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Monday, September 15, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 15 SEP 2008 (VIS) - Following this morning's Eucharistic celebration with sick people in Lourdes, the Pope travelled to the airport of Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees where the departure ceremony took place.

  The Holy Father was greeted by Francois Fillon, prime minister of France. Also present were the political and civil authorities, bishops from the Mini-Pyrenees region, and the president, vice-president and secretary general of the Conference of Bishops of France.

  Benedict XVI thanked the authorities, bishops, law enforcement officials, "and all the countless volunteers who have offered their time and expertise. Everyone has worked devotedly and whole-heartedly for the successful outcome of my four days in your country. Thank you very much".

  "My journey", he added, "has been like a diptych, the first panel of which was Paris, a city that I know well and the scene for several important meetings. I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the prestigious setting of the Esplanade des Invalides. There I met a vibrant people, proud of their firm faith; I came to encourage them to persevere courageously in living out the teaching of Christ and His Church".

  The Pope also recalled how he had prayed Vespers with priests and religious, and with seminarians whom he had sought to affirm "in their vocation in the service of God and neighbour".

  "And how can I fail to recall here the prestigious encounter with the world of culture at the Institut de France and the College des Bernardins? As you know, I consider culture and its proponents to be the privileged vehicles of dialogue between faith and reason, between God and man".

  The Holy Father identified the "second panel of the diptych" as Lourdes, an "emblematic place which attracts and fascinates every believer, ... like a light in the darkness of our groping to reach God. Mary opened there a gate towards a hereafter which challenges and charms us".

  "The Pope", he said, "was duty bound to come to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. Before the Grotto of Massabielle, I prayed for all of you. I prayed for the Church. I prayed for France and for the world".

  Like any other pilgrim, the Holy Father explained, "I completed all four stages of the Jubilee Way, visiting the parish church, the Cachot and the Grotto, and finally the chapel of the hospital. I also prayed with and for the sick who come here to seek physical relief and spiritual hope. God does not forget them, and neither does the Church. Like every faithful pilgrim, I wanted to take part in the torchlight procession and the Blessed Sacrament procession. They carry aloft to God our prayers and our praise".

  Benedict XVI also recalled how he had shared with French bishops "my conviction that the times are favourable for a return to God".

  "May God bless France!" he cried. "May harmony and human progress reign on her soil, and may the Church be the leaven in the dough that indicates with wisdom and without fear, according to her specific duty, who God is!"

  After expressing his desire to return to France, the Holy Father concluded: "From Rome I shall remain close to you, and when I pray before the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which has been in the Vatican Gardens for a little over a century, I shall think of you".

  The papal flight took off at 13.30 and is due to arrive at Rome's Ciampino airport at around 15.30. From there the Holy Father will travel to his residence at Castelgandolfo.
PV-FRANCE/DEPARTURE CEREMONY/LOURDES                    VIS 20080915 (600)


VATICAN CITY, 15 SEP 2008 (VIS) - This morning the Pope departed from St. Joseph Hermitage, where he has been staying during his visit to Lourdes, and went to complete the fourth stage of the Lourdes Jubilee Way by visiting the oratory of the hospital where, on 3 June 1858, Bernadette received First Communion. The Holy Father prayed in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, then pronounced the fourth and final prayer of the Jubilee Way.

  At 9.30 a.m. in front of the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for today's liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in the presence of sick people and pilgrims who had come to Lourdes for the occasion.

  On today's memorial, said the Pope in his homily, "we contemplate Mary sharing her Son's compassion for sinners. ... As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering, so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before 'giving up His spirit: that of becoming the mother of Christ in His members".

  "Today", he went on, "Mary dwells in the joy and the glory of the Resurrection". She "loves each of her children, giving particular attention to those who, like her Son at the hour of His Passion, are prey to suffering; she loves them quite simply because they are her children, according to the will of Christ on the Cross".

  "At the instigation of the inspired word of Scripture, Christians have always sought the smile of Our Lady, this smile which mediaeval artists were able to represent with such marvellous skill and to show to advantage. This smile of Mary is for all; but it is directed quite particularly to those who suffer, so that they can find comfort and solace therein".

  Pope Benedict then recalled how the Virgin Mary, during her apparition of 3 March 1858, "first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery.

  "In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures", he added, "is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God's tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.

  "Unfortunately we know only too well: the endurance of suffering can upset life's most stable equilibrium, it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace.

  "When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and His Holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering".

  "I would like to say, humbly, to those who suffer and to those who struggle and are tempted to turn their backs on life: turn towards Mary! Within the smile of the Virgin lies mysteriously hidden the strength to fight against sickness, in support of life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God".

  "Yes", the Holy Father emphasised, "to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are 'the richest of the people'. 'The richest', that is to say, in the order of faith, those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God".

  "Mary's smile is a spring of living water. ... From her believing heart, from her maternal heart, flows living water which purifies and heals. By immersing themselves in the baths at Lourdes, how many people have discovered and experienced the gentle maternal love of the Virgin Mary, becoming attached to her in order to bind themselves more closely to the Lord!"

  Then, with particular reference to the sick, the Pope went on to recall that "Christ imparts His salvation by means of the Sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the Sacrament of the Sick. For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still - as certain great witnesses of Christ's holiness have done - to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation".

  "The grace of this Sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; He eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces".

  "Without the Lord's help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly", said the Holy Father. "By receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through His promise to us that His yoke will be easy to carry and His burden light".

