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Monday, May 7, 2012


Vatican City, 7 May 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience new Swiss Guard recruits who yesterday took the oath at their swearing-in ceremony.

After greeting the recruits and their families, as well as representatives of the Swiss authorities accompanying the group, Benedict XVI dwelt on the fact that the Swiss Guards undertake "a direct service to the Supreme Pontiff and the Apostolic See. It is heartening to see that young men choose to consecrate a number of years of their lives to helping Peter's Successor and his collaborators", he said.

"Your work", he told the recruits, "is part of a tradition of unquestioned fidelity to the Pope, which became heroic sacrifice during the 'Sack of Rome' in 1527 when, on 6 May, your predecessors lost their lives. The special service of the Swiss Guards could not then, and cannot now be carried out without the characteristics which distinguish each member of the corps: firm Catholic faith; faithfulness and love for the Church of Jesus Christ; diligence and perseverance in everyday tasks, the great and the small; courage and humility; altruism and willingness. Your hearts must be replete with these virtues when you discharge your service of honour and security in the Vatican.

"Help and support one other in your daily work", the Pope added. "Maintain an approach of evangelical charity towards the people you meet every day. In Sacred Scripture the call to love others is linked to the commandment to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. In order to give love to others we must draw it from the furnace of divine charity, through long periods of prayer, constant listening to the word of God and a life focused on the mystery of the Eucharist".

The Holy Father went on: "The secret of being effective, in your work here in the Vatican and in any other projects you have, is constant reference to Christ. This was the experience of many of your predecessors, who were outstanding not only in their work but also in their commitment to Christian life. Some of them were called follow the Lord in the priesthood or consecrated life, and responded readily and enthusiastically; others fulfilled their vocation to marriage through the Sacrament of Matrimony. I thank God, the source of all goodness, for the various gifts and missions He gives you, and I pray that you too, as you begin your service, may respond to the call of Christ, following Him with faithful generosity.

"Dear friends", the Pope added in conclusion, "take advantage of the time you spend in Rome to develop your friendship with Christ, to increase your love for His Church and to advance towards the goal of each true Christian life: sanctity".


Vatican City, 6 May 2012 (VIS) - Today, the fifth Sunday of Easter, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study overlooking St. Peter's Square, to pray the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered below.

Commenting on today's Gospel in which Jesus tells His disciples "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower", the Holy Father explained that "the true vineyard is God and the true vine is Jesus, Who with His sacrifice of love gave us salvation and opened the way for us to become part of that vineyard. And just as Christ abides in the love of God the Father, so the disciples, pruned by the Master's word, united themselves profoundly to Him, becoming fruitful branches which produced abundant fruit".

"The day of our Baptism, the Church grafts us as branches onto Jesus' Paschal Mystery, onto His very Person. From that root we receive the precious lymph that enables us to participate in divine life. As disciples we too, with the help of the pastors of the Church, grow in the Lord's vineyard bound together by His love. ... It is important to remain united to Jesus, to depend upon Him, because without Him we can do nothing".

The Holy Father went on to explain this latter concept by quoting a question put to the fifth-century monk John the Prophet who lived in the desert of Gaza: "How is it possible to reconcile man's freedom with the fact that we can do nothing without God?" The hermit’s response was: "If man inclines his heart to goodness and asks help of God, he receives the strength necessary to achieve his task. Therefore, man's freedom and God's power go hand in hand. This is possible because goodness comes from God but it is realised thanks to His faithful".

"Each of us", Pope Benedict continued, "is like a branch which lives only if it grows every day through prayer and participation in the Sacraments, through charity and union with the Lord. Those who love Christ, the true vine, produce fruits of faith for an abundant spiritual harvest".

Following the Regina Coeli, the Pope reminded those present of his forthcoming trip to Milan, Italy, in early June for the Seventh World Meeting of Families. Addressing Spanish-speaking pilgrims he also recalled the fact that today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of St. Martin de Porres "whom we ask to intervene in favour of the new evangelisation, that sanctity may blossom in the Church".

