HOLY THURSDAY: CHRISM MASS AND THE LORD'S SUPPER
VATICAN CITY, 21 APRIL 2011 (VIS REPORTS) At 9:30 today, Holy Thursday, in the Vatican basilica, the Pope celebrated the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated today in all cathedrals around the world. The cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in Rome concelebrated with the Holy Father. The homily was followed by the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oils of catechumens, for anointing the sick, and of Chrism. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
In his homily, the Holy Father explained that three oils are blessed in the liturgy of Holy Thursday ... The oil of catechumens "indicates a first way of being touched by Christ and by His Spirit - an inner touch, by which the Lord draws people close to himself. ... God loves us. He comes to meet the unrest of our hearts ... Knowledge of God is never exhausted. ... Let us remain constantly on a journey towards him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and love!".
Then referring to the oil for anointing the sick, Benedict XVI commented that "healing is one of the fundamental tasks entrusted by Jesus to the Church ... the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts. But over and above this central task, the Church's essential mission also includes the specific healing of sickness and suffering".
"In third place", he continued, "is the most noble of the ecclesial oils, the chrism ... this oil serves chiefly for the anointing of confirmation and ordination. ... Baptism and confirmation are an initiation into this People of God that spans the world; the anointing that takes place in baptism and confirmation is an anointing that confers this priestly ministry towards mankind. Christians are a priestly people for the world. Christians should make the living God visible to the world, they should bear witness to him and lead people towards him. ... Have not we - the People of God - become to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God? Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith, bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ?"
He concluded, "For all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith, people who give hope to the world through their faith and love. When Pope John Paul II is beatified on 1 May, we shall think of him, with hearts full of thankfulness, as a great witness to God and to Jesus Christ in our day, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit".
At 5:30 pm, Benedict XVI concelebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the basilica of St. John Lateran. In imitation of the Lord's gesture towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests. During the presentation of gifts, the Pope was presented with an offering to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
In his homily the Pope commented on the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: "In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine ... Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves?" he asked. "Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?"
The Holy Father commented on one of the prayers Jesus made to the Father during the Last Supper: "the prayer for unity ... Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to Him, to Jesus".
The Pope emphasised that "with the Eucharist, the Church is born" and indicated that "the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity".
Benedict XVI recalled that "Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors ... Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion". In this respect he highlighted that "we too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers".
"All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us".
"The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord's prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfill his task of strengthening his brethren - of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father".
GOOD FRIDAY: LORD'S PASSION AND VIA CRUCIS TO COLOSSEUM
VATICAN CITY, 22 APRIL 2011 (VIS) At 5:00 pm today, Good Friday, the Pope celebrated the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter's basilica. Following the reading of the Passion according to St. John, in keeping with tradition, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced the homily. This was followed by the universal prayer, adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion.
At 9:00 pm, the Holy Father travelled to the Colosseum to preside over the Via Crucis. This year's texts were prepared by Sister Maria Rita Piccione, of the Order of Saint Augustine, from the Monastery of the Santissimi Quattro Coronati in Rome.
Benedict XVI continued the ceremony from the Palatine Hill. The cross was carried to the different stations by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's vicar for the diocese of Rome; a Roman family with five children (triplets and twins); a family from Ethiopia; two Augustinian nuns; a Franciscan and a youth from Egypt; and two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land.
At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father addressed those gathered: "Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin."
"But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God's immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God's death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth".
Finally, the Pope invited us to "gaze on the crucified Jesus", and to "ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the 'old man' bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us 'new men', men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love".
HOLY SATURDAY: FAITH IN GOD BEGINS WITH CREATION
VATICAN CITY, 23 APRIL 2011 (VIS) - At 9:00 pm this evening, Benedict XVI presided over the solemn Paschal Vigil, which began with the blessing of the new flame in the atrium of the Vatican basilica, the processional entry into St. Peter's with the paschal candle, and the singing of the Exultet. During the baptismal liturgy, the Holy Father administered the sacrament of Christian initiation to six catechumens from various countries.
"The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs", said the Pope during his homily. "First there is the fire that becomes light ... The second sign is water... Yet these great signs of creation, light and water, are not the only constituent elements of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Another essential feature is the ample encounter with the words of sacred Scripture that it provides".
The Holy Father explained that "The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ".
"At the Easter Vigil", he continued, "the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy's way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. ... Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? ... To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness".
Benedict XVI emphasised that "the Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man's religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things. Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation".
"The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom".
The Pope remarked that "if man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason".
He recalled that "the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. ... But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty".
He continued, "This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament".
Benedict XVI affirmed that "the first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation. We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again".
He concluded, "We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last forever".
EASTER: RESURRECTION GIVES STRENGTH TO HUMAN HOPE
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2011 (VIS) This morning Benedict XVI celebrated the Easter Sunday Resurrection Mass in St. Peter's Square. At midday, following the Eucharist, the Pope addressed those present from the central balcony of the basilica, and delivered the traditional Easter message, from which we offer several extracts:
"Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles".
"Just as the sun's rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ's resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation's silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth".
"'In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice.' To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the 'heavens' respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter Alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace".
"May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person".
"May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard".
"May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish".
"May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust".
Following his message, and before imparting the Urbi et Orbi blessing (to the city of Rome and to the world), the Holy Father communicated his Easter greetings in sixty-five languages.
VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI, who has been at the pontifical residence at Castelgandolfo since yesterday, appeared at the balcony of the central patio of the apostolic palace there to pray the Regina Coeli with the gathered faithful. The prayer was televised live for the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"Christ has conquered death, caused by our sin, and brings us again to eternal life. The entire life of the Church and our very existence as Christians comes from this event. Today, Monday of the Angel", the Pope said, "we read in the first missionary address of the nascent Church: 'God raised this Jesus', the apostle Paul proclaimed, 'of this we are all witnesses'.
