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Easter - Pasqua - Pâques - Pascua 2012

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Papa Benedict XVI's Homily at the Easter Vigil
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has assumed man into God Himself. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as St Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the 3rd century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for man. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way He deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence through denial. It is a “no”.

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and Himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to Him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after Him into the new light of the resurrection and He conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the Sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by Him and walk with Him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives Himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that He may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf LG 1). Amen.

BXVI - St Peter's Basilica, Holy Saturday, 7 April 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's Urbi et Orbi Message on Easter Sunday
8th April 2012, St Peter's Square - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!
“Surrexit Christus, spes mea” – “Christ, my hope, has risen” (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: “He has risen! He has truly risen!”

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope”: He was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. “Christ my hope” means that all my yearnings for goodness find in Him a real possibility of fulfilment: with Him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God Himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in Him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope cannot avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign.” The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: “The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting.”

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then He, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus Himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And He is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may He grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may He help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Papa Benedetto's words at the Regina Caeli on Easter Monday
9th April 2012, Castel Gandolfo - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In many countries Easter Monday is a holiday on which to take a stroll in natural surroundings or to visit relatives who live far away in order to gather as a family. But I would like the reason for this holiday to be always present in the minds and hearts of Christians
, that is the Resurrection of Jesus, the decisive mystery of our faith. Indeed, as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). Therefore on these days it is important to reinterpret the narratives of Christ’s Resurrection which we find in the four Gospels. They are accounts which present in different ways the meetings of the disciples with the Risen Jesus and thereby permit us to meditate on this wonderful event which has transformed history and gives meaning to the existence of every man, to each one of us.

The event of the resurrection as such is not described by the Evangelists: it remains mysterious, not in the sense of being less real, but hidden, beyond the scope of our knowledge: like a light so bright that we cannot look at it or we should be blinded. The narratives begin instead when, towards dawn on the day after Saturday, the women went to the tomb and found it open and empty. St Matthew also speaks of an earthquake and a dazzling angel who rolled away the great stone sealing the tomb and sat on it (cf Mt 28:2). Having heard the angel’s announcement of the Resurrection, the women, with fear and great joy, hastened to take the news to the disciples and at that very moment encountered Jesus, prostrated themselves at his feet and worshipped him; and he said to them: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). In all the Gospels, in the accounts of the appearances of the Risen Jesus, women are given ample room, as moreover also in the accounts of Jesus’ Passion and death. In those times, in Israel the testimony of women could not possess any official or juridical value, but the women had had an experience of a special bond with the Lord, which is fundamental for the concrete life of the Christian community, and this is always the case, in every epoch, not only at the beginning of the way of the Church.

The sublime and exemplary model of this relationship with Jesus, in a special way in his Paschal Mystery, is of course Mary, the Mother of the Lord. Precisely through the transforming experience of the Passover of her Son, the Virgin Mary also becomes Mother of the Church, that is, of each one of the believers and of the whole community. Let us now turn to her, invoking her as Regina Caeli, with the prayer that tradition has us recite instead of the Angelus throughout the Easter season. May Mary obtain for us that we experience the living presence of the Risen Lord, source of hope and peace."

Dopo il Regina Caeli

"Le Christ est vraiment ressuscité, alléluia! Avec cette affirmation, je suis heureux de vous saluer, chers pèlerins de langue française. À la suite de Pierre et des Apôtres, nous sommes invités à témoigner de notre foi en la Résurrection du Christ. Soyez sans crainte, allez annoncer cette bonne nouvelle à tous vos frères. Renouvelés par la foi de notre baptême, nous participons déjà à la victoire pascale du Christ. Proclamons à notre monde, qu’il est présent et vivant au milieu de nous. Avec la Vierge Marie, soyons les porteurs de l’espérance et de la joie pascales! À tous, je souhaite de saintes fêtes de Pâques!

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present today for this Regina Coeli prayer. Today we continue our solemn Easter celebration, recalling with greater joy than ever our redemption from sin and death in Jesus Christ. May the Risen Lord pour out his grace upon us, and give us the courage to bring the Good News to others. I invoke Easter blessings upon all of you!

In österlicher Freude grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Die Botschaft von Ostern heißt Hoffnung: Jesus lebt. Er hat die Macht der Sünde, des Bösen und des Todes gebrochen. Er hat als der Auferstandene auch uns heute in seinen Ostersieg hineingenommen. In der Begegnung mit ihm im Wort und im Sakrament schenkt er uns neues Leben. Euch allen wünsche ich einen frohen Ostermontag und eine gute Osterwoche. Gottes Segen euch allen.

Dirijo mi cordial saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana. Como las mujeres que fueron al sepulcro o los discípulos, todos estamos llamados a encontrarnos con el Señor Resucitado. Él se nos muestra en la Palabra, en la fracción del Pan o en medio de la asamblea reunida en su Nombre. Su presencia amorosa nos trae la paz, nos hace vencer el miedo y nos llena de su Espíritu, enviándonos a anunciar con valentía la alegría de su victoria sobre la muerte, el gozo de la salvación. De esto, hemos de ser testigos. ¡Feliz Pascua de Resurrección a todos!

Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. Siostry i Bracia! „Chrystus zmartwychwstał, jak zapowiedział, radujmy się wszyscy, ponieważ króluje na wieki!” (Ant. Liturgiczna). Niech ta radość zawsze gości w naszych sercach, aby świadectwo naszej wiary pociągało innych do żyjącego Pana chwały. Serdecznie wam błogosławię!

E saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, i gruppi parrocchiali e le famiglie. In particolare saluto la Scuola Materna “Santa Teresa” di Sinalunga. A tutti auguro una serena giornata, nella luce e nella pace del Signore risorto. Buona festa. Grazie! Buona settimana!"

