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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope dedicated his catechesis to a subject he began last week, that of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century German Benedictine religious "who distinguished herself for her spiritual wisdom and the sanctity of her life".

  Referring to the mystical visions the saint received throughout her life, the Holy Father highlighted how "they were rich in theological content. They referred to the main events of the history of salvation and use a Mainly poetic and symbolic language. For example, in her best known work entitled 'Scivias' ('Know the Ways') she summarised the events of the history of salvation in thirty-five visions, from the creation of the world to the end of time. ... In the central part of her work she develops the theme of the mystical marriage between God and humankind which came about in the Incarnation".

  "Even in this brief outline", Benedict XVI went on, "we see how theology can receive a special contribution from women, because they are capable of speaking of God and of the mysteries of the faith with their specific intelligence and sensitivity". In this context he encouraged all women "who undertake this service to do so with a profound ecclesial spirit, nourishing their reflections with prayer and looking to the great riches - still partly unexplored - of the mediaeval mystical tradition, especially as represented by such shining examples as Hildegard of Bingen".

  Turning his attention to other writings by the saint, the Pope recalled how "two are particularly important because, like 'Scivias', they contain her mystical visions. They are the 'Liber vitae meritorum' (Book of Life's Merits) and the 'Liber divinorum operum' (Book of Divine Works) which is also known by the name of 'De operatione Dei'. The former ... underscores the profound relationship between man and God and reminds us that all creation, of which man is the apex, receives life from the Trinity. ... In the second work, considered by many to be her masterpiece, she again describes creation in its relationship with God and the centrality of man, revealing a powerful biblical-patristic kind of Christocentrism".

  Hildegard was also interested in "medicine and the natural sciences, as well as music", said the Holy Father. "For her, all of creation was a symphony of the Holy Spirit, Who is in Himself joy and contentment".

  "Hildegard's popularity led many people to consult her. ... Monastic communities, both male and female, as well as bishops and abbots all sought her guidance. And many of her answers remain valid, even for us", said the Pope.

  "With the spiritual authority she possessed, in the last years of her life Hildegard began to travel. ... She was considered to be a messenger sent by God, in particular calling monastic communities and clergy to a life in conformity with their vocation. Hildegard especially opposed the German Cathar movement. The Cathars - their name literally means 'pure' - supported radical reform of the Church, principally to combat clerical abuses. She reprimanded them fiercely, accusing them of wanting to subvert the very nature of the Church and reminding them that the true renewal of the ecclesial community is not obtained by changing structures so much as by a sincere spirit of penance and a fruitful journey of conversion. This is a message we must never forget".

  The Pope concluded: "Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit that He may bring saintly and courageous women to the Church, like St. Hildegard of Bingen, who using the gifts received from God, may make their precious and specific contribution to the spiritual growth of our communities".
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VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - During today's general audience, Benedict XVI read an English-language message for his forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom, due to take place from 16 to 19 September.

  "I am very much looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom in a week's time and I send heartfelt greetings to all the people of Great Britain. I am aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit, not only by the Catholic community but by the Government, the local authorities in Scotland, London and Birmingham, the communications media and the security services, and I want to say how much I appreciate the efforts that have been made to ensure that the various events planned will be truly joyful celebrations. Above all I thank the countless people who have been praying for the success of the visit and for a great outpouring of God's grace upon the Church and the people of your nation.

  "It will be a particular joy for me to beatify the Venerable John Henry Newman in Birmingham on Sunday 19 September. This truly great Englishman lived an exemplary priestly life and through his extensive writings made a lasting contribution to Church and society both in his native land and in many other parts of the world. It is my hope and prayer that more and more people will benefit from his gentle wisdom and be inspired by his example of integrity and holiness of life.

  "I look forward to meeting representatives of the many different religious and cultural traditions that make up the British population, as well as civil and political leaders. I am most grateful to Her Majesty the Queen and to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for receiving me, and I look forward to meeting them. While I regret that there are many places and people I shall not have the opportunity to visit, I want you to know that you are all remembered in my prayers. God bless the people of the United Kingdom!"
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VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - Following his general audience this morning, the Holy Father received members of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The meeting marked the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, which "commits member States of the Council of Europe to promote and defend the inviolable dignity of the human person".

