POPE DELIVERS FINAL CATECHESIS ON THE “OUR FATHER” – POPE FRANCIS SENDS GREETINGS AND A BLESSING TO CHINESE CATHOLICS

POPE DELIVERS FINAL CATECHESIS ON THE “OUR FATHER”

In a (finally) sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience and began by noting, “Today we conclude our catechesis on the ‘Our Father’.”

He said, “Jesus has revealed to us that Christian prayer begins with the audacity to call God ‘Father’. Indeed, each of the expressions that our Lord himself uses in prayer brings to mind the text of the ‘Our Father’.

“Throughout the New Testament,” continued Francis, “it is clear that the first principle of every prayer is the Holy Spirit, who breathes into the hearts of the disciples. Herein lies the mystery of Christian prayer: that by grace we are drawn into the Holy Trinity’s dialogue of love. On the cross Jesus cries out: ‘My God, my God’, and we see here the fulcrum of his relationship with the Father. This also reflects the heart of our own trust and prayer.

The Holy Father said in conclusion, “At the end of this catechesis, let us repeat this prayer of Jesus: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children’.”

In the multi-lingual greetings that follow the audience catechesis and summaries in seven languages, Francis, through an English-speaking monsignor from the Secretariat of State, greeted the “English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Tanzania, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!”

In greetings to French pilgrims, Pope Francis spoke of a murdered missionary sister, whose body was found in the Central African Republic on the same day a missionary priest was killed in Mozambique. He called the Spanish missionary “a woman who has given her life for Jesus in the service of the poor.”

Sister Inés Nieves Sancho, 77, was found murdered near her home in the Central African Republic on Monday morning. Her body was found horribly mutilated at her workshop in the village of Nola, which is part of the Diocese of Berberati, according to the Osservatore Romano. At some point during the night between Sunday and Monday, unknown assailants entered Sister Inés’ home and forcibly took her to the workshop where she regularly held sewing lessons for local girls to help improve their lives. There her attackers decapitated her and mutilated her body.

There was a new language in the papal greetings today. Added to French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish and Italian, Francis greeted pilgrims in Ukrainian: “I cordially greet the Ukrainian pilgrims, especially the group of soldiers who participated in the annual National Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes. I continually pray to the Risen Lord, so that he fills the hearts of the Ukrainians with love and serenity and gives his peace to the whole country. God bless you all!”

After the general audience was over and Catholic prelates and several others lined up to meet the Pope, the Holy Father greeted Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. (source: vaticannews)

POPE FRANCIS SENDS GREETINGS AND A BLESSING TO CHINESE CATHOLICS

At the end of today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, in a reference to the upcoming feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, expressed his “special closeness and affection to all the Catholics in China who, among daily labors and trials, continue to believe, to hope, and to love.”

Speaking directly to the faithful in China, the Holy Father said, “May our Mother of Heaven help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, always remaining united in the communion of the universal Church.”

Francis then assured the Chinese faithful of his own prayers and his blessing, before leading the pilgrims at the audience in praying the Hail Mary for Chinese Catholics.

An image of Our Lady, Help of Christians, is found in the Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, and is an object of special devotion to the faithful in China.

In May of 2007, in his Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI asked that the May 24 feast of Mary, Help of Christians be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The following prayer, published in 2008, was composed by Pope Benedict for the occasion:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!
(source: vaticannews)

CARDINAL SARAH ENDORSES THE “NOTES” OF POPE BENEDICT, “MARTYR FOR THE TRUTH”

More piercingly insightful words from the ever clear and insightful Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, as he cites the clear teaching of Pope emeritus Benedict on the sex abuse crisis:

CARDINAL SARAH ENDORSES THE “NOTES” OF POPE BENEDICT, “MARTYR FOR THE TRUTH”

– Sandro Magister

Cardinal Robert Sarah took everyone by surprise on the evening of May 14 in Rome, in the auditorium of the cultural center of the church of St. Louis of the French, when everyone was expecting him to present his latest book, entitled “Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse,” on the Church’s crisis of faith and the decline of the West.

SARAH

Because instead, the cardinal said right away, “this evening I will not talk about this book at all.” And the reason – he explained – is that “the fundamental ideas that I develop in it were illustrated, presented, and demonstrated brilliantly last April by Pope Benedict XVI in the ‘notes’ that he had composed in view of the summit of the presidents of the episcopal conferences on sexual abuse convened in Rome by Pope Francis from February 21 to 24.”