BXVI - © Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Papa Benedict XVI's Homily in Arezzo on 5th Sunday of Easter
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great joy for me to be able to break the Bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist with you. I extend my cordial greetings to you all and I thank you for your warm welcome! I greet your Pastor, Archbishop Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome, the other Bishops, priests, men and women religious and the representatives of Ecclesial Associations and Movements. A respectful greeting goes to the Mayor, Mr Giuseppe Fanfani, grateful for his greeting, to Senator Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy, and to the other civil and military Authorities. A special thank you to all those who have generously cooperated to make my Pastoral Visit a success.

Today I am welcomed by an ancient Church: expert in relations and well-deserving in her commitment to building through the centuries a city of man in the image of the City of God. In the land of Tuscany, the community of Arezzo has distinguished itself many times throughout history by its sense of freedom and its capacity for dialogue among different social components. Coming among you for the first time, my hope is that this City may always understand how to make the most of this precious legacy.

In past centuries, the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and enlivened by many expressions of the Christian faith, among which the highest is that of the Saints. I am thinking especially of St Donatus, your Patron, whose witness of life, which fascinated the Christianity of Medieval times, is still relevant. He was a fearless evangelist, so that all might be liberated from pagan customs and rediscover in the Word of God the strength to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, as Bishop he led his people back to unity through prayer and the Eucharist. The chalice was broken and then pieced back together by St Donatus, of whom Gregory the Great speaks (cf. Dialogues i, 7, 3). It is the image of a work of peace carried out by the Church within society, for the common good. Such was recorded for you by St Peter Damian and with him the great Camaldolese tradition of Casentino which for a thousand years, has offered its spiritual wealth to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church.

In your Cathedral Pope Bl. Gregory X is buried almost as if to show in different times and cultures the continuity of service that the Church of Christ wishes to render to the world. He, sustained by the light of the young Mendicant Orders, by theologians and Saints like St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, had to confront the great problems of his time: reform of the Church; reconciliation of the schism with the Christian East, which he attempted to bring about at the Council of Lyons; concern for the Holy Land; peace and relations among peoples. He was the first in the West to have an exchange of ambassadors with Kublai Khan of China.

Dear friends, the First Reading presents us with an important moment which manifests the universality of the Christian Message: in the house of Cornelius St Peter baptizes the first pagans. In the Old Testament, God wanted the blessing of Hebrew people not to be exclusive but extended to all nations. Ever since the call of Abraham he had said: “[B]y you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen 12:3). Thus Peter, inspired from on High, understood that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s gesture becomes an image of the Church open to all of humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and of your Communities, may you be genuine witnesses of God’s love for men!

But how can we, in our weakness, carry this love? St John, in the Second Reading, tells us emphatically that liberation from sin and from its consequences does not come about by our own initiative, but of God’s. It was not we who loved him but he who loved us and who took upon himself our sin and washed it away with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter into his communion of love, to collaborate in his work of redemption.

In the Gospel passage the invitation of the Lord resonates: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). It is a message meant in a specific way for the Apostles but, in a broad sense, regards all the disciples of Jesus. The whole Church, all of us are sent out into the world to spread the Gospel Message and the good news of salvation. But it is always God’s initiative; he calls us to various ministries, so that each one plays a proper role in the common good. He calls us to the ministerial priesthood, to the consecrated life, to married life, to working in the world: all are asked to respond generously to the Lord, sustained by his Word which comforts us: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (ibid.).

Dear friends, I am aware of your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be a leaven in society, be present as Christians, be active and consistent. With its centuries-old history, the City of Arezzo embodies significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition, there is the proud nature of Christian identity, witnessed through many signs and rooted in devotion like the one to Our Lady of Consolation. This land was the birthplace of great Renaissance figures, from Petrarch to Vasari, and played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on Europe’s history, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, the ideal heritage of your city has been expressed by some of its most distinguished figures through university research and in other institutions where they have elaborated the very concept of civitas, realized in terms of the Christian ideal among people of our time. Within the context of the Church in Italy, committed to education in this decade, we must ask — especially in this Region where the Renaissance was born — what vision of man are we proposing to the new generations? The Word of God, that we have heard, is a powerful invitation to live God’s love for everyone, and, among its distinctive values, the culture of this land includes solidarity, attention to the weakest, respect for the dignity of each person. Your capacity to welcome those who have come here recently in search of freedom and work, is well known. To show solidarity with the poor is to recognize the plan of God the Creator, who made us all one single family.

Of course, your Province has also been severely hit by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to find quick and effective solutions to emerge from the present situation which especially affects the underprivileged and greatly worries young people. Since far-off times, attention to others has motivated the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against an ephemeral culture which has disappointed many and brought about a profound spiritual crisis. May this diocesan Church, be enriched by the shining witness of the Poverello of Assisi, continue to be caring and attentive towards those in need, and may it its instruction succeed in overcoming the purely materialistic ideologies that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity.

Witnessing to the love of God by paying attention to the weakest is tied to the defence of human life, from its conception to its natural end. In your Region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundamental rights, is justly considered an indispensable good. The defence of the family, through a just legislation able to protect the underprivileged, is always an important factor to ensure a strong social fabric and offers hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the Statutes of your cities became instruments which ensured inalienable rights to many, may they continue that task today, promoting a City with an ever more human face. The Church offers her contribution to this task so that the love of God may always be accompanied by love of neighbour.

Dear brothers and sisters, continue serving God and man according to Jesus’ teaching, the shining example of your Saints and the tradition of your people. May the maternal protection of Our Lady of Consolation, whom you love and venerate, accompany and sustain you in this task. Amen."

BXVI - "Il Prato" Park, Arezzo - Sunday, 13 May 2012 - © Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana