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Monday, December 3, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI addressed members of the Venerable English College of Rome, the Catholic seminary for the formation of priests from England and Wales. The College, which celebrates its 650th anniversary this year, has its origins in an ancient English hospice which accommodated British pilgrims to Rome.

The Holy Father, following his greeting to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, a former rector of the College, emphasised the "long tradition of zeal for the faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See" in the Catholic community in England and Wales. He remarked that it was his predecessor, Pope Gregory the Great, who sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to "plant the seeds of Christian faith on Anglo-Saxon soil. The fruits of that missionary endeavour are only too evident in the six-hundred-and-fifty-year history of faith and martyrdom that distinguishes the English Hospice of Saint Thomas à Becket and the Venerable English College that grew out of it".

Addressing the seminarians, he continued, "you too ... are the men God has chosen to spread the message of the Gospel today, in England and Wales, in Canada, in Scandinavia ... Your first task, then, is to come to know Christ yourselves, and the time you spend in seminary provides you with a privileged opportunity to do so. Learn to pray daily, especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, listening attentively to the word of God and allowing heart to speak to heart, as Blessed John Henry Newman would say.  ... Allow the fascination of His person to capture your imagination and warm your heart. He has chosen you to be His friends, not His servants, and He invites you to share in His priestly work of bringing about the salvation of the world".

"You have heard much talk about the new evangelization, the proclamation of Christ in those parts of the world where the Gospel has already been preached, but where to a greater or lesser degree the embers of faith have grown cold and now need to be fanned once more into a flame. ... Fire in sacred Scripture frequently serves to indicate the divine presence. ... Just as a small fire can set a whole forest ablaze, so the faithful testimony of a few can release the purifying and transforming power of God’s love so that it spreads like wildfire throughout a community or a nation".

Benedict XVI concluded by mentioning his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. He said, "I saw for myself that there is a great spiritual hunger among the people. Bring them the true nourishment that comes from knowing, loving and serving Christ. Speak the truth of the Gospel to them with love. Offer them the living water of the Christian faith and point them towards the bread of life, so that their hunger and thirst may be satisfied. Above all, however, let the light of Christ shine through you by living lives of holiness, following in the footsteps of the many great saints of England and Wales, the holy men and women who bore witness to God’s love, even at the cost of their lives".

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