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Sunday, September 25, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass in the Domplatz (Cathedral Square) of Erfurt, Benedict XVI travelled by plane to Freiburg im Breisgau where he first made a visit to the local cathedral.

The Holy Father then went on to greet local citizens gathered in the city's Munsterplatz, thanking them for their warm welcome. "I have come to you joyfully, in order to pray together, to proclaim the word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist", he said. "I ask for your prayers, that these days will be fruitful, that God will deepen our faith, strengthen our hope and increase our love. During these days, may we become aware once more how much God loves us and how good He is, so that we may trustingly place ourselves and all our cares and concerns into His hands. In Him our future is assured: He gives meaning to our lives and can bring them to fulfilment. May the Lord accompany you in peace and make you messengers of joy!"

Having imparted his apostolic blessing the Pope moved on to the local seminary where he held a private meeting with Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany, before meeting with representatives from the Orthodox Churches.
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VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 5.1.5 p.m. today the Holy Father met with fifteen representatives from the Orthodox Churches in Germany gathered in the main hall of the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau. Germany has a total of 467 Byzantine Orthodox communities with some 1,300,000 faithful belonging to various autocephalous Churches.

Having greeted Metropolitan Augoustinos, president of the Orthodox Episcopal Conference in Germany, and thanked him for his words, "so full of confidence", the Pope reaffirmed that "among Christian Churches and communities, the Orthodox are theologically closest to us; Catholics and Orthodox both have the same basic structure inherited from the ancient Church. So we may hope that the day is not too far away when we may once again celebrate the Eucharist together.

"With interest and sympathy the Catholic Church follows the development of Orthodox communities in Western Europe, which in recent decades have grown remarkably", the Pope added. He then went on to express his satisfaction at "the increase of pan-Orthodox co-operation, which has made significant progress in recent years. ... May the work of these episcopal conferences strengthen the bond between the Orthodox Churches and hasten the progress of efforts to establish a pan-Orthodox council".

On the subject of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, the Holy Father highlighted the importance of continuing efforts "to clarify theological differences. ... The resolution of these questions is indispensable for restoration of the full unity that we hope and pray for. Above all it is on the question of primacy that our continuing efforts towards a correct understanding must be focused. Here the ideas put forward by John Paul II in the Encyclical 'Ut Unum Sint' on the distinction between the nature and form of the exercise of primacy can yield further fruitful discussion points".

He also expressed his appreciation for "the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. ... The results so far obtained allow us to grow in mutual understanding and to draw closer to one another", he said.

"In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to 'liberate' public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany - including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians - are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all. At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God's incarnation at the centre of their proclamation. Realising that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death".

In closing, Pope Benedict reiterated how "faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians vigorously to oppose every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life. Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation. Here the common engagement of Christians, including many Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due".
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VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Today at 5.45 p.m. Benedict XVI met with a group of sixty seminarians in the St. Charles Borromeo Chapel of the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau.

Following the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and an introduction from Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff remarks to the seminarians. He invited them to dedicate themselves to their studies because, he explained, the relationship between faith and reason is of particular importance in our time, and the use of reason is fundamental in order to spread the faith.

Benedict XVI also turned his attention to the need for discernment, faithfulness and prayer, underlining the importance of community life and of listening to others, in order to live in the faith. Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. explained to journalists that the Pope's words were intended as an exhortation to the seminarians and as an indication of the way they should live their formative years.
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VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 6.1.5 p.m. today in the main hall of the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau the Holy Father met with council members of the Central Committee for German Catholics. The committee was founded in 1952 to support the apostolic work of the Catholic Church.

The Holy Father focused on the "exposure programmes" promoted by the committee whereby, for a certain period, experts in various sectors share the daily lives of poor people in developing countries "in order to see the world through their eyes and hence to learn how to practise solidarity. ... Let us imagine", the Pope said, "that an exposure programme of this kind were to take place here in Germany. Experts from a far country would ... find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty: poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.

"We live at a time that is broadly characterised by a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life", he added. "Sometimes this relativism becomes aggressive, when it opposes those who claim to know where the truth or meaning of life is to be found. And we observe that this relativism exerts more and more influence on human relationships and on society. ... Many no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others. Even the altruistic commitment to the common good, in the social and cultural sphere or on behalf of the needy, is in decline. Others are now quite incapable of committing themselves unreservedly to a single partner".

"We see that in our affluent western world much is lacking. Many people lack experience of God's goodness. They no longer find any point of contact with the mainstream Churches and their traditional structures. But why is this? I think this is a question on which we must reflect very seriously. Addressing it is the principal task of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. But naturally it is something that concerns us all".

In this context the Holy Father noted that "the Church in Germany is superbly organised". However, he asked, "behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective".

"We are called to seek new paths of evangelisation. Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God", Benedict XVI suggested. "There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society".

Following the meeting, the Holy Father moved on to the fairgrounds of Freiburg im Breisgau to preside at a prayer vigil with young people.
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VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Following his meeting with members of the Central Committee for German Catholics at the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau, Benedict XVI travelled to the city fairgrounds where he presided at a prayer vigil with young people. Extracts from the Holy Father's address are given below.

He began by referring to the candle-lighting ceremony, which was part of the vigil. In an imitation of the Easter rite of lighting the Paschal candle, the Pope lit candles borne by a number of young people who, in their turn, lit candles carried by others. "This wonderful liturgical rite ", he said, "reveals to us in signs more eloquent than words the mystery of our Christian faith. Jesus who says of Himself: 'I am the light of the world', causes our lives to shine brightly, so that what we have just heard in the Gospel comes true: 'You are the light of the world'.

