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Saturday, September 13, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 13 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 10 a.m. today, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on the esplanade of Les Invalides in Paris, a complex of buildings that includes a hospital for war veterans, a military museum and the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides with a great dome under which is the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte.

  "In the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians", said the Pope in his homily to the more than 200,000 people present, "we discover ... how much the counsels given by the Apostle remain important today. 'Shun the worship of idols', he writes to a community deeply marked by paganism and divided between adherence to the newness of the Gospel and the observance of former practices inherited from its ancestors".

  "Apart from the people of Israel, who had received the revelation of the one God, the ancient world was in thrall to the worship of idols. Strongly present in Corinth, the errors of paganism had to be denounced, for they constituted a powerful source of alienation and they diverted man from his true destiny. They prevented him from recognising that Christ is the sole Saviour, the only One Who points out to man the path to God.

  "This appeal to shun idols", he added, "is also pertinent today. ... The word 'idol' comes from the Greek and means 'image', 'figure', 'representation', but also 'ghost', 'phantom', 'vain appearance'. An idol is a delusion, for it turns its worshipper away from reality and places him in the kingdom of mere appearances".

  "Now", the Pope asked, "is this not a temptation in our own day - the only one we can act upon effectively? The temptation to idolise a past that no longer exists, forgetting its shortcomings; the temptation to idolise a future which does not yet exist, in the belief that, by his efforts alone, man can bring about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth!" In the same way, "have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even for knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?"

  Yet "radical condemnation of idolatry", said the Pope quoting St. John Chrysostom whose feast day falls today, "is never a personal condemnation of the idolater. In our judgements, must we never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness".

  "Never does God ... ask man to sacrifice his reason! Reason never enters into real contradiction with faith! The one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - created our reason and gives us faith, proposing to our freedom that it be received as a precious gift. It is the worship of idols which diverts man from this perspective.

  "Let us therefore ask God, who sees us and hears us, to help us purify ourselves from all idols, in order to arrive at the truth of our being, in order to arrive at the truth of His infinite being!"

  "St. Paul asks us to make use not only of our reason, but above all our faith in order to discover Him. Now, what does faith say to us? The bread that we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion with the Blood of Christ".

  "Over the last twenty centuries", the Holy Father recalled, "the risen Lord has given Himself to His people. ... Let us give the greatest veneration to the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament of the real presence of the Lord to his Church and to all humanity".

  "The Mass is the sacrifice of thanksgiving par excellence, the one which allows us to unite our own thanksgiving to that of the Saviour. ... The Mass invites us to discern what, in ourselves, is obedient to the Spirit of God and what, in ourselves, is attuned to the spirit of evil".

  Hence, "to raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, is that not the very best way of 'shunning idols'? ... Every time the Mass is celebrated, every time Christ makes Himself sacramentally present in His Church, the work of our salvation is accomplished. ... He alone teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds".

  Yet "who can raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord in the name of the entire people of God, except the priest?", the Pope asked and he made an appeal, "confident in their faith and generosity", to young people "who are considering a religious or priestly vocation: do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ! Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church!"

  "Hope will always remain stronger than all else! The Church, built upon the rock of Christ, possesses the promises of eternal life, not because her members are holier than others, but because Christ made this promise to Peter: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it'".

  Benedict XVI concluded: "In this unfailing hope of God's eternal presence in the souls of each of us, in this joy of knowing that Christ is with us until the end of time, in this power that the Holy Spirit gives to all those who let themselves be filled with Him, I entrust you, dear Christians of Paris and France, to the powerful and merciful action of the God of love Who died for us upon the Cross and rose victorious on Easter morning. To all people of good will ... I say once more, with St. Paul: Shun the worship of idols, do not tire of doing good!"

  Following Mass, Benedict XVI travelled back to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch with bishops from the Paris region.
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VATICAN CITY, 13 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. this morning the Pope arrived at the Institut de France, an institution founded in 1795 which includes five separate academies: the Academie francaise, the Academie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, the Academie des sciences, the Academie des beaux-arts, and the Academie des sciences morales et politiques.

  The Institut is made up of eminent figures from all areas of human knowledge. In 1992 the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, became an associate member of the Academie des sciences morales et politiques, succeeding the Nobel Prize winning scientist Andrei Sakharov who died in 1989.

  On his arrival, Benedict XVI was greeted by Gabriel de Broglie, chancellor of the Institut de France, and by Helene Carrere d'Encausse, permanent secretary of the Academie francaise, who accompanied him to the hall of the cupola where members of the five academies were gathered. After uncovering a plaque commemorating his visit, Pope Benedict pronounced a brief address.

