Cimangola Square in Luanda
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the conclusion of our Eucharistic celebration, as my Pastoral Visit to Africa comes to its close, let us now turn to Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, to implore her loving intercession upon us, our families, and our world.
In this Angelus prayer, we recall Mary’s complete “yes” to the will of God. Through Mary’s obedience of faith, the Son of God came into the world to bring us forgiveness, salvation and life in abundance. By becoming a man like us in all things but sin, Christ taught us the dignity and worth of each member of the human family. He died for our sins, to gather us together into God’s family.
Our prayer rises today from Angola, from Africa, and embraces the whole world. May the men and women from throughout the world who join us in our prayer, turn their eyes to Africa, to this great Continent so filled with hope, yet so thirsty for justice, for peace, for a sound and integral development that can ensure a future of progress and peace for its people.
Today I commend to your prayers the work of preparation for the coming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to meet in October. Inspired by faith in God and trust in Christ’s promises, may the Catholics of this Continent become ever more fully a leaven of evangelical hope for all people of good will who love Africa, who are committed to the material and spiritual advancement of its children, and the spread of freedom, prosperity, justice and solidarity in the pursuit of the common good.
May Mary, Queen of Peace, continue to guide Angola’s people in the task of national reconciliation following the devastating and inhuman experience of the civil war. May her prayers obtain for all Angolans the grace of authentic forgiveness, respect for others, and cooperation which alone can carry forward the immense work of rebuilding. May the Holy Mother of God, who points us to her Son, our brother, remind Christians everywhere of our duty to love our neighbour, to be peacemakers, to be the first to forgive those who have sinned against us, even as we have been forgiven.
Here in Southern Africa, let us ask our Lady in a particular way to intercede for peace, the conversion of hearts, and an end to the conflict in the neighbouring Great Lakes region. May her Son, the Prince of Peace, bring healing to the suffering, consolation to those who mourn, and strength to all who carry forward the difficult process of dialogue, negotiation and the cessation of violence.
With this confidence, then, we now turn to Mary, our Mother, and, in reciting this Angelus prayer, let us pray for the peace and salvation of the whole human family.
CELEBRATION OF VESPERS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Cathedral of Our Lady of Light, León
It gives me great joy to be able to pray with all of you in this Basilica-Cathedral of León, dedicated to our Lady of Light. In the lovely painting venerated in this basilica, the Blessed Virgin holds her Son in one hand with immense tenderness while extending her other hand to succour sinners. This is how the Church in every age sees Mary. We praise her for giving us the Redeemer and we put our trust in her as the Mother whom her divine Son bequeathed to us from the Cross. For this reason, we invoke her frequently as “our hope” because she has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. She does so simply, as a mother teaches her children at home.
A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets (cf. Acts 13:27). Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that.
Another of God’s great works is evoked in the second of the psalms which we recited: “the rock” turns into “a pool, and flint into a spring of water” (Psalm 113:8). What might have been a stumbling block and a scandal has, by Jesus’ triumph over death, become a cornerstone: “This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes” (Psalm 117:23). There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need.
I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the Pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ, who has entrusted you with the splendid duty of preaching the Gospel among these peoples of sturdy and deep-rooted Catholic faith. Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint (cf. Romans 5:5).
I thank the Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, President of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference and the Latin American Episcopal Council, for the cordial welcome offered me in your name. I ask you, the various Pastors of the local churches that, on returning to your Dioceses, you bring to your faithful the warm affection of the Pope, who holds all their sufferings and aspirations deep in his heart.
In you I see reflected the concerns of the flocks which you shepherd, and I am reminded of the Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, where the participants applaud after an intervention by someone who exercises his ministry in particularly troubling situations for the Church’s life and mission. That applause is a sign of deep faith in the Lord and fraternity in the apostolate, as well as gratitude and admiration for those who sow the Gospel amid thorns, some in the form of persecution, others in the form of social exclusion or contempt. Neither are concerns lacking, for want of means and human resources, or for limitations imposed on the freedom of the Church in carrying out her mission.
The Successor of Peter shares these concerns and he is grateful for your patient and humble pastoral outreach. You are not alone amid your trials or in your successes in the work of evangelization. All of us are one in sufferings and in consolation (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5). Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith (cf. Luke 22:31). He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way.
The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was an historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labours of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. This ideal of putting the Lord first and making God’s word effective in all, through the use of your own native expressions and best traditions, continues to provide outstanding inspiration for the Church’s Pastors today.
