Wednesday, January 25, 2012








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". (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

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".
AG/ VIS 20120125 (826)


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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RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Below the text of Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul:

Dear brothers and sisters! It is with great joy that I extend my warm greetings to all of you who have gathered in this basilica for the liturgical Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in this year when we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, that the Blessed John XXIII announced in this very basilica on January 25, 1959. The theme offered for our meditation in the Week of prayer which we conclude today, is: "All shall be changed by the victory of Jesus Christ our Lord" (cf. 1 Cor 15.51-58).

The meaning of this mysterious transformation, which our second short reading this evening speaks about, is admirably shown in the personal story of St. Paul. Following the extraordinary event happened on the road to Damascus, Saul, who was distinguished for the zeal with which he persecuted the early Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the story of this extraordinary evangelist, it is clear that this transformation is not the result of a long inner reflection and not even the result of personal effort. It is first and foremost by the grace of God who has acted according to his inscrutable ways. This is why Paul, writing to the Corinthian community a few years after his conversion, says, as we heard in the first reading for these Vespers: "By the grace of God, however, that is what I am, and his grace toward me did not been in vain "(1 Cor 15:10). Moreover, considering carefully the story of St. Paul, we understand how the transformation he experienced in his life is not limited to an ethical level - such as conversion from immorality to morality - or the intellectual level - such as a change in our way of understanding reality - but it is rather a radical renewal of our being, similar in many respects to a rebirth. This transformation has its basis in our participation in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and presents itself as a gradual process of being conformed to Him. In light of this awareness, St. Paul, when he later will be called to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic vocation and the gospel preached by him, will say: " It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. "(Gal 2.20).

St. Paul’s personal experience enables him to wait with grounded hope for the fulfillment of this mystery of transformation, which will come to all those who believed in Jesus Christ but also all of humanity and all of creation. In the second short reading that was proclaimed tonight, St. Paul, after a lengthy discussion designed to strengthen the faithful in the hope of the resurrection, he uses traditional images of apocalyptic literature, contemporary to him, and in a few lines describes the great Day of the Last Judgement, on which the destiny of humanity will be accomplished: "In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds... the dead shall be raised imperishable and we shall be changed as well "(1 Cor 15.52). On that day, all believers will be conformed to Christ and all that is corruptible will be transformed by His glory: "our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (v. 53) . So the triumph of Christ will be finally complete, because, says St. Paul, showing how the ancient prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled, death will finally be conquered, and with it, the sin which brought it into the world and the Law which empowers sin without giving the strength to overcome it: "Death is swallowed up in victory. / Where, O death, is your victory? / Where, O death is your sting? / The sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law "(vv. 54-56). St. Paul tells us, therefore, that every man, through baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, shares in the victory of the One who first conquered death, beginning a journey of transformation which shows itself even now in a new life and will culminate at the end of time.

It is very significant that this reading ends with a thanksgiving: "Let us thank God, for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 57). The song of victory over death is transformed into a song of gratitude to the conquerer. And we too this evening, as we raise our evening praises to God, we want to unite our voices, our minds and hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what God's grace has done through the apostle of the Gentiles and for the wonderful plan of salvation that God the Father does in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we lift our prayers to him, we are confident that we will be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. This is particularly true in our prayer for Christian unity. In fact, when we plead for the gift of unity of the disciples of Christ, we make ours the desire expressed by Jesus Christ on the eve of his passion and death in the prayer to his Father: "May they all be one" (Jn 17.21). For this reason, the prayer for Christian unity is nothing less than our participation in the realization of his divine plan for the Church, and our active commitment to the restoration of unity is both a duty and a great responsibility for all.

While experiencing these days the painful situation of our divisions, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope, because Christ's victory means to overcome everything that keeps us from sharing the fullness of life with Him and with others. The resurrection of Jesus Christ confirms that the goodness of God overcomes evil, love overcomes death. He accompanies us in the fight against the destructive power of sin that harms humanity and all of God’s creation. The presence of the risen Christ calls all Christians to act together for the common good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to the places where there is injustice, hatred and despair. Our divisions diminish our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await with active hope and for which we pray with confidence, it is a secondary victory but important for the good of the human family.

