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Monday, April 2, 2012


Vatican City, 1 April 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today opened Holy Week celebrations by celebrating Mass for Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of 60,000 faithful.

The Pope went by popemobile to the altar, situated under the obelisk of St. Peter's Square which was decorated with branches, flowers and thirteen olive trees from the Italian region of Puglia.

"Palm Sunday", said the Holy Father in his homily, "is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes His way towards the culmination of His earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which He will reign forever, drawing to Himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption".

The Pope dwelt on the episodes associated with Christ's entry into Jerusalem: the healing of blind Bartimaeus and the enthusiasm of the crowds who cried: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”. "This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited His people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once He has entered the city".

"But", the Holy Father added, "what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfils the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves”. ... Hence He Whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also He in Whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things".

Therefore the primary message of today’s feast is "the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilisations. The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility. Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those He loves and upon Creation, the work of His hands".

"Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King Who chooses the Cross as His throne. We are called to follow a Messiah Who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.

We must ask ourselves what our true expectations are, the Pope said addressing young people also for the occasion of today's World Youth Day. "May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow Him all the way, the decision to make His Passover, His death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives. It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – “Rejoice in the Lord always”".

Finally, the Holy Father expressed the hope that these days may "call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their “Hosanna!”, and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: He will give us His life, His body and His blood, His love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ Who suffered, died and rose for us".

Benedict XVI concluded his homily with the words of St. Andrew, bishop of Crete: "So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ, ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under His feet. ... Let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death".


Vatican City, 1 April 2012 (VIS) - At the end of this morning’s Mass for Palm Sunday, and before praying the Angelus, the Pope reminded the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that today also marks World Youth Day (WYD) 2012. In this context he addressed a special greeting to the organisers of WYD Madrid 2011 and WYD Rio de Janeiro 2013, who were present at the celebration and who have recently participated in a congress in Rome.

"The theme of today's World Youth Day is St. Paul's appeal to 'rejoice in the Lord always'", Benedict XVI said. "The joy arising from the knowledge that God loves us is a central element of Christian experience. In a world often characterised by sadness and anguish, this is an important testimony of the beauty and reliability of the faith. Be joyful witnesses of Christ!"


Vatican City, 2 April 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience 5,000 young people from the archdiocese of Madrid, Spain, accompanied by their archbishop Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela. They are currently on a pilgrimage to Rome to thank the Pope for his trip to Spain during last August's World Youth Day. Extracts from Benedict XVI's words to them are given below.

"Whenever I recall the twenty-sixth World Youth Day in Madrid, my heart is filled with gratitude to God for those unforgettable days. ... That marvellous encounter can only be understood in the light of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, which never ceases to infuse hearts with encouragement, and continually leads us out into the public square of history, as happened at Pentecost, to bear witness to God's wonders. You are called to cooperate in this edifying task. ... Christ needs you at His side to extend and build His Kingdom of charity".

"No one is superfluous to such an undertaking. Therefore, never cease to ask yourselves what the Lord is calling you to do, and how you can help Him. Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves. This is what the saints have always done, spreading the light of the Lord ... and transforming the world into a welcoming home for everyone".

"Like the first Apostles, you too must be missionaries of Christ among your relatives, friends and acquaintances, in the places where you study and work, among the poor and the sick. Speak of His love and goodness with simplicity, without fear. Christ Himself will give you the strength to do so. For your part, listen to Him, interact with Him often and sincerely. Trustingly tell Him of your desires and aspirations, of your own sufferings and those of people you perceive without consolation or hope".

"Yesterday we began Holy Week, in which we will follow the footsteps of Christ. ... We will contemplate His passion and humiliation unto death. ... I encourage you to take up your own cross, the cross of the pain and sin of the world, so as to gain a better understanding of Christ's love for humanity. Thus you will feel impelled to proclaim the God Who loves men and women, and Who sent His Son, not to condemn them, but for them to achieve a life of fullness and meaning".


Vatican City, 31 March 2012 (VIS) - Franciscans and Poor Clares throughout the world are currently celebrating the "Clarian Year", the eighth centenary of the "conversion" and consecration of St. Clare of Assisi (1193-1253) which took place on Palm Sunday 1211 or 1212. For the occasion, Benedict XVI has written a letter to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi - Nocera Umbra - Gualdo Tadino, Italy.

