Vatican City, 2 January 2013 (VIS)
During the catechesis of the first general audience of 2013, which was celebrated in the Paul VI Hall with over 7,000 people in attendance, the Holy Father addressed the theme of Christ's birth, "something so radically new that it was capable of changing the course of history", and Jesus' origin.
The Lord's nativity, the Holy Father commented, "once again illuminates the darkness that often surrounds our world and our hearts with its light, and brings hope and joy. Where does this light come from? From the grotto in Bethlehem where the shepherds found 'Mary and Joseph and the Child lying in the manger'. Before this Holy Family another, deeper question arises: How can this small and weak Child bring a newness so radical into the world that it is capable of changing the course of history? Isn't there something mysterious in his origin that goes beyond that cavern?" ...
"In the four Gospels, the answer to the question 'where does Jesus come from?' emerges clearly: his true origin is the Father, God. He comes entirely from Him, but in a different way than any other prophet or messenger of God who preceded Him. This origin of the mystery of God, 'whom nobody knows', is already contained in the stories of His childhood in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which we are reading during Christmastime. The angel Gabriel announces: 'The Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God'. We repeat these words every time that we recite the Creed, the profession of faith: 'et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine', 'and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary'. At this phrase we kneel because the veil that hid God is, so to say, opened and His unfathomable and inaccessible mystery touches us. God becomes Emmanuel, 'God with us'. When we listen to the Masses composed by the great masters of sacred music?I'm thinking, for example, of Mozart's Coronation Mass?we immediately notice how they linger over this phrase in a particular way, almost wanting to try to express with the universal language of music that which words cannot make manifest: the great mystery of God made flesh, of God made man".
"This affirmation of the Creed does not concern God's eternal being but rather speaks to us of an action that the three divine Persons take part in and that is realized 'ex Maria Virgine'. Without her, God's entrance into human history would not have been achieved and that which is central to our Profession of Faith would not have taken place: God is God with us. Mary thus undeniably pertains to our faith in the God who acts, who enters into history. She puts her entire being at His disposition, she 'accepts' becoming the place of God's indwelling."
"Some times, even along the path and in the life of faith, we can sense our poverty, our inadequacy in front of the witness to be given to the world. But God chose precisely a humble woman, in an unknown village, in one of the furthest provinces of the great Roman Empire. Always, even amidst the most arduous difficulties to be faced, we must have faith in God, renewing our faith in His presence and in His action in our story as in that of Mary. Nothing is impossible to God! With Him our existence always walks upon a safe path and is open to a future of steadfast hope."
"What happens in Mary, through the action of the Holy Spirit himself, is a new creation. God, who has called being from nothingness with the Incarnation, gives life to a new beginning of humanity. The Fathers of the Church repeatedly speak of Christ as the new Adam in order to emphasize the beginning of the new creation with the birth of the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This brings us to reflect upon how faith also supposes in us a newness so strong as to produce a second birth. In fact, at the beginning of being Christians is the Baptism that makes us reborn as children of God, that makes us to participate in the filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father. And I would like to note that Baptism is received, "we are baptised"?it is a passive verb?because nobody is capable of converting themselves into a child of God by themselves. It is a gift that is freely conferred... Only if we are open to God's action, as Mary was, only if we entrust our life to the Lord as to a friend in who we trust completely, does everything change. Our lives acquire new meaning and a new face: that of the children of a Father who loves us and never abandons us".
"There is another element in the words of the Annunciation. The angel says to Mary: 'the power of the Most High will overshadow you'. This is a reminder of the holy cloud that, during the Exodus, covered the tent of meeting over the ark of the Covenant, which the people of Israel carried with them, indicating the presence of God. Mary, therefore, is the new holy tent, the new ark of the Covenant. With her 'yes' to the archangel's words, God receive a dwelling place in this world. What the universe cannot contain dwells in the womb of a virgin".
"Let us return to the question with which we began, that of Jesus' origin, summed up in Pilate's question: 'Where are you from?'. From our reflection it appears clear, from the beginning of the Gospels, what Jesus' true origin is: He is the only begotten Son of the Father. He comes from God. We are facing the great and disconcerting mystery that we celebrate in this time of Christmas: the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This is an announcement that resounds ever new and which carries with it hope and joy to our hearts because each time it gives us the certainty that, even if we often feel weak, poor, incapable of facing the difficulties and the evil of the world, the power of God is always acting and works wonders precisely in our weakness. His grace is our strength".
