Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pope Notes Secret to Happiness

Pope Notes Secret to Happiness
Says Following God's Call Never Brings Disappointment

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A "yes" to God opens the font of happiness, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this in a letter made public Saturday, addressed to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris. The papal message marked the 100th anniversary of an annual youth pilgrimage from the province of Paris.

This year's 6-day pilgrimage, destined for Lourdes, ended Sunday.

In his letter to the cardinal, who is also president of the French bishops' conference, the Holy Father mentioned that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous.

Benedict XVI called on young people to imitate Mary's response when she was "invited to follow an amazing yet disconcerting journey. Her readiness led her to experience a joy of which all previous generations had sung."

"Our 'yes' to God makes the font of true happiness gush forth," the Pope affirmed. "It frees the 'I' from everything that closes it in on itself. It brings the poverty of our lives into the richness and power of God's plan, without restricting our freedom and our responsibility. [...] It conforms our lives to Christ's own life."

The Holy Father encouraged the young "to celebrate with enthusiasm the joy of loving Christ and of believing and hoping in him, and to follow with trust the path of initiation you have before you."

"I particularly invite you to take up the witness of your ancestors in the faith, and to learn to welcome the word of God -- in silence and meditation -- so that it can mould your hearts and produce generous fruits in you," he added.

This pilgrimage, the Pontiff concluded, "is also a good time to allow yourselves to be asked by Christ: 'What do you want to do with your lives?' May those among you who feel the call to follow him in the priesthood or in consecrated life -- as have so many young participants in these pilgrimages -- reply to the Lord's call and put yourselves totally at the service of the Church, with a life completely dedicated to the Kingdom of heaven. You will never be disappointed."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sowing the Joy of the Gospel in the World

Pope Benedict XVI on the Mission of Priests: ''Sowing the Joy of the Gospel in the World''

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A few moments ago we concluded a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in which I ordained 29 new priests. This is a time every year of special grace and festivity: The lifeblood of the Church and the city has been renewed and recirculated in them. If the presence of priests is indispensable for the life of the Church, it is also something precious for all.

In the Acts of the Apostles one reads that the Deacon Philip brought the Gospel to a city of Samaria; the people adhered to his preaching with enthusiasm and also saw the miracles that he worked for the sick; “and there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). As I reminded the new presbyters in the course of the liturgical celebration, this is the meaning of the Church’s missions and particularly the mission of priests: Sowing the joy of the Gospel in the world!

Where Christ is preached with the power of the Holy Spirit and he is accepted with an open soul, society, though it be full of problems, becomes a “city of joy” -- which is also the title of a book about the work of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. This then is the wish I have for the newly ordained priests, for whom I invite all to pray: That where they are sent they may spread the joy and hope that flow from the Gospel.

In truth this is also the message that I brought last week to the United States of America, on an apostolic voyage that had these words as its motto: “Christ our hope.” I give thanks to God for abundantly blessing this singular missionary experience of mine and deigning to make me an instrument of the hope of Christ for that Church and that country. At the same time I thank God because I too was confirmed in hope by American Catholics: Indeed, I discovered a tremendous vitality and a decisive will to live and to witness to the faith in Jesus. Next Wednesday, during the general audience, I will speak more about this visit of mine to America.

Today many Eastern Churches, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate the great solemnity of Easter. I would like to express my fraternal spiritual nearness to these brothers and sisters of ours. I cordially greet them, praying that the God who is one and three will confirm them in the faith, fill them with the splendorous light that emanates from the resurrection of the Lord and to comfort them in the difficult situations that they often find themselves living and witnessing to the Gospel. I invite all to join with me in invoking the Mother of God, that the road of dialogue and collaboration that was started upon sometime ago will soon lead to a more complete communion among all the disciples of Christ, that they may be a luminous sign of hope for all humanity.

[After reciting the Regina Caeli, the Pope said in Italian:]

The news from some African countries continues to cause profound suffering and much concern. I ask you not to forget about these tragic events and the brothers and sisters who are involved in them! I ask you to pray for them and to be their voice!

In Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, bitter armed conflicts are worsening the humanitarian crisis of this dear people, which for too many years has been oppressed by brutality and misery.

Darfur, despite a momentary glimmer of hope, remains a tragedy without end for hundreds of thousands of defenseless and abandoned persons.

Finally, Burundi. After the recent bombardments that struck and terrorized the capital city of Bujumbura and also affected the apostolic nunciature, and in the face of the threat of a new civil war, I invite all the parties involved to take up again without delay the way of dialogue and reconciliation.

I ask the local political authorities, the leaders of the international community and every person of goodwill not to give up on efforts to bring and end to the violence and the honor the commitments that have been made, in a way that will provide a solid basis for peace and development. We entrust our petitions to Mary, Queen of Africa.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, the Pope said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Regina Caeli. In today's Gospel Our Lord speaks to us of the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we always remain faithful to this divine communion by living the commandments that he has given us. God's blessings of joy and peace be with you all!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI in New York City - Saturday 19 April 2008

Benedict XVI had a very big day today, a flight from Washington to New York City where he gave a major address at the United Nations, an afternoon encounter with Jewish leaders at the Park East synagogue and an ecumenical encounter at St. Joseph’s Church. I will give just a few highlights of the day now – a day that is becoming night as I write this column.

