A short report on Benedict XVI´s messages and activities.
The Holy Father spoke about Saint John Damascene during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. St. John´s best-known works are his Discourses against the Iconoclasts, which offer an important contribution to the proper theological understanding of the veneration of sacred images.
Damascene wrote: "In other times, God had never been represented in an image, being incorporeal and without a face. But given that now God has been seen in the flesh and has lived among man, I represent what is visible in God. I do not venerate matter, but the Creator of matter, who has made himself matter for me and has deigned to dwell in matter and carry out my salvation through matter.”
“Matter now serves as a sign and sacrament of our encounter with God.” Benedict XVI explained,” When we participate in the sacraments, when we venerate icons, if we do so in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they truly become a means of grace. Despite human sinfulness, God has chosen to dwell within men and women, making them holy, making them sharers in his infinite goodness and holiness.”
“God wants to rest in us, he wants to renew nature also through our conversion, He wants to make us participants in his divinity. May the Lord help us to make these words the essence of our lives.” Said the Pope. VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2009
"I Come to Jordan as a Pilgrim to venerate holy places that have played such an important part in some of the key events of Biblical history”. Said Benedict XVI upon his arrival to the airport in Jordan where he was welcomed by the King and Queen of Jordan, Abdullah II and Rania. “My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam”. The Pontiff affirmed.
Benedict XVI praised a climate of religious freedom in Jordan that is enabling Christians to build a church at the site where tradition holds that Jesus was baptized. “Indeed the Kingdom of Jordan has long been at the forefront of initiatives to promote peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, encouraging inter-religious dialogue, supporting efforts to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, welcoming refugees from neighboring Iraq, and seeking to curb extremism”.
“I hope very much that this visit, and indeed all the initiatives designed to foster good relations between Christians and Muslims, will help us to grow in love for the Almighty and Merciful God, and in fraternal love for one another.” said the Pope. AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 8, 2009
“Every one of us is a pilgrim." Said the Pope at the Regina Pacis center in Jordan, a home for mentally or physically handicapped youth and his first stop along his Holy Land pilgrimage. "We are all drawn forward, with purpose, along God's path”
“I know that the journeys that have led many of you to the "Regina Pacis" Centre have been marked by suffering or trial. Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection, and some of you are drawn to this place of peace simply for encouragement and support. Of particular importance, I know, is the Centre's great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society and in ensuring that suitable training and opportunities are provided to facilitate such integration. For this foresight and determination you all deserve great praise and encouragement!” the Holy Father exclaimed.
“Unlike the pilgrims of old” continued the Holy Father, “I do not come bearing gifts or offerings. I come simply with an intention, a hope: to pray for the precious gift of unity and peace, most specifically for the Middle East.”
“Prayer is hope in action” Benedict XVI said and explained that “Even hearts hardened by cynicism or injustice or unwillingness to forgive are never beyond the reach of God, can always be opened to a new way of being, a vision of peace.”
The Pope ended exhorting all to pray every day for our world. Also he asked for prayers on his pilgrimage. “Please pray for me every day of my pilgrimage; for my own spiritual renewal in the Lord, and for the conversion of hearts to God's way of forgiveness and solidarity so that my hope - our hope - for unity and peace in the world will bear abundant fruit.” AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 8, 2009
“The Church herself is a pilgrim people” Said Benedict XVI in his homily at the celebration of Vespers in the Greek-Melkite Cathedral of St. George in Amman. "( ) and thus, through the centuries, has been marked by determinant historical events and pervading cultural epochs," the Pope remarked. "Sadly, some of these have included times of theological dispute or periods of repression."
"Others, however, have been moments of reconciliation -- marvellously strengthening the communion of the Church -- and times of rich cultural revival, to which Eastern Christians have contributed so greatly," he continued. “Imitating Christ and the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, we set out to lead people from the desert towards the place of life, towards the Lord who gives us life in abundance.”
“All Christians are called to respond actively to the Lord's mandate - as Saint George did in dramatic ways according to popular record - to bring others to know and love him.” Benedict XVI remarked that Eastern Churches offer a treasure of avenues to bring others to Christ through their ancient living traditions. AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009
"Ideological Manipulation of Religion ... Is the Real Catalyst for Tension and Division" Benedict XVI explained when he visited the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque and the adjacent Hashemite Museum and subsequently met with Muslim religious leaders. “Places of worship, like this splendid Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque …stand out like jewels across the earth's surface.” The Pope exclaimed. “Through the centuries these sanctuaries have drawn men and women into their sacred space to pause, to pray, to acknowledge the presence of the Almighty, and to recognize that we are all his creatures”.
“We cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God. Indeed some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better.” the Pope continued.
“Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied.”
However, the Holy Father said, often the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society.
“In the face of this situation, where the opponents of religion seek not simply to silence its voice but to replace it with their own, the need for believers to be true to their principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly.” The Holy Father said. “Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty's decrees, merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God's creative design for the world and for history.”
The Pope praised the numerous initiatives that manifest the constructive contribution of religion to the educational, cultural, social and other charitable sectors of Jordan’s civic society
The Pope ended his discourse referring to a task which, he said; he firmly believes Christians and Muslims can embrace. “That task is the challenge to cultivate for the good, in the context of faith and truth, the vast potential of human reason”.
