Dear Missionary Carmelite Sisters,
1. At the end of your 18th General Chapter, I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to you, in particular to those of you who, representing your sisters in 35 countries on four continents, have taken part in the Chapter's work of discerning what "the Spirit is suggesting to the different communities" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 23), in order faithfully to renew the foundational charism of Bl. Francis Palau y Quer and to respond promptly to the requirements of the Church and of mankind today, whom you wish to continue serving with generosity.
I greet in particular the new Superior General, Marķa Esperanza Izco, and her councillors, for whom I ask abundant divine gifts that will help them in their responsibility of guiding the congregation with far-sightedness and of accompanying their sisters in a loving spirit so that each of them may be a woman who has experienced God and is courageous in her response to the challenges of mission in the third millennium, as you proposed in your Chapter. Actually, combining the contemplative dimension with missionary zeal, two fundamental pillars of your religious identity, is particularly important and necessary in an era that is so often threatened by the fragmentation or superficiality of human existence. Therefore, dear Missionary Carmelite Sisters, I wish to remind you that "Christ encountered in contemplation is the same who lives and suffers in the poor" (Vita consecrata VC 82). Faced with the difficulties that you can meet in carrying out this sensitive mission, I invite you to remember the words of your founder: "Since we are quite ready to assist God's plans, he will not leave us without light and direction" (Letter to Juana Gracias, 26 June 1860, 2).
2. In starting you Chapter work in Ibiza, the source of your founding inspiration and for Bl. Francis Palau a place of exile, silence and discernment, you wished to reflect in depth on the original reason for your existence. This return to the roots, which the Church insistently proposes to all religious institutes, is not a nostalgic return to the past, but is rather like the journey of those disciples who, while walking to Emmaus, realized that their true destiny was to return to Jerusalem, to discover there the immense wealth and newness of the mystery of Christ. They were thus able to keep pace with history and help to open others to the new horizons offered by the Gospel message. I invite you therefore to maintain a particularly vivid experience of close and constant contact with Christ and with the gifts that his Spirit has lavished on your congregation, in conformity, moreover, with your Carmelite tradition which is steeped in contemplation. Furthermore, as the entire Church celebrates the Great Jubilee commemorating the 2,000 years of the mystery of the Incarnation, it becomes even clearer that "Jesus is the genuine newness which surpasses all human expectations and such he remains for ever, from age to age" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 1).
The second part of the Chapter took place in Rome, to indicate that every authentic charism converges in the one Church to enrich and serve her, becoming more and more universal, like a framework of communion between different mentalities and cultures. This is an aspect that indicates your missionary soul. In this sense, starting with your foundation, you have a wonderful story to tell, a story of generous collaboration in the always urgent task of evangelization and service in the cause of human beings, especially those most in need. I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude for all this. But I wish above all to encourage you in your projects of prophetically announcing the kingdom of God in the world and in that history which remains for you to build, because "the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things" (Vita consecrata VC 110).
Continue to devote attention to the emerging needs of our time, giving them an answer that is born of Christ's heart and of the Church's original mission. Actually, "the more one lives in Christ, the better one can serve him in others, going even to the furthest missionary outposts and facing the greatest dangers" (Vita consecrata VC 76).
3. To conclude, I wish to place the fruits of the Chapter and the future of the congregation in the hands of the Virgin Mary. You, who invoke her as your patroness with the ancient title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, are well aware that you could not be in better hands. She will help you to fight the forces of sin which, in many different ways, lurk in the human heart and in social structures, and will thus open your souls to the joy and hope that must pervade your personal and community life, your works and your mission.
With these heartfelt wishes, I invoke the heavenly intercession of Bl. Francis Palau and sincerely impart my Apostolic Blessing, extending it with great pleasure to all your sisters in religious profession.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. You have come to Rome to celebrate the Holy Year and to deepen your fidelity to the Gospel, while reaffirming your spiritual closeness to the Successor of Peter. I offer you my most cordial welcome!
