- Christian Unity Requires Individual Conversion
- All Christians Have the Duty to Announce the Gospel
- Other Pontifical Acts
VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to Christ's priestly prayer during the Last Supper, as narrated in chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. John. In order to understand this prayer "in all its immense richness", said the Pope, it is important to see it in the context of the Jewish feast of atonement, Yom Kippur, in which the high priest seeks atonement first for himself, then for the order of priests and finally for the community as a whole. Likewise, "that night Jesus addressed the Father at the moment in which He offered Himself. He, priest and victim, prayed for Himself, for the Apostles and for all those who would believe in Him".
The prayer which Jesus prays for Himself is the request for His own glorification. "It is in fact more than a request", the Holy Father said, "it is a declaration of willingness to enter freely and generously into the Father's plan, which is accomplished through death and resurrection. ... Jesus begins His priestly prayer by saying: 'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you'. The glorification Jesus seeks for Himself, as High Priest, is to be fully obedient to the Father, an obedience which leads Him to fulfil His filial status: 'So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed'".
The second part of Jesus' prayer is His intercession for the disciples who have followed Him, and His request that they may be sanctified. Jesus says: 'They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth'. Benedict XVI explained how "To sanctify means to transfer something - a person or an object - to God. This involves two complementary aspects: on the one hand, the idea of 'segregation' ... from man's personal life in order to be completely given over to God; on the other hand there is the idea of 'being sent out', of mission. Having been given to God, the consecrated thing or person exists for others. ... A person is sanctified when, like Jesus, he is segregated from the world, set aside for God in view of a task and, for this reason, available for everyone. For disciples this means continuing Jesus' mission".
In the third phase of the priestly prayer, "Jesus asks the Father to intervene in favour of all those who will be brought to the faith by the mission inaugurated by the Apostles. ... 'I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word'. ... Jesus prays for the Church in all times, He also prays for us. ... The main element in Jesus' priestly prayer for His disciples is His request for the future unity of those who will believe in Him. This unity is not a worldly achievement. It derives exclusively from divine unity and comes down to us from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit".
By this priestly prayer Jesus establishes the Church, "which is nothing other than the community of disciples who, through their faith in Christ as the One sent by the Father, receive His unity and are involved in Jesus' mission to save the world by leading it to a knowledge of God".
Benedict XVI invited the faithful to read and meditate upon Jesus priestly prayer, and to pray to God themselves, asking Him "to help us enter fully into the plan He has for each of us. Let us ask Him to consecrate us to Himself, that we may belong to Him and show increasing love for others, both near and far. Let us ask Him to help us open our prayers to the world, not limiting them to requests for help in our own problems, but remembering our fellow man before the Lord and learning the beauty of interceding for others. Let us ask Him for the gift of visible unity among all those who believe in Christ, ... that we may be ready to respond to anyone who asks us about the reasons for our hope".
At the end of his audience, Benedict XVI delivered greetings in various languages to the pilgrims and faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall, reminding them that today's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Addressing Polish faithful he said: "The conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles near Damascus is proof that, in the final analysis, it is God Himself Who decides the destiny of His Church. Let us ask Him for the grace of unity, which also requires our individual conversion, while remaining faithful to the truth and love of God".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Made public today was the Pope's Message for World Mission Day, which falls this year on Sunday 21 October. The theme of the document is: "Called to radiate the word of truth". Extracts of the message are given below.
"This year the celebration of World Mission Day is particularly significant. The fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Decree 'Ad gentes', the opening of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the new evangelisation all come together to reaffirm the Church's will to dedicate herself with greater courage and ardour to the 'missio ad gentes', that the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth.
"Vatican Council II, with the participation of Catholic bishops from every corner of the world, was a luminous sign of the Church's universality. ... Missionary bishops and autochthonous bishops, pastors of communities living among non-Christian peoples, ... all made an important contribution to reaffirming the pressing need of 'ad gentes' evangelisation and, consequently, to placing the missionary nature of the Church at the centre of ecclesiology".
