Saturday, November 19, 2011




VATICAN CITY, 18 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This morning, during his flight to Benin, the Holy Father responded to a number of questions put to him by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. in the name of the journalists accompanying them on the papal plane.


Explaining why he chose Benin to launch the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus", which is addressed to the entire continent of Africa, Benedict XVI said: "There are a number of reasons. The first is that Benin is a country at peace, both externally and internally. Its democratic institutions work; they were created in a spirit of freedom and responsibility, and therefore justice and commitment to the common good are possible and guaranteed. ... The second reason is that, as in most African countries, there are a number of religions, peacefully existing one next to the other. There are Christians of different denominations, ... Muslims and traditional religions, and these different faiths live in mutual respect and share responsibility for peace and reconciliation, both internally and externally. ... Inter-religious dialogue is a factor for peace and freedom, and it is also an important aspect of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

"Finally, the third reason is that this is the country of my dear friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, and I had always wanted to come and pray one day over his grave. Truly he was a great friend to me. ... To visit the country of Cardinal Gantin, a great representative of Catholic Africa, of humane and civil Africa, is one of the reasons I chose to come here".

Another question put by Fr. Lombardi referred to the growth of Evangelical and Pentecostal movements in Africa. They "present an attractive faith, a simplification of the Christian message which lays great emphasis on healing and mixes their own rites with those of African tradition". How, he asked, can the Catholic Church react to this challenge? In his reply the Pope noted that the phenomenon also exists on other continents, especially Latin America and Africa. Such communities are characterised by a lack of institutions, an easily understandable message, and "a participative liturgy which lays emphasis on the expression of feelings and local culture, and on syncretic combinations among different religions. In a way, this guarantees their success but it also leads to instability. We also know that many return to the Catholic Church, or migrate from one of those communities to another.

"We must not imitate such communities", the Pope added. "Rather, we must ask ourselves what we can do to give fresh vitality to the Catholic faith. One point, is certainly a simple, profound but comprehensible message. It is important that Christianity should not be seen as a difficult, European system, ... but as a universal message that God exists, that He is concerned with us, knows and loves us, and that religion produces collaboration and fraternity".

Another vital factor is that "Church institutions should not too cumbersome, that the initiative of the community and of the individual should prevail. I would also draw attention to the importance of a participative but not a sentimental liturgy. Liturgy must not be exclusively based on the expression of feelings, but characterised by the presence of the mystery, into which we enter and by which we allow ourselves to be formed. Finally, I would say that it is important not to lose sight of the universal aspect of inculturation. Indeed. I would prefer to speak more of 'inter-culturality' than of inculturation; in other words, of the meeting of cultures in our shared truth of being human in our time. Thus will we grow in universal fraternity, not losing the great gift of catholicity which makes us brothers and sisters all over the world, a family which collaborates in a spirit of fraternity".

The third question put to the Holy Father focused on the Church's specific contribution to building lasting peace in Africa, in light of peacekeeping operations and reconstruction initiatives in various African States.

"It is true", said Benedict XVI in his reply, "that many international conferences have been held for Africa, for universal brotherhood. Fine things have been said and sometimes positive actions have been accomplished, we must recognise this. But it is clear that words, intentions and desires are greater than achievements, and we must ask ourselves why this is. One fundamental factor, I believe, is that renewal and universal brotherhood call for sacrifice; they require us to abandon our selfishness and to exist for others. This is easy to say but difficult to achieve. ... Only by love, and belief in a God Who loves us, can we achieve this, daring to lose our lives, daring to give ourselves because we know that we will gain by it".

The Holy Father then went on to explain why he believes that Africa can bring faith and hope to the rest of the world. "Humanity", he said, "is undergoing an increasingly rapid transformation. The last fifty or sixty years in Africa, from postcolonial independence to our own day, have been a very trying and difficult time, with many problems some of which have still not been overcome. ... Nonetheless the freshness of the 'yes' to life which exists in Africa, ... its enthusiasm and hope, show that it possesses a great store of humanity, a freshness of religious feeling and hope. ... Thus I would say that the new humanism in the young soul of Africa, despite the problems which exist and will continue to exist, are proof of its great stores of life and vitality for the future".

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VATICAN CITY, 18 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the cathedral of Our Lady of Mercy in Cotonou, where numerous faithful were waiting to greet him.

Benedict XVI paused for a moment of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then went on to visit the tombs of two former archbishops of Cotonou, Isidore de Sousa and Christophe Adimou. Following the "Te Deum" and a greeting by the current archbishop, Msgr. Antoine Ganye, the Pope pronounced his address. "They were heroic workers in the vineyard of the Lord", he said referring to the two deceased prelates, "and their memory lives on in the hearts of Catholics and innumerable other citizens of Benin. These two bishops were, each in his own way, pastors full of zeal and charity. They spent themselves, without counting the cost, in the service of the Gospel and of the people of God, especially the most vulnerable. You know well that Archbishop de Sousa was a friend of the truth and that he played a decisive role in your country's transition to democracy".

