POPE ENTRUSTS ITALY TO VIRGIN'S PROTECTION
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Benedict XVI presided over the praying of the Rosary together with the bishops of Italy, entrusting the people of Italy to the Virgin. The Italian bishops were gathered for a General Assembly on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the political unification of Italy.
After praying the Luminous Mysteries, Benedict XVI addressed the Italian bishops, recalling that this basilica "is the first in the West dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God", and that on 1 January 2000, Pope John Paul II opened the Holy Door "entrusting the Jubilee Year to Mary. Today we also wish to cross the threshold of this Most Holy "Door", which is Christ, and we ask the Virgin Mary to sustain our journey and to intercede for us".
"The dispositions of the Virgin's heart - listening, receptiveness, humility, faithfulness, praise, and waiting -", he said, "correspond to the inner provisions and the gestures that shape Christian life. Aware that they express what God desires of the Church, they are what nourish her". (Image source: Radio Vaticana)
"Faith, in fact", he continued, "is not alienation. The experiences that poison the dignity of humanity and the quality of social life are other [than faith]. ... Italy, celebrating 150 years of political unity, has reason to be proud of the presence and outreach of the Church, which does not pursue privileges nor intend to substitute the responsibilities of political institutions. Respectful of the State's legitimate secularity, the Church is attentive to sustaining the fundamental rights of the human person. Among these are foremost ethical instances and therefore the openness to transcendence, which constitute values prior to any state jurisdiction because they are inscribed in the very nature of the human person".
The Church recalls "the duty to promote and protect human life in all its stages and to concretely support the family". In this context he referred to the problem of unemployment "that compromises the serenity of planning for family life in young persons, seriously damaging the authentic and harmonious development of society".
The Pope urged the prelates to encourage "the faithful laity to overcome every spirit of small-mindedness, distraction, and indifference, and to participate in social life in the first person. Promote the formation of initiatives inspired by the Church's social doctrine so that those who exercise political and administrative responsibilities do not fall victim to the temptation to exploit their positions for personal interest or the thirst for power".
"Taking education as the theme of this decade's pastoral commitment, you have sought to express the certainty that Christian existence - the good life of the Gospel - is precisely the demonstration of an accomplished life. In this way you assure a service that is not just religious or ecclesial but social as well, contributing to building the city of humanity. Take heart, then! In spite of every difficulty, 'nothing is impossible for God'".
Benedict XVI concluded by entrusting the Italian peoples to the protection of Mary "Mater unitatis", so that the Lord might grant them "the invaluable gifts of peace and fraternity, and therefore harmonious development. That political forces might also be helped to live this anniversary of Unity as an occasion to strengthen the national union and to overcome every prejudicial conflict. That diverse and legitimate sensitivities, experiences, and perspectives might be rebuilt in a wider picture in order to seek together that which truly contributes to the good of the country. That the example of Mary might open the path to a more just, mature, and responsible society, capable of rediscovering the profound values of the human heart.
CARITAS INTERNATIONALIS: WITNESS TO LOVE OF GOD
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI received 400 participants of the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, with its president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The Pope recalled that that agency, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, was founded by Pope Pius XII after the horrors of World War II "to demonstrate the solidarity and concern of the entire Church in the face of so many situations of conflict and emergency in the world". Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II strengthened even more the ties linking the various national Caritas associations to one another and to the Holy See, granting public canonical juridical personality to Caritas Internationalis. "As a result, the international agency took on a particular role in the heart of the ecclesial community and was called to share, in collaboration with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in the Church's mission of making manifest, through practical charity, that love which is God himself".
"Through such witness ... the Church reaches out to millions of persons and makes it possible for them to recognize and sense the love of God, who is always close to every man and woman in need. For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one's life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ".
Caritas Internationalis, the pontiff explained, "differs from other social agencies in that it is ecclesial; it shares in the mission of the Church. This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm. It should be noted that Caritas Internationalis is basically made up of the various national Caritas agencies. In comparison with many Church institutions and associations devoted to charity, Caritas is distinctive. Despite the variety of canonical forms taken by the national agencies, all of them offer an outstanding aid to Bishops in their pastoral exercise of charity. This entails a particular ecclesial responsibility: that of letting oneself be guided by the Church's Pastors. Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity and exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity, and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church's Magisterium, and that it is administered in a competent and transparent manner. This distinctive identity remains the strength of Caritas Internationalis, and is what makes it uniquely effective".
Then referring to the important role of that agency at the international level, the Pope affirmed that, thanks to the experience gained in these years, the Caritas members have learned to be "advocates within the international community of a sound anthropological vision, one nourished by Catholic teaching and committed to defending the dignity of all human life. Without a transcendent foundation, without a reference to God the Creator, without an appreciation of our eternal destiny, we risk falling prey to harmful ideologies".
Caritas Internationalis is "an organization charged with fostering communion between the universal Church and the particular churches, as well as communion between all the faithful in the exercise of charity. At the same time it is called to help bring the Church's message to political and social life internationally. In the political sphere - and in all those areas directly affecting the lives of the poor - the faithful, especially the laity, enjoy broad freedom of activity. No one can claim to speak 'officially' in the name of the entire lay faithful, or of all Catholics, in matters freely open to discussion. On the other hand, all Catholics, and indeed all men and women, are called to act with purified consciences and generous hearts in resolutely promoting those values which I have often referred to as 'non-negotiable'".
"It is within this greater horizon, then, and in close collaboration with the Church's Pastors who are ultimately responsible for her witness of charity, that the national Caritas agencies are called to continue their vital witness to the mystery of God's healing and transforming love made manifest in Jesus Christ. The same holds true for Caritas Internationalis, which can rest assured that it will enjoy the assistance and support of the Holy See - particularly through the competent dicastery, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum - as it strives to carry out its mission".
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING OF SYNOD FOR MIDDLE EAST
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This past 17 and 18 May, at the head office of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the fourth meeting of the Special Council for the Middle East was held.
A statement issued today noted that "Secretary General Archbishop Nikola Eterovic presided over the work, which was attended by all members of the Council". In his opening speech he particularly mentioned His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., who was recently elected Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Lebanon.
The Council members stressed that "the coexistence of religions is essential for the development of mutual understanding and tolerance, to promote peaceful and fruitful relations in collaboration for the common good".
There are also, reads the statement, "the increasingly demanding requirements of ecumenical and religious dialogue, which stimulate the search for communion and the witness on the part of the Lord's disciples to live the faith in charity, with the hope for better times".
"Special attention has been given to the drafting of a summary of the synodal documents, especially the propositions, in light of the wording of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation that, as in other special Assemblies, will be published in due course by the Pope".
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in separate audiences:
-Seven prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India on their ad limina visit:
- Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum of the Latins,
- Bishop Innayya Chinna Addagatla of Srikakulam,
- Bishop Prakash Mallavarapu of Vijayawada,
- Bishop Joseph Kariyil of Cochin,
- Bishop Varghese Chakkalakal of Kannur,
- Bishop Joseph Karikkassery of Kottapuram, and
- Fr. Vincent Arackal, apostolic administrator of Calicut.
This afternoon, the Pope is going to receive the President of the Republic of Hungary, Pal Schmitt, who offers a concert to the Pontiff in the Paul VI Hall.
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Raymond Wickramasinghe, professor of Moral Theology at the National Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka, as bishop of Galle (area 5,493, population 2,580,000, Catholics 9,511, priests 33, religious 97), Sri Lanka. The bishop-elect was born in 1962 in Uthuwankanda, Mawanella, Sri Lanka and was ordained in 1989.