The Holy Father´s Week December 15, 2008

A report on Pope Benedict XVI´s messages and activities.
by Maribel de Torres | Source: Zenit.org

Christ makes us his Body.This Wednesday at the general audience, as he continued his catechesis on St. Paul, Benedict XVI improvised portions of his address. He considered some of the ways in which this great Apostle contributes to our understanding of the Church’s sacramental life. Baptism, he explained, is a sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. We die to sin, and we rise with Christ to a new life of mystical union with him. Washed clean in the purifying waters, we emerge sanctified and justified, and we "put on" Christ.
He considered the importance of the Church because, “No one can baptize himself, he needs the other. No one can become a Christian by himself. To be Christian is a passive process. We can only become Christians through another. And this "other" that makes us Christians, that gives us the gift of faith, is in the first instance the community of believers, the Church.” 

”Through Baptism, the believer becomes a "new creature", renewed in the Holy Spirit, and incorporated through the same Spirit into the one body of Christ. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the life of the Church is nourished and built up.”

 “To celebrate the Eucharist means that Christ gives himself to us, his love, to conform us to himself and thus create the new world.” The Holy Father said. “Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist; he gives himself in his body and so makes us his body,”

“We receive Christ in communion, but Christ unites himself also in my neighbour. Christ and neighbour are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are only one bread, only one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is an abuse of the Eucharist. And here we are at the root and at the same time at the centre of the doctrine of the Church as Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ.”

“We are really united with the risen body of Christ, so we are united to one another. The Church is not just a corporation as the state; it is a body. It is not simply an organization but a real organism.”

“The Eucharist seals the union between Christ and his bride, the Church – and in the course of a reflection on this mystical relationship, Saint Paul develops his understanding of Christian marriage.” 

 Benedict XVI ended his address with St. Paul's word to the Philippians: "The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5). “I think we have understood” he said “that, through the Word and the sacraments, in all our life the Lord is at hand. Let us ask him that we might be increasingly touched in our innermost being by his closeness, so that joy will be born -- that joy that is born when Jesus is really close.” VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2008


On the Immaculate Conception. Before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, Benedict Xvi said that the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception reminds us of two fundamental truths of our faith: in the first place original sin, and then the victory of Christ's grace over it, a victory that shines sublimely in Mary Most Holy.

“The experience of evil is, in fact, so consistent, that it imposes itself and makes us ask the question: from whence does it come?” affirmed the Holy Father, then he explained that God did not create death, rather, the latter entered the world because of the envy of the devil (cf. Wisdom 1:13-14; 2:23-24), who, rebelling against God, also attracted men with deceit, inducing them to rebellion. “It is the drama of freedom, which God accepts totally out of love, but promising that there would be the son of a woman that would crush the head of the ancient serpent." (Genesis 3:15).

“In God's eyes, this Woman has always had a face and name: "full of grace" (Luke 1:28), as the Angel called her when visiting her in Nazareth. She is the new Eve, spouse of the new Adam, destined to be the mother of all the redeemed.”

 God "prepared a worthy dwelling for his Son and, in anticipation of his death, preserved her from all stain of sin" (Collect Prayer). The Theotokos Mary was the first to be delivered from the primitive fall of our parents" as St. Andrew of Crete wrote.

“In Mary Immaculate we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the face of Christ. In Mary, this beauty is totally pure, humble, free of all pride and presumption.” ROME, DEC. 9, 2008 


Benedict XVI brought flowers to Our Lady. The Holy Father visited the image of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza de Spagna and brought her a basket of flowers. Referring to the roses he had brought, the Pope reflected that " there are no roses without thorns, and also on the stems of these wonderful white roses there is no lack of thorns, which represent for us the difficulties, sufferings and evils that mark the lives of persons and of our communities," the Pontiff continued. "We present our joys to our Mother, but also entrust to her our preoccupations, confident of finding in her the comfort not to be discouraged, and the support to go forward."

The Immaculate Conception assures us that grace is stronger than sin and, therefore, that rescue from any slavery is possible. Mary helps us to believe with greater confidence in the good, encourages us to stay awake and not to yield to the temptation of easy evasions, to confront reality and its problems with courage and responsibility.

“As a child raises its eyes to his mother's face and, seeing him smiling, forgets all fear and pain, so we, turning our gaze to Mary, recognize in her "God's smile," immaculate reflection of divine light, we find in her our hope, also in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.” Said the Holy Father.

He recalled his pilgrimage to Lourdes, three months ago, on the occasion of the 150 years of the historic apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette. The "beautiful lady" -- as Bernadette called her, when appearing to her for the last time in the grotto of Massabielle, revealed her name, saying: "I am the Immaculate Conception”.

