THE POPE LEAVES MEXICO REITERATING HIS CALL FOR SOLIDARITY
Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father took his leave of Mexico, arriving at the airport of Leon at 9 a.m. where the departure ceremony took place.
Addressing Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, and other civil and religious authorities who were there to greet him, the Pope noted that his departure was not the end of his affection and closeness to a country so dear to him.
“Recognising the faith in Jesus Christ which I have felt resounding in your hearts, and your affectionate devotion to His Mother, invoked here with beautiful titles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Light, a light I have seen reflected in your faces, I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigour a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the power of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.
“I have also seen for myself expressions of concern for various aspects of the life in this beloved country, some more recent and others long standing, which continue to cause such great divisions in society. I take them with me as well, as I share in the joys and the suffering of my Mexican brothers and sisters, so as to place them in prayer at the foot of the Cross, in the heart of Christ, out of which flowed the blood and water of redemption.
“In these circumstances, I strongly urge Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always finishes by sacrificing the weakest and most defenceless. I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is the human promotion and a supreme expression of charity. For this reason, the Church exhorts all her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities and concerned for the good of others, of everyone, both in their personal lives and throughout the various sectors of society.
“Dear Mexican friends, I say to you “Adios!” in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, “Adios!”; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you!”
Having concluded his remarks the Holy Father boarded his flight for Cuba where he is scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. local time (9 p.m. in Rome).
POPE CALLS FOR JUSTICE, PEACE, FREEDOM AND RECONCILIATION FOR CUBA
Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) – “I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need”.
These were the words pronounced by Benedict XVI as he began his apostolic trip to Cuba, where he arrived this afternoon from Mexico. The Pope was greeted at the airport of Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city, by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban Episcopal Conference, and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana.
In his welcome address the Holy Father spoke of the “indelible mark” left on the island by the visit of Blessed John Paul II. “For many, whether believers or not”, he said, “his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation. His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future. One of the important fruits of that visit was the inauguration of a new phase in the relationship in Cuba between Church and State, in a new spirit of cooperation and trust, even if many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society”.
The Holy Father also referred to the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of “Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre”, saying that “since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation, especially since independence, for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people.
“Devotion to the ‘Virgen Mambisa'”, he added, “has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and fundamental rights, and it continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul. Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation”.
The Pope then went on to refer to the difficult world economic situation, noting that many people see it “as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with deep values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person”.
“I am convinced”, he concluded, “that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the great patrimony of spiritual and moral values which created the nation’s true identity, and which are to be found concretely in the work and the life of many distinguished fathers of the country, like Blessed Jose Olallo y Valdes, the Servant of God Felix Varela, and the worthy Jose Marti. For her part, the Church too has diligently contributed to the cultivation of those values through her generous and selfless pastoral mission, and renews her commitment to work tirelessly the better to serve all Cubans”.
THE TRUE FACE OF THE CHURCH IS A PLACE WHERE GOD DRAWS NEAR AND ENCOUNTERS HUMANITY
Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) – Two hundred thousand people today participated in a Mass presided by Benedict XVI at Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba, to mark the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of “Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre”, patron of the Island. Among those attending the ceremony was Raul Castro, president of Cuba.
Before the celebration, which took place under driving rain, the original image of “Nuestra Senora del Cobre” was displayed in the square, before which, to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Holy Father placed a golden rose.
In his homily, the Pope expressed his appreciation for “the sacrifices and the dedication” with which the Cubans have prepared their Marian Jubilee Year. “I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island”, he said.
“These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place”.
“In Mary”, the Holy Father explained, “the Son of God is made man. … The Apostle St. John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in a most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, He has entered into our history, He has set His dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings such that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to Him. And so Mary became the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.
“For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her, … seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of His creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel … did the eternal Word of the Father began His human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: He almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father – that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of His infinite love, and so to live in accordance with His will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in His determination to conform Himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will”.
“The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God Who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, daring and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. … I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on His journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in His Resurrection, He has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not hesitate to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.
“The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In His loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy”.
The Pope concluded his homily: “Before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God”.
MESSAGE FOR TWENTY-SEVENTH WORLD YOUTH DAY: “REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS”
Vatican City, 27 March 2012 (VIS) – “Rejoice in the Lord always”, a verse from St. Paul’s Letter the Philippians, is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for twenty-seventh World Youth Day, which is to be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday. Extracts from the English-language version of the message are given below.
“This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from St. Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith. The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world. … In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope!”
1. Our hearts are made for joy
“A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. … This is particularly true for you, because youth is … a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans. … Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. … How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?”
2. God is the source of true joy
“Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. … God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God”.
“God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. … The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. … Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world. Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious”.
3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts
“The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. … Joy is the fruit of faith. … Learn to see how God is working in your lives. … Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy”.
“To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word. … God’s word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history. … The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ”.
4. The joy of love
“Joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. … To love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. … If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. … Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. … I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. … Do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation. … In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family. … A third element that will lead you to the joy of love … is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities”.
5. The joy of conversion
“Experiencing real joy also means recognising the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. … Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness”.
“God wants us to be happy. That is why He gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the Commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. … At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to him. … Have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of joy rediscovered”.
6. Joy at times of trial
“In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. … We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations.
“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati experienced many trials during his short life. … When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life”. Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano, who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. … Authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life”.
7. Witnesses of joy
“To conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. … Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away”.
“Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!”