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Friday, September 17, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - At midday today in St. Mary's University College at Twickenham, the Holy Father met with leaders from the main Christian confessions and from other religions present in the United Kingdom: Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

  "The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and economic life speaks eloquently of the fact that the spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings", the Pope told his audience.

  He then highlighted how "the quest for the sacred is the search for the one thing necessary, which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart".

  "The human and natural sciences", he explained, "cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, 'why is there something rather than nothing?'

  "The quest for the sacred", the Pope added, "does not devalue other fields of human enquiry. On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation". God "entrusted us with the task of exploring and harnessing the mysteries of nature in order to serve a higher good. ... In the Christian faith [this] is expressed as love for God and love for our neighbour. And so we engage with the world wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, but always with a view to serving that higher good, lest we disfigure the beauty of creation by exploiting it for selfish purposes.

  "So it is that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity. ... It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own".

  Referring then to the importance of dialogue and collaboration with followers of other religions, the Holy Father made specific mention of "situations in some parts of the world, where co-operation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one's religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one's conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another. Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world".

  And he went on: "This kind of dialogue needs to take place on a number of different levels, and should not be limited to formal discussions. The dialogue of life involves simply living alongside one another and learning from one another in such a way as to grow in mutual knowledge and respect. The dialogue of action brings us together in concrete forms of collaboration, as we apply our religious insights to the task of promoting integral human development, working for peace, justice and the stewardship of creation. Such a dialogue may include exploring together how to defend human life at every stage and how to ensure the non-exclusion of the religious dimension of individuals and communities in the life of society.

  "Then at the level of formal conversations, there is a need not only for theological exchange, but also sharing our spiritual riches, speaking of our experience of prayer and contemplation, and expressing to one another the joy of our encounter with divine love. In this context I am pleased to note the many positive initiatives undertaken in this country to promote such dialogue at a variety of levels".

  Pope Benedict concluded his remarks before the multi-religious gathering by giving assurances that the Catholic Church "follows the path of engagement and dialogue out of a genuine sense of respect for you and your beliefs. Catholics, both in Britain and throughout the world, will continue to work to build bridges of friendship to other religions, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust between individuals and communities".

  At the end of the event, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 SEP 2010 (VIS) - As is the tradition on his apostolic trips abroad, during his flight to the United Kingdom the Holy Father answered questions from the journalists accompanying him on the papal aircraft.

  One journalist asked the Pope if he was worried about the discussions and contrasting opinions that have marked preparations for his trip. "The tradition of the country has included strong anti-Catholic views. Are you concerned about how you will be received?"

  Benedict XVI replied: "I must say that I am not worried because when I went to France it was said that it was the most anti-clerical of countries, with strong anti-clerical currents and a minimum number of faithful, and when I went to the Czech Republic it was also said that it was the most irreligious and anticlerical country of Europe. ... Of course, Great Britain has its own history of anti-Catholicism, that much is obvious, but it is also a country with a great history of tolerance. Thus I am certain that there will be a generally positive welcome from Catholics and believers, attention from those from those who seek to progress in our time, and mutual respect and tolerance where there is anti-Catholicism. I hope to carry on courageously and joyfully".

  The second question was: "The United Kingdom, like many other Western countries, is considered to be a secular State. There is a strong culturally-motivated atheist movement. Nonetheless, there are also signs that religious faith - particularly faith in Jesus Christ - remains alive at a personal level. What does this mean for Catholics and Anglicans? Can anything be done to make the Church a more credible and attractive institution?"

  "In my view", the Pope replied, "a Church which seeks above all to be attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for herself, she does not work to increase her numbers and her power. The Church is at the service of Another. She serves not herself, not to become strong; rather, she serves to make the announcement of Jesus Christ more accessible: the great truths, the great powers of love and reconciliation which appeared in Him and which always come from the presence of Jesus Christ. ... In this sense its seems to me that Anglicans and Catholics have a simple task, the same task, the same direction to follow. If Anglicans and Catholics see that neither is an end unto themselves, but that they are both instruments of Christ ('friend of the bridegroom' as St. John says); if both follow Christ's priorities and not their own, then they come together because those priorities unite them. They are no longer rivals, each searching for more followers, they are joined in their commitment to the truth of Christ which comes into this world. Thus do they also reciprocally discover authentic and fruitful ecumenism".

