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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Msgr. John Oliver Barres of the clergy of the diocese of Wilmington, U.S.A., diocesan chancellor, as bishop of Allentown (area 7,183, population 1,184,000, Catholics 276,662, priests 279, permanent deacons 105, religious 450) U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Port Chester, U.S.A. in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1989. He succeeds Edward P. Cullen, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Msgr. Lee Anthony Piche of the clergy of the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, U.S.A., pastor of St. Andrew's church, vicar general and moderator of the Curia, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 17,225, population 3,082,000, Catholics 852,000, priests 484, permanent deacons 217, religious 1,142). The bishop-elect was born in Minneapolis in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1984.


VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2009 (VIS) - In this morning's general audience, the Pope continued with his series of catechesis on the great writers of the Eastern and Western Church in the Middle Ages, turning his attention today to St. Theodore the Studite.

Addressing more than 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope explained how St. Theodore was born in the year 759 "to a noble and religious family". At the age of twenty-two he embraced the monastic life in the monastery of Sakkudion but, because of his opposition to the adulterous marriage of the emperor Constantine VI, was exiled to Thessalonika in 796. He was able to return to Sakkudion the following year thanks to the intervention of the empress Irene, who also encouraged the saint to move to the monastery of Studios in order to evade the incursions of the Saracens.

St. Theodore "became the head of the resistance against the iconoclast emperor Leo V the Armenian". This again led "to his being exiled in various places in Asia Minor. Finally he was allowed to return to Constantinople, but not to his monastery". He died in the year 826.

"Theodore stands out in Church history as one of the great reformers of monastic life", said Pope Benedict, "and, alongside Patriarch St. Nicephorus of Constantinople, as a defender of sacred images during the second stage of iconoclasm".

The saint also emphasised "the necessity for order and submission on the part of his monks ... so that the monastery could go back to being a truly organic community, a real family or, as he said, a true 'Body of Christ'". This was because persecutions had forced the monks to disband.

The Holy Father went on: "One of Theodore's basic convictions was that monks, more than others, have a commitment to observe Christian duties with greater rigour and intensity in order to offer a sign, an indication, to all Christians. This is why they make a special profession, ... almost a 'new Baptism'".

"The commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience", said the Pope, "distinguishes monks from those who live in the world". Yet personal poverty, "an essential element of monasticism, also shows the rest of us a way to follow. The renunciation of private property, freedom from material things, sobriety and simplicity have radical validity only for monks, but the spirit of such renunciation is the same for everyone. We must not depend upon material things, we must learn renunciation, simplicity, austerity and sobriety. Only in this way can a united society develop and the great problem of poverty in this world be overcome".

"The main forms of renunciation are those imposed by obedience", which St. Theodore "describes as the 'martyrdom of submission'". In this context the Holy Father noted how "the social fabric cannot function if each exclusively follows his or her own path. ... Legality - in other words, submission and obedience to the rules of the common life and the common good - is the only thing that can heal a society, and ego itself, from the pride of being at the centre of the world".

"For Theodore the Studite, one important virtue - equal to the virtues of obedience and humility - was 'philergia', that is, love for work. ... He did not, then, allow monks, under the pretext of prayer or contemplation, to dispense themselves from work, which is in fact the means to discover God".

Benedict XVI also highlighted how St. Theodore was "the spiritual father of his monks", always ready "to listen to the confidences of everyone. He also gave spiritual advice to many people outside the monastery".

Theodore's Rule, "known by the name of 'Hypotyposis'", was codified shortly after his death and "adopted with a few modifications on Mount Athos, ... It remains", noted the Pope, "highly relevant".

The Holy Father concluded by warning of the "numerous perils that today threaten the unity of the shared faith and push us towards a dangerous kind of spiritual individualism. It is necessary to work to defend and develop the perfect unity of the Body of Christ, a unity in which the peace of order and sincere personal relationships in the Spirit can come together harmoniously".
AG/ST. THEODORE STUDITE/... VIS 20090527 (720)


VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of Rome, Benedict XVI inaugurated the ecclesial congress of the diocese of Rome. The congress, which is due to last until 29 May, has as its theme: "Church membership and pastoral co-responsibility".

On his arrival the Holy Father was welcomed by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar general for the diocese of Rome. In his address, the Pope called on ecclesial moments to work in harmony with the diocese, with "a true sense of belonging to the Church", and highlighted the need for a redoubling of commitment on the part of lay people, who are called "not merely to be collaborators of the clergy" but to shoulder their own specific responsibilities in the life of the Church.

He then dwelt on various erroneous tendencies such as that of tending to identify the Church with her hierarchy while forgetting that, in fact, everyone is part of her "from the Pope to the most recently baptised", or that of conceiving of the People of God in sociological and political terms, while overlooking the novelty of the Church.

In this context, Benedict XVI spoke of the good fruits of Vatican Council II, and rejected those forms of interpretation that consider the Council as a break in the continuity of Church tradition.

The Pope invited young people "to experience the beauty of being Church" in a world where individualism reigns and a sense of belonging is being lost. He also suggested the creation of missionary groups in the workplace, where many people spend most of their time, and highlighted the need for "adequate pastoral care on environment issues".

Recalling then how many baptised people do not feel they form part of the ecclesial community and that few lay people, though they call themselves Catholic, are ready to work in the various fields of pastoral activity, the Holy Father encouraged pastors to favour a climate of spiritual and apostolic growth in their flock and to reach out to the population of Rome.
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