Cardinal Sarah continued:
“His reflection has revealed itself to be a true source of light in the night of faith that touches the whole Church. It has prompted reactions that at times have bordered on intellectual hysteria. I have felt personally struck by the wretchedness and coarseness of several comments. We must be convinced that once again the theologian Ratzinger, whose stature is that of a true father and doctor of the Church, has seen correctly and has touched the deepest heart of the Church’s crisis.

“I would therefore like us this evening to allow ourselves to be enlightened by this demanding and luminous thought of his. How could we summarize the thesis of Benedict XVI? Allow me to simply cite him: ‘Why has pedophilia reached such proportions? In the final analysis, the reason is the absence of God.’ This is the architectonic principle of the entire reflection of the pope emeritus. This is the conclusion of his long argumentation. This must be the starting point of every investigation of the scandal of sexual abuse committed by priests, in order to propose an effective solution.

“The crisis of pedophilia in the Church, the scandalous and distressing multiplication of abuse has one and only one ultimate cause: the absence of God. Benedict XVI summarizes it in another formula that is also clear. I quote: ‘It is only where faith no longer determines the actions of man that such crimes are possible.’

“The theological genius of Joseph Ratzinger here touches not only upon his experience as pastor of souls and as bishop, as father of his priests, but also upon his personal, spiritual, and mystical experience. He goes back to the fundamental cause, he allows us to understand what the only way can be for getting out of the frightening and humiliating scandal of pedophilia. The crisis of sexual abuse is the symptom of a deeper crisis: the crisis of faith, the crisis of the sense of God.”

TO READ FURTHER: http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2019/05/20/cardinal-sarah-endorses-the-“notes”-of-pope-benedict-“martyr-for-the-truth”/

ITALY CELEBRATES PASQUETTA, LITTLE EASTER – POPE AT REGINA COELI: “THE RISEN JESUS WALKS BESIDE US”

ITALY CELEBRATES PASQUETTA, LITTLE EASTER

Today is Easter Monday – Little Easter or Pasquetta – and is also known here as Monday of the Angel, a big holiday in Italy. This day recalls the meeting between the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, sad to see it empty but then rejoicing when an angel comforted them, saying the Savior had risen!

Italians typically dedicate Easter Monday to family outings, most often celebrating a picnic meal at midday. If you google Pasquetta or Little Easter, chances are you’ll find more menus for picnics than you will information on its history! By the way, the noon prayer in this post-Easter time is the Regina Coeli, not the Angelus.

Those who work for the Vatican and Roman Curia began their Easter vacation on Holy Thursday and return to work only this coming Wednesday for a total of 6 days off. Some of the Italian employees will probably ask for another day off – Thursday April 25, Liberation Day, a national holiday.

Wednesday, May 1, Labor Day and the feast of St. Joseph, is also a big national holiday. Who knows how many Italians will take April 25 and May 1 – and the days in between – as a mini-vacation! The in between days are known as ponte, bridge – so April 25-May 1 is a very long ponte!

Allow me to offer some beautiful words pronounced by Pope Benedict on Easter Monday 2012, his last pasquetta as pontiff, that have always been seared into my mind and heart: He noted that the Gospel writers do not describe the Resurrection itself. “That event remains mysterious – not as something unreal, but as something beyond the reach of our knowledge – as a light so bright the eyes cannot bear it.”

Benedict said, “the Gospel narration begins with the morning after the sabbath when the women run to the sepulchre, find it empty and hear an angel tell them the Lord has risen. As they run in turn to tell the disciples, they meet Jesus….”

“In those days in Israel,” said Benedict, “women’s testimony could have no official legal value. Nevertheless, women have experienced a special bond with the Lord, that is fundamental to the day-to-day life of the Christian community, and this is always true, in every age, not only at the beginning of the Church’s pilgrim journey.”

The Pope emeritus stressed how, “in all the Gospels, women play a big role in the stories of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, and also in the passion and death of Jesus.”

POPE AT REGINA COELI: “THE RISEN JESUS WALKS BESIDE US”

Pope Francis prayed the Regina Coeli in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Monday and reflected on the Gospel of St. Matthew that describes the women meeting Jesus at the empty tomb.

