11.20.2011 – Twenty-First Year – Num. 202
SUMMARY OF THE POPE'S APOSTOLIC TRIP TO BENIN:
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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Shortly before 5 p.m. today, Benedict XVI visited the Home of Peace and Happiness in Cotonou, where six sisters of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity look after dozens of abandoned and sick children, and feed may others from the local area who suffer malnutrition.
The Pope was welcomed by the children with songs and dances. Having prayed with them he visited the centre then, accompanied by the infants, went on to the nearby parish church of St. Rita where a further 800 children from the city were awaiting his arrival. The celebration began with the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, after which Bishop Rene-Marie Ehuzu C.I.M. of Porto Novo arose to pronounce a greeting in the name of all those present. The Holy Father then delivered his address.
"It is with much joy that I greet you", he said. "Thank you for coming out in such great numbers! God our Father has gathered us around His Son and our Brother, Jesus Christ, ... Who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world, in the tabernacles of the churches in your neighbourhoods and in your parishes. I ask you to visit Him often to tell Him of your love for Him.
"Some of you have already made your First Holy Communion, and others are preparing for it", the Pope added. "When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome Him with love and listen closely to Him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell Him, for example: 'Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.' Do not hesitate, dear children, to speak of Jesus to others. He is a treasure Whom you should share generously".
"Prayer", the Pope went on, "is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our Brother. ... Like Jesus, I too can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to Him. I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day. To stay with Jesus like this for a little while lets Him fill me with His love, light and life! This love, which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough. ... Ask your parents to pray with you!"
"Look! I have this rosary in my pocket", the Holy Father explained. "The rosary is like a tool that we can use to pray. It is easy to pray the rosary. Maybe you know how already; if not, ask your parents to help you to learn how. At the end of this meeting, each one of you will receive a rosary. When you hold it in your hands, you can pray ... for every important intention. And now, before I bless you all with great affection, let us pray together a Hail Mary for children throughout the world, especially for those who are sick, who are hungry and in places of war".
Having imparted his blessing, the Pope travelled by popemobile to the apostolic nunciature in Cotonou where he was due to meet with bishops of Benin.
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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This evening in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Cotonou, the bishops of Benin - a country with ten dioceses - met with the Pope. In his remarks he reminded them that the nation is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of its evangelisation, which was begun by the Society of African Missions.
"To all the missionaries, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay people who have come from their own homeland or whose origins are in this country, who have laboured since that time and up to our own day, the Church is particularly grateful", the Pope said. "They have generously given their lives, at times in a heroic manner, so that the love of God may be proclaimed to all.
"The celebration of this Jubilee must be for your communities and for each of their members, an occasion of profound spiritual renewal", he added. "It falls to you, as pastors of the People of God, to discern its dimensions in the light of the Word of God. The Year of Faith, which I announced to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, will certainly be a propitious occasion for enabling the faithful to rediscover and to deepen their faith in the Person of the Saviour of Man. It is because they chose to place Christ at the centre of their lives that, in the past 150 years, men and women have had the courage to place everything at the service of the Gospel. Today, this same approach must be at the heart of the whole Church. ... This attitude requires a constant conversion in order to give new strength to the prophetic dimension of our proclamation. ... This meeting with Christ must be solidly rooted in openness to and meditation on the Word of God. The Scriptures must have a central place in the life of the Church and of each Christian. Hence, I encourage you to help them to rediscover Scripture as a source of constant renewal, so that it may unify the daily lives of the faithful and be ever more at the heart of every ecclesial activity".
Pope Benedict went on: "The Church cannot keep this Word of God to herself; hers is the vocation to announce it to the world. This Jubilee Year should be a privileged occasion for the Church in Benin to give renewed vigour to her missionary consciousness. Apostolic zeal, which should animate all the faithful, is a direct result of their Baptism, and they cannot shirk their responsibility to profess their faith in Christ and His Gospel wherever they find themselves, and in their daily lives. ... On the other hand, as I emphasised in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Verbum Domini', 'In no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ordinary maintenance of those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community'. The Church, therefore, must reach out to everyone".
"So that the world may believe this Word which the Church proclaims, it is indispensable that Christ's disciples be united among themselves. As leaders and pastors of your people, you are called to have a lively consciousness of the sacramental fraternity which unites you, and of the unique mission which has been entrusted to you, so that you may be effective signs and promoters of unity within your dioceses. ... The difficulties which are met along the way and which can at times be serious, must never lead to discouragement, but on the contrary become incentives to the awakening among priests and bishops of a deep spiritual life".
