THE QUESTION OF GOD IN TODAY'S WORLD
VATICAN CITY, 25 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity is currently celebrating its twenty-fifth plenary assembly on the theme: "The Question of God in Today's World". The participants were received in audience this morning by the Holy Father who focused his remarks on two key areas of the dicastery's recent activities: the Congress for Lay People in Asia and World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
"The great continent of Asia", he said, "is home to many different peoples, cultures and religions of ancient origin, but the Christian message has so far reached only a small minority who often live their faith in difficult circumstances, sometimes even suffering real persecution. The congress was an opportunity ... to reinforce our missionary commitment and courage. These our brothers and sisters bear admirable witness to their adherence to Christ, enabling us to see how, thanks to their faith, vast fields of evangelisation are opening for the Church in Asia in the third millennium".
Referring then to the fact that the pontifical council is currently preparing a similar congress for lay people in Africa, due to take place next year in Cameroon, the Pope observed that such continental gatherings "are important for the impetus they give to the work of evangelisation, for reinforcing unity and strengthening the bonds between the particular Churches and the universal Church".
Turning his attention to World Youth Day, he said: "An extraordinary cascade of light, joy and hope illuminated not only Madrid, but also Europe and the entire world, clearly re-establishing the importance of seeking God in today's world. No one could remain indifferent, no one could think that the question of God was irrelevant to modern man".
Focusing on the theme of the plenary, Pope Benedict said: "We must never cease to raise this question, to 'begin again from God' so as to recognise man in all his dimensions and dignity. Indeed the mentality, so widespread in our time, which rejects any reference to the transcendent has proved incapable of comprehending and preserving what is human. The spread of such a mentality has generated the crisis we are experiencing today which, more than an economic and social crisis, is a crisis of meaning and values. ... In this context, the question of God is, in a certain sense, 'the main question'. It brings us back to the basic query about man, to the aspirations for truth, happiness and freedom which are inherent to the human heart and which seek realisation".
"If it is true that 'being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person', then the question of God is reawakened by meeting people who have the gift of faith, who have a living relationship with the Lord. ... Here your role as lay faithful is particularly important. ... You are called to show luminous witness of the relevance of God in all fields of thought and action. In the family and the workplace, in politics and in economics, modern man needs to see and feel how the presence or absence of God changes everything.
"But the challenge of a mentality closed to the transcendent obliges even Christians to focus more specifically on the central place of God", the Holy Father added. "Efforts have been made in the past to ensure that the presence of Christians in social, political and economic life was more incisive, and perhaps less attention was given to the solidity of their faith, almost as if it was taken for granted. The truth is that Christians do not live on some distant planet, immune to the 'sicknesses' of the world; they are affected by the turmoil, disorientation and difficulties of their time. Therefore it is equally important to raise the question of God within the Church. ... The first response to the great challenge of our time lies, then, in a profound conversion of heart, so that the Baptism which made us light of the world and salt of the earth, can truly transform us", he concluded.
VATICAN CITY, 25 NOV 2011 (VIS) - A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which is to due to be held in the Vatican from 29 November to 1 December. This year's plenary coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris consortio" and the creation of the pontifical council itself. Participating in today's conference were Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, Bishop Jean Laffitte, Msgr. Carlos Simon Vazquez and Fr. Gianfranco Grieco O.F.M. Conv., respectively president, secretary, under secretary and bureau chief of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Alfonso and Francesca Colzani, directors of family services for the archdiocese of Milan, Italy.
Cardinal Antonelli focused on certain themes contained in "Familiaris consortio", such as the central role of the family in the new evangelisation and in pastoral care in parishes and dioceses. He also highlighted the missionary vocation of the family "to live, irradiate and express to the world the love and presence of Christ; ... to become a great sign of the credibility of the Gospel through mutual service, generous and responsible procreation, care of children, commitment to work, concern for the poor and needy, prayer in the home, participation in Mass and Church activities, and involvement in civil society".