Women the first witnesses
“The women, full of awe and joy, are leaving in a hurry to go and bring the news to the disciples; and at that moment Jesus presents Himself before them,” said Pope Francis. The Lord tells them not to be afraid and encourages them to go and announce to their friends what has happened.

“All the Gospels emphasize the role of women, Mary of Magdala and the others, as the first witnesses of the resurrection,” he said. They were the first to meet the Risen Christ “and to bring the message that He was alive.”

We too are called to be witnesses
Pope Francis said the words of Jesus addressed to the women resound for us today too: “Do not be afraid; go and proclaim…We too are called to meet Him personally and to become His heralds and witnesses. The risen Jesus walks beside us. He manifests Himself to those who call on Him and who love Him. We meet Jesus, first of all, in prayer, but also in simple joys lived with faith and gratitude,” sharing moments of friendship and welcome, or even contemplating nature.

The words of the Angels
Pope Francis reminded us of the words spoken to the women by the Angels at the empty tomb on that first day after the Sabbath: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen.”

Christ’s resurrection was “humanly unthinkable,” said Francis, describing it as “the most shocking event in human history.”

But the Resurrection of Jesus is also proof of the victory of God’s Love over sin and death, he said. It is what gives our hope of life “a rock-sold foundation”.

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT: DIALOGUE WITH THE JEWS, NOT MISSION – VATICAN TO HOST CONFERENCE ON ADDICTIONS

In the OOPS column: The Vatican news site today announced the Pope’s appointment of a new bishop for Monterey, California, stating: “Bishop Daniel Garcia, Auxiliary Bishop of Austin, Texas since 1915, has been appointed by Pope Francis as the Bishop of Monterey in California. Bishop Garcia was born in Cameron, Texas in 1960.” I’m sure you saw the error: apparently he has been a bishop long before his own birth and before the Pope who named him was born!

In the GOOD NEWS column: I’m delighted to bring you the first story below – some words from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. It is always great to hear from this wonderful, gentlemanly, erudite, holy man!

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT: DIALOGUE WITH THE JEWS, NOT MISSION

The Pope emeritus “corrects” an article by theologian Michael Böhnke and rejects as “absolutely false” the insinuation that Benedict has called into question the foundations of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
By Vatican News

In a “correction” sent to the German monthly Herder Korrespondenz, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI affirmed that Christians are called to a “dialogue” with the Jews, rather than a “mission.” The Pope emeritus was responding to an article by theologian Michael Böhnke of Wuppertal. In the September issue of the journal, Böhnke had commented disapprovingly on statements made by Benedict concerning the relationship between Jews and Christians.

A completely false insinuation
Judaism and Christianity, said Benedict, are “two ways of interpreting the Scriptures.” For Christians, the promises made to Israel are the hope of the Church, and “those who abide by it are in no way questioning the foundations of the Jewish-Christian dialogue.” The accusation contained in the article, he continued, is “grotesque nonsense and has nothing to do with what I said about it. I therefore reject his article as a completely false insinuation.”

Böhnke had argued that Benedict XVI, in an article for the theological journal Communio, had demonstrated a problematic understanding of Judaism, and had ignored the suffering Christians had inflicted upon Jews.

Not “mission,” but “dialogue”
In his “correction,” Benedict also addressed – among other theological issues – the delicate question of the “mission” to the Jews; that is, the question of whether the Church should proclaim the Good News of Christ to the Jews. Benedict wrote: “A mission to the Jews is not foreseen and not necessary.” At the same time, it is true that Christ gave His disciples a mission to all peoples and all cultures. For this reason, Benedict affirms, “the missionary mandate is universal – with one exception: a mission to the Jews was not foreseen and not necessary because they alone, among all peoples, knew the ‘unknown God’.”

For Israel, then, it was not a mission, but a dialogue about whether Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of God, the Logos,” for whom, according to the promises made to His people, Israel, and the whole world without knowing it, was waiting. Taking up this dialogue anew, Benedict said, is “the duty given us at this time.”

Benedict’s “correction” appeared in the December issue of Herder Korrespondenz, and was signed “Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI.”

Reflecting on Relations with the Jews
The original article in Communio, critiqued by Böhnke, was intended as an in-depth study of a document published in 2015 by the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, entitled, “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29): A Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic– Jewish Relations on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Nostra aetate’ (no.4).”

The sixth heading of that document, “The Church’s mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism” deals precisely with the questions raised by Böhnke:

“It is easy to understand that the so–called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.”

