CHRISTIAN UNITY REQUIRES INDIVIDUAL CONVERSION
VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to Christ's priestly prayer during the Last Supper, as narrated in chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. John. In order to understand this prayer "in all its immense richness", said the Pope, it is important to see it in the context of the Jewish feast of atonement, Yom Kippur, in which the high priest seeks atonement first for himself, then for the order of priests and finally for the community as a whole. Likewise, "that night Jesus addressed the Father at the moment in which He offered Himself. He, priest and victim, prayed for Himself, for the Apostles and for all those who would believe in Him". (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The prayer which Jesus prays for Himself is the request for His own glorification. "It is in fact more than a request", the Holy Father said, "it is a declaration of willingness to enter freely and generously into the Father's plan, which is accomplished through death and resurrection. ... Jesus begins His priestly prayer by saying: 'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you'. The glorification Jesus seeks for Himself, as High Priest, is to be fully obedient to the Father, an obedience which leads Him to fulfil His filial status: 'So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed'".
The second part of Jesus' prayer is His intercession for the disciples who have followed Him, and His request that they may be sanctified. Jesus says: 'They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth'. Benedict XVI explained how "To sanctify means to transfer something - a person or an object - to God. This involves two complementary aspects: on the one hand, the idea of 'segregation' ... from man's personal life in order to be completely given over to God; on the other hand there is the idea of 'being sent out', of mission. Having been given to God, the consecrated thing or person exists for others. ... A person is sanctified when, like Jesus, he is segregated from the world, set aside for God in view of a task and, for this reason, available for everyone. For disciples this means continuing Jesus' mission".
In the third phase of the priestly prayer, "Jesus asks the Father to intervene in favour of all those who will be brought to the faith by the mission inaugurated by the Apostles. ... 'I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word'. ... Jesus prays for the Church in all times, He also prays for us. ... The main element in Jesus' priestly prayer for His disciples is His request for the future unity of those who will believe in Him. This unity is not a worldly achievement. It derives exclusively from divine unity and comes down to us from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit".
By this priestly prayer Jesus establishes the Church, "which is nothing other than the community of disciples who, through their faith in Christ as the One sent by the Father, receive His unity and are involved in Jesus' mission to save the world by leading it to a knowledge of God".
Benedict XVI invited the faithful to read and meditate upon Jesus priestly prayer, and to pray to God themselves, asking Him "to help us enter fully into the plan He has for each of us. Let us ask Him to consecrate us to Himself, that we may belong to Him and show increasing love for others, both near and far. Let us ask Him to help us open our prayers to the world, not limiting them to requests for help in our own problems, but remembering our fellow man before the Lord and learning the beauty of interceding for others. Let us ask Him for the gift of visible unity among all those who believe in Christ, ... that we may be ready to respond to anyone who asks us about the reasons for our hope".
At the end of his audience, Benedict XVI delivered greetings in various languages to the pilgrims and faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall, reminding them that today's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Addressing Polish faithful he said: "The conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles near Damascus is proof that, in the final analysis, it is God Himself Who decides the destiny of His Church. Let us ask Him for the grace of unity, which also requires our individual conversion, while remaining faithful to the truth and love of God".
AG/ VIS 20120125 (826)
ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE THE DUTY TO ANNOUNCE THE GOSPEL
VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Made public today was the Pope's Message for World Mission Day, which falls this year on Sunday 21 October. The theme of the document is: "Called to radiate the word of truth". Extracts of the message are given below.
"This year the celebration of World Mission Day is particularly significant. The fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Decree 'Ad gentes', the opening of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the new evangelisation all come together to reaffirm the Church's will to dedicate herself with greater courage and ardour to the 'missio ad gentes', that the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth.
"Vatican Council II, with the participation of Catholic bishops from every corner of the world, was a luminous sign of the Church's universality. ... Missionary bishops and autochthonous bishops, pastors of communities living among non-Christian peoples, ... all made an important contribution to reaffirming the pressing need of 'ad gentes' evangelisation and, consequently, to placing the missionary nature of the Church at the centre of ecclesiology".
"Today this view ... remerges with renewed urgency because the number of those who do not yet know Christ has increased. ... We need, then, to retrieve the apostolic zeal of the early Christian communities which, small and defenceless, were nonetheless capable, through announcement and witness, of spreading the Gospel throughout the then-known world.
"It is no surprise, then, that Vatican Council II and the subsequent Magisterium of the Church place particular emphases on the missionary mandate which Christ entrusted to His disciples, and which is the duty of all the people of God (bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people). Announcing the Gospel in every corner of the world is the primary responsibility of bishops, who are directly responsible for evangelising the world".
"The command to preach the Gospel ... must involve all actions and sectors of a particular Church, its entire being and activity. Vatican Council II made this very clear and subsequent Magisterium has underlined it strongly. This means the constant adaptation of lifestyles, pastoral plans and diocesan organisation to this fundamental dimension of the Church's being, especially in our continually changing world. ... All the components of the great mosaic of the Church must be aware that they are touched by the Lord's command to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be announced everywhere. We pastors, religious and all Christ's faithful must follow the footsteps of the Apostle Paul who ... worked, suffered and struggled to bring the Gospel among the pagans, not sparing energy, time or means to make Christ's message known".