Bishop Laffitte also drew attention to "Familiaris consortio", wherein Blessed John Paul II spoke "of the need to help society rediscover true family values at a time of moral crisis". For the late Pontiff it was impossible "to consider the family without reference to conjugal love. This would seem obvious but, in fact, recent legislation has juridically legitimised alternative models of the family which separate it from its deepest root: the love of a man and a woman linked by an indissoluble bond".
From a Christian perspective "new difficulties arise", said the secretary of the pontifical council, such as the fact that "getting married in Church is often no longer part of an active life of faith; and this means that an awareness of the sanctity of Christian marriage is lost. Thus we can see why the pastoral care of marriage and the family today requires serious and profound consideration". Non practising Catholics could be offered "a brief training course, including reading the Word of God, an introduction to the most basic elements of Christian faith, and an initiation to sacramental life with particular emphasis on the Sacraments of Marriage, the Eucharist and Penance".
Msgr. Vazquez gave details of the programme of the plenary, which will begin with a solemn concelebration of the Eucharist at the altar of Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica. "We wish to render particular homage to the Pope who often described himself as the Pope of families", he said. "There we will pray that the blessed may intercede with the Lord for all the families of the world".
Fr. Grieco announced that the pontifical council's quarterly "Familia et vita" will be dedicating a special edition to the thirtieth anniversary of "Familiaris consortio". The twenty-nine articles it contains have been written by experts and scholars of the main themes contained in the Apostolic Exhortation, among them five cardinals, ten archbishops and bishops, and six lay people including four women. He also explained that it will be possible to follow the work of the plenary via the dicastery's website: www.familia.va.
At the end of the press conference, attention turned to the seventh World Meeting of Families, due to be held in Milan from 30 May to 3 June 2012. Alfonso and Francesca Colzani explained that the pastoral year in the archdiocese will be dedicated to the family in relation to work and rest. The archdiocesan family services is organising meetings with the aim of "offering individuals, couples and families the inner resources they need to ensure that family life, in both work and rest, coincides with the Gospel. The response from families has been one of great interest as they realise that this has a direct bearing on the difficulties of daily life".
VATICAN CITY, 25 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today published the calendar of celebrations to be presided over by the Holy Father between December 2011 and January 2012.
- Thursday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 4 p.m. in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, homage to Mary Immaculate.
- Sunday 11: Third Sunday of Advent. Pastoral visit to the Roman parish of "Santa Maria delle Grazie" at Casal Boccone, with Mass at 9.30 a.m.
- Monday 12: Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mass for Latin America at 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
- Thursday 15: Vespers with students of Roman universities in the Vatican Basilica at 5.30 p.m.
- Saturday 24: Vigil of the Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord. Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 10 p.m.
- Sunday 25: Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord. At midday from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.
- Saturday 31: At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, First Vespers and "Te Deum" of thanksgiving for the past year.
- Sunday 1: Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and forty-fifth World Day of Peace. Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m.
- Friday 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m.
- Sunday 8: Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Mass in the Sistine Chapel at 9.45 a.m., conferment of the Sacrament of Baptism upon a number of children.
- Wednesday 25: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. Celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls at 5.30 p.m.
VATICAN CITY, 25 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:
- Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, vice president; Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl of the Latins, Poland, vice president; Msgr. Duarte da Cunha, secretary general, and Fr. Ferenc Janka, vice secretary general.
- Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York, U.S.A., on his "ad limina" visit, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Dennis J. Sullivan, Josu Iriondo, Dominik John Lagonegro and Gerald T. Walsh.
This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
VATICAN CITY, 25 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Villota S.J., auxiliary of Bucaramanga, Colombia, as bishop of Fontibon (area 80, population 1,536,000, Catholics 1,228,000, priests 84, permanent deacons 20, religious 178), Colombia. He succeeds Bishop Enrique Sarmiento Angulo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Kenneth Donald Steiner, upon having reached the age limit.