"Wherever there is a Catholic community, the Virgin is venerated with this wonderful and marvellous name: Immaculate Conception," he said. "Of course, the conviction of Mary's Immaculate Conception already existed many centuries before the apparitions of Lourdes, but the latter came as a heavenly seal after my venerated predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, defined the dogma on Dec. 8, 1854."

The Pope entrusted Our Lady especially “the 'little ones': the children above all, especially those who are seriously ill, children who are deprived and those who suffer the consequences of harsh family situations. “Watch over them and make them feel, in the affection and help of those around them, the warmth of the love of God."

He went on to entrust to Mary the elderly, the ill, immigrants and families, particularly those facing financial burdens. He also asked the Mother of God to be “a loving mother for our young people, so that they will have the courage to be "morning watchmen," and give this virtue to all Christians so that they will be the soul of the world in this not easy period of our history. Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, "Salus Populi Romani," pray for us!”  ROME, DEC. 9, 2008


"Fighting Poverty to Build Peace.” In his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, marked each Jan. 1. The Pope proposed his reflection on the topic of "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace," focusing on poverty as a cause and effect of conflicts. He stated that fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization. He said that in our dealings with the poor, one must set out from  “the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.”

"When man is not considered within the total context of his vocation, and when the demands of a true 'human ecology' are not respected, the cruel forces of poverty are unleashed “ he affirmed.
He explained that poverty includes non-material forms, such as "marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty."

The Pontiff affirmed that: "In today's globalized world, it is increasingly evident that peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: Sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone. It is utterly foolish to build a luxury home in the midst of desert or decay.” 

"Globalization on its own is incapable of building peace, and in many cases, it actually creates divisions and conflicts. If anything it points to a need: to be oriented toward a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all. In this sense, globalization should be seen as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously."

Globalization can build peace, but it must be founded on global solidarity and a common code of ethics, explained the Pope. 

Benedict XVI assured that,faithful to the summons from the Lord, the Christian community will never fail to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by "giving from one's surplus", but above all by "a change of life- styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies" [20].

He extended to every disciple of Christ and to every person of good will a warm invitation to expand their hearts to meet the needs of the poor and to take whatever practical steps are possible in order to help them. The truth of the axiom cannot be refuted, he ended, "to fight poverty is to build peace." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2008
Full text:
www.zenit.org/article-24524?l=english



The Lord's Return is a question of love. Before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father reminded those gathered in St. Peter's Square, that this third Sunday of Advent is called "Gaudete” or Rejoice Sunday" St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, explains why “The Lord is near”. This is the reason for joy.

 “The Apostle is obviously thinking about Christ's return, and he invites them to rejoice because this return is certain.” The Pope explained,  “Nevertheless, the same St. Paul, in his first Letter to the Thessalonians, warns that no one can know the moment of the Lord's return (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) and puts them on guard against all alarmism, as if the Lord's return were imminent (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)”. 

“Thus, already at that time, the Church, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understood more and more that the "nearness" of God is not a question of space and time, but rather a question of love: Love is near!”

The Pope said that Christmas reminds us of this fundamental truth of our faith, contemplating in the face of the newborn Jesus the God who drew near to us for love. 

The Pope blessed images of the Child Jesus. Benedict XVI continued with the traditional blessing of the "Bambinelli," the statues of baby Jesus brought by children to St. Peter's Square. The statues will later be placed in their manger scenes. Benedict XVI  encouraged the faithful to put a Nativity scene in their homes.He invited the children present to join him in prayer and concluded by asking the intercession of Mary so that, "Jesus, who in his birth brings God's benediction to men, [will] be welcomed with love in all the homes of Rome and the world. VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008


Papal Activities

Benedict XVI assists to Human Rights Concert. Addressing those present at a concert held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Holy Father noted that the dignity of every man is really guaranteed only when all his fundamental rights are recognized, protected and promoted.
The Pope recognized that a long road has been travelled, but a long track remains to be completed as hundreds and “millions of our brothers and sisters still see their rights to life, liberty, and security threatened”. The celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Declaration, he said, “constitutes therefore an occasion to verify in what measure the ideals, accepted by the greater part of the community of Nations in 1948, are respected today in the different national legislations and, even more so, in the conscience of individuals and of the collectivity”.

“The natural law, written by God in the human conscience, is a common denominator for all men and for all peoples; a universal guide that all can know and on the basis of which all can understand one another. The rights of man are, therefore, ultimately founded in God the Creator, who has given each one the intelligence and freedom. If one ignores this solid ethical base, human rights remain fragile because deprived of a solid foundation.” The pontiff affirmed.