It was another splendid day of blue skies and perfect temperatures in the 70s in New York for the Holy Father’s arrival by plane at JFK International Airport and then helicopter to downtown Manhattan. I watched his arrival and the U.N. address on TV in the media center, read the speech over a quick lunch and returned to the center to write and transmit several radio stories. As I was about to start writing “Joan’s Rome,” I was asked by an Italian colleague, Stefano Pace of SKY24, a 24-hour Italian news channel similar to FOX News, to be a guest on an evening show (in Italy) called “Benedict in America” with a host and two guests in Rome and Stefano and myself in studio in New York.

We left about 3:30 for the studio, and the show aired at 4:30 local time, for one hour. It was very interesting to be part of such a show, to hear the Italian perception of the Pope’s visit - which was generally favorable – even though at times Stefano and I wondered if the two guests in Rome had read the same U.N. speech that we had. There seemed to be – on the part of the Rome guests – some preconceived notions of what Benedict would say and should say –as well as what he did not say. Stefano was brilliant in responding to their observations and in presenting a clear, concise and objective look at the Pope’s remarks on human rights, human dignity, etc. One Rome commentator, for example, said he believed the Pope had presented his vision only from a Catholic standpoint when, in reality, it was a speech for every man, woman and child, for all men and women of good will – no matter their race, ethnic origin, religious or cultural background. It was a stimulating give-and-take and I was honored to have been invited.

Only the third Pope ever to address the United Nations, Benedict XVI on Friday focused his speech in French and English on human dignity and human rights, specifically freedom of religion, mentioning several times that 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said “the founding principles of the U.N.- the desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance - express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideals which should underpin international relations.”

The Pope urged leaders to act jointly, in respecting the law in promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world,” He stressed that human dignity is the foundation and goal of the UN’s responsibility to protect. He then spoke of the ethical nature of human rights, saying “they come from the Creator, and this places them above the laws of states. … The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups and increasing security. …Human rights must be respected as an expression of justice and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of legislators.” Benedict said human rights must include freedom of religion, saying “It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves - their faith - in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature.”

The full text of the Pope’s inspiring speech appears at the end of this column. It is fairly long but I urge you to read,if only a bit ar a time. You will understand who Benedict is and what his hopes are for all of mankind.

After his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Pope Benedict heard a musical recitation by the United Nations Children’s choir and then greeted the staff and personnel of the UN. “Here, within a small space in the busy city of New York,” he said, “ is housed an Organization with a worldwide mission to promote peace and justice. I am reminded of the similar contrast in scale between Vatican City State and the world in which the Church exercises her universal mission and apostolate.”

“The art on display here,” said Pope Benedict, “has its own way of reminding us of the responsibilities of the United Nations Organization. We see images of the effects of war and poverty, we are reminded of our duty to strive for a better world, and we rejoice in the sheer diversity and exuberance of human culture, manifested in the wide range of peoples and nations gathered together under the umbrella of the international community.”

The pontiff said he wished “to pay tribute to the invaluable contribution made by the administrative staff and the many employees of the United Nations, who carry out their duties with such great dedication and professionalism every day” in all offices worldwide.” He expressed his “personal appreciation and that of the whole Church. We remember especially the many civilians and peace-keepers who have sacrificed their lives in the field for the good of the peoples they serve - in 2007 alone there were forty-two of them. We also remember the vast multitude who dedicate their lives to work that is never sufficiently acknowledged, often in difficult circumstances. To all of you - translators, secretaries, administrative personnel of every kind, maintenance and security staff, development workers, peace-keepers and many others - thank you, most sincerely!”

This will be my last column for a few days. I normally do not post over the weekend – and I do not know at this moment if events will allow me the time to write. Sunday night I return to Washington for my flight on Monday to Rome, arriving in the Eternal City on Tuesday.


(First part is translated from the French)

As I begin my address to this Assembly, I would like first of all to express to you, Mr President, my sincere gratitude for your kind words. My thanks go also to the Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, for inviting me to visit the headquarters of this Organization and for the welcome that he has extended to me. I greet the Ambassadors and Diplomats from the Member States, and all those present. Through you, I greet the peoples who are represented here. They look to this institution to carry forward the founding inspiration to establish a "centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends" of peace and development (cf. Charter of the United Nations, article 1.2-1.4). As Pope John Paul II expressed it in 1995, the Organization should be "a moral centre where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a 'family of nations'" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 50th Anniversary of its Foundation, New York, 5 October 1995, 14).

Through the United Nations, States have established universal objectives which, even if they do not coincide with the total common good of the human family, undoubtedly represent a fundamental part of that good. The founding principles of the Organization - the desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance - express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideals which should underpin international relations. As my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II have observed from this very podium, all this is something that the Catholic Church and the Holy See follow attentively and with interest, seeing in your activity an example of how issues and conflicts concerning the world community can be subject to common regulation. The United Nations embodies the aspiration for a "greater degree of international ordering" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43), inspired and governed by the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules and through structures capable of harmonizing the day-to-day unfolding of the lives of peoples. This is all the more necessary at a time when we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.

Indeed, questions of security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet. I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization. In the context of international relations, it is necessary to recognize the higher role played by rules and structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, and therefore to safeguard human freedom. These regulations do not limit freedom. On the contrary, they promote it when they prohibit behaviour and actions which work against the common good, curb its effective exercise and hence compromise the dignity of every human person. In the name of freedom, there has to be a correlation between rights and duties, by which every person is called to assume responsibility for his or her choices, made as a consequence of entering into relations with others. Here our thoughts turn also to the way the results of scientific research and technological advances have sometimes been applied. Notwithstanding the enormous benefits that humanity can gain, some instances of this represent a clear violation of the order of creation, to the point where not only is the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and the family are robbed of their natural identity. Likewise, international action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.

Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.

The principle of "responsibility to protect" was considered by the ancient ius gentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples. Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom. The founding of the United Nations, as we know, coincided with the profound upheavals that humanity experienced when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. When this happens, it threatens the objective foundations of the values inspiring and governing the international order and it undermines the cogent and inviolable principles formulated and consolidated by the United Nations. When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining "common ground", minimal in content and weak in its effect.

This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of the responsibility to protect, leads us to the theme we are specifically focusing upon this year, which marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science. Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights.

[In English]

The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearly demonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow from them, are measures of the common good that serve to evaluate the relationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, security and conflict. The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security. Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace. The common good that human rights help to accomplish cannot, however, be attained merely by applying correct procedures, nor even less by achieving a balance between competing rights. The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights. Today, though, efforts need to be redoubled in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity so as to facilitate a move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests. The Declaration was adopted as a "common standard of achievement" (Preamble) and cannot be applied piecemeal, according to trends or selective choices that merely run the risk of contradicting the unity of the human person and thus the indivisibility of human rights.

Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you "cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world" (De Doctrina Christiana, III, 14). Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As history proceeds, new situations arise, and the attempt is made to link them to new rights. Discernment, that is, the capacity to distinguish good from evil, becomes even more essential in the context of demands that concern the very lives and conduct of persons, communities and peoples. In tackling the theme of rights, since important situations and profound realities are involved, discernment is both an indispensable and a fruitful virtue.

Discernment, then, shows that entrusting exclusively to individual States, with their laws and institutions, the final responsibility to meet the aspirations of persons, communities and entire peoples, can sometimes have consequences that exclude the possibility of a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person. On the other hand, a vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help to achieve this, since recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favours conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism and war, and to promote justice and peace. This also provides the proper context for the inter-religious dialogue that the United Nations is called to support, just as it supports dialogue in other areas of human activity. Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which the various components of society can articulate their point of view and build consensus around the truth concerning particular values or goals. It pertains to the nature of religions, freely practised, that they can autonomously conduct a dialogue of thought and life. If at this level, too, the religious sphere is kept separate from political action, then great benefits ensue for individuals and communities. On the other hand, the United Nations can count on the results of dialogue between religions, and can draw fruit from the willingness of believers to place their experiences at the service of the common good. Their task is to propose a vision of faith not in terms of intolerance, discrimination and conflict, but in terms of complete respect for truth, coexistence, rights, and reconciliation.

Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom, understood as the expression of a dimension that is at once individual and communitarian - a vision that brings out the unity of the person while clearly distinguishing between the dimension of the citizen and that of the believer. The activity of the United Nations in recent years has ensured that public debate gives space to viewpoints inspired by a religious vision in all its dimensions, including ritual, worship, education, dissemination of information and the freedom to profess and choose religion. It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves - their faith - in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature. The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order. Indeed, they actually do so, for example through their influential and generous involvement in a vast network of initiatives which extend from Universities, scientific institutions and schools to health care agencies and charitable organizations in the service of the poorest and most marginalized. Refusal to recognize the contribution to society that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute - by its nature, expressing communion between persons - would effectively privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the person.

My presence at this Assembly is a sign of esteem for the United Nations, and it is intended to express the hope that the Organization will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family. It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference. In a manner that is consistent with her contribution in the ethical and moral sphere and the free activity of her faithful, the Church also works for the realization of these goals through the international activity of the Holy See. Indeed, the Holy See has always had a place at the assemblies of the Nations, thereby manifesting its specific character as a subject in the international domain. As the United Nations recently confirmed, the Holy See thereby makes its contribution according to the dispositions of international law, helps to define that law, and makes appeal to it.

The United Nations remains a privileged setting in which the Church is committed to contributing her experience "of humanity", developed over the centuries among peoples of every race and culture, and placing it at the disposal of all members of the international community. This experience and activity, directed towards attaining freedom for every believer, seeks also to increase the protection given to the rights of the person. Those rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world. Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened if we are to sustain humanity's hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation, and guarantee of rights for future generations.

In my recent Encyclical, Spe Salvi, I indicated that "every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs" (no. 25). For Christians, this task is motivated by the hope drawn from the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is why the Church is happy to be associated with the activity of this distinguished Organization, charged with the responsibility of promoting peace and good will throughout the earth. Dear Friends, I thank you for this opportunity to address you today, and I promise you of the support of my prayers as you pursue your noble task. Before I take my leave from this distinguished Assembly, I should like to offer my greetings, in the official languages, to all the Nations here represented.

The Pope then said “Peace and Prosperity with God's help!” in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian, the official languages of the United Nations

Pope addresses to the United Nations
Embrace all.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in NYC at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Sat. 18 Apr. 2008

St Patrick's Cathedral, New York
Saturday, 19 April 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you, who represent the Bishops, priests and deacons, the men and women in consecrated life, and the seminarians of the United States. I thank Cardinal Egan for his warm welcome and the good wishes which he has expressed in your name as I begin the fourth year of my papal ministry. I am happy to celebrate this Mass with you, who have been chosen by the Lord, who have answered his call, and who devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness, the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Church in faith, hope and love.

Gathered as we are in this historic cathedral, how can we not think of the countless men and women who have gone before us, who labored for the growth of the Church in the United States, and left us a lasting legacy of faith and good works? In today’s first reading we saw how, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works to people of every nation and tongue. In this country, the Church’s mission has always involved drawing people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5) into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for these precious past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!