BENEDICT XVI: THE SAME SECURITY THAT A CHILD FEELS IN THE ARMS OF A LOVING AND ALL-POWERFUL FATHER
Vatican City, 1 January 2013 (VIS) - On Tuesday, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Holy Father presided over Mass in the Vatican Basilica. Concelebrating were cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, and Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; archbishops Giovanni Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, and Beniamino Stella, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy; along with Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Yesterday also marked the 46th World Day of Peace, the theme for which is "Blessed are the Peacemakers".
Following are extracts from the homily given by Pope Benedict XVI:
"Although the world is sadly marked by 'hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,' as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that 'the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. ... Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’. This beatitude 'tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to His will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation'. Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.
We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which 'she gave birth to her first-born son', many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.
Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons and daughters in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – 'peace with God' – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome. Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because 'God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us'.
May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!"
THE LIGHT OF GOD, A BLESSING FOR HUMANITY
Vatican City, 1 January 2013 (VIS) - At the end of this morning's Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with faithful and pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square. Before reciting the Marian prayer, the pontiff addressed a few words to them:
"Happy New Year to all! On this first day of 2013 I would like to send God's blessing to each and every man and woman in the world. I pronounce it with the old form found in Sacred Scripture: 'the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace'.
Just as the sun's light and heat are a blessing for the earth, so is the light of God for humanity when He makes His face to shine upon us. This is what has happened with the birth of Jesus Christ! God has made His face to shine upon us: at the beginning in a very humble, hidden manner -- in Bethlehem only Mary and Joseph and a few shepherds were witness to this revelation -- but little by little, like the sun passing from dawn to noon, the light of Christ has grown and extended everywhere. Including the brief time of his earthly life, Jesus of Nazareth made God's face to shine on the Holy Land and then, through the Church enlivened by his Spirit, he extended to all peoples the Gospel of peace. 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests'. This is the angels' song on Christmas and it is the song of Christians under the heavens, a song that moves from our hearts and lips to concrete action, to the gestures of love that build dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation.
This is why the Church, eight days after Christmas, celebrates the World Day of Peace when, just like Mary the Virgin Mother, she shows the world the newborn child, Jesus the Prince of Peace. Yes, this child who is the Word of God made flesh, comes to bring us a peace that the world cannot offer. His mission is to break down 'the dividing wall of enmity' that separates us. And when, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he proclaims the 'Beatitudes', among these is 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God'. Who are those who work for peace? They are all those who, day after day, try to vanquish evil through good, with the strength of truth, with the arms of prayer and forgiveness, with the job done honestly and well, with scientific research that serves life, with works of corporal and spiritual charity. The peacemakers are many but they make no noise. Like leaven in dough, they make humanity grow according to God's plan.
On this first Angelus of the new year, we ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to bless us as a mother blesses her children who are about to leave on a journey. A new year is like a journey; with God's light and grace may it be a path toward peace for all persons and all families, for all countries and the entire world."
TE DEUM: THE CHRISTIAN IS A PERSON OF HOPE EVEN IN THE FACE OF THE DARKNESS THAT EXISTS IN THE WORLD
Vatican City, 31 December 2012 (VIS) - Today at 5:00pm in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father presided over first vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This was followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the singing of the traditional "Te Deum" of thanksgiving on the conclusion of the calendar year, and the Eucharistic blessing.
Following are extracts from the homily given by Pope Benedict XVI:
"We cannot rely solely on the news if we want to understand the world and life. We must be able to remain in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way, our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, can go deeper into the events that occur in our lives and in the world, and come to the knowledge that allows us to evaluate things with new eyes. Especially in the recollection of conscience, where God speaks to us, we learn to look truthfully at our own actions, even at the evil within us and around us, to begin a journey of conversion that makes us wiser and better, more capable of creating solidarity and communion, of overcoming evil with good. The Christian is a person of hope, even and especially in the face of the darkness that often exists in the world, not as a consequence of God’s plans but because of the wrong choices of man, because the Christian knows that the power of faith can move mountains, the Lord can brighten even the deepest darkness."
