Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict speaks of the New Evangelization as an “encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence”

This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict opened the 13th Ordinary Synod of Bishops whose it will be to guide him and the entire Church, in the work of Evangelization. At Holy Mass, His Holiness bestowed the honor of being Doctors of the Church on Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. The Pope’s homily follows.

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With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforce by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks.

The readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, “crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.

I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is against this dynamic background that I like to look at the two radiant figures that I have just proclaimed Doctors of the Church, Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other.

The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.

One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). The saints are the true actors in evangelization in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelization: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.

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At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.

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Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church.

This summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelization and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelization is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust the work of the Synod meeting to God, sustained by the communion of saints, invoking in particular the intercession of great evangelizers, among whom, with much affection, we ought to number Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelization. Let us place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization. With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that from on high he may illumine the Synodal assembly and make it fruitful for the Church’s journey today, in our time. Amen.

Mary is the living house of the Lord, Pope recalls John XXIII 50th anniversary visit


Pope Benedict went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, his 30th trip in Italy, to commemorate the visit Blessed John XXIII made when he called the Second Vatican Council entrusting her with the needs the Church and the Council. The Pope’s homily follows.

On 4 October 1962,
Blessed John XXIII came as a pilgrim to this Shrine to
entrust to the Virgin Mary the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, due to
begin a week later. On that occasion, with deep filial devotion to the Mother
of God, he addressed her in these words: “Again today, and in the name of the
entire episcopate, I ask you, sweetest Mother, as Help of Bishops, to intercede for me as Bishop of Rome and for all
the bishops of the world, to obtain for us the grace to enter the Council Hall
of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus
entered the Upper Room: with one heart, one heartbeat of love for Christ and
for souls, with one purpose only, to live and to sacrifice ourselves for the
salvation of individuals and peoples. Thus, by your maternal intercession, in
the years and the centuries to come, may it be said that the grace of God
prepared, accompanied and crowned the twenty-first Ecumenical Council, filling
all the children of the holy Church with a new fervour, a new impulse to
generosity, and a renewed firmness of purpose”
54 [1962], 727).

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Pope Benedict sends note on death of Cardinal Martini

The typical protocol is for the Pope, often through the Secretary of State, to send a telegram on the death of a churchman, or on the occasion of another significant event. In the case of cardinals, a pope sends a more personal message. Pope Benedict knew Cardinal Martini well, and even saw him in June when he was in Milan. The pope writes…

B16 and Carlo Maria.jpgHaving heard with sadness the news of the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini after a long illness, which he lived with a tranquil soul and with confident abandonment to the will of the Lord, I wish to express to you and to the entire diocesan community, as well as to the family of the late Cardinal, my profound share in their sorrow, recalling with affection this dear brother who served the Gospel and the Church so generously. I recall with gratitude the intense and profuse Apostolic work of this zealous, spiritual child of St. Ignatius, an expert teacher, an authoritative biblical scholar, and a beloved Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University and of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and a wise and diligent Archbishop of the Ambrosian Archdiocese. I think also of the competent and fervent service he gave to the Word of God, always opening to the ecclesial community the treasures of the Sacred Scriptures, especially through the promotion of Lectio Divina. I raise fervent prayers to the Lord that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He will receive His faithful servant and worthy shepherd into the heavenly Jerusalem; and upon all those who mourn his death, I warmly impart the comfort of the Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict writes to The Meeting 2012

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict closely follows The Meeting. He was in attendance several years ago, as was John Paul II in 1982. Picking up from Father Luigi Giussani’s thinking of “life as a vocation”, the Pope reminds us that everything is answered in relationship to the Infinite. On July 11, 2012 I posted a piece called “The Vocation to Life” which is essential reading if you want to know more of what the Pope, Giussani and Christianity is all about.

The Pope’s letter for the 2012 Meeting follows (emphasis mine).

To the Venerable
Brother Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi,

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 Bishop of Rimini 

I wish to extend my
cordial greetings to you, to the organizers and to all the participants in the
Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, now in its XXXIII year. The theme chosen
this year – “The nature of man is a relationship with the infinite” – is
particularly significant in view of the approaching start of the Year of Faith,
which I have willed to proclaim to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of
the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

To speak of man and of his yearning for
the infinite means, first and foremost, to recognize his constitutive
relationship with the Creator
. Man is a creature of God. Today this word –
creature – seems almost passé: we prefer to think of man as a self-fulfilled
being and master of his own destiny. The consideration of man as a creature
seems “uncomfortable,” because it implies an essential reference to something
else, or better, to Someone else – whom man cannot control – who enters in
order to define his identity in an essential way; a relational identity, whose
first element is the original and ontological dependence on He who wanted us
and created us. Yet this dependence, from which modern and contemporary man
attempts to break free, not only does not hide or diminish, but luminously
reveals the greatness and supreme dignity of man, who is called into life in
order to enter into relationship with Life itself, with God.

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Pope: configuration to Christ is the precondition and basis for renewal

“Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided ‘translations’ on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a ‘translation’ of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such ‘translations’ of Jesus’ way into historical figures.”

Pope Benedict XVI

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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