In this morning’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that spiritual unity – the unity which reconciles and enriches diversity – has its origin and supreme model in the life of the triune God. As a communion of pure love and infinite freedom, the Blessed Trinity constantly brings forth new life in the work of creation and redemption. The Church, as “a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Spirit” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4), is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. Here in this cathedral, our thoughts turn naturally to the heroic witness to the Gospel of life borne by the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor. The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization. For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift.

This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts. Saint Irenaeus, with great insight, understood that the command which Moses enjoined upon the people of Israel: “Choose life!” (Dt 30:19) was the ultimate reason for our obedience to all God’s commandments (cf. Adv. Haer. IV, 16, 2-5). Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and “institutional” to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.

I am particularly happy that we have gathered in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Perhaps more than any other church in the United States, this place is known and loved as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (cf. Is 56:7; Mk 11:17). Each day thousands of men, women and children enter its doors and find peace within its walls. Archbishop John Hughes, who – as Cardinal Egan has reminded us – was responsible for building this venerable edifice, wished it to rise in pure Gothic style. He wanted this cathedral to remind the young Church in America of the great spiritual tradition to which it was heir, and to inspire it to bring the best of that heritage to the building up of Christ’s body in this land. I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.

The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, “from the outside”: a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality. You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33).

Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world. “O Lord, my God,” the Psalmist sings, “when you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). These words evoke the first creation, when the Spirit of God hovered over the deep (cf. Gen 1:2). And they look forward to the new creation, at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and established the Church as the first fruits of a redeemed humanity (cf. Jn 20:22-23). These words summon us to ever deeper faith in God’s infinite power to transform every human situation, to create life from death, and to light up even the darkest night. And they make us think of another magnificent phrase of Saint Irenaeus: “where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace” (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1).

This leads me to a further reflection about the architecture of this church. Like all Gothic cathedrals, it is a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation. Medieval artists often portrayed Christ, the creative Word of God, as a heavenly “geometer”, compass in hand, who orders the cosmos with infinite wisdom and purpose. Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God’s eternal plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring “a fresh, spiritual way of thinking” (cf. Eph 4:23). It also calls for the cultivation of those virtues which enable each of us to grow in holiness and to bear spiritual fruit within our particular state of life. Is not this ongoing “intellectual” conversion as necessary as “moral” conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission?

For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family. We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or older than ourselves, and ultimately hear “what the Spirit is saying” to us and to the Church (cf. Rev 2:7). In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

Was not this unity of vision and purpose – rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice – the secret of the impressive growth of the Church in this country? We need but think of the remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus, or of the legacy of the generations of religious and priests who quietly devoted their lives to serving the People of God in countless schools, hospitals and parishes.

Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and cooperation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing. And I also encourage you to cooperate with your Bishops who continue to work effectively to resolve this issue. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant the Church in America a renewed sense of unity and purpose, as all – Bishops, clergy, religious and laity – move forward in hope, in love for the truth and for one another.

Dear friends, these considerations lead me to a final observation about this great cathedral in which we find ourselves. The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose. Here too we see our need to acknowledge and reverence the gifts of each and every member of the body as “manifestations of the Spirit given for the good of all” (1 Cor 12:7). Certainly within the Church’s divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made between hierarchical and charismatic gifts (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4). Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church’s mission. You, dear priests, by sacramental ordination have been configured to Christ, the Head of the Body. You, dear deacons, have been ordained for the service of that Body. You, dear men and women religious, both contemplative and apostolic, have devoted your lives to following the divine Master in generous love and complete devotion to his Gospel. All of you, who fill this cathedral today, as wells as your retired, elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, who unite their prayers and sacrifices to your labors, are called to be forces of unity within Christ’s Body. By your personal witness, and your fidelity to the ministry or apostolate entrusted to you, you prepare a path for the Spirit. For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

So let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world. If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles (cf. 1 Tim 6:20), let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!

Dear brothers and sisters, in the finest traditions of the Church in this country, may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and his Church. I make this plea in a particular way to the many seminarians and young religious present. All of you have a special place in my heart. Never forget that you are called to carry on, with all the enthusiasm and joy that the Spirit has given you, a work that others have begun, a legacy that one day you too will have to pass on to a new generation. Work generously and joyfully, for he whom you serve is the Lord!

The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God. As we celebrate this Eucharist, let us thank the Lord for allowing us to know him in the communion of the Church, to cooperate in building up his Mystical Body, and in bringing his saving word as good news to the men and women of our time. And when we leave this great church, let us go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb (Rev 21:23). For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life. Amen.

Words spoken spontaneously by the Holy Father at the conclusion of the Holy Mass:

At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of Saint Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter.

It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers. My response now for all that you have given to me during this visit is my blessing, which I impart to you at the conclusion of this beautiful Celebration.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pope coming to CUA (Catholic University of America) on Thursday May 17, 2008

Our Holy Father is greeted by Fr. Bogulawski, OP
- the president of the Dominican House of Studies
Interview with CUA students

Đức Thánh Cha tái kêu gọi phát triển một chủ nghĩa Nhân Bản mới
Vatican (CNA) – Đứng trước sự bùng nổ bạo lực trên khắp thế giới, Đức Giáo Hoàng Bênêđictô XVI kêu gọi một “chủ nghĩa nhân bản mới”, gồm có phát triển luân lý và tâm linh, để chống lại việc lan rộng của chiến tranh.