"I invite you to meditate for a moment on [God's] infinite mercy. The history of salvation, which culminates in the incarnation of Jesus and finds its fulfilment in the Paschal Mystery, is a radiant revelation of the mercy of God", which "consists not only in the remission of our sins" but also "in the fact that God, our Father, redirects us, sometimes not without pain, affliction or fear on our part, to the path of truth and light, for He does not wish us to be lost. ... Looking back upon the personal history of each individual and of the evangelisation of our countries, we can say together with the Psalmist, 'I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, for ever'".

The Holy Father continued his remarks: "The Virgin Mary experienced to the highest degree the mystery of divine love. ... By her 'yes' to the call of God, she contributed to the manifestation of divine love in the midst of humanity. In this sense, she is the Mother of Mercy by her participation in the mission of her Son: she has received the privilege of being our helper always and everywhere. ... In Mary, we have not only a model of perfection, but also one who helps us to realise communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. As Mother of Mercy, she is a sure guide to the disciples of her Son who wish to be of service to justice, to reconciliation and to peace. ... Let us not be afraid to invoke her with confidence, she who ceaselessly dispenses to her children abundant divine graces".

Benedict XVI then prayed to Our Lady to intercede to obtain peace for child victims of hunger and war, for the sick and the afflicted, for sinners, for Africa and for all humankind.

The ceremony concluded with the praying of the Our Father and the Salve Regina, after which the Holy Father travelled by car to the apostolic nunciature.

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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Shortly before 9 a.m. today Benedict XVI arrived at the presidential palace in Cotonou, a building constructed in 1960 to mark the proclamation of Benin's independence from France. There he met with members of the government, representatives of State institutions, the diplomatic corps and representatives of the principal religions. Thomas Yayi Boni, president of Benin, welcomed the Holy Father who, having greeted those present, pronounced an address extracts of which are given below.

"When I say that Africa is a continent of hope, I am not indulging in mere rhetoric, but simply expressing a personal conviction which is also that of the Church. Too often, our mind is blocked by prejudices or by images which give a negative impression of the realities of Africa, the fruit of a bleak analysis. It is tempting to point to what does not work; it is easy to assume the judgemental tone of the moraliser or of the expert who imposes his conclusions and proposes, at the end of the day, few useful solutions. It is also tempting to analyse the realities of Africa like a curious ethnologist or like someone who sees the vast resources only in terms of energy, minerals, agriculture and humanity easily exploited for often dubious ends. These are reductionist and disrespectful points of view which lead to the unhelpful 'objectification' of Africa and her inhabitants.

"To talk of hope is to talk of the future and hence of God. ... It is upon this mixture of many contradictory and complementary elements that we must build with the help of God. ... In the light of this experience which ought to encourage us, I would like to mention two current African realities. The first relates in a general way to the socio-political and economic life of the continent, the second to inter-religious dialogue".

"During recent months, many peoples have manifested their desire for liberty, their need for material security, and their wish to live in harmony according to their different ethnic groups and religions. Indeed, a new State has been born on your continent. Many conflicts have originated in man's blindness, in his will to power and in political and economic interests which mock the dignity of people and of nature. ... These ills certainly afflict your continent, but they also afflict the rest of the world. Every people wishes to understand the political and economic choices which are made in its name. They perceive manipulation and their revenge is sometimes violent. They wish to participate in good governance. We know that no political regime is ideal and that no economic choice is neutral. But these must always serve the common good. Hence we are faced with legitimate demands, present in all countries, for greater dignity and above all for greater humanity. Man demands that his humanity be respected and promoted. Political and economic leaders of countries find themselves placed before important decisions and choices which they can no longer avoid".

Ethical aspect of political and economic responsibilities

"From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries and the rest of the world. Do not deprive your peoples of hope! Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present! Adopt a courageous ethical approach to your responsibilities and, if you are believers, ask God to grant you wisdom! ... Power, such as it is, easily blinds, above all when private, family, ethnic or religious interests are at stake. God alone purifies hearts and intentions.

"The Church does not propose any technical solution and does not impose any political solution. She repeats: do not be afraid! Humanity is not alone before the challenges of the world. God is present. There is a message of hope, hope which generates energy, which stimulates the intellect and gives the will all its dynamism. ... Hope is communion. Is not this a wonderful path that is placed before us? I ask all political and economic leaders, as well those of the university and cultural realms to join it. May you also be sowers of hope!"

