VIS REPORTS: POSITIVE SIGNS OF FRATERNITY ON ECUMENICAL JOURNEY
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at the celebration of second Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The celebration, which marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was attended by representatives from other Churches including the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Anglican Communion and the Patriarchates of Moscow and Romania. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
In his homily Benedict XVI recalled how the theme of this year's Week of Prayer - "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" - was taken from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. "The significance of this mysterious transformation", the Pope explained, "is admirably expressed in Paul's personal history. Following the extraordinary event which befell him on the road to Damascus, Saul, who had stood out for the zeal with which he persecuted the nascent Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ... This transformation was not the fruit of long inner reflection nor of individual effort. It was, first and foremost, the grace of God working in its mysterious ways".
The Holy Father pointed our that St. Paul's transformation was not limited to the field of ethics or the intellect. "It was a radical renewal of his being, similar in many ways to a rebirth. Such a transformation had its roots in his participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and took shape as a gradual conformation to Him. Aware of this, St. Paul would say: ... 'It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'".
In his First Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle describes the Final Judgement, when the destiny of humankind will be fulfilled. "On that day all believers will be made like unto Christ and all perishable things will be transformed by His glory. ... Christ's triumph will then finally be complete, because ... death will have been definitively vanquished and, therewith, the sin which brought death into the world. ... St. Paul tells us then that, through Baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ, each man and woman shares in the victory of the One Who first vanquished death, and starts down a path of transformation which begins even now in new life, and which will reach fulfilment at the end of time".
"As we say our prayers we trust that we too will be transformed, conformed to the image of Christ", the Pope said. "This holds particularly true for our prayers for Christian unity, ... by means of which we participate in God's plan for the Church. Everyone has the duty and responsibility to dedicate themselves to re-establishing unity. ... United in Christ, we are called to share His mission, which is to bring hope where injustice, hatred and desperation dominate. Our divisions obscure our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await with diligent hope and for which we trustingly pray, ... is an important victory for the good of the human family".
In contrast to the prevalent idea of victory as immediate success, Benedict XVI explained the Christian view of victory as a long "process of transformation and development in goodness. It comes about in God's times, not ours, and requires profound faith and patient perseverance on our part. ... As we await the visible unity of the Church, we must be patient and trusting". This does not mean passivity and resignation, but "a ready and immediate response to every opening of communion and brotherhood which the Lord gives us".
The Pope concluded by exhorting those present to continue the ecumenical journey. "Although at times we may have the impression that the road to full communion is still long and full of obstacles", he said, "I call upon everyone to renew their determination to follow, with courage and generosity, the unity which God wills, following the example of St. Paul who, faced with difficulties of all kinds, always maintained his faith in God. ... The journey, moreover, does not lack signs of renewed fraternity or of shared responsibility before the great problems affecting our world. All this is a reason for hope and must encourage us to continue our commitment to reach the final goal together, knowing that our efforts are not vain in the Lord".
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PRIESTS SHOULD PROMOTE SANCTITY WITH THEIR OWN LIVES
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received superiors and seminarians from three Italian regional pontifical seminaries in Assisi, Catanzaro and Naples. All of these institutions, as the Pope remarked in his address to the group, are currently celebrating their first centenary having been founded as part of efforts towards the reformation of priestly education carried out under Popes Leo XIII and St. Pius X. "Bringing diocesan seminaries together into regional seminaries, and the reform of theological studies, produced a notable improvement in quality", Pope Benedict noted. "In this, an important role was played by the Society of Jesus", the Jesuits, to whom the new regional seminaries were entrusted.
Even today regional seminaries remain important as they allow access to higher education and contribute to the communion of dioceses, "favouring knowledge, capacity for collaboration and the enrichment of ecclesial experience among future priests. The regional dimension is also an appropriate middle way between the needs of the universal Church and the requirements of local areas".
Referring to the seminarians' formation, Benedict XVI highlighted how today's cultural context calls for "solid education in philosophy and theology". Future priests must, he said, "understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people's questions. ... And the study of theology must always have an intense bond to the life of prayer. ... It is, in fact, vital that the multiple activities of a priest's ministry be harmoniously integrated with his spiritual life.
"It is important", the Holy Father added, "for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated". For this reason, the Pope said, great attention must be given to "the human dimension when forming candidates to the priesthood. It is, in fact, in our humanity that we present ourselves before God, in order to appear before our fellows as authentic men of God. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a 'man of God'. ... It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ".
In conclusion, the Holy Father quoted a phrase of John XXII: "Even more than cultured, eloquent, up-to-date priests, what we need are saintly and sanctifying priests". These words, Benedict XVI explained, "are still valid today because the entire Church, and the regions from which you come, have more need than ever of workers of the Gospel, people who give credible witness and promote sanctity with their own lives".
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HOLY SEE SIGNS UN CONVENTIONS AGAINST INTERNATIONAL CRIME
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday 25 January the Holy See, acting also in the name and on behalf of Vatican City State, adhered to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (New York, 1999) and to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo, 2000). On the same date the Holy See ratified, likewise in the name and on behalf of Vatican City State, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Vienna, 1988), which it had already signed in the year in which it was adopted. The instruments of ratification and adherence were accompanied by a number of reservations and interpretative declarations.
In a note concerning yesterday's move Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, explains that "this step represents a further recognition by the Holy See of the efforts of the community of States to prevent and combat the most serious forms of transnational criminal activity, of dramatic actuality, through appropriate instruments of international cooperation".
