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Monday, September 10, 2007


VATICAN CITY, SEP 8, 2007 (VIS) - This evening, having bid farewell to the Benedictine community of the Austrian Shrine of Mariazell, the Pope travelled to the basilica where he presided at the celebration of Second Vespers with priests, religious, deacons and seminarians. During the celebration, the Holy Father pronounced a homily.

  "The Lord calls priests, religious and lay people to go into the world, in all its complexity, and to cooperate in the building up of God's Kingdom," he told those present. "The Lord invites you to join the Church 'on her pilgrim way through history.' He is inviting you to become pilgrims with Him and to share in His life which today too includes both the way of the Cross and the way of the Risen One through the Galilee of our existence."

  "Taking part in His journey thus entails both things: the dimension of the Cross - with failure, suffering, misunderstanding and even contempt and persecution - but also the experience of profound joy in His service and of the deep consolation born of an encounter with Him."

  "At the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ and of every Christian is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God," the Pope told his audience indicating that this means "a commitment to be present in the world as His witnesses. You testify to a 'meaning' rooted in God's creative love and opposed to every kind of meaninglessness and despair. ... You bear witness to that Love which sacrificed itself for humanity and thus conquered death. ... And so you stand against all forms of injustice, hidden or apparent, and against a growing contempt for man."

  "Following Christ means taking on ever more fully His mind and His way of life," said Pope Benedict, and he recalled the three distinctive elements of such commitment, "poverty, chastity and obedience."

  "Jesus Christ, Who was rich with the very richness of God, became poor for our sake. Himself poor, He called the poor 'blessed'," Yet "material poverty alone does not ensure God's closeness, even though God does remain particularly close to the poor. ... In the poor, Christians see the Christ Who awaits them. ... Anyone who wants to follow Christ in a radical way must decisively renounce material goods. But he or she must live this poverty in a way centered on Christ, as a means of becoming inwardly free for God and neighbor. For all Christians, but especially for priests and religious, both as individuals and in community, the issue of poverty and the poor must be the object of a constant and serious examination of conscience.

  "To understand correctly the meaning of chastity," the Holy Father proceeded, "we must start with its positive content." Christ's mission, he explained, "led Him to a pure and unreserved commitment to men and women. Sacred Scripture shows that at no moment of His life did He betray even the slightest trace of self-interest or selfishness in His relationship with others. ... Priests and religious are not aloof from interpersonal relationships. By their vow of celibate chastity they do not consecrate themselves to individualism or a life of isolation; instead, they solemnly promise to put completely and unreservedly at the service of God's Kingdom the deep relationships of which they are capable."

  Finally, referring to the question of obedience, the Pope observed how "Jesus lived His entire life, from the hidden years in Nazareth to the very moment of His death on the Cross in listening to the Father, in obedience to the Father. ... Christians have always known from experience that, in abandoning themselves to the will of the Father, they lose nothing, but instead discover their deepest identity and interior freedom." Hence, "listening to God and obeying Him has nothing to do with external constraint and the loss of oneself."

  "Jesus is concretely present to us only in His Body, the Church," Benedict XVI concluded. "As a result, obedience to God's will, obedience to Jesus Christ, must be, really and practically, humble obedience to the Church."

  The ceremony concluded with a procession to the chapel containing the image of the Virgin of Mariazell. The Pope then travelled by car to the town's heliport for the return journey to Vienna where he spent the night at the apostolic nunciature.
PV-AUSTRIA/VESPERS/MARIAZELL                VIS 20070910 (730)

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