“Together”, he said, “Christians and Muslims are impelled to seek all that is just and right”.
Before concluding the visit to Jordan's state mosque, Benedict XVI spoke up in defence of Christians in neighbouring Iraq. AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009
Full text of Pope's address at mosque: www.zenit.org/article-25838?l=english
"Belief in God Does Not Suppress the Search for Truth" Said Benedict XVI when he blessed the cornerstone of the University of Madaba of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “On the contrary it encourages it.” He affirmed. “Saint Paul exhorted the early Christians to open their minds to "all that is true, all that is noble, all that is good and pure, all that we love and honour, all that is considered excellent or worthy of praise" (Phil 4:8)”.
The Pontiff encouraged the Christian students to dedicate themselves responsibly to a proper professional and moral formation. “You are called to be builders of a just and peaceful society composed of peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds. These realities - I wish to stress once more - must lead, not to division, but to mutual enrichment.” he ended. MADABA, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009
"Like Moses, We Too Have Been Called by Name" Benedict XVI noted when he visited the Basilica of the Moses Memorial at Mount Nebo where tradition holds that Moses contemplated the Holy Land. We are “invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery towards life and freedom, and given an unshakeable promise to guide our journey”. The Holy Father explained, “Moses gazed upon the Promised Land from afar, at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. His example reminds us that we too are part of the ageless pilgrimage of God's people through history.”
“We are called to welcome the coming of Christ's Kingdom by our charity, our service to the poor, and our efforts to be a leaven of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in the world around us. We know that, like Moses, we may not see the complete fulfilment of God's plan in our lifetime. Yet we trust that, by doing our small part, in fidelity to the vocation each of us has received, we will help to make straight the paths of the Lord and welcome the dawn of his Kingdom. And we know that the God who revealed his name to Moses as a pledge that he would always be at our side (cf. Ex 3:14) will give us the strength to persevere in joyful hope even amid suffering, trial and tribulation.” AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009
Full text of Pope's address at university: www.zenit.org/article-25837?l=english
"Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church's mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society," the Holy Father acknowledged when he celebrated Mass in the Amman International Stadium.
Some 30,000 attended the event out of an estimated 109,000 Catholics in the nation. A large image of Christ, the Good Shepherd, presided over the site; an image of Mary and John the Baptist, patron of Jordan, also adorned the sanctuary
And, he said, fidelity for Middle Eastern Christians also means "bearing witness to the love which inspires us to 'lay down' our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify 'taking' innocent lives."
The Pope spoke about the particular dignity, vocation and mission of women in God's plan. “How much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious Sisters, teachers, doctors and nurses !” He exclaimed. “How much your society owes to all those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted their lives to building peace and fostering love !”
Speaking to the youth about the Good Shepherd, the Pope invited them to consider the Lord’s call to follow him and to build up his Church. Whether it be in the priestly ministry, in consecrated life or in the sacrament of marriage, “Jesus needs you to make his voice heard and to work for the growth of his Kingdom.” He announced.
The Eucharistic celebration culminated with 40 Jordanian children receiving their first Communion. The Jordanian government decreed that today would be a vacation day for Christians. AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009
Full text of Pope's homily: www.zenit.org/article-25847?l=english
“The foundation stone of a church is a symbol of Christ”. Benedict XVI said when he visited the site of Christ's baptism and blessed the cornerstones for two churches, one Latin-rite and the other Greek-Melkite; “The Church rests on Christ, is sustained by him and cannot be separated from him”. The Pope reminded those present that we enter the Church through baptism. “The memory of Christ's own baptism is brought vividly before us in this place.” He said, “Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John's baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of his own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.”
“The Church is in Christ a community of new life, a dynamic reality of grace that flows from him. Through the Church Christ purifies our hearts, enlightens our minds, unites us with the Father and, in the one Spirit, moves us to a daily exercise of Christian love. We confess this joyful reality as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
“This is the reality of the Church; it is Christ and us, Christ with us. He is with us as the vine is with its own branches (cf. Jn 15:1-8)” BETHANY, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009
Jordan's King Abdullah II unexpectedly joined Benedict XVI along the banks of the Jordan River. Though not part of the original program, the Holy Father was accompanied by King Abdullah and Queen Rania. The king, seated beside the Pontiff, in a golf cart, explained to his guest the archaeological excavations being carried out in the area. Archaeologists have found more than 20 churches, grottos and baptismal fonts in the area, showing that the site was a popular pilgrimage spot in early Christianity. BETHANY, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009
"We Understand This Visit to Be a Deliberate Gesture of Goodwill" Said Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed to Benedict XVI when the Pope visited Jordan's state mosque on Saturday. The prince is an advisor to King Abdullah II and also the organizer of the Muslim initiative called "A Common Word," sent by 138 Muslim scholars to Christian leaders.