In the dominant culture of today, the idea of victory is often associated with immediate success. For the Christian, however, victory is a long and, in the eyes of men, a not always linear process of transformation and growth in goodness. It is achieved according to God's timing, not ours, and requires of us a profound faith and patient endurance. Although the Kingdom of God breaks into history with the resurrection of Jesus, it is not yet fully realized. The final victory will only come with the second coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope. Also our expectation for the visible unity of the Church must be patient and confident. Only in this attitude can our prayers and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation, but a response to be ready and alert to every possibility of communion and brotherhood, which the Lord gives us.

In this spiritual atmosphere, I would like to greet in a special way Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest of this Basilica, the abbot of the Benedictine Community that welcomes us. I greet Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and all the staff of that council. I extend my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and to Rev. Canon Richardson, Personal Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome, as well as all the representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, gathered here this evening. Also, I am particularly pleased to welcome members of the Working Group made up of representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Poland, who prepared the texts for the Week of Prayer this year, to whom I would like to express my gratitude and My wish that they continue on the path of reconciliation and fruitful collaboration. I also warmly greet members of the Global Christian Forum, who are in Rome these days to reflect on the enlargement of their participation in the ecumenical movement. I also greet the group of students of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute of the world Council of Churches.

I wish to entrust to the intercession of St. Paul all those who, with their prayers and their efforts, work for the cause of Christian unity. Although sometimes we may get the impression that the road towards the full restoration of communion is still very long and full of obstacles, I invite everyone to renew their determination to pursue with courage and generosity, the unity that is the will of God, following the example of St. Paul, who faced with difficulties of all kinds, always maintained full confidence in God who brings his work to fruition. Moreover, we can see positive signs of a renewed sense of brotherhood and a shared responsibility toward the great problems that afflict our world. All this is cause for great hope and joy and should encourage us to continue our commitment to reach the finish line together, knowing that in the Lord we cannot be labouring in vain(cf. 1 Cor 15.58).


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.


BY: Miriam Westen
Over 500,000 attended the MARCH FOR LIFE 2012 in Washington, DC on Sun. Jan. 22. This massive crowd gathered to honor life from conception to natural death. It is hoped that the legislation will soon be changed to end abortion in the US. They marked the 39th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. (IMAGE SOURCE: This court decision made abortion legal in the USA in 1973. Since that time over 54 million abortions have occurred in the USA. According to the EWTN news service the attendence number of the crowd was confirmed by police. There was an overnight prayer vigil in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with thousands in attendance. Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops provided the homily during the Mass. This annual March has become a large event spanning many days and involving talks, demonstrations, prayer, videos and other activities. Many politicians, clergy, religious, youth and leaders partke every year. Martin Luther King's niece Dr. Alveda King also attended and is part of a large movement in support of life. Last year over 400,000 attended. This year noted a particularly strong youth presence. One Catholic College, Christendom cancelled classes so that the entire school could attend.
The West Coast organized a similar event for the 8th time which gathered over 40, 000 this year.
Before the rally. On Jan. 21 the crowds came to San Francisco. This March began with a Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral with Archbishop George Niederauer presided. (video/image source VIDEO from 2011West Coast:


UCAN REPORT: Posted by Chen Qian

UCAN NEWS REPORT: A few days ago Father Joseph, an underground priest in China, took the time to talk to me about his life and the things that worry him.
It cannot be said that every underground priest in China faces the same challenges as he does, because the nation is too large and too diverse to make any sort of “one size fits all” statement.
Even so, I think his situation reflects a lot of the problems that Chinese Catholics – and indeed Chinese society – are facing. Many of us really are at a crossroads.
And I’m sure you’ll agree that his own story is moving and even inspiring.
Here it is:
“I was called by God when I was young to become a priest. But I am different from some other clergy because I am a priest who belongs to the underground community of the Church in China.
I do not have a fixed diocese or a parish, nor can I administer church services openly. For a long period of time, I wandered around looking for pastoral work.
I have been imprisoned many times and beaten by some very vicious people, who I won’t name. I was misunderstood and spurned, even by family members. But I never abandoned my choice.
The problem now is, I feel perplexed. I find today’s society so different, so strange. I do not know what to do. I cannot help recalling the situation when I was ordained more than ten years ago.
At that time, both the open and underground communities needed young priests urgently. As one of the few young priests of the local diocese, I had a lot of freedom to organize activities. I had a lot of time to evangelize.
There were a lot of laypeople around who came from Catholic families of several generations. This made my pastoral life quite busy but quite settled. I had few worries. It was safe to live at a parishioner’s house and organize parish activities.
Furthermore, I could feel the sense of communion with God and a deep sense of warmth in the big family of the Church.
Nowadays, that sense of belonging has gone and there are fewer and fewer underground Catholics.
First of all, the long-time Catholics who formed the majority of the faithful community have simply grown older. Some of them are sick now, some have passed away.
But the younger generation do not want to stay in a life based around faith and family. They feel this kind of life is tedious and not dynamic. It also places a higher demand on their sense of virtue and they’re tired of it.
Also, if you look at it from the Church’s point of view, there are more young priests in the open community than in the underground. They have received better formation, they are more knowledgeable and they are very enthusiastic. Because they can celebrate Mass publicly, the liturgy is more lively and passionate. And this attracts many young Catholics from the underground community.
Many underground priests like me feel perplexed and hesitated. They would love to find a good diocese and parish so they can settle down, but the future is so uncertain.
Most importantly, they hope there will be unity and communion soon between the underground and open communities so the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church can become a reality in the Church in China.”
We are sure you will join us in wishing Father Joseph the very best and hoping his prayers will be answered.


