Benedict XVI: Remission of excommunication an act of mercy

Translated Version:

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Decree Lifting Traditionalist Bishops’ Excommunication

Decree Lifting Traditionalist Bishops’ Excommunication

“A Sign for the Promotion of Unity in Charity”

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the decree released Saturday by the Congregation for Bishops, advising of the lifting of excommunication of the four bishops ordained without papal permission by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

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With a letter of Dec. 15, 2008, sent to His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, in his name and in that of the other bishops consecrated June 30, 1988, again requested the lifting of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by decree of the prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on July 1, 1988.

In the mentioned letter, Monsignor Fellay affirms, among other things:

“We are always fervently determined in the will to be and to remain Catholics and to place all of our strength at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept all of her teachings with a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives and because of this, the present situation makes us suffer so much.”

His Holiness Benedict XVI, paternally sensitive to the spiritual unrest manifested by the interested parties because of the sanction of excommunication, and trusting in the commitment expressed by them in the cited letter to spare no effort in going deeper in the necessary conversations with the authorities of the Holy See in matters still unresolved, and to be able to thus arrive quickly to a full and satisfactory solution of the problem existing from the beginning, has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of the bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, which arose with their episcopal consecration.

With this act it is desired to consolidate the mutual relations of trust, [and] to intensify and make more stable the relationship of the Fraternity of St. Pius X with the Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the celebrations of Christmas, also aims to be a sign for the promotion of unity in charity of the universal Church, and with this means, come to remove the scandal of division.

It is desired that this step be followed by the solicitous fulfillment of full communion with the Church of the Society of St. Pius X, thereby witnessing to authentic fidelity and a true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope, with the proof of visible unity.

In virtue of the faculties that have been expressly conceded to me by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present decree, I lift from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of excommunication latae sententiae declared by this congregation on July 1, 1988, and declare void of juridical effects beginning today the decree published then.

Rome, Congregation for the Bishops,

Jan. 21, 2009
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishop

Diocese of Lafayette Congratulates Father Christopher Roberts

The Sung Mass filled every seat

by Brian Poe

Congratulations to Father Christopher Roberts for singing his 1st Sung Traditional Latin Mass at Saint Elizabeth Seton on 1/18/09. Father Robert’s continuing devotion and spiritual dedication is to honor the wishes of the Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio. This Motu Proprio is the idea to bring back the many traditions of the Catholic Church in the form of the Traditional Latin Mass. Father Roberts also says the English Mass as well at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Indiana and is well respected among all his parishioners and fellow priests.

While working together with His Excellency, Bishop William L. Higi, Father Theodore Rothrock, and Father Roberts, the St. John Bosco’s Latin Mass Community was formed and members were elected to serve our Lafayette Diocese in the Carmel Deanery.  Since this time, over 40 Traditional Masses have been held on Sunday and the community is rapidly growing in numbers. Many youths as well as elders are coming forward with this new interest within the Church and are now serving Mass.

Father Robert's 1st Sung Mass

Who is Father Christopher Roberts?

He is young.  Too young to remember when the Extraordinary form of the Latin Rite was only known as ‘Mass’ to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. But then, most of the congregation that attends Mass each Sunday afternoon in the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s day chapel is young.  Father Christopher Roberts, of the diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, has been saying Mass in the extraordinary form since last June for the very grateful members of the St. John Bosco Latin Mass community.  Since then, it has grown with over 100 participants at each Sunday Mass.  Extra folding chairs have to be brought in for those wishing to experience ‘the most beautiful sight this side of heaven’.

We recently posed some questions to Fr. Roberts so that all of us could better understand what drives this over-worked, over-burdened, server of souls, to strive to learn and say the extraordinary form for the edification of those seeking it. Father was born in Logansport, Indiana, the youngest in a Catholic family. He lived the American dream childhood of academic and athletic star as captain of the football team, debate team, and playing the saxophone.  He went on to Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude with degrees in history and world religions. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and now a little Latin too.

Father Roberts said he was first drawn to the priesthood because of his love of the study of theology, but later discerned a vocation to be a ‘pastor of souls’.  His formation in the seminary did little to prepare him for this current ministry of the extraordinary form.  He studied Latin for two years and sang some Gregorian chant in the choir.  The rest of his preparation he did on his own with study materials and with the priests of The Institute of Christ the Sovreign King in Chicago. Currently, there are only two priests in the diocese who are capable to saying the extraordinary form, but Fr. Roberts says many seminaries are teaching it so there will be more priests in the near future.