Sứ điệp của Đức Giáo Hoàng được công bố gần ngày ngài đọc diễn từ tại Liên Hiệp Quốc, nơi nhiều người mong đợi ngài sẽ đề cập đến bạo lực và nhu cầu phải củng cố gia đình trên khắp thế giới.

Đức Hồng y Renato Martino và các tham dự viên cuộc hội luận có chủ đề “Giải giới, phát triển và hòa bình, các triển vọng cho việc giải giới toàn diện” tổ chức tại Roma từ ngày 11 đến 12 tháng Tư, đã nhận được sứ điệp của Đức Giáo Hoàng.

Mở đầu thông điệp, Đức Thánh Cha nhận xét rằng chủ đề cuộc hội thảo rất thích hợp cho tình hình hiện nay của nhân loại: “Tình trạng căng thẳng và chiến tranh hiện hữu nhiều nơi trên thế giới, và ngay ở những nơi thảm họa chiến tranh không hiện diện, cũng tràn lan những cảm giác sợ hãi và bất an.”

“Hơn nữa, hiện tượng đó, được coi như khủng bố toàn cầu, làm lu mờ sự phân biệt giữa hòa bình và chiến tranh, tác hại trầm trọng niềm hy vọng của nhân loại vào tương lai.”

“Chúng ta có thể làm cách nào để đáp ứng những thử thách đó? Làm sao chúng ta có thể nhận ra ‘các dấu chỉ của thời đại’? Chắc chắn rằng hành động phối hợp trên bình diện chính trị, kinh tế và pháp luật là điều cần thiết, nhưng, trước hết, cần cùng nhau suy tư trên bình diện luân lý và tinh thần. Điều thìết yếu hơn nữa là triển dương một ‘nền nhân bản mới’”.

Tuy nhiên, Đức Giáo Hoàng cảnh giác, chúng ta không thể nghĩ về “chủ nghĩa nhân bản mới” này theo lối giảm thiểu sự phát triển chỉ còn là ‘lớn mạnh về kinh tế’, mà “phải gồm chiều kích luân lý và tinh thần. Một nền nhân bản toàn diện đích thực, đồng thời cũng còn phải biểu lộ tình đoàn kết.”

Đức Giáo Hoàng Bênêđictô quả quyết rằng đạt được “hoà bình đích thực và lâu dài là chuyện không tưởng nếu không phát triển từng cá nhân và cả các dân tộc”. Thế nhưng, “suy tư về việc cắt giảm vũ khí là điều không thể hiểu nổi, nếu trước nhất chúng ta không tiêu trừ bạo lực từ gốc rễ, nếu con người trước nhất không quả quyết quay hướng đi tìm hòa bình, tìm điều thiện hảo và công lý”

Đức Giáo Hoàng cũng nhắm đến các nước chi tiêu những số tiền quá lố về quốc phòng và khi làm như thế, họ chuyển hướng ngân quỹ dành cho “các dự án phát triển con người, đặc biệt là những kẻ nghèo nhất và những ai cần được giúp đỡ nhất.”

Thay vì để cho kinh phí quân sự trở thành sức mạnh lèo lái nền kinh tế thế giới, Đức Giáo Hoàng kêu gọi các quốc gia “giảm chi phí quân sự về vũ khí và nghiêm chỉnh xem xét ý kiến thiết lập một quỹ toàn cầu dành cho các dự án phát triển hòa bình”.

ĐGH Bênêđictô XVI xác quyết nhu cầu phải làm mọi cách có thể để đảm bảo rằng “kinh tế nhằm tới hướng phục vụ con người và tình đoàn kết, không chỉ để sinh ra lợi nhuận.”

“Tuy nhiên, khó mà tìm ra được một giải pháp cho các vấn đề kỹ thuật khác nhau nếu con người không đổi hướng tìm về điều thiện trên bình diện văn hóa, luân lý và tâm linh.”

Cuộc biến đổi này cần đến “lời nguyện đồng ca kêu cầu một nền văn hóa yêu chuộng hòa bình và một nền giáo dục liên kết trong hòa bình, nhất là nơi các thế hệ mới… Quyền con người được hưởng hòa bình là điều thiết yếu và không thể bị tước đoạt, và sự thực thi tất cả các quyền khác đều tùy thuộc vào quyền này.”

Tuy rằng tình hình hiện nay trên thế giới có thể làm nổi lên “một cảm giác băn khoăn và nhẫn nhục chính đáng”, Đức Thánh Cha nói rõ rằng “chiến tranh không bao giờ không thể tránh được và hòa bình lúc nào cũng có thể có. Hơn thế nữa, đó là một bổn phận! Đã đến lúc phải thay đổi dòng lịch sử, tái khám phá ra sự tin cậy, phát triển đối thoại và nuôi dưỡng tình đồng cảm.”

Đức Giáo Hoàng kết luận: “Tương lai của nhân loại tùy thuộc vào lời cam kết của mỗi một con người. Chỉ bằng cách theo đuổi một chủ nghĩa nhân bản hòa nhập trong tình đoàn kết, ở đó việc giải giới có chiều kích đạo đức và tâm linh, nhân loại mới có thể tiến đến một nền hòa bình đích thực và trường cửu hằng mong đợi.”

Phụng Nghi

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hội Chuyên Gia & Thương Gia được thành lập tại Gx. CTTĐVN, Arlington - Virginia

Association of Vietnamese Professionals & Businessmen
is established by ĐGM Mai Thanh Lương
at the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church on Thursday, 17 April 2008.