  "For me it is a very great honour to be received this morning under the cupola. ... I could not come to Paris without greeting you personally. I am pleased to have this happy opportunity to emphasise my profound links with French culture, for which I have the greatest admiration".

  "As Rabelais rightly asserted in his day: 'science without conscience brings only ruin to the soul!'. It was doubtless in order to contribute to avoiding the risk of such a dichotomy that, at the end of January of last year, and for the first time in three and a half centuries, two academies of the Institut, two pontifical academies and the Institut Catholique in Paris organised a joint 'Colloquium' on the changing identity of the individual. ... This initiative could be taken further, in order to explore together the countless research possibilities in the human and experimental sciences".

  Following the meeting, Benedict XVI travelled by popemobile to the esplanade of Les Invalides to celebrate Mass.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - Following the celebration of Vespers this evening in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Pope greeted young people participating in a prayer vigil in preparation for tomorrow's Mass, which is due to be celebrated on the esplanade of Les Invalides in Paris.

  In his remarks to them Benedict XVI recalled how at the recent 23rd World Youth Day "many young people rediscovered the importance of the Holy Spirit for the life of every Christian. The Spirit gives us a deep relationship with God, Who is the source of all authentic human good.

  "All of you desire to love and to be loved! It is to God that you must turn, if you want to learn how to love, and to find the strength to love", he added.

  The Pope then went on to invite the young "to meditate on the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation ... which leads you into a mature faith life. It is vital for you to understand this Sacrament more and more in order to evaluate the quality and depth of your faith and to reinforce it. The Holy Spirit enables you to approach the mystery of God; He makes you understand Who God is. He invites you to see in your neighbours the brothers and sisters whom God has given you, in order to live with them in human and spiritual fellowship - in other words, to live within the Church. By revealing Who the crucified and risen Lord is for us, He impels you to bear witness to Christ".

  "You need to speak about Christ to all around you, to your families and friends, wherever you study, work and relax. Do not be afraid! Have 'the courage to live the Gospel and the boldness to proclaim it'. ... Bring the Good News to the young people of your age, and to others as well. They know what it means to experience difficulty in relationships, worry and uncertainty in the face of work and study. They have experienced suffering, but they have also known unique moments of joy. Be witnesses of God, for, as young people, you are fully a part of the Catholic community. ... The Church has confidence in you, and I want to tell you so!"

  The Holy Father then drew the young people's attention to another subject: "the mystery of the Cross".

  "Many of you", he said, "wear a cross on a chain around your neck. I too wear one. ... It is not a mere decoration or a piece of jewellery. It is the precious symbol of our faith, the visible and material sign that we belong to Christ".

  "For Christians, the Cross signifies God's wisdom and His infinite love revealed in the saving gift of Christ, crucified and risen for the life of the world, and in particular for the life of each and every one of you".

  The cross "is not only the symbol of your life in God and your salvation, but also ... the silent witness of human suffering and the unique and priceless expression of all our hopes".

  "The Cross in some way seems to threaten our human security, yet above all else, it also proclaims God's grace and confirms our salvation. This evening, I entrust you with the Cross of Christ. ... Paul understood the seemingly paradoxical words of Jesus, Who taught that it is only by giving ('losing') one's life that one finds it, and Paul concluded from this that the Cross expresses the fundamental law of love, the perfect formula for real life".

  Having concluded his meeting with the young people, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature where, having had dinner, he appeared at the balcony to greet the faithful gathered below.

  "Your warm welcome is most moving for the Pope!" he told them. "Thank you for waiting for me here with such enthusiasm, despite the lateness of the hour!"

  "I am glad to be joining the great throng of Lourdes pilgrims tomorrow to celebrate the Jubilee of the apparitions of the Virgin. Catholics in France have greater need than ever to renew their trust in Mary, recognising in her the model of their commitment to the service of the Gospel. ... I am counting on you and on your prayers for this visit to bear fruit. May the Virgin Mary keep you safe!"
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 7.15 p.m. today, in the Parisian cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Pope presided at the celebration of Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and deacons. Also present at the celebration were a number of representatives from other Churches and Christian communities.

  Commenting in his homily on Psalm 126, 1 - "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain" - the Pope asked: "Who is this Lord, if not our Lord Jesus Christ? It is He Who founded His Church and built it on rock, on the faith of the Apostle Peter". St. Augustine asks "how we can know who these builders are, and his answer is this: 'All those who preach God's word in the Church, all who are ministers of God's divine Sacraments. All of us run, all of us work, all of us build', yet it is God alone Who, within us, 'builds, exhorts, and inspires awe; Who opens our understanding and guides our minds to faith'".