JCE REPORT: Paris, France held its 8th annual MARCH FOR LIFE on Jan. 22, 2012. These people which numbered over 30,000 gathered in defence of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. The Church leaders also were in support of the event. This includes the Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Cardinal Barbarin and 32 other bishops. In fact Pope Benedict XVI also sent messages of encouragement to the March participants and organizers. Thus, the attendance of the event increased significantly.



By Fiona Basile

Kairos Catholic Journal

About 120 people gathered at Australian Catholic University on Sunday night for the opening of the 8th National Colloquium for Catholic Bioethicists, hosted by the Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists.

View gallery

Bishop-FisherThe theme for this year’s colloquium–held from 22-25 January–is ‘Agent Neutrality and Moral Cooperation’. Bishop of Parramatta, Most Reverend Dr Anthony Fisher OP addressed Sunday night's public forum on ‘The Catholic Hospital: The Ideal and the Pragmatic’. Following Bishop Fisher’s talk, His Excellency Sir James Gobbo, AC CVO KStJ KCSG QC launched Bishop Fisher’s book, Catholic Bioethics For A New Millennium.

Bishop-FisherCatholic health-care professionals including doctors, nurses and midwives, members of hospital and clinical ethics committees, researchers, lawyers and politicians were among the attendees at the public forum on Sunday night, as well as at the colloquium itself.

Bishop-FisherProfessor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini is Associate Dean and Head of Bioethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. He said, “The purpose of the national colloquium is to foster discussion and debate amongst bioethicists.”

“We began running colloquia in 2005 hosting a meeting of the International Association of Catholic Bioethicists in that year, at which the international association was established. The Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists was approved by the Bishops Conference in 2007.”

The Association was formed under the aegis of the Order of Malta and in accord with the purposes of the Order to defend the faith and to serve the sick, and in fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

The Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists aims to promote in-depth discussion, research, professional development, and publications on specific issues in bioethics and to foster communication, collaboration and cooperation among Catholic bioethicists and Catholic bioethics institutes throughout Australia.

It also aims to encourage and resource contributions to bioethics and the development of public policy by Catholic health professionals and other professionals in Theology, Philosophy, Biological Science and Law and to be a resource and source of advice for the Australian Catholic Bishops and the leaders of Catholic health and social welfare.

Professor Tonti-Filippini said, “This year’s topic of ‘Agent Neutrality and Moral Cooperation’ is very relevant to the trend in medicine and nursing to require doctors and nurses not to allow their own moral principles and values to guide their professional practice.

“Health professionals are being asked to be guided on the basis of patient autonomy and by the patient's values and the problem with that is that it means the loss of the Hippocratic tradition in which a health profession is a vocation, and in which health professionals seek to provide treatment and advice on the basis of evidence, and to serve the health interests of patients.

“It also means that health professionals would not have a right to conscientiously object. It would mean that Catholic hospitals and aged care could not function as Catholic hospitals.”

The colloquium addressed this issue in a number of areas: the role and identity of Catholic institutions, the ethical development of staff, care of the sick and dying, advanced care directives, the new abortion law and fertility management in general practice.

The colloquium brought together a broad range of perspectives and disciplines. The papers were pre-circulated so that presentations could be short and the maximum time could be spent in discussion.

Attendance at the colloquium is limited to those involved in bioethics and the related professions. This year saw the involvement for the first time of people involved in ‘mission direction in Catholic hospitals. The latter are responsible for the development of staff in the mission and ethics’ of Catholic facilities.