"The formation of the future priests of your dioceses is a reality to which you must pay particular attention", the Holy Father told the prelates, encouraging them "to make it one of your pastoral priorities. It is absolutely necessary that a solid human, intellectual and spiritual formation allow young people to attain a personal, psychological and affective maturity, which prepares them to assume to duties of the priesthood, especially in the area of interpersonal relations".
"The episcopal ministry to which the Lord has called you has its share of joys and sorrows. To each of you present here this evening, I would like to leave a word of hope. In the course of the last 150 years, the Lord has done great things in the midst of the people of Benin. Be assured that He will continue to accompany you from day to day in your commitment to the work of evangelisation. Always be pastors after the heart of God, authentic servants of the Gospel. It is precisely this that men and women of our times expect from you".
Following the meeting, the Pope dined with the Beninese bishops in the apostolic nunciature.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of Christ the King, the Holy Father concelebrated the Eucharist with more than 200 African bishops and around a thousand Beninese priests at the "Stade de l'amitie" in Cotonou. Among those present were Thomas Yayi Boni, president of Benin, as well as many other institutional figures and some 30,000 pilgrims, not just from Benin but also from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The ceremony was held in Latin, French, Mina, Yoruba, Dendi, Portuguese and English.
Extracts from Benedict XVI's homily are given below.
"It is a great joy for me to visit for the second time this dear continent of Africa, coming among you, in Benin, to address to you a message of hope and of peace. ... Our Eucharistic celebration on the Solemnity of Christ the King is an occasion to give thanks to God for the 150 years that have passed since the beginnings of the evangelisation of Benin; it is also an occasion to express our gratitude to Him for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops".
"The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man, the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned, ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be taken as the way we treat Jesus Himself. We do not see here a simple literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus' entire existence is an example of it. ... He who had nowhere to lay His head, was condemned to death on a cross. This is the King we celebrate!
"Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like 2000 years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power, money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross. And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of Christ revealed; it is in the humility of His earthly existence that He finds His power to judge the world. For Him, to reign is to serve! And what He asks of us is to follow Him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast.
"The baptised know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one's life. However, as St. Paul reminds us, Christ has overcome death and He brings us with Him in His resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy. Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us allow Christ to free us from the world of the past!"
"The words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest. Here I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers. Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify Himself with the poor, with the sick; He wanted to share your suffering and to see you as His brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven".
Christians, builders of peace
"This morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time. ... Everyone who has received this marvellous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord, feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others. ... And this duty is always urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their hearts to the Xord of God! Many are those whose faith is weak".
"The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus. ... The Christian is a tireless builder of communion, peace and solidarity, gifts which Jesus Himself has given us. By being faithful to Him, we will cooperate in the realisation of God's plan of salvation for humanity".
"I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be authentically converted to Him. He alone gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. ... May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith!"
The Holy Father then addressed some words in English to pilgrims from Ghana, Nigeria and neighbouring countries. "Christ reigns from the Cross and, with His arms open wide, He embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity. Through the Cross, He breaks down the walls of division, He reconciles us with each other and with the Father. We pray today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice, peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God".
Finally, the Pope had words for Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, whom he invited "to renew your decision to belong to Christ and to serve His Kingdom of reconciliation, justice and peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass, the Holy Father consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus" to presidents of national and regional episcopal conferences in Africa, and to presidents of the synods of Eastern Catholic Churches.
"Upon the reception of this Exhortation, the phase of assimilation and application of its theological, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral data begins at the local level. This text seeks to promote, encourage and consolidate the various local initiatives already in place. It seeks as well to inspire other initiatives for the upbuilding of the Catholic Church in Africa", the Holy Father explained.
"One of the first missions of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel 'ad gentes'. ... I hope that this Exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa. It is not just a message or a word. It is above all openness and adhesion to a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life eternal! Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit. Evangelisation presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes peace and justice.
"Dear Church in Africa", the Holy Father added in conclusion, "become ever more fully the salt of the earth, this earth which Jesus Christ blessed with His presence when He took refuge here! Be the salt of the African earth, blessed by the blood of so many matters, men, women and children, witnesses of the Christian faith even to the supreme gift of their lives! Become the light of the world, the light in Africa which seeks, amid tribulations, the path of peace and justice for all its citizens. Your light is Jesus, the Christ, 'the Light of the World'. May God bless you, dear Africa!"
The Holy Father then prayed the Angelus, entrusting to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, "the new chapter now opening for the Church on this continent, asking her to accompany the future evangelisation of Africa as a whole".
"Dear brothers and sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the Holy Family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values. At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope. With Mary, Our Lady of the Magnificat, may you always abide in joy. May this joy remain deep within hearts of your families and your countries!"
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