The Prince, as a Hashemite, and a descendant of the prophet Muhammed, welcomed the Pontiff to the mosque, remembering that the prophet [...] welcomed his Christian neighbors [...] to Medina, and invited them to pray in his own mosque, which they did in harmony, without either side compromising their own spiritual beliefs. “This too”, he said, “is an invaluable lesson which the world desperately needs to remember”. AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009
Mary’s supreme example of womanly virtue. Before praying the midday Regina Caeli Benedict XVI said “During the Mass I spoke about the prophetic charism of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace.” And continued “The supreme example of womanly virtue is the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace.” “ As a fruit of the Redemption won by her Son's death and resurrection, she too was raised to everlasting glory and crowned Queen of Heaven. With great confidence in the power of her intercession, with joy in our hearts and with love for our glorious ever-Virgin Mother, we turn to her now and ask for her prayers.” AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009
Other papal messages and activities
It is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry. Benedict XVI affirmed when he addressed members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. “Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global security” VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009
Full text of Papal address: http://zenit.org/article-25782?l=english
"Continue to Be Beacons of Hope, Strength and Support for Others" Benedict XVI told the members of the Papal Foundation. “Our meeting this year”, he said, “Occurs during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation. At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties. As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard.” He explained that the Papal Foundation itself, through the great generosity of many, enables valuable assistance to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church. “For your sacrifice and dedication I am most grateful to you: by means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed.” He ended. VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009
Benedict XVI sent a telegram to the Italian chapter of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He expressed his hopes for "an abundant outpouring of the fruits of the Paraclete" on the gathering and wished them a revitalized closeness with the crucified and risen Christ. VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009
The Holy Father invited kids to "enthusiastically speak about Jesus" in a telegram sent to the 3rd Missionary Encounter in Spain. "Grow in friendship with Jesus, the friend who never fails, through prayer and the sacraments, so as to speak of him with enthusiasm to those who have perhaps not had the joy of knowing him." the message said. VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009
Benedict XVI welcomed 32 new recruits to the Swiss Guard. The Guard was founded in 1506 and has 110 soldiers and a captain, currently Daniel Rudolf Anring. In a traditional May 6 ceremony that memorializes the day in 1527 when 147 guardsmen lost their life defending Pope Clement VII during Charles V's sack of Rome, Benedict XVI described the Swiss Guard's fields of service as a series of concentric circles, saying that their work is not just linked to the person of the Pope, but extends to the city of Rome, and the universal Church represented by "the tombs of Peter and Paul, the heart of the Catholic Church." VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009
El Salvador President visited the Pope. There are good relations between Church and El Salvador. Close to 60% of El Salvador's more than 7 million citizens are Catholic. They discussed the Central American nation's commitment to promoting cooperation in the area of trade, to the struggle against organized crime, to the field of education and emigration, and to social promotion. VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009
Jesuit Named to Congregation for Eastern Churches. Benedict XVI appointed Jesuit Father Cyril Vasil as secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, and is raising him to the dignity of archbishop. Father Vasil has been a consultant for the Congregation for Eastern Churches as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers. He has authored numerous books and articles, and collaborates with Vatican Radio. VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009
Benedict XVI gave a press conference aboard the plane en route to Jordan. To a question about his possible contribution to the peace efforts, the Pope answered that he certainly intends to contribute to peace, “but not as an individual, but in the name of the Catholic Church, of the Holy See.” Not as a political power but as a spiritual force, he said.
“As believers, we are convinced that prayer is a true force. It opens the world to God: We are convinced that God listens and that he can act in history. I think that if millions of people -- believers -- would pray, it could really be a force that could influence and contribute to the advancement of peace.” He explained.
Questioned on the future of dialogue between Christians and Jews. The Pope reflected on the importance of understanding the language of the other. “We have the same roots” he said, “The same Books of the Old Testament that are -- as much for the Jews as for us -- the Book of Revelation”. But, he explained, after 2009 years, traditions of interpretation, language, and thinking have been formed that are very distinct. “With the use of these words that, in the course of history have taken on different meanings, obviously misunderstandings are born.” The Holy Father continued. “We should do everything to learn the language of the other, and it seems to me that we have made great progress.”
Asked about interreligious dialogue with Islam and with Jews: “Is there a common message that has to do with the three religions that make reference to Abraham?” The Pope explained that “We have much in common from our origins, in the faith in the one God. For that, it is important on one hand to maintain dialogue with the two parts -- with the Jews and with Islam -- and as well a trilateral dialogue.”
To the last question ¿Do you have a particular message as well for the Christians of Gaza that will come to see you in Bethlehem? The Pontiff said this is a difficult moment, but also a moment of hope. “We want to encourage the Christians in the Holy Land, and in all of the Middle East, to stay, to give their contribution to the countries of their origins: They are important components of life in these regions” he affirmed. ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MAY 8, 2009
The Pope sent a message to the Archbishop of Bucharest, Romania, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's May 7-9 visit to that country. He expressed his hope that drawing from the teaching of John Paul II, Romanian people will commit themselves to seeking courageous ways to face together the great challenges of our time like “the defense of human life at every stage, protection of the family, respect for creation and promotion of the common good," he invited people “to pray that, as soon as possible, we may achieve the full fraternal communion of all Christians, both of the West and the East." VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2009
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