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Monday, September 28, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 27 SEP 2009 (VIS) - This afternoon at the archbishop's palace in Prague the Holy Father met with members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches of the Czech Republic. The Holy Father arrived at 5.15 p.m. to be greeted by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague. Having then been welcomed by the president of the ecumenical council, Benedict XVI pronounced his address.

  "It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures", said the Pope. "During this period, Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, co-operation for peace and the advancement of the common good.

  "Nevertheless", he added, "attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life - sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the wellbeing of society - are emerging in new forms. ... The artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life should prompt us to engage in a mutual 'self-critique of modernity' and 'self-critique of modern Christianity', specifically with regard to the hope each of them can offer mankind ... in a period marked by proliferating world views".

  He went on: "Christianity has much to offer on the practical and ethical level". Yet "God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the 'economy' of charity at work in this world: He offers salvation".

  The term salvation "is replete with connotations", the Pope explained, "yet it expresses something fundamental and universal about the human yearning for wellbeing and wholeness. ... It is the central truth of the Gospel and the goal to which every effort of evangelisation and pastoral care is directed. And it is the criterion to which Christians constantly redirect their focus as they endeavour to heal the wounds of past divisions".

  "The Church's proclamation of salvation in Christ Jesus is ever ancient and ever new. ... As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future".

  Pope Benedict went on to mention Sts. Adalbert and Agnes who spread the Gospel in "the conviction that Christians should not cower in fear of the world but rather confidently share the treasury of truths entrusted to them. Likewise Christians today, opening themselves to present realities and affirming all that is good in society, must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.

  "From this perspective", he added, "we understand more clearly why Christians are obliged to join others in reminding Europe of her roots. It is not because these roots have long since withered. On the contrary! It is because they continue - in subtle but nonetheless fruitful ways - to supply the continent with the spiritual and moral sustenance that allows her to enter into meaningful dialogue with people from other cultures and religions. Precisely because the Gospel is not an ideology, it does not presume to lock evolving socio-political realities into rigid schemas. Rather, it transcends the vicissitudes of this world and casts new light on the dignity of the human person in every age".

  "Let us ask the Lord", the Pope concluded, "to implant within us a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths which have shaped, and will continue to shape, the social and cultural progress of this continent".

  At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father travelled to Prague Castle to meet with members of the academic community.
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VATICAN CITY, 27 SEP 2009 (VIS) - In Prague Castle at 6 p.m. today, the Pope met with rectors of Czech universities, staff and student representatives, and members of State and Church cultural institutions.

  "While some argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason", said the Pope in his address, "that view is by no means axiomatic. The freedom that underlies the exercise of reason - be it in a university or in the Church - has a purpose: it is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university".

  "The great formative tradition, open to the transcendent, which stands at the base of universities across Europe, was in this land, and others, systematically subverted by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit. In 1989, however, the world witnessed in dramatic ways the overthrow of a failed totalitarian ideology and the triumph of the human spirit", said Benedict XVI.

  He highlighted how "the yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity's own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis".

  Universities are responsible "for enlightening the minds and hearts of the young men and women of today" said the Pope, indicating that this task is "not merely the accumulation of knowledge or skills, but 'paideia', human formation in the treasures of an intellectual tradition directed to a virtuous life".

  "The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained", he insisted. "With the massive growth in information and technology there comes the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth. ... The relativism that ensues provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk.

  "While the period of interference from political totalitarianism has passed", he added, "is it not the case that frequently, across the globe, the exercise of reason and academic research are - subtly and not so subtly - constrained to bow to the pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals?"

  "The skills of analysis and those required to generate a hypothesis, combined with the prudent art of discernment, offer an effective antidote to the attitudes of self-absorption, disengagement and even alienation which are sometimes found in our prosperous societies, and which can particularly affect the young".

  "Not only do the proponents of this positivistic exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason negate what is one of the most profound convictions of religious believers, they also thwart the very dialogue of cultures which they themselves propose. An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs".

