VIOLENCE IS CONTRARY TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
At midday today, the third Sunday of Lent, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope commented on today’s reading from the Gospel of St. John which recounts how Jesus drove animal sellers and money changers from the Temple, arousing great wonder among His disciples and the people. “How must we interpret this gesture?” the Pope asked. “First of all we must note that it did not cause any reaction from the guardians of public order, because it was seen as a typically prophetical act. Prophets, in fact, in the name of God often denounced abuses, sometimes with symbolic gestures. If anything, the problem was their authority. That is why the Jews asked Jesus ‘what sign can you show us for doing this?’ In other words, show us that you are truly acting in God’s name.
“The cleansing of the Temple has also been interpreted as a political-revolutionary gesture,” the Holy Father added, “with Jesus being seen as part of the Zealots movement. The Zealots were, indeed, ‘zealous’ for the law of God and ready to use violence to ensure it was respected. In Jesus’ time they were awaiting a Messiah who would free Israel from Roman rule. But Jesus disappointed that hope, causing some disciples to abandon Him, while Judas Iscariot even betrayed Him. The truth is that it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God. It is an instrument of the Antichrist. Violence never serves man, but dehumanizes him.”
“The words Jesus used while accomplishing His gesture — ‘Take these things our of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ — reminded His disciples of the words of the Psalm: ‘It is zeal for your house that has consumed me.’ The Psalm is a cry for help in a situation of extreme danger caused by the hatred of enemies, which is what Jesus would experience in His passion. Zeal for the Father and His house would take Him to the cross. His is the zeal of the love which pays in person, not that which seeks to serve God through violence. Indeed, the ‘sign’ Jesus would give as proof of His authority would be His death and resurrection. ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,’ which St. John glosses with the words: ‘he was speaking of the temple of his body.’ At Easter Jesus inaugurated a new cult: the cult of love, and a new temple: Himself, the risen Christ, through Whom all believers can adore God the Father ‘in spirit and truth.’”
“The Holy Spirit began to build this temple in the Virgin’s womb,” Benedict XVI concluded. “Through her intercession let us pray that each Christian may become a living stone in this spiritual building.”
Following the Marian prayer the Pope launched an appeal for the people of Madagascar who have been suffering the devastating effects of tropical storms, the most recent of which left at least seventy dead and many missing, as well as causing material damage affecting 70,000 people.
“My thoughts go,” he said, “to the dear people of Madagascar who have recently been struck by violent natural calamities that caused serious damage to people, infrastructures and crops. While giving assurances of my prayers for the victims and for their sorely tried families, I encourage the international community to send aid.”
POPE AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY TOGETHER CELEBRATE FEAST OF ST. GREGORY THE GREAT
This evening the Holy Father presided at Vespers in the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio, in a ceremony marking the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of the mother house of the Camaldolese Order of St. Benedict, the Feast of the Transit of St, Gregory, and the visit to Rome of His Grace Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion.
Following readings from the Psalms and the Gospel, Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury each pronounced a homily.
“Today’s celebration is,” the Pope said, “marked by a profoundly ecumenical character which, as we know, is part and parcel of the modern Camaldolese spirit. This Roman Camaldolese monastery has developed with Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, especially since the Vatican Council II, links that now qualify as traditional. Today, for the third time, the Bishop of Rome is meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury in the home of St. Gregory the Great. And it is right that it should be so, because it was from this monastery that Pope Gregory chose Augustine and his forty monks and sent them to bring the Gospel to the Angles, a little over 1,400 years ago.”
The Holy Father recalled how St. Gregory’s “blameless ministry” was “full of zeal for the Gospel. Truly, what St. Paul wrote of himself applies equally to Gregory: the grace of God in him has not been fruitless. This, indeed, is the secret for the lives of every one of us: to welcome God’s grace and to consent with all our heart and all our strength to its action. This is also the secret of true joy and profound peace.”
“At the root of everything, is the grace of God, the gift of the call, the mystery of the encounter with the living Jesus. But this grace demands a response from those who have been baptised: it requires the commitment to be re-clothed in Christ’s sentiments: tenderness, goodness, humility, meekness, magnanimity, mutual forgiveness, and above all . . . ‘agape,’ the love that God has given us through Jesus, the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts.”
