian life. The Bishops are asked to pay special attention to the Catholic-owned centers in their dioceses. Ensure that they do not disappear and maintain their clear Catholic identity as an effective contribution to the formation of new credible evangelizers.

[00306-02.03] [UD027] [Original text: Spanish]
- Dr. Florence DE LEYRITZ, Member of Alpha France Association (FRANCE) and Dr. Marc DE LEYRITZ, President of Alpha France Association (FRANCE)
The Alpha Board is an instrument of kerygmatic announcement in the service of parishes and chaplaincies created 30 years ago and proposed in 160 countries, in 110 languages. Close to 20 million individuals followed it, many of whom had vivifying encounters with Christ. What lessons can be drawn from this experience for pastoral conversion?

Three great processes structuralize evangelization: 1. A first evangelization lived as a time of initial conversion allowing for the personal encounter with Christ; 2. The formation of disciples favoring the apprenticeship of Christian life; 3. The development of leaders through the recognition of the missionary potential of the laity and their deployment within the Church and in society.

Few pastors effectively know how to articulate these three processes which are detailed in Evangelii Nuntiandi, Chap. 2: This transformation leads to not believing in the sympathy, the sympathy to conversion, the conversion to the life of the disciple, and the life of the disciple to the mission.

For New Evangelization not to be diminished to a mere slogan, and for the communities to be the fertile terrain where disciples-missionaries may grow, priests must develop the ability to lead the pastoral with an organized and systematic approach. It is key to articulate these processes amongst themselves in a pastoral continuum that links the first proclamation to the development of missionary disciples, on the basis of their spiritual gifts, that could make the Kingdom of God radiate around the Christian community.

The New Evangelization requires new pastoral competencies. The Munus Regendi is brought up here. We have conceived for the profit of priests and bishops formations of pastoral government. Experience shows us that we can conceive the Church like a community apprenticeship where one must find again to place oneself in the listening of the Word of God to grow in faith, to form as disciples and practice a pastoral government that is profoundly evangelical.

[00309-02.02] [UD029] [Original text: French]
- Prof. Franco MIANO, President of Italian Catholic Action (ITALY)
The laity is called to participate in the entire mission of the Church, “they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (LG, 31). The Council message thus places the lay vocation in a particularly meaningful light that expresses a lively feeling of co-responsibility in the local Church and in the Universal Church. The discovery-rediscovery of this vocation, of the profound feeling of lay participation in the whole mission of the Church, appears to be one of the fundamental tasks which new evangelization is facing.

New evangelization requires new abilities of relation and relationships, individuals who know how to tell, with their life, the marvels of God, needs ties to a good, beautiful, true life. Here then, the intrinsically community dimension of the life of the Church, which has its foundation in the great gift of communion, today, asks to be evermore valued, with the goal of a renewed announcement of the Gospel to men and to women of our time. Even in the consciousness of the plurality of itineraries which are so rich in our ecclesial life, we again think about the parish, the place where we find our houses, where our families live, where the first relationships are built.

In the life of the parish, and even before at the service of the diocese, Catholic Action may represent a privileged place where the proper dynamics of relations in an ecclesial way are activated, where each one learns to understand that the great gift of faith and all the gifts received have a community destination. The vocation proper to Catholic Action, according to the indications of Vatican Council II, is in placing itself at the service of the whole, in being associated diocesan laity, in being able to be the concrete laboratory for new evangelization in the reality of the particular churches, around the Bishop, giving perspective and activation to the pastoral orientations. We offer our availability to the pastors of our particular Churches on behalf of the many lay faithful who await demanding formative proposals, intense personal relationships which being an association helps to cultivate, committing ourselves to walk the path of holiness, following the many saints and blesseds to become witnesses and apostles in the contexts of life: youths, adults, children, families, teachers, students, professionals, workers… all involved and protagonists, all responsible in evangelization and in the new evangelization to favor in the individuals we meet daily a new encounter with the Lord.
[00312-02.02] [UD032] [Original text: Italian]

The Year of Faith Oct 11, 2012 – Nov 24, 2013

I thought you might like to read the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter proclaiming the Year of Faith.  It will begin October 11.

Have a blessed Sunday. 

 

APOSTOLIC LETTER

“MOTU PROPRIO DATA”

PORTA FIDEI

OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF

BENEDICT XVI

FOR THE INDICTION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH

1. The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8): the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s glorious return.

2. Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”[1] It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied.[2] Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.

3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.

4. In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II,[3] with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith. This document, an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council, was requested by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 as an instrument at the service of catechesis[4] and it was produced in collaboration with all the bishops of the Catholic Church. Moreover, the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that I have convoked for October 2012 is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith. It is not the first time that the Church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith. My venerable Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul on the 19th centenary of their supreme act of witness. He thought of it as a solemn moment for the whole Church to make “an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith”; moreover, he wanted this to be confirmed in a way that was “individual and collective, free and conscious, inward and outward, humble and frank”.[5] He thought that in this way the whole Church could reappropriate “exact knowledge of the faith, so as to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it, and confess it”.[6] The great upheavals of that year made even more evident the need for a celebration of this kind. It concluded with the Credo of the People of God,[7] intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past.

5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a “consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period”,[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition … I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]

6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While “Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)… the Church … clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.”[11]

The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried … with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).

7. “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, “strengthen themselves by believing”.[12] The saintly Bishop of Hippo had good reason to express himself in this way. As we know, his life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God.[13] His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, continue even now to form a heritage of incomparable riches, and they still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the “door of faith”.

Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.

8. On this happy occasion, I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith. We want to celebrate this Year in a worthy and fruitful manner. Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times. Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo.

9. We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; … and also the source from which all its power flows.”[14] At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed,[15] and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.

Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: “the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”[16]

10. At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.

The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.

Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This “standing with him” points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.

Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith. In the faith of the Christian community, each individual receives baptism, an effective sign of entry into the people of believers in order to obtain salvation. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “ ‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. ‘I believe’ is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both ‘I believe’ and ‘we believe’.”[17]

Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God. The giving of assent implies that, when we believe, we freely accept the whole mystery of faith, because the guarantor of its truth is God who reveals himself and allows us to know his mystery of love.[18]

On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic “preamble” to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for “what is perennially valid and lasting”.[19] This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us.[20] To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.

11. In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “this catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church … I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”[21]

It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.

In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church. The profession of faith is followed by an account of sacramental life, in which Christ is present, operative and continues to build his Church. Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness. By the same criterion, the teaching of the Catechism on the moral life acquires its full meaning if placed in relationship with faith, liturgy and prayer.

12. In this Year, then, the Catechism of the Catholic Church will serve as a tool providing real support for the faith, especially for those concerned with the formation of Christians, so crucial in our cultural context. To this end, I have invited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by agreement with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See, to draw up a Note, providing the Church and individual believers with some guidelines on how to live this Year of Faith in the most effective and appropriate ways, at the service of belief and evangelization.

To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.[22]

13. One thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin. While the former highlights the great contribution that men and women have made to the growth and development of the community through the witness of their lives, the latter must provoke in each person a sincere and continuing work of conversion in order to experience the mercy of the Father which is held out to everyone.

During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.

By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).

By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35). By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.

By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.

By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay. By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.

By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.

14. The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). With even stronger words – which have always placed Christians under obligation – Saint James said: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18).

Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbour along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).

15. Having reached the end of his life, Saint Paul asks his disciple Timothy to “aim at faith” (2 Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (cf. 2 Tim 3:15). We hear this invitation directed to each of us, that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.

“That the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph” (2 Th 3:1): may this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love. The words of Saint Peter shed one final ray of light on faith: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6-9). The life of Christians knows the experience of joy as well as the experience of suffering. How many of the saints have lived in solitude! How many believers, even in our own day, are tested by God’s silence when they would rather hear his consoling voice! The trials of life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col 1:24), are a prelude to the joy and hope to which faith leads: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With this sure confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst, overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father.

Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45).

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 October in the year 2011, the seventh of my Pontificate.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

[1] Homily for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome (24 April 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 710.

[2] Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily at Holy Mass in Lisbon’s “Terreiro do Paço” (11 May 2010): Insegnamenti VI:1 (2010), 673.

[3] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 113-118.

[4] Cf. Final Report of the Second Extraordinary Synod of Bishops (7 December 1985), II, B, a, 4 in Enchiridion Vaticanum, ix, n. 1797.

[5] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Petrum et Paulum Apostolos on the XIX centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul (22 February 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 196.

[6] Ibid., 198.

[7] Paul VI, Credo of the People of God, cf. Homily at Mass on the XIX centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul at the conclusion of the “Year of Faith” (30 June 1968): AAS 60 (1968), 433-445.