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Below are the questions I asked Father and here are his responses:

Why did you decide to pursue this ministry?

I decided to perform this ministry out of a desire to honor the wishes of Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. My interest in Church history made me very sympathetic to this form of the Mass, as the Extraordinary Form is more or less exactly what the Latin Church used from the early Middle Ages down to the 1960s.

What have been the rewards of this ministry thus far?

Celebrating this form of the Mass has helped me to appreciate the sacrificial character of the Mass and given me a more clear understanding of the uniqueness of my vocation to the ordained priesthood.

“Lex orandi lex credendi” (We pray as we believe). Do you believe this has any merit when comparing the ordinary and extraordinary forms?

The theology that is behind the prayers of the Extraordinary Form, as well as its gestures and ritual, represent the fruit of a centuries long development. Without a doubt, there is a richness and beauty that is present in the older form of the Missal that surpasses the newer Missal. This form of the Mass is aggressively and unapologetically Catholic. Moreover, the lack of ritual options does a great deal to safeguard the sacredness of the rite. The spiritual treasures of the older rite are truly inexhaustible. There is a considerable challenge, however, entailed in initiating one into the older rite. This was a significant pastoral problem even when the Traditional Latin Mass was the only option before the liturgical changes of the 1960s. Against this backdrop, the desire for flexibility and adaptation that brought us where we are today is quite understandable. Unfortunately, the wideness of scope has oftentimes obscured the continuity between the two forms, which, in my own experience, led was a catechetical and pastoral disaster. In a Church that reverences tradition, disparaging the past is never a healthy thing. We have gotten to the point in the celebration of the Missal of Paul VI in many parts of the Church where the use of Gregorian Chant and Latin is considered the only unacceptable option. I believe, the opportunity posed by the liberalization of the older form of the Missale Romanum of 1962 goes far beyond promotion of the this Missal; it principally lies in the chance to reclaim parts of our Catholic patrimony that have fallen into disuse and nearly have been forgotten.

Do you think future priests in our diocese will embrace the extraordinary form?

Are there currently other priests studying this form in the diocese? I am certain that the Extraordinary Form will become more common in the Diocese of Lafayette in the coming years. Whether that will be in many parishes or only a handful is hard to say. There are currently two priests who are competent in celebrating the Extraordinary Form. Since many seminaries are teaching it, I imagine this number will grow.

How have you found the reception of the extraordinary form among your parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel?

My experience is that there is great interest, especially among the young and those parishioners who are hungry to go deeper in the spiritual life. Some are genuinely confused, a very few are disappointed.

In what way would you like to see the St. John Bosco Latin Mass community grow?

I think we are getting to the point where need to have more space! We definitely need to find a site that can provide us enough seating for those who are coming. Qualitatively, I’d like to see us move toward having weekly Sung Masses, which will come as the members of our choir continue to improve in their mastery of Gregorian Chant. I hope that the congregation will grow in confidence when they are singing the ordinary of the Mass. I’m also looking forward to developing programs that go beyond the Mass, especially adult book studies. I have no idea where this will lead long term. The important thing that we discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us and take things one step at a time.

About the Author:  The beautiful gradines and canopy on the altar in the above pictures were designed and built by Mr. Brian Poe and Tito Cano.  Brian’s garage at times has been an ecclesiastical workshop, those only found at Vatican City.  When Brian isn’t building altars he’s a husband and father to three children.  Besides being one of two world reknown experts on building gradines, he is a manufacturing engineer with a major automotive manufacturer here in Indiana.  We at Una Voce Carmel think this guy is Leonardo DeVinci and all you Boilermaker fans have been done proud! 

    

Vatican’s Cardinal Francis Arinz: Explanation and History of the Traditional Latin Mass

 

 His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze

 1. Advantages of Latin in the Roman Liturgy

 As was mentioned above, by the fourth century, Latin had replaced Greek as the official language of the Church of Rome. Prominent among the Latin Fathers of the Church who wrote extensively and beautifully in Latin were St Ambrose (339-397), St Augustine of Hippo (354-430), St Leo the Great ( 461) and Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). Pope Gregory, in particular, brought Latin to a great height in the sacred liturgy, in his sermons and in general Church use.

The Roman Rite Church showed extraordinary missionary dynamism. This explains why a greater part of the world has been evangelized by heralds of the Latin Rite. Many European languages which we regard as modern today have roots in Latin, some more than others. Examples are Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese and French. But even English and German do borrow from Latin.
The Popes and the Roman Church have found Latin very suitable for many reasons. It fits a Church which is universal, a Church in which all peoples, languages and cultures should feel at home and no one is regarded as a stranger.

