THE POWER OF INTERCESSION: THE PROPHET ELIJAH'S PRAYER
VATICAN CITY, 15 JUN 2011 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope resumed his series of catecheses dedicated to the subject of prayer, focusing today on the Prophet Elijah "whom God sent to bring the people to conversion". (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The Holy Father explained how "upon Mount Carmel Elijah revealed himself in all his power as intercessor when, before the whole of Israel, he prayed to the Lord to show Himself and convert people's hearts. The episode is recounted in chapter 18 of the First Book of Kings".
"The contest between Elijah and the followers of Baal (which was, in fact, a contest between the Lord of Israel, God of salvation and life, and a mute and ineffective idol which can do nothing for either good or evil) also marked the beginning of a confrontation between two completely different ways to address God and to pray". The oblations of the prophets of Baal "revealed only the illusory reality of the idol ... which closed people in the confines of a desperate search for self".
On the other hand, Elijah "called on the people to come closer, involving them in his actions and his prayer. ... The prophet built an alter using 'twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob', ... to represent all Israel. ... Elijah then addressed the Lord calling Him Lord of the fathers, thus implicitly recalling the divine promises and the history of choice and alliance which had indissolubly united the Lord to His people".
The prophet's request "was that the people might finally and fully come to know and understand Who their God is, and make the decisive decision to follow only Him. Only in this way could God be recognised as Absolute and Transcendent". Only in this way would it be clear that "no other gods could be placed at His side, as this would deny His absoluteness and relativize Him".
Benedict XVI highlighted how "believers must respond to the absoluteness of God with absolute and total love, a love involving all their lives, their energies, their hearts. ... In his intercession, Elijah asked of God what God Himself wished to do: to show Himself in all His mercy, faithful to His nature as Lord of life Who forgives, converts and transforms".
"The Lord responded unequivocally, not only burning the offering but even consuming all the water that had been poured around the altar. Israel could no longer doubt: divine mercy had responded to its weakness, to its doubts, to its lack of faith. Now Baal, the vain idol, was beaten and the people, who seemed lost, had rediscovered the way of truth, they had rediscovered themselves".
The Holy Father concluded by asking himself what this story has to tell us today. "Firstly", he said, "is the priority of the first commandment of God's Law: having no god but God. When God disappears man falls into slavery, into idolatry, as has happened in our time under totalitarian regimes and with the various forms of nihilism which make man dependent on idols and idolatry, which enslave". Secondly, he continued, "the main objective of prayer is conversion: the fire of God which transforms our hearts and makes us capable of seeing God and living for Him and for others". Thirdly, "the Church Fathers tell us that this story is ... a foretaste of the future, which is Christ. It is a step on the journey towards Christ".
VATICAN CITY, 15 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At the end of his catechesis this morning, Benedict XVI addressed greetings to various groups present at the general audience. Speaking English he expressed his best wishes to "members of the Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue ... for the next phase of their work". He also welcomed "the Fiftieth Conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, now meeting in Rome.
"I also send my most cordial greetings to Polish pilgrims", he added. "June is a month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion is celebrated in many churches and communities, and I encourage you to keep this beautiful tradition alive".
Finally the Holy Father welcomed representatives from the Catholic Bible Federation, expressing the hope that "their efforts may bring important fruits, particularly for the pastoral life of the local Churches".
VATICAN CITY, 15 JUN 2011 (VIS) - The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel held its plenary session in the Vatican yesterday, to carry on negotiations pursuant to the Fundamental Agreement, article 10 paragraph 2, dealing with economic and fiscal matters, according to a note released today.
The meeting was presided by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for Relations with States, and by Daniel Ayalon, Israeli deputy minister for foreign affairs. The negotiations took place in an open, friendly and constructive atmosphere and very significant progress was made, the communique says.
The parties agreed on the next steps towards the conclusion of the Agreement and to hold the next plenary meeting on 1 December at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
VATICAN CITY, 15 JUN 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Teresina, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Brasilia (area 5,814, population 2,196,000, Catholics 1,507,000, priests 294, permanent deacons 70, religious 652), Brazil.
- Appointed Fr. Marek Marian Piatek C.SS.R., pastor of the parish of "Ressurreicao do Senhor" and professor of moral theology in the archdiocese of Sao Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, as bishop prelate of the territorial prelature of Coari (area 135,442, population 209,000, Catholics 177,000, priests 14, religious 27), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Tuchow, Poland in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1980.
- Appointed Bishop Sergio Lasam Utleg of Laoag, Philippines, as archbishop of Tuguegarao (area 9,000, population 1,709,000, Catholics 1,356,000, priests 82, religious 122), Philippines. He succeeds Archbishop Diosdado A. Talamayan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Appointed Msgr. Jose B. Bantolo of the clergy of the diocese of San Jose de Antique, Philippines, vicar general, as bishop of Masbate (area 7,000, population 776,000, Catholics 704,000, priests 56, religious 18), Philippines. The bishop-elect was born in Guisijan, Philippines in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1986.
- Appointed Msgr. David William Valencia Antonio of the clergy of the archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, Philippines, vicar general, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 2,570, population 691,000, Catholics 582,000, priests 77, religious 118). The bishop-elect was born in Nagtupacan, Philippines in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1988.
- Appointed Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as a consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Appointed Bishop Petro Herkulan Malchuk O.F.M., auxiliary of Odessa-Simferopol, Ukraine, as bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr (area 111,600, population 8,194,377, Catholics 220,000, priests 146, permanent deacons 1, religious 277), Ukraine, giving him the "ad personam" title of archbishop. He succeeds Bishop Jan Purwinski, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Approved the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church of Bishop Cyrille S. Bustros M.S.P. of Newton of the Greek-Melkites, U.S.A., as archbishop of Beirut and Jbeil of the Greek-Melkites (Catholics 200,000, priests 113, permanent deacons 1, religious 270), Lebanon, which became vacant following the resignation presented by Archbishop Joseph Kallas M.S.P. in accordance with canon 210 paras. 1 and 2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
- Approved the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church of Bishop Issam Darwich B.S. of St. Michael's of Sydney of the Greek-Melkites, Australia, as archbishop of Zahleh and Furzol of the Greek-Melkites (Catholics 126,000, priests 28, permanent deacons 2, religious 65), Lebanon, which became vacant following the resignation presented by Archbishop Andre Haddad B.S. in accordance with canon 210 paras. 1 and 2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
- Appointed Bishop Nicolas J. Samra, former auxiliary of the eparchy of Newton of the Greek-Melkites, U.S.A., as bishop of the same eparchy (Catholics 25,000, priests 68, permanent deacons 54, religious 20).
- Appointed Fr. Robert Rabbat, rector of the cathedral of the Annunciation in Newton, U.S.A., as bishop of the eparchy of St. Michael's of Sydney of the Greek-Melkites (Catholics 50,000, priests 17, permanent deacons 7, religious 5), Australia. The bishop-elect was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1994.