"Missionary cooperation must expand to include new forms, not only economic assistance but also direct participation in evangelisation. The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation will be useful occasions to relaunch missionary cooperation, especially in the latter dimension".
"The immense horizons of the Church's mission and the complexity of today's situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the word of God. First and foremost this requires a renewed adherence of individual and community faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ 'especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing'.
"One of the obstacles to evangelisation is, in fact, the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world but among a large part of humankind, which nonetheless hungers and thirsts for God, and which must be invited and led to the bread of life and the living water. ... We must renew our enthusiasm to communicate the faith, so as to promote new evangelisation in communities and countries of ancient Christian tradition, which are losing their reference to God, and help them rediscover the joy of believing. Concern for evangelisation must never remain at the margins of Christians' ecclesial activity or individual lives, it must characterise them strongly in their awareness of being both beneficiaries and missionaries of the Gospel The central point of our announcement always remains the same: ... the 'kerygma' of God's absolute and total love for each man and woman, which culminated in His sending the eternal and only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, Who did not disdain to take on the poverty of our human nature, loving it and saving it from sin and death by the offer of Himself upon the cross".
"Faith is a gift that was given to us to be shared. ... It is the most important gift of our lives and we cannot keep it to ourselves".
"Many priests and religious from all over the world, many lay people and even entire families leave their countries, their local communities, and travel to other Churches to bear witness to and announce the Name of Christ. ... This is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity among Churches".
"Together with this exalted sign of faith transformed into charity, I would like to mention and thank the Pontifical Missionary Works, which is an instrument for cooperation in the Church's universal mission in the world. Thanks to their activities the announcement of the Gospel is transformed into assistance to others, justice for the poorest, education in isolated villages, medical care in remote areas, liberation from want, rehabilitation of the marginalised, support for the development of peoples, the breaking down of ethnic divisions and respect for life in all its stages".
"Upon the work of evangelisation 'ad gentes', and especially upon those who carry it out, I invoke the effusion of the Holy Spirit, that the grace of God may make it ever more decisive in the history of the world".
MESS/ VIS 20120125 (950)
FULL TEXT VESPERS OF ST. PAUL
RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Below the text of
Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St.
Dear brothers and sisters! It is with great joy that I
extend my warm greetings to all of you who have gathered in this basilica for
the liturgical Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, concluding the Week of
Prayer for Christian Unity, in this year when we are celebrating the fiftieth
anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, that the Blessed John XXIII announced
in this very basilica on January 25, 1959. The theme offered for our meditation
in the Week of prayer which we conclude today, is: "All shall be changed by the
victory of Jesus Christ our Lord" (cf. 1 Cor 15.51-58).
The meaning of
this mysterious transformation, which our second short reading this evening
speaks about, is admirably shown in the personal story of St. Paul. Following
the extraordinary event happened on the road to Damascus, Saul, who was
distinguished for the zeal with which he persecuted the early Church, was
transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the story
of this extraordinary evangelist, it is clear that this transformation is not
the result of a long inner reflection and not even the result of personal
effort. It is first and foremost by the grace of God who has acted according to
his inscrutable ways. This is why Paul, writing to the Corinthian community a
few years after his conversion, says, as we heard in the first reading for these
Vespers: "By the grace of God, however, that is what I am, and his grace toward
me did not been in vain "(1 Cor 15:10). Moreover, considering carefully the
story of St. Paul, we understand how the transformation he experienced in his
life is not limited to an ethical level - such as conversion from immorality to
morality - or the intellectual level - such as a change in our way of
understanding reality - but it is rather a radical renewal of our being, similar
in many respects to a rebirth. This transformation has its basis in our
participation in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and
presents itself as a gradual process of being conformed to Him. In light of this
awareness, St. Paul, when he later will be called to defend the legitimacy of
his apostolic vocation and the gospel preached by him, will say: " It is no
longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the
flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
St. Paul’s personal experience enables him to wait with
grounded hope for the fulfillment of this mystery of transformation, which will
come to all those who believed in Jesus Christ but also all of humanity and all
of creation. In the second short reading that was proclaimed tonight, St. Paul,
after a lengthy discussion designed to strengthen the faithful in the hope of
the resurrection, he uses traditional images of apocalyptic literature,
contemporary to him, and in a few lines describes the great Day of the Last
Judgement, on which the destiny of humanity will be accomplished: "In an
instant, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds... the dead
shall be raised imperishable and we shall be changed as well "(1 Cor 15.52). On
that day, all believers will be conformed to Christ and all that is corruptible
will be transformed by His glory: "our present perishable nature must put on
imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (v. 53) . So the
triumph of Christ will be finally complete, because, says St. Paul, showing how
the ancient prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled, death will finally be
conquered, and with it, the sin which brought it into the world and the Law
which empowers sin without giving the strength to overcome it: "Death is
swallowed up in victory. / Where, O death, is your victory? / Where, O death is
your sting? / The sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law
"(vv. 54-56). St. Paul tells us, therefore, that every man, through baptism into
the death and resurrection of Christ, shares in the victory of the One who first
conquered death, beginning a journey of transformation which shows itself even
now in a new life and will culminate at the end of time.