VATICAN TO HOST CONFERENCE ON ADDICTIONS

A two-day conference in the Vatican will examine different aspects of addictions as well as possible treatments and prevention techniques.
By John Waters (vaticannews)

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human development will host a conference entitled “Drugs and Addictions, an obstacle to Integral Human development” from 29 November to 1 December in the Vatican’s Synod Hall.

Presentations will be given on a number of subjects and areas of concern, especially addictions to drugs, gambling, sex and pornography as well as best practices for treatment and prevention

When announcing the conference, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human development quoted Pope Francis’ address to drug enforcement officers in 2015. The Pope described the spread of drugs as being driven by a “shameful market that crosses national and international borders.” The Dicastery went on to detail the alarming statistic that almost 5% of the world’s population have, at some point, taken drugs. Of those 5%, “29.6 million of those users suffer from drug disorders. This means that their drug taking is harmful to the point that they experience drug dependence and require treatment.”

Another cause for alarm is the fact that many drugs are now perceived by society as a form of leisure, recreational activity or even as a sign of wealth and status.
During the discussions and presentations the spotlight will also be on the implications of legalizing various substances. Noting that a number of countries have recently legalized cannabis use, the conference organisers point out that this solution may, ultimately, cause further problems.

“Internet addiction, pornography and sex addiction, as well as pathological gambling, or ludopathy, have for some time been a rampant scourge that further diversify addictions. The legalization of gambling, even when it is supported by the intention of unmasking its criminal management, exponentially increases the number of pathological players.”

Speakers at the conference will include Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and Italian Health Minister Giulia Grillo. There will also be representatives from the World Federation against Drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the carabinieri, one of Italy’s police forces.

On Friday 30 November, conference participants will take part in an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. On 1 December the conference will conclude with an audience with Pope Francis.

POPE BENEDICT, HIS FINAL ENCOUNTER WITH CARDINALS: HEART SPEAKS TO HEART

POPE BENEDICT, HIS FINAL ENCOUNTER WITH CARDINALS: HEART SPEAKS TO HEART

Thursday, February 28, 201

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

I welcome you with great joy and I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College: Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart] I warmly thank you, Your Eminence. And I would like to say — taking up your reference to the disciples of Emmaus — that for me too it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.

EWTN’s coverage of this final morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU

As I said yesterday to the thousands of faithful who filled St Peter’s Square, your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky. We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we may thank the Lord who has enabled us to grow in communion and, together, pray him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all — we can say — the reason and passion for life.

I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini to help me. It was written in the very same year that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which also a personal dedication to me — which makes the words of this book particularly dear to me. Guardini says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in undergoing change…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.

It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

“I AM TRULY MOVED AND I SEE THE CHURCH ALIVE! I AM NOT ABANDONING THE CROSS, BUT AM REMAINING BESIDE THE CRUCIFIED LORD IN A NEW WAY”

“I AM TRULY MOVED AND I SEE THE CHURCH ALIVE! I AM NOT ABANDONING THE CROSS, BUT AM REMAINING BESIDE THE CRUCIFIED LORD IN A NEW WAY”

Do you remember where you were five years ago today, February 27, 2013?

Were you by any slim chance at the final Wednesday general audience of Pope Benedict’s pontificate?

I was at the general audience – indirectly – as I began the first of two full days of television commentary for EWTN’s coverage of Benedict’s final days in office, after he announced on February 11, 2013, that he would resign the papacy in February 28.

Mary Shovlain was a partner for much of that coverage that included the final general audience, Benedict’s meeting with each member of the College of Cardinals and his never to be forgotten final hours in Vatican City State as he was taken to Castelgandolfo in a helicopter in a Hollywood ending to a superb pontificate – the bluest skies, the about-to-set brilliant sun, the helicopter passing over Vatican City and past the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rain almost would have been welcome as it would have summarized our tears!

Tear-jerking moments for every single person around the globe who witnessed this final act of humility and courage by a Pope, truly a Holy Father, who had said on February 11:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Here’s a look back at that general audience, held in the presence of an estimated 150,000 people….this is a tribute filled with great love and respect to a man missed by millions – Sto lat, Benedict emeritus!

Saint Peter’s Square,
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
(Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNf9U9x0pUc)

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I thank all of you for having come in such great numbers to this last General Audience.