  "Vatican Council II presented Mary as the figure in whom the entire mystery of the Church is typified. Her personal journey outlines the profile of the Church, which is called to be just as attentive to those who suffer as she herself was".

  Finally, the Pope greeted the helpers who contribute to caring for the sick in Lourdes "with competence and generosity", and who represent "the arms of the servant Church".

  Benedict XVI concluded his homily by reading a passage from a prayer to Mary written for this Jubilee celebration:

  "Because you are the smile of God, the reflection of the light of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Because you chose Bernadette in her lowliness, because you are the morning star, the gate of heaven and the first creature to experience the resurrection. Our Lady of Lourdes, with our brothers and sisters whose hearts and bodies are in pain, we pray to you!"

  The homily over, the Holy Father administered the Sacrament of the Sick to 10 sick pilgrims.

  Following the Eucharistic celebration, at 11.45 a.m., the Pope travelled to the Antoine Beguere stadium from where he was taken by helicopter to the airport of Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees, where he arrived at 12.30 p.m.
PV-FRANCE/MASS SICK/LOURDES                            VIS 20080915 (1170)


VATICAN CITY, 14 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 6.30 p.m. today the Holy Father, wearing liturgical vestments, presided over the last stage of a Eucharistic procession on the Meadow of the shrine of Lourdes.

  Following the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope pronounced an address.

  "Lord Jesus, You are here! And you, my brothers, my sisters, my friends, you are here, with me, in His presence!" he said.

  "We contemplate Him. We adore Him. We love Him. We seek to grow in love for Him".

  "We adore Him Who is the origin and goal of our faith, Him without Whom we would not be here this evening, without Whom we would not be at all, without Whom there would be nothing, absolutely nothing! Him through Whom 'all things were made', Him in Whom we were created, for all eternity, Him Who gave us His own Body and Blood - He is here, this evening, in our midst, for us to gaze upon".

  "The sacred host speaks to us of the incredible abasement of the One Who made Himself poor so as to make us rich in Him, the One Who accepted the loss of everything so as to win us for His Father. The sacred host is the living, efficacious and real sacrament of the eternal presence of the Saviour of mankind to His Church".

  "Mary, the holy Virgin, Mary, the Immaculate Conception, accepted, two thousand years ago, to give everything, to offer her body so as to receive the Body of the Creator. Everything came from Christ, even Mary; everything came through Mary, even Christ.

  "Mary, the holy Virgin, is with us this evening, in the presence of the Body of her Son, 150 years after revealing herself to little Bernadette.

  "Holy Virgin, help us to contemplate, help us to adore, help us to love, to grow in love for Him Who loved us so much, so as to live eternally with Him.

  "An immense crowd of witnesses is invisibly present beside us, very close to this blessed grotto and in front of this church that the Virgin Mary wanted to be built; the crowd of all those men and women who have contemplated, venerated, adored the real presence of Him who gave Himself to us even to the last drop of blood. ... This evening, we do not see them, but we hear them saying to us, to every man and to every woman among us: 'Come, let the Master call you! He is here! He is calling you! He wants to take your life and join it to His. Let yourself be embraced by Him! Gaze no longer upon your own wounds, gaze upon His. Do not look upon what still separates you from Him and from others; look upon the infinite distance that He has abolished by taking your flesh, by mounting the Cross which men had prepared for Him, and by letting Himself be put to death so as to show you His love. In His wounds, He takes hold of you; in His wounds, He hides you. Do not refuse His Love!'

  "The immense crowd of witnesses who have allowed themselves to be embraced by His Love, is the crowd of saints in heaven who never cease to intercede for us. They were sinners and they knew it, but they willingly ceased to gaze upon their own wounds and to gaze only upon the wounds of their Lord, so as to discover there the glory of the Cross, to discover there the victory of Life over death".

  "Jesus Christ, past, in the historical truth of the evening in the Upper Room, to which every celebration of holy Mass leads us back.

  "Jesus Christ, present, because He said to us: 'Take and eat of this, all of you, this is my body, this is my blood.' 'This is', in the present, here and now, as in every here and now throughout human history".

  "The Eucharist is also Jesus Christ, future, Jesus Christ to come. When we contemplate the sacred host, His glorious transfigured and risen Body, we contemplate what we shall contemplate in eternity, where we shall discover that the whole world has been carried by its Creator during every second of its history. Each time we consume Him, but also each time we contemplate Him, we proclaim Him until He comes again, 'donec veniat'. That is why we receive Him with infinite respect.

  "Some of us cannot - or cannot yet - receive Him in the Sacrament, but we can contemplate Him with faith and love and express our desire finally to be united with Him. This desire has great value in God's presence: such people await His return more ardently; they await Jesus Christ Who must come again".

  "Beloved brothers and sisters, day pilgrims and inhabitants of these valleys, brother bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, all of you who see before you the infinite abasement of the Son of God and the infinite glory of the Resurrection, remain in silent adoration of your Lord, our Master and Lord Jesus Christ. Remain silent, then speak and tell the world: we cannot be silent about what we know. Go and tell the whole world the marvels of God, present at every moment of our lives, in every place on earth. May God bless us and keep us, may He lead us on the path of eternal life, He who is Life, for ever and ever. Amen".

  The procession over, Benedict XVI travelled to St. Joseph Hermitage where he dined and spent the night.
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