Inter-religious dialogue

"I do not think it is necessary to recall the recent conflicts born in the name of God, or deaths brought about in the name of Him Who is life. Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted. True inter-religious dialogue rejects humanly self-centred truth, because the one and only truth is in God. ... Hence, no religion, and no culture may justify appeal or recourse to intolerance and violence. Aggression is an outmoded relational form which appeals to superficial and ignoble instincts. To use the revealed word, the Sacred Scriptures or the name of God to justify our interests, our easy and convenient policies or our violence, is a very grave fault.

"I can only come to a knowledge of the other if I know myself. ... Knowledge, deeper understanding and practice of one's religion, are therefore essential to true inter-religious dialogue. ... Everyone ought therefore to place himself in truth before God and before the other. This truth does not exclude and it is not confusion. Inter-religious dialogue when badly understood leads to muddled thinking or to syncretism. This is not the dialogue which is sought".

"We know that sometimes inter-religious dialogue is not easy or that it is impeded for various reasons. This does not necessarily indicate failure. There are many forms of inter-religious dialogue. Cooperation in social or cultural areas can help people to understand each other better and to live together serenely. It is also useful to know that dialogue does not take place through weakness but because of belief in God. Dialogue is another way of loving God and our neighbour without abdicating what we are".

Promoting a pedagogy of dialogue

"Having hope does not mean being ingenuous but making an act of faith in a better future. Thus the Catholic Church puts into action one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, that of promoting friendly relations between herself and the members of non-Christian religions. ... I greet all religious leaders who have kindly come here to meet me. I would like to assure them, as well as those from other African countries, that the dialogue offered by the Catholic Church comes from the heart. I encourage them to promote, above all among the young people, a pedagogy of dialogue, so that they may discover that our conscience is a sanctuary to be respected and that our spiritual dimension builds fraternity".

"To finish, I would like to use the image of a hand. There are five fingers on it and each one is quite different. Each one is also essential and their unity makes a hand. A good understanding between cultures, consideration for each other which is not condescending, and the respect of the rights of each one are a vital duty. This must be taught to all the faithful of the various religions. Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness! Is this not good ground in which seeds of hope may be sown? To offer someone your hand means to hope, later, to love. ... Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles".

"To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God. ... Following Peter, of whom I am a successor, I hope that your faith and hope will be in God. This is my wish for the whole of Africa, which is so dear to me! Africa, be confident and rise up! The Lord is calling you".

Having concluded his address, the Pope held a brief meeting with the president of the Republic in the latter's private study, during which the two men exchanged gifts. Benedict XVI then signed the visitor's book and greeted members of Thomas Yayi Boni's family.

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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. today, the Holy Father arrived at the Seminary of St. Gall in Ouidah where he visited the tombs of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the first African to head a dicastery of the Roman Curia, and of his mentor, Msgr. Louis Parisot S.M.A., the first archbishop of Cotonou and apostolic vicar of Dahomey and Ouidah.

The Pope addressed the hundreds of priests, religious, seminarians and lay people who were awaiting his arrival in the courtyard of the seminary building, expressing his joy at meeting them and his gratitude for the pastoral work they carry out, often in difficult circumstances.

He recalled how the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus" focuses on the themes of peace, justice and reconciliation. "These three values stand out as an evangelical ideal fundamental to baptismal life, and they demand sound acceptance of your identity as priests, as consecrated persons and as lay faithful", he said.

"Dear priests", the Holy Father began, "the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you. Owing to your reception of Holy Orders and your celebration of the Sacraments, you are called in effect to be men of communion. ... I thus encourage you to let Christ shine through your life, by being in full communion with your bishop, by a genuine goodwill towards your brother priests, by a profound solicitude for each of the baptised and by great attention to each person. In letting yourself be modelled on Christ, you will never substitute the beauty of your priestly being with ephemeral and at times unhealthy realities which the contemporary mentality tends to impose on every culture".

Turning to address religious, the Pope noted that "the consecrated life is a radical following of Jesus. May your unconditional choice for Christ lead you to an unlimited love for your neighbour. ... May poverty, obedience and chastity increase your thirst for God and your hunger for His Word, Who, by increasing, transforms hunger and thirst into service of those who are deprived of justice, peace and reconciliation".

Benedict XVI told seminarians that, "without the logic of holiness, the ministry is merely a social function. ... Faced with the challenges of human existence, the priest of today and tomorrow - if he wants to be a credible witness to the service of peace, justice and reconciliation - must be a humble and balanced man, one who is wise and magnanimous".

The lay faithful are also "called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world" in daily life, and to contribute to peace, justice and reconciliation. "This mission requires first of all a faith in your family built according to the design of God and in fidelity to His plan for Christian marriage. ... Thanks to the power of prayer, 'personal and family life is transformed, gradually improved and enriched with dialogue, faith is transmitted to the children, the pleasure of being together grows and the home is further united and consolidated'. ... By having love and forgiveness reign in your families, you will contribute to the building of a Church which is beautiful and strong, and to the advent of greater justice and peace in the whole of society".

