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Saturday, July 19, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 19 JUL 2008 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today, the Pope celebrated Mass for bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and religious at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. The cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians, patroness of Australia.

  In his homily the Pope made reference to the new altar, which he dedicated during the ceremony, pointing out that "in today's liturgy the Church reminds us that, like this altar, we too have been consecrated, set 'apart' for the service of God and the building up of His Kingdom. All too often, however, we find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God 'aside'. In the name of human freedom and autonomy, God's name is passed over in silence, religion is reduced to private devotion, and faith is shunned in the public square. At times this mentality, so completely at odds with the core of the Gospel, can even cloud our own understanding of the Church and her mission.

  "We too", he added, "can be tempted to make the life of faith a matter of mere sentiment, thus blunting its power to inspire a consistent vision of the world and a rigorous dialogue with the many other visions competing for the minds and hearts of our contemporaries.

  "Yet history", he continued, "shows that the question of God will never be silenced, and that indifference to the religious dimension of human existence ultimately diminishes and betrays man himself. Is that not the message which is proclaimed by the magnificent architecture of this cathedral? Is that not the mystery of faith which will be proclaimed from this altar at every celebration of the Eucharist?"

  "Wherever man is diminished, the world around us is also diminished; it loses its ultimate meaning and strays from its goal. What emerges is a culture, not of life, but of death. How could this be considered 'progress'? It is a backward step, a form of regression which ultimately dries up the very sources of life for individuals and all of society".

  After indicating that "today's liturgy offers an eloquent symbol of that progressive spiritual transformation to which each of us is called", the Pope expressed the hope that "this celebration, in the presence of the Successor of Peter, may be a moment of rededication and renewal for the whole Church in Australia".

  He went on: "Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured, and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church's witness. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people".

  Turning then to address young religious and seminarians, the Pope encouraged them to "enter sincerely and deeply into the discipline and spirit of your programmes of formation. Walk in Christ's light daily through fidelity to personal and liturgical prayer, nourished by meditation on the inspired word of God. ... Make the daily celebration of the Eucharist the centre of your life".

  "Model your lives daily", he told them, "on the Lord's own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. You will then discover the freedom and joy which can draw others to the Love which lies beyond all other loves as their source and their ultimate fulfilment.

  "Never forget that celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom means embracing a life completely devoted to love, a love that enables you to commit yourselves fully to God's service and to be totally present to your brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The greatest treasures that you share with other young people - your idealism, your generosity, your time and energy - these are the very sacrifices which you are placing upon the Lord's altar. May you always cherish this beautiful charism which God has given you for His glory and the building up of the Church!"

  Following Mass, Benedict XVI returned to Cathedral House where he had lunch with Australian bishops and his entourage.
PV-AUSTRALIA/MASS ST. MARY'S/SYDNEY                    VIS 20080719 (770)


VATICAN CITY, 19 JUL 2008 (VIS) - Shortly before 7 p.m. today, Benedict XVI arrived at Randwick Racecourse, the largest in Australia, where he presided at the World Youth Day prayer vigil with thousands of young people. The site, which has capacity for 300,000 people, has also hosted events with Paul VI (in 1970) and John Paul II (in 1986). The beatification ceremony Sr. Mary MacKillop, presided by John Paul II, was also held here in 1995.

  The prayer vigil began with the racecourse in darkness, gradually illuminated by torches borne by dancers on the podium, representing the opening to the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, the World Youth Day cross and flag were positioned on the stage in anticipation of the Pope's arrival, who entered accompanied by 12 pilgrims while the assembly sang the hymn "Our Lady of the Southern Cross".

  An indigenous woman lit the candles carried by the 12 pilgrims, who in their turn lit those of the assembly and of the bishops. Seven young people then invoked the Holy Spirit through the intercession of the patrons of WYD.

  "Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses", the Pope told the young people in his address. "You are already well aware that our Christian witness is offered to a world which in many ways is fragile. The unity of God's creation is weakened by wounds which run particularly deep when social relations break apart, or when the human spirit is all but crushed through the exploitation and abuse of persons. Indeed, society today is being fragmented by a way of thinking that is inherently short-sighted, because it disregards the full horizon of truth, the truth about God and about us. By its nature, relativism fails to see the whole picture. It ignores the very principles which enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony".