"How can we meet the Lord, each time becoming more and more his true witnesses?" the Holy Father asked, explaining that St. Maximus of Turin affirmed, "whosoever wishes to reach the Savior must first put themselves, in their very faith, at the right hand of the divinity, and place themselves in heaven with the belief of their hearts". This is constantly learning to direct the mind's and the heart's gaze toward the heights of God where the risen Christ is. In prayer and in adoration God encounters the human being ... Only if we know how to direct ourselves toward Him and pray to Him can we discover the deepest meaning of our lives and our daily path will be illuminated with the light of the Risen One".
Finally, Benedict XVI recalled that today the Church in the East and the West celebrate St. Mark the Evangelist, patron of the Italian city of Venice, and that he will make a pastoral visit there on 7 and 8 May of this year. After praying the Regina Coeli he greeted the members of the Meter Association, founder of the National Day for children victims of violence, abuse, and indifference. "I encourage you", he said, "to continue your work of prevention and raising awareness side by side with the various educational associations. In particular, I am thinking of the parishes, societies, and other ecclesial institutions that generously dedicate themselves to the formation of the new generations".
RELIQUARY OF BLESSED JOHN PAUL II
VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2011 (VIS) - Following is the communique published by the Holy See Press Office regarding the reliquary of Blessed John Paul II, which will be displayed during his beatification ceremony this 1 May.
"The reliquary that will be displayed for the veneration of the faithful, on the occasion of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, is a small ampoule of his blood contained within a precious reliquary that the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has prepared expressly for the occasion. It is opportune to explain briefly, but precisely, the origin of this reliquary.
During the last days of the Holy Father's illness, his entrusted medical personnel extracted blood to be held at the transfusion center of the Bambino Gesu Hospital, in the case of an eventual transfusion. This center, under the direction of Professor Isacchi, was effectively entrusted with this medical service for the Pope.
Nevertheless, there was no transfusion and the extracted blood remained conserved in four small containers, two of which were left to Pope John Paul II's personal secretary, Cardinal Dziwisz, the other two remaining at Bambino Gesu, devotedly looked after by the hospital's religious staff. For the beatification it is precisely these last two which have been placed in two reliquaries.
The first will be presented for the veneration of the faithful during the beatification ceremony, 1 May, and later will be kept in the "Sacrario", in the charge of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, together with other important reliquaries. The second will be returned to the care of the Bambino Gesu Hospital, whose religious staff have safeguarded this precious relic throughout these years.
The blood is in a liquid state, which is explained by an anti-coagulant substance present in the test tubes at the moment of extraction".
CHRISTIANS: WITNESSES OF EASTER'S NEW PATH
VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Pope travelled from Castelgandolfo to the Vatican for the General Audience that took place in St. Peter's Square and in which over 20,000 people participated.
"Christ resurrected from the dead", the Holy Father asserted, "is the foundation of our faith that radiates throughout the Church's liturgy, giving it content and meaning ... Christ's resurrection is the door to a new life that is no longer subjected to the termination of time, a life immersed in the eternity of God. With Jesus' resurrection begins a new condition of human being, which illuminates and transforms our daily path and opens a qualitatively new and different future for all humanity".
"In his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul says 'If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth'". However, Benedict XVI emphasized, the apostle "is far from inviting Christians, any of us, to shun the world in which God has placed us. It is true that we are citizens of another 'city', our true home, but the path toward this goal must be traversed every day in this land. To participate, from this moment, in the life of the resurrected Christ, we must live as new men and women in this world, at the heart of this earthly city".
"This is the path", the Holy Father continued, "to transform not only ourselves but also to transform the world, to give the city a new face that favors the development of humankind and society within the logic of solidarity, goodness, and profound respect for the dignity proper to each ... Easter offers the newness of a profound and complete passage from a life subject to the slavery of sin to a life of freedom, inspired by love, the force that breaks down barriers and builds new harmony in our hearts and in our relationships with others and with things".
Every Christian, just as every community, "that lives the experience of this passage to the Resurrection, cannot help but be new leaven in the world giving themselves without reserve to the most urgent and just causes, as seen by the witness of the saints in every age and place. The expectations of our time are also great: believing firmly that the resurrection of Christ has renewed humankind without separating it from the world in which it builds its history, we Christians must be the radiant witnesses of Easter's new path".
"Easter is, therefore, a gift that must be welcomed in faith more deeply each time, to work in any situation with the grace of Christ, according to the logic of God, the logic of love", the pontiff concluded.
VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - Today the Holy Father appointed
- Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez, previously auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Miami, as bishop of Saint Augustine (area 28,575, population 1,966,314, Catholics 171,000, priests 136, permanent deacons 62, religious 118), USA. He succeeds Bishop Victor B. Galeone, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit. (IMAGE SOURCE RADIO VATICANA)
- Bishop Dario Campos, O.F.M. of Leopoldina, Brasil as bishop of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim (area 10,073, population 661,000, Catholics 395,000, priests 71, permanent deacons 41, religious 73), Brasil.
On Monday, 25 April, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Charles C. Thompson of the clergy of the archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, vicar general and pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, as Bishop of Evansville (area 12,971, population 501,000, Catholics 87,800, priests 75, permanent deacons 52, religious 255), USA. The bishop-elect was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1987. He succeeds Bishop Gerald Andrew Gettelfinger, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
On Holy Thursday, 21 April, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Mose Marcia, auxiliary bishop of the Cagliari archdiocese, from the pastoral care of the diocese of Nuoro (area 2,806, population 124,708, Catholics 122,447, priests 94, permanent deacons 8, religious 125), Italy, upon having reached the age limit. He succeeds Bishop Pietro Meloni, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.