April 11, 2012

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

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

Summary

- FAITH IN CHRIST TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES, FREES US FROM FEAR AND FILLS US WITH HOPE

- IN BRIEF

- OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

Holy Week

- CHRISM MASS: PRIESTS CONFIGURED TO CHRIST

- HOLY THURSDAY: JESUS RESOLVES THE FALSE OPPOSITION BETWEEN OBEDIENCE AND FREEDOM

- THE MYSTERY OF THE PASSION INSPIRES US TO CONTINUE IN HOPE

- EASTER SATURDAY: EASTER IS THE FEAST OF THE NEW CREATION

- EASTER MESSAGE: THE POPE CALLS FOR PEACE IN SYRIA, NIGERIA AND PALESTINE

- POPE HIGHLIGHTS THE SPECIAL BOND WOMEN HAVE WITH JESUS

 

FAITH IN CHRIST TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES, FREES US FROM FEAR AND FILLS US WITH HOPE

Vatican City, 11 April 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to the transformation which Jesus' Resurrection brought about in His disciples, also reflecting on the meaning that Easter has for Christians today. Faith in the Risen One, he said, "transforms our lives; it frees them from fear, gives them firm hope, and infuses them with something that provides existence with full meaning: the love of God".

Benedict XVI explained how on the evening of the day of the Resurrection the disciples were at home behind locked doors, full of fear and doubt at the recollection of the passion of their Lord. "This situation of anguish changed radically when Jesus arrived. He entered through the closed doors, was among them and brought them peace", peace which "for the community became source of joy, certainty of victory, trusting reliance on God".

After His greeting, Jesus showed His wounds to the disciples, "signs of what had befallen and would never be cancelled. His glorious humanity remained 'wounded'. The gesture had the aim of confirming the new reality of the Resurrection. The Christ Who returned among His followers was a real person, the same Jesus Who three days earlier had been nailed to the cross. Thus, in the shining light of Easter, in the meeting with the Risen One, the disciples came to understand the salvific meaning of His passion and death. Then sadness and fear became overwhelming joy".

Jesus greeted them again: "Peace be with you". Yet this, the Pope explained, was not just a greeting, "it was a gift, the gift the Risen One made to His friends. At the same time it was a commission: the peace which Christ had bought with His blood was for them, but it was also for everyone else, and the disciples would have to carry it throughout the world". Jesus "had completed His mission in the world, now it was up to them to to sow faith in people's hearts".

However, the Lord knew that His followers were still afraid. "For this reason He breathed upon them and regenerated them in His Spirit. This gesture was the sign of the new creation. With the gift of the Holy Spirit which came from the Risen Christ, a new world began".

"Today too the Risen One enters our homes and hearts, although sometimes the doors are closed", the Pope said, "He enters bringing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth". Only He can put an end to division, enmity, rancour, envy, mistrust and indifference. Only He can give meaning to the lives of those who are weary, sad and without hope.

This was the experience of the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus, full of foreboding at the recent death of their Master. Jesus came up to them and accompanied them without being recognised, explaining the meaning of Sacred Scripture to help them understand His salvific mission. Later they asked Jesus to stay with them and recognised him as He blessed and broke the bread. "This episode", said the Holy Father, "shows us two privileged 'places' in which we can meet the Risen One Who transforms our lives: ... the Word and the Eucharist".

The disciples of Emmaus returned to Jerusalem to join the others. "Their enthusiasm for the faith was reborn, their love for the community and their need to communicate the good news. The Master rose and with Him all life resurges. Bearing witness to this event became an irrepressible need for them".

For Christians, Easter must be a time for the joyful and enthusiastic rediscovery of the sources of the faith. "This means following the same path as that along which Jesus directed the two disciples of Emmaus, through the rediscovery of the Word of God and the Eucharist. The culmination of this journey, then as now, is Eucharistic communion. In communion Jesus nourishes us with His Body and His Blood, becoming present in our lives, making us new and animating us with the power of the Holy Spirit".

In conclusion the Holy Father invited Christians to remain faithful to the Risen One Who "living and true, is always present among us, Who walks with us to guide our lives", and Who "has the power to give life, to make us reborn as children of God, capable of believing and loving".

 

IN BRIEF

HIS BEATITUDE CARDINAL IGNACE MOUSSA I DAOUD, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and patriarch emeritus of Antioch of the Syrians, died in Rome on 7 April at the age of 82. In a telegram of condolence sent to His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Benedict XVI expresses his closeness to that patriarchal Church of which the deceased was "a committed pastor". The Pope also mentions the peoples of the region, who are currently experiencing moments of great difficulty. The cardinal's funeral was held in St. Peter's Basilica on 10 April.

