Vatican Radio REPORTS/IMAGE/SHARE- “The universal Church expects and needs”, the “missionary spirit”, “zealous generosity” and “irreplaceable contribution” of the Church in America, North and South, said Pope Benedict XVI Sunday evening in an address to cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity from the American continent.
They had gathered
around the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basiliaca for the Opening Mass of
the International Congress on the Church in America. The congress, Dec 9-11, is
marking 15 years since the Synod of Bishops for America.
celebration was presided by Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal
Marc Ouellet, who is also President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin
America. At the end of the celebration the congregation was also addressed by
Pope Benedict XVI.
He noted that the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation,
Ecclesia in America, cited challenges and difficulties that are still current.
Challenges such as secularism and religious groups which, he said, are
spreading, giving rise to numerous problems.
The Pope noted that there is
an urgent need for an “education to and promotion of a culture of life” to
counter the spread of a mentality “that undermines the dignity and protection of
life” and does not favor the institution of marriage and family.
asked “how can we not worry about the painful situations of migration, uprooting
of peoples, or violence, especially those caused by organized crime, drug
trafficking, corruption and the arms trade? What about the searing inequalities
and poverty traps caused by questionable economic, political and social
“All these important questions require careful study. Yet in
addition to their technical evaluation, the Catholic Church is convinced that
the light for an adequate solution can only come from encounter with the living
Christ, which gives rise to attitudes and ways of acting based on love and
truth. This is the decisive force which will transform the American
Dear friends, the love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves
without reserve to proclaiming his Name throughout America, bringing it freely
and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. There is no more
rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can
provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God. For this
reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful
dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and pastoral
agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a
sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the
sacraments. This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and
ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and
the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest
questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will
thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfilment
of your apostolate. A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your
commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church
expects and needs from the Church in America.
As a model of openness to
God’s grace and of perfect concern for others, there shines forth on your
continent the figure of Mary Most Holy, Star of the New Evangelization, invoked
throughout America under the glorious title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I
commend this Congress to her maternal and loving protection, I impart to you,
the organizers and participants, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant
divine graces.(Vatican Radio)
Thousands of pilgrims wrapped in scarves and hats withstood a gelid northerly
wind that swept St Peter’s Square Sunday to pray the midday Angelus prayer with
Pope Benedict XVI, who urged them to prepare their hearts and lives for the
coming of the Lord.
second Sunday of Advent the Pope dwelt on the figure of John the Baptist,
presented in Luke’s Gospel. He spoke of him as ‘the voice’ crying out in the
desert of today’s consumerist society, “where we seek joy in things”. Instead
the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is not
only experienced as an outward celebration, but as the feast of the Son of God
who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.
“Our aim today” he
continued “is to listen to that voice, to give space and welcome Jesus, the Word
that saves us, to our hearts”.
In comments in French Pope Benedict said
“Advent invites us to go out to meet the Lord, and therefore we set off on a
journey. This reality is very familiar to people forced to leave their region,
for various reasons, including war or poverty. Migrants are aware of the
precarious nature of their situation and often encounter little understanding.
May they be welcomed and have a dignified life! In preparation for Christmas
time, may a joyous and fraternal solidarity come to aid their needs and support
their hopes! Do not forget that every Christian is en route to his or her true
home: Heaven. Christ is the only way!”
Below a Vatican Radio
translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus reflections
brothers and sisters!
In the season of Advent, the liturgy particularly
emphasizes two figures who prepare the coming of the Messiah, the Virgin Mary
and John the Baptist. Today St. Luke presents us with the latter, and does so
with characteristics that differ from the other Evangelists. "All four Gospels
place the figure of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, as his
precursor. St. Luke has further moved the connection between the two figures and
their respective missions ... Already in their conception and birth, Jesus and
John are brought into relation with each other "(The Infancy of Jesus, 23). This
setting helps to understand that John, as the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth,
both of priestly families, is not only the last of the prophets, but also
represents the whole priesthood of the Old Covenant and therefore prepares men
to spiritual worship of the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus (cf. ibid. 27-28).
Luke also dispels a mythical reading that is often made of the Gospels and
historically contextualizes the life of John the Baptist: "In the fifteenth year
of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor ... during the high
priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Lk 3, 1-2). Within this historical framework
lies the true great event, the birth of Christ, which his contemporaries will
not even notice. By God the great men of history form the backdrop to small!
John the Baptist is defined as the "voice of one crying in the desert:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths" (Lk 3:4). The voice
proclaims the word, but in this case the Word of God, as it comes down to John
the son of Zacharias in the wilderness (cf. Lk 3:2). Thus he plays an important
role, but always in relation to Christ. St. Augustine says: "John is the voice.
Instead of the Lord says: "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). John is
the voice that passes away, Christ is the eternal Word who was in the beginning.
If you take the word away from the voice, what is left? A faint sound. The voice
without the word strikes the hearing, but does not build up the heart"(Sermon
293, 3). Our aim today is to listen to that voice, to give space and welcome
Jesus, the Word that saves us, to our hearts. In this time of Advent, let us
prepare to see, with the eyes of faith, God's salvation in the humble stable in
Bethlehem (cf. Lk 3:6). In a consumerist society, where we seek joy in things,
the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is not
only experienced as an outward party, but as the feast of the Son of God who
came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.
We entrust our journey
towards the Lord to the maternal intercession of Mary, Virgin of Advent, so we
may be ready to welcome, into our hearts and life, Emmanuel,
I would now like to offer a word of greeting to all the
English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In today’s
Gospel John the Baptist reminds us of the need for repentance and purification
as we prepare a way for the Lord and await in hope his coming in glory. May God
abundantly bless you and your loved ones!