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Thursday, February 14, 2013


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Pope met with pastors and clergy of the Diocese of Rome, accompanied by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general, and the auxiliary bishops of the diocese. Before entering the hall, they had processed into St. Peter's Basilica to make a profession of faith at the altar of the Chair.

Benedict XVI was greeted with the hymn "Tu es Petrus". "Thank you all for your affection, for your love for the Church and the Pope. Thank you!" the Pope said, before being greeted by Cardinal Vallini.

"For me, it is a special gift of Providence," he continued afterwards, "that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I am able to see my clergy, the clergy of Rome, one more time. It is always a great joy to see how the Church lives, how it is alive in Rome. We have pastors who, in the spirit of the Supreme Pastor, guide the Lord's flock. It is a truly catholic clergy, that is to say, a universal clergy, and this is the same essence of the Church in Rome: to bring universality, catholicity, to all peoples, all races, and all cultures."

"Today you have professed the Creed at the tomb of St. Peter. In the Year of Faith this seems to me a very appropriate, and perhaps necessary, gesture that the clergy of Rome gather around the tomb of the Apostle to whom the Lord said: 'I entrust my Church to you. On you I will build my Church'. Before the Lord, together with Peter, you have professed: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God.' Thus the Church grows, together with Peter, professing Christ, following Christ. It is what we always do. I am very grateful for your prayers, which I have felt, as I said on Wednesday, almost physically. Even though I am now retiring, I will always be near to all of you in prayer and I am also sure that all of you will be near to me, even if I am hidden from the world."

Then the Pope spoke to those present in the Paul VI Hall about his personal experience during Vatican Council II, as the priests had requested of him.


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday at 5:00pm, the Holy Father presided over the rite of blessing and imposition of ashes. Traditionally, the celebration is held in the Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina but, given the large influx of persons and the desire of the cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia to accompany the Pope in the final acts of his pontificate, it was moved to St. Peter's Basilica. Before the ceremony, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., address a brief greeting to the pontiff, expressing the "emotion and respect not only of the Church, but of the entire world" for Benedict XVI on the news of his decision to renounce the Petrine ministry. Following are ample excerpts from the Holy Father's homily.

"Today, Ash Wednesday, … we have gathered to celebrate the Eucharist following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten station Masses. This tradition calls for the first 'statio' Mass to take place in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances, however, have suggested that we gather in the Vatican Basilica. We are great in number around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, also to ask for his intercession for the Church's journey in this particular moment, renewing our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me, this is a opportune occasion to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude my Petrine ministry, and to ask for special remembrance in your prayers."

"The readings that have been proclaimed give us the idea that, with God's grace, we are called to make our attitudes and behaviours take concrete form this Lent. Above all, the Church proposes to us once again, the strong appeal that the prophet Joel addresses to the Israelites: Thus says the Lord: 'return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning'. Note the expression 'with your whole heart', which means from the centre of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices, and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a strength that doesn't reside in our hearts but that springs from God's own heart. It is the power of His mercy. … This return to God becomes a concrete reality in our lives only when the Lord's grace penetrates to our innermost being, shaking it and giving us the strength to 'rend our hearts'. Again the prophet makes God's words ring out: 'Rend your hearts, not your garments'. Indeed, even in our days, many are ready to 'rend their garments' in the face of scandals and injusticenaturally moved by others' situations―but few seem willing to act on their own 'heart', on their own conscience, and their own intentions, to let the Lord transform, renew, and convert them."

"That 'return to me with your whole heart' then is a reminder that involves not just the individual but the community. In the first reading we have heard: 'Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly!' … The dimension of community is an essential element in faith and the Christian life. … This is important to remember and to live in this Lenten period: each of us must be aware that the path of penitence is not to be faced alone, but together with our many brothers and sisters in the Church."

"Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of the priests who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God saying: 'do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?"' This prayer makes us reflect on the importance of the witness of faith and the Christian life on the part of each of us and our communities to reveal the face of the Church as well as how this face, at times is disfigured. I'm thinking in particular of the blows to Church unity and the divisions in the ecclesial body. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming selfishness and rivalries, is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent to it."

