February 12, 2009

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

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

SUMMARY: 11 - 12 FEBRUARY


FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY: GOD'S GIFT TO THE BAPTISED

VATICAN CITY, 11 FEB 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope began a new series of catecheses dealing with the great writers of the Eastern and Western Church during the Middle Ages. The focus of his attention today was St. John Climacus, who was born in 575 and died some time after 650.

  "Amid the mountains of Sinai, where Moses encountered God and Elijah heard His voice, John lived and recounted his spiritual experiences", said the Holy Father. "At the age of around twenty he decided to live as a hermit in a cave at the foot of the mountains, in a place known as Tola some eight kilometres from the current monastery of St. Catherine. ... After forty years of hermitic life ... he was appointed as 'hegumen' of the great monastery of Mount Sinai".

  The saint "became famous for his work the 'Scala' (Klimax), ... a complex treatise on spiritual life in which John describes the monk's path from renouncing the world to perfection of love, a path which, according to the book, has thirty steps".

  "This path", the Pope continued, "may be summarised in three phases: the first is expressed in a break with the world in order to return to the state of evangelical infancy, ... which is true infancy in the spiritual sense".

  The second phase, Benedict XVI explained, "consists of the spiritual struggle against the passions". For John Climacus "it is important to be aware that passions are not bad in themselves, they become so through the bad use that man's freedom makes of them. If purified, the passions open man to the way that leads to God".

  "The last phase of the path, covering the last seven steps of the 'Scala', is Christian perfection", said the Pope. "The first three of these steps are simplicity, humility and discernment, of which John, in harmony with the Desert Fathers, feels the last to be the most important, discernment. ... In this way it is possible to achieve tranquillity of heart ('esichia'), thanks to which the soul can approach the abyss of the divine mysteries. ... The state of tranquillity, of inner peace, prepares the adept for prayer, which in John has a dual function: 'bodily prayer' and 'prayer of the heart'".

  The last of the thirty steps is dedicated to "faith, hope and, above all, charity. John also speaks of charity as 'eros' (human love), an image of the nuptial bond between the soul and God. ... John is convinced that an intense experience of 'eros' makes the soul progress much more than the harsh struggle against the passions".

  "Can the existence of a man who spent all his life on Mount Sinai so long ago", asked the Holy Father, "still say anything to us today? At first glance the answer may appear to be no, ... but if we look a little closer we see that the monastic life is simply a symbol of the baptismal life, of Christian life".

  The Holy Father highlighted the importance of the fact that the last steps of the "Scala" correspond to the fundamental virtues: faith, hope and charity. "They are not accessible only to moral heroes but are a gift of God to all the baptised, in them our life grows", he said.

  "Faith is fundamental because ... it means renouncing our own arrogance, ... rejecting the pretension of judging alone without entrusting ourselves to others. ... What we must do is entrust ourselves only to Sacred Scripture, the Word of the Lord, look with humility to the horizon of the faith so as to enter into the vastness of the universal world, the world of God".

  "Through hope we transcend everyday life", Pope Benedict concluded. Thus "our lives become great and we can support our daily fatigue and disappointments, we can be good to others without expecting any reward. Only when there is God - the great hope to which we are drawn - can we take the little steps of our lives and so learn charity. In charity is hidden the mystery of prayer, of personal acquaintance with Jesus".

 

CHRIST IS THE ANSWER TO THE ENIGMA OF SUFFERING AND DEATH

VATICAN CITY, 11 FEB 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 4.30 p.m. today, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the seventeenth World Day of the Sick, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry, celebrated Mass for the sick, and for pilgrims of UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines) and of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

  At the end of Mass, Benedict XVI arrived in the basilica where he blessed the sick and made some brief remarks.

  "This Day invites us to make sick people more intensely aware of the spiritual closeness of the Church", said the Pope, because the Church "is the family of God in the world, within which no-one must suffer for lack of what they need. At the same time, today we have the opportunity to reflect on the experience of sickness and pain, and more generally on the meaning of life which must be lived to the full, even in suffering".

  Recalling then how this year's World Day is dedicated to sick children, the Holy Father asked: "If we remain speechless before the suffering of adults, what can we say when sickness strikes a young and innocent child? How can we, even in such difficult situations, see the merciful love of God, Who never abandons His children at their time of trial?"

  He went on: "Such questions are frequent and sometimes disquieting, and the truth is that on a merely human level they do not find adequate answers, because the significance of suffering, sickness and death remains unfathomable to our minds. However, the light of faith comes to our aid.

  "The Word of God", he added, "reveals to us that these evils are also mysteriously 'embraced' by the design of salvation. Faith helps us to uphold the belief that human life is beautiful and worthy to be lived to the full, even when undermined by sickness.

  "God created man for happiness and for life, while sickness and death came into the world as a consequence of sin", the Pope explained. "But the Lord has not left us to ourselves. He, the Father of life, is doctor par excellence to man and never ceases His loving attentions to humanity".

  "We are achieving an ever greater awareness of the fact that the life of man is not a disposable product, but a precious casket to keep and safeguard with all possible care, from beginning to final and natural conclusion. Life is a mystery which, of itself, calls for responsibility, love, patience and charity on the part of each and every individual. Even more so, then, it is necessary to surround the sick and suffering with care and respect. This is not always easy, but we know where we can draw the courage and patience to face the vicissitudes of earthly life, in particular sickness and suffering of all kinds".