  The third question put to the Pope focused on how to restore trust among the faithful following the sex abuse scandals.

  "In the first place, I have to say that these revelations were a shock to me, a source of great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible. The priest at the moment of ordination, having prepared for years for that moment, says yes to Christ, becoming His voice, His mouth, His hand, and serving Him with all his life so that the Good Shepherd Who loves, helps and leads us to truth may be present in the world. It is difficult to understand how a man who has done and said these things can fall into this perversion. It is very sad. It is also sad that the Church authorities were not sufficiently vigilant, not quick and decisive enough in taking the necessary measures. For all these reasons we are now in a time of penance, humility and renewed sincerity. ... As concerns the victims, I would like to make three important points. ... How can we make reparation, what can we do to help these people overcome their trauma, rediscover life and faith in the message of Christ? Concern and commitment to the victims is the first priority, with material psychological and spiritual assistance. The second question is the problem of the guilty, ensuring they receive just punishment, that they have no possibility of approaching young people, because we know that this is a disease and free will cannot function where the disease exists. Thus we must protect these people from themselves, find ways to help them and protect them from themselves, excluding them from all access to young people. The third point concerns prevention through education and the selection of candidates to the priesthood; vigilance so that as far as humanly possible future cases are avoided. I would also like to take this moment to thank British bishops for their attention and collaboration, both with the See of St. Peter and with the public authorities, and for their concern towards the victims. I feel the British episcopate has done and continues to do a great job, and I am very grateful to them".

  "The figure of Cardinal Newman", noted another journalist, "is very important for you, to the extent that you are taking the exceptional step of presiding at his beatification. Do you feel that his memory can help to overcome divisions between Anglicans and Catholics? What aspects of his personality do you wish to emphasise most?"

  "Cardinal Newman is above all", the Holy Father said, "a modern man who experienced all the problems of modernity, who also lived the problem of agnosticism, the impossibility of knowing God and believing. ... I would also highlight these three elements: The modernity of his life, with all the doubts and problems of our lives today. His immense culture; his knowledge of the great treasures of human culture and his permanent readiness to study and renew that knowledge. His spirituality; his spiritual life and his life with God. These things make him an exceptional man of our time. Thus his figure appears as a doctor of the Church for us and for everyone, as well as being a bridge between Anglicans and Catholics".

  The final question was: "This visit is considered as being a 'State visit'. Are there important points of agreement with the UK authorities, particularly in view of the great challenges facing the world today?"

  The Pope replied: "I am very grateful to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who wished to give this visit the rank of State visit, thus expressing its public nature as well as the joint responsibility of politics and religion for the future of the continent and the future of humanity. [We have] a great and joint responsibility to ensure that the values that create justice and politics - values that come from religion - proceed together in our time. Of course, the fact that this is a State visit does not make it a political event, because if the Pope is a head of State this is only a tool to guarantee the independence of his announcement and the public nature of his work as pastor, In this sense, a State visit always remains, substantially and essentially, a pastoral visit".
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VATICAN CITY, 16 SEP 2010 (VIS) - At 3.15 p.m. today, the Pope left Edinburgh by car for Bellahouston Park in Glasgow where he arrived an hour later. Having driven through the park, greeting and blessing the 70,000 faithful present, he celebrated Mass in honour of St. Ninian of Galloway, apostle of Scotland (360-432).

 Recalling John Paul II's historic 1982 visit during which he had called the faithful to walk hand in hand with their fellow Christians, the Pope noted how this "has led to greater trust and friendship with the members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others".

  Benedict XVI also greeted representatives of other Christian confessions present at the ceremony. "Let us give thanks to God", he said, "for the promise which ecumenical understanding and co-operation represents for a united witness to the saving truth of God's word in today's rapidly changing society".

  On the subject of education he noted how "in the last thirty years, and with the assistance of civil authorities, Scottish Catholic schools have taken up the challenge of providing an integral education to greater numbers of students".

  "I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level", he said.