A LETTER WAS MADE PUBLIC ON 7 APRIL in which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as his special envoy to the opening celebrations for the pilgrimage of the "Holy Robe", marking the fifth centenary of the first public display of the relic. The event will be held in the cathedral of Trier, Germany on 13 April, the cardinal will be accompanied on his mission by Msgr. Rainer Scherschel and Fr. Reinhold Bohlen, canons of the cathedral.

BENEDICT XVI HAS SENT A TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCE to Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves O.F.M. of San Juan de Puerto Rico for the death of Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez, archbishop emeritus of the same archdiocese. The cardinal died on 10 April at the age of 89. In the telegram the Holy Father recalls how the late cardinal participated in Vatican Council II and "introduced its dispositions into his particular Church". Cardinal Aponte Martinez likewise "bore witness to his great love for God and the Church, and his great dedication to the cause of the Gospel".

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

Vatican City, 7 April 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as pontifical legate for the celebration of the fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress, which is due to take place in Dublin, Ireland, from 10 to 17 June.

 

CHRISM MASS: PRIESTS CONFIGURED TO CHRIST

Vatican City, 5 April 2012 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and around 1,600 priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope.

During the course of the celebration, priests renew the vows they made at their ordination, and the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed is blessed. Extracts from the homily of the Holy Father are given below.

"At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be “consecrated in truth”, as Jesus besought the Father for us in His high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to Him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives - do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? ... We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another - of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for Him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, Who came not to be served but to serve, Who does not take, but rather gives - what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord.

"Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

"But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ Himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed He did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to His ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: He was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: He lived out His task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to His mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in His humility and His divinity, and they show us the true path.

"Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilisation of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognise the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love".

"I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. ... At the meeting of cardinals on the occasion of the recent consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith ... we need to know what God has said to us - our minds and hearts must be touched by His word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of Vatican Council II fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in Sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

"All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine”. We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. ... If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with Him who called us to be His ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself".

"The last keyword that I should like to consider is “zeal for souls”. ... It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word “soul” is virtually banned because - ostensibly - it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalises the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs - we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. ... A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ".

 

HOLY THURSDAY: JESUS RESOLVES THE FALSE OPPOSITION BETWEEN OBEDIENCE AND FREEDOM

Vatican City, 5 April 2012 (VIS) - At 5.30 p.m. today in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of Rome, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, thus beginning the Eater Triduum of 2012. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests.

Holy Thursday, the Holy Father said in his homily, "is not only the day of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with His disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, Who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death".

"The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to Him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed His way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means - as they add - “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word - an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with Him.

"If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is His relationship with God. ... Now we know God as He truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. ... The One Who is Goodness is at the same time Power; He is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives".

Luke, the Holy Father went on, "tells us that Jesus prayed on His knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees. ... In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge His divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that He will prevail.

"Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with Himself. And He struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which He will encounter in that chalice from which He must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as He sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon Him. ... The Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: He takes upon Himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and He brings us before the Father.

"Lastly", Pope Benedict concluded, "we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want”. The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, He places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way He transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. ... This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” - not by resisting God, eliminating Him, or denying Him. In His anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom".

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE PASSION INSPIRES US TO CONTINUE IN HOPE

Vatican City, 6 April 2012 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5.30 p.m. today, Good Friday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion. The Liturgy of the Word, in which the Passion according to St. John was read out, was followed by the homily, after which the ceremony continued with the universal prayer, the veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

At 9 p.m. the Holy Father travelled to the Colosseum where he led the "Via Crucis" or Way of the Cross which was transmitted live all over the world. The meditations this year were prepared by members of the "Focolari" Movement. Two young people from the diocese of Rome carried torches on either side of the cross which was borne by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, by two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land, and by families from Italy, Ireland, Burkina Faso and Peru.

At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father addressed the following words to those present.

"Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’ journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth”. Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in His cross she sees the tree of life, which blossoms in new hope.

"The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind; it touches the family too. How often does the journey become wearisome and difficult! Misunderstandings, conflicts, worry for the future of our children, sickness and problems of every kind. These days too, the situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis. The Way of the Cross which we have spiritually retraced this evening invites all of us, and families in particular, to contemplate Christ crucified in order to have the force to overcome difficulties. The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on; there we can repeat with firm hope the words of St. Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

"In times of trial and tribulation, we are not alone; the family is not alone. Jesus is present with His love, He sustains them by His grace and grants the strength needed to carry on, to make sacrifices and to overcome every obstacle. And it is to this love of Christ that we must turn when human turmoil and difficulties threaten the unity of our lives and our families. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection inspires us to go on in hope: times of trouble and testing, when endured with Christ, with faith in Him, already contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the passover of all those who believe in His word.