Coming from various Dioceses, parishes, associations and groups, today you express that profound harmony of mind and heart that unites the People of God round the Redeemer of man. I hope that, during this pilgrimage to the holy memorials of the Church of Rome, you will all be strengthened in your faith and have a deep experience of grace and mercy.
2. I first extend my affectionate greeting to the faithful from the Archdiocese of Perugia-Cittą della Pieve, led by their Pastor, Archbishop Giuseppe Chiaretti. Dear friends, many of you are directly involved in parish ministry. In expressing my appreciation of your generous activity at the side of your priests, I hope that the willingness you showed during the recent diocesan Eucharistic Congress, as well as during the Pastoral Visit and the "Missions to the People", will continue in the future, so as to assure an ever effective service to your respective communities.
By virtue of your baptismal consecration, you are called to become co-responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel under the guidance of your Pastors. I therefore invite you to constant spiritual and intellectual formation, so that through you the Church's love, a reflection of God's love, will more easily reach every man and woman.
3. I now extend a cordial greeting to you, dear pilgrims from the Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, led by your Pastor, Bishop Luca Brandolini. Today's pilgrimage concludes, in a certain way, the Pastoral Visit that saw your Church involved in a programme of preparation for the Great Jubilee.
United in a spirit of ecclesial communion, today you reaffirm your commitment to broadening the areas of fraternal love at all levels, in order to avoid an individualism that could slow the evangelization of the entire community. Faithful to Christ and faithful to man, strive to grow, rooted in listening to the Word of God and in personal and community prayer. At the very sources of spirituality, you will thus be able to find energy and light to advance vigorously towards a more mature union with Christ.
4. I next greet the faithful from the Diocese of Nola, who, with Bishop Beniamino Depalma, their current Pastor, and their former Pastor, Bishop Umberto Tramma, have come here to pass through the Holy Door.
You come from places marked by the witness of St Paulinus, an inspired poet of Christ and a great saint of charity. I know that you are rediscovering his writings, in which he left spiritual and pastoral guidance that remains very timely. Use it to advantage in the renewal of your personal and community life.
Your region, like others in Campania, is facing great social challenges: from scarcity of jobs to environmental degradation. The Christian community is called to make its specific contribution to the solution of such problems, aiming at a renewed Gospel proclamation, a living experience of communion and a concrete witness of charity. I encourage the many workers to continue their generous support of the weakest and most suffering. May you be a community rich in sharing and mutual acceptance, working harmoniously so that God's gifts will shine brightly in you.
5. I now address you, pilgrims from Nocera Inferiore, who have come with your Pastor, Bishop Gioacchino Illiano. I greet you with affection. May the Jubilee you have come to celebrate strengthen you in your intention to continue resolutely on the path of the new evangelization which you undertook several years ago.
As I urged you during my visit to your Diocese in 1990, work for "a missionary proclamation which will profoundly renew popular piety; a catechesis which will meet the challenges of the prevailing culture; a liturgy that is not detached from life; a pastoral presence that reaches every social group; a commitment to human advancement which is concrete and incisive".
6. I would now like to greet with affection the faithful from the Diocese of Acerra, accompanied by Bishop Giovanni Rinaldi.
Dear friends, I invite you to persevere in prayer, so that Christ will visit your Church in depth. With the help of divine grace, may she grow in fraternal communion, in the co-responsibility of all for evangelization and in Christian witness to the social problems of your region. Generously put the charisms you have received at the disposal of the Christian community and invoke the "Lord of the harvest", so that he will send many generous priestly and religious vocations.
7. I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims, and to the parish groups and associations making a Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome. In particular I greet the groups from the Archdioceses of Newark and Kansas City, and the members of the Italo-Australian pilgrimage. The month of October, which begins tomorrow, is traditionally the month of the Holy Rosary, one of the best and most efficacious Christian prayers, especially when recited together in the family. I wish to recommend this way of honouring Mary and asking her intercession. May God bless you all abundantly, and may his peace be with you and your loved ones.
