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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant priests and faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year for Priests, which is due to run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010 and has been called in honour of St. Jean Marie Vianney.

The period will begin with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, "a day of priestly sanctification", says the text, when the Pope will celebrate Vespers before the relics of the saint, brought to Rome for the occasion by the bishop of the French diocese of Belley-Ars. The Year will end in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of priests from all over the world "who will renew their faithfulness to Christ and their bonds of fraternity".

The means to obtain the Plenary Indulgence are as follows:

(A) All truly penitent priests who, on any day, devotedly pray Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle, and ... offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, will be granted Plenary Indulgence, which they can also apply to their deceased confreres, if in accordance with current norms they take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Priests are furthermore granted Partial Indulgence, also applicable to deceased confreres, every time they devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them.

(B) All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. This may be done on the opening and closing days of the Year of Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles".

Partial Indulgence is offered to all faithful each time they pray five Our Father, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri, or any other duly approved prayer "in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life".


VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 11.40 a.m. today, the Holy Father travelled by car from the "Hechal Shlomo" Centre in Jerusalem to the Cenacle, where he prayed the Angelus with ordinaries of the Holy Land.

The Cenacle is the place where the ordained priesthood and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance were instituted. The Latin word "Coenaculum" was used to indicate the dining area, but more generally signified the upper room where guests were welcomed; it is in the upper room that the chapel is located today. The Christian tradition on the authenticity of the Cenacle goes back to the end of the third century.

The lower floor of the building houses a cenotaph called the "Tomb of David". It is a place of national pilgrimage for Jews, although the reference to David's last resting place has no historical or archaeological foundation. Also on the lower floor is an ancient chapel dedicated to the washing of the feet. Today the building, property of the State of Israel, is one of the places under the aegis of the Custody of the Holy Land, which since the fourteenth century has been administered by Franciscans.

This was considered to be the most important of all the Franciscan provinces as it included the land where Jesus Christ was born, lived, preached the Good News, died and rose from the dead. Indeed, according to the Franciscan order, St. Francis himself visited the Holy Land and this province between 1219 and 1220.

In 1333 Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, and his wife, Queen Sancha, negotiated with the sultan of Egypt, through Friar Ruggero Garini, to purchase the Cenacle and the right to celebrate religious ceremonies in the Holy Sepulchre. Friar Garini, with financial assistance from the queen, then built a monastery near the Cenacle. The king and queen also secured the right for Franciscans to legally own certain sanctuaries and to have the right of use in others.

In 1342, Pope Clement VI, in two papal bulls, hailed the work of the king and queen of Naples and set forth instructions on running the ecclesiastical province of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The first statutes of the Franciscans regarding the Holy Land date from 1377 and state that a maximum of 20 friars should serve the Holy Places of the Cenacle, the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem. In 1517 the Custody of the Holy Land was granted complete autonomy and the Holy See granted it the status of province with special privileges and particular rights. Since 1558 the Custody has had its seat in the convent of the Most Holy Saviour.

While the term Custody of the Holy Land refers to the ecclesiastical province, the Custos of the Holy Land is the minister provincial of the friars living in the Middle East. He has jurisdiction over the territories of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt (partially), Cyprus and Rhodes. Given the importance of his role, the Custos is directly nominated by the Holy See, after consultation with the friars of the custody. The current Custos is Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

"You represent the Catholic communities of the Holy Land", said the Holy Father in his address to the assembled ordinaries, "who in their faith and devotion are like lighted candles illuminating the Holy Places that were graced by the presence of Jesus our living Lord".

"In the Upper Room the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because He has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love".

"This transforming love, which is grace and truth, prompts us, as individuals and communities, to overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others. It moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage".

"The call to communion of mind and heart ... is of special relevance in the Holy Land. The different Christian Churches found here represent a rich and varied spiritual patrimony and are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures. They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by Him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God".

"In the measure in which the gift of love is accepted and grows in the Church, the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighbouring regions will be vibrant. This presence is of vital importance for the good of society as a whole. The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbour, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness, are a leaven capable of transforming hearts and shaping actions. Christians in the Middle East, together with other people of good will, are contributing, as loyal and responsible citizens, in spite of difficulties and restrictions, to the promotion and consolidation of a climate of peace in diversity".