The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (cf. Romans 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death.
Dear Brother Bishops, amid the challenges now facing us in our pastoral care and our preaching of the Gospel, it is essential to show great concern for your seminarians, encouraging them humbly “to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). No less fundamental is the need to remain close to your priests; they must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their Bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes. Priests are your first co-workers in the sacramental communion of the priesthood, and you ought to show them a constant and privileged attention. The same should be said for the different forms of consecrated life, whose charisms need to be gratefully esteemed and responsibly encouraged, in a way respectful of the gift received. Greater attention is due to the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment. Their faith formation is critical if the Gospel is to become present and fruitful in contemporary society. It is not right for them to feel treated like second-class citizens in the Church, despite the committed work which they carry out in accordance with their proper vocation, and the great sacrifice which this dedication at times demands of them. In all of this, it is particularly important for Pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided.
With these heartfelt words of encouragement, I urge you to be vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind. Stand beside those who are marginalized as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor. The Church cannot separate the praise of God from service to others. The one God, our Father and Creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbour. Along this path, in union with the whole human family, the Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us.
Beloved Brother Bishops, the Church in Latin America, which has often been joined to Christ in his passion, must continue to be a seed of hope enabling the world to see how the fruits of the resurrection have come to enrich these lands.
May the Mother of God, invoked as Our Lady of Light, dispel the darkness of our world and illumine our path, so that we can confirm the faith of the people of Latin America amid their struggles and aspirations, with integrity, valour and firm faith in the One who can do all things and loves all men and women to the fullest. Amen.
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
Today’s Gospel again offers us the words that Jesus addressed to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). In hearing these words, we turn our heart’s gaze to Jesus Crucified and we feel within us that God loves us, truly loves us, and He loves us so much! This is the simplest expression that epitomizes all of the Gospel, all of the faith, all of theology: God loves us with a free and boundless love.
This is how God loves us and God shows this love first through creation, as the Liturgy announces, in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer: “You have created all things, to fill your creatures with every blessing and lead all men to the joyful vision of your light”. At the beginning of the world there is only the freely given love of the Father. St Irenaeus, a saint of the first centuries, writes: “In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but that He might have one upon whom to confer His benefits” (Adversus Haereses, IV, 14, 1). It is like this, God’s love is like this.
Thus the fourth Eucharistic Prayer continues: “Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death”, but with your mercy “helped all men to seek and find you”. He came with his mercy. As in creation, and also in the subsequent stages of salvation history, the freely given love of God returns: the Lord chooses his people not because they are deserving but because they are the smallest among all peoples, as He says. And when “the fullness of time” arrived, despite the fact that man had repeatedly broken the covenant, God, rather than abandoning him, formed a new bond with him, in the blood of Jesus — the bond of a new and everlasting covenant — a bond that nothing will ever break.
St Paul reminds us: “God, who is rich in mercy”, — never forget that He is rich in mercy — “out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4). The Cross of Christ is the supreme proof of the mercy and love that God has for us: Jesus loved us “to the end” (John 13:1), meaning not only to the last instant of his earthly life, but to the farthest limit of love. While in creation the Father gave us proof of his immense love by giving us life, in the passion and death of his Son He gave us the proof of proofs: He came to suffer and die for us. So great is God’s mercy: He loves us, He forgives us; God forgives all and God forgives always.
May Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy, place in our hearts the certitude that we are loved by God. May she be close to us in moments of difficulty and give us the sentiments of her Son, so our Lenten journey may be an experience of forgiveness, of welcome, and of charity.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, with sorrow, with much sorrow, I learned of today’s terrorist attacks on two churches in the city of Lahore, Pakistan, which caused many deaths and injuries. They are Christian churches. Christians are being persecuted. Our brothers and sisters are spilling their blood solely because they are Christians. While I assure the victims and their families of my prayers, I ask the Lord, I implore the Lord, source of all goodness, the gift of peace and accord for that country; may there be an end to this persecution of Christians, which the world tries to hide, and may there be peace.
I address a cordial greeting to the faithful of Rome and to you, who have come from so many parts of the world. I greet the various groups of volunteers who, united in the commitment to solidarity, are taking part in the rally: “Together for the Common Good”.
I am close to the people of Vanuatu, in the Pacific Ocean, battered by a powerful cyclone. I am praying for the deceased, the wounded and the homeless. I thank those who went immediately to bring aid and relief.
I wish all of you a happy Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
26 April 2015, 5:00pm SGT