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Friday, July 18, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 18 JUL 2008 (VIS) - This morning, after celebrating Mass in the chapel of Cathedral House in Sydney, the Holy Father received in private audiences Marie Bashir, governor of New South Wales; Morris Iemma, premier of New South Wales, and Clover Moore, mayor of Sydney, each accompanied by members of their family.

  Shortly before 10.30 a.m., Benedict XVI went to the crypt of St. Mary's Cathedral where he presided at an ecumenical meeting with 40 representatives of other Churches and Christian confessions, and with members of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council. Following introductory greetings from Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, and Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth of Sydney, the Pope pronounced an address:

  "Australia is a country marked by much ethnic and religious diversity", he said, "a nation which recognises the importance of religious freedom. This is a fundamental right which ... allows citizens to act upon values which are rooted in their deepest beliefs, contributing thus to the well-being of society".

  Benedict XVI mentioned the second millennium of the birth of St. Paul which the Church is celebrating this year, recalling how the Apostle of the Gentiles affirmed that through Baptism we become members of the Body of Christ. "This Sacrament, entryway to the Church and 'bond of unity'", said the Pope, "is the point of departure for the entire ecumenical movement. Yet it is not the final destination. The road of ecumenism ultimately points towards a common celebration of the Eucharist, which Christ entrusted to His Apostles as the Sacrament of the Church's unity par excellence".

  "For this reason, a candid dialogue concerning the place of the Eucharist - stimulated by a renewed and attentive study of scripture, patristic writings, and documents from across the two millennia of Christian history - will undoubtedly help to advance the ecumenical movement and unify our witness to the world".

  The ecumenical movement has, the Pope observed, "reached a critical juncture. To move forward, we must continually ask God to renew our minds with the Holy Spirit, Who speaks to us through the scriptures and guides us into all truth. We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live".

  "The more closely we strive for a deeper understanding of the divine mysteries, the more eloquently our works of charity will speak of God's bountiful goodness and love towards all. ... Ecumenical dialogue advances not only through an exchange of ideas but by a sharing in mutually enriching gifts. An 'idea' aims at truth; a 'gift' expresses love. Both are essential to dialogue. Opening ourselves to accept spiritual gifts from other Christians quickens our ability to perceive the light of truth which comes from the Holy Spirit.

  "St. Paul", Pope Benedict added, "teaches that it is within the 'koinonia' of the Church that we have access to and the means of safeguarding the truth of the Gospel, for the Church is 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets' with Jesus Himself as the cornerstone".

  "Every element of the Church's structure is important, yet all of them would falter and crumble without the cornerstone Who is Christ. As 'fellow citizens' of the 'household of God', Christians must work together to ensure that the edifice stands strong so that others will be attracted to enter and discover the abundant treasures of grace within. As we promote Christian values, we must not neglect to proclaim their source by giving a common witness to Jesus Christ the Lord".

  Following the ceremony, Benedict XVI went to the chapter house of the cathedral where he met with 40 representatives of other religions.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 JUL 2008 (VIS) - Following today's ecumenical meeting, the Pope met with representatives of other religions in the chapter house of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

  Having been greeted by a representative from the Jewish community, and another from the Muslim community, the Pope began his talk by reiterating once again that Australia "is a nation that holds freedom of religion in high regard".

  "A harmonious relationship between religion and public life is all the more important at a time when some people have come to consider religion as a cause of division rather than a force for unity. In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity".

  "Religious sense", he said, "leads us to meet the needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good. Religions have a special role in this regard, for they teach people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world's goods".

  "These values, I am sure you will agree, are particularly important to the adequate formation of young people, who are so often tempted to view life itself as a commodity", said Benedict XVI.

  After indicating that "the world's religions draw constant attention to the wonder of human existence", the Pope explained how "men and women are endowed with the ability not only to imagine how things might be better, but to invest their energies to make them better. ... Yet religion, by reminding us of human finitude and weakness, also enjoins us not to place our ultimate hope in this passing world".

  The Church, said Pope Benedict, "approaches dialogue believing that the true source of freedom is found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe it is He Who fully discloses the human potential for virtue and goodness, and He Who liberates us from sin and darkness. The universality of human experience, which transcends all geographical boundaries and cultural limitations, makes it possible for followers of religions to engage in dialogue so as to grapple with the mystery of life's joys and sufferings".