Catechists, "those valiant missionaries at the heart of the most humble realities", must, "with an unshakable hope and determination", make their "outstanding and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith through fidelity to the teaching of the Church".

Concluding his address the Pope highlighted how "the love for the God Who reveals Himself and for His Word, the love for the Sacraments and for the Church, are an efficacious antidote against a syncretism which deceives. This love favours the correct integration of the authentic values of cultures into the Christian faith. It liberates from occultism and vanquishes evil spirits, for it is moved by the power of the Holy Trinity itself. Lived deeply, this love is also a ferment of communion which breaks down every barrier, promoting the building of a Church in which there is no segregation among the baptised, for all are made one in Christ Jesus".

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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Ouidah. Inaugurated in 1909, it was the first cathedral in West Africa and the starting point for the evangelisation of the region.

On arrival the Pope was greeted by the rector of the basilica, who accompanied him in a moment of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Among those present were the members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, and Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod, all of whom Benedict XVI thanked for their help in collating the results of the Second Special Assembly for Africa in preparation for the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus".

"Today, the celebration of the Synod concludes with the signing of the Exhortation 'Africae Munus'", he said. "The Synod gave an impetus to the Catholic Church in Africa, which prayed, reflected on and discussed the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. This process was marked by a special closeness uniting the Successor of Peter and the particular Churches in Africa".

"The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops benefited from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Africa' of Blessed John Paul II, which emphasised the urgent need to evangelise this continent, an activity which cannot be separated from the work of human promotion. The Exhortation also developed the concept of the Church as God's Family. This concept has borne many spiritual fruits for the Catholic Church and for the activity of evangelisation and human promotion which she has carried out in African society as a whole".

"Within this ecclesial horizon, the Second Special Assembly for Africa concentrated on the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. These are important issues for the world in general, but they take on a particular urgency in Africa. We need but recall the tensions, the acts of violence, the wars, the injustices and abuses of all sorts, new and old, which have marked this year. The principal theme was that of reconciliation with God and with one's neighbour. But a Church reconciled within herself and among all her members can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society within each country and the continent as a whole".

"We must never give up the search for new paths of peace! ... To attain peace, we need to have courage and the reconciliation born of forgiveness, the will once more to live as one, to share a vision of the future and to persevere in overcoming difficulties. Men and women reconciled and at peace with God and neighbour can work for greater justice in society".

"Africa, land of a New Pentecost, put your trust in God! Impelled by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, become God's great family, generous with all your sons and daughters, agents of reconciliation, peace and justice! Africa, Good News for the Church, become Good News for the entire world!"

Having completed his address, the Pope signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and imparted his blessing upon those present. He then boarded a car which took him forty-five kilometres from Ouidah to the apostolic nunciature in Cotonou.

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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Given below is a summary, prepared by Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, of the main ideas contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus".

The document has two parts. Part one (nos. 14-96) discerns the fundamental structures of the ecclesial mission on the continent, a mission which aspires to reconciliation, justice and peace, and has its origin in the person of Jesus Christ. Listening to Him, Christians are invited to let themselves be reconciled with God, becoming just in order to build a just social order in keeping with the logic of the Beatitudes, and committing themselves to fraternal service for love of truth, which is a source of peace. Attention then turns to the paths towards reconciliation, justice and peace. These include authentic conversion, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, the spirituality of communion, the inculturation of the Gospel, the protection of life, migrants, displaced persons, refugees, the good governance of States, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue especially with traditional religions and Islam. In part two (nos. 97-177) all members of the Church are invited to contribute to communion and peace in the Church and in society. It also identifies areas for the apostolate: the Church as the presence of Christ, the world of education, health care and the communications media. The Exhortation opens a horizon of hope to Africa which, by welcoming Jesus Christ, must free itself from the forces which paralyze it.

'Africae munus' is the continuation of 'Ecclesia in Africa', which was published after the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and gave great impetus to the growth of the Church in Africa developing, among other things, the idea of the Church as Family of God which has been beneficial to the universal Church. 'Africae munus' aims to reinforce this ecclesial dynamism, to outline a programme for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelisation in Africa, underlining the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.

The Church, Sacrament of union with God and man, must be a place of reconciliation, a gift of God, in order to be an effective tool of justice and peace for the whole of society. Reconciliation comes from the mystery of the risen Christ Who is present in His church through the Word of God and the Sacraments, especially those of Penance and the Eucharist. Through the grace of the Spirit, the Eucharist creates a new brotherhood which overcomes languages, cultures, ethnicities, divisions, tribalism, racism and ethnocentrism. In her work of evangelisation and education in the Christian faith, the Church must concentrate on lived catechesis, which leads to profound conversion and to real commitment to live the Gospel at a personal, family and social level. The Social Doctrine of the Church is of great help in sustaining human development.

'Africae munus' offers the Church in Africa practical guidance for pastoral activity over coming decades.

