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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


VATICAN CITY, APR 5, 2007 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope. The homily was followed by the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed.

  In his homily the Pope recalled the moment during a priest's ordination in which he dons the liturgical vestments, saying: "In this exterior gesture the Church wishes to make the interior event clear to us, and the task that arises therefrom: to don Christ, to give oneself to Him as He gave Himself to us. This event, this 'donning of Christ,' is represented ever and anew in each Mass."

  The liturgical vestments, then, Benedict XVI commented, "illustrate what it means 'to don Christ,' to speak and to talk 'in persona Christi'."

  The amice, he continued, "used to be placed over the head like a kind of hood, thus becoming a symbol of that discipline of the senses and the mind which is necessary for the celebration of Mass."

  The texts that interpret the alb and the stole "evoke the festive robes that the father gave to the prodigal son when he returned home dirty and in rags. When we celebrate the liturgy, acting 'in persona Christi,' we are all aware just how far from Him we are, how much dirt there is in our own lives. Only He can give us the festive robes, make us worthy of presiding at His table and of serving Him."

  In donning the alb, said the Holy Father, "we must remember that His suffering was for me also. And only because His love is greater than all of my sins can I represent Him and be a witness to His light. ... We ask the Lord to eliminate all hostility from our hearts, to remove all feelings of self-sufficiency and truly to dress us with the robe of love, that we may become people of light and not of the shadows."

  The Pope then went on to recall that the chasuble represents "the yoke of the Lord which has been imposed upon us as priests. ... To bear the Lord's yoke means above all learning from Him, being always ready to go to His school. We must learn mildness and humility, the humility of God which was expressed in His becoming man."

  At 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards His Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of 12 men, representatives of lay associations in the diocese of Rome. At the presentation of the gifts, the Holy Father was given an offering to help support a medical center in Baidoa, Somalia.

  In his homily, Pope Benedict noted the existence of "an apparent contradiction between the Gospel of St. John on the one hand, and what Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us on the other," concerning the exact date of the Last Supper. "According to John, Jesus died on the Cross at the exact moment in which the Easter lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. ... This means, however, that He died on the Easter vigil and, therefore, could not have personally celebrated the Easter supper. ... On the other hand, according to the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus' Last Supper was an Easter supper, to the traditional form of which He added the novelty of the gift of His body and His blood. Until a few years ago, this contradiction appeared impossible to resolve."

  "The discovery of the manuscripts of Qumran has led us to a possible convincing solution which, though not yet accepted by everyone, still remains highly probable. We can now say that what John wrote was historically accurate. Jesus truly did spill His blood on the Easter vigil at the moment the lambs were being sacrificed. However He probably celebrated Easter with His disciples in accordance with the calendar of Qumran, and therefore at least one day early - and he celebrated without the lamb. ... No, not without the lamb: in place of the lamb he gave Himself, His body and His blood. ... He offered His own life. Only in this way did the ancient Easter find its true meaning."

  "The nostalgic, and in some way ineffective, gesture of sacrificing the innocent and immaculate lamb, found its response in Him Who for us became both Lamb and Temple.

  "Thus," the Pope added, "at the center of Jesus' new Easter was the Cross. From there came the new gift He brought. And so it always remains in the Blessed Eucharist, in which we are able to celebrate the new Easter with the Apostles over the course of the centuries."

  The Pope concluded by asking the Lord "to help us to an ever more profound understanding of this wonderful mystery, to love it ever more deeply and, in it, to love Him ever more deeply. We pray to Him to draw us ever more to Himself in Holy Communion. We pray to Him to help us not to keep our lives for ourselves but to give them to Him and thus to work with Him, so that mankind may discover life, true life that can only come from Him Who is Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 6, 2007 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, Good Friday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion. Following the reading of the Passion according to St. John, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced his customary Good Friday homily. The ceremony continued with the universal prayer, veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

  At 9.15 p.m., the Holy Father travelled to the Colosseum where he led the 'Via Crucis' or Way of the Cross. The meditations this year were prepared by Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, prefect of the Ambrosian Library of Milan, Italy.

  Benedict XVI carried the cross for the first and last stations. Over the other stations, it was carried by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, a family from the city, four young women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Korea, China and Angola, a young man from Chile and two Franciscans from the Custody of the Holy Land.