  "My dear friends, I have come to Australia as an ambassador of peace. ... Our effort to bring about reconciliation between peoples springs from, and is directed to, that truth which gives purpose to life. Religion offers peace, but more importantly, it arouses within the human spirit a thirst for truth and a hunger for virtue. May we encourage everyone - especially the young - to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realise its sublime potential!"

  Following the meeting, the Holy Father returned to Cathedral House where he had lunch with Cardinal George Pell and twelve young people from various countries: a young man and young woman from each of the continents, and a young man and young woman from Australia.


VATICAN CITY, 18 JUL 2008 (VIS) - At 3 p.m. local time today on the square in front of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Benedict XVI led the first station of the Way of the Cross, which is traditionally celebrated by young people during World Youth Days. At the end of his prayer, the Pope descended into the crypt of the cathedral to follow a televised transmission of the remaining stations of the Cross through the streets of Sydney. The event was also shown on giant screens set up along the route.

  At the end of the Way of the Cross, the Pope travelled by car to the University of Notre Dame Australia, which was founded by an Act of the Parliament of Western Australia in 1989 and enrolled its first students in 1992. The institution's various faculties focus on Catholic pastoral concern for ethical and humanistic values.

  On his arrival, the Pope was greeted by the chancellor of the university who accompanied him to the Sacred Heart chapel. There the pontiff met young people with histories of drug addiction and other problems, who are following the "Alive" rehabilitation programme.

  The name of the rehabilitation programme was the central focus of the Holy Father's remarks. He recalled Moses' words in the Old Testament: "'I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of the Lord your God, ... for in this your life consists'.

  "It was clear what they had to do", the Pope explained, "they had to turn away from other gods and worship the true God Who had revealed himself to Moses - and they had to obey His commandments. You might think that in today's world, people are unlikely to start worshipping other gods. But sometimes people worship 'other gods' without realising it. False 'gods' ... are nearly always associated with the worship of three things: material possessions, possessive love, or power".

  "Material possessions, in themselves, are good. We would not survive for long without money, clothing and shelter. ... Yet if we are greedy, if we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, then we make our possessions into a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god. Instead of bringing life, they bring death.

  "Authentic love is obviously something good", the Pope continued. "When we love, we become most fully ourselves, most fully human. But ... people often think they are being loving when actually they are being possessive or manipulative. People sometimes treat others as objects to satisfy their own needs. ... How easy it is to be deceived by the many voices in our society that advocate a permissive approach to sexuality, without regard for modesty, self-respect or the moral values that bring quality to human relationships!"

  "The power God has given us to shape the world around us is obviously something good. Used properly and responsibly, it enables us to transform people's lives. ... Yet how tempting it can be to grasp at power for its own sake, to seek to dominate others or to exploit the natural environment for selfish purposes!"

  "The cult of material possessions, the cult of possessive love and the cult of power often lead people to attempt to 'play God': to try to seize total control, with no regard for the wisdom or the commandments that God has made known to us. This is the path that leads towards death. By contrast, worship of the one true God means recognising in Him the source of all goodness, ... that is the way to choose life".

  Benedict XVI then referred to the personal life stories of many members of the community, who made "choices that led you down a path which, however attractive it appeared at the time, only led you deeper into misery and abandonment". And he acknowledged their "courage in choosing to turn back onto the path of life".

  "Dear friends", he concluded, "I see you as ambassadors of hope to others in similar situations. You can convince them of the need to choose the path of life and shun the path of death, because you speak from experience. All through the Gospels, it was those who had taken wrong turnings who were particularly loved by Jesus, because once they recognised their mistake, they were all the more open to His healing message. ... It was those who were willing to rebuild their lives who were most ready to listen to Jesus and become His disciples. You can follow in their footsteps, you too can grow particularly close to Jesus because you have chosen to turn back towards Him".
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VATICAN CITY, 18 JUL 2008 (VIS) - On Saturday and Sunday 19 and 20 July, the Vatican Information Service will offer its readers two special editions on the prayer vigil and Mass to be presided by the Pope in Sydney, Australia, for 23rd World Youth Day.
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