8. Dear Portuguese-speaking brothers and sisters, especially the Immaculate Conception Group from Rio de Janeiro, I hope that your pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter will leave in your hearts effective signs of justice and charity. In the Jubilee programme you have an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation; to be nourished at the banquet of the Eucharist; to visit the memorial of the Apostles. May these be moments of intense communion with God. When you return to Brazil, you will thus be strengthened in faith, in the resolution to do good and in charity in your state of life and the commitment to which God calls you.
9. My thoughts turn, finally, to the groups of faithful who come from various Italian parishes, to the Catania section of the Italian Union of the Blind, to the managers and workers of the Carsten's Company of Sant'Agata Irpina di Solofra, to the ushers of the Senate Building on the Capitoline Hill, to the Solidarity Centre of Arezzo and to Our Lady of the Annunciation Hospital Company in Taranto. May Christ, the Holy Door who leads us to the Father, always be the centre of your lives, so that you can be convinced and joyful witnesses to his mercy.
With these hopes I invoke the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Yesterday we experienced an extraordinary moment of joy in St Peter's Square, as we celebrated the canonization of a number of saints. Today Providence has granted us the opportunity to meet, in order to prolong our thanksgiving to God, who gives the Church ever new models of Gospel life, and to contemplate together the exemplary figures of the Martyrs in China, of Marķa Josefa of the Heart of Jesus Sancho de Guerra, of Katharine Drexel and of Josephine Bakhita.
I greet you all again, pilgrims from various countries, and express my heartfelt appreciation for the moving scene you have created around this ecclesial event by your presence.
2. I now turn in a special way to the pilgrims who have come for the canonization of the 120 Martyrs in China. First of all you, faithful of Chinese origin, with whom I would like to share my deep joy over these sons and daughters of the Chinese people who are presented to the whole Church and to the entire world for the first time, with their heroic fidelity to Christ the Lord and the greatness of their souls. Yes, they are a true honour for the noble people of China!
My joy increases with the thought that closely united with us are all the faithful of Mainland China, who know - as you do - that in the martyrs they have not only an example to follow, but also intercessors with the Father. We need their help, in fact, because we are called to face daily life with the same dedication and fidelity that the martyrs showed in their time.
You all know that the majority of the 120 Martyrs shed their blood in historical periods which rightly have a special meaning for your people. In reality, they were tragic situations marked by violent social disturbances. With yesterday's canonization, the Church certainly does not wish to make a historical judgement on those periods, much less to justify certain actions taken by governments of the time which weighed heavily on the history of the Chinese people. She wishes, instead, to highlight the heroic fidelity of these worthy children of China, who did not let themselves be intimidated by the threats of a ferocious persecution.
I am also grateful for the presence of many pilgrims from the various countries of origin of the 33 missionaries who died as martyrs in China, together with those Chinese faithful to whom they had proclaimed the Gospel. Some people, through a partial and non-objective reading of history, see only limitations and errors in their missionary activity. If there were any - is man ever free of faults? - we ask forgiveness. But today we contemplate them in glory and give thanks to God, who makes use of poor instruments for his great works of salvation. By the gift of their lives they proclaimed the saving Word and undertook important projects for human advancement. Be proud of them, you pilgrims who are their fellow citizens and brothers and sisters in faith! By their witness they show us that man is the true way for the Church: a way interwoven with profound and respectful intercultural dialogue, as Fr Matteo Ricci wisely and skilfully taught, a way consisting in the daily offering of one's life.
3. I affectionately greet the many pilgrims who have come to take part in the canonization of St Marķa Josefa of the Heart of Jesus Sancho de Guerra, those from the Basque country, where the new saint was born and died, as well as those from other parts of Spain and various countries of Europe, America and the Philippines where the Servants of Jesus of Charity live and work, spreading the charism and teaching of this illustrious daughter of the Church. I offer you all my most cordial welcome.