  At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff remarks to those present: "Following Jesus on the way of His Passion we see not only the Passion of Jesus, but all the suffering people of the world. This is the profound intention of the 'Via Crucis' prayer: to open our hearts and to help us see with the heart.

  "The Fathers of the Church considered insensitivity and hardness of heart as the greatest sin of the pagan world, and they used to like this prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel: 'I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.' Conversion to Christ, becoming Christian, meant receiving a heart of flesh, a heart sensitive to the passion and suffering of others.

  "Our God is not a distant God, untouchable in His beatitude. Our God has a heart. Indeed, he has a heart of flesh, He became flesh precisely so as to suffer with us and to be with us in our suffering. He became man in order to give us a heart of flesh and to reawaken in us the love for the suffering and the needy.

  "At this time," he concluded, "we pray to the Lord for all those suffering in the world. We pray to the Lord that He may truly give us a heart of flesh, that He may make us messengers of His love not only with words but with all of our lives. Amen."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 7, 2007 (VIS) - At 10 this evening in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to six catechumens and baptized two infants.

  The celebration began in the atrium of the basilica where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession towards the altar with the singing of the "Exultet." Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

  In his homily, the Pope recalled how "from ancient times the liturgy of Easter day has begun with the words: 'Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum' - I arose, and am still with you; you have set your hand upon me. The liturgy sees these as the first words spoken by the Son to the Father after His resurrection, after His return from the night of death into the world of the living."

  In Psalm 38, whence this phrase comes, the psalmist "imagines himself journeying to the farthest reaches of the cosmos," while "on Easter day the Church tells us that Jesus Christ made that journey to the ends of the universe for our sake." And the "words of the Risen Christ to the Father have also become words which the Lord speaks to us: 'I arose and now I am still with you,' He says to each of us. My hand upholds you. ... Where no one can accompany you further, and where you can bring nothing, even there I am waiting for you, and for you I will change darkness into light.

  "These words of the Psalm," the Pope added, "also explain what takes place at Baptism. Baptism is more than a bath, a purification. It is more than becoming part of a community. It is a new birth. A new beginning in life. ... In Baptism we give ourselves over to Christ. ... As a result we are never alone, even in death, but are always with the One who lives for ever."

  The Pope then went on to consider the words "descended into hell" which form part of the Creed, and the images used to illustrate Christ's descent to the gates of death in order to open them. "The gates of death are closed, no one can return from there. There is no key for those iron doors. But Christ has the key. His Cross opens wide the gates of death. ... The love of the One who, though God, became man in order to die - this love has the power to open those doors. This love is stronger than death."

  "The human soul was created immortal - what exactly did Christ bring that was new?" asked the Holy Father before going on to explain: "The soul is indeed immortal, because man in a unique way remains in God's memory and love, even after his fall. But his own powers are insufficient to lift him up to God. ... And yet, nothing else can satisfy man eternally, except being with God. ... Only the Risen Christ can bring us to complete union with God, to the place where our own powers are unable to bring us. Truly Christ puts the lost sheep upon His shoulders and carries it home. Clinging to His Body we have life, and in communion with His Body we reach the very heart of God. Only thus is death conquered, we are set free and our life is hope.

  "This," he added, "is the joy of the Easter vigil: we are free. In the resurrection of Jesus, love has been shown to be stronger than death, stronger than evil. Love made Christ descend, and love is also the power by which He ascends. The power by which he brings us with Him. ... On this night, then, let us pray: Lord, show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger than death. Descend into the darkness and the abyss of our modern age, and take by the hand those who await you. Bring them to the light!"
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VATICAN CITY, APR 8, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI celebrated the Easter Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at 10.30 this morning in St. Peter's Square, which was decorated, as is traditional, with flowers, shrubs and flowering plants from Holland. At midday, from the central loggia of the basilica, he pronounced his Easter Message, delivered Easter greetings in various languages and imparted his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

  In his Message, the Holy Father spoke of the feelings of the women who on the morning of the Resurrection found Christ's tomb open and empty: "feelings of sadness and dismay at the death of their Lord, feelings of disbelief and amazement before a fact too astonishing to be true." He also pointed out how "the faith of the Apostles in Jesus, the expected Messiah, had been submitted to a severe trial by the scandal of the cross" until "the Risen One Himself [came] in response to their thirst for greater certainty ... and said to them, 'peace be with you.'

  "At these words," the Pope added, "their faith, which was almost spent within them, was re-kindled. The Apostles told Thomas who had been absent from that first extraordinary encounter. ... Thomas however remained doubtful and perplexed. When Jesus came for a second time, eight days later in the Upper Room, He said to him: 'put your finger here and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing!' The Apostle's response is a moving profession of faith: 'My Lord and my God!'

  "'My Lord and my God!' We too renew that profession of faith of Thomas. I have chosen these words for my Easter greetings this year, because humanity today expects from Christians a renewed witness to the resurrection of Christ; it needs to encounter Him and to know Him as true God and true man. If we can recognize in this Apostle the doubts and uncertainties of so many Christians today, the fears and disappointments of many of our contemporaries, with him we can also rediscover with renewed conviction, faith in Christ dead and risen for us."

  "We may all be tempted by the disbelief of Thomas. Suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger, does not all of this put our faith to the test? Paradoxically the disbelief of Thomas is most valuable to us in these cases because it helps to purify all false concepts of God and leads us to discover His true face: the face of a God who, in Christ, has taken upon Himself the wounds of injured humanity. Thomas has received from the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of a faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed by meeting Him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to us in the trials and sufferings of every human being."

  "Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith. How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world! Natural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction are not lacking. My thoughts go to recent events in Madagascar, in the Solomon Islands, in Latin America and in other regions of the world.

  "I am thinking of the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons," said the Holy Father.

  "I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa. In Darfur and in the neighboring countries there is a catastrophic, and sad to say underestimated, humanitarian situation. In Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the violence and looting of the past weeks raises fears for the future of the Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of the country. In Somalia the renewed fighting has driven away the prospect of peace and worsened a regional crisis, especially with regard to the displacement of populations and the traffic of arms. Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis and for this reason the bishops of that country in a recent document indicated prayer and a shared commitment for the common good as the only way forward.

  "Likewise the population of East Timor stands in need of reconciliation and peace as it prepares to hold important elections. Elsewhere too, peace is sorely needed: in Sri Lanka only a negotiated solution can put an end to the conflict that causes so much bloodshed; Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability.

  "In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon the paralysis of the country's political institutions threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy. Finally, I cannot forget the difficulties faced daily by the Christian communities and the exodus of Christians from that blessed Land which is the cradle of our faith. I affectionately renew to these populations the expression of my spiritual closeness."

  "Through the wounds of the Risen Christ we can see the evils which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope," the Holy Father concluded. "In fact, by His rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the superabundance of His grace. He has countered the arrogance of evil with the supremacy of His love. He has left us the love that does not fear death, as the way to peace and joy."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 9, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, Easter Monday, the Pope appeared at the balcony of the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo to pray the Regina Coeli with pilgrims gathered in the square below and, through a television linkup, with faithful in St. Peter's Square. The Pope travelled to his Castelgandolfo residence yesterday evening to rest after the Easter celebrations.

  Before the Marian prayer, the Pope mentioned "the unspeakable joy" of Mary Magdalene and the women to whom Jesus appeared on the morning of His resurrection, and he recalled how, "full of enthusiasm, they ran to tell the disciples.

  "To us too today," the Pope added, "just as to those women who remained next to Jesus during the Passion, the Risen One tells us not to be afraid to become messengers announcing His resurrection. Those who encounter the Risen Jesus and meekly entrust themselves to Him have nothing to fear. This is the message that Christians are called to spread to the ends of the earth. Christian faith arises not from the acceptance of a doctrine but from the meeting with a Person, with Christ Who died and rose again.

  "In our daily lives, there are many occasions in which to communicate this faith of ours to others in a simple and confident way. And it is more than ever vital for the men and women of our time to know and meet Jesus and, thanks also to our own example, to let themselves be conquered by Him."

  The Pope concluded by calling upon the Virgin Mary to sustain "faith in the resurrection in each one of us, and to make us messengers of the hope and love of the Risen Christ."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 10, 2007 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today released a communique announcing that, at 10 a.m. on Sunday April 15, Divine Mercy Sunday, the Holy Father will preside at a Eucharistic celebration to mark his 80th birthday, which falls the following day, April 16.

  Cardinals, archbishops and bishops of the Roman Curia, as well as auxiliary bishops and a representative of the priests of the diocese of Rome, will all concelebrate with the Pope.

