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Monday, March 26, 2012


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. today the Holy Father left Miraflores College in Leon to travel to the city of Guanajuato, sixty-four kilometres away. He covered the first part of the journey by car, transferring to the popemobile shortly before reaching his destination. The city of Guanajuato, which has a population of around 70,000, underwent its greatest expansion during the period of Spanish rule, thanks to the nearby silver and gold mines. It is also famous for being the cradle of the Mexican national independence movement led by Miguel Hidalgo. In 1998 the city and its silver mines became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After entering Guanajuato, the Pope made his way to the Casa del Conde Rul, the headquarters of the State government, where he paid a courtesy visit to Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico. The two men held a private meeting, after which Benedict XVI, accompanied by Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, appeared on the balcony of the building to greet children and faithful gathered below in the Plaza de la Paz.

"You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart", he told the children. "And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months, because of drought, has made itself strongly felt in some regions. I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. ... God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and He loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.

"This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: “la paz”, peace. This is a gift which comes from on high. “Peace be with you”. These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered His life.

"The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to Him, then, as the best of friends".

"I have come that you may know my affection. Each one of you is a gift of God to Mexico and to the world. Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions.    That is why I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.

"You, my dear young friends, are not alone. You can count on the help of Christ and His Church in order to live a Christian lifestyle. Participate in Sunday Mass, in catechesis, in apostolic works, looking for occasions of prayer, fraternity and charity. Blessed Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, lived this way, and knowing Jesus, during the time of the initial evangelisation of Mexico, they discovered that there is no greater treasure than He".

"We will remain close in prayer. So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families. Pray for everyone, and also for me. I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony".


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Parque Bicentenario of the city of Leon. He reached the venue by helicopter from Miraflores College where he is staying during his apostolic visit to Mexico. On arrival he was welcomed by the governor of the State of Guanajuato before boarding the popemobile to greet the 500,000 faithful.

The Holy Father concelebrated Mass with Mexican cardinals and bishops, the presidents of the twenty-two episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, and some 3,000 priests. The ceremony was accompanied by a 200-strong choir and the faithful were able to follow the event on giant screens.

Extracts from the Holy Father's homily are given below.

"We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation ... helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.

"The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that He would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation".

"This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One Who alone can give life in its fullness, because He is the essence of life and its author; He has made us sharers in the same through His Son Jesus Christ.

"Today’s Gospel takes up the topic and shows us how this ancient desire for the fullness of life has actually been achieved in Christ. ... On the cross ... His “glory” will begin, because of His sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. ... Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to St. Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by Whom all live, the Creator of persons, ... of heaven and earth. At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you”".

"By coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. ... This monument represents Christ the King. But His crowns, one of a sovereign the other of thorns, indicate that His royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of His armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that He brought into the world with His sacrifice and the truth to which He bore witness. This is His sovereignty which no one can take from Him and which no one should forget".

"From this park, foreseen as a memorial of the bicentenary of the birth of the Mexican nation, ... we ask Christ for a pure heart, where He as Prince of Peace may dwell “thanks to the power of God Who is the power of goodness, the power of love”. But for God to dwell in us, we need to listen to Him; we must allow His Word to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary. In this way we grow in friendship with Him, we learn to understand what He expects from us and we are encouraged to make Him known to others.

"At Aparecida, the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean saw with clarity the need to confirm, renew and revitalise the newness of the Gospel rooted deeply in the history of these lands. ... We need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to His Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at His disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort”. This can be seen clearly in the saints who dedicated themselves fully to the cause of the Gospel with enthusiasm and joy without counting the cost, even of life itself. Their heart was centred entirely on Christ from Whom they had learned what it means to love until the end".

"Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts. ... And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity".


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - "As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world", said the Holy Father this morning before the Marian prayer.

"Do not forget", he went on, "that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognise the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues”. To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

"At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope. She is the Mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.

"With these sentiments, I place once again this country, all Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelisation; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the continental mission which is now taking place across these noble lands. In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred", the Pope concluded.

After the Angelus, Benedict XVI prayed for a few moments in silence before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As he imparted the final blessing, he also blessed ninety-one images of the Virgin of Guadalupe which are destined to be displayed in all the dioceses of Mexico.


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today the Holy Father arrived at the cathedral of "Nuestra Senora de la Luz" in the city of Leon, where he celebrated Vespers with Mexican bishops and numerous other prelates from the episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. On arrival the Pope was greeted by the cathedral chapter, then paused for a moment of private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Following a greeting by Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, president of the Mexican Episcopal Conference and of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the celebration of Vespers began. Extracts from the homily delivered by the Holy Father during the ceremony are given below.