- Evangelisation ad gentes, the announcement of the Gospel to those who still do not know Jesus Christ, is still of vital importance in Africa. It is a pastoral priority which involves all African Christians.

- Ordinary evangelisation must be increasingly promoted in the various particular Churches, through commitment to fostering reconciliation, justice and peace.

- There is also an urgent need to work for the new evangelisation in Africa, especially among people who have distanced themselves from the Church or who do not behave in a Christian fashion. African Christians, and in particular the clergy and consecrated persons, are likewise called to support new evangelisation in secularised nations. This is an exchange of gifts, because African missionaries are already at work in countries which once produced missionaries who went forth to announce the Good News in Africa.

Among the practical suggestions contained in Africae munus, we may note the following:

- Saints, people reconciled with God and neighbour, are exemplary heralds of justice and apostles of peace. The Church - all of whose members are called to sanctity - must discover fresh ardour, the ardour of the many saints and martyrs, confessors and virgins of the African continent, devotion to whom should be renewed and promoted (cf. AM 113).

- In order to find further examples of sanctity, also obtaining new intercessors in heaven, pastors of the particular Churches are encouraged 'to recognize among servants of the Gospel in Africa those who could be canonized according to the norms of the Church' (AM 114).

- The bonds of communion between the Holy Father and the bishops of Africa must be strengthened, as must the bonds among Africa bishops themselves, at the national, regional and continental level.

- It is considered important 'for the bishops to help support, effectively and affectively, the Symposium of Bishops' Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) as a continental structure of solidarity and ecclesial communion' (AM 107).

- For a deeper appreciation of the mystery of the Eucharist and to increase Eucharistic devotion, emphasis is given to the Synod Fathers' proposal to celebrate a continental Eucharistic Congress (cf. AM 153).

- African countries are encouraged to 'celebrate yearly 'a day or week of reconciliation, particularly during Advent or Lent'' (AM 157).

- In agreement with the Holy See, SECAM may contribute to promoting 'a continent-wide Year of Reconciliation to beg of God special forgiveness for all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa, and for the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society' (AM 157).

Grateful for the gift of faith in the One Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with renewed enthusiasm the Church in Africa reaffirms her commitment to evangelisation and human development, so that the entire continent may become a vast field of reconciliation, justice and peace. In this way, the Church contributes to forging the new Africa, which is increasingly called to become the 'spiritual lung' of humankind'.

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VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Msgr. Kenneth David Oswin Richards, vicar general of Kingston in Jamaica, Jamaica, as bishop of Saint John's-Basseterre (area 1,058, population 169,787, Catholics 14,878, priests 9, religious 7), Antigua and Barbuda. The bishop-elect was born in Linstead, Jamaica in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1985. He has worked in the archdiocese of Kingston in Jamaica as parish vicar, pastor, director for vocations and president of the presbyteral council.

- Appointed Bishop Antonio Jose da Rocha Couto S.M.P., auxiliary of Braga, Portugal, as bishop of Lamego (area 2,848, population 160,200, Catholics 157,200, priests 144, permanent deacons 2, religious 64), Portugal. He succeeds Bishop Jacinto Tomas de Carvalho Botelho, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.


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CATHOLIC HERALD REPORT: Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham blesses new John Paul II centre at Bicester

By STAFF REPORTER on Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New centre blessed by archbishop

Archbishop Longley celebrates a Mass of Thanksgiving for John Paul II’s beatification

Saturday October 22 saw the Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of John Paul II at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Bicester, followed by the blessing of the new John Paul II Centre next to the church.

Some 250 people gathered to thank God for Blessed Pope John Paul II and to invoke his intercession upon the mission of the John Paul II Centre as it seeks to promote the New Evangelisation in the town of Bicester. Members of civil society joined the congregation, including Mayor Councillor Rose Stratford and local MP Tony Baldry.

The theme of the New Evangelisation was keenly emphasised in Archbishop Longley’s homily and John Paul II was upheld as a shining example of the communicative impact of personal holiness, the hallmark of the New Evangelisation.

In this spirit of outreach, the archbishop expressed his hope that the John Paul II Centre would help to unite the parish with the wider community.


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
17 Nov 2011

Sydney public transport in urgent

need of improvement

In the lead up to each state election, Sydneysiders are constantly told public transport will not only improve, but be fast, affordable and run on time.

However many promises, plans and projects often never get off the drawing board.

But the newly-formed Sydney Alliance is determined to change this.

Tonight representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney together with representatives from the other 44 member organisations that make up the Sydney Alliance will attend a public assembly at Penrith to address the issue of Sydney's transport system, and hopefully come up with solutions.

"Transport is a key issue and one that causes the most dissatisfaction among Sydney residents," says Amanda Tattersall, Director of the Alliance.

