Vatican today — April 16, 2012

BENEDICT XVI RECEIVES CONGRATULATIONS FROM CARDINALS AND BISHOPS

Benedict XVI today celebrates his eighty-fifth birthday. He was born in the German village of Marktl am Inn on 16 April 1927. Later this week, on Thursday 19 April, he will also celebrate the seventh anniversary of his election to the Papacy. For these two occasions, a Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated this morning in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals and a group of bishops from the Pope’s native region of Bavaria.

Before the Eucharistic celebration, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, addressed some words to the Holy Father.

“Seven years ago,” he said, “the Lord called you to a great gesture of love, asking you, as one day He did Peter: ‘If you love me, feed my lambs, tend my sheep.’ With the generosity you have always shown, you pronounced your ‘yes’ and thus began your Petrine ministry. Today, on the occasion of your birthday, we wish to thank you for the solicitude with which you carry out this service of love. It is no coincidence that your first Encyclical was a hymn to the Love that is God, the love which must always animate pastors, who are called to bring the light of God, the warmth of His love, into the world.

“Holy Father, may the Lord continue to remain at your side, accomplishing the promise announced by God to the just man in Psalm 90: ‘With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.'”

After presiding at the Eucharist, Benedict XVI greeted the Bavarian bishops and received a delegation from the civil authorities of that region.

THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS THE RESULT OF HIS VICTORY OVER EVIL

Before praying the Regina Coeli this morning, Benedict XVI reminded the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that today, the second Sunday of Easter, is known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

In His two apparitions to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, Jesus often repeated the greeting “peace be with you.” Following the resurrection, the Pope explained, this traditional salute became “the gift of that peace which only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of His victory over evil. The ‘peace’ which Jesus offered His friends is the fruit of the love of God, which led Him to die on the cross and to spill His blood as a mild and humble Lamb ‘full of grace and truth’. This is why Blessed John Paul II chose to dedicate the Sunday after Easter to Divine Mercy.”

From the risen and living Christ “come the Paschal Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Those who receive these Sacraments receive the gift of eternal life,” said the Holy Father. He also noted how Christian worship is essentially “a meeting with the risen Lord, Who lives in the dimension of God, beyond time and space, yet at the same time is truly present in the community. He speaks to us of Sacred Scripture and breaks with us the Bread of eternal life. Through these signs we have the same experience as the disciples: to see Jesus and at the same time not to recognize Him.”

In conclusion the Pope invited believers to welcome the gift offered by the risen Christ. “Let us allow our hearts to be filled by His Mercy,” he said. “In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which caused Jesus to arise from the dead, we too can take these Paschal gifts to others.”

Following the Marian prayer, the Pope told the faithful: “On Thursday, the seventh anniversary of my election to the Chair of Peter, I ask you to pray for me, that the Lord may give me the strength to carry out the mission with which He has entrusted me.”

THE HOLY ROBE, SYMBOL OF THE CHURCH’S INDIVISIBLE UNITY

Thousands of pilgrims are currently converging on the cathedral of Trier, Germany, for the fifth centenary of the first public display of the “Heiliger Rock,” said to be the Holy Robe which Jesus wore before His crucifixion and for which, according to the Gospel of St. John, the Roman soldiers cast lots.

According to tradition, part of this robe was found by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who gave it to St. Agricius, archbishop of Trier. The faithful were able to see it for the first time in 1512 when the emperor Maximilian I asked Archbishop Richard von Greiffenklau of Trier to put it on public display.

For the inauguration of the pilgrimage, which will last until 13 May, Benedict XVI has sent a message to Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier. The document bears the date of 6 April, Good Friday.

The Holy Father recalls how St. John says that the tunic was a single seamless piece of cloth, for which reason the soldiers decided not to tear it but to cast lots. “The Church Fathers saw in this the unity of the Church, founded as one indivisible community by the love of Christ,” the Pope says. “The Saviour’s love brings together that which has been divided. . . . Moreover, the Robe of Christ is ‘woven in one piece from the top.’ This too is an image of the Church, which lives not thanks to her own efforts but because of the action of God. As one indivisible community she is a work of God, not the result of man’s abilities. At the same time, the Holy Robe is a monition to the Church to remain faithful to her origins, in the awareness that her unity, consensus, effectiveness and witness . . . can only be a gift of God.”

Finally, the Holy Father writes, “the Holy Robe is not a toga, an elegant garment expressing a social function; it is a modest habiliment which serves to cover and protect the person wearing it, to protect his propriety. It is the undivided gift of the Crucified Christ to the Church which He sanctified with His blood. For this reason the Holy Robe reminds the Church of her own dignity. . . . We must be constantly open to conversion and humility, in order to be disciples of the Lord in love and truth. At the same time, the special dignity and integrity of the Church cannot be sold short and abandoned to the clamour and the summary judgement of public opinion.”

Concluding his message the Pope notes that “the jubilee pilgrimage has taken as its motto an invocation of the Lord: ‘Lead to unity that which is divided.’ We do not want to be isolated. We want to ask the Lord to guide us on the shared path of faith, to make it live again for us. In this way — growing together as Christians in faith, prayer and witness, and amidst of the trials of our time — we will be able to proclaim His magnificence and His goodness.”