For more information about the national colloquium, including the topics and speakers, see

Photos from Sunday's opening night (1-13) by Sharon Walker - On Location Photography

Photos from the colloquium by Fiona Basile, Kairos Catholic Journal


Agenzia Fides report - "It is time to execute our project for the future of the Church of Christ in all of Western Africa", said His Exc. Mgr. Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and President of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA), in his opening speech of the first Assembly of RECOWA, on January 24 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire (see Fides 24/01/2012).
According to the Cardinal, "the project of RECOWA is that of a Church engaged with all its weight for peace, liberty and development, for the pastoral solidarity that is organic in West Africa. It is the project of a church in the front line against all that dehumanize man. It is the project of a church offering all its children the treasure of the Good News".
Cardinal Sarr concluded urging members of the Conference to nurture a firm hope. "Our assembly is already a sign of the victory of the Resurrected. The walls of separation do not extend unto heaven. Our people expect that we bring them love and dignity, justice and peace, reconciliation and joy. We should not be discouraged by the immensity of the task ahead. In Christ our unity is our force".
In his greeting message to the Assembly, His Exc. Mgr. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stressed that the unification of the churches in the region under the umbrella of RECOWA has "the great advantage of treating the call for regional integration not only politically and economically, but also in Church terms". (LM) (Agenzia Fides 25/01/2012)


Conversion of St. Paul
Feast: January 25

Feast Day: January 25
This great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the cause of the Caesars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its privileges and lands; but Augustus when conqueror, made it ample amends by honoring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome, as we read in the two Dions and Appian. Hence St. Paul, being born at Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire. His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses, by Gamaliel, a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point. He appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his life had been in every respect. He embraced the sect of the Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride the most opposite to the humility of the gospel. It was a rule among the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as well as the mind, in something serious. It is therefore probable that Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his apostleship, of making tents.

Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ. He was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to have stoned him by the hands of all the rest6 to whose prayers for his enemies he ascribes the conversion of St. Paul: "If Stephen," said he, "had not prayed, the church would never have had St. Paul."

After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison. He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavored by torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as a n enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully persuaded himself that By the violences he committed, his name became everywhere a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they possessed in common, and left them in such extreme necessity, that the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the fury of Saul; he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the other disciples." Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrin for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy: and, moved by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants. for their enemies, changed him,, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel of election, and made him a greater mall in his church by the grace of the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious instrument of his glory. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, about noon, he and his company were ml a sudden surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun. They all saw the light, and being struck with amazement, fell to the ground.. Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but not understood, though heard by the rest : < Saul, Saul, why cost thou persecute me>? Christ said not: Why cost thou persecute my disciples? but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his servants. Saul answered: ? Christ said: :—" to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt yourself." This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out: ? What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and every sort of death. The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of himself, and au heroic victory over the world with its frowns and charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty grace! Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ would not instruct him immediately by himself, but St. Austin observes, sent him to the ministry which he had established in the church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his own name and appointed to be our guides. So perfectly would he abolish in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error and illusion. The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of heavenly things.. He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ seemed to conduct him in triumph. He was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or drinking. He doubtless spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a blasphemer and a persecutor. Though the entire reformation of his heart was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions, but miraculous in the order of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe interior trial (for such we cannot doubt but he went through on this occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary graces which God designed him. There was a Christian of distinction in Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy disciple, and commanded him to go to Saul, who was then in the house of Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer overruled his fears, and charged him a second time to go to him, saying: For tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying his hands upon him, to restore his sight. Ananias, obeying the divine order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said: Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his eyesight. Ananias added: Saul then arose, was baptized, and took some refreshment. He stayed some few days with the disci. pies at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues, that Jesus was the Son of God, to the great astonishment of all that heard him, who said: ? Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen to be one of the principal instruments of God in the conversion of the world.

St. Paul never recalled to mind this his wonderful conversion, without raptures of gratitude and praise to the divine mercy. The church, in thanksgiving to God for such a miracle of his grace, from which it has de rived such great blessings, and to commemorate so miraculous an instance of his almighty power, and to propose to penitents a perfect model of a true conversion has instituted this festival, which we find mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries, and which pope Innocent III. commanded to be observed with great solemnity. It was for some time kept a holy day of obligation in most churches in the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford in 1222 in the reign of king Henry III.



Mark 16: 15 - 18
15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

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