"The Year of Faith, which the Church is living," the pontiff continued, "should arouse in the heart of each believer a greater awareness that the encounter with Christ is the source of true life and a solid hope. Faith in Jesus allows a constant renewal of goodness and of the ability to rise from the quicksand of sin and to begin anew. In the Word made flesh it is always possible to rediscover our true human identity, to find ourselves destined for God's infinite love and called to a personal communion with Him. This truth, which Jesus Christ came to reveal, is the certainty that compels us to confidently face the year we are about to begin."
"The Church, which has received from her Lord the mission to evangelize, knows well that the Gospel is destined to all people, especially the younger generations, to quench that thirst for truth that everyone carries in their heart and that is often obscured by all those things that occupy life. This apostolic commitment is all the more necessary when the faith risks being obscured in cultural contexts that hinder its personal roots and its social presence. Rome, too, is a city where the Christian faith must be proclaimed again and again and witnessed in a credible manner. On the one hand, there is the growing number of believers of other religions, the difficulties parish communities have in attracting young people, the spread of lifestyles marked by individualism and moral relativism; on the other, the quest, in so many people, for a sense of their own existence and for a hope that will not disappoint, that cannot leave us indifferent. Like the Apostle Paul, all the faithful of this city should consider themselves under obligation of the Gospel towards the other inhabitants!"
The Pope concluded his homily by enjoining the dioceses "to support and accompany parents in their spiritual life ... in order to keep the flame of faith alive". To this end it is important "to build a relationship of cordial friendship with those of the faithful who, after having baptised their child, distracted by the demands of everyday life, do not show great interest in living this experience. They will thus be able to experience the love of the Church who, as a caring mother, stands by them to promote their spiritual life."
After of the ceremony, Benedict XVI visited the nativity scene at the foot of the obelisk located at the centre of St. Peter's square.
FAITH IS A PRECIOUS GIFT THAT WE MUST NURTURE IN OUR CHILDREN
Vatican City, 30 December 2012 (VIS) - At noon today, the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus from the window of his study with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Mary and Joseph's concern for Jesus, Benedict XVI said, "is the same as all parents who are raising a child, to introduce him to life and an understanding of reality. Today, therefore, we must say a special prayer to the Lord for all the families of the world. In imitation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, parents must be seriously involved in the growth and education of their children, so that they may become responsible and honest citizens, never forgetting that faith is a precious gift to nurture in their children, particularly through personal example. We also pray that every child may be welcomed as a gift from God and sustained by the love of a father and a mother in order to grow, like the Lord Jesus, in 'wisdom and age and favour before God and man'. May the love, fidelity, and dedication of Mary and Joseph be an example for all Christian spouses, who are not their children's friends nor the owner's of their children's lives, but the guardians of this incomparable gift from God."
"May the silence of Joseph, a just man, and the example of Mary, who kept all these things in her heart, bring us to enter into the mystery of the Holy Family full of faith and humanity. I wish for all Christian families to live in the presence of God with the same love and joy as the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph."
Greeting the pilgrims in English after the Marian prayer the Holy Father also added, "May Jesus, Mary, and Joseph bring greater love, unity, and harmony to all Christian families, that they in their turn may be a firm example to the communities in which they live. May God bless you and your dear families!"
TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TAIZE: BE BEARERS OF THE MESSAGE OF UNITY
Vatican City, 29 December 2012 (VIS) - This afternoon before more than 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI prayed with the participants in the 35th European meeting of young people of the Taize Community. Many local families hosted those who had made the pilgrimage to Rome for this occasion. The prayer followed the approach typical of the Taize Community. Following an address by Br. Alois, Prior of the Taize Community, the Holy Father spoke to the young people present in several languages.
"You have come in large numbers from all over Europe and also from other continents to pray at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul", the Pope said. "The faith that motivated these two great Apostles of Jesus is the same faith that has inspired your pilgrimage. During the year that is about to begin, you propose to free the wellsprings of trust in God in order to live it in your daily lives. I am pleased that in this way you have embraced the intentions of the Year of Faith, which began in October".