"Today this view ... remerges with renewed urgency because the number of those who do not yet know Christ has increased. ... We need, then, to retrieve the apostolic zeal of the early Christian communities which, small and defenceless, were nonetheless capable, through announcement and witness, of spreading the Gospel throughout the then-known world.
"It is no surprise, then, that Vatican Council II and the subsequent Magisterium of the Church place particular emphases on the missionary mandate which Christ entrusted to His disciples, and which is the duty of all the people of God (bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people). Announcing the Gospel in every corner of the world is the primary responsibility of bishops, who are directly responsible for evangelising the world".
"The command to preach the Gospel ... must involve all actions and sectors of a particular Church, its entire being and activity. Vatican Council II made this very clear and subsequent Magisterium has underlined it strongly. This means the constant adaptation of lifestyles, pastoral plans and diocesan organisation to this fundamental dimension of the Church's being, especially in our continually changing world. ... All the components of the great mosaic of the Church must be aware that they are touched by the Lord's command to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be announced everywhere. We pastors, religious and all Christ's faithful must follow the footsteps of the Apostle Paul who ... worked, suffered and struggled to bring the Gospel among the pagans, not sparing energy, time or means to make Christ's message known".
"Missionary cooperation must expand to include new forms, not only economic assistance but also direct participation in evangelisation. The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation will be useful occasions to relaunch missionary cooperation, especially in the latter dimension".
"The immense horizons of the Church's mission and the complexity of today's situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the word of God. First and foremost this requires a renewed adherence of individual and community faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ 'especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing'.
"One of the obstacles to evangelisation is, in fact, the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world but among a large part of humankind, which nonetheless hungers and thirsts for God, and which must be invited and led to the bread of life and the living water. ... We must renew our enthusiasm to communicate the faith, so as to promote new evangelisation in communities and countries of ancient Christian tradition, which are losing their reference to God, and help them rediscover the joy of believing. Concern for evangelisation must never remain at the margins of Christians' ecclesial activity or individual lives, it must characterise them strongly in their awareness of being both beneficiaries and missionaries of the Gospel The central point of our announcement always remains the same: ... the 'kerygma' of God's absolute and total love for each man and woman, which culminated in His sending the eternal and only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, Who did not disdain to take on the poverty of our human nature, loving it and saving it from sin and death by the offer of Himself upon the cross".
"Faith is a gift that was given to us to be shared. ... It is the most important gift of our lives and we cannot keep it to ourselves".
"Many priests and religious from all over the world, many lay people and even entire families leave their countries, their local communities, and travel to other Churches to bear witness to and announce the Name of Christ. ... This is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity among Churches".
"Together with this exalted sign of faith transformed into charity, I would like to mention and thank the Pontifical Missionary Works, which is an instrument for cooperation in the Church's universal mission in the world. Thanks to their activities the announcement of the Gospel is transformed into assistance to others, justice for the poorest, education in isolated villages, medical care in remote areas, liberation from want, rehabilitation of the marginalised, support for the development of peoples, the breaking down of ethnic divisions and respect for life in all its stages".
"Upon the work of evangelisation 'ad gentes', and especially upon those who carry it out, I invoke the effusion of the Holy Spirit, that the grace of God may make it ever more decisive in the history of the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, as archbishop of Karachi (area 180,000, population 15,536,000, Catholics 150,000, priests 40, religious 185), Pakistan. He succeeds Archbishop Evarist Pinto, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Appointed Fr. Paul Abel Mamba, apostolic administrator of Ziguinchor, Senegal, as bishop of the same diocese (area , population , Catholics , priests , permanent deacons , religious ). The bishop-elect was born in Cabrousse, Senegal in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1988. He has sent periods of study in Cameroon and France, and has served in pastoral roles and as bursar of seminaries and dioceses in Senegal.
- Appointed Msgr. Udo Breitbach, bureau chief of the Congregation for Bishops, as under secretary of the same congregation.
- Appointed as consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Fr. Paolo Martinelli, O.F.M. Cap., president of the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the "Antonianum" Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and Fr. Maurizio Gronchi of the clergy of the archdiocese of Pisa, Italy, professor at the Faculty of Theology of Rome's Pontifical Urban University.
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