Heartfelt thanks! I am truly moved and I see the Church alive! And I think we should also say thanks to the Creator for the fine weather which he gives us even on this winter day.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text which we have heard, I too feel a deep need first and foremost to thank God, who gives guidance and growth to the Church, who sows his word and thus nourishes faith in his people. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world; and I thank God for all that I have “heard” in these years of the Petrine ministry about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love which truly circulates in the Body of the Church and makes it live in love, and about the hope which opens and directs us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.

I feel that I bear everyone in prayer, in a present, God’s present, in which I gather together every one of my meetings, journeys and pastoral visits. In prayer I gather each and all, in order to entrust them to the Lord: that we might be filled with the knowledge of his will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and that we might lead a life worthy of him and of his love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this moment I feel great confidence, because I know, we all know, that the Gospel word of truth is the Church’s strength, it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, it bears fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and receives God’s grace in truth and charity. This is my confidence, this is my joy.

Some great photos here: http://archive.boston.com/bigpicture/2013/02/pope_benedict_xvis_last_genera.html

When on 19 April nearly eight years ago I accepted the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty of the life of the Church which comes from the word of God. At that moment, as I have often said, the words which echoed in my heart were: Lord, why are you asking this of me, and what is it that you are asking of me? It is a heavy burden which you are laying on my shoulders, but if you ask it of me, at your word I will cast the net, sure that you will lead me even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has truly led me, he has been close to me, I have been able to perceive his presence daily. It has been a portion of the Church’s journey which has had its moments of joy and light, but also moments which were not easy; I have felt like Saint Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us so many days of sun and of light winds, days when the catch was abundant; there were also moments when the waters were rough and the winds against us, as throughout the Church’s history, and the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine but his. Nor does the Lord let it sink; it is he who guides it, surely also through those whom he has chosen, because he so wished. This has been, and is, a certainty which nothing can shake. For this reason my heart today overflows with gratitude to God, for he has never let his Church, or me personally, lack his consolation, his light, his love.

We are in the Year of Faith which I desired precisely to reaffirm our faith in God in a context which seems to push him more and more into the background. I should like to invite all of us to renew our firm confidence in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children in God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us, enabling us to press forward each day, even when the going is rough. I want everyone to feel loved by that God who gave his Son for us and who has shown us his infinite love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being a Christian. In one beautiful morning prayer, it says: “I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart. I thank you for having created me and made me a Christian…”. Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith; it is our most precious possession, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this daily, in prayer and by a consistent Christian life. God loves us, but he also expects us to love him!

But it is not only God whom I want to thank at this moment. The Pope is not alone in guiding the barque of Peter, even if it is his first responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the burden of the Petrine ministry; the Lord has set beside me so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. Above all you, dear brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsel and your friendship have been invaluable to me; my co-workers, beginning with my Secretary of State who has faithfully accompanied me in these years; the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who in various sectors offer their service to the Holy See: many, many unseen faces which remain in the background, but precisely through their silent, daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility they have been a sure and trustworthy support to me. I also think in a special way of the Church of Rome, my Diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences and journeys I have always felt great kindness and deep affection; yet I too have felt affection for each and all without distinction, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every Pastor, and especially of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I have borne each of you in prayer, with the heart of a father.

I would like my greeting and my thanksgiving to extend to everyone: the heart of the Pope reaches out to the whole world. And I wish to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See which represents the great family of the nations. Here I think too of all those who work for good communications and I thank them for their important service.

At this point, I would also like to thank most heartily all those people throughout the world who in these recent weeks have sent me moving expressions of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone; now I once again experience this so overwhelmingly that my heart is touched. The Pope belongs to everyone and so many persons feel very close to him. It is true that I receive letters from world leaders – from heads of state, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, and so on. But I also receive many, many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply and from the heart, and who show me their affection, an affection born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me in the way one writes, for example, to a prince or some important person whom they do not know. They write to me as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters, with a sense of a very affectionate family bond. Here one can sense palpably what the Church is – not an organization, an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, which makes us all one. To experience the Church in this way and to be able as it were to put one’s finger on the strength of her truth and her love, is a cause for joy at a time when so many people are speaking of her decline. But we see how the Church is alive today!

In these last months I have felt my energies declining, and I have asked God insistently in prayer to grant me his light and to help me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step with full awareness of its gravity and even its novelty, but with profound interior serenity. Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult, painful decisions, always looking to the good of the Church and not of oneself.

Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.

The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.

I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have accepted this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey with prayer and reflection, with that devotion to the Lord and his Bride which I have hitherto sought to practise daily and which I would like to practise always. I ask you to remember me in prayer before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so weighty a task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter: may the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of his Spirit.

Let us call upon the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, that she may accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community; to her let us commend ourselves with deep confidence.


Dear friends! God guides his Church, he sustains it always, especially at times of difficulty. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the one true way of looking at the journey of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each of you, may there always abide the joyful certainty that the Lord is at our side: he does not abandon us, he remains close to us and he surrounds us with his love. Thank you!

To special groups:
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude.

During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.

The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history.

I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord fill with love the heart of each one of you, dear young people, so that you may be ready to follow him with enthusiasm; May he sustain you, dear sick people, so that you may accept the burden of suffering serenely; and may he guide you, dear newlyweds, so that you may raise your families in holiness.

BENEDICT XVI AT FINAL GENERAL AUDIENCE

My memories of February 27, 2013:

I feel so blessed to once again be part of a moment in history, to have been present today to help do the commentary for EWTN for Pope Benedict’s final general audience as Pontiff.

The weather was beautiful, a decidedly miraculous change from the rainy, cloudy, cold weather of past days.

The event – the freely given resignation of a Pope – was momentous, singular, not seen since Celestine V renounced the papacy in 1294, 719 years ago.

And the world, through television and all the various social media, could watch, hear, listen and be part of this unique moment –and even share it electronically with others around the world as it was taking place!!

It was amazing to walk three blocks from my home to St. Peter’s Square and see the enormous crowds that had gathered from early hours to get to see “their” Holy Father – a crowd later estimated by the police to be at least 150,000, a crowd that reflected the Universal Church with the many colorful flags, banners, and multi-lingual cheers, a crowd that included 70 plus cardinals, one of whom could well be Benedict’s successor.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of this morning’s general audience – commentary during the actual general audience was by Vatican Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saKWsdNUwbo

Today was a very full day, and I am in between appointments as I write these words. I was on the EWTN set for about four hours, and then went to the press office for a very short briefing, back home for a quick lunch and some preparatory research for future shows, followed by my weekly radio show with Teresa Tomeo in mid-afternoon, and then a hop over to Fox News Rome studios to do a show at 4:45. The guest before me was a friend from London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

I have an appointment this evening at 9 in St. Peter’s Square with Australian television to make an appearance on a morning show (given the time difference between Rome and Australia). Then, perhaps a bite to eat and more research for the live transmissions EWTN will do tomorrow – the Pope’s final meeting with cardinals, his departure for Castelgandolfo and the final event, the closing at 8 pm of the great gate at Castelgandolfo by the Swiss Guards who will then leave the apostolic palace.

At 8 pm the sede vacante starts.

I now offer you the entire profound, personal, emotional, beautiful words by Pope Benedict who speaks to the faithful of the world for the final time as Supreme Pontiff. The translation is from the Vatican Information Service (see above).

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS – LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Today is Pasquetta, Little Easter in Italy, a big holiday throughout much of Europe.

I am celebrating Easter for the first time in many years in the U.S., and it has been beautiful from the moment I got off the plane on Holy Saturday afternoon to this minute that I am preparing today’s column. The only difficult moments occurred when I had to try and ward off some jet lag at the always very lengthy and always extraordinarily Easter Vigil Mass!

I attended this Mass at St. Matthew’s cathedral in Washington, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl presiding. Every person who had a role that evening did a superb job, from the ushers to the choir, from musicians to eucharistic ministers, from truly amazing lectors to beautifully talented cantors.

I was just grateful that it was at the start of Mass that the church was darkened, lit only by hundreds of small candles, and not at the end of Mass!

Easter Sunday was beautiful in every way – weather-wise and celebration-wise. My hostess Margaret Melady and I spent the afternoon with her daughter, son-in law and four teenage grandchildren. It was a joy – a terrific meal, lots of great conversation and for me, just being in a family was the best part of the day, enjoying a home and back yard and tons of flowers in bloom.

I could have driven around DC for an hour just to take photos of the azaleas, cherry blossoms, wisteria, roses, magnolias, bouquets of crocuses and colorful daffodils that carpet the landscape. Some neighborhoods and individual homes were beyond breathtaking!