Pope addresses Catholic Educators on Thursday 17 April 2008

Address of Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic Educators of the United States
Thursday 17 April 2008, Catholic University of America

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,

"How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news" (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you - bearers of wisdom - and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O'Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community - faculty, staff and students - of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God's revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God's truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ's Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church's commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected - in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church's involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church's activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God's desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from "I" to "we", leading the individual to be numbered among God's people.

This same dynamic of communal identity - to whom do I belong? - vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction - do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self - intellect and will, mind and heart - to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary "crisis of truth" is rooted in a "crisis of faith". Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God's testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God's active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ's "being for others" (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church's primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation's fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person's dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church's contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church's mission, in fact, involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God's creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data - "informative" - the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing - "performative" (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people - parents in particular - recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual's immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity". This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice "intellectual charity" upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience "in what" and "in whom" it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions - from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools - serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person's witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.


Address during Meeting with Representatives of Other Religions

My dear friends,
I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you today. I thank Bishop Sklba for his words of welcome, and I cordially greet all those in attendance representing various religions in the United States of America. Several of you kindly accepted the invitation to compose the reflections contained in today's program. For your thoughtful words on how each of your traditions bears witness to peace, I am particularly grateful. Thank you all.

This country has a long history of cooperation between different religions in many spheres of public life. Interreligious prayer services during the national feast of Thanksgiving, joint initiatives in charitable activities, a shared voice on important public issues: these are some ways in which members of different religions come together to enhance mutual understanding and promote the common good. I encourage all religious groups in America to persevere in their collaboration and thus enrich public life with the spiritual values that motivate your action in the world.

The place where we are now gathered was founded specifically for promoting this type of collaboration. Indeed, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center seeks to offer a Christian voice to the "human search for meaning and purpose in life" in a world of "varied religious, ethnic and cultural communities" (Mission Statement). This institution reminds us of this nation's conviction that all people should be free to pursue happiness in a way consonant with their nature as creatures endowed with reason and free will.

Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and observer of American affairs, was fascinated with this aspect of the nation. He remarked that this is a country in which religion and freedom are "intimately linked" in contributing to a stable democracy that fosters social virtues and participation in the communal life of all its citizens. In urban areas, it is common for individuals from different cultural backgrounds and religions to engage with one another daily in commercial, social and educational settings. Today, in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society. May others take heart from your experience, realizing that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples - "E pluribus unum": "out of many, one" - provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

The task of upholding religious freedom is never completed. New situations and challenges invite citizens and leaders to reflect on how their decisions respect this basic human right. Protecting religious freedom within the rule of law does not guarantee that peoples - particularly minorities - will be spared from unjust forms of discrimination and prejudice. This requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children.

The transmission of religious traditions to succeeding generations not only helps to preserve a heritage; it also sustains and nourishes the surrounding culture in the present day. The same holds true for dialogue between religions; both the participants and society are enriched. As we grow in understanding of one another, we see that we share an esteem for ethical values, discernable to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill. The world begs for a common witness to these values. I therefore invite all religious people to view dialogue not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding, but also as a way of serving society at large. By bearing witness to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of goodwill, religious groups will exert a positive influence on the wider culture, and inspire neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens to join in the task of strengthening the ties of solidarity. In the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "no greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of faith".

A concrete example of the contribution religious communities make to civil society is faith-based schools. These institutions enrich children both intellectually and spiritually. Led by their teachers to discover the divinely bestowed dignity of each human being, young people learn to respect the beliefs and practices of others, thus enhancing a nation's civic life.

What an enormous responsibility religious leaders have: to imbue society with a profound awe and respect for human life and freedom; to ensure that human dignity is recognized and cherished; to facilitate peace and justice; to teach children what is right, good and reasonable!

There is a further point I wish to touch upon here. I have noticed a growing interest among governments to sponsor programs intended to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. These are praiseworthy initiatives. At the same time, religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence? Only by addressing these deeper questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family, for "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).

We are living in an age when these questions are too often marginalized. Yet they can never be erased from the human heart. Throughout history, men and women have striven to articulate their restlessness with this passing world. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Psalms are full of such expressions: "My spirit is overwhelmed within me" (Ps 143:4; cf. Ps 6:6; 31:10; 32:3; 38:8; 77:3); "why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me?" (Ps 42:5). The response is always one of faith: "Hope in God, I will praise him still; my Savior and my God" (Ps 42:5, 11; cf. Ps 43:5; 62:5). Spiritual leaders have a special duty, and we might say competence, to place the deeper questions at the forefront of human consciousness, to reawaken mankind to the mystery of human existence, and to make space in a frenetic world for reflection and prayer.

Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things. It is he whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue. The ardent desire to follow in his footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue (cf. Lk 10:25-37; Jn 4:7-26).

Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a "heavenly gift" that calls us to conform human history to the divine order. Herein lies the "truth of peace" (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace).

As we have seen then, the higher goal of interreligious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenets. In this regard, colleges, universities and study centers are important forums for a candid exchange of religious ideas. The Holy See, for its part, seeks to carry forward this important work through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, and various Pontifical Universities.

Dear friends, let our sincere dialogue and cooperation inspire all people to ponder the deeper questions of their origin and destiny. May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere. By giving ourselves generously to this sacred task - through dialogue and countless small acts of love, understanding and compassion - we can be instruments of peace for the whole human family.

Peace upon you all!

Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, Thursday 17 April 2008

Vivo Benedicto
May the Almighty God bless you.

