CATHERINE OF GENOA AND THE EXPERIENCE OF PURGATORY
VATICAN CITY, 12 JAN 2011 (VIS REPORT) - During this morning's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 9,000 faithful, Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), author of two books: "Treatise on Purgatory" and "Dialogues on the Soul and the Body".
Catherine received a good Christian education in the home before marrying at the age of sixteen, although her married life was not an easy one. At first she led a worldly existence which caused her a profound sense of emptiness and bitterness however, following a unique spiritual experience which made her aware of her own misery and defects and, at the same time, of the goodness of God, she decided to change her life and to begin a journey of purification and mystical communion with the Lord. "The place of her ascent to the mystical heights was the hospital of Pammatone, the largest in Genoa, of which she was director", said the Pope.
"The period between her conversion and her death was not marked by extraordinary events", said the Holy Father, "but two elements characterised her entire life: on the one hand, mystical experience, profound union with God and, ... on the other, service to others, especially the most needy and abandoned".
"We must never forget", he went on, "that the more we love God and remain constant in our prayers, the more we will truly manage to love those around us, because in each individual we will see the face of the Lord, Who loves without limit or distinction".
Benedict XVI then went on to refer to the works of the saint, recalling how, "in her mystical experiences, Catherine never received specific revelations on Purgatory or on the souls being purified there". She did not see Purgatory "as a place of transit in the depths of the earth: it is not an exterior fire, but an interior fire". She did not use the hereafter as a basis "to recount the torments of purgatory and then show the way to purification and conversion; rather, she began from the interior experience of man on his journey towards eternity".
Thus, for Catherine, "the soul is aware of God's immense love and perfect justice; as a consequence, it suffers for not having responded to that love perfectly, and it is precisely the love of God Himself which purifies the soul from the ravages of sin".
This mystical saint from Genoa used an image typical of Dionysus the Areopagite: the thread of gold linking the human heart to God, said the Pope. "In this way the heart of man is inundated with the love of God, which becomes his only guide, the only driving force in his life. This situation of elevation towards God and abandonment to His will, as expressed in the image of the thread, is used by Catherine to express the action of divine light on the souls in Purgatory, a light which purifies and raises them towards the splendour of the dazzling rays of God".
"In their experience of union with God, saints achieve so profound an 'understanding' of the divine mysteries, in which love and knowledge almost become one, that they can even help theologians in their studies", said the Pope.
"St. Catherine's life teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimate contact with Him through prayer, the more He makes Himself known and enflames our hearts with His love. By writing about Purgatory, the saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of the faith which becomes an invitation for us to pray for the dead, that they may achieve the blessed vision of God in the communion of the saints".
And Benedict XVI concluded: "The saint's lifelong humble, faithful and generous service in the hospital of Pammatone is a shining example of charity towards everyone, and a special encouragement for women who make a fundamental contribution to society and the Church with their precious efforts, enriched by their sensitivity and the care they show towards the poorest and those most in need".
IMAGE RADIO VATICANA
VATICAN CITY, 12 JAN 2011 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. released the following declaration yesterday evening:
"This evening Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, the ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, was received in the Vatican by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
"During the meeting the ambassador, who is to return to Cairo for consultations with the Egyptian foreign ministry, described the concerns of her government at this present difficult time. She was also able to receive information and gather the elements necessary in order to report adequately on the Holy Father's recent remarks concerning, in particular, religious freedom and the protection of Christians in the Middle East.
"Highlighting how the Holy See shares the emotions of all the people of Egypt, struck by the attack in Alexandria, Archbishop Mamberti gave assurances that the it also fully shares the Egyptian government's concern 'to avoid the escalation of religiously motivated conflict and tensions', and appreciates the efforts being made to that end".
VATICAN CITY, 12 JAN 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father has written the following Message to mark today's first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. The Message was read out by Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", during a commemorative Mass held in Haiti today.
"In order to mark the first anniversary of the terrible earthquake which struck your country, I join you all, dear Haitians, to assure you of my prayers, particularly for the dead", the Pope writes.
"I also wish to pronounce a word of hope in the current particularly difficult circumstances. The time has come to rebuild, not only material structures but, and above all, civil, social and religious coexistence. I hope that the Haitian people will become the main actors in their own present and future, also with the support of international aid which has already demonstrated great generosity with economic support and volunteers coming from all parts of the world.
"I am present among you through Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum'. With his presence and his voice, he brings you my encouragement and affection,. I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patroness of Haiti who, I am sure, in heaven, is not indifferent to your prayers. May God bless all Haitians!"
VATICAN CITY, 12 JAN 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany.
VATICAN CITY, 12 JAN 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Archbishop Murilo Sebastiao Ramos Krieger S.C.I. of Florianopolis, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia (area 6,241, population 3,879,000, Catholics 2,737,000, priests 295, permanent deacons 78, religious 1,106), Brazil. He succeeds Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Appointed Bishop Guire Poulard of Les Cayes, Haiti, as archbishop of Port-au-Prince (area 5,500, population 4,044,000, Catholics 2,912,000, priests 284, permanent deacons 2, religious 1,708), Haiti. The archbishop-elect was born in Delatte, Haiti in 1942, he was ordained a priest in 1972 and consecrated a bishop in 1988.
- Appointed Msgr. Glandas Marie Erick Toussaint of the clergy of the archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, pastor of the cathedral and director of Caritas in Port-au-Prince, as auxiliary of Port-au-Prince. The bishop-elect was born in Grande Savane in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1994.