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Thursday, March 19, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 18 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This evening, in the minor basilica of Marie Reine des Apotres, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Benedict XVI presided at the first Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Bishops, priests and religious, seminarians and deacons all participated in the ceremony, as did various ecclesial movements and members of other Christian confessions in Cameroon.

  "Speaking to the crowd and to His disciples, Jesus declared: 'You have only one Father'", said the Pope in his homily. "There is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, the one Creator of the world, 'of all that is seen and unseen'. Yet man, created in the image of God, has been granted a share in this one paternity of God. St. Joseph is a striking case of this. ... He is not the biological father of Jesus, Whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely.

  "To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth", he added. "St. Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails".

  "You are called to live out this fatherhood in the daily tasks of your ministry", Benedict XVI told priests, recalling how the Constitution "Lumen gentium" exhorts them, "as their fathers in Christ", to "care for the faithful whom they have spiritually begotten by Baptism and instruction".

  "The ministerial priesthood entails a profound relationship with Christ Who is given to us in the Eucharist" which, the Holy Father reminded clergy, must "be the centre of your ecclesial mission. ... In celebrating this Sacrament in the Lord's name and in His person, the person of the priest cannot occupy centre stage" for "he is a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ Who offers Himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world".

  Pastoral ministry, the Pope explained, "demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your bishops, united fraternally to the whole presbyterate and supported by the portion of the People of God commended to your care, you will be able to respond faithfully to the Lord who has called you, just as he called Joseph to watch over Mary and the Child Jesus!"

  When Mary responded to the angel's call, she was already betrothed to Joseph, the Holy Father observed, adding: "In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse". Taking Mary into his home "he welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing".

  Drawing inspiration from Joseph, all men and women can, then, "come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to Him".

  The Pope then turned to address representatives of ecclesial movements, inviting them to "be attentive to those around you" so as to "reveal the loving face of God to the poor, especially by your works of mercy, your human and Christian education of young people, your programmes for the advancement of women, and in so many other ways".

  "By your unreserved fidelity to your commitments, you are for the Church a sapling of life, springing up to serve the coming of God's Kingdom. At all times, and especially whenever your fidelity is put to the test, St. Joseph reminds you of the value and meaning of your promises".

  Reflecting upon the husband of Mary "invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in His way. Joseph is a 'just man'".

  "The life of St. Joseph, lived in obedience to God's word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of His plan to gather together all mankind into one family, ... one ecclesia".

  The Pope concluded his homily by addressing some remarks to followers of other Christian confessions: "This quest for unity among the disciples of Christ represents a great challenge for us", he said. "It leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to Him. In Him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today, Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church and the Holy Father's own name day, Benedict XVI met with a group of representatives from the Muslim community of Cameroon, at the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde.

  In his comments the Holy Father noted how "Cameroon is home to thousands of Christians and Muslims, who often live, work and worship in the same neighbourhood".

  "I believe", he went on, "a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God's gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it".

  "Although [God's] infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is 'reasonable' extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.

  "This insight", he added, "prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason's full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith".

  Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by encouraging his Muslim hearers "to imbue society with the values that emerge from this perspective and elevate human culture, as we work together to build a civilisation of love. May the enthusiastic co-operation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an inter-religious commitment to peace, justice and the common good!"


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 9.35 a.m. today, the Holy Father arrived at the Amadou Ahidjo stadium in Cameroon's capital city of Yaounde. The stadium is named after the country's first president following its independence, Having toured the field by popemobile, Benedict XVI went to the sacristy and, at 10 a.m., began the celebration of a Mass marking the publication of the "Instrumentum laboris", or working document, of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

  On today's Feast of St. Joseph, the Holy Father wished "a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have received the grace of bearing this beautiful name. ... Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust", he said.

  "Dear fathers and mothers", the Pope asked, "do you have trust in God Who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of His adopted children? Do you accept that He is counting on you to pass on to your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves have received?"

  "At a time when so many people have no qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful. Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, place themselves at risk if they do not recognise the true Author of Life! ... Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals! Believe! ... Only Christ is the way of Life".

  "Just as on other continents, the family today ... is experiencing a difficult time; but fidelity to God will help see it through. Certain values of the traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between different generations have evolved in a way that no longer favours the transmission of accumulated knowledge and inherited wisdom. Too often we witness a rural exodus ... [and] the quality of family ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile members of the younger generation who often - sadly - are without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living in ephemeral and man-made paradises".

  "Sometimes the African people too are constrained to flee from themselves and abandon everything that once made up their interior richness. Confronted with the phenomenon of rapid urbanisation, they leave the land, physically and morally: not as Abraham had done in response to the Lord's call, but as a kind of interior exile which alienates them from their very being, from their brothers and sisters, and from God Himself.