Moreover, the Latin language has a certain stability which daily spoken languages, where words change often in shades of meaning, cannot have. An example is the translation of the Latin “propagare”. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples when it was founded in 1627 was called “Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide”. But at the time of the Second Vatican Council many modern languages use the word “propaganda” in the sense in which we say “political propaganda”. Therefore, there is a preference in the Church today to avoid the expression “de propaganda Fide”, in favour of “the Evangelization of Peoples”.

Latin has the characteristic of words and expressions retaining their meaning generation after generation. This is an advantage when it comes to the articulation of our Catholic faith and the preparation of Papal and other Church Documents. Even the modern universities appreciate this point and have some of their solemn titles in Latin.

Blessed Pope John XXIII in his Apostolic Constitution, Veterum Sapientia, issued on 22 February 1962, gives these two reasons and adds a third. The Latin language has a nobility and dignity which are not negligible (cf. Veterum Sapientia, nn. 5, 6, 7). We can add that Latin is concise, precise and poetically measured.

Is it not admirable that people, especially well-trained clerics, can meet in international gatherings and be able to communicate at least in Latin? More importantly, is it a small matter that 1 million young people could meet in the World Youth Day Convention in Rome in 2000, in Toronto in 2002 and in Cologne in 2005, and be able to sing parts of the Mass, and especially the Credo, in Latin? Theologians can study the original writings of the early Latin Fathers and of the Scholastics without tears because these were written in Latin.

It is true that there is a tendency, both in the Church and in the world at large, to give more attention today to modern languages, like English, French and Spanish, which can help one secure a job quicker in the modern employment market or in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their country.
But the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI to the students of the Faculty of Christian and Classical Letters of the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome, at the end of the Wednesday General Audience of 22 February 2006, retains its validity and relevance. And he pronounced it in Latin! Here is my free English translation: “Quite rightly our Predecessors have urged the study of the great Latin language so that one may learn better the saving doctrine that is found in ecclesiastical and humanistic disciplines. In the same way we urge you to cultivate this activity so that as many as possible may have access to this treasure and appreciate its importance” (in L’Osservatore Romano, 45, 23 February 2006, p. 5).

2. Gregorian Chant

“Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song” (SC, n. 113). There is an ancient saying: bis orat qui bene cantat, that is, “the person who sings well prays twice”. This is so because the intensity that prayer acquires from being sung, increases its ardour and multiplies its efficacy (cf. Paul VI: Address to Italian Schola Cantorum, 25 September 1977, in Notitiae 136, November 1977, p. 475).

Good music helps to promote prayer, to raise the minds of people to God and to give people a taste of the goodness of God.

In the Latin Rite what has come to be known as the Gregorian Chant has been traditional. A distinctive liturgical chant existed indeed in Rome before St Gregory the Great (+604). But it was this great Pontiff who gave it the greatest prominence.

After St Gregory this tradition of chant continued to develop and be enriched until the upheavals that brought an end to the Middle Ages. The monasteries, especially those of the Benedictine Order, have done much to preserve this heritage.

Gregorian Chant is marked by a moving meditative cadence. It touches the depths of the soul. It shows joy, sorrow, repentance, petition, hope, praise or thanksgiving, as the particular feast, part of the Mass or other prayer may indicate. It makes the Psalms come alive. It has a universal appeal which makes it suitable for all cultures and peoples. It is appreciated in Rome, Solesmes, Lagos, Toronto and Caracas. Cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries, sanctuaries, pilgrimage centres and traditional parishes resound with it.

St Pope Pius X extolled the Gregorian Chant in 1904 (cf. Tra le Sollecitudini, n. 3). The Second Vatican Council praised it in 1963: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as proper to the Roman liturgy:  therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (SC, n. 116).

The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, repeated this praise in 2003 (cf. Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra Le Sollecitudini, nn. 4-7; in Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Spiritus et Sponsa, 2003, p. 130).

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the International Association of Pueri Cantores when they met in Rome at the end of 2005. They give a privileged place to the Gregorian Chant. In Rome and throughout the world the Church is blessed with many fine choirs, both professional and amateur, that render the chant beautifully, and communicate their enthusiasm for it.

It is not true that the lay faithful do not want to sing the Gregorian Chant. What they are asking for are priests and monks and nuns who will share this treasure with them.

The CDs produced by the Benedictine monks of Silos, their motherhouse at Solesmes, and numerous other communities sell among young people. Monasteries are visited by people who want to sing Lauds and especially Vespers.