"The Holy Father reminds us that terrorism and organised crime threaten the dignity of human beings and the common good in every country in the world". Therfore, juridical instruments which counter these forms of illicit activity also contribute to peace and security. With its adhesion to and ratification of the three treaties in question, "the Holy See confirms its intention as well as its effective and practical commitment to collaborate with the international community in a manner consistent with its nature and mission, with a view to guaranteeing international peace and justice".
The adoption of these instruments constitutes a further refinement of the legal structure of Vatican City State, which had already developed in this direction through the adoption of various laws concerning the prevention and combating of the laundering of money derived from criminal activity and the financing of terrorism. The new legal instruments offered by the three treaties also aim to raise the level of collaboration between the tribunals of Vatican City State and those of other States.
The secretary for Relations with States also explains that "these international commitments do not prejudice the sovereign right of each State to abstain from collaborating with respect to pending legal proceedings in other contexts when those proceedings could give rise to forms of persecution of an individual for political, religious, ethnic or similar reasons". Finally, Archbishop Mamberti makes it clear that yesterday's steps "facilitate further the coming together of justice and peace", and confirm the truth of the Holy See's "commitment to the respect of human dignity and concord between persons and peoples".
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PRESS NOTE ON ITALIAN TELEVISION PROGRAMME
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy See Press Office published a note written by its director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., concerning a television programme, "Gli intoccabili", transmitted yesterday evening by Italy's "La7" television network. Fr. Lombardi highlights the "questionable journalistic methods" with which the programme was made, and his "disappointment at the revelation of reserved documents", noting that such things often form part of the "biased coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church".
The Holy See Press Office director then turns to focus on two considerations "which were not given space in the course of the debate". Firstly "the activities of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State certainly had many positive aspects, as he contributed to the efforts being made to ensure administrative rigour, economisation and the improvement of what was a difficult overall economic situation. ... However, a fairer evaluation would have taken account of the trends of the market, the investment criteria adopted over recent years, and other important circumstances. ... Certain accusations - some very serious - made during the course of the programme, especially those concerning the members of the Finance and Management Committee of the Governorate and the Secretariat of State, will lead both the Secretariat of State and the Governorate to adopt all measures (including if necessary legal measures) to protect the honour of morally upright and highly professional people who serve the Church, the Pope and the common good. In any case, the positive criteria of correct and transparent management which inspired Archbishop Vigano certainly continue to guide the current directors of the Governorate. ... This is in keeping with the policy to which the Holy See is committed of increasing transparency and attentively monitoring of economic activities".
Secondly "the difficult process of discerning the various aspects involved in managing a complex institution such as the Governorate - which are not limited to administrative rigour - was presented in a superficial and biased manner, highlighting the evidently negative aspects with the simplistic result of presenting the structures of government in the Church as being, not so much affected by human frailty (which would be easily understandable), as profoundly characterised by arguments, divisions and power struggles. ... Yet, all this disinformation will certainly not obscure the daily and serene efforts towards increasing transparency in all Vatican institutions. ... In this context, it must be decisively affirmed that entrusting Archbishop Vigano with the role of apostolic nuncio to the United States - one of the most important roles in Vatican diplomacy given the importance of the country and of the Catholic Church there - is proof of unquestionable respect and trust".
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CELEBRATIONS TO BE PRESIDED BY THE POPE: FEBRUARY-APRIL
VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today published the calendar of celebrations due to be presided by the Holy Father between February and April.
Thursday 2: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life. At 5.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Vespers with members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.
Saturday 18: At 10.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, ordinary public consistory for the creation of new cardinals and for the vote on a number of causes of canonisation.
Sunday 19: Solemnity of the Cathedra of St. Peter. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass with new cardinals.
Wednesday 22: Ash Wednesday. At 4.30 p.m. in the basilica of Sant'Anselmo, "statio" and penitential procession. At 5 p.m. in the basilica of Santa Sabina, blessing and imposition of the ashes.
Sunday 26: First Sunday of Lent. At 6 p.m. in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, beginning of the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia.
Saturday 3: At 9 a.m. in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel, conclusion of the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia.
Sunday 4: Second Sunday of Lent. At 9.30 a.m., Mass in the Roman parish of "San Giovanni Battista de La Salle al Torrino".
Saturday 10: At 5.30 p.m., Vespers in the basilica of San Gregorio al Celio for the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Friday 23 to Thursday 29: Apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba.
Sunday 1. Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of palms, procession and Mass.
Thursday 5. Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass. At 5.30 p.m. in the basilica of St. John Lateran, beginning of the Easter Triduum with the Mass of the Last Supper.
Friday 6. Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Lord's Passion. At 9.15 p.m. at the Colosseum, Way of the Cross.
Saturday 7. Holy Saturday. At 9 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter vigil.
Sunday 8. Easter Sunday. Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10.15 a.m. At midday, from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience sixteen prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on their "ad limina" visit:
- Archbishop Thomas John Rodi of Mobile.
- Bishop Roger Paul Morin of Biloxi.
- Bishop Robert Joseph Baker of Birmingham, accompanied by Bishop emeritus David Edward Foley.
- Bishop Joseph N. Latino of Jackson, accompanied by Bishop emeritus William Russel Huock.
- Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville.
- Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond of New Orleans, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Joseph Fabre and by Archbishop emeritus Alfred Clifton Hughes.
- Bishop Ronald Paul Herzog of Alexandria.
- Bishop Robert William Muench of Baton Rouge.
- Bishop Sam Gallip Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux.
- Bishop Charles Michael Jarrell of Lafayette.
- Bishop Glen John Provst of Lake Charles.
- Bishop Michael Gerard Duca of Shreveport.