  "Is this", the Pope added, "an irreversible, inevitable development? By no means! More than ever, we must 'hope against all hope'. ... The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the acceptance of life as a gift from God. According to both Sacred Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created 'in the image and likeness of God'".

  "Sons and daughters of Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to hope, and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that we can be saved by Him alone. ... 'Hoping against hope': is this not a magnificent description of a Christian?

  "Africa", he added, "is called to hope through you and in you! With Jesus Christ, who trod the African soil, Africa can become the continent of hope! We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  "If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary".

  "Like Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the Church. Mary, Mother of the Church, will teach you to follow your pastors, ... to heed what they teach you and to pray for their intentions. ... Those preparing for marriage, treat your future spouse as Joseph did; those of you who have given yourselves to God in celibacy, reflect upon the teaching of the Church, our Mother: 'Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with His people'".

  Benedict XVI then encouraged fathers so take St. Joseph as their model. "He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning of their own fatherhood", he said. "In the same way, each father receives his children from God, and they are created in God's own image and likeness. St. Joseph was the spouse of Mary. ... Dear fathers, like St. Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your children to God, where they must be".

  "As you face the challenges of life, take courage", the Pope then told young people. "Your life is priceless in the eyes of God!"

  Finally the Pope turned "to the children who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to join paramilitary forces that are terrorising some countries, I would like to say: God loves you, He has not forgotten you, and St. Joseph protects you!"

  At the end of the Mass, the Pope consigned the "Instrumentum laboris" to the presidents of African national and regional episcopal conferences, saying: "My heartfelt wish is that the work of the Synodal Assembly will contribute to an increase in hope for your peoples and for the entire continent; that it will help to inspire each of your local Churches with new evangelical and missionary zeal in service to reconciliation, justice and peace".


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's Mass, celebrated at the Amadou Ahidjo stadium in Cameroon's capital city of Yaounde, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, made a brief presentation of the "Instrumentum laboris", or working document of the forthcoming Synod for Africa, which the Holy Father delivered to presidents of African national and regional episcopal conferences.

  The document of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, due to be celebrated in the Vatican from 4 to 25 October, is made up of four chapters preceded by a preface which provides certain Christological and pneumatological parameters for reading the text.

  Chapter one describes the situation of the Church in Africa today, examining the implementation of the 1995 Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa" and its relevance in the new social context. Having identified a number of critical areas in the cultural, economic and political fields, the focus switches to theological reflections on reconciliation, justice and peace, which are the main topics of the upcoming Synod.

  Chapter two underlines the urgent need for justice and peace in Africa. The African notion of reconciliation is intimately associated with the concept of justice and peace, in the desire to restore harmony between victims and offenders, and with society at large.

  Chapter three focuses upon the mission of the Church, Family of God. Through her activity the Church becomes a sign and instrument of reconciliation. In order to promote justice and peace she is committed - through her educational and healthcare structures, and development programmes - to evangelisation and human promotion at the service of all mankind. The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as with traditional African religions and with Islam.

  Chapter four reflects upon the life witness of all members of the People of God: bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people, including all ecclesial structures and institutions. Emphasis is given to the particular tasks incumbent upon Christians active in society: politics, the armed forces, finance, education, healthcare, culture, the social communications media and international organisations.

  The "Instrumentum laboris" concludes with a prayer to Holy Mary, Our Lady of Africa, entrusting the preparation and fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa to her intercession This, said Archbishop Eterovic, is the first time the Holy Father has composed a prayer for such an aim.


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique yesterday afternoon:

  "Concerning certain reactions aroused by the Pope's remarks on HIV/AIDS during his apostolic trip to Africa, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. has explained that the Holy Father was reiterating the position of the Catholic Church and the basic lines of her commitment to combat the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS: Firstly, by educating people to a responsible practice of sexuality and by reaffirming the essential role marriage and the family. Secondly, by research into, and application of, effective cures for HIV/AIDS, and by making them available to the largest possible number of sick people through numerous initiatives and healthcare institutions. Thirdly, by human and spiritual assistance to AIDS victims and all other suffering people, who have always been close to the Church's heart.

  "These are the areas in which the Church concentrates her efforts, not believing that relying primarily on the greater dissemination of condoms is, in fact, the best, most longsighted or effective way to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS and safeguard human life".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, Ukraine, presented by Bishop Stanislaw Padewski O.F.M. Cap., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Marian Buczek.

 - Appointed Msgr. Jose Mazuelos Perez of the clergy of the archdiocese of Seville, Spain, delegate for pastoral care in universities, as bishop of Jerez de la Frontera (area 3,928, population 516,861, Catholics 452,532, priests 159, permanent deacons 16, religious 617), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Osuna, Spain in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1990.
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