You have a great love and devotion for St Marķa Josefa. Her spiritual traits, in fact, reveal her generosity and self-giving in accepting the Lord's words: "I was sick and you visited me" (Mt 25,36). Demanding with herself, she spared no effort or toil to serve the sick, founding the Servants of Jesus of Charity for them. She entrusted them with the mission of showing the merciful face of God to the suffering by helping to alleviate their pain with generous care for them at home and in hospitals.
Her eloquent witness should help everyone to discover the beauty of a life consecrated totally to the Lord and the importance of service dedicated to wiping the tears of those who are suffering under the burden of illness.
4. It is a special joy for me to greet Cardinal Bevilacqua and the many pilgrims who have come to Rome for the canonization of Mother Katharine Drexel, especially her spiritual daughters, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. St Katharine Drexel took to heart the words of Jesus to the young man in the Gospel: "If you seek perfection, go and sell your possessions, and give to the poor. You will then have treasure in heaven" (Mt 19,21).
Devoting her family fortune to missionary and educational work among the poorest members of society, Mother Drexel made a trip to Rome, during which she asked Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to help with the various projects she was funding. The Pontiff responded by inviting her to become a missionary herself. That was certainly a turning-point in St Katharine's life, and with great courage she placed her confidence in the Lord and gave her life and wealth totally to his service. Her apostolate bore fruit in the establishment of numerous schools for Native Americans and blacks, and served to raise awareness of the continuing need, even in our own day, to fight racism in all its manifestations.
May the example of St Katharine Drexel be a beacon of light and hope inspiring all of us to make an ever greater gift of our time, talent and treasure for the benefit of those most in need.
5. I am pleased to greet as well the Sudanese Bishops and faithful who have journeyed to Rome for the canonization of Sr Josephine Bakhita. In a special way, I also greet the Daughters of Charity, the great Canossian family to which St Josephine Bakhita belonged.
This holy daughter of Africa showed herself truly to be a child of God: the love and forgiveness of God were tangible realities that transformed her life in an extraordinary way. She even came to feel gratitude to the slave-traders who captured her and to those who mistreated her: for, as she herself would later say, if these things had not happened, she would not have become a Christian or a professed sister in the Canossian community.
Through the intercession of St Bakhita let us pray that all men and women will come to know the saving presence of the Lord Jesus and thus be freed from slavery to sin and death. And in particular, let us be mindful of her homeland, Sudan, where war and violence continue to sow destruction and despair: may the Lord's healing hand touch the hearts of those responsible for this suffering and open the way to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.
6. Dear friends, before saying goodbye, I would like to tell you of a burden that at the moment weighs heavily on my heart. For several days the Holy City of Jerusalem has been the scene of violent clashes, in which many have been killed or injured, including several children. Spiritually close to the families of those who have lost their lives, I make a heartfelt appeal to everyone responsible: may weapons be silenced, provocations be avoided and the way of dialogue be resumed. The Holy Land must be the land of peace and brotherhood. That is what God wants!
I ask the new saints to intercede, so that the hearts of all will turn to thoughts of mutual understanding and peace.
With this wish I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to your loved ones.
Dear Oratorian Priests and Lay People!
1. I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to each of you, participants in the General Congress of the Confederation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri. With this visit you wanted to renew your sincere devotion to the Vicar of Christ and full adherence to his Magisterium, in the spirit of your founder, who loved the Church with his whole being and left you his unreserved fidelity to the See of Peter as a legacy.
As I affectionately greet Fr Antonio Rios Chavez, the Apostolic See's Delegate, I extend my cordial wishes to each of the congregations represented here at your General Congress and express my deep gratitude to them for the good they do, delighted as I am with the Oratory's growth in various parts of the world.
2. At the recent General Congresses your confederation, established by the Apostolic See to unite the individual Congregations of the Oratory in a bond of charity and mutual help, has undertaken to revise your constitutions along the lines suggested by the Church at the Second Vatican Council. At the dawn of the third Christian millennium your meeting plans to revisit, from a primarily pastoral standpoint, the sources of the spiritual movement that traces its origin to St Philip Neri, in order to respond faithfully to its perennial mission: to lead man to encounter Jesus Christ, "the Way, the Truth and the Life", truly present in the Church and the "contemporary" of every person.