The Pope recalls the life story of the founder of the Poor Clares. Following St. Francis' advice, she attended Palm Sunday Mass dressed in all her finery. She received a palm from the hands of the bishop then, later that night, fled the house of her parents - who had been hoping to marry her to a wealthy man - and went to the Porziuncola where St. Francis and his companions were waiting for her. There Clare renounced the world, Francis cut her hair and she adopted the black veil and rough sandals which became the first habit of the Poor Clares.

Clare's history "also speaks to our generation, and has a particular fascination for the young", the Holy Father says. Francis had a good reason for advising Clare to flee her parents' house at the beginning of Holy Week. "All Christian life, and thus also consecrated life", he writes, "is the fruit of the Paschal Mystery and of our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Palm Sunday liturgy pain and glory come together, a theme which will be developed over the following days through the dark night of the Passion up to the ultimate light of Easter. With her choice Clare relived this mystery".

"At its most profound level, Clare's 'conversion' is a conversion of love. No longer would she have the refined dress of the Assisan aristocracy, but an elegance of soul expressed in praise of God and giving of self. Day by day a fraternity came into being within the confines of the monastery of San Damiano, at the school of the Eucharistic Christ, ... a fraternity regulated by love of God and prayer, by concern for others and service. It was in this context of profound faith and great humanity that Clare came to interpret the Franciscan ideal, imploring the 'privilege' of poverty and renouncing even the shared possession of material goods, something which left even the Supreme Pontiff perplexed, until in the end he too surrendered to the heroism of her sanctity".

The Holy Father continues: "How can we not present St. Clare, and St. Francis, to the young people of today? The time dividing us from these two saints has not lessened their allure. Quite the contrary, their contemporary importance is evident in the face of the illusions and delusions which often mark the life of modern youth. Never has a time caused the young to dream so much, with the multiple attractions of a life in which everything seems possible and permissible. And yet, how much dissatisfaction exists, how many times the search for happiness and self-realisation follows paths which lead to artificial paradises such as those of drugs and unbridled sensuality. And the current situation, with the difficulty of finding dignified work and forming a united and happy family, adds further clouds to the horizon.

"Yet", the Pope adds in conclusion, "there is no lack of young people who, even in our own times, accept the invitation to entrust themselves to Christ and to face the journey of life courageously, responsibly and hopefully, choosing even to leave everything to follow Him and serve their brethren. The story of Clare, with that of Francis, is an invitation to reflect upon the meaning of life and to seek the secret of true joy in God. It is concrete proof that those who accomplish the will of God and trust in Him not only lose nothing, but discover the real treasure which gives meaning to everything".


Vatican City, 31 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a message to prisoners detained in Rome's Rebibbia prison for the Way of the Cross they celebrated there yesterday evening. The celebration, presided by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, was attended by 300 prisoners, the chaplain, Caritas volunteers, seminarians who offer daily service inside the prison and numerous faithful from various parishes. The Pope made a pastoral visit to the jail on 18 December last year.

"I feel a particularly close bond to this initiative", the Pope writes, "because I conserve in my heart the memory of the visit I made to Rebibbia prison shortly before last Christmas. I remember the faces I saw and the words I heard, all of which left a profound mark on me".

"I know that this Way of the Cross also seeks to be a sign of reconciliation. In fact, as one of the prisoners said during our meeting, the purpose of prison is to help us rise again after having fallen, it serves to achieve reconciliation with ourselves, with others and with God, and so re-enter society. When in the Way of the Cross we see Jesus fall to the ground - once, twice, three times - we understand that He shared our human condition. The weight of our sins caused Him to fall; but three times Jesus got up again and continued the journey to Calvary. Thus, with His help, we too can rise from our falls, and perhaps also help a brother to rise as well.

"But what gave Jesus the strength to carry on?", the Pope asked. "He knew that the Father loved Him, and this immense love, this infinite mercy of the heavenly Father, consoled Him and was greater than the violence and abuse surrounding Him".

"The great gift that Jesus gave us with His Way of the Cross was this: He showed us that God is infinite love, He is mercy and He carries the burden of our sins unto the end, enabling us to rise again, to find reconciliation and rediscover peace. We too, then, should not be afraid to follow our own 'way of the cross' to carry our cross together with Jesus. He is with us".