Easter is obviously a family day, a day off from work for many of us so I waited until today to want to share a story with you that actually has yesterday’s timeline – April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday and also the 90th birthday of our beloved Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. He was born on Holy Saturday and marked 90 years on Easter Sunday!  Does it get any better!

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS

Once upon a time…..

My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and brother throughout June, July and August every summer. The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms and bathrooms and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic and church events in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia – had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from our property. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors at their home on Sunday.

They were great philanthropists and the Church was the focus of their lives. It was quite common for them to invite some of their closest friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and they a number of almost equally large year-round homes on the property for their large family and for guests.

Every Saturday night, the caretaker Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for a couple hundred people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to my uncle’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins often served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia’s and Uncle Frank’s was often a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.! I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.

Over the years I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought then of keeping a diary!

One of the priests I remember seeing when I was fairly small was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as being a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I arrived home on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked the about it.

Dad told me that his parents, my grandparents, had paid for a young man – Fr. Toohey – to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, gave him this chalice.

Yes, he was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! It is a little hard to see in this photo of the bottom of the chalice.

And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

 

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that these markings indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927.”

The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, then passed to my Dad, and my parents eventually wanted me to have this chalice.

I’ve had several dreams for this chalice.

I hope to set up a scholarship for a seminarian from Chicago at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and will arrange to have this chalice given to a seminarian from Chicago – so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My biggest dream was to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

Since I wrote this story for the first time a few years ago, that dream has come true.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 2013, I attended Mass in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four memores or consecrated women.

Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me, a morning that was special beyond telling! The Pope emeritus came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about five  or six minutes – it was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself!

Benedict XVI’s first words to me, said with a big smile, were: “What a beautiful story that chalice has.”

I had written the story down in English and had given it one day to my friend Michael Hesemann who knew I had hopes that Benedict would celebrate Mass with the chalice. He translated it into German and, during a trip to Regensburg, Germany, gave it to his friend, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother who, two weeks later, gave it to Pope emeritus Benedict.

I received a phone call, telling me that Pope emeritus Benedict would be delighted to say Mass with this chalice – would I like to be present?!

Following Mass and our brief but ever so memorable conversation, Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and two holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and two holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I have yet to write the final line to this story – the name of the seminarian to whom the chalice will go.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Three hours later I met Pope Francis at a gathering of the Patrons of the Vatican Museums! The singular, joyful, unforgettable Day of two Popes!

LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Monday morning, April 16, 2012, in the Pauline Chapel, in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals and bishops from his native Bavaria, Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving to mark his 85th birthday that day and the April 19th anniversary of his election to the papacy.

In his homily he recalled how, on the day he was born and baptized, the liturgy “erected three signposts showing me where the road led and helping me find it”: the feast of St. Bernardette of Lourdes, the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and Easter Saturday which fell on the very day he was born. He spoke at length of the two saints, and then focused on Holy Saturday.

“Finally there is the Paschal Mystery. On the day I was born, thanks to my parents, I was also reborn with the water of the Spirit. … Biological life is in itself a gift, yet it begs an important question. It becomes a true gift only if, together with that life, we are given a promise stronger than any misfortune that may threaten us, if life is immersed in a power which guarantees that it is a good thing to be a man, and that the person is a benefit whatever the future may bring. In this way rebirth is associated with birth, the certainty that it is good to exist because the promise is greater than the threat. This is what it means to be reborn from water and from the Spirit. … This rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow therein, we must ever and anew allow God to immerse us in His promise, in order to be truly reborn into the great new family of the Lord, which is stronger than all our weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. That is why today is a day of thanksgiving.”

Benedict XVI noted that in 1927, the year he was born, it was still customary on Easter Saturday “to hold the Easter vigil in the morning, followed by the darkness of Easter Saturday without a Hallelujah. This singular paradox, this anticipation of light in a day of darkness, can almost be seen as an image of the history of our own times. On the one hand there is the silence of God and His absence, yet the resurrection of Christ contains an anticipation of God’s ‘yes’. We live in this anticipation, through the silence of God we hear His words, and through the darkness of His absence we glimpse His light.”

The Holy Father then said: “I am in the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me. However, I do know that the light of God exists, that He rose again, that His light is stronger than all darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than all the evil in this world. This helps me to continue with confidence. This helps us to continue, and I would like to thank everyone who, through their faith, continually makes me aware of God’s ‘yes’.”