January 14, 2009

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

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

SUMMARY:


THEOLOGY OF THE LETTERS TO THE COLOSSIANS AND EPHESIANS

 VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At this morning's general audience, Benedict XVI continued his series of catecheses on St. Paul, today focusing on certain theological aspects of the Apostle's Letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians.

   "Only in these two Letters", he said, "is Jesus attributed the title of 'head'. ... Initially Christ is referred to as the head of the Church. This has two meanings. Firstly, that He is the governor ... Who guides and is responsible for the Christian community as its leader and its Lord. ... The Church is subject to Him, both to follow His superior guidance and to receive all the vitality that emanates from Him. ... Secondly, ... Christ is considered as head of the heavenly powers and of the entire cosmos".

   Thus "these two letters give us a highly positive and fruitful message: that Christ fears no rivals because He is superior to any possible form of power that may seek to humiliate mankind. ... Hence, if we remain united to Christ we need fear no enemy or adversity. ... Even the entire cosmos is subject to Him". In this context, the Holy Father referred to the depiction of Christ as "Pantocrator", sometimes shown enthroned over the world, sometimes on a rainbow. This, he said, "indicates His equality with God at Whose right hand He sits, and hence also His unrivalled function as the guide of human destinies.

   "Such a vision", he added, "can only be conceived by the Church, not in the sense that she wishes unduly to appropriate that which is not hers, but in another, dual, sense: both in that the Church recognises that in any case Christ is greater than herself, because His lordship extends beyond her confines, and in that only the Church, and not the cosmos, is defined as the Body of Christ. This means we must give positive consideration to worldly things, because Christ recapitulates them in Himself, and at the same time we must fully live our specific ecclesial identity, which is the closest to the identity of Christ Himself".

   Another characteristic of these two Letters is "the concept of mystery", which means "the inscrutable divine plan for the destiny of mankind, of peoples and of the world, ... which finds fulfilment in Christ ... in which the 'mystery' was incarnated and became tangible".

   Finally, the Pope referred to another recurring theme of the Letters: "the Church as the bride of Christ ... Who is concerned for her beauty; not just the beauty acquired through Baptism, but also the beauty that must grow every day through a life of irreproachable moral behaviour, without spot or blemish.

   "From here to the shared experience of Christian marriage is but a short step", he explained, "and in fact it is not clear what the initial point of reference was for the author of the Letter: whether the Christ-Church relationship provided a light in which to consider the union of man and woman; or whether experience of conjugal union was the light in which to examine the relations between Christ and the Church".

   "These two Letters are a great catechesis", he concluded. "From them we can learn how to be good Christians. ... If we begin to understand that the cosmos is the mark of Christ, we understand what our relationship with the cosmos is, what problems are involved in its conservation. We learn to see it using reason, but a reason moved by love, ... respect and humility. ... If we remember that the Church is the Body of Christ, that Christ gave Himself for her, then we learn to live with Christ in mutual love, a love that unites us to God and brings us to see the image of Christ in others".

 

PRAYERS FOR THE WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES

 VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of this morning's general audience, the Pope addressed a special greeting to pilgrims from Lisieux, France, who have come to Rome with the reliquary of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who were beatified on 19 October 2008.

   He also invited newly-married couples to join his own prayers "to implore abundance of divine grace upon the Sixth World Meeting of Families, which is currently taking place in Mexico City.

   "May this important ecclesial event", he added, "be a further expression of the beauty and importance of the family, infusing everyone with new energy to support this irreplaceable and fundamental cell of society and of the Church".

 

WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

 VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally celebrated every year from 18 to 25 January, begins on Sunday.

   The theme chosen for 2009 is: "That they may become one in your hand" (Ezek 37, 17). The texts for reflection and prayer during the week are, according to a note published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity "rooted in the experience of the churches in Korea. In their context of national division the churches have turned for inspiration to the prophet Ezekiel, who also lived in a tragically divided nation and longed for the unity of his people".

   The materials for the week of prayer and for the rest of 2009 have been jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.

   Each day of the Week will have a different theme:

 18 January: Christian communities face to face with old and new divisions.

 19 January: Christians face to face with war and violence.

 20 January: Christians face to face with economic injustice and poverty.

 21 January: Christians face to face with ecological crisis.

 22 January: Christians face to face with discrimination and social prejudice.

 23 January: Christians face to face with disease and suffering.

 24 January: Christians face to face with a plurality of religions.

 25 January: Christian proclamation of hope in a world of separation.

   Although the traditional period for celebrating this week of prayer is in the month of January, in the southern hemisphere Churches sometimes seek other periods such as, for example, around the time of Pentecost, which is also a symbolically significant date for the unity of the Church, and was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926.

   In the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls at 5.30 p.m. on Sunday, 25 January, Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, Benedict XVI will preside at the celebration of Vespers to mark the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

 

AUDIENCES

 VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Holy Father is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

 VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

  - Appointed Archbishop Peter Stephan Zurbriggen, apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, as apostolic nuncio to Austria. He succeeds Archbishop Edmond Farhat, whose resignation from the same office the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  - Appointed Msgr. Philippe Ballot, vicar general of Besancon, France, as archbishop of Chambery and bishop of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne e Tarentaise (area 7,460, population 362,000, Catholics 319,000, priests 168, permanent deacons 20, religious 380), France. The archbishop-elect was born in Corbenay, France in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1985.

  - Appointed Fr. Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the clergy of the archieparchy of Lviv of the Ukrainians, Ukraine, rector of the archieparchal major seminary, as auxiliary of the eparchy of Santa Maria del Patrocinio en Buenos Aires of the Ukrainians (Catholics 160,000, priests 17, permanent deacons 1, religious 93), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Stryj, Ukraine in 1970 and ordained a priest in 1994.

  - Appointed Msgr. Liro Vendelino Meurer of the clergy of the archdiocese of Porto Alegre, Brazil, pastor of the parish of "Sao Geraldo", as auxiliary of Passo Fundo (area 12,200, population 508,000, Catholics 382,000, priests 126, religious 463), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Salvador do Sul, Brazil in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1981.

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