It is very
significant that this reading ends with a thanksgiving: "Let us thank God, for
giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 57). The song of
victory over death is transformed into a song of gratitude to the conquerer. And
we too this evening, as we raise our evening praises to God, we want to unite
our voices, our minds and hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what God's
grace has done through the apostle of the Gentiles and for the wonderful plan of
salvation that God the Father does in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we
lift our prayers to him, we are confident that we will be transformed and
conformed to the image of Christ. This is particularly true in our prayer for
Christian unity. In fact, when we plead for the gift of unity of the disciples
of Christ, we make ours the desire expressed by Jesus Christ on the eve of his
passion and death in the prayer to his Father: "May they all be one" (Jn 17.21).
For this reason, the prayer for Christian unity is nothing less than our
participation in the realization of his divine plan for the Church, and our
active commitment to the restoration of unity is both a duty and a great
responsibility for all.
While experiencing these days the painful
situation of our divisions, we Christians can and must look to the future with
hope, because Christ's victory means to overcome everything that keeps us from
sharing the fullness of life with Him and with others. The resurrection of Jesus
Christ confirms that the goodness of God overcomes evil, love overcomes death.
He accompanies us in the fight against the destructive power of sin that harms
humanity and all of God’s creation. The presence of the risen Christ calls all
Christians to act together for the common good. United in Christ, we are called
to share his mission, which is to bring hope to the places where there is
injustice, hatred and despair. Our divisions diminish our witness to Christ. The
goal of full unity, which we await with active hope and for which we pray with
confidence, it is a secondary victory but important for the good of the human
In the dominant culture of today, the idea of victory is often
associated with immediate success. For the Christian, however, victory is a long
and, in the eyes of men, a not always linear process of transformation and
growth in goodness. It is achieved according to God's timing, not ours, and
requires of us a profound faith and patient endurance. Although the Kingdom of
God breaks into history with the resurrection of Jesus, it is not yet fully
realized. The final victory will only come with the second coming of the Lord,
which we await with patient hope. Also our expectation for the visible unity of
the Church must be patient and confident. Only in this attitude can our prayers
and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The
attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation, but a
response to be ready and alert to every possibility of communion and
brotherhood, which the Lord gives us.
In this spiritual atmosphere, I
would like to greet in a special way Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest of this
Basilica, the abbot of the Benedictine Community that welcomes us. I greet
Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity, and all the staff of that council. I extend my cordial and fraternal
greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, and to Rev. Canon Richardson, Personal Representative
of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome, as well as all the representatives of
different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, gathered here this evening. Also,
I am particularly pleased to welcome members of the Working Group made up of
representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Poland, who
prepared the texts for the Week of Prayer this year, to whom I would like to
express my gratitude and My wish that they continue on the path of
reconciliation and fruitful collaboration. I also warmly greet members of the
Global Christian Forum, who are in Rome these days to reflect on the enlargement
of their participation in the ecumenical movement. I also greet the group of
students of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute of the world Council of Churches.
I wish to entrust to the intercession of St. Paul all those who, with
their prayers and their efforts, work for the cause of Christian unity. Although
sometimes we may get the impression that the road towards the full restoration
of communion is still very long and full of obstacles, I invite everyone to
renew their determination to pursue with courage and generosity, the unity that
is the will of God, following the example of St. Paul, who faced with
difficulties of all kinds, always maintained full confidence in God who brings
his work to fruition. Moreover, we can see positive signs of a renewed sense of
brotherhood and a shared responsibility toward the great problems that afflict
our world. All this is cause for great hope and joy and should encourage us to
continue our commitment to reach the finish line together, knowing that in the
Lord we cannot be labouring in vain(cf. 1 Cor 15.58). http://www.radiovaticana.org/en1/Articolo.asp?c=557691
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, as archbishop of Karachi (area 180,000, population 15,536,000, Catholics 150,000, priests 40, religious 185), Pakistan. He succeeds Archbishop Evarist Pinto, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Appointed Fr. Paul Abel Mamba, apostolic administrator of Ziguinchor, Senegal, as bishop of the same diocese (area , population , Catholics , priests , permanent deacons , religious ). The bishop-elect was born in Cabrousse, Senegal in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1988. He has sent periods of study in Cameroon and France, and has served in pastoral roles and as bursar of seminaries and dioceses in Senegal.
- Appointed Msgr. Udo Breitbach, bureau chief of the Congregation for Bishops, as under secretary of the same congregation.
- Appointed as consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Fr. Paolo Martinelli, O.F.M. Cap., president of the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the "Antonianum" Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and Fr. Maurizio Gronchi of the clergy of the archdiocese of Pisa, Italy, professor at the Faculty of Theology of Rome's Pontifical Urban University.