[8] Paul VI, General Audience (14 June 1967): Insegnamenti V (1967), 801.

[9] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 57: AAS 93 (2001), 308.

[10] Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 52.

[11] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 8.

[12] De Utilitate Credendi, I:2.

[13] Cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, I:1.

[14] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.

[15] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 116.

[16] Sermo 215:1.

[17] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 167.

[18] Cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, chap. III: DS 3008-3009: Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 5.

[19] Benedict XVI, Address at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris (12 September 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 722.

[20] Cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, XIII:1.

[21] John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 115 and 117.

[22] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998), 34, 106: AAS 91 (1999), 31-32, 86-87.

© Copyright 2011 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 

 

 

 

Pope Benedict Calls for Christians, Muslims to Unite Against Violence

The Holy Father made a statement on Vatican Radio yesterday calling for Christians and Muslims to unite against violence. Rather than discuss what he said, I decided to reproduce the article from Vatican Radio for you to read without editing. You can find the original on the Vatican website here.

Pope: Christians and Muslims united against war

 

2012-09-19 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) – It is time for Christians and Muslims to come together in a decided and sincere witness against divisions, violence and war: This was Pope Benedict XVI’s clear message Wednesday morning, during his general audience at the Vatican. Emer McCarthy reports Listen: 

The Pope spoke of his recent Apostolic voyage to Lebanon to the 8, 000 pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI hall, stressing that he had strongly wanted this the trip to go ahead, because “a father should always be near his children when they encounter grave problems”, and to bring a message of encouragement and peace, in particular for Syria and Iraq.
Pope Benedict said that during his visit, the people of Lebanon and the Middle East – Catholics, representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of the various Muslim communities – enthusiastically and in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere, experienced the importance of mutual respect, understanding and brotherhood, which is a strong sign of hope for all humanity. He added that the constant presence and participation of Muslims gave him the opportunity to launch a call to dialogue and collaboration between Christianity and Islam”.

Benedict XVI also expressed his profound gratitude for the fervent faith and witness of the thousands of Catholics from Lebanon and the Middle East who accompanied each stage of his visit. It is a sign of hope, he concluded “for the future of the Church in those lands: young people, adults and families motivated by a strong desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain anchored to the Gospel, to walk together in the Church”.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to briefly return, in my thoughts and heart, to those extraordinary days of my Apostolic journey to Lebanon. A trip that I had strongly wanted, despite the difficult circumstances, considering that a father should always be near his children when they encounter grave problems. I was moved by a sincere desire to announce the peace that the risen Lord gave to his disciples and summarized in the words “My peace I give to you – سلامي أعطيكم” (Jn 14:27). The main aim of my journey was the signing and consignment of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to the representatives of the Catholic communities of the Middle East, to other Churches and ecclesial communities as well as Muslim leaders.

It was a moving ecclesial event and, at the same time, a provident opportunity for dialogue lived in a complex but emblematic country for the entire region, because of its tradition of coexistence and fruitful cooperation between the different religious and social components. In the face of the suffering and tragedies that continue in that area of the Middle East, I expressed my heartfelt closeness to the legitimate aspirations of those dear people, bringing them a message of encouragement and peace. I am thinking in particular of the terrible conflict that torments Syria, causing, in addition to thousands of deaths, a stream of refugees that pours into the region desperately seeking security and a future; neither have I forgotten the plight of Iraq. During my visit, the people of Lebanon and the Middle East – Catholics, representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of the various Muslim communities – enthusiastically and in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere, experienced the importance of mutual respect, understanding and brotherhood, which is a strong sign of hope for all humanity. But it was the encounter with the Catholic faithful of Lebanon and the Middle East, present in their thousands, which aroused in me a feeling of deep gratitude for the ardor of their faith and their witness.