He ended offering his prayer “that God, Father of all men, will enable us to build a world where every human being feels accepted with full dignity, and where relations between individuals and peoples are governed by respect, dialogue and solidarity.” VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2008  



Benedict XVI Praises Achievers in Solidarity. The St. Matthew Foundation, instituted in memory of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Vãn Thuận, named this year's winners for outstanding application of solidarity and social doctrine.

The awards ceremony was today, in the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After the awards ceremony, there was a concert in Paul VI Hall and the Pope had the chance to speak personally with the winner.Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the Red Cross International Committee, who is currently the director of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining.
Two priests and two institutions received the Cardinal Vãn Thuận "Solidarity and Development" Prize 2008. Father Pedro Opeka, one of the-winners,  founded the Akamasoa project, which seeks to give shelter to the homeless in Madagascar, Africa.And Father José Raúl Matte recognized for his assistance to lepers in the Amazon in Brazil.

The Gulunap project in north Uganda, was another award-winner.

Finally, the Gruppo Ercolini project was recognized. It is an initiative that aims to support the social and cultural integration of Gypsy youth in Rome.

The concert after the awards ceremony was directed by Spaniard Inma Shara.
After the concert, the Holy Father thanked the musicians and congratulated Sommaruga and the other award winners. VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2008

Benedict XVI received Taiwanese Bishops. The Holy Father took words from the Church's liturgy this week "Comfort, give comfort to my people" (Is 40:1). These words, re-echoed in the Church’s liturgy this week, neatly summarize my message to you today”., he affirmed,  “You are never alone! United to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, you, together with all your Brothers in the Episcopate, are graced with that "affective collegiality" that strengthens you to preach the Gospel and care for the needs of the Lord’s flock (cf. "Pastores Gregis," 8).” 

The Pontiff praised the Taiwanese prelates' desire to "cooperate more closely in spreading the Gospel among non-believers and forming those already initiated into the Church through baptism and confirmation." and reminded the visitors that ”Good catechesis leads to strong Christian families, and this in turn is fertile soil for priestly vocations,”

Benedict XVI acknowledged that the Taiwanese bishops sometimes face obstacles that "can seem overwhelming." But, he said, "The Lord indeed dwells among us! He continues to teach us by his word and feed us with his body and blood. […] I am confident that your faithful celebration of the Holy Sacrifice will prepare you and your people to meet the Lord when he comes again." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2008


Pope Tells Youth How to Believe "More and Better". Benedict XVI gave a CD with St. Paul´s Letter to the Romans to a symbolic group of university students. The Pope made the gift Thursday after the traditional Eucharistic celebration for Roman universities in preparation for Christmas, Benedict XVI proposed that Paul's Letter to the Romans "is without a doubt one of the most important cultural texts of all time." He expressed his hope that the letter nourish the faith of the students, leading them to "believe more and better and also to reflect upon yourselves so that you might come to a 'mature' faith and, at the same time live this faith, putting it into practice according to the truth of Christ's commandment."

"Only in this way," the Pope concluded, "can the faith that one professes become 'credible' for others as well, who are conquered by the eloquent testimony of our deeds." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2008

 
Devotion to Mary of Guadalupe. The Pope mentioned Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast was Friday, when he greeted the Spanish-speaking pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Benedict XVI praised the devotion to Mary that Latin Americans carry in their hearts, especially their affection to her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Holy Father invited the pilgrims to prepare "the birth of Jesus Christ, prince of peace [...] intensifying prayer, enlivening interior joy and dedicating themselves to a meditative listening of the Word of God, so as to afterward transmit this with simplicity to those around you."

"I entrust this beautiful task to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary," he added, "who is so present during these days in the heart of the beloved Latin American nations with her image of Guadalupe." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008


Pontiff encouraged generosity in building Churches. "Today in the Diocese of Rome we celebrate the day for the building of new churches," the Holy Father said. The Pope thanked those who supported this undertaking and pointed out that there are still communities who gather in provisional and inadequate buildings.
 The main event of this diocesan day, in which a collection is taken up for building churches, was the dedication of a rebuilt parish that was destroyed by a fire last year. VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008


Pope expressed Gratitude for Late Cardinal Dulles. Benedict XVI joined with others in expressing his condolences at the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, who died Friday at 90. The Holy Father expressed his "immense gratitude for the deep learning, serene judgment and unfailing love of the Lord and his Church which marked his entire priestly ministry and his long years of teaching and theological research."

Avery Dulles was the son of a U.S. Secretary of State. He embraced Catholicism as an adult, and was made a cardinal without Episcopal ordination. In the last months of his life, Cardinal Dulles suffered a progressive paralysis, which prevented him from speaking. Benedict XVI went to see him in his visit to the United States last April.

In his last lecture Cardinal Dulles wrote that "suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence." "If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!'" VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008


A prayer for the Holy Father
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen. 



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