LETTERS OF CREDENCE OF NEW GERMAN AMBASSADOR
VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2011 (VIS REPORT) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Reinhard Schweppe, the new German ambassador to the Holy See. In his remarks to the diplomat he recalled his own recent visit to the country of his birth which, he said, provided an opportunity "to reflect upon the service the Catholic Church and the Holy See can make in a pluralistic society".
"Many of our contemporaries see the influence of Christianity, and of other religions as a way of imposing a specific culture and lifestyle upon society", the Pope observed. "This view is not incorrect, but it is not a complete understanding of the Catholic Church, ... which has not only formed different kinds of cultural community in different countries, but has herself been moulded by the traditions of individual nations".
"The Church is aware - thanks to her faith - that she knows the truth about man, and thus that she is obliged to protect those values which are valid for mankind as such, over and above individual cultures", the Holy Father went on. "Fortunately, a fundamental part of shared human values became law in the German Constitution of 1949 and in the Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. ... Today, however, certain basic values of human life are again been put into question, values which defend the dignity man possesses simply by virtue of being a man. It is here that the Church sees she has a duty, over and above her faith, to defend truths and values that are under threat".
Pope Benedict went on: "We are not qualified to judge - to speak of one particularly important topic - whether an individual is 'already a person' or 'still a person'; even less so do we have the right to manipulate and, so to say, 'to create' man. Only a society which unconditionally respects and defends the dignity of each human being, from conception to natural end, can call itself a human society. ... If the Holy See enters into the field of lawmaking on fundamental questions that involve man's dignity - such as those that arise today concerning the prenatal existence of man - she does so not as a way of indirectly imposing her faith upon others, but of defending values which are evident to everyone because they concern the truth about human beings".
Benedict XVI then went on refer to gender discrimination against women, describing it as "a critical problem which, due to materialistic and hedonistic tendencies, seems to be on the increase, above all in the Western world". The Pope highlighted how "a relationship which fails to take account of the fact that man and woman have equal dignity represents a grave affront to humankind. The time has come to take an energetic stance against prostitution and the widespread availability of erotic and pornographic material, also on the Internet. The Holy See will ensure that the Catholic Church in Germany takes clear and decisive initiatives against this form of abuse".
In conclusion, the Pope thanked the German federal government and the governments of the Lander for supporting the Catholic Church "which enjoys excellent openings in Germany", both to announce the Gospel and to help people in need through her social and charitable institutions "the work of which, in the final analysis, is of benefit to all citizens".
VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:
- Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States of America.
- Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, apostolic nuncio to the Czech Republic.
- Archbishop Richard William Smith of Edmonton, Canada, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Metropolitan Archbishop-elect Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau (currently bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall), vice president, and Msgr. Patrick Powers, secretary general.
- Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, Ukraine.
On Saturday 5 November he received in audience:
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
- Six prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on their "ad limina" visit:
- Archbishop Henry Joseph Mansell of Hartford, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Peter Anthony Rosazza.
- Bishop Willìam Edward Lori of Bridgeport.
- Bishop Michael Richard Cote of Norwich.
- Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans.
VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Darwin Rudy Andino Ramirez C.R.S., auxiliary of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as bishop of Santa Rosa de Copan (area 17,360, population 1,289,000, Catholics 1,160,000, priests 60, religious 63), Honduras. He succeeds Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos Villeda S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2011 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with pilgrims and faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI made some brief comments on the readings from today's liturgy which, he said, "invite us to continue the reflections on eternal life we began with the commemoration of All Souls Day. On this question there is a clear difference between those who believe and those who do not believe or, we could say, between those who hope and those who do not".
"St. Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus that, before they accepted the Good News, they had had 'no hope' and had been 'without God in the world'. The religion of the Greeks, the pagan cults and myths were unable to throw light on the mystery of death. Indeed, one ancient inscription read: 'How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing'. If we eliminate God, if we eliminate Christ, the world falls into emptiness and darkness. This also emerges in contemporary forms of nihilism by which, alas, young people are so often unknowingly affected".
The Pope also referred to the reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew, "the famous parable of the ten bridesmaids invited to a wedding banquet, symbol of the kingdom of heaven, of eternal life", he said. "Of the ten, five entered the banquet because, when the bridegroom arrived, they had oil to light their lamps, while the other five could not enter because they had foolishly failed to bring oil with them. What does this 'oil' represent?" the Holy Father asked. "St. Augustine and other ancient writers saw it as a symbol of love: a love which we cannot buy but receive as a gift, which we keep in our hearts and practise in good works. True wisdom is to take advantage of mortal life to do works of mercy, because this will not be possible after death. When we reawaken for the final judgement, we will be assessed on the basis of the love we have shown during our earthly lives. This love is a gift of Christ, poured upon us by the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in God-Love carry an invincible hope, like a lamp with which to cross the night after death and to reach the great feast of life".
