Archive for April 17th, 2008

Pope Benedict Offers Passover Greetings

Following the interreligious gathering at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Pope Benedict XVI gathered with members of the Jewish community to offer greeting on the occasion of Passover. (Passover will begin at sunset on Saturday, April 20.)

Pope Benedict greeted the representatives gathered, stopping to share brief conversations and take photographs.

The Holy Father re-affirmed the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterated the Church’s commitment to dialogue with Judaism. He also reflected on the meaning of Passover. He concluded by expressing a shared hope for peace in the Middle East and the Holy Land.

The complete text of Pope Benedict’s message to the Jewish community is here.

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Following his address to Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America, Pope Benedict XVI traveled by Popemobile to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

At the Cultural Center, the Holy Father addressed over two hundred individuals representing five religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. He was welcomed by Bishop Richard J. Sklba, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a brief address. He thanked those leaders who offered written reflections on how their religions bear witness to peace. He spoke of the long and fruitful history of interreligious collaboration in the United States. The freedom of religion that marks the United States shows that religion and freedom are linked intimately. The presence and transmission of religious traditions preserves a rich heritage and nourishes the surrounding culture.

Pope Benedict stated that the primary purpose of interreligious dialogue is to help discover the truth and to address the deepest questions of human existence. Calm and candid discussion of differences as well as commonalities must take place in pursuit of peace and the truth.

The Holy Father then received symbols of peace presented by five young adults from the represented religions. (The presenters and their gifts were profiled earlier in this blog.) The Holy Father spent a few moments in dialogue with each presenter and gave each presenter a token of his esteem. He then greeted ten religious leaders representing the five religions.

The gathering ended with a choral rendition of the Peace Prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi.

The complete text of Pope Benedict’s address is available here.

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Pope Benedict XVI addressed the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities as well as diocesan education officials this evening at the Catholic University of America (CUA). Upon arriving at the Edward J. Pryzbla University Center, he was greeted by Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, Bishop William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport and chairman of the CUA Board of Trustees, and Father David O’Connell, CM, the President of CUA. Thousands of CUA students, faculty, and staff, as well as other faithful, gathered outside to welcome the Holy Father with loud cheers. The Holy Father smiled and waved to the crowds.

While waiting for the Holy Father, the educators heard several musical selections from CUA students.

In his address to the educators, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of education in spreading the Gospel. Every Catholic educational institution should be a place for encountering the living Jesus Christ. This encounter should lead to lives of Christian witness. God’s revelation points toward truth and the power of God’s truth should permeate Catholic educational institutions.

The Holy Father spoke warmly of the history of Catholic education in the United States and emphasized that the sustainability of Catholic educational institutions must be assured and that these institutions must remain accessible to people of all social and economic strata.

Pope Benedict then addressed the particular benefit that Catholic education brings to the Church and to society. Catholic universities and schools help to build a communal identity, founded in the truth revealed by Christ and finding expression in liturgy, prayer, and acts of charity and justice. While Catholic schools have engaged the intellect, they must also engage the will, inflaming the desire for true freedom which has its origin and end in God. Educational institutions must be imbued with the ecclesial life of faith.

Catholic universities and schools help to fulfill the