Traffic congestion and public transport

just one of many issues the Sydney

Alliance will address

Among the 400 expected at the meeting will be seven NSW politicians including Stuart Ayres, member for Penrith and Deputy Government Whip; Ray Williams member for Hawkesbury and Parliamentary Secretary; Charles Casuscelli, member for Strathfield and Penny Sharpe, Shadow Minister for Transport.

"The focus of the meeting will be on improving public transport as a whole and coming up with a new vision and formulae for fixing the system without having to spend billions of dollars," Amanda says.

For almost a year, organisations within the Alliance have gathered intelligence about Sydney roads, rail and transport on the harbour and on the city's rivers. The Alliance has also canvassed business men and women as well as every day commuters as part of their "listening" campaign before developing possible as well as practical solutions.

The result is the Alliance's concept and basis of their charter on transport dubbed : "400:15:1:SCA2."

"This means public transport should be available within 400 metres of wherever someone lives, should run a minimum of every 15 minutes and that it should need just one all-purpose ticket that can be used for rail, buses and ferries," Amanda explains.

Packed trains make commuting

miserable for most Sydneysiders

The SCA squared section of the concept insists that all public transport must be Safe, Clean, Accessible and Affordable.

"What the Alliance wants is a world-class public transport system for Sydney that is regular, reliable, clean, safe and easy to use regardless of someone's age, income, mobility or health," Amanda says and adds that it must also be properly planned, integrated and connected to where people live, work and enjoy their leisure.

This may seem like a pipe dream, the Sydney Alliance is convinced it can make a difference.

Four years in the making, and established to work for the common good to create a fair, just and sustainable city, and to give citizens a voice, the Sydney Alliance was officially launched at a Founding Assembly attended by 2000 at the Sydney Town Hall in September this year. Among those present were Dr Steven Lovell-Jones, Promoter of Peace and Justice for the Archdiocese of Sydney and Associate Professor and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Notre Dame; Bishop Terence Brady of the Sydney Archdiocese; the Bishop of Broome and Chairman of the Australian Social Justice Council, the Most Rev Christopher Saunders and more than 400 other representatives from Sydney's Catholic schools, universities, parishes, agencies and organisations.

Buses should run every 15 minutes

and be clean, accessible and on time

Dr Lovell-Jones, who is on the Alliance Board and represents the Archbishop Cardinal George Pell on the Alliance Leaders' Council, says the broad range of member organisation groups involved in the Alliance is a way of not only giving citizens a voice but creating a body that is able to negotiate with the city's politicians and decision-makers on a wide range of issues, and make them accountable.

Among the issues the Alliance intends to tackle are aged care, mental illness and alcohol abuse along with homelessness, troubled youth, the quality of childcare and health care, unemployment, city infrastructure as well as addressing racism and ways to help Sydney's migrants and refugees settle into the community and begin new productive lives.
But it is public transport that is top of the agenda.

Tonight's meeting will discuss ways to improve the current system and bring it up to world standard.

But before the meeting even begins, the 400 attendees will have had a chance to experience Sydney's transport system up close. Each of them, including the seven politicians, has promised to take public transport to the Penrith venue. Some have already suggested if the system works as it normally does then that alone should trigger some lively debate!

To find out more about the Sydney Alliance log on to



UCAN REPORT: Kerala moves to prevent farmers in debt killing themselves
George Kommattathil, Mananthavady
November 18, 2011

The Church in Kerala has welcomed new state government measures to prevent farmer suicides, including a one-year moratorium on repayment of loans.

Hailing government efforts, FatherThomas Therakam, said “the new measures are a good start.”

Fr Therakam is the spokesman of Mananthavady diocesewhich covers Wayanad district, where five farmers, heavily in debt, have killed themselves in the past fortnight.

Chief Minister Oomen Chandy announced the measures on Wednesday after a three-member committee headed by additional chief secretary K. Jayakumar submitted a report on a wave of suicides over past few years to the cabinet.

The package includes a moratorium on repayment of agricultural loans taken from government departments and other government agencies for one year, a benchmark price for agricultural produce and better compensation for crops destroyed by wild animals.

The government will remove the threat of jail for defaulting on these farm loans and also extend paddy procurement to Wayanad.

Fr Therakam urged the government to introduce crop insurance as most of the dead farmers committed suicide after their crops failed or wild animals destroyed them.

Fr John Choorapuzhayil, director of the Wayanad Social Service Society, said they have introduced many projects in association with Caritas India to try and tackle farmer suicides in the district.

Hundreds of suicides by farmers have been reported in Kerala over the past decade.

Thousands more have killed themselves nationwide.

Most of the farmers here take loans from banks or money lenders to buy seed or equipment. When crops fail or when prices fall, they are often unable to repay the loans.