"Count on my support and encouragement", the Pope told the bishops, "as you do all that is in your power to assist our Christian brothers and sisters to remain and prosper here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace".

"For my part, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters world-wide to support and to remember in their prayers the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the Middle East".

After praying the Regina Coeli, Benedict XVI moved on to the Latin co-cathedral of Jerusalem where he greeted the 300 people gathered there to welcome him, among them various female religious of contemplative orders. Having venerated the Blessed Sacrament and listened to a brief greeting from the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the Pope thanked the religious for their prayers for his universal ministry and asked them, "in the words of the Psalmist, ... to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem', to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land".

The ceremony over, the Holy Father had lunch with ordinaries and abbots of the Holy Land at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.


VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Pope travelled from Temple Mount to the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, a fifteen-metre high fragment of the wall which originally supported the western side of the esplanade of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Chief Rabbi read a Psalm in Hebrew, and the Holy Father another in Latin. Having then stood for a few moments in silence, the Pope placed a piece of paper containing a prayer into a crevice on the wall, just as John Paul II did in 2000.

Benedict XVI then moved on to the "Hechal Shlomo" (House of Solomon) Centre, so-called because it has a form that recalls Solomon's Temple. It is the headquarters of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis, and of the Supreme Religious Court.

In his discourse, the Pope thanked the two rabbis - Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger - for "the desire they have expressed to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship which the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate have laboured so diligently to forge over the past decades". He also gave assurances of his own "desire to deepen mutual understanding and co-operation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.

"A great source of satisfaction for me since the beginning of my pontificate", he added, "has been the fruit yielded by the ongoing dialogue between the Delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church".

After highlighting how goodwill on both sides "has already paved the way to more effective collaboration in public life", he went on: "Jews and Christians alike are concerned to ensure respect for the sacredness of human life, the centrality of the family, a sound education for the young, and the freedom of religion and conscience for a healthy society. These themes of dialogue represent only the initial phases of what we trust will be a steady, progressive journey towards an enhanced mutual understanding".

"In approaching the most urgent ethical questions of our day, our two communities are challenged to engage people of good will at the level of reason, while simultaneously pointing to the religious foundations which best sustain lasting moral values".

The Pope took the opportunity to repeat "that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at Vatican Council II for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews". At the same time "the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues".

"I am confident that our friendship will continue to set an example of trust in dialogue for Jews and Christians throughout the world. Looking at the accomplishments achieved thus far, and drawing our inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, we can confidently look forward to even stronger co-operation between our communities - together with all people of good will - in decrying hatred and oppression throughout the world".

At the end of the ceremony in the "Hechal Shlomo" Centre, the Pope travelled to the Upper Room or Cenacle, site of the Last Supper.


VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 8.45 a.m. today Benedict XVI arrived at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known in Arabic as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), the place where Solomon raised his Temple, later rebuilt by Herod at the end of the first century BC. It is also the site of two Mosques: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa.

The area of Temple Mount is dear to the followers of all three monotheistic religions; to Jews because it was where Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac, as well as being the site of Solomon's temple; to Muslims who consider it the third pilgrimage site, after Mecca and Medina, and the place whence the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven; to Christians because it was here that Christ spoke of the destruction of the Temple.

The golden-domed, octagonal-shaped Dome of the Rock is the oldest extant Muslim monument in the Holy Land. The first mosque, built in 640, was substituted in 687 by the current one. In the twelfth century it was transformed into a Christian church by the crusaders, who called it "Templum Domini," thus giving rise to the name of the equestrian order of Templars. It was restored as a Muslim place of worship by Saladin in 1187. In the centre of this sumptuously decorated mosque is the sacred rock on which Muhammad prayed before going to heaven.

