THE CHURCH MUST NOT FEAR PERSECUTIONS BUT TRUST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) - Returning to a recent series of catecheses on the theme of prayer, Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience this morning to what has been called the "Little Pentecost", an event which coincided with a difficult moment in the life of the nascent Church.
The Acts of the Apostles tell us how Peter and John were released from prison following their arrest for preaching the Gospel. They returned to their companions who, listening to their account of what had happened, did not reflect on how to react or defend themselves, or on what measures to adopt; rather, "in that moment of trial they all raised their voices together to God", Who replied by sending the Holy Spirit.
"This was the unanimous and united prayer of the whole community, which was facing persecution because of Jesus", the Pope explained. It involved the community "because the experiences of the two Apostles did not concern only them, but the entire Church. In suffering persecution for Jesus' sake, the community not only did not give way to fear and division, but was profoundly united in prayer".
When believers suffer for the faith, "unity is consolidated rather than undermined, because it is supported by unshakeable prayer. The Church must not fear the persecutions she is forced to suffer in her history, but must trust always, as Jesus did in Gethsemane, in the presence, help and strength of God, invoked in prayer".
Before trying to understand what had happened the first community sought to interpret events through the faith, using the Word of God. In the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke notes how the community of Jerusalem began by invoking God's greatness and immensity. Then, using the Psalms, those early Christians recalled how God had acted in history alongside His people, "showing Himself to be a God Who is concerned for human beings, Who does not abandon them", Benedict XVI said. Subsequently the events were read "in the light of Christ, Who is the key to understanding all things, even persecution. The opposition to Jesus, His passion and death were reread ... as the accomplishment of the plan of God the Father for the salvation of the world. ... In prayer, meditating on Sacred Scripture in the light of the mystery of Christ helps us to interpret current reality as part of the history of salvation which God enacts in the world".
Thus the plea the first Christian community of Jerusalem made to God in prayer was not "to be defended, to be spared from trials or to enjoy success, but only to be able to proclaim ... the Word of God frankly, freely and courageously". The community also asked that "their proclamation be accompanied by the hand of God so that healing, signs and wonders could be accomplished. In other words, they wanted to become a force for the transformation of reality, changing the hearts, minds and lives of men and bringing the radical novelty of the Gospel".
"We too", the Holy Father concluded his catechesis, "must bring the events of our daily lives into our prayer, in order to seek their most profound significance. And we too, like the first Christian community, allowing ourselves to be illuminated by the Word of God and meditating on Sacred Scripture, may learn to see that God is present in our lives, even at moments of difficulty, and that everything ... is part of a plan of love in which the final victory over evil, sin and death is truly is that of goodness, grace, life and God".
THE POPE ASKS FOR PRAYERS TO HELP HIM CONTINUE TO SERVE THE CHURCH
Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) - After greeting the pilgrims attending his general audience this morning, who had come from many different countries including South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Lithuania and Peru, the Holy Father expressed his thanks for the congratulations he has received over recent days. "I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes you have been sending me for the seventh anniversary of my election", he said. "I ask you to support me always with your prayers so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may continue my service to Christ and the Church".
COMMUNIQUE FROM THE PONTIFICAL COMMISSION "ECCLESIA DEI"
Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) - The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", today released the following communique:
"On 17 April, as requested during the 16 March meeting held at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Commission received the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X. The text of the response will be examined by the dicastery then submitted to the Holy Father for his judgement".
FOURTH CENTENARY OF VATICAN SECRET ARCHIVES: 85 KM OF DOCUMENTS
Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) - The Vatican Secret Archives, where all the documentation relating to the Holy See is conserved and catalogued, are this year celebrating their fourth centenary. Among the initiatives organised to mark the occasion is a congress entitled "Religiosa Archivorum Custodia", which began yesterday in the Vatican and is examining the history of the archives, their cultural importance and the results of the most recent research.
Due perhaps to an erroneous interpretation of the name (the word "secret" is to be understood in its Latin definition of "private"), the archives have always been surrounded by an aura of mystery. They were established by Pope Paul V in 1611 and originally contained the manuscripts from the pontificate of Gregory VII (1073-1085) which had survived the Avignon schism. Speaking on Vatican Radio Msgr. Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, explained that they "contain centuries and centuries of catalogued letters sent or received by Popes, documents of the Apostolic Camera, diplomatic papers from the various nuncios and diplomatic missions, as well as documents from Councils and Synods, etc. The archives were originally contained in 400 metres of shelf space, now they cover 85 kilometres".
In 1881 Pope Leo XIII opened the archives for free consultation by researchers. According to the German historian Arnold Esch, "it is the greatest archive in the world as regards the Middle Ages. Above all it is an archive which contains material of universal value and importance".
Despite the efforts of academics a large part of the Vatican Secret Archives remains unexplored, chiefly the vast amount of material originating in apostolic nunciatures, and from the period of World War II.
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of Rio Gallegos, Argentina, presented by Bishop Juan Carlos Romanin S.D.B., in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.