  Speaking English, Benedict XVI referred to the topics on the parliamentary assembly's agenda, such as "persons who live in particularly difficult situations or are subjected to grave violations of their dignity". He made particular mention of "people afflicted with handicaps, children who suffer violence, immigrants, refugees, those who pay the most for the present economic and financial crisis, those who are victims of extremism or of new forms of slavery such as human trafficking, the illegal drug trade and prostitution, ... victims of warfare and people who live in fragile democracies". The Pope also dwelt on the organisation's efforts "to defend religious freedom and to oppose violence and intolerance against believers in Europe and worldwide.

  "Keeping in mind the context of today's society in which different peoples and cultures come together", he added, "it is imperative to develop the universal validity of these rights as well as their inviolability, inalienability and indivisibility. On different occasions I have pointed out the risks associated with relativism in the area of values, rights and duties. If these were to lack an objective rational foundation, common to all peoples, and were based exclusively on particular cultures, legislative decisions or court judgements, how could they offer a solid and long-lasting ground for supranational institutions such as the Council of Europe? ... How could a fruitful dialogue among cultures take place without common values, rights and stable, universal principles understood in the same way by all member States of the Council of Europe?"

  He went on: "These values, rights and duties are rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning. The Christian faith does not impede, but favours this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity".

  The Holy Father concluded by expressing his conviction that "these principles, faithfully maintained, above all when dealing with human life, from conception to natural death, with marriage - rooted in the exclusive and indissoluble gift of self between one man and one woman - and freedom of religion and education, are necessary conditions if we are to respond adequately to the decisive and urgent challenges that history presents".
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VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue today released an English-language communique describing its "great concern at the news of the proposed 'Koran Burning Day' on the occasion of the anniversary of the 11 September tragic terrorist attacks in 2001 which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and considerable material damage.

  "These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community. Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.

  "The reflection which necessarily should be fostered on the occasion of the remembrance of 11 September would be, first of all, to offer our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorist attacks. To this feeling of solidarity we join our prayers for them and their loved ones who lost their lives.

  "Each religious leader and believer is also called to renew the firm condemnation of all forms of violence, in particular those committed in the name of religion. Pope John Paul II affirmed: 'Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions' (address to the new ambassador of Pakistan, 16 December 1999). His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI similarly expressed, 'violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion' (address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, to the new ambassador of Morocco, 6 February 2006)".
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VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Barbara Jatta as curator of prints at the Vatican Apostolic Library.
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VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo the Holy Father attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem played by the Symphony Orchestra of Padua and Veneto, and the "Accademia della voce" Choir of Turin, conducted by Claudio Desideri.

  At the end of the concert, one of a number of such initiatives to mark the fifth anniversary of his pontificate, the Pope expressed his thanks to the musicians and singers, reaffirming his particular affection for Mozart whose music, he said, reminded him of his parish church when, as a child, during Mass "I felt that a ray of the beauty of heaven had touched my heart. I feel the same each time, including today, I listen to this great, dramatic and serene meditation upon death.

  "In Mozart", the Holy Father added, "everything is in perfect harmony, each note, each musical phrase. ... Even opposites are reconciled and... 'Mozartian serenity' envelopes everything at all times. This is a gift of the Grace of God, but also the fruit of Mozart's own living faith which - especially in his sacred music - manages to reveal the shining response of divine Love which brings hope even when human life is beset by suffering and death".

  Recalling the last letter Mozart wrote to his dying father, in which the composer affirmed that death did not frighten him and thanked God for the opportunity of recognising therein the key to happiness, Benedict XVI affirmed: "That letter expresses a profound and simple faith, which also emerges in the great prayer of the Requiem and which, at the same time, leads us to love the vicissitudes of earthly life intensely, as gifts of God, and to rise above them, contemplating death serenely as the 'key' that opens the door to everlasting happiness".

  The Holy Father concluded: "Mozart's Requiem is an exalted expression of faith, one that knows the tragic nature of human life and does not remain silent before its dramatic aspects; thus it is an expression of Christian faith, aware that all of man's life is illuminated by the love of God".
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