"'Behold, now is the time of favour; behold, now is the day of salvation', The Apostle Paul's words to the Christians of Corinth resound for us too, with an urgency that allows for no omissions or inactivity. The word 'now', repeated again and again, says that we cannot let this moment pass us by, it is offered to us as a unique and unrepeatable opportunity. The Apostle's gaze focuses on the sharing that Christ wanted to characterize his existence, taking on everything human even to the point of bearing the very burden of humanity's sin. … The reconciliation offered to us has had a high price, that of the cross raised on Golgotha, on which was hung the Son of God made man. God's immersion in human suffering and in the abyss of evil lies at the root of our justification. 'Returning to God with our whole heart' during our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of our self. …"

"In the Gospel of Matthew, part of the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. They are also traditional directives on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to 'return to God with our whole heart'. But Jesus emphasizes that it is both the quality and the truth of the relationship with God that determine the authenticity of every religious gesture. This is why He denounces religious hypocrisy, the behaviour that wants to appear a certain way, the attitudes seeking applause and approval. The true disciple doesn't serve himself or the 'public', but serves the Lord in simplicity and generosity. … Our witness, then, will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and we will know that the reward of the just person is God himself, being united to Him, here, on the path of faith and at the end of our lives, in the peace and light of meeting Him face to face forever."


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) – Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household and secretary to Benedict XVI, will continue to carry out both roles and will thus accompany the Pope during his stay at Castel Gandolfo and at the monastery that he will retire to after his resignation from the papacy. The papal household, or "memores", which has served the Holy Father during these past eight years will also move to the same monastery. This was among the information given by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office in today's press briefing.

Fr. Lombardi also clarified that the cardinals arriving in Rome before 1 March, the official start of the Sede vacante, will not reside in the Casa Santa Marta residence until that date. At the same time he commented that the pontiff's fall during the trip to Mexico last year was not a determining factor in his decision to renounce the Petrine ministry, nor was the report of the commission of three cardinals (Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi), which the Pope instituted last April to carry out an internal investigation on the leak of documents.


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) – The Governorate of Vatican City State and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Italy have signed, at the ministry's offices, a memorandum of understanding regarding use of the "Passetto di Borgo", that is, the covered corridor atop the walls joining the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angleo, and the Watchtower of that monument.

Signing for the Holy See was Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, and, on behalf of the Italian Republic, Lorenzo Ornaghi, Italy's Minister of Culture.

The memorandumfollowing in line with the Exchange of (Diplomatic) Notes between Italy and the Holy See in 1991 regarding the ownership and use of the "Passetto di Borgo" and taking into account the common interest in cooperating for the care and appreciation of the historic and artistic patrimony―defines the usage of the Watchtower for the purpose of authorizing the movement of the public within and outside of the monument and of preparing the adequate infrastructures to allow access for persons with disabilities.

This agreement is part of the overall project for the restoration and appreciation of the "Passetto di Borgo" on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Culture, with the purpose of opening this historic corridor leading to the Castel Sant'Angelo National Museum to the public. The memorandum of understanding, which consists of a preamble and eight articles, entered into effect upon its signing.


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) – In a previous story about the future conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor it was erroneously stated that the number of cardinal electors could vary according to the date that the conclave commences.

In fact, this number is independent of the date that the conclave begins because John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis", which will regulate the conclave, establishes in no. 33 that cardinals who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant will not be cardinal electors.

For that reason, for example, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who turns 80 on 5 March will be an elector, as is also the case for Cardinal Severino Poletto, who turns 80 on 18 March.


Vatican City, 14 February 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Laurent Percerou as Bishop of Moulins, (area 7,381, population 347,900, Catholics 346,000, priests 102, permanent deacons 17, religious 273), France. The bishop-elect was born in Dreux, France in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He has served in several pastoral and administrative roles for the diocese of Chartres, France, most recently as assistant for the Scouts et Guides de France, director of diocesan catechetical services, and vicar general of that diocese.
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