  "Unity and reconciliation cannot be achieved through our efforts alone. God has made us for one another and only in God and His Church can we find the unity we seek. Yet, in the face of imperfections and disappointments - both individual and institutional - we are sometimes tempted to construct artificially a 'perfect' community. That temptation is not new. The history of the Church includes many examples of attempts to bypass or override human weaknesses or failures in order to create a perfect unity, a spiritual utopia".

  Yet, the Pope went on, "such attempts to construct unity in fact undermine it. To separate the Holy Spirit from Christ present in the Church's institutional structure would compromise the unity of the Christian community, which is precisely the Spirit's gift! ... Unfortunately the temptation to 'go it alone' persists. Some today portray their local community as somehow separate from the so-called institutional Church, by speaking of the former as flexible and open to the Spirit and the latter as rigid and devoid of the Spirit.

  "Unity is of the essence of the Church", he added, "it is a gift we must recognise and cherish. Tonight, let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it! resist any temptation to walk away! For it is precisely the comprehensiveness, the vast vision, of our faith - solid yet open, consistent yet dynamic, true yet constantly growing in insight - that we can offer our world".

  "Be watchful! Listen!" the Holy Father told his audience. "Through the dissonance and division of our world, can you hear the concordant voice of humanity?" he asked them. What emerges, he said, is "the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity. Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, ... to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit! This is the Spirit's role: to bring Christ's work to fulfilment. Enriched with the Spirit's gifts, you will have the power to move beyond the piecemeal, the hollow utopia, the fleeting, to offer the consistency and certainty of Christian witness!"

  "The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity. A clear understanding of the Spirit almost seems beyond our reach", said Pope Benedict, going on to explain, however, that St. Augustine comes to our aid with his three "particular insights" about the Holy Spirit "as the bond of unity within the Blessed Trinity: unity as communion, unity as abiding love, and unity as giving and gift".

  St. Augustine affirms, Benedict XVI recalled, "that the two words 'Holy' and 'Spirit' refer to what is divine about God; in other words what is shared by the Father and the Son: their communion. So, if the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to be what is shared by the Father and the Son, Augustine concluded that the Spirit's particular quality is unity".

  "True unity could never be founded upon relationships which deny the equal dignity of other persons. Nor is unity simply the sum total of the groups through which we sometimes attempt to 'define' ourselves. In fact, only in the life of communion is unity sustained and human identity fulfilled: we recognise the common need for God, we respond to the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit, and we give ourselves to one another in service".

  Augustine's second insight concerns love, the Pope explained. "Ideas or voices which lack love - even if they seem sophisticated or knowledgeable - cannot be 'of the Spirit'", he said. "Furthermore, love has a particular trait: ... to abide. By its nature love is enduring". Thus "we catch a further glimpse of how much the Holy Spirit offers our world: love which dispels uncertainty; love which overcomes the fear of betrayal; love which carries eternity within; the true love which draws us into a unity that abides!"

  As for the third insight, "the Holy Spirit as gift", Benedict XVI said: "The Holy Spirit is God eternally giving Himself; like a never-ending spring He pours forth nothing less than Himself. In view of this ceaseless gift, we come to see the limitations of all that perishes, the folly of the consumerist mindset. We begin to understand why the quest for novelty leaves us unsatisfied and wanting. Are we not looking for an eternal gift? The spring that will never run dry?"

  "Dear young people, we have seen that it is the Holy Spirit Who brings about the wonderful communion of believers in Jesus Christ. True to His nature as giver and gift alike, He is even now working through you. Inspired by the insights of St. Augustine: let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!"

  "Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: He is the artisan of God's works", the Pope concluded. "Let His gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit's gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the Sacraments. ... In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God's love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!"

  Having concluded his remarks, 24 catechumens was presented to the Holy Father, upon whom he will impart the Sacrament of Confirmation tomorrow. The prayer vigil will continue through the night, with the Eucharist adoration alternating with moments of silence in preparation for tomorrow's Mass.
PV-AUSTRALIA/VIGIL/RANDWICK SYDNEY                        VIS 20080719 (1300)

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