Pope Benedict went on to recall that the Camaldolese Order “has completed a thousand years of history, feeding daily on the word of God and the Eucharist, as their founder St. Romuald taught them, according to the ‘triplex bonum’ of solitude, community life and evangelization.” He also mentioned the order’s many saints, blesseds and martyrs, men of learning, historians and pastors of the Church “exemplary men and women of God” who “have revealed the horizons and the great fruitfulness of the Camaldolese tradition.”
The Holy Father completed his homily by expressing the hope that “all the faithful, both Catholic and Anglican, . . . as they visit the glorious tombs of the holy apostles and martyrs in Rome, may renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity, and to live fully in accordance with the “ut unum sint” that Jesus addressed to the Father.”
In his remarks, Archbishop Williams referred to the “certain yet imperfect” communion between the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Both, he said, share “a vision of the restoration of full sacramental communion, of a Eucharistic life that is fully visible, and thus a witness that is fully credible, so that a confused and tormented world may enter into the welcome and transforming light of Christ.” At the same time, “our recognition of the one Body in each other’s corporate life is unstable and incomplete; yet without such ultimate recognition we are not yet fully free to share the transforming power of the Gospel in Church and world.”
At the end of Vespers the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury entered the Chapel of St. Gregory where they lit two candles to honour the memory of St. Gregory the Great and of St. Augustine of Canterbury.
PRESENTATION OF PONTIFICAL YEARBOOK 2012
This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs, presented the Holy Father with the 2012 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio” or pontifical yearbook, and the “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.” Also present were the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volumes.
A note concerning the presentation highlights some of the facts contained in the new edition. In 2011, the Pope erected eight new episcopal sees, one personal ordinariate and one military ordinariate. One archdiocese and eight dioceses were elevated to the rank of metropolitan see; one prelature, one apostolic vicariate and one apostolic prefecture were elevated to the rank of diocese, and one “sui iuris” mission was elevated to the rank of apostolic prefecture.
The statistical information, which refers to the year 2010, reveals details about the Catholic Church in the 2,966 ecclesiastical circumscriptions on the planet. The number of Catholics in the world moved from 1,181 million in 2009 to 1,196 million in 2010, an increase of fifteen million faithful, corresponding to a growth of 1.3 percent. Over the last two years the presence of baptised Catholics in the world has remained stable at around 17.5 per cent.
The number of Catholics with respect to the total population varies considerably between the continents. Their numbers have dropped in South America (from 28.54 per cent to 28.34 per cent) and in Europe (from 24.05 per cent to 23.83 per cent), while they have increased in Africa (from 15.15 per cent to 15.55 per cent) and in South-East Asia (from 10.47 per cent to 10.87 per cent).
The number of bishops went from 5,065 to 5,104, a growth of 0.77 per cent. This increase involved Africa (sixteen new bishops), America (fifteen) and Asia (twelve), while numbers fell slightly in Europe (from 1,607 to 1,606) and in Oceania (from 132 to 129).
The steady increase in the number of priests which began in the year 2000 has continued. In 2010 their numbers stood at 412,236, composed of 227,009 diocesan priests and 135,227 regular priests; whereas in 2009 they numbered 410,593 (275,542 diocesan and 135,051 regular). The number of clergy has increased in Asia (by 1695), Africa (765), Oceania (52) and the Americas (42), while their numbers have fallen by 905 in Europe.
Numbers of permanent deacons have increased by 3.7 per cent, from 38,155 in 2009 to 39,564 in 2010. They are present above all in North America and Europe, which respectively represent 64.3 per cent and 33.2 per cent of the world total.
The negative tendency in the number of non-ordained male religious reversed, as their number passed from 54,229 in 2009 to 54,665 in 2010. Numbers fell by 3.5 per cent in South America and by 0.9 per cent in North America, in Europe they remained stationary while Asia and Africa saw an increase of 4.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.
