Wednesday, January 25, 2012



VATICAN  CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this  morning's general audience to Christ's priestly prayer during the Last  Supper, as narrated in chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. John. In order to  understand this prayer "in all its immense richness", said the  Pope, it is important to see it in the context of the Jewish feast of  atonement, Yom Kippur, in which the high priest seeks atonement first for  himself, then for the order of priests and finally for the community as a  whole. Likewise, "that night Jesus addressed the Father at the moment in  which He offered Himself. He, priest and victim, prayed for Himself, for the  Apostles and for all those who would believe in Him". (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

   The prayer which Jesus prays for Himself is the request for His own  glorification. "It is in fact more than a request", the Holy Father  said, "it is a declaration of willingness to enter freely and generously  into the Father's plan, which is accomplished through death and resurrection.  ... Jesus begins His priestly prayer by saying: 'Father, the hour has come;  glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you'. The glorification Jesus  seeks for Himself, as High Priest, is to be fully obedient to the Father, an  obedience which leads Him to fulfil His filial status: 'So now, Father,  glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence  before the world existed'".

   The second part of Jesus' prayer is His intercession for the disciples who  have followed Him, and His request that they may be sanctified. Jesus says:  'They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  Sanctify them in the truth'. Benedict XVI explained how "To sanctify  means to transfer something - a person or an object - to God. This involves  two complementary aspects: on the one hand, the idea of 'segregation' ...  from man's personal life in order to be completely given over to God; on the  other hand there is the idea of 'being sent out', of mission. Having been  given to God, the consecrated thing or person exists for others. ... A person  is sanctified when, like Jesus, he is segregated from the world, set aside  for God in view of a task and, for this reason, available for everyone. For  disciples this means continuing Jesus' mission".

   In the third phase of the priestly prayer, "Jesus asks the Father to  intervene in favour of all those who will be brought to the faith by the  mission inaugurated by the Apostles. ... 'I ask not only on behalf of these,  but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word'. ...  Jesus prays for the Church in all times, He also prays for us. ... The main  element in Jesus' priestly prayer for His disciples is His request for the  future unity of those who will believe in Him. This unity is not a worldly  achievement. It derives exclusively from divine unity and comes down to us  from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit".

   By this priestly prayer Jesus establishes the Church, "which is nothing  other than the community of disciples who, through their faith in Christ as  the One sent by the Father, receive His unity and are involved in Jesus'  mission to save the world by leading it to a knowledge of God".

   Benedict XVI invited the faithful to read and meditate upon Jesus priestly  prayer, and to pray to God themselves, asking Him "to help us enter  fully into the plan He has for each of us. Let us ask Him to consecrate us to  Himself, that we may belong to Him and show increasing love for others, both  near and far. Let us ask Him to help us open our prayers to the world, not  limiting them to requests for help in our own problems, but remembering our  fellow man before the Lord and learning the beauty of interceding for others.  Let us ask Him for the gift of visible unity among all those who believe in  Christ, ... that we may be ready to respond to anyone who asks us about the  reasons for our hope".

   At the end of his audience, Benedict XVI delivered greetings in various  languages to the pilgrims and faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall,  reminding them that today's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end  of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Addressing Polish faithful he  said: "The conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles near Damascus is proof  that, in the final analysis, it is God Himself Who decides the destiny of His  Church. Let us ask Him for the grace of unity, which also requires our  individual conversion, while remaining faithful to the truth and love of  God".
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VATICAN  CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Made public today was the Pope's Message for World  Mission Day, which falls this year on Sunday 21 October. The theme of the  document is: "Called to radiate the word of truth". Extracts of the  message are given below.

   "This year the celebration of World Mission Day is particularly  significant. The fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Decree 'Ad gentes',  the opening of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the  new evangelisation all come together to reaffirm the Church's will to  dedicate herself with greater courage and ardour to the 'missio ad gentes',  that the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth.

   "Vatican Council II, with the participation of Catholic bishops from  every corner of the world, was a luminous sign of the Church's universality.  ... Missionary bishops and autochthonous bishops, pastors of communities  living among non-Christian peoples, ... all made an important contribution to  reaffirming the pressing need of 'ad gentes' evangelisation and,  consequently, to placing the missionary nature of the Church at the centre of  ecclesiology".

   "Today this view ... remerges with renewed urgency because the number of  those who do not yet know Christ has increased. ... We need, then, to  retrieve the apostolic zeal of the early Christian communities which, small  and defenceless, were nonetheless capable, through announcement and witness,  of spreading the Gospel throughout the then-known world.

   "It is no surprise, then, that Vatican Council II and the subsequent  Magisterium of the Church place particular emphases on the missionary mandate  which Christ entrusted to His disciples, and which is the duty of all the  people of God (bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people).  Announcing the Gospel in every corner of the world is the primary  responsibility of bishops, who are directly responsible for evangelising the  world".