The Al-Aqsa mosque, whose name in Arabic means "the furthest away", is, according to Muslim tradition, the spot furthest from Mecca, to which Muhammad was miraculously carried one night. It was built at the start of the eighth century, was destroyed by earthquakes, rebuilt, became a church of the Templars and, like the Dome of the Rock, was later restored as a Muslim place of worship by Saladin. During the 1938 restoration of the mosque, King Farouk of Egypt restored the ceiling and Mussolini donated the columns of Carrara marble.

The Holy Father arrived at the Dome of the Rock at 9 a.m. where he was greeted by Muhammad Ahmad Husayn, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and by the president of the Waqf council (which administers religious properties). Following a brief tour of the area, the Pope was accompanied to the "al-Kubbah al-Nahawiyyah" building, where representatives of the Muslim community were waiting to greet him.

"The Dome of the Rock", said the Pope in his remarks to them, "draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognises Abraham as a forefather. ... Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony.

"In a world sadly torn by divisions", he added, "this sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.

"Since the teachings of religious traditions ultimately concern the reality of God, the meaning of life, and the common destiny of mankind - that is to say, all that is most sacred and dear to us - there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success. Yet we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in Him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess His name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating His forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family".

"Fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally inter-related, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity. This places a grave responsibility upon us. Those who honour the One God believe that He will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity".

"I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith ... as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter", said the Pope, "but also as a child of Abraham, by whom 'all the families of the earth find blessing'. I assure you of the Church's ardent desire to co-operate for the well-being of the human family. She firmly believes that the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham is universal in scope, embracing all men and women regardless of provenance or social status.

"As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family" and, he concluded, "continue to keep their gaze fixed on His absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others".

His address complete, the Holy Father continued his visit by travelling to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall.


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - This evening, following the Holy Father's meeting with representatives of organisations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. released the following declaration:

"The intervention of Sheikh Tayssir Attamimi was not scheduled by the organisers of the meeting. In a meeting dedicated to dialogue this intervention was a direct negation of what a dialogue should be. We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Pope aiming at promoting peace and also inter-religious dialogue, as he has clearly affirmed in many occasions during this pilgrimage. We hope also that inter-religious dialogue in the Holy Land will not be compromised by this incident".


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 6.45 p.m. today, the Pope met with representatives of organisations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, which was given the status of Pontifical Institute by Servant of God John Paul II in 1978. The ceremony, which took place in the centre's auditorium, was attended by 500 people.

At the beginning of his remarks, the Holy Father indicated that although much has "been achieved to create a sense of closeness and unity within the world-wide human family", yet "the boundless array of portals through which people so readily access undifferentiated sources of information can easily become an instrument of increasing fragmentation".

"The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalisation. ... As believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common".

"Lives of religious fidelity echo God's irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.

"Religious belief presupposes truth. The one who believes is the one who seeks truth and lives by it", the Pope added. "Together we can proclaim that God exists and can be known, that the earth is His creation, that we are His creatures, and that He calls every man and woman to a way of life that respects His design for the world. Friends, if we believe we have a criterion of judgement and discernment which is divine in origin and intended for all humanity, then we cannot tire of bringing that knowledge to bear on civic life. Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society".

"Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable, and opens the gateway to peace. Fostering the will to be obedient to the truth in fact broadens our concept of reason and its scope of application, and makes possible the genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today".

The Holy Father went on to express the view that, "in an age of instant access to information and social tendencies which engender a kind of monoculture, deep reflection against the backdrop of God's presence will embolden reason, stimulate creative genius, facilitate critical appreciation of cultural practices and uphold the universal value of religious belief".

Some people, said Pope Benedict, "would have us believe that our differences are necessarily a cause of division" and must "at most be tolerated. A few even maintain that our voices should simply be silenced. But we know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large. Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God".

And the Holy Father concluded: "Prompted by the Almighty and enlightened by His truth, may you continue to step forward with courage, respecting all that differentiates us and promoting all that unites us as creatures blessed with the desire to bring hope to our communities and world".

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father blessed the cornerstone of the new Notre Dame Institute of Magdala. The institute will welcome pilgrims visiting the Holy Land and act as a spiritual centre for the future Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene.


