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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - During today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of around 10,000 people, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the subject of Lent.

  "Today, Ash Wednesday," said the Pope, "we begin the Lenten journey, characterized by listening to the Word of God, by prayer and penance. Forty days during which the liturgy will help us to relive the principal moments of the Mystery of salvation."

  For the baptized, Lent is a "new 'catechumenate' in which we return to our Baptism in order to rediscover it and experience it more profoundly. ... It is an occasion to go back to being Christian via a constant process of interior transformation, and of progress in the knowledge and love of Christ."

  "Conversion," the Holy Father explained, is not something that happens once and for all, it is a process, ... a journey, ... that cannot be limited to a specific period but must embrace all existence."

  "In this light," he went on, "Lent is an appropriate spiritual moment to train ourselves more earnestly to seek God, opening our hearts to Christ. Conversion means seeking God. ... It is not an effort of self-realization. ... Self-realization is a contradiction, and it is too little for us. We have a higher destiny. ... Conversion consists precisely in not thinking that one is the 'creator' of oneself, and thus discovering the truth."

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to his Lenten Message for this year, in which he highlights "the immense love that God has for us," and invites Christians to remain "with Mary and John, the disciple Jesus loved, next to Him Who on the Cross gave his life for humanity."

  "The Cross is the definitive revelation of love and divine mercy, also for us, men and women of our time too often distracted by worldly and momentary concerns and interests. God is love and His love is the secret of our happiness. To enter into this mystery of love there is no other way than that of losing ourselves, giving ourselves, the way of the Cross."

  "For this reason," Benedict XVI concluded, "the liturgy of Lent invites us ... to reject sin and evil, and overcome selfishness and indifference, Prayer, fasting, penance and works of charity towards our brothers and sisters thus become spiritual paths to follow in order to return to God."

  Prior to today's audience, the Pope went to the Vatican Basilica where he met bishops from the Italian region of Umbria, who are currently on their five-yearly "as limina" visit.

  "The Church," the Holy Father told the prelates, "has the perennial mission of spreading the light of Christ's truth that illuminates peoples, that it may shine in all areas of society. In announcing the evangelical message, all Christian communities place themselves at the service of man and of the common good. Aware of this missionary mandate, encourage the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care to continue in their efforts to permeate modern culture with the vital lifeblood of divine grace. This is certainly not an easy task, but it is indispensable."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Pope to Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano, superior of the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio and to all members of the Camaldolese Order, for the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of the birth St. Peter Damian, whose feast day falls today.

  In his Message, dated February 20, the Holy Father writes that this anniversary "is an appropriate occasion to give more profound consideration to the aspects characterizing the saint's multifaceted personality as scholar, hermit, man of the Church and, above all, enamoured of Christ."

  "St. Peter Damian," he continues, "was first and foremost a hermit, indeed the last theoretician of hermitic life in the Latin Church," who lived "at the very moment when the schism between East and West came about."

  After highlighting how for St. Peter Damian "the hermit's life was a powerful call for all Christians to the primacy of Christ," Pope Benedict recalls that this Italian saint "was ready to travel from his hermitage and go anywhere his presence was necessary to mediate between contending parties, whether they were ecclesiastics, monks or simple faithful."

  "After each ecclesiastical mission he returned to the peace of his hermitage of Fonte Avellana and, free of all ambition, even definitively renounced the dignity of the cardinalate so as not to be drawn away from his hermit's solitude, the cell of his hidden life in Christ."

  The Holy Father also recalls that St. Peter Damian was "the soul of the 'Gregorian reform' which marked the passage from the first millennium to the second and of which Pope St. Gregory VII was the heart and the driving force."

  "With the pen and the word" the saint addressed "his hermit confreres, demanding the courage of a radical commitment to the Lord, as near as possible to martyrdom." He called on "Popes, bishops and high-ranking prelates to show evangelical detachment from honors and privileges in carrying out their ecclesial functions," and he reminded "priests of the exalted ideal of their mission, to be exercised with purity of private life and true individual poverty."

  St. Peter Damian's was aware "that only through a constant harmonic tension between the two fundamental poles of life - solitude and communion - can effective Christian testimony develop. Is not this," the Pope concludes, "also a valid teaching for our own times."
MESS/ST. PETER DAMIAN/GARGANO                VIS 20070221 (410)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from Benedict XVI to Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, emeritus of Warsaw, Poland. The text bears the date of February 12.

  The Holy Father thanks the archbishop "for the trust with which you opened your soul before me, showing the anguished suffering of you heart throughout your life as a priest and bishop, until the moment of your resignation from the office of archbishop of Warsaw.

  "In recent times I have participated in you sufferings and wish to assure you of my spiritual closeness and fraternal understanding.

  "As for the past, I am fully aware of the exceptional circumstances in which you had to undertake your service, when the communist regime in Poland used all possible means to suffocate the freedom of citizens, and particularly of the clergy.

  "As rector of the University of Lublin and as bishop of Plock you gave proof of your great piety, and of your profound love for Jesus Christ and for the Church.

  "When, one month ago, you presented your resignation in the awareness that the situation that had arisen made it impossible for you to begin your episcopal service with the indispensable degree of authority, I clearly saw in this act a profound sensitivity for the good of the Church of Warsaw and of Poland, as well as your own humility and detachment from office.

  "I would like, first of all, to encourage you to maintain faith and serenity of heart. I express the desire that you may resume your activity at the service of Christ, in whatever way proves possible, so that your vast and profound knowledge and priestly piety may be used for the good of the beloved Church in Poland.

  "The episcopal mission, today as in the past, is marked by suffering. May Our Lord never cease to support you with His grace. Help will also come from the friendship of brother bishops and of the people who have known and respected you."
BXVI-LETTER/.../WIELGUS                    VIS 20070221 (350)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - On February 25, the first Sunday of Lent, the annual spiritual exercises of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia will begin in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. This year's exercises, dedicated to the theme "the things of above," will be directed by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy.

  The retreat will begin with Eucharistic exposition at 6 p.m., the celebration of Vespers, an introductory meditation, adoration and Eucharistic blessing.

  Over the following days there will be the celebration of Lauds and meditation at 9 a.m.; celebration of Terce and meditation at 10.15 a.m.; meditation at 5 p.m.; and Vespers, adoration and Eucharistic blessing at 5.45 p.m.

  The spiritual exercises will come to an end on Saturday, March 3, with the celebration of Lauds and a closing meditation at 9 a.m.

  During the retreat all audiences will be cancelled, including the weekly general audience of Wednesday, February 28.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday, the Holy Father received in audience Fr. Wojciech Giertych O.P., theologian of the Pontifical Household.
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