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Thursday, March 1, 2012


Vatican City, 1 March 2012 (VIS) - A congress organised by the Cultural Project Committee of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) was held recently in Rome on the theme: "Jesus, Our Contemporary". For the occasion, Benedict XVI sent a message to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the CEI.

"The name and the message of Jesus of Nazareth", the Pope writes, "frequently arouse interest and exert strong attraction, even among people who do not succeed in adhering to His word of salvation. We are therefore impelled to evoke an increasingly profound and thorough understanding, in ourselves and everywhere, of the real figure of Jesus Christ. This can only spring from the hermeneutic of faith, placed in a fruitful relationship with historical reason. It was for this purpose that I wrote my two books on Jesus of Nazareth".

"On several occasions in the course of my pontificate, I have recalled the need to give priority to opening a pathway to God in human hearts and lives. ... We cannot entrust our lives to an indefinite superior body or to a cosmic force, but to God Whose face as Father has been made familiar by the Son, 'full of grace and truth'. Jesus is the key that opens the door of wisdom and love to us, that dispels our loneliness and keeps hope alive in the face of the mystery of evil and death. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, in Whose name many believers in various countries of the world today still face suffering and persecution, cannot therefore be confined to a distant past but is crucial to our faith today.

"What does it mean", the Pope adds, "to say that Jesus of Nazareth, Who lived between Galilee and Judea two thousand years ago is a 'contemporary' of every man and woman alive today, and in every epoch? Romano Guardini explains it to us in words that remain as timely as when they were written: 'His earthly life entered into eternity and in this way is related to every hour of earthly time, redeemed by His sacrifice'".

"Jesus enters human history forever, where He lives on in all His beauty and power in that frail body which is the Church, ever in need of purification but also full of divine love. To Him she turns in the liturgy, to praise Him and to receive authentic life. The contemporaneity of Jesus is revealed in a special way in the Eucharist, in which He is present with His passion, death and resurrection. It is this that makes the Church contemporaneous with every human being, capable of embracing all people and all epochs because she is guided by the Holy Spirit in order to perpetuate the work of Jesus in history".


Vatican City, 1 March 2012 (VIS) - Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land. The letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the congregation, has the purpose of sensitising the Catholic Church around the world with regard to the Holy Land, and of promoting initiatives of prayer and fraternal charity towards Christians of Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine and neighbouring countries.

"The Son of God made man, after having crossed this land announcing the Kingdom and confirming the word with mighty works, wonders and signs, went up to the Holy City to immolate Himself", reads the English-language version of the letter. "From that time, every Christian finds himself at home in that City and in that Land. This is possible thanks to the pastors in this place, who, by the will of the Lord Jesus, continue in our day also to gather our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate the love of Him Who 'makes all things new'.

"The Congregation for the Oriental Churches hereby reminds the bishops of the entire world of the unceasing request of Pope Benedict XVI that the mission of the Church in the Holy Places be generously supported. Although specifically pastoral, this mission at the same time offers a praiseworthy social service to all without exception. In this way, fraternity, which can overcome division and discrimination, increases and gives renewed impetus to ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious collaboration. This constitutes an admirable work of peace and reconciliation, which is all the more necessary today, as we share the Holy Father’s preoccupation 'for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land'".

"This year, Good Friday seems more fitting than ever as a sign of the needs of both pastors and faithful, which are bound up with the sufferings of the entire Middle East. For the disciples of Christ, hostility is often the daily bread which nourishes the faith and sometimes makes the echo of martyrdom. Christian emigration is exacerbated by the lack of peace, which tends to impoverish hope, changing it into the fear of facing alone a future that seems to exist only in the abandonment of one’s own country.

"Nonetheless, as was the case for the Gospel’s grain of wheat, so the trials of Christians in the Holy Land prepare without doubt a brighter tomorrow. The dawning of this new day, however, requires support now for schools, medical assistance, critical housing, meeting places, and everything else that the generosity of the Church has devised".

"We have the duty to restore the spiritual patrimony which we have received from these Christians’ two millennia of fidelity to the truth of the faith. We can and must do this by our prayer, by concrete assistance, and by pilgrimages. The Year of Faith, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II, will provide particular motivation for us to direct our steps towards that Land. ... Next Good Friday, around the Cross of Christ, let us be conscious of being together with these brothers and sisters of ours. May the loneliness that is at times strongly felt in their situation be overcome by our fraternity".

Also made public today was a report prepared by the Custody of the Holy Land (a province of the Order of Friars Minor with responsibility for the Holy Places), listing the works carried out with the proceeds of the Good Friday collection of 2011. Restoration and maintenance has been carried out on numerous shrines, churches and convents in the Holy Land including such places as Bethlehem, Jerusalem (Gethsemane and the Shrine of the Flagellation, among others), Jaffa, Magdala and Mount Tabor. Other initiatives sought to improve welcome services for pilgrims.

A significant part of the proceeds was used to fund student scholarships, to help small business, and to build houses, schools and areas for children. Other recipients of aid included families, parish communities, the poor and cultural institutions.


Vatican City, 1 March 2012 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for March is: "That the whole world may recognise the contribution of women to the development of society".

His mission intention is: "That the Holy Spirit may grant perseverance to those who suffer discrimination, persecution or death for the name of Christ, particularly in Asia".

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