  "The evangelisation of culture is all the more important in our times, when a 'dictatorship of relativism' threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatise it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, ... not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith's wisdom and vision in the public forum.

  "Society today", the Pope added, "needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation".

  Addressing Scottish bishops, Benedict XVI reminded them that one of their primary pastoral duties is the sanctification of priests. "Pray with them for vocations", he said.

  And he told Scottish priests that "you are called to holiness and to serve God's people by modelling your lives on the mystery of the Lord's cross. Preach the Gospel with a pure heart and a clear conscience. Dedicate yourselves to God alone and you will become shining examples to young men of a holy, simple and joyful life: they, in their turn, will surely wish to join you in your single-minded service of God's people".

  The Pope concluded his homily with some remarks addressed to the young Catholics of Scotland. "There are", he noted, "many temptations placed before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive. There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for Him, know Him and love Him, and He will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today's society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God".

  "I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life".

  After Mass, the Pope travelled by plane from Glasgow to London's Heathrow airport. From there he went to the apostolic nunciature where he spent the night.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father travelled twelve kilometres by car from the apostolic nunciature in London, England, to St. Mary's University College at Twickenham. The institution, founded in 1850 to educate the children of poorer Catholic families, was initially run by the Brothers of Christian Schools but passed to the Vincentians in 1899. It currently has 4,000 students. From 1920 to 1989 it was part of the University of London but now issues its own academic qualifications.

  The Pope was greeted by the rector and the chaplain of the university, by Michael Gove, minister for Education, and by Bishop George Stack, auxiliary of Westminster. They accompanied him to the university chapel where 300 religious who work in education were awaiting his arrival. Once there the Pope delivered his address.

  "You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith, but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today's world", said the Holy Father. "Education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full - in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator".

  "This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelisation of these islands", he said. "Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which He makes Himself known - His creation and His revealed word - it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school. ... It was the monks' dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilisation".

  The Holy Father thanked the members of the teaching orders which, he said, "have carried the light of the Gospel to far-off lands as part of the Church's great missionary work. ... Often", he told his audience, "you laid the foundations of educational provision long before the State assumed a responsibility for this vital service to the individual and to society.

  "As the relative roles of Church and State in the field of education continue to evolve", the Pope added, "never forget that religious have a unique contribution to offer to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the supreme Teacher. Indeed, the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine".

  Pope Benedict concluded by expressing his particular appreciation "for those whose task it is to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for children and young people. Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less. Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust. I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - At the end of his meeting with religious in the chapel of St. Mary's University College at Twickenham, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile across the campus towards the sports field, where 4,000 students from British Catholic schools were awaiting his arrival. The students had been able to follow his remarks to the religious on large television screens. St. Mary's is famous for its sports facilities, which have been chosen as a training ground for the 2010 London Olympics. The Pope's meeting with the students was broadcast live by the internet and could be seen in all the Catholic schools of England, Scotland and Wales.

  The Pope was greeted by Bishop Malcolm P. McMahon O.P. of Nottingham, president of the episcopal commission for education, then proceeded to inaugurate the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, which Catholic bishops intend to use to bring together that Pope's teachings on the subject of sport (120 discourses during his pontificate).

  "It is not often that a Pope", said Benedict XVI, "has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century".

  "Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. ... Let me explain what I mean. ... When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. ... Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple - true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only He can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

  "Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but He invites us to respond to that love", the Pope added. "And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. ... You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage. ... You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. ... And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints".

  The Holy Father went on: "In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. ... Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray".

  Benedict concluded his remarks by addressing the "many non-Catholics studying in the Catholic schools in Great Britain. ... I pray that you too will feel encouraged to practise virtue and to grow in knowledge and friendship with God alongside your Catholic classmates. You are a reminder to them of the bigger picture that exists outside the school, and indeed, it is only right that respect and friendship for members of other religious traditions should be among the virtues learned in a Catholic school. I hope too that you will want to share with everyone you meet the values and insights you have learned through the Christian education you have received".

  Having completed his address, the Pope moved on to the University's Waldgrave Drawing Room where he met with representatives of other religions.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service will transmit bulletins on Saturday 18 September and on Sunday 19 September, for the Holy Father's apostolic trip to the United Kingdom.
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