"It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our era that brings light into this world", the Holy Father added. "Again and again we have to experience how our striving to bring about a better and more just world hits against its limits. Innocent suffering and the ultimate fact of death awaiting every single person are an impenetrable darkness. ... While all around us there may be darkness and gloom, yet we see a light: ... Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world and He does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is sombre and hopeless".

"To be sure, those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship, but there is always a bright glimmer there, lighting up the path that leads to fullness of life. The eyes of those who believe in Christ see light even amid the darkest night and they already see the dawning of a new day.

"Light does not remain alone. All around, other lights are flaring up. In their gleam, space acquires contours, so that we can find our bearings. We do not live alone in this world. And it is for the important things of life that we have to rely on other people. Particularly in our faith, then, we do not stand alone, we are links in the great chain of believers. Nobody can believe unless he is supported by the faith of others, and conversely, through my faith, I help to strengthen others in their faith".

The idea of sainthood has often been distorted

"We increasingly experience the failure of our efforts and our personal shortcomings, despite our best intentions. In the final analysis, the world in which we live, in spite of its technical progress, does not seem to be getting any better. There is still war and terror, hunger and disease, bitter poverty and merciless oppression. And even those figures in our history who saw themselves as 'bringers of light' - without being fired by Christ, the one true light - did not manage to create an earthly paradise, but set up dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of true humanity was choked".

"At this point we cannot remain silent about the existence of evil. We see it in so many places in this world; but we also see it - and this scares us - in our own lives. Truly, within our hearts there is a tendency towards evil, there is selfishness, envy, aggression. Perhaps with a certain self-discipline all this can to some degree be controlled. But it becomes more difficult with faults that are somewhat hidden, that can engulf us like a thick fog, such as sloth, or laziness in willing and doing good. Again and again in history, keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians".

"Dear friends, again and again the very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless. Often it is thought that a saint has to be someone with great ascetic and moral achievements, who might well be revered, but could never be imitated in our own lives. How false and discouraging this opinion is! There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen. Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in your lives you stumble and fall, as in how often you pick yourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but He wants His light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because He is good and He wants to make you His friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians - not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because Christ is your life. You are holy because His grace is at work in you".

"This gathering shines in more ways than one - in the glow of innumerable lights, in the radiance of so many young people who believe in Christ. A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire. Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end. Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God's kingdom and to give yourselves - like candle wax - so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world. I am confident that you and many other young people here in Germany are lamps of hope that do not remain hidden. 'You are the light of the world'".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 SEP 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father concelebrated Mass at the airport of Freiburg im Breisgau with bishops from the twenty-seven dioceses of the Federal Republic of Germany. The event was attended by thousands of faithful from Germany and surrounding countries. Extracts from the Holy Father's homily are given below.

"'Father, you show your almighty power in your mercy and forgiveness', as we said in today's Collect", the Pope began. "There are theologians who, in the face of all the terrible things that happen in the world today, say that God cannot be all-powerful. In response to this we profess God, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. ... At the same time, we have to be aware that He exercises His power differently from the way we normally do. He has placed a limit on His power, by recognising the freedom of His creatures. We are glad and thankful for the gift of freedom.

"However, when we see the terrible things that happen as a result of it, we are frightened. Let us put our trust in God, whose power manifests itself above all in mercy and forgiveness. Let us be certain, dear faithful, that God desires the salvation of His people. He desires our salvation. He is always close to us, especially in times of danger and radical change, His heart aches for us and He reaches out to us. We need to open ourselves to Him so that the power of His mercy can touch our hearts. We have to be ready to abandon evil, to raise ourselves from indifference and make room for His word. God respects our freedom. He does not constrain us.

"In the Gospel Jesus takes up this fundamental theme" in the parable of the two sons invited by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son refuses but later repents and goes to work, while the second agrees but in the end does not go. Of the two sons, only the first does his father's will. "Translated into the language of our time", the Pope explained, "this statement might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of our sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is 'routine' and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting their hearts be touched by faith".

He went on: "The words of Jesus should make us all pause, in fact they should disturb us. ... So let us ask ourselves, how is my personal relationship with God: in prayer, in participation at Sunday Mass, in exploring my faith through meditation on Sacred Scripture and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Dear friends, ... the renewal of the Church will only come about through openness to conversion and through renewed faith".

"Christian life must continually measure itself by Christ. ... Just as Christ was totally united to the Father and obedient to Him, so too the disciples must obey God and be of one mind among themselves. ... The Church in Germany will overcome the great challenges of the present and future, and it will remain a leaven in society, if the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, in fidelity to their respective vocations, work together in unity. ... The Church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world: if she remains faithfully united with the Successors of St. Peter and the Apostles, if she fosters co-operation in various ways with mission countries and allows herself to be 'infected' by the joy that marks the faith of these young Churches".

"Christian life is ... humble service of neighbour and of the common good. ... Let us ask God for the courage and the humility to walk the path of faith, to draw from the riches of His mercy, and to fix our gaze on Christ. ... He is our future.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass at the airport of Freiburg im Breisgau, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus, a prayer, he said, which "constantly reminds us of the historical beginnings of our salvation".

Mary's "yes", the Pope explained, "is the trusting 'yes' to God's plan, to our salvation". Mary "addresses her 'yes' to us all, whom she received as her children entrusted to her at the foot of the Cross. She never withdraws this promise".

"As we pray the Angelus, we may join Mary in her 'yes', we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God's plan and to the providence that He has assigned to us in His grace. Then God's love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible. In all our cares we need have no fear. God is good. At the same time we know that we are sustained by the fellowship of the many believers who are now praying the Angelus with us throughout the world, via radio and television".

Following the Marian prayer, the Holy Father went back to the seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau where he had lunch with members of the German Episcopal Conference.
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