Agenzia Fides REPORT - "Taking a first assessment of the election campaign, it is clear that politicians are campaigning without consistency", says the "Peace Network for Congo" in a note sent to Fides on the presidential and legislation elections that will take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on November 28. "It is an undeniable fact that this campaign has begun in an atmosphere of high tension and political intolerance. There are provocations, invectives against one or the other candidate, sterile polemics and unnecessary slogans", said the "Network " promoted by the missionaries working in the DRC. The tense election atmosphere was also recently condemned by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa (see Fides 11/11/2011).
"The persistence of fragmentation of the political panorama and the variety of candidates suggests that each have adopted an attitude of expectation, in sight of a future negotiation with the winner(s)" the note says. 18,000 candidates registered for the legislative elections, compared with about 10,000 of the previous elections. These 417 candidates belong to political parties recognized by the Ministry of the Interior in August, against 203 parties in 2006. As for the presidential elections, there are only 11 candidates compared to the 33 in 2006. One reason may be the fact that the electoral deposit for candidates in the presidential election has increased from 50,000 to $ 100,000 (not refundable).
Based on the results appeared on the site of the INEC (Independent Electoral Commission), the only presidential candidates that may hinder the re-election of outgoing President Joseph Kabila, are Vital Kamerhe and Etienne Tshisekedi. The first, a former supporter of President Kabila, and has a large number of candidates for the Chamber of Deputies in all the regions in Congo and not only in Kivu, where he is very popular. As for Etienne Tshisekedi, a prominent figure of the old opposition in Congo-Zaire, who did not present himself in the 2006 elections, chose the strategy of tension and ambivalence, even instrumentally stirring up the idea of an "Arab Spring" in the DRC. His legendary name mobilizes the crowds but also street children known as "pompa" (young people who practice martial arts) or "Kuluna" (young drifters often armed with knives and machetes).
Kabila's re-election is considered likely by several opponents, but the note warns, "there is a strong chance that, after the elections, riots could break out not only in Kinshasa, but also in other provinces. It would be a serious irresponsibility of the opposition if they decide to foment hatred for the sole purpose of discrediting Joseph Kabila in the eyes of the population and abroad. In this type of game Congo would be the loser, because, in the throes of revolt, with a President unable to provide an efficient government, unable to continue the reconstruction of the Country, already very slow, and unable to maintain its unity, not able to have reliable security forces, because composed, especially in Kivu, by poorly integrated former rebels. What one must not esclude is, after the elections, that the catastrophic scenario could become reality, unfortunately", the note concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/11/2011)


Luke 20: 27 - 40
27There came to him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection,28and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother.29Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children;30and the second31and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died.32Afterward the woman also died.33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife."34And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage;35but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,36for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him."39And some of the scribes answered, "Teacher, you have spoken well."40For they no longer dared to ask him any question.


St. Mechtilde
Feast: November 19
Feast Day:
November 19
1240 or 1241 at the ancestral castle of Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony
19 November, 1298