"In that crucified Man Who is the Son of God, even death itself takes on new meaning and purpose: it is redeemed and overcome, it becomes a passage to new life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. Let us entrust ourselves to the Mother of Christ. May Mary, who accompanied her Son along His way of sorrows, who stood beneath the cross at the hour of His death, and who inspired the Church at its birth to live in God’s presence, lead our hearts and the hearts of every family through the vast 'mysterium passionis' towards the 'mysterium paschale', towards that light which breaks forth from Christ’s resurrection and reveals the definitive victory of love, joy and life over evil, suffering and death. Amen".

 

EASTER SATURDAY: EASTER IS THE FEAST OF THE NEW CREATION

Vatican City, 7 April 2012 (VIS) - At 9 p.m. today in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil, which began in the atrium of the basilica where he blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession towards the altar with the singing of the "Exultet". Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

During the course of the vigil, the Holy Father administered the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to eight catechumens from Italy, Albania, Slovakia, Germany, Turkmenistan, Cameroon and the U.S.A.

Following the Gospel reading, the Holy Father delivered his homily, which focused on the triumph of light over darkness.

"Easter is the feast of the new creation", he said. "Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God Himself. ... Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. ... Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and His creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’”".

"What is the creation account saying here?", the Holy Father asked. "Light makes life possible. ... Evil hides. ... To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence through denial. It is a “no”.

"At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again - creation is beginning anew. ... Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. ... But this applies not only to Him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after Him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness".

"Through the Sacrament of Baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptised: 'Fiat lux' - let there be light. God’s new day - the day of indestructible life, comes also to us".

"The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. ... Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light".

"On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. ... Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, Who gives Himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. ... Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. ... And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us".

In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled that the the candle "has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’etre is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world".

 

EASTER MESSAGE: THE POPE CALLS FOR PEACE IN SYRIA, NIGERIA AND PALESTINE

Vatican City, 8 April 2012 (VIS) - Given below are extracts from the message which His Holiness Benedict XVI read out during the course of the Easter Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord, celebrated this morning in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 100,000 faithful.

"Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world! ... May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. ... “I have seen the Lord!”".

"Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man Who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, Who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. ... All my yearnings for goodness find in Him a real possibility of fulfilment: with Him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God Himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity".

"In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

"And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. ... The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance".

"If Jesus is risen, then - and only then - has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then He, Jesus, is someone in Whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in His message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And He is present as a force of hope through His Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

"May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

"May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may He grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

"May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may He help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens. Happy Easter to all!"

Following his Message, the Pope extended Easter greetings in sixty-five languages before imparting the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing.

 

POPE HIGHLIGHTS THE SPECIAL BOND WOMEN HAVE WITH JESUS

Vatican City, 9 April 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday evening the Holy Father travelled to his residence at Castelgandolfo outside Rome for a brief period of rest. At midday today he appeared on the balcony of the apostolic palace there to pray the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered below in the building's internal courtyard. The Regina Coeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter season.

"In many countries Easter Monday is a holiday. People make trips to the countryside, or mover further afield to visit relatives and to be together as a family. However I would like Christians to keep the reason for this holiday in their minds and hearts: the Resurrection of Christ, the definitive mystery of our faith", the Pope said.

"The moment of the resurrection per se is not described by the Evangelists. It remains a mystery, not in the sense that it is less real, but that it is hidden, beyond the scope of our understanding, like a light so bright that we cannot look at it without our eyes being blinded. The narratives begin when, at dawn on the day after the Saturday, the women went to the tomb and found it open and empty. ... Having received the announcement of the resurrection from the Angel they ran, full of fear and joy, to give the news to the disciples. At that very moment they met Jesus, bowing before His feet and worshipping Him as He said: 'Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me'.

"All the Gospels dedicate a lot of space to the women in the narratives of the apparitions of the Risen Jesus, just as they do in those of His passion and death. In Israel at that time the testimony of women did not have official juridical weight, but women experienced a special bond with the Lord and this is fundamental for the real life of the Christian community, in all times and ages, not just in the early days of the Church".

The Pope concluded by recalling that the model for this relationship with Jesus, especially in the Easter mystery, is Mary, Mother of the Lord. "Through the transforming experience of her Son's passion, the Virgin Mary also became Mother of the Church; that is, of each believer and of the entire community".

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