  "For we Christians", he concluded, "the reply to the enigma of suffering and death is in Christ. ... It is in the 'school' of the Eucharistic Christ that we are able to love life always and to accept our apparent impotence in the face of sickness and death".

  "May the Light that comes from on high" he concluded, "help us to understand and give meaning and value also to the experience of suffering and death".

 

BENEDICT XVI PRAISES RECONCILIATION IN AUSTRALIA

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Timothy Anthony Fischer, the new ambassador of Australia to the Holy See. The Pope began his remarks by expressing his sorrow for the recent bush fires in the Australian region of Victoria, asking the ambassador "to send my condolences to the grieving individuals and families".

  Continuing his English-language address, the Holy Father noted how the new ambassador is Australia's first residential ambassador to the Holy See, thus marking a "new stage" in the diplomatic relations between the two countries. "The Church's engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that human progress - whether as individuals or communities - is dependent upon the recognition of the supernatural vocation proper to every person", he said. "It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity and the capacity to seek truth and goodness. Within this broad perspective we can counter tendencies to pragmatism and consequentialism, so prevalent today, which engage only with the symptoms and effects of conflicts, social fragmentation, and moral ambiguity, rather than their roots".

  He then went on to recall last year's World Youth Day celebrated in Sydney, commenting that every WYD "is a spiritual event: a time when young people, not all of whom have a close association with the Church, encounter God in an intense experience of prayer, learning, and listening. ... I pray that this young generation of Christians in Australia and throughout the world will channel their enthusiasm for all that is true and good into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world".

  "Cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of Australia today. For decades that collage was tarnished by the injustices so painfully endured by the indigenous peoples. Through the apology offered last year by Prime Minister Rudd, a profound change of heart has been affirmed. Now, renewed in the spirit of reconciliation, both government agencies and aboriginal elders can address with resolution and compassion the plethora of challenges that lie ahead".

  The Holy Father had words of praise for Australia's "active support of the Millennium Development Goals, numerous regional partnerships, and initiatives to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty". He also highlighted its readiness "to respond to a growing variety of exigencies in a principled, responsible and innovative manner. Not least of these are the menacing threats to God's creation itself through climate change. Perhaps more than ever before in our human history the fundamental relationship between Creator, Creation and Creature needs to be pondered and respected".

  Referring then to his Message for this year's World Day of Peace and its focus on "the need for an ethical approach to the creation of positive partnerships between markets, civil society and States", the Holy Father commended "the Australian Government's determination to establish relations of co-operation based on the values of fairness, good governance, and the sense of a regional neighbourhood. ... It is ethics which render imperative a compassionate and generous response to poverty; they render urgent the sacrificing of protectionist interests for fair accessibility of poor countries to developed markets just as they render reasonable donor nations' insistence upon accountability and transparency in the use of financial aid by receiver nations".

  Finally Pope Benedict spoke of the activity of the Church within the healthcare sector, highlighting one aspect of particular concern in "the provision of medical care for families, including high-quality obstetrical care for women. How ironic it is", he concluded, "when some groups, through aid programmes, promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' healthcare: taking a life, purportedly to improve the quality of life".

 

HOLOCAUST DENIAL IS INTOLERABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations.

  Speaking English, the Pope began his remarks by recalling his first visit to a synagogue, in the German city of Cologne in August 2005. He then mentioned his trip, in May of the following year, to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. "As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering", he said, "I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps".

  "How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time", he said.

  The Pope then noted how today's visit "occurs in the context of your visit to Italy in conjunction with your annual Leadership Mission to Israel. I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there".

  "The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God's forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer"

  "The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. ... It is beyond question that any denial or minimisation of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable".

  "This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance - it is rightly said - is 'memoria futuri', a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship.

  "It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews", Benedict XVI concluded. "It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church's irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance".

 

AUDIENCES

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences three prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Vincent Valentine Egwuchukwo Ezeonyia C.S.Sp. of Aba.

    - Bishop Solomon Amanchukwu Amatu of Okigwe, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Anthony Ekezia Ilonu.

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Medan, Indonesia, presented by Archbishop Alfred Gonti Pius Datubara O.F.M. Cap., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Anicetus Bongsu Antonius Sinaga O.F.M. Cap.

 - Appointed Bishop Philip Naameh of Damongo, Ghana, as metropolitan archbishop of Tamale (area 7,383, population 751,000, Catholics 18,450, priests 42, religious 118), Ghana. The archbishop-elect was born in Nandom-Ko, Ghana in 1948, he was ordained a priest in 1977 and consecrated a bishop in 1995.

 - Appointed Bishop Juan Navarro Castellanos, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Acapulco, Mexico, as bishop of Tuxpan (area 19,000, population 2,020,000, Catholics 1,300,000, priests 95, permanent deacons 3, religious 14), Mexico.

  On Wednesday 11 February it was made public that he appointed Fr. Tarcisio Nascentes dos Santos, pastor of the parish of "Nossa Senhora de Fatima" at Sao Goncalo in the archdiocese of Niteroi, Brazil, as bishop of Divinopolis (area 8,824, population 729,604, Catholics 623,189, priests 96, religious 132), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Niteroi in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1978. He succeeds Bishop Jose Belvino do Nascimento, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

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