I thank the Lord for this precious gift, which gives hope for the future of the Church in those areas: youth, adults and families motivated by the strong desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain anchored to the Gospel, to walk together in the Church. I renew my gratitude also to all who worked tirelessly for my visit: the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon with their staff, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, consecrated persons and the lay faithful, which are a precious and meaningful reality in Lebanese society. I was able to observe firsthand that the Lebanese Catholic communities, through their presence and their millennial commitment full of hope, offer a significant and valued contribution to the daily lives of all the inhabitants of the country. My respect and gratitude go to the Lebanese authorities, institutions and associations, volunteers and all those who have offered their support in prayer. I can not forget the warm welcome I received from the President of the Republic, Mr. Michel Sleiman, as well as the various components of the country and the people: it was a warm welcome, in line with the famous Lebanese hospitality. Muslims welcomed me with great respect and sincere consideration, their constant presence and participation gave me the opportunity to launch a call to dialogue and collaboration between Christianity and Islam: it seems to me that the time has come for us to give a decided and sincere witness together against the divisions and wars. The Catholics, who also came from neighboring countries, fervently expressed their deep affection for the Successor of Peter.

After the beautiful ceremony on my arrival at Beirut airport, the first meeting was of particular solemnity: the signing of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, in the Greek-Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa. On that occasion I invited Catholics in the Middle East to fix their gaze on Christ Crucified to find the strength, even in difficult and painful contexts, to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge and unity over division. I assured them all that the universal Church is closer than ever, with affection and prayer, to the Church in the Middle East: they, despite being a “little flock”, need not fear, knowing that the Lord is always with them. The Pope does not forget them.

On the second day of my Apostolic Journey I met the representatives of the institutions of the Republic and the world of culture, the diplomatic corps and religious leaders. To them, among others, I pointed a way forward to promote a future of peace and solidarity: this means working so that cultural, social and religious differences result in a sincere dialogue, a new fraternity, united by a shared sense of the greatness and dignity of every person, whose life must always be defended and protected. On the same day I had a meeting with the heads of Muslim religious communities, which took place in a spirit of dialogue and mutual benevolence. I thank God for this meeting. The world today needs clear and strong signs of dialogue and cooperation, of which Lebanon has been and must continue to be an example to the Arab countries and the rest of the world.

In the afternoon, at the residence of the Maronite Patriarch, I was greeted by the irrepressible enthusiasm of thousands of young people from Lebanon and from neighboring countries, who gave rise to a moment of great celebration and prayer, that will remain unforgettable for many. I pointed out their good fortune to live in that part of the world that saw Jesus, Crucified and Risen for our salvation, and the development of Christianity, exhorting them to fidelity and love for their land, despite the difficulties caused by the lack of stability and security. In addition, I encouraged them to be firm in their faith, trusting in Christ, the source of our joy, and to deepen their personal relationship with Him in prayer, as well as to be open to the great ideals of life, family, friendship and solidarity. Seeing young Christians and Muslims celebrate in great harmony, I encouraged them to build together the future of Lebanon and the Middle East and to oppose violence and war. Harmony and reconciliation must be stronger than the forces of death.

On Sunday morning, there was a very intense moment of great participation in the Holy Mass at the City Center Waterfront in Beirut, accompanied by evocative hymns and chants, which also characterized other celebrations. In the presence of many bishops and a large crowd of faithful from all over the Middle East, I urged everyone to live and to witness their faith without fear, knowing that the vocation of the Christian and the Church is to bring the Gospel to all without distinction, following the example of Jesus in a context marked by bitter conflicts, I drew attention to the need to serve peace and justice by becoming instruments of reconciliation and builders of communion. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, I had the joy of presenting the Apostolic Exhortation which gathers the conclusions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. Through the Patriarchs and Eastern and Latin Bishops, priests, religious and laity, this Document wants to reach all the faithful of that dear land, to support them in their faith and communion and encourage them on the path of the much hoped for new evangelization. In the afternoon, at the headquarters of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate, I then had the joy of a fraternal ecumenical meeting with the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and representatives of those Churches, as well as other Ecclesial Communities.

Dear friends, the days spent in Lebanon were a wonderful manifestation of faith and religious feeling and a prophetic sign of peace. The multitude of believers from the entire Middle East, had the opportunity to reflect, to talk and especially to pray together, renewing their commitment to root their lives in Christ. I am sure that the people of Lebanon, in its varied but well blended religious and social composition, will know how to witness with renewed impetus to the true peace that comes from faith in God. I hope that the messages of peace and respect that I wanted to give, will help governments of the region to take decisive steps towards peace and a better understanding of the relationship between Christians and Muslims. For my part, I continue to accompany those beloved people in prayer, so that they remain faithful to their commitments. To the maternal intercession of Mary, venerated in so many and ancient Lebanese shrines, I entrust the fruits of this pastoral visit, as well as the good intentions and the just aspirations of the entire Middle East.

 


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