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Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Benedict XVI today resumed his general audiences in the Vatican, having held them at Castelgandolfo during the month of August. Meeting with faithful in the Paul VI Hall he turned his attention to prayer in the Book of Revelation which, he explained, "presents us with the living breathing prayer of the Christian assembly, gathered together 'on the Lord's day'".

Revelation, Pope Benedict went on, "is a difficult book, but one of great richness. ... In it a reader presents the assembly with a message entrusted by God to John the Evangelist. ... From the dialogue between them a symphony of prayer arises which is then developed in many different forms up until the conclusion".

The first part of Revelation presents us with the assembly in prayer in three successive phases. The first of these highlights how "prayer is, above all, a listening to God Who speaks. Engulfed as we are by so many words we are little used to listening, and especially to adopting an interior and exterior attitude of silence so as to attend to what the Lord wishes to say to us. These verses also teach us that our prayers, often merely prayers of request, must in fact be first and foremost prayers of praise to God for His love, for the gift of Jesus Christ which brought us strength, hope and salvation. ... God, Who reveals Himself as the beginning and the end of the story, welcomes and takes to heart the assembly's request".

This first phase also includes another important element. "Constant prayer revives in us a sense of the Lord's presence in our life and history. His presence supports us, guides us and gives us great hope. ... Prayer, even that pronounced in the most extreme solitude, is never a form of isolation and it is never sterile, it is a vital lymph which nourishes an increasingly committed and coherent Christian existence".

In the second phase of the prayer of the assembly "the relationship with Jesus Christ is developed further. The Lord makes Himself visible, He speaks and acts, and the community, increasingly close to Him, listens, reacts and accepts".

In the third phase "the Church in prayer, accepting the word of the Lord, is transformed. ... The assembly listens to the message, and receives a stimulus for repentance, conversion, perseverance, growth in love and guidance for the journey".

"The Revelation", Benedict XVI concluded, "presents us with a community gathered in prayer, because it is in prayer that we gain an increasing awareness of Jesus' presence with us and within us. The more and the better we prayer with constancy and intensity, the more we are assimilated to Him, and the more He enters into our lives to guide them and give them joy and peace. And the more we know, love and follow Jesus, the more we feel the need to dwell in prayer with Him, receiving serenity, hope and strength for our lives".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Africa is called to be the "continent of hope" says Benedict XVI in a letter written to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, for the occasion of the Pan African Congress for Catholic Laity. The congress is taking place in Yaounde, Cameroon, from 4 to 9 September on the theme: "Being witnesses of Jesus Christ in Africa today. 'Salt of the earth ... light of the World".

Hope, the Holy Father writes, "indicates the bright horizon which opens up before the eyes of faith" despite the many spiritual and material problems facing the African continent and the African Church. "Even the best traditional values of African culture are today threatened by secularisation, which gives rise to disorientation, rends the fibre of personal and social life, exacerbates tribalism, violence and corruption in public life, leads to the humiliation and exploitation of women and children, and increases poverty and hunger. To this must be added the threat of fundamentalist terrorism which has recently targeted Christian communities in a number of African countries".

In spite of all this, the people of Africa possess "a great wealth of spiritual resources, which are very valuable in our time: love for life and the family, a sense of joy and of sharing, enthusiasm in living their faith in the Lord. ... Never let the dark mentality of relativism and nihilism, which affects various parts of your world, open a breach in your lives", the Pope says. "With renewed energy accept and spread the message of joy and of hope which Christ brings, a message capable of purifying and strengthening the great values of your culture. ... Making Africa the 'continent of hope' must be the goal that guides the mission of African lay faithful today, just as it must guide the congress you are celebrating".

This mission "arises from the faith, a gift of God which must be welcomed, nourished and developed, because 'we cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden'. ... In this transformation of all society, which is so urgent for Africa today, the lay faithful have an irreplaceable role to play. ... Women and men, young and old, children, families and all of society: today all of Africa awaits the 'ambassadors' of the Good News". These ambassadors are "the lay faithful in parishes, ... ecclesial movements and new communities, enamoured of Christ and the Church, full of joy and gratitude for the Baptism they have received, courageous workers for peace and announcers of authentic hope".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - For the occasion of Benedict XVI's forthcoming apostolic trip to Lebanon, due to take place from 14 to 16 September and during which he will sign and issue the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, statistics concerning the Catholic Church in that country have been published.

The information, updated to 31 December 2011, comes from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Lebanon has a surface area of 10,400 square kilometres and a population of 4,039,000 of whom 2,148,000 (53.18 per cent) are Catholic. There are 24 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 1,126 parishes and 39 pastoral centres of other kinds. Currently, there are 53 bishops, 1,543 priests, 2,797 religious, 2 members of secular institutes, 2,301 lay missionaries and 483 catechists. Minor seminarians number 62 and major seminarians 390.

A total of 427,180 children and young people attend 907 centres of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities, as well as 28 centres for special education. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Lebanon include 30 hospitals, 168 clinics, 39 homes for the elderly or disabled, 63 orphanages and nurseries, 22 family counselling centres and other pro-life centres, and 28 institutions of other kinds.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This afternoon in the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo the Holy Father is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

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