You have come to wish me goodnight and I thank you from the deep of my heart; but now you must let me go to sleep, otherwise the night would not be a good one and we have tomorrow ahead of us. This is how Benedict XVI spoke to the young who had gathered under the apostolic nunciature, where he is staying to serenade him at the end of the first day of his apostolic journey in Portugal. In greeting the young, the Pontiff said he appreciated their lively, numerous attendance of the Eucharist on Terreiro do Paço, evidence of their faith and their will to build the future on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for the joyful testimony you offer to Christ, the eternally young, and for the care you have taken of His poor Vicar on earth with this evening meeting. Then, Benedict XVI said he feels great joy in being able to join the multitude of the pilgrims of Fatima on the occasion of the X anniversary of the Beatification of Francesco and Giacinta. With the help of the Virgin, they learnt to see the light of God in their heart of hearts and to adore it in their lives. The Pope had already spoken to the young during afternoon Mass, inviting them to look for Jesus, to grow in friendship with Him and receive Him in communion. Testify to everyone your joy for His strong and sweet presence, starting with your peers.
At the end of Mass on Terreiro do Paço di Lisboa, Benedict XVI recalled the monument to Christ the King, near the closing of the celebrations for its 50th anniversary. Built at the gates of Lisbon, Christ the King was born as a national project with the vow taken by the Portuguese bishops who in Fatima, on 20 April 1940, committed themselves to build a great work to the Sacred Heart of Jesus if Portugal did not get into war. The vow was granted. I would like to point out to the new generations - the Pope said - the examples of hope in God and loyalty to a vow that the Bishops and the Christian devotees of that time left us, engraved into it, as a sign of love and gratitude for the preservation of peace in Portugal. From there, the image of Christ stretches out His arms to hug the whole of Portugal, as if reminding it of the Cross on which Jesus obtained the peace of the universe and manifested Himself as King and servant, because He is the true Saviour of mankind. In its role as a sanctuary - he concluded -, may it increasingly become a place in which every devotee may see how the criteria of the Kingdom of Christ are engraved into their life of baptismal consecration to promote the building of love, justice and peace with social actions in support of the poor and the oppressed.
Nevertheless, he warned, we are often anxiously concerned about the social, cultural and political consequences of faith, taking for granted that this faith exists, which unfortunately is becoming less the case. Too much trust has been placed in the Churchs programmes and structure, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if the salt loses its taste? To avoid this, we need to proclaim with renewed strength the event of Christs death and resurrection. Christs resurrection assures us that no opposition can ever destroy the Church. There is then a vast and capillary effort to be made so that each Christian is transformed into a witness able to give a reason to everyone, and always, of the hope that is in him. The Pope recalled that Portugal has earned itself a glorious place among nations for his contribution to the spreading of faith: the missionary action of Portuguese people has given rise to local Churches in the five continents of the world. May you contribute with your religious and cultural identity to the building of the European community today as in the past.
Although some of her children are quarrelsome and even rebellious, it is in the Saints that the Church recognises her characteristic traits and, in them, savours her deepest joy. What they all have in common is their willingness to incarnate the Gospel in their lives. Benedict XVI recalled the example of Portuguese saints such as St. Verissimus, Sts. Maxima and Julia, St. Vincent, St. Anthony, St. John of Brito and St. Nuno of Saint Mary, to remind the Portuguese Church that whoever believes in Jesus will not be disappointed: this is the Word of God, who is not mistaken and cannot deceive us. During the mass celebrated at Lisbons Terreiro do Paco Square at the end oh his first day of visit to Portugal, the Pontiff declared: her gaze fixed on her Saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that her pastoral priority today is to make of every Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the evangelical outlook in the world, in the family, in culture, in economy, in politics. (continued)
Right now, the big challenge is that the two meet each other, so that they find their true identity. It is one of Europes missions and a human need, in this history of ours. Then, Benedict XVI lingered on the economic crisis that risks undermining the very stability of the European Community. Taking his cue from the Social Doctrine of the Church that calls economic positivism to establish a dialogue with an ethical view of economy, the Pope also confessed that the Catholic faith has often left, in the past, the economic issues to the world, thinking only of personal salvation. All the tradition of the Social Doctrine of the Church - the Pontiff explained - goes in the direction of expanding the ethical dimension and the dimension of the faith beyond the individual, to the responsibilities of the world, to a ‘performed rationality of ethics. And after all the events that have happened on the markets over the last two-three years have proven that the ethical dimension is an internal one and must enter into the economic action. Only thus will Europe accomplish its mission. (continued)
Then, speaking of the clerical sex abuse scandal, Benedict XVI did not mince his words: not only the Pope and the Church are attacked by external parties, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a really appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church therefore deeply needs to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need of justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.