  "This confidence in the human ability to seek truth, to find truth and to live by the truth led to the foundation of the great European universities. Surely we must reaffirm this today in order to bring courage to the intellectual forces necessary for the development of a future of authentic human flourishing, a future truly worthy of man", the Holy Father concluded.

  At the end of his meeting with scholars, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature where he spent the night.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At 8.15 a.m. today the Pope left the apostolic nunciature in Prague and travelled 35 kilometres by car to the church of St. Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav. The church, which stands on the site of the saint's martyrdom, is considered to be the symbolic site of the birth of the Czech nation and is the focus of a national pilgrimage which takes place every year on 28 September.

  Wenceslas was born around the year 907 and ascended the throne in 925. According to tradition he was a highly cultured and religious king, a man of justice and a benefactor to the poor. He was killed for political reasons by his brother Boleslav in 935 and in 938 his remains were translated to Prague cathedral. Ever since the tenth century he has been venerated as a saint.

  Arriving at the church the Holy Father was greeted by the religious and civil authorities. Having paused in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he descended to the crypt of the Mausoleum of the Czech Nation where the relics of the saint are exposed. Before leaving the building the Pope greeted a group of twenty elderly priests who reside in a house belonging to the episcopal conference. He then travelled by popemobile to the nearby esplanade of Melnik where he celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas, feast day of the Czech Republic.

  In his homily Benedict XVI pointed out that St. Wenceslas "is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? ... Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?

  "The last century - as this land of yours can bear witness - saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights", he added. "Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are.

  "Only those who maintain in their hearts a holy 'fear of God' can also put their trust in man and spend their lives building a more just and fraternal world. Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptised, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God's will at every moment".

  Quoting then from today's Gospel in which Christ pronounces the words: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" the Pope reiterated the fact that "the true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to His disciples the 'narrow' path of holiness".

  "The testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible" to follow this path, the Holy Father went on. "Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so".

  "This is the lesson we can learn from St. Wenceslas, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power", the Holy Father concluded.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's Eucharistic celebration the Holy Father addressed a Message to the 10,000 young pilgrims gathered on the esplanade of Melnik near the site of St. Wenceslas' martyrdom. Many of them had spent the night in tents to attend the Mass presided by Benedict XVI.

  "Being with you makes the Pope feel young!" the Holy Father told the pilgrims, thanking them for their "enthusiasm" and "generosity". He went on: "In every young person there is an aspiration towards happiness, sometimes tinged with anxiety: an aspiration that is often exploited, however, by present-day consumerist society in false and alienating ways. Instead, that longing for happiness must be taken seriously, it demands a true and comprehensive response. At your age, the first major choices are made, choices that can set your lives on a particular course, for better or worse".

  Benedict XVI reminded his audience of "the experience of St. Augustine, who said that the heart of every person is restless until it finds what it truly seeks. He discovered that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person's desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value.

  "As he did with Augustine", the Pope added, "so the Lord comes to meet each one of you. He knocks at the door of your freedom and asks to be welcomed as a friend. He wants to make you happy, to fill you with humanity and dignity. The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person Who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction".

  "The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society". He "constantly renews His invitation to you to be His disciples and His witnesses. Many of you He calls to marriage, and the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey. Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!"

  Pope Benedict continued his Message: "And if the Lord is calling you to follow Him in the ministerial priesthood or in the consecrated life, do not hesitate to respond to His invitation. In particular, in this Year for Priests, I appeal to you, young men. ... The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.

  "Hope! This word, to which I often return, sits well with youth. You, my dear young people, are the hope of the Church! She expects you to become messengers of hope".

  The Holy Father then called on his youthful listeners to participate in the next World Youth Day, due to take place in the Spanish capital city of Madrid in August 2011, and he asked them "to live your faith with joy and enthusiasm; to grow in unity among yourselves and with Christ; to pray and to be diligent in frequenting the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession".

  Having then greeted the young people in various languages, Benedict XVI returned to Prague by car, where he dined at the archbishop's palace with bishops of the Czech Republic.
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