Benedictine; born in 1240 or 1241 at the ancestral castle of Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony; died in the monastery of Helfta, 19 November, 1298. She belonged to one of the noblest and most powerful Thuringian families, while here sister was the saintly and illustrious Abbess Gertrude von Hackeborn. Some writers have considered that Mechtilde von Hackeborn and Mechtilde von Wippra were two distinct persons, but, as the Barons of Hackeborn were also Lords of Wippra, it was customary for members of that family to take their name indifferently from either, or both of these estates. So fragile was she at birth, that the attendants, fearing she might die unbaptized, hurried her off to the priest who was just then preparing to say Mass. He was a man of great sanctity, and after baptizing the child, uttered these prophetic words: "What do you fear? This child most certainly will not die, but she will become a saintly religious in whom God will work many wonders, and she will end her days in a good old age." When she was seven years old, having been taken by her mother on a visit to her elder sister Gertrude, then a nun in the monastery of Rodardsdorf, she became so enamoured of the cloister that her pious parents yielded to her entreaties and, acknowledging the workings of grace, allowed her to enter the alumnate. Here, being highly gifted in mind as well as in body, she made remarkable progress in virtue and learning.
Ten years later (1258) she followed her sister, who, now abbess, had transferred the monastery to an estate at Helfta given her by her brothers Louis and Albert. As a nun, Mechtilde was soon distinguished for her humility, her fervour, and that extreme amiability which had characterized her from childhood and which, like piety, seemed hereditary in her race. While still very young, she became a valuable helpmate to Abbess Gertrude, who entrusted to her direction the alumnate and the choir. Mechtilde was fully equipped for her task when, in 1261, God committed to her prudent care a child of five who was destined to shed lustre upon the monastery of Helfta. This was that Gertrude who in later generations became known as St. Gertrude the Great. Gifted with a beautiful voice, Mechtilde also possessed a special talent for rendering the solemn and sacred music over which she presided as domna cantrix. All her life she held this office and trained the choir with indefatigable zeal. Indeed, Divine praise was the keynote of her life as it is of her book; in this she never tired, despite her continual and severe physical sufferings, so that in Hisrevelations Christ was wont to call her His "nightingale". Richly endowed, naturally and supernaturally, ever gracious, beloved of all who came within the radius of her saintly and charming personality, there is little wonder that this cloistered virgin should strive to keep hidden her wondrous life. Souls thirsting for consolation or groping for light sought her advice; learned Dominicans consulted her on spiritual matters. At the beginning of her own mystic life it was from St. Mechtilde that St. Gertrude the Great learnt that the marvellous gifts lavished upon her were from God.
Only in her fiftieth year did St. Mechtilde learn that the two nuns in whom she had especially confided had noted down the favours granted her, and, moreover, that St. Gertrude had nearly finished a book on the subject. Much troubled at this, she, as usual, first had recourse to prayer. She had a vision of Christ holding in His hand the book of her revelations, and saying: "All this has been committed to writing by my will and inspiration; and, therefore you have no cause to be troubled about it." He also told her that, as He had been so generous towards her, she must make Him a like return, and that the diffusion of therevelations would cause many to increase in His love; moreover, He wished this book to be called "The Book of Special Grace", because it would prove such to many. When the saint understood that the book would tend to God's glory, she ceased to be troubled, and even corrected the manuscript herself. Immediately after her death it was made public, and copies were rapidly multiplied, owing chiefly to the widespread influence of the Friars Preachers. Boccaccio tells how, a few years after the death of Mechtilde, the book of her revelations was brought to Florence and popularized under the title of "La Laude di donna Matelda". It is related that the Florentines were accustomed to repeat daily before their sacred images the praises learned from St. Mechtilde's book. St. Gertrude, to whose devotedness we owe the "Liber Specialis Gratiae" exclaims: "Never has there arisen one like to her in our monastery; nor, alas! I fear, will there ever arise another such!" -- little dreaming that her own name would be inseparably linked with that of Mechtilde. With that of St. Gertrude, the body of St. Mechtilde most probably still reposes at Old Helfta thought the exact spot is unknown. Her feast is kept 26 or 27 February in different congregations and monasteries of her order, by special permission of the Holy See.There is another honour, inferior certainly to that of sanctity, yet great in itself and worthy of mention here: the homage of a transcendent genius was to be laid at the feet of St. Mechtilde. Critics have long been perplexed as to one of the characters introduced by Dante in his "Purgatorio" under the name of Matelda. After ascending seven terraces of a mountain, on each of which the process of purification is carried on, Dante, in Canto xxvii, hears a voice singing: "Venite, benedicti patris mei"; then later, in Canto xxviii, there appears to him on the opposite bank of the mysterious stream a lady, solitary, beautiful, and gracious. To her Dante addresses himself; she it is who initiates him into secrets, which it is not given to Virgil to penetrate, and it is to her that Beatrice refers Dante in the words: "Entreat Matilda that she teach thee this." Most commentators have identified Matilda with the warrior-Countess of Tuscany, the spiritual daughter and dauntless champion of St. Gregory VII, but all agree that beyond the name the two have little or nothing in common. She is no Amazon who, at Dante's prayer that she may draw nearer to let him understand her song, turns towards him "not otherwise than a virgin that droppeth her modest eyes". In more places than one the revelations granted to the mystics of Helfta seem in turn to have become the inspirations of the Florentine poet. All writers on Dante recognize his indebtedness to St. Augustine, the Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bernard, and Richard of St. Victor. These are precisely the writers whose doctrines had been most assimilated by the mystics of Helfta, and thus they would the more appeal to the sympathies of the poet. The city of Florence was among the first to welcome St. Mechtilde's book. Now Dante, like all true poets, was a child of his age, and could not have been a stranger to a book which was so popular among his fellow-citizens. The "Purgatorio" was finished between 1314 and 1318, or 1319 --just about the time when St. Mechtilde's book was popular. This interpretation is supported by the fact that St. Mechtilde in her "Book of Special Grace" (pt. I, c. xiii) describes the place of purification under the same figure of a seven-terraced mountain. The coincidence of the simile and of the name, Matelda, can scarcely be accidental. For another among many points of resemblance between the two writers compare "Purgatorio", Canto xxxi, where Dante is drawn by Matelda through the mysterious stream with pt. II, c. ii. of the "Liber Specialis Gratiae". The serene atmosphere which seems to cling about the gracious and beautiful songstress, her virgin modesty and simple dignity, all seem to point to the recluse of Helfta rather than to the stern heroine of Canossa, whose hand was thrice bestowed in marriage. Besides, in politics Dante, as an ardent Ghibelline, supported the imperial pretensions and he would have been little inclined to sing the praises of the Tuscan Countess. The conclusion may therefore be hazarded that this "Donna Matelda" of the "Purgatorio" personifies St. Mechtilde as representing mystic theology.

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