   "The command to preach the Gospel ... must involve all actions and  sectors of a particular Church, its entire being and activity. Vatican  Council II made this very clear and subsequent Magisterium has underlined it  strongly. This means the constant adaptation of lifestyles, pastoral plans  and diocesan organisation to this fundamental dimension of the Church's  being, especially in our continually changing world. ... All the components  of the great mosaic of the Church must be aware that they are touched by the  Lord's command to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be announced  everywhere. We pastors, religious and all Christ's faithful must follow the  footsteps of the Apostle Paul who ... worked, suffered and struggled to bring  the Gospel among the pagans, not sparing energy, time or means to make  Christ's message known".

   "Missionary cooperation must expand to include new forms, not only  economic assistance but also direct participation in evangelisation. The  celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the new  evangelisation will be useful occasions to relaunch missionary cooperation,  especially in the latter dimension".

   "The immense horizons of the Church's mission and the complexity of  today's situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the word of  God. First and foremost this requires a renewed adherence of individual and  community faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ 'especially at a time of  profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing'.

   "One of the obstacles to evangelisation is, in fact, the crisis of  faith, not only in the Western world but among a large part of humankind,  which nonetheless hungers and thirsts for God, and which must be invited and  led to the bread of life and the living water. ... We must renew our  enthusiasm to communicate the faith, so as to promote new evangelisation in  communities and countries of ancient Christian tradition, which are losing  their reference to God, and help them rediscover the joy of believing.  Concern for evangelisation must never remain at the margins of Christians'  ecclesial activity or individual lives, it must characterise them strongly in  their awareness of being both beneficiaries and missionaries of the Gospel  The central point of our announcement always remains the same: ... the  'kerygma' of God's absolute and total love for each man and woman, which  culminated in His sending the eternal and only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus,  Who did not disdain to take on the poverty of our human nature, loving it and  saving it from sin and death by the offer of Himself upon the cross".

   "Faith is a gift that was given to us to be shared. ... It is the most  important gift of our lives and we cannot keep it to ourselves".

   "Many priests and religious from all over the world, many lay people and  even entire families leave their countries, their local communities, and  travel to other Churches to bear witness to and announce the Name of Christ.  ... This is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity among  Churches".

   "Together with this exalted sign of faith transformed into charity, I  would like to mention and thank the Pontifical Missionary Works, which is an  instrument for cooperation in the Church's universal mission in the world.  Thanks to their activities the announcement of the Gospel is transformed into  assistance to others, justice for the poorest, education in isolated  villages, medical care in remote areas, liberation from want, rehabilitation  of the marginalised, support for the development of peoples, the breaking  down of ethnic divisions and respect for life in all its stages".

   "Upon the work of evangelisation 'ad gentes', and especially upon those  who carry it out, I invoke the effusion of the Holy Spirit, that the grace of  God may make it ever more decisive in the history of the world".
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RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Below the text of Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul:

Dear brothers and sisters! It is with great joy that I extend my warm greetings to all of you who have gathered in this basilica for the liturgical Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in this year when we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, that the Blessed John XXIII announced in this very basilica on January 25, 1959. The theme offered for our meditation in the Week of prayer which we conclude today, is: "All shall be changed by the victory of Jesus Christ our Lord" (cf. 1 Cor 15.51-58).

The meaning of this mysterious transformation, which our second short reading this evening speaks about, is admirably shown in the personal story of St. Paul. Following the extraordinary event happened on the road to Damascus, Saul, who was distinguished for the zeal with which he persecuted the early Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the story of this extraordinary evangelist, it is clear that this transformation is not the result of a long inner reflection and not even the result of personal effort. It is first and foremost by the grace of God who has acted according to his inscrutable ways. This is why Paul, writing to the Corinthian community a few years after his conversion, says, as we heard in the first reading for these Vespers: "By the grace of God, however, that is what I am, and his grace toward me did not been in vain "(1 Cor 15:10). Moreover, considering carefully the story of St. Paul, we understand how the transformation he experienced in his life is not limited to an ethical level - such as conversion from immorality to morality - or the intellectual level - such as a change in our way of understanding reality - but it is rather a radical renewal of our being, similar in many respects to a rebirth. This transformation has its basis in our participation in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and presents itself as a gradual process of being conformed to Him. In light of this awareness, St. Paul, when he later will be called to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic vocation and the gospel preached by him, will say: " It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. "(Gal 2.20).

St. Paul’s personal experience enables him to wait with grounded hope for the fulfillment of this mystery of transformation, which will come to all those who believed in Jesus Christ but also all of humanity and all of creation. In the second short reading that was proclaimed tonight, St. Paul, after a lengthy discussion designed to strengthen the faithful in the hope of the resurrection, he uses traditional images of apocalyptic literature, contemporary to him, and in a few lines describes the great Day of the Last Judgement, on which the destiny of humanity will be accomplished: "In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds... the dead shall be raised imperishable and we shall be changed as well "(1 Cor 15.52). On that day, all believers will be conformed to Christ and all that is corruptible will be transformed by His glory: "our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (v. 53) . So the triumph of Christ will be finally complete, because, says St. Paul, showing how the ancient prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled, death will finally be conquered, and with it, the sin which brought it into the world and the Law which empowers sin without giving the strength to overcome it: "Death is swallowed up in victory. / Where, O death, is your victory? / Where, O death is your sting? / The sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law "(vv. 54-56). St. Paul tells us, therefore, that every man, through baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, shares in the victory of the One who first conquered death, beginning a journey of transformation which shows itself even now in a new life and will culminate at the end of time.