"The Blessed Virgin ... has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. ... A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning Him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets. Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that. ... There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil".

"I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ. ... Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint".

"In you I see reflected the concerns of the flocks which you shepherd, and I am reminded of the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, where the participants applaud after an intervention by someone who exercises his ministry in particularly troubling situations for the Church’s life and mission. That applause is a sign of deep faith in the Lord and fraternity in the apostolate, as well as gratitude and admiration for those who sow the Gospel amid thorns, some in the form of persecution, others in the form of social exclusion or contempt. Neither are concerns lacking, for want of means and human resources, or for limitations imposed on the freedom of the Church in carrying out her mission.

"The Successor of Peter shares these concerns and he is grateful for your patient and humble pastoral outreach. You are not alone. ... All of us are one in sufferings and in consolation. Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith. He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way".

"The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; His grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. ... I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone".

"Amid the challenges now facing us in our pastoral care and our preaching of the Gospel, it is essential to show great concern for your seminarians. ... No less fundamental is the need to remain close to your priests; they must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes. ... The same should be said for the different forms of consecrated life, whose charisms need to be gratefully esteemed and responsibly encouraged, in a way respectful of the gift received. Greater attention is due to the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment. Their faith formation is critical if the Gospel is to become present and fruitful in contemporary society. It is not right for them to feel treated like second-class citizens in the Church, despite the committed work which they carry out in accordance with their proper vocation, and the great sacrifice which this dedication at times demands of them. In all of this, it is particularly important for pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided".

"Stand beside those who are marginalised as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor. The Church cannot separate the praise of God from service to others. The one God, our Father and Creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbour. ... The Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan Who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us".

Following the ceremony, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramirez, governor of the State of Guanajuato, handed the Pope a device with which he illuminated the new lighting system of the nearby Shrine of Christ the King.


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - This evening, following the celebration of Vespers, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presided at a dinner in the courtyard of the cathedral of Leon. The event was attended by Mexican and Latin American bishops, and by members of the papal entourage.

The secretary of State pronounced an address in which he observed that the Pope's visit to Mexico was "an occasion of profound happiness, seeing how this beloved nation has once again opened wide its doors to the Successor of Peter, manifesting in this way the greatness of spirit of her children, her exquisite hospitality and the robust Catholic faith rooted among her citizens".

Cardinal Bertone noted that this year marks the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See. "Both the Church and the State share a common duty, each according to its specific mission, in protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of each person", he said. "Of special note among them is the freedom of man to search for the truth and to profess his own religious convictions, in public as well as in private, which has been recognised and guaranteed by civil law. And it is to be hoped that in Mexico this fundamental right will continue to be strengthened, conscious that it goes much further than mere freedom of worship. It penetrates every dimension of the human person, called to express his or her faith, to proclaim it and share it with others, without imposing it, as the most precious gift from God.

"Moreover", the cardinal added, "diplomatic efforts must be more fully rooted in the promotion of this great common cause, to which Christianity can offer a valid contribution, because it is “a religion of freedom and of peace, and it is at the service of the authentic good of humanity”. The Church never ceases to call on everyone to let political activity be a praiseworthy and ceaseless endeavour in support of citizens, and not become a struggle for power or an imposition of rigid ideological systems, which so often result in the radicalisation of wide sectors of the population.

"In this sense, the bishops here present represent the Catholic Church’s engagement to work for the benefit of the human family, for whom Jesus Christ gave His life. In each generation, she has written a page of this history of service to humanity. Some lines of it are the work of saints, others of the martyrs. This history has not been lacking in daring pastors, in exemplary religious men and women, in young people with prophetic voices, in valiant witnesses to charity and in faithful lay people who, often with great simplicity, have offered a hand and an open door to their brothers and sisters in need. The beauty of Christianity has been expressed in many different ways so that each man or woman, without regard to race, language or social class can be embraced. In it, much of the dimension of faith has come to be so deeply professed and celebrated, as is seen in Mexico and throughout Latin America, and shown through the many charitable projects which have inspired so many to overcome selfishness and to help with the most basic and urgent social needs. Nor should we forget initiatives for the promotion of the right of every person and all peoples, the defence of their liberty and the cultivation of art and culture.

"If this mission has been tainted in some way, that does not tarnish the splendour of the Gospel, which is always present to purify and illuminate our path, which today is seen in the revitalisation of the faith to which Benedict XVI continues to invite us".

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