  "What marvels", the Pope added, "surround our work in the service of God's word! We are instruments of the Holy Spirit; God is so humble that He uses us to spread His word. We become His voice, once we have listened carefully to the word coming from His mouth. We place His word on our lips in order to bring it to the world. He accepts the offering of our prayer and through it He communicates Himself to everyone we meet".

  Benedict XVI highlighted how "our earthly liturgies, entirely ordered to the celebration of this unique act within history, will never fully express its infinite meaning. Certainly, the beauty of our celebrations can never be sufficiently cultivated, fostered and refined, for nothing can be too beautiful for God, Who is Himself infinite Beauty. Yet our earthly liturgies will never be more than a pale reflection of the liturgy celebrated in the Jerusalem on high, the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. May our own celebrations nonetheless resemble that liturgy as closely as possible and grant us a foretaste of it!

  "Even now the word of God is given to us as the soul of our apostolate, the soul of our priestly life. ... Throughout the day, the word of God becomes the substance of the prayer of the whole Church, as she bears witness in this way to her fidelity to Christ".

  The Holy Father encouraged the priests not to be afraid "to spend much time reading and meditating on the Scriptures and praying the Divine Office! Almost without your knowing it, God's word, read and pondered in the Church, acts upon you and transforms you".

  Turning to address seminarians, he said: "You are called to become stewards of this word which accomplishes what it communicates. Always cultivate a thirst for the word of God! Thus you will learn to love everyone you meet along life's journey. In the Church everyone has a place, everyone! Every person can and must find a place in her".

  To deacons he said: "Without seeking to take the place of priests, but assisting them with your friendship and your activity, may you be living witnesses to the infinite power of God's word!"

  Benedict XVI reminded men and women religious, and all consecrated people, that their "only treasure - which, to tell the truth, will alone survive the passage of time and the curtain of death - is the word of the Lord. ... Your obedience is, etymologically, a 'hearing', for the word 'obey' comes from the Latin 'obaudire', meaning to turn one's ear to someone or something. In obeying, you turn your soul towards the One Who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life. ... The purity of God's word is the model for your own chastity, ensuring its spiritual fruitfulness".

  Finally, Benedict XVI greeted the representatives from other Churches and Christian communities who "have come to pray Vespers together with us in this cathedral".

  "I implore the Lord to increase within us the sense of this unity of the word of God, which is the sign, pledge and guarantee of the unity of the Church: there is no love in the Church without love of the word, no Church without unity around Christ the Redeemer, no fruits of redemption without love of God and neighbour, according to the two commandments which sum up all of Sacred Scripture!"
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - In the College des Bernardins in Paris at 5.30 p.m. today, Benedict XVI was welcomed by representatives from the world of French culture.

  The College des Bernardins was founded in 1247 by Etienne de Lexington, the Cistercian abbot of Claraval, as a centre of theological formation for Cistercian monks. Confiscated during the French Revolution, the building was sold and over the following centuries used for various purposes, until being acquired by the archdiocese of Paris. Following five years of restoration, this fine example of mediaeval architecture opened to the public on 4 September. It is used to host artistic events, conferences and meetings.

  The Pope's address focused on the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture. "Amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old", he explained.

  Yet the monks' intention was not "to create a culture, or even to preserve a culture from the past. Their motivation was much more basic: ... 'Quaerere Deum' (seeking God). Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential, ... they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional".

  To this end they followed the "signposts" with which God marked the path. "This path was His word, which had been disclosed to men in the books of the Sacred Scriptures. Thus, by inner necessity, the search for God demands a culture of the word, ... eschatology and grammar are intimately connected with one another in Western monasticism. ... Thus it is through the search for God that the secular sciences take on their importance, sciences which show us the path towards language".

  The libraries and schools of the monasteries "pointed out pathways to the word", said the Holy Father, noting how "the word - which opens the path of that search, and is to be identified with this path - is a shared word. ... The word does not lead to a purely individual path of mystical immersion, but to the pilgrim fellowship of faith".

  "As in the rabbinic schools, so too with the monks, reading by the individual is at the same time a corporate activity. ... We ourselves are brought into conversation with God by the word of God. ... Particularly in the Book of Psalms, He gives us the words with which we can address Him, with which we can bring our life, with all its highpoints and lowpoints, into conversation with Him, so that life itself thereby becomes a movement towards Him".

  Going on to consider the importance of song in monastic life, Benedict XVI noted how St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "describes the confusion resulting from a poorly executed chant as a falling into the 'zone of dissimilarity'". This term was used by St. Augustine "to designate his condition prior to conversion: man, who is created in God's likeness, falls in his godforsakenness into the 'zone of dissimilarity', into a remoteness from God, in which he no longer reflects Him, and so has become dissimilar not only to God, but to himself, to what being human truly is".