In English, Benedict XVI recalled that "just over seventy years ago, Brother Roger established the Taize Community. Thousands of young people from all over the world continue to go there to seek meaning for their lives". It was precisely to support them "on their journey to Christ" that Brother Roger established this "pilgrimage of trust on earth".
"A tireless witness to the Gospel of peace and reconciliation, ardently committed to an ecumenism of holiness, Brother Roger encouraged all those who passed through Taize to become seekers of communion. We should listen in our hearts to his spiritually lived ecumenism, and let ourselves be guided by his witness towards an ecumenism which is truly interiorised and spiritualised. Following his example, may all of you be bearers of this message of unity. I assure you of the irrevocable commitment of the Catholic Church to continue seeking the paths of reconciliation leading to the visible unity of Christians. And so this evening I greet with special affection those among you who are Orthodox or Protestants".
In French, the Pope continued: "Christ now poses to you the question He addressed to His disciples: 'Who do you say that I am?' ... and wishes to receive from each one of you an answer that comes not from constraint or from fear, but from your profound freedom. It is in responding to this question that your life finds its fullest meaning. ... The Word of God, according to the Second Letter of Peter, is like 'a lamp shining in a dark place', that you would do well to attend to 'until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts'. You have understood this though: if the morning star is to rise in your hearts this means that it is not always there. At times evil and the suffering of the innocent give rise to doubt and confusion. At these times, our 'yes' to Christ becomes difficult. But this doubt does not make us unbelievers! Jesus did not abandoned the man in the Gospel who exclaimed 'I believe; Help my unbelief!'".
TELEGRAM TO CARDINAL GIOVANNI BATTISTA RE
Vatican City, 29 December 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops, on the death of his father Matteo Re at the age of 104 years.
In the text, the Pope expressed his closeness to the cardinal's family and imparted upon all the light of faith and hope in Christ.
"Having learned of the death of your beloved father Matteo, I wish to express my most heartfelt condolences for the deep mourning that has befallen you and your family and assure you of my spiritual closeness in this hour of your sorrow, together with giving thanks to God for all the benefits bestowed upon your late father over his more than one hundred year earthly journey. While I offer fervent prayers to the Lord beseeching that he be welcomed into the eternal joy, I invoke the light of faith and hope in Christ for your family, and impart to you all a special apostolic blessing of comfort".
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
Vatican City, 2 January 2013 (VIS) - On Saturday, 29 December, the Holy Father:
- appointed Fr. William Goh, rector of the Major Seminary of Singapore, as coadjutor archbishop of Singapore (area 699, population 5,000,000, Catholics 190,000, priests 131, religious 152). The archbishop-elect was born in Singapore in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1985. He studied theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and has fulfilled pastoral roles in Singapore. He served as professor at the major seminary of Singapore from 1992 to 2005, and as rector from 2005.
- erected the new diocese of Gboko (area 10,692, population 1,690,000, Catholics 896,860, priests 80, religious 29), Nigeria, with territory taken from the diocese of Makurdi, making it a suffragan of the archdiocese of Abuja. He appointed Bishop William Avenya, auxiliary of Makurdi, Nigeria, as first bishop of the new diocese.
- erected the new diocese of Katsina-Ala (area 6,465, population 676,000, Catholics 338,497, priests 32, religious 8), Nigeria, with territory taken from the diocese of Makurdi, making it a suffragan of the archdiocese of Abuja. He appointed Fr. Peter Iornzuul Adoboh of the clergy of Makurdi as first bishop of the new diocese. The bishop-elect was born in Tse-Kucha, Nigeria in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He has undertaken studies in spirituality at the Institute of St. Anselm, England and the Toronto School of Theology, Canada, and has fulfilled pastoral roles in Vandeikya, Zaki-Biam, Aliade, Abuja and Adikpo.
On Monday, 31 December, the Holy Father:
- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica, presented by Bishop Oswaldo Brenes Alvarez, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
- appointed Msgr. Egidio Turnaturi and the Honorable Dr. Riccardo Turrini Vita as judges of the Vatican City State Court of Appeals.