This encounter, lived and proposed by St Philp Neri in an original and engaging way, makes us new persons in the mystery of Grace and instils in the soul that "Christian joy" which is the "hundredfold" given by Christ to those who welcome him into their lives. To encourage a personal meeting with Christ is also the fundamental "missionary method" of the Oratory. It consists in "speaking to the heart" of men and women in order to lead them to an experience of the divine Master that can transform lives. This is achieved especially by showing the beauty of such an encounter, which gives life its full meaning. Those who are "distant" must not be offered a theoretical proclamation, but the possibility of a truly renewed and thus joyful life.
This is the great legacy you received from your Father Philip! This pastoral way is always valid, because it belongs to the perennial Christian experience! I hope that the revisiting by your Congress of the sources of St Philip's spirituality and work will instil in each congregation a renewed awareness of the value and timeliness of your founder's "missionary method" and make a significant contribution to the task of the "new evangelization".
3. The Oratory was born of the faith and genius of St Philip Neri, who knew how to combine in a harmonious synthesis the charismatic dimension and full communion with the Pastors of the Church.
In the Rome of his time he also met the spiritual and material needs of young people with deep wisdom, exemplifying the joyful dimension of faith to the point that he was considered "the prophet of Christian joy". From the beginning, the Oratory has been a feature of your congregation, which takes its name from it, as the Bull Copiosus in misericordia by which Gregory XIII established it in the Holy Year of 1575 recalls. Born with the participation of secular priests, who came from the first experience of the Oratory, and put at its service, your congregation must continue to focus its concerns on this worthy institution with its original intentions, method and style, which are always adaptable to the needs of the times.
As the Spiritual Journey approved at the General Congress in 1994 recalls: "The specific aim and mission of the Congregation of the Oratory is the birth and growth of genuine Christian communities, the light and salt of the earth". These are presented in the very first articles of your Constitutions as a fraternal union of the faithful who, following in the footsteps of St Philip Neri, set as their goal what he taught and did, thus becoming "one heart and soul" (Ac 4,32). They draw their inspiration from your Father Philip's example of simple family prayer meetings and spiritual talks with penitents and friends. In this perspective, the Oratory sees its identity in "the practice of discussing the Word of God together in a familiar way, as mental and vocal prayer, in order to foster a contemplative spirit in the faithful, as at a school, and the love of divine things".
I hope that the Oratory, by serving people with joy and simplicity of heart, will exemplify and spread this spiritual method in a more and more attractive and effective way. Thus it will be able to offer a consistent and incisive witness by fully living the fervour of its origins and offering our contemporaries an experience of fraternal life that is principally based on accepting and living the reality of supernatural communion in Christ.
"Those who want something other than Christ do not know what they want; those who ask for something other than Christ do not know what they are asking for; those who work but not for Christ do not know what they are doing". Your holy founder's words reveal the ever valid criterion for every renewal of the Christian community, which consists in returning to Jesus Christ: to his word, to his presence, to the saving action which he accomplishes in the Church's sacraments. This commitment will lead priests to give priority to the ministry of Confession and the spiritual guidance of the faithful, as is your tradition, in order to respond fully to your charism and to the Church's expectations. Thus they will help the lay people who belong to the secular Oratories to understand the essential value of being "christifideles", in the light of St Philip's experience: regarding the laity, he anticipated ideas and methods that would prove fruitful in the life of the Church.
4. Your congregations, faithful to the autonomy desired by their holy founder, are particularly linked to the reality of the particular Churches and to local situations. But the importance in the life of the communities and their members of the bond of fraternity with the other congregations that make up the Confederation must not be forgotten. It is through this bond that the characteristic autonomy of the individual houses is opened to the gift of active charity and the confederated communities find effective help to grow in fidelity to the Oratorian charism.