Finally, the Holy Father addressed twenty-six new recruits of the Swiss Guard who took their oath today. "I greet the new Swiss Guards and their families, on the feast day of that historic corps", he said.

The oath of new recruits to the Swiss Guards takes place every year on 6 May, usually in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace but this year, due to rain, in the Vatican's Sala Nervi. The ceremony commemorates the 147 members of the corps who lost their lives protecting Pope Clement VII from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527.


Vatican City, 5 May 2012 (VIS) - The question of religious education and the formation in the faith of the next generation of Catholics in the United States was the theme of the Holy Father's remarks to prelates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Regions X-XIII), who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit:

Speaking to the group in English, the Pope began by acknowledging "the great progress that has been made in recent years in improving catechesis, reviewing texts and bringing them into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church". He also praised efforts underway "to preserve the great patrimony of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, which have been deeply affected by changing demographics and increased costs, while at the same time ensuring that the education they provide remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status".

"On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel. Yet much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines. The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

"It is no exaggeration", the Pope added, "to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country".

"First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education ... is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigour in communicating ... the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of the Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer".

The Holy Father went on to explain that "the question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus. All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education. The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support.

"In every aspect of their education, students need to be encouraged to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue. ... In effect, faith by its very nature demands a constant and all-embracing conversion to the fullness of truth revealed in Christ. ... The Christian commitment to learning, which gave birth to the medieval universities, was based upon this conviction that the one God, as the source of all truth and goodness, is likewise the source of the intellect’s passionate desire to know and the will’s yearning for fulfilment in love.

"Only in this light can we appreciate the distinctive contribution of Catholic education, which engages in a “diakonia of truth” inspired by an intellectual charity which knows that leading others to the truth is ultimately an act of love. Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledge provides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue; in this sense, Catholic institutions have a specific role to play in helping to overcome the crisis of universities today".


Vatican City, 5 May 2012 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience Bamir Topi, president of the Republic of Albania. The president subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

A communique released by the Holy See Press Office states that, "during their cordial discussions the parties highlighted the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Albania, and turned their attention to questions of mutual interest regarding relations between the ecclesial and civil communities, including inter-religious dialogue and the Church's contribution in the fields of education and social care. Consideration was also given to Albania's journey towards full integration into the European Union. Finally, the parties exchanged opinions on the current international and regional situation, with particular focus on the economic crisis".


Vatican City, 5 May 2012 (VIS) - Made public today was the letter by which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of the formal renewal of the archbishopric of Prague, due to take place on 12 May.

In the text, written in Latin and dated 30 March, the Pope mentions the long centuries of Church activity in that region of Europe, evangelised by the brothers Cyril and Methodius and homeland to Blessed Ludmilla and St. Wenceslaus.

The cardinal will be accompanied on his mission by Fr. Benedikt Mohelnik O.P., provincial of the Dominican Province of Bohemia, and by Fr. Vojtech Novak, pastor and dean of Rakovnik, and director of the Pontifical Missionary Works for the archdiocese of Prague.


Vatican City, 7 May 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:

- Eight prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama.

- Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, accompanied by Bishop emeritus David Bernard Thompson.

- Bishop Peter Joseph Jugis of Charlotte.

- Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge of Raleigh.

- Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer O.F.M. Conv. of Savannah, accompanied by Bishop emeritus John Kevin Boland.

- Ali Akbar Naseri, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on his farewell visit.

On Saturday 5 May he received in audience:

- Archbishop Santo Gangemi, apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, accompanied by members of his family.

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.


Vatican City, 7 May 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Ecatepec, Mexico, presented by Bishop Onesimo Cepeda Silva, upon having reached the age limit.

On Saturday 5 May it was made public that the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun S.D.B., bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, China, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot, catechist and martyr of Papua New Guinea, due to take place in Rabaul on 7 July.

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