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 5.45 p.m. today, Benedict XVI arrived at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem - which literally means "a monument and a name" - was officially founded by the State of Israel in 1953 to commemorate the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Memorial is composed of two museums, exhibition halls, outdoor monuments, and documentation and information centres. The name of the complex comes from a passage in the Book of Isaiah: "I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name. ... I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off".

Other memorial sites within the complex include the Children's Memorial, a tribute to the approximately one and a half million children who died in the Holocaust; The Valley of the Communities, a monument dug in bedrock which commemorates the over 5,000 Jewish communities which were destroyed, and the Avenue and Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, which honours the non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

The Pope was welcomed on arrival by the president and the director of the centre. He then walked around the perimeter of the memorial until reaching the entrance of honour to the Hall of Remembrance, where he was greeted by the president of the State of Israel, and by the rabbi chairman of Yad Vashem.

The Hall of Remembrance is a tent-like structure on the floor of which are the names of the six death camps and some of the concentration camps. There is also a memorial flame in front of which there is a crypt containing the ashes of some of the victims.

Benedict XVI stoked the flame and laid a floral wreath. Then, having met and conversed with six Holocaust survivors, he pronounced his address:

"I have come", he said, "to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honour the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names: these are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all, their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God.

"One can rob a neighbour of possessions, opportunity or freedom", he added. "One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being".

"The names enshrined in this hallowed monument will forever hold a sacred place among the countless descendants of Abraham. Like his, their faith was tested. Like Jacob, they were immersed in the struggle to discern the designs of the Almighty. May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this!

"The Catholic Church, committed to the teachings of Jesus and intent on imitating His love for all people", said the Pope, "feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here. Similarly, she draws close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on account of race, colour, condition of life or religion - their sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice. As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm - like my predecessors - that the Church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of peace".

"Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. ... Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate! As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood. It is the cry of Abel rising from the earth to the Almighty".

Then, in order to "give voice to that cry", the Pope read some verses from the Book of Lamentations which begin: "The favours of the Lord are not exhausted, His mercies are not spent".

Having complete the reading, the Pope said: "I am deeply grateful to God and to you for the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope".

At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father signed the Yad Vashem visitors book in which he wrote a verse from the Book of Lamentations: "His mercies are not spent". He then bid farewell to the authorities as a choir accompanied his departure, before travelling by car to the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute of Jerusalem.


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 4.15 p.m. today, Benedict XVI made a courtesy visit to Shimon Peres, president of the State of Israel, in the presidential palace in Jerusalem.

Following some words from the president, the Pope pronounced his address. "I pray daily", he said, "for peace born of justice to return to the Holy Land and the entire region, bringing security and renewed hope for all".

After highlighting how "peace is above all a divine gift", the Pope addressed himself especially to the religious leaders present at the ceremony, saying: "the particular contribution of religions to the quest for peace lies primarily in the wholehearted, united search for God".

"Religious leaders must therefore be mindful that any division or tension, any tendency to introversion or suspicion among believers or between our communities, can easily lead to a contradiction which obscures the Almighty's oneness, betrays our unity, and contradicts the One who reveals Himself as 'abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness'".

The Holy Father then went on to affirm that "security, integrity, justice and peace" are, "in God's design for the world, ... inseparable. ... There is only one way to protect and promote these values: Exercise them! Live them! No individual, family, community or nation is exempt from the duty to live in justice and to work for peace".

"The authentic values and goals of a society, which always safeguard human dignity, are indivisible, universal and interdependent. Thus they cannot be satisfied when they fall prey to particular interests or piecemeal politics. A nation's true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all".

Finally, the Holy Father had words for "the ordinary families of this city, of this country", saying: "What parents would ever want violence, insecurity, or disunity for their son or daughter? What humane political end can ever be served through conflict and violence? I hear the cry of those who live in this land for justice, for peace, for respect for their dignity, for lasting security, a daily life free from the fear of outside threats and senseless violence.

"And I know", he added in conclusion, "that considerable numbers of men and women and young people are working for peace and solidarity through cultural programmes and through initiatives of compassionate and practical outreach; humble enough to forgive, they have the courage to grasp the dream that is their right".
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