"With this hope, grounded in faith, I trust that you will all live this coming Easter in the peace and joy which Christ bought for us with His blood, and with great affection I impart upon you my apostolic blessing".


Vatican City, 31 March 2012 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" today published a communique announcing that the Pope has made a donation of 100,000 US dollars in support of the people of Syria.

The communique mentions the numerous appeals Benedict XVI has made for an end to violence in Syria and for the opening of dialogue and reconciliation between the conflicting parties, with a view to peace and the common good. The Holy Father has also frequently exhorted the faithful to pray for those who suffer. "Now", the communique says, "the Pope has chosen to donate the sum of 100,000 US dollars, through the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum', for the charitable activities of the local Church in Syria in support of the suffering population". In order to ensure the delivery of the aid, meetings have been planned with His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, president of the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, and with other representatives of the local Church.

Finally, the communique notes that, through her charity organisations, the Catholic Church in Syria is currently involved in assistance projects, particularly in the areas of Homs and Aleppo.

On another front, "Cor Unum" is to finance agricultural development projects in two Cuban dioceses, according to today's "Osservatore Romano". This is the first concrete result of Benedict XVI's recent apostolic visit to the island, on which he was accompanied by Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", who met with Cuban bishops to discuss possible initiatives in support of the population. Two of the bishops, having informed the cardinal that they had received State permission to work for and with farmers in their dioceses, presented two projects which will be realised with the help of "Cor Unum".


Vatican City, 2 April 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to provide information on preparations for World Youth Day (WYD) 2013, due to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 23 to 28 July 2013. The conference was presented by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta O. Cist. of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro, and Msgr. Eduardo Pinheiro da Silva, president of the Brazilian Episcopal Commission for Youth.

In his remarks Cardinal Rylko expressed the view that "WYD truly was a prophetic intuition on the part of Blessed John Paul II, and marked a revolution in the field of youth pastoral care. ... And Benedict XVI has explained how WYD opens up a new way of being Christian". Hence the great efforts the Church makes in preparing these events, he explained.

With the Rio celebration, WYD is returning to Latin America, twenty-six years after the first international WYD, held in Buenos Aires. Rio 2013 "will be part of the continental mission, which emerged from the meeting of bishops of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) at Aparecida in 2007. At the level of the universal Church, the Rio WYD will also be linked to this year's Synod of Bishops on the theme of the new evangelisation". The cardinal also noted that the WYD will be taking place during the Year of Faith. "The aim of WYD", the cardinal explained, "is to increase faith among young people and foment the mission. ... The main need of young people today is to be rooted in the faith and in the great family of the Church, in order to be able to make a greater and more effective contribution to the life of society".

In conclusion, the cardinal also mentioned this year's World Youth Day, which was celebrated throughout the world at a diocesan level yesterday under the theme "Rejoice in the Lord always". "Joy is a characteristic of WYDs", he said. "and that is no coincidence because, if on the one hand young people seek happiness, on the other the Church possesses in herself the treasure of true joy, which arises from encountering Christ the Saviour".

For his part Archbishop Tempesta recalled that information on next year's WYD is available in five languages on the website: www.rio2013.com. The WYD page on Facebook and Twitter already has 600,000 followers, and bookings for pilgrim groups will be open as of July this year.

In conclusion the archbishop of Rio noted that the Brazilian economy had improved in recent years, and social differences had diminished. "WYD will", he said, "be an opportunity to improve the Christian values of solidarity, justice, hope and courage among the new generations".


Vatican City, 2 April 2012 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. has released the following declaration concerning the decision by the authorities in Cuba to make next Good Friday a holiday.

"The fact that the Cuban authorities have immediately accepted the request made by the Holy Father to President Raul Castro, declaring next Good Friday a holiday, is certainly a very positive sign".

"The Holy See hopes that this will facilitate participation in religious celebrations and favour a happy Easter holiday. It also hopes that the Holy Father's visit may continue to produce fruits for the good of the Church and of all Cubans".


Vatican City, 2 April 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia, as archbishop of Brisbane (area 65,000, population 2,760,007, Catholics 643,371, priests 239, permanent deacons 13, religious 890), Australia.

- Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City, as his special envoy to the closing celebrations of the National Eucharistic Congress of Ukraine, due to be held in Lviv on 3 May, sixth centenary of the establishment of the archiepiscopal and metropolitan see of Lviv of the Latins.

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