In conclusion, the Pope invited the faithful to learn from the Virgin Mary "to live and die in the hope that does not disappoint".
VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2011 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus this morning, the Pope expressed his concern at recent tragic events in Nigeria. He gave assurances of his prayers for the victims, at the same time launching an appeal "to end all violence, which does not resolve problems but accentuates them by sowing hatred and discord, also among believers".
Speaking then in Spanish and referring to this morning's liturgy he said: "The meeting with God cannot be improvised, it is something that must last our whole lives long. God is found by those who seek Him. I would also like to recall here that a year ago tomorrow, I had the joy of consecrating the basilica of the 'Sagrada Familia' in Barcelona, admirable compendium of technology, beauty and faith designed by that architectural genius, Servant of God Antonio Gaudi".
"My thoughts today cannot but go to the city of Genoa, Italy, which has been seriously affected by floods. I give assurances of my prayers for the victims, their families and for everyone who has suffered serious damage. May the Madonna della Guardia support the dear people of Genoa as together they seek to overcome this trial".
VATICAN CITY, 5 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father presided at Vespers for the opening of the academic year in pontifical universities. His homily focused on priestly ministry, in the light of the current seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations by Venerable Pius XII. The reading from the First Letter of Peter likewise "invites us to meditate upon the mission of pastors in the Christian community", the Pope said.
"Ever since the beginning of the Church, it was clear that the guides of those early communities were given particular importance, instituted by the Apostles to announce the Word of God through preaching and celebrating Christ's sacrifice. ... Peter also emphasises reciprocal solidarity among pastors, highlighting his own and their membership of the single apostolic order. ... Tending Christ's flock is the vocation and task they share; it binds them to one another because they are united by a special bond to Christ. ... The apostolic vocation lives thanks to the personal relationship with Christ, it is nourished by assiduous prayer and animated by the passionate desire to communicate the message received from the same experience of faith as the Apostles".
The Pope then went on to identify three preconditions for a priest's life to ensure its conformity to Christ: "the aspiration to collaborate with Jesus in spreading theKingdom of God, the gratuitousness of pastoral commitment, and an attitude of service".
"God the Father sent the eternal Son into the world to accomplish His plan of salvation", the Holy Father explained. "Christ Jesus founded the Church so that the beneficial effects of redemption would be extended over time. The vocation of priests has its roots in this action of the Father, which was accomplished by Christ through the Holy Spirit. The minister of the Gospel, then, is a person who allows himself to be seized by Christ, who knows how 'to abide' in Him, who enters into harmony and intimate friendship with Him, so that everything occurs 'as God would have it', according to His will of love, with great inner freedom and profound joy of heart".
Turning then to reflect on the gratuitousness of pastoral commitment, Benedict XVI noted that "we must never forget that we enter the priesthood through the Sacrament of Ordination. This means opening ourselves to the action of God by daily choosing to give ourselves for Him and for our fellow man. ... The Lord's call to the ministry is not the fruit of any particular merit, it is a gift we must accept and to which we must respond by generously and disinterestedly dedicating ourselves, not to our own project but to that of God, that He may dispose of us according to His will, even though this may not correspond to our own desire for self-fulfilment. ... As priests, we must never forget that the only legitimate ascension towards the ministry of pastor is not that of success but that of the Cross.
"From this point of view, to be a priest means to serve, also by leading an exemplary life", the Pope added. "Priests dispense the means of salvation, the Sacraments, especially those of the Eucharist and Penance. They cannot dispose of them as they please, but humbly dispense them for the good of the People of God. Their lives are profoundly marked by this service - from tending the flock to faithfully celebrating the liturgy - and by readiness to serve all their brothers and sisters, especially the poorest and those most in need. By implementing this 'pastoral charity', on the model of Christ and with Christ, wherever the Lord may call, each priest fulfils both himself and his vocation".
In closing the Pope invited the students of pontifical universities to make good use of their education, "a precious gift God gives us", and to experience it in intimate communion with Him.
VATICAN CITY, 5 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Holy Father in which he appoints Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the eighth centenary of the birth of St. Agnes of Bohemia, due to take place in the cathedral of Prague, Czech Republic, on 12 November.
In the Letter, written in Latin and dated 20 October, the Pope mentions the outstanding character of St. Agnes, who was a disciple of St. Clare of Assisi. He also expresses his satisfaction at the persistence of the faith among the Czech people, despite the difficulties the Catholic Church faced there over many years.
The names of the members of the mission accompanying Cardinal Meisner have also been made public, they are: Fr. Stanislav Pribyl C.Ss.R., former provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers in the Czech Republic, and Fr. Jan Houkal, pastor of Brandys nad Labem-Stara Boleslav.