Our Holy Father celebrates His first public mass with the congregation of about 46000 faithful coming around the States. In his homily, he said:

"The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual "culture", which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.

"Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to "Christ our Hope". Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope - the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan - that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country."

Location: at the Nationals Stadium, Washington DC.

A Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI

Đức Thánh Cha gặp các chủ chiên Hoa Kỳ

Pope Benedict XVI meets bishops of the US on Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Pope's message to the US.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Video Đón Tiếp Đức Thánh Cha tại Phi Trường Andrews (NBC News)

Pope Benedict XVI meets president Bush on the lawn of the White House, at 10 AM on Wednesday 16 April 2008.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thánh lễ cầu nguyện cho Đức Thánh Cha đến Hoa Kỳ bình an (Tues. 15 Apr. 2008)

Con đường dài quanh co dẫn Đức Giáo Hoàng từ Vatican tới tòa Bạch Ốc

Nằm vùi trong đống hồ sơ mật của Tòa thánh Vatican, có một bản báo cáo viết mãi từ năm 1853. Văn bản này là do giám mục Gaetano Bedini, sứ giả đầu tiên của Tòa thánh tại Hoa kỳ, tường thuật một câu chuyện ngài nghe người ta kể lại. Lúc đó ngài đang cử hành thánh lễ tại nhà nguyện Tu hội Mẹ Dâng con, trong vùng Georgetown kế cận Washington. Một phụ nữ Tin lành bước vào nhà nguyện. Người ta hỏi tại sao bà vô đó, bà ngay thật trả lời rằng bà muốn xem có đích xác là các vị chức sắc của giáo hoàng Piô IX có sừng trên đầu hay không.

Vào hôm thứ Ba này, một thế kỷ rưỡi sau câu chuyện kể trên, một vị giáo tông sẽ đi vào tòa Bạch ốc trong cương vị quốc trưởng một nước và là khách quý của tổng thống Hoa kỳ. Sự hiện diện của Đức Bênêđictô XVI đánh dấu một biến cố lịch sử: đây là cuộc viếng thăm chính thức lần đầu tiên kể từ ngày thiết lập quan hệ ngoại giao đầy đủ giữa Hoa kỳ và Vatican 24 năm trước. Trước đây, chỉ có mình Giáo hoàng Gioan Phaolô II đã tới Bạch ốc – ngày 6 tháng 10 năm 1979 – nhưng cuộc viếng thăm tổng thống Carter của ngài không có tính cách chính thức.

Phải đợi hàng mấy thế kỷ mới đi được tới giai đoạn này. Câu chuyện về mối liên lạc giữa giáo hoàng và nước Mỹ được đánh dấu bằng những tranh chấp ngoại giao và tôn giáo, bằng những nỗ lực thất bại khi muốn thiết lập mối quan hệ chính thức. Ngay từ đầu, Vatican coi Tân Thế giới như là “vùng đất truyền đạo”. Giáo hội muốn gieo rắc đức tin Công giáo giữa một dân tộc đang tăng trưởng mau chóng, và thiết lập quan hệ với một quốc gia rõ ràng đang quyết tâm trở thành cường quốc trên thế giới.

Nhưng việc đó không dễ gì. Các linh mục Công giáo thuở ban đầu tại Hoa kỳ giảng thuyết bằng tiếng Latinh hoặc tiếng Pháp và không nói được tiếng Anh. Kết quả là chẳng có bao nhiêu người theo đạo. Đối với người Mỹ lúc đó, Công giáo được coi như là tôn giáo thích hợp cho di dân người Ái nhĩ lan, Ý, Pháp và Ba lan, nhưng không phải cho dân Yankee (Mỹ) chính cống. Tệ hơn nữa, tôn giáo này được coi như đạo của người nghèo. Vatican cũng thất bại không nắm được chiều hướng rộng rãi có cái nhìn giáo hoàng như là nhân vật bí ẩn, đe dọa tự do và nền độc lập của người Mỹ. Năm tháng qua đi, con số người Công giáo Hoa kỳ tăng trưởng dần lên, nhưng Vatican ít có những đột kích nào về chính trị.

Ngày tháng, niên đại có thể làm nhàm chán, nhưng nếu người ta muốn tìm ra những dấu mốc trong lịch sử ngoại giao giữa Hoa kỳ - Vatican, thì ít nhất có ba.

Mốc thứ nhất: năm 1867. Lúc đó, Washington chỉ mới có một “tòa công sứ đặc biệt” tại Roma, không phải là một tòa đại sứ -- hầu như chỉ nhằm mục đích mở rộng tai nghe ngóng “ngôi chợ tình báo” - tức là Tòa thánh – giữa thời kỳ có đổi thay nhanh chóng về xã hội và chính trị tại châu Âu. Nhưng mối căng thẳng giữa Tòa thánh và cộng đồng người Mỹ theo đạo Tin lành ở Roma – họ bị bắt buộc phải rời nhà thờ ra phía bên ngoài tường thành – ngầm phá hoại mối liên lạc song phương. Vào tháng Hai năm đó, Quốc hội cắt quỹ dành cho công sứ ở Roma, chấm dứt những mối quan hệ ngoại giao đã có trên thực tế. Nhưng còn có một lý do khác nữa được người ta xác nhận: Quốc gia Vatican sắp bị thôn tính bởi binh lính của một nước Ý đang chỗi dậy. Washington coi Vatican lúc đó như một quốc gia thất bại, bên miệng hố tiêu diệt.

