April 20, 2008

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.



VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - In New York at 9.15 a.m. today, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the city's neo-Gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral. As he arrived, the Holy Father was greeted by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, the rector of the cathedral, and Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York.

  The celebration of Mass for the Universal Church, which coincided with the third anniversary of Benedict XVI's election to the pontifical throne, was dedicated to clergy and religious of U.S. east coast dioceses, where New York is located.

  "In this country", said the Holy Father in his homily, "the Church's mission has always involved drawing people 'from every nation under heaven' into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America".

  The Church, he went on, "is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. ... The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelisation. For true life - our salvation - can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God's gracious gift.

  "This", he added, "is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people's hearts. ... Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and 'institutional' to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God's love".

  Benedict XVI then dwelt on some features of the cathedral building itself, associating them with the mission of priests and religious within the Church.

  "The first", he said, "has to do with the stained glass windows. ... From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendour. ... It follows", he explained, "that we, who live the life of grace within the Church's communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

  "This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, 'from the outside': a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to 'enter into' the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendour of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality".

  "Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world".

  The second feature the Pope considered was the architecture of the cathedral, "like all Gothic cathedrals, a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolise the unity of God's creation. ... Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God's eternal plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring 'a fresh, spiritual way of thinking'. ... Is not this ongoing 'intellectual' conversion", he asked, "as necessary as 'moral' conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church's life and mission?".

  In this context, Pope Benedict expressed the view that "one of the great disappointments which followed Vatican Council II, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church's mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family. We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. ... In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today's world".

  "Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and co-operation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing".

  "The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church's unity, which is the unity ... of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose".

  "Certainly within the Church's divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made between hierarchical and charismatic gifts. Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church's mission".

  "In the finest traditions of the Church in this country", the Pope concluded, addressing the priests and religious, "may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and His Church".

  At the conclusion of Mass the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff remarks concerning his Petrine ministry:

  "At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord's grace, the Successor of Peter. It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers. My response now for all that you have given to me during this visit is my blessing, which I impart to you at the conclusion of this beautiful celebration".



VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - This afternoon, having lunched with bishops of the archdiocese of New York, the Pope travelled by car to the city's St. Joseph's Seminary, where he was welcomed by the rector, Msgr. Gerald T. Walsh.

  The Pope first went to the seminary chapel where he met with a group of 50 disabled children. One of them addressed a greeting to the Holy Father in the name of all of them, after which Pope Benedict made some remarks of his own.

  "God", he said, "has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve Him and society in various ways. ... Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God's unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life".

  Benedict XVI encouraged the young people "to pray every day for our world, ... including those who have yet to come to know Jesus. And please do continue to pray for me", he concluded. "As you know I have just had another birthday. Time passes!"



VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - Today at 4.30 p.m. local time, the Holy Father met with young people and seminarians at New York's St. Joseph's Seminary.

  Following a welcome speech delivered by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, three representatives of the 20,000 young people presented the Pope with bread, rice and maize as a symbol of the richness of their various traditions. A group of young people then sang him "Happy Birthday" in German.

  The Pope began his address by referring to the six images on display at the meeting. "Images", he said, "of six ordinary men and women who grew up to lead extraordinary lives. The Church honours them as Venerable, Blessed, or Saint: ... St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Fr. Felix Varela. ... Each responded to the Lord's call to a life of charity and each served Him here, in the alleys, streets and suburbs of New York".

  "And what of today?" the Pope asked. "Who bears witness to the Good News of Jesus on the streets of New York, in the troubled neighbourhoods of large cities, in the places where the young gather, seeking someone in whom they can trust? God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way", he said.

  After highlighting the fact that young Americans today "are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness", the Holy Father recalled how his own adolescence was "marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew - infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion - before it was fully recognised for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good".

  "Let us thank God", said the Pope, "that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights".

  "The power to destroy does, however, remain", he warned. "To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. ... During the beautiful Easter vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds!" And "what might that darkness be?" the Pope asked. "What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope?" In this context, he recalled young people "affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation - especially of girls and women".

  Another "area of darkness - that which affects the mind - often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations", said the Pope. Hence "the fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded" because "it can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda".

  The Holy Father noted that "often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person, ... and in truth's place - or better said its absence - an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism".

  "Dear friends", he told the young people "truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One Whom we can always trust. ... Ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in".

  "How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfilment and lasting happiness? ... Christ's light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ's way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace".

  Benedict XVI then turned his attention to "four essential aspects of the treasure of our faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations.

  "What matters most", he added, "is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. ... Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore Him in the Eucharist. Let His word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness".

  "Through the liturgy, the 'work of Jesus' is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them. ... Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the Sacraments, Jesus is at work".

  The Pope then referred to "new injustices" stemming "from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation", he said. "We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds".

  He invited the young men and women to express their gratitude to "parents, grandparents and godparents, ... they made it possible for you to receive the greatest gift of your life", Baptism. "On that day you entered into the holiness of God Himself. You became adoptive sons and daughters of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ".

  Turning then to address the 300 seminarians from east coast dioceses present at the gathering, the Pope told them: "The People of God look to you to be holy priests. ... I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. ... Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit".

  The Holy Father also underlined the generous contribution made by religious and by regular priests "to the mission of the Church. ... The wondrous array of charisms proper to each religious institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury. ... Through the discovery of charisms, which yield such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, I am sure that some of you young people will be drawn to a life of apostolic or contemplative service".

  "The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ", said Pope Benedict in conclusion, telling the young people present that within the Church "you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. ... You are Christ's disciples today. Shine His light upon this great city and beyond".

  Finally, the Pope bid farewell to his audience "until we meet again in Sydney this July for World Youth Day!"



VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2008 (VIS) - In New York at 9.30 a.m. local time today, the Pope visited Ground Zero, the name now used to refer to the site once occupied by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

  On 11 September 2001 two aircraft crashed into the twin towers, destroying them and a number of neighbouring buildings in a terrorist attack which cost the lives of 2,896 people. The site today is a vast 80-metre deep crater, surrounded by a fence and marked with a cross.

  In 2002 the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre was put out for tender in a competition won by the architect Daniel Libensky. Today, Ground Zero is a construction site where work is scheduled to finish in the year 2012. The main building of the new complex will be the "Freedom Tower", 541 metres high.

  Benedict XVI arrived at Ground Zero accompanied by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York. Awaiting him there were Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the city; David A. Paterson and John Corzine, respectively governors of New York and of New Jersey; 24 people representing the forces that responded to the attack of 11 September, and a number of injured and relatives of the victims.

  The Holy Father kneeled for a few minutes of silent prayer for the victims of the attack, then lit a candle before pronouncing the following prayer:

  "O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

  "We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here -
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on 11 September 2001.

  "We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

  "We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

  "God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

  "God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all".

  The prayer over, the Pope greeted survivors of the attack, relatives of some of the victims, and members of the rescue squads. Finally, he imparted his blessing to those present.

  After the ceremony, the Holy Father returned to his residence where he bid farewell to the staff of the Holy See permanent mission to the United Nations in New York before having lunch in private

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