It is very significant that this reading ends with a thanksgiving: "Let us thank God, for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 57). The song of victory over death is transformed into a song of gratitude to the conquerer. And we too this evening, as we raise our evening praises to God, we want to unite our voices, our minds and hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what God's grace has done through the apostle of the Gentiles and for the wonderful plan of salvation that God the Father does in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we lift our prayers to him, we are confident that we will be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. This is particularly true in our prayer for Christian unity. In fact, when we plead for the gift of unity of the disciples of Christ, we make ours the desire expressed by Jesus Christ on the eve of his passion and death in the prayer to his Father: "May they all be one" (Jn 17.21). For this reason, the prayer for Christian unity is nothing less than our participation in the realization of his divine plan for the Church, and our active commitment to the restoration of unity is both a duty and a great responsibility for all.

While experiencing these days the painful situation of our divisions, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope, because Christ's victory means to overcome everything that keeps us from sharing the fullness of life with Him and with others. The resurrection of Jesus Christ confirms that the goodness of God overcomes evil, love overcomes death. He accompanies us in the fight against the destructive power of sin that harms humanity and all of God’s creation. The presence of the risen Christ calls all Christians to act together for the common good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to the places where there is injustice, hatred and despair. Our divisions diminish our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await with active hope and for which we pray with confidence, it is a secondary victory but important for the good of the human family.

In the dominant culture of today, the idea of victory is often associated with immediate success. For the Christian, however, victory is a long and, in the eyes of men, a not always linear process of transformation and growth in goodness. It is achieved according to God's timing, not ours, and requires of us a profound faith and patient endurance. Although the Kingdom of God breaks into history with the resurrection of Jesus, it is not yet fully realized. The final victory will only come with the second coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope. Also our expectation for the visible unity of the Church must be patient and confident. Only in this attitude can our prayers and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation, but a response to be ready and alert to every possibility of communion and brotherhood, which the Lord gives us.

In this spiritual atmosphere, I would like to greet in a special way Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest of this Basilica, the abbot of the Benedictine Community that welcomes us. I greet Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and all the staff of that council. I extend my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and to Rev. Canon Richardson, Personal Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome, as well as all the representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, gathered here this evening. Also, I am particularly pleased to welcome members of the Working Group made up of representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Poland, who prepared the texts for the Week of Prayer this year, to whom I would like to express my gratitude and My wish that they continue on the path of reconciliation and fruitful collaboration. I also warmly greet members of the Global Christian Forum, who are in Rome these days to reflect on the enlargement of their participation in the ecumenical movement. I also greet the group of students of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute of the world Council of Churches.

I wish to entrust to the intercession of St. Paul all those who, with their prayers and their efforts, work for the cause of Christian unity. Although sometimes we may get the impression that the road towards the full restoration of communion is still very long and full of obstacles, I invite everyone to renew their determination to pursue with courage and generosity, the unity that is the will of God, following the example of St. Paul, who faced with difficulties of all kinds, always maintained full confidence in God who brings his work to fruition. Moreover, we can see positive signs of a renewed sense of brotherhood and a shared responsibility toward the great problems that afflict our world. All this is cause for great hope and joy and should encourage us to continue our commitment to reach the finish line together, knowing that in the Lord we cannot be labouring in vain(cf. 1 Cor 15.58).


VATICAN  CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 -  Appointed Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, as archbishop of  Karachi (area 180,000, population 15,536,000, Catholics 150,000, priests 40,  religious 185), Pakistan. He succeeds Archbishop Evarist Pinto, whose  resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father  accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 -  Appointed Fr. Paul Abel Mamba, apostolic administrator of Ziguinchor,  Senegal, as bishop of the same diocese (area , population , Catholics ,  priests , permanent deacons , religious ). The bishop-elect was born in  Cabrousse, Senegal in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1988. He has sent periods  of study in Cameroon and France, and has served in pastoral roles and as  bursar of seminaries and dioceses in Senegal.

 -  Appointed Msgr. Udo Breitbach, bureau chief of the Congregation for Bishops,  as under secretary of the same congregation.

 -  Appointed as consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:  Fr. Paolo Martinelli, O.F.M. Cap., president of the Franciscan Institute of  Spirituality at the "Antonianum" Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and  Fr. Maurizio Gronchi of the clergy of the archdiocese of Pisa, Italy,  professor at the Faculty of Theology of Rome's Pontifical Urban University.

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