Mốc thứ hai là năm 1939. Năm đó, tổng thống Franklin D. Roosevelt gửi một đại diện cá nhân tới Vatican. Chính thức ra, đó là một “sứ mạng nhân đạo”, nhưng sự thật là Hoa kỳ muốn có cái nhìn gần cận một nước Ý theo chế độ Phát xít, đồng minh của Hitler ở vùng Địa trung hải. Một cuộc liên minh khác, gần như vô hình, được khai triển giữa Roosevelt và tân giáo hoàng Piô XII. Sự liên lạc giữa hai người đã được sắp xếp chu đáo từ ba năm trước do một hồng y người Mỹ là Francis Spellman. Hồng y dàn xếp để có một cuộc họp mật giữa tổng thống và vị giáo hoàng tương lai tại nhà thân mẫu của Roosevelt ở New York. Từ đó phát sinh một liên minh chống cộng sản giữa Bạch ốc và Tòa thánh, kéo dài cho tới khi Chiến tranh Lạnh chấm dứt.

Tuy vậy, mối liên lạc ngoại giao đầy đủ, vẫn còn bị định mệnh trì hoãn. Các vị giáo hoàng kế nhiệm rất bất bình vì những tổng thống kế tiếp nhau, bởi lo sợ phản ứng dữ dội của người Tin lành nên không dám gửi đại sứ tới Tòa thánh. Ngay cả John F. Kennedy, vị tổng thống Công giáo duy nhất, cũng giữ cho mình không quá thân mật với Vatican.

Ngoài các trở ngại về tôn giáo và ý thức hệ, cũng còn có một sự hiểu lầm sâu xa về bản chất của Tòa thánh. Mỹ coi giáo hoàng như một diễn viên lớn trên chính trường nước Ý, chứ không phải trên sân khấu toàn cầu. Vậy mà Vatican lại là một diễn viên ưu tú đầy quyền lực mềm dẻo. Vào thập niên 1980, Vatican đã bổ nhiệm 102 đại sứ (hiện nay là 176), nhưng lại không có vị nào cạnh Hoa kỳ.

Năm tháng qua đi, hai đế quốc song hành này cùng lớn mạnh – cả hai vươn rộng khắp toàn cầu – và cùng gặp những chồng chéo, trùng lặp trên nhiều vấn đề quốc tế. Nhưng họ vẫn không công nhận nhau.

Mãi cho đến mốc thứ ba: 1984. Đó là khi tổng thống Reagan thỏa thuận gửi một đại sứ tới Vatican và tiếp nhận một sứ thần, là chức vị của Tòa thánh tương đương với cấp bậc đại sứ. Đó cũng như một loại phần thưởng dành cho sự yểm trợ mạnh mẽ và tinh tế của Vatican trong trận chiến chống “đế quốc tội ác” Liên bang Sô viết. Và Tòa thánh thoả mãn với việc Reagan và Quốc hội Mỹ đã chung cục rũ bỏ những gì được coi là tàn tích của thành kiến tôn giáo chống lại giáo hoàng.

Khi Đức Bênêđictô XVI và tổng thống Bush gặp nhau tuần này, chắc chắn không bên nào sẽ quên được lời khiển trách năm 2003 của giáo hoàng Gioan Phaolô II về chiến tranh tại Iraq. Nhưng cả hai người không ai có động cơ hoặc ước muốn lấy chân đá cho lớp bụi ấy lại tung lên. Họ có nhiều địa hạt phải cùng quan tâm chung. Chủ nghĩa cực đoan Hồi giáo là một đe dọa độc hại cho cả hai, mặc dầu họ thường khác biệt nhau trong phương cách đương đầu với nguy cơ đó. Người ta trông đợi Vatican sẽ đóng một vai trò then chốt trong thời kỳ chuyển đổi của Cuba ra khỏi chế độ cộng sản. Cấp thiết nhất là thúc đẩy cho việc tái tạo bầu khí bình thường ở Iraq: Bush thì vì những lý do địa lý chính trị (geopolitical, chính trị chịu ảnh hưởng của các nhân tố địa lý – ghi chú của người dịch), giáo hoàng thì vì những lý do địa lý tôn giáo (geo-religious), tức là sự hiện diện đầy hiểm nguy của thiểu số tín đồ Kitô giáo trong khu vực đó.

Ngày nay, “khu chợ tình báo” của Vatican cũng đã có giá trị mới – đó là những liên hệ chiến lược trong thế giới Hồi giáo. Mạng lưới toàn cầu của Tòa thánh gồm các linh mục, nữ tu và các nhà truyền giáo làm cho giáo hội Công giáo có tai có mắt ở những khu vực mà Hoa kỳ không hiện diện, không được tin cẩn, không được ưa chuộng.

Cuối cùng thì cuộc viếng thăm của Bênêđictô XVI tới Bạch ốc là dấu hiệu việc bình thường hoá đích thực các quan hệ giữa Hoa kỳ và Vatican, và xảy ra vào một thời điểm khó khăn cho cả hai phía. Trong một thế giới đa cực, họ không thể thực thi bá quyền được nữa, dù là chính trị hay tôn giáo. Quả thực, cả hai đều cần đến nhau.

Nguồn: Massimo Franco / Los Angeles Times

Massimo Franco là một nhà bình luận chính trị cho nhật báo Ý Corriere della Sera. Ông cũng là tác giả cuốn sách sắp xuất bản "Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the United States, Two Centuries of Alliance and Conflict” (Hai đế quốc song hành: Vatican và Hoa kỳ, Hai thế kỷ liên minh và xung đột).

Phụng Nghi