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE DIRECTOR SPEAKS ABOUT THE ORLANDI CASE

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued a note concerning news which has appeared recently in Italian media outlets about the Vatican and the Emanuela Orlandi case. Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of an employee of Vatican City State and herself a Vatican citizen, disappeared on 22 June 1983 at the age of 15. Her disappearance has given rise to much speculation over the last thirty years. Among other theories, it has been conjectured that the case was related to the assassination attempt against John Paul II in 1981, and that it involved secret services or groups active in the Roman underworld of the time. In 2008 an Italian television programme transmitted information suggesting that Emanuela Orlandi’s remains may be buried in the same grave as the leader of one of those criminal gangs.

Extracts from Fr. Lombardi’s note are given below.

“It should be recalled that Pope John Paul II demonstrated particular personal interest in this tragic abduction, intervening publicly on various occasions (no fewer than eight in less than a year) with appeals for the liberation of Emanuela. He also went in person to visit the family. . . . This personal commitment of the Pope was naturally backed up by the commitment of his collaborators. Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, secretary of State and therefore the Pope’s main collaborator, followed events personally, and made a special telephone available line for contact with the kidnappers.

“As has been stated in the past, and is still maintained by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re — then assessor of the Secretariat of State and today the main and most authoritative witness from that time — both the Secretariat of State and the Governorate did everything possible to deal with the painful situation by collaborating with the Italian authorities, who obviously had responsibility for the investigations as the abduction took place in Italy. The complete readiness to collaborate on the part of people holding positions of responsibility within the Vatican at the time is proven by the facts and the circumstances. . . . All the letters and information which reached the Vatican were immediately passed on to Inspector Sica at the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican, and are presumably still held in the competent Italian judicial offices.

“Likewise in the second phase of the investigation, years later, the three rogatory letters send to the Vatican authorities by Italian investigators . . . all received a response.” At the request of the Italian judges numerous people were interrogated in the Vatican and their declarations sent to the authorities concerned. “The relevant files still exist and remain at the disposal of investigators. It should also be pointed out that at the time of Emanuela’s abduction, the Vatican authorities granted Italian investigators of SISDE (the Italian secret service) authorisation to place the telephone line of the Orlandi family under surveillance, and gave them free access to the Vatican allowing them to go to the Orlandi home without mediation by Vatican functionaries. It is not, then, correct to accuse the Vatican of having refused to collaborate with the Italian investigative authorities.”

“The main issue is that, unfortunately, no information useful for the solution of the case . . . was found in the Vatican. At that time the Vatican authorities, on the basis of messages they received referring to Ali Agca — a period which effectively coincided with the investigation on the attack against the Pope — shared the prevailing opinion that the kidnapping was used by an obscure criminal organisation to send a message or to apply pressure in relation to the incarceration and interrogation of the Pope’s attacker.

“There was no reason to imagine other possible motives for the kidnapping. Attributing knowledge of secrets related to the abduction, allegedly possessed by people belonging to Vatican institutions, but without giving any names, is neither a reliable nor well-founded way to proceed. At times it almost seems to be a pretext against the anguish and frustration of not being able to discover the truth.

“In conclusion, . . . it has not emerged that there is anything hidden, nor that there are ‘secrets’ to be revealed in the Vatican. Continuing to affirm the contrary is completely unjustified.”

“Finally, since the location of the grave of Enrico De Pedis in the basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Rome has given, and continues to give rise to questions and discussion, over and above any links he may have had with the Orlandi case, we reiterate that the Church has no objection to the opening of the tomb and the burial of the body elsewhere, in order to restore the serenity that is right and just for a holy place.

“To conclude, we would like to draw inspiration from John Paul II’s own intense personal participation in this tragic event, and in the suffering of the family, . . . a suffering unfortunately rekindled every time a new explanation of the case emerges. . . . Alas, many people disappear in Italy every year, and are never heard from again despite searches and enquiries; yet the affair of this young and innocent Vatican citizen continues to come under the spotlight. This should not be a reason to attribute the Vatican with a guilt it does not have, but rather an occasion to gain greater awareness of terrible and often forgotten disappearances (especially of young people), and to make every effort to oppose all criminal activity from whatever source.”

FIVE CARDINALS TO TAKE POSSESSION OF TITLES, DIACONATES

A note released today by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff provides details concerning the taking of possession of the following titles and diaconates:

Cardinal Prosper Grech O.S.A., will take possession of the diaconate of Santa Maria Goretti in Via di Santa Maria Goretti 29, Rome, at 6 p.m. on Saturday 21 April.

Cardinal Karl Josef Becker S.J., will take possession of the diaconate of San Giuliano Martire in Via Cassia 1036, Rome, at 11 a.m. on Sunday 22 April.

Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, penitentiary major, will take possession of the diaconate of San Domenico di Guzman in Via Vincenzo Marmorale 25, Rome, at 11.15 a.m. on Sunday 22 April.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong, China, will take possession of the title of title of Regina Apostolorum in Via Antonino Pio 75, Rome, at 11.30 a.m. on Sunday 22 April.

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, will take possession of the diaconate of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami in Clivo Argentario 1, Rome, at 5 p.m. on Thursday 26 April.

AUDIENCES

The Holy Father today received in audience Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria, Germany.

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

The Holy Father appointed:

• Archbishop Marek Solczynski, apostolic nuncio to Georgia and Armenia, also as apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan.

• As consultors of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Msgr. Luis Manuel Cuna Ramos, Fr. Filippo Urso, Fr. Wojciech Giertych O.P., Fr. Antonio Escudero Cabello S.D.B., Fr. Marek Rostkowsi O.M.I., Fr. Alfonso Amarante C.SS.R., Sr. Albarosa Ines Bassani S.V.D.I., and Sr. Grazia Loparco F.M.A.

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Category: From the Vatican