  "The Church in Rome and in the various parts of the world" the communique reads, "is invited to join the Holy Father Benedict XVI in raising to God the Father an intense prayer of thanksgiving for his 80th birthday and for the second anniversary of his election."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 11, 2007 (VIS) - More than 50,000 people attended today's general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope, who arrived by helicopter from his residence in Castelgandolfo, dedicated his catechesis to the Easter Octave.

  After reiterating his best wishes for Easter to the faithful, Benedict XVI spoke of Jesus' various appearances following His resurrection. "Also for us," he said, "they represent an invitation to enter more deeply into the Easter message ... and to follow the spiritual itinerary of the people who met Christ and recognized Him in those first days."

  The Pope then recalled how St. John and St. Peter, after Mary had given them the news of the resurrection, had run to the tomb each trying to arrive there first, and he highlighted how for the Fathers of the Church this race towards the empty tomb represented "the one form of legitimate competition between believers: zeal in the search for Christ." Referring to Mary Magdalene, the Holy Father pointed out how she recognized Jesus "when He called her by her name."

  "We too, if we seek the Lord with a simple and sincere heart, will find Him. Indeed, He Himself will come out to meet us, ... He will call us by name, ... He will draw us into the intimacy of His love." Like the Apostles, "we are called to be witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. We cannot keep the great news to ourselves, we must spread it to the entire world."

  "If the Apostles had Jesus at their table," said the Pope recalling the supper at Emmaus, "then we have Him in our hearts." Of course, Benedict XVI explained, "when the sacred author tells us that Jesus appeared alive, this does not mean that He returned to his old life, as Lazarus had. The Easter we celebrate ... is a 'passage,' not a 'return.' Jesus did not go back to His earlier condition, He crossed a frontier to a more glorious, new and definitive condition."

  When Jesus tells Mary Magdalene "do not detain me because I have not yet ascended," said the Pope, these words seem to contrast with the invitation to Thomas to put his finger in Jesus' side to ensure He was alive. "In fact, though, there is no contrast between the two episodes, on the contrary, one helps to understand the other. Mary Magdalene would have wished her Master as He was before, seeing the cross as a dramatic interlude best forgotten. Now, however, there was no longer any place for a merely human relationship with the Risen One. To meet Him there was no turning back, but the creation of a new relationship with Him." And Christ showed His wound to Thomas, "not to forget the cross but to make it unforgettable. ... The mission of disciples is to bear witness to the death and resurrection of their Master and of their new life."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 11, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Mariana (area 22,680, population 1,163,320, Catholics 927,300, priests 200, permanent deacons 15, religious 286), Brazil.

 - Appointed Bishop Bruno Pedron S.D.B., of Jardim, Brazil, as bishop of Ji-Parana (area 100,000, population 733,000, Catholics 409,000, priests 49, religious 103), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Antonio Possamai S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Santiago Agrelo Martinez O.F.M., professor at the theological institute of Compostela, Spain, as archbishop of Tanger (area 28,000, population 4,200,000, Catholics 2,000, priests 9, religious 84), Morocco. The archbishop-elect was born in 1942 and ordained a priest in 1966.

  On Tuesday, April 10, it was made public that he:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Des Moines, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Joseph L. Charron C.PP.S., in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

 - Appointed Bishop Hipolito Reyes Larios of Orizaba, Mexico as metropolitan archbishop of Jalapa (area 6,137, population 1,156,000, Catholics 1,105,000, priests 144, religious 309), Mexico. The archbishop-elect was born in Ciudad Mendoza, Mexico in 1946, he was ordained a priest in 1973, and consecrated a bishop in 2000. He succeeds Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Reinaldo Del Prette Lissot of Maracay, Venezuela, as metropolitan archbishop of Valencia en Venezuela (area 3,921, population 1,981,767, Catholics 1,771,000, priests 121, permanent deacons 1, religious 244), Venezuela. The archbishop-elect was born in Valencia in 1952, he was ordained a priest in 1976, and consecrated a bishop in 1994.

  On Thursday, April 5, it was made public that he appointed Msgr. Salvatore Visco of the clergy of the diocese of Pozzuoli, Italy, vicar general, as bishop of Isernia-Venafro (area 740, population 63,000, Catholics 60,000, priests 75, permanent deacons 12, religious 70), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Naples, Italy in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1973.
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