  For St. Bernard "the culture of singing is also the culture of being, and the monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty".

  "In order to understand to some degree the culture of the word, which developed deep within Western monasticism from the search for God, we need to touch at least briefly on ... 'the Scriptures', which, when taken together, are naturally regarded as the one word of God to us. But the use of this plural makes it quite clear that God's word only comes to us here through ... human words, that God only speaks to us through the mediation of human agents, their words and their history".

  "Scripture", the Pope explained, "requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. ... It perceives in the words the Word, the 'Logos' itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism.

  "In effect", he added, "the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living. Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. God's word and action in the world are only revealed in the word and history of human beings".

  "The transcending of the letter and understanding it solely from the perspective of the whole" is, said the Pope, forcefully expressed by St. Paul with the phrase: "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life". But "the liberating Spirit is not simply... the exegete's own vision. The Spirit is Christ ... Who shows us the way. With the word of Spirit and of freedom, a further horizon opens up, but at the same time a clear limit is placed upon arbitrariness and subjectivity, which unequivocally binds both the individual and the community and brings about a new, higher obligation than that of the letter: namely, the obligation of insight and love".

  The Holy Father continued: "This tension between obligation and freedom, which extends far beyond the literary problem of scriptural exegesis, has ... deeply marked Western culture. It presents itself anew as a task for our generation too, vis-a-vis the poles of subjective arbitrariness and fundamentalist fanaticism. It would be a disaster if today's European culture could only conceive freedom as absence of obligation, which would inevitably play into the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness".

  Pope Benedict then went on to highlight how the "ora" of monastic life is accompanied by "labora", and how "the Christian God ... is also the Creator. God is working; He continues working in and on human history. In Christ, He enters personally into the laborious work of history. ... God is working" and "man can and may share in God's activity as creator of the world. Monasticism involves not only a culture of the word, but also a culture of work, without which the emergence of Europe, its ethos and its influence on the world would be unthinkable".

  Returning to the idea he had expressed at the beginning of his talk, Benedict XVI reiterated that "by becoming a monk, a man set out on a broad and noble path, but he had already found the direction he needed: the word of the Bible, in which he heard God Himself speaking". Yet "if a way is to be opened up into the heart of the biblical word as God's word, this word must first of all be proclaimed outwardly".

  "Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, designed to enlarge their particular group, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith. ... The universality of God, and of reason open towards Him, is what gave them the motivation - indeed, the obligation - to proclaim the message. They saw their faith as belonging, not to cultural custom that differs from one people to another, but to the domain of truth, which concerns all people equally.

  "The fundamental structure of Christian proclamation 'outwards' - towards searching and questioning mankind - is seen in St. Paul's address at the Areopagus" when he proclaims "Him Whom men do not know and yet do know - the unknown-known; the One they are seeking, Whom ultimately they know already, and Who yet remains the unknown and unrecognisable. The deepest layer of human thinking and feeling somehow knows that He must exist, that at the beginning of all things, there must be not irrationality, but creative Reason, not blind chance, but freedom".

  The Pope went on: "Yet even though all men somehow know this, ... this knowledge remains unreal: a God Who is merely imagined and invented is not God at all. If He does not reveal himself, we cannot gain access to Him. ... The novelty of Christian proclamation consists in one fact: He has revealed Himself. Yet this is no blind fact, but one that is itself 'Logos' - the presence in our flesh of eternal reason".

  Today too "God has truly become for many the great unknown. But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning Him".

  "To seek God and to let oneself be found by Him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences. What gave Europe's culture its foundation", the Holy Father concluded, "remains today the basis of any genuine culture".

  Following his address, the Pope travelled by car to the cathedral of Notre-Dame where he presided at Vespers with French priests, religious, seminarians and deacons.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. today in the apostolic nunciature in Paris, the Pope received representatives of the French Jewish community to whom he indicated that Christians and Jews "share a relationship that should be strengthened and lived", and that "these fraternal bonds constitute a continual invitation to know and to respect one another better".

  "The Catholic Church", he went on, "compellingly repeats, through my voice, the words of the great Pope Pius XI: ... Spiritually, we are Semites. The Church therefore is opposed to every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified. The theologian Henri de Lubac - in a 'time of darkness', as Pius XII described it - added that to be anti-Semitic also signifies being anti-Christian. Once again I feel the duty to pay heartfelt recognition to those who have died unjustly and to those that have dedicated themselves to assure that the names of these victims may always be remembered. God does not forget!"

  After the meeting, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the College des Bernardins to address a gathering attended by 700 representatives of the French cultural world, UNESCO, the European Union, and various members of the Muslim community of France.
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