Let each congregation devote special care to the initial and continuing formation of individuals and communities, in order to assimilate the ideal passed on by St Philip and reproposed by the Constitutions, for the sake of a growing spiritual vitality and effective apostolic presence.
In particular, I urge you to be guided by these values, especially in approaching the world of youth, which is full of promise despite the difficulties, and to feel that you have been especially sent to those who are "distant" but very close to the Saviour's Heart. In this regard, you will find great support in the traditional sensitivity of Oratorians to art and culture, which are particularly suitable ways for a significant evangelizing presence.
May the Virgin Mary, "Mother and Foundress of the Oratory", be for each of you the model who constantly inspires you to receive the gift of the Spirit with complete docility and to proclaim the joy of Christ to your brothers and sisters.
With these wishes, as I entrust you to the heavenly intercession of St Philip Neri, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you and to the whole Confederation of the Oratory.
To the Most Reverend Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya
Archbishop of Kisangani
President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar
1. As SECAM holds its 12th plenary meeting, I am pleased to extend my cordial greeting to all the participants and to assure them of my fervent prayers. Through them, I affectionately greet all the children of the African continent, ""a new homeland for Christ', a land loved by the eternal Father" (Ecclesia in Africa ).
This year, when the Church is celebrating the Great Jubilee, you have wished to come to the tomb of the Apostles for this important meeting which enables you spiritually to relive that event of grace, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, held six years ago. The very theme of your meeting, The Church-Family of God, Place and Sacrament of Reconciliation, Pardon and Peace in Africa, is in full harmony with the Jubilee. For, "a commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts and intolerable social and economic inequalities, is a necessary condition for the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 51).
2. Five years after the promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exortation Ecclesia in Africa, we must note that the overall view of the continent's situation, as expressed there, has not substantially changed. Many nations continue to be the scene of wars in which the people are the innocent victims. In glancing at the tragic geography of these armed conflicts, it is obvious that the one involving the Great Lakes region is, in a certain sense, the most symbolic. Our hearts as Pastors, however, must always remember those other, sometimes forgotten, conflicts which involve many African countries, often for many years. These conflicts, due to both internal and external causes, show contempt for the human person, his rights and his dignity. This attitude is in large part the cause of many other evils afflicting this continent, such as economic underdevelopment, poverty, forced migration, the spread of AIDS and pandemics that were thought to have been eradicated once and for all, the plundering of natural resources and environmental degradation.
3. The suffering-laden history of Africa's people is also that of the Church on this continent. In recent decades, Bishops, priests, missionaries, religious and lay people have been brutally persecuted and even killed. Structures that served the common good of the people without discrimination have been repeatedly ransacked and destroyed. Entire communities have been dispersed.
However, I would like to express my satisfaction here over the happy outcome of the painful events which have recently stricken the Church in Africa with the trial to which two of her Pastors were subjected: Bishop Misago of Gikongoro and Archbishop Kataliko of Bukavu. May the unexpected death of Archbishop Kataliko, the sad news of which we have just received, be a seed of hope and peace for the Church and for Africa! I would also like to pay homage to all who bear witness to Christ with courage and self-denial in difficult situations, sometimes to the point of giving their lives, and I ardently hope that the Church will be free to proclaim the message of Christ's love in her words and actions.
4. The plenary assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar is a most fitting time to confirm the Church's option as the family of God, "an expression of the Church's nature particularly appropriate for Africa" (Ecclesia in Africa ), and to define its practical consequences with ever greater precision, for the sake of ever more appropriate pastoral care. To fulfil the mandate Jesus entrusted to her and to play her prophetic role among the nations, the Church is involved in many areas of local life alongside the men and women of the continent, especially in order to encourage reconciliation between individuals and peoples, as well as to establish justice, solidarity, democracy and peace. More than ever, the Church must seek new and effective ways to take part, in accordance with her specific vocation, in integral human development in fraternal and peaceful societies. To this end, sincere collaboration with other believers and with all people of good will is an imperative that should motivate the faithful, united with their Pastors, in a spirit of truth and mutual respect.