Secularisation, the economic crisis and its consequences on Europe, these plus a reflection on the wounds caused to the Church by the sex abuse scandals are some of the topics addressed by Benedict XVI, in his meeting with the press on the Alitalia Airbus 320 that was taking him to Portugal for his 15th international trip. Speaking of the actual secularisation of Portugal, once so deeply Catholic, Benedict XVI, as reported by the Vatican Radio, admitted first of all that over the centuries it has experienced a brave, intelligent and creative faith, as proven by Portugal in many other parts of the world as well, for instance in Brazil. Although he pointed out that the dialectics between faith and secularism in Portugal has a long history, however there have been lots of people, the Pope said, who were willing to cast bridges, to establish a dialogue between the two positions. A still relevant task: the mission of Europe - the Pope explained - in this situation is finding this dialogue, integrating faith and modern reason into one anthropological view that fulfils the human being and makes the human cultures communicable too. The presence of secularism is normal, but the separation, the opposition between secularism and the culture of faith is abnormal and must be overcome. (continued)
By separating Church and State, the Republican revolution which took place 100 years ago in Portugal - explained the Pope - opened up a new area of freedom for the Church, to which the two concordats of 1940 and 2004 would give shape, in cultural settings and ecclesial perspectives profoundly marked by rapid change. For the most part, the sufferings caused by these transformations have been faced with courage, he said. Living amid a plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks requires a journey to the core of ones being and to the nucleus of Christianity so as to reinforce the quality of ones witness to the point of sanctity, and to find mission paths that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom. Recalling the apparitions at Fatima, Benedict XVI went on to highlight that the relationship with God is constitutive of the human being, who was created and ordered towards God; he seeks truth by means of his cognitive processes, he tends towards the good in the sphere of volition, and he is attracted by beauty in the aesthetic dimension. Consciousness is Christian to the degree to which it opens itself to the fullness of life and wisdom that we find in Jesus Christ. The visit that I am now beginning under the sign of hope is intended as a proposal of wisdom and mission.
In the first speech of his trip to Portugal, which began today (until May 14), Benedict XVI recalled that sound laws in society come from a wise vision of life and of the world. The Church, within history, is open to collaboration with those who do not downplay, nor reduce to the private sphere, the fundamental consideration of the human meaning of life. Welcomed at Lisbon international airport by the president of the Portuguese Republic, Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, the Pope, who comes as a pilgrim of Our Lady of Fatima, reaffirmed that it is not a question of ethical confrontation between a lay system and a religious system, but rather a question of meaning entrusted to the freedom of every one. What makes the difference is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implications in public life. (continued)
For the Church of Portugal, instead, the greatest challenge is to take the Christian faith seriously. In the West of the future - the Patriarch comments -, Christians will be fewer and fewer but they will have greater impact on society as they will be more aware and more able to spiritually resist the surrounding secularisation. But, to do this, priests and lay people will have to be believable witnesses and have the strength of the testimony that touches the hearts, as the first Christians had. As to the serious situation of the sex abuses, the Patriarch says that, thanks God in Portugal there is no reported case of paedophilia within the Church. And he adds a word of hope: may this very sad crisis bring about a new beginning for the Church.
An apostolic journey inspired by good relations between the Catholic Church and the State. This is highlighted by card. José da Cruz Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon, in an interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix published today, while Pope Benedict XVI is flying to the capital of Portugal, which he will visit for the next 4 days. The politicians of Portugal -Patriarch Policarpo says - acknowledge the importance of what the Church states, and relations between the bishops and the president and the government are good. As to the difficult economic situation of the country, the Patriarch says: What worries me most is that, with this crisis, a large number of unemployed people might never find a job again. (SEGUE)
According to the chairman of the Synod, speaking in general, calling for instance to peace and mutual openness or being ‘politically correct, is not enough. Countries and regimes of the Middle East should persuade the Western world that their citizens, all citizens, have the same rights and enjoy, in truth and in practice, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, which are fundamental rights for the survival of the Christian communities which are entitled, without misunderstandings, to be respected as veritable citizens. Otherwise - the patriarch concludes - the exodus of Christians will go on and will become extremely critical, with no going back.
The next Episcopal Synod of the Middle East (10-24 October 2010) for the Eastern Churches plays an almost historical role. The evangelical message, as it has to be embodied in the socio-political environment, needs margins of freedom for everyone, and therefore also for the so-called Christian minorities that have been rooted in the Eastern land for millenniums. This was stated in an interview with SIR (on line at Agensir.it) by the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians (Lebanon), Ignace Youssif III Younan, who will chair the Synod, along with card. Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. Speaking of the subject of the meeting, The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and testimony, the patriarch insists that, while on one hand the Eastern Churches are experiencing communion better than in the past, on the other hand the testimony is being increasingly banned by the Islamic majority, and I am speaking in particular of freedom of conscience and the freedom to publicly announce the Gospel without being accused of doing proselytism. (continued)