The number of female religious is undergoing a strong decline, moving from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010. Numbers fell by 2.9 per cent in Europe, by 2.6 per cent in Oceania and by 1.6 per cent the Americas. Nonetheless they increased by around 2 per cent in both Africa and Asia
The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries has increased constantly over the last five years, from 114,439 in 2005 to 111,990 in 2010, a growth of 4 per cent.
Numbers of major seminarians have fallen by 10.4 per cent in Europe, and by 1.1 per cent in the Americas, but are increasing in Africa (14.2 per cent,) Asia (13 per cent) and Oceania (12.3 per cent).
BOOK ON THE CHALLENGES OF NEW EVANGELIZATION IN LATIN AMERICA
The Pontifical Commission for Latin America has recently published a work entitled “Reflections on New Evangelisation in Latin America: Challenges and Priorities.” The book, 130 pages long, is the outcome of a study day organised by the commission which took place on 11 November 2011.
The book begins with an introduction by Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and includes the text of three lectures delivered during the course of the study day: “New Evangelization in the Light of the Pontifical Magisterium” by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation; “From the Evangelization of Jesus Christ to the Continental Mission as New Evangelization” by Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales, secretary of the Latin American Episcopal Council, and “New Evangelization in Latin America Today: Challenges and Priorities” by Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. There then follows a list of forty-one recommendations for new evangelisation on the American continent.
The work will be sent to all members and counsellors of the commission, to the bishops of Latin America and to the prefects and presidents of the various dicasteries and offices of the Roman Curia.
A communique from the pontifical commission accompanying today’s publication states that the book contains “a number of useful contributions to that ‘new evangelisation’ which has been repeatedly invoked by John Paul II and by Benedict XVI, . . . and which found a significant response in the ‘continental mission’ launched during the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean held in 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil. That mission is in the process of being accomplished.” The book also “aims to contribute to the many discussions and reflections which are taking place in view of the forthcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, . . . and the subsequent Year of Faith.”
HOLY SEE PARTICIPATES IN THE WORLD WATER FORUM
The Holy See has sent a delegation to participate in the Sixth World Water Forum, being held in the French city of Marseille from 12 to 17 March. For the occasion the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has prepared a document entitled: “Water, an Element Essential for Life.”
The text highlights how, despite a certain amount of progress, a large part of the world population still does not enjoy guaranteed access to potable water. The document also underscores the need for improved management of water resources by public authorities, private sector operators and civil society, and invites those bodies to act with responsibility, sobriety and solidarity, while taking account of the principles of justice and subsidiarity.
The World Water Fora are organised every three years by the World Water Council. They bring together private and State entities, as well as representatives of various associations, to analyse and develop a long term vision of the status and utilisation of this indispensable resource.
The Holy Father today received in audience:
• Thirteen prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on their “ad limina” visit:
• Archbishop Jerome George Hanus O.S.B. of Dubuque.
• Bishop Martin John Amos of Davenport.
• Bishop Richard Edmund Pates of Des Moines, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Joseph Leo Charron C.PP.S.
• Bishop Ralph Walker Nickless of Sioux City.
• Archbishop Robert James Carlson of Saint Louis, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice, and by former Auxiliary Bishop Robert Joseph Hermann.
• Bishop John Raymond Gaydos of Jefferson City.
• Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Raymond James Boland.
• Bishop James Vann Johnston of Springfield-Cape Giradeau, accompanied by Bishop emeritus John Joseph Leibrecht.
• Frere Alois, prior of Taize.
• His Grace Rowan Williams, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion.
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
The Holy Father:
• Appointed Archbishop Francesco Alfano of Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi – Conza – Nusco – Bisaccia, Italy, as archbishop of Sorrento-Casellamare di Stabia (area 205, population 240,900, Catholics 240,000, priests 169, permanent deacons 6, religious 501), Italy. He succeeds Archbishop Felice Cece, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
• Appointed Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of the formal renewal of the archbishopric of Prague, due to take place on 12 May.
• Appointed Archbishop Mario Roberto Cassari, apostolic nuncio to Croatia, as apostolic nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.