In an ordination ceremony of 11 priests which I celebrated in Nigeria last July, about 150 priests sang the First Eucharistic Prayer in Latin. It was beautiful. The people, although no Latin scholars, loved it. It should be just normal that parish churches where there are four or five Masses on Sunday should have one of these Masses sung in Latin.

3. Did Vatican II discourage Latin?

Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.

Just before he opened the Council, Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (SC, n. 36).

The Council also required that seminarians “should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well” (Optatam Totius, n. 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that “the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved” (can. 928).

Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people’s acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at the world level in April 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television. It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated in Latin.

 

Sermon of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Washington Nationals Stadium
Thursday, 17 April 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season. Before all else, I thank God for the blessing of being in your midst. I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Wuerl for his kind words of welcome.

Our Mass today brings the Church in the United States back to its roots in nearby Maryland, and commemorates the bicentennial of the first chapter of its remarkable growth – the division by my predecessor, Pope Pius VII, of the original Diocese of Baltimore and the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges – challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears – with the hope born of God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

The readings of today’s Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church’s expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim “the great works of God” and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom.

The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.

“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!” (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today’s Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God’s peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now “groaning” in expectation of that true freedom which is God’s gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!

Here I wish to offer a special word of gratitude and encouragement to all those who have taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization. I thank my brother Bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, parents, teachers and catechists. The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. 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.

It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.

Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in “groanings” (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ’s own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit’s gifts of joy and strength.

In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ’s grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

“In hope we were saved!” (Rom 8:24).” As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God’s people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen!

Papal Itinerary: Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008 

  • 10:00 a.m. – The pope will offer Mass at the new Nationals Park in Washington.
  • 5 p.m. – Pope Benedict XVI will give an address on the importance of Catholic education on the campus of The Catholic University of America.
  • 6:30 p.m. – Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and representatives of other religions will meet the Holy Father at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, next door to Catholic University.

Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

April 16, 2008 – By Benedict XVI

Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to greet you today, at the start of my visit to this country, and I thank Cardinal George for the gracious words he has addressed to me on your behalf. I want to thank all of you, especially the Officers of the Episcopal Conference, for the hard work that has gone into the preparation of this visit. My grateful appreciation goes also to the staff and volunteers of the National Shrine, who have welcomed us here this evening. American Catholics are noted for their loyal devotion to the see of Peter. My pastoral visit here is an opportunity to strengthen further the bonds of communion that unite us. We began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States.

For the Catholic communities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, this is a year of particular celebration, as it marks the bicentenary of the establishment of these local Churches as Dioceses. I join you in giving thanks for the many graces granted to the Church there during these two centuries. As this year also marks the bicentenary of the elevation of the founding see of Baltimore to an Archdiocese, it gives me an opportunity to recall with admiration and gratitude the life and ministry of John Carroll, the first Bishop of Baltimore – a worthy leader of the Catholic community in your newly independent nation. His tireless efforts to spread the Gospel in the vast territory under his care laid the foundations for the ecclesial life of your country and enabled the Church in America to grow to maturity. Today the Catholic community you serve is one of the largest in the world, and one of the most influential. How important it is, then, to let your light so shine before your fellow citizens and before the world, “that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

Many of the people to whom John Carroll and his fellow Bishops were ministering two centuries ago had travelled from distant lands. The diversity of their origins is reflected in the rich variety of ecclesial life in present-day America. Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (cf. Sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made her own.

Of those who came to build a new life here, many were able to make good use of the resources and opportunities that they found, and to attain a high level of prosperity. Indeed, the people of this country are known for their great vitality and creativity. They are also known for their generosity. After the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, and again after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Americans displayed their readiness to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in need. On the international level, the contribution made by the people of America to relief and rescue operations after the tsunami of December 2004 is a further illustration of this compassion. Let me express my particular appreciation for the many forms of humanitarian assistance provided by American Catholics through Catholic Charities and other agencies. Their generosity has borne fruit in the care shown to the poor and needy, and in the energy that has gone into building the nationwide network of Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools and universities. All of this gives great cause for thanksgiving.

America is also a land of great faith. Your people are remarkable for their religious fervor and they take pride in belonging to a worshipping community. They have confidence in God, and they do not hesitate to bring moral arguments rooted in biblical faith into their public discourse. Respect for freedom of religion is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness – a fact which has contributed to this country’s attraction for generations of immigrants, seeking a home where they can worship freely in accordance with their beliefs.

In this connection, I happily acknowledge the presence among you of Bishops from all the venerable Eastern Churches in communion with the Successor of Peter, whom I greet with special joy. Dear Brothers, I ask you to assure your communities of my deep affection and my continued prayers, both for them and for the many brothers and sisters who remain in their land of origin. Your presence here is a reminder of the courageous witness to Christ of so many members of your communities, often amid suffering, in their respective homelands. It is also a great enrichment of the ecclesial life of America, giving vivid expression to the Church’s catholicity and the variety of her liturgical and spiritual traditions.

It is in this fertile soil, nourished from so many different sources, that all of you, Brother Bishops, are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel today. This leads me to ask how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the call to “make all things new in Christ, our hope”? How can he lead his people to “an encounter with the living God”, the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks (cf. Spe Salvi, 4)? Perhaps he needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter. While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.

For an affluent society, a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30). People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).

In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear towards them. This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church (cf. Spe Salvi, 13-15), giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love – for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God (cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.

Here in America, you are blessed with a Catholic laity of considerable cultural diversity, who place their wide-ranging gifts at the service of the Church and of society at large. They look to you to offer them encouragement, leadership and direction. In an age that is saturated with information, the importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded. The many generous men and women who devote themselves to charitable activity need to be helped to renew their dedication through a “formation of the heart”: an “encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others” (Deus Caritas Est, 31). At a time when advances in medical science bring new hope to many, they also give rise to previously unimagined ethical challenges. This makes it more important than ever to offer thorough formation in the Church’s moral teaching to Catholics engaged in health care. Wise guidance is needed in all these apostolates, so that they may bear abundant fruit; if they are truly to promote the integral good of the human person, they too need to be made new in Christ our hope.

As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to shape cultural attitudes. In a context where free speech is valued, and where vigorous and honest debate is encouraged, yours is a respected voice that has much to offer to the discussion of the pressing social and moral questions of the day. By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the world.

Clearly, the Church’s influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a “leaven” in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.

In this regard, a matter of deep concern to us all is the state of the family within society. Indeed, Cardinal George mentioned earlier that you have included the strengthening of marriage and family life among the priorities for your attention over the next few years. In this year’s World Day of Peace Message I spoke of the essential contribution that healthy family life makes to peace within and between nations. In the family home we experience “some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them” (no. 3). The family is also the primary place for evangelization, for passing on the faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious practice and Sunday observance. How can we not be dismayed as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society? Divorce and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or to forego it altogether. To some young Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person. Hence we have an alarming decrease in the number of Catholic marriages in the United States together with an increase in cohabitation, in which the Christ-like mutual self-giving of spouses, sealed by a public promise to live out the demands of an indissoluble lifelong commitment, is simply absent. In such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the community are to be maintained.

As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II taught, “The person principally responsible in the Diocese for the pastoral care of the family is the Bishop … he must devote to it personal interest, care, time, personnel and resources, but above all personal support for the families and for all those who … assist him in the pastoral care of the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 73). It is your task to proclaim boldly the arguments from faith and reason in favor of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today, because it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved “yes” to life, a “yes” to love, and a “yes” to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the Lord.

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of the prayerful support of God’s people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was “sometimes very badly handled”. Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.

If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task – not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.

Priests, too, need your guidance and closeness during this difficult time. They have experienced shame over what has occurred, and there are those who feel they have lost some of the trust and esteem they once enjoyed. Not a few are experiencing a closeness to Christ in his Passion as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the crisis. The Bishop, as father, brother and friend of his priests, can help them to draw spiritual fruit from this union with Christ by making them aware of the Lord’s consoling presence in the midst of their suffering, and by encouraging them to walk with the Lord along the path of hope (cf. Spe Salvi, 39). As Pope John Paul II observed six years ago, “we must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community”, leading to “a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate and a holier Church” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002, 4). There are many signs that, during the intervening period, such purification has indeed been taking place. Christ’s abiding presence in the midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light: all things are indeed being made new in Christ Jesus our hope.

At this stage a vital part of your task is to strengthen relationships with your clergy, especially in those cases where tension has arisen between priests and their bishops in the wake of the crisis. It is important that you continue to show them your concern, to support them, and to lead by example. In this way you will surely help them to encounter the living God, and point them towards the life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks. If you yourselves live in a manner closely configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, you will inspire your brother priests to rededicate themselves to the service of their flocks with Christ-like generosity. Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God’s work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand. Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never “be anxious how to speak or what to say” (Mt 10:19).

As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son. My dear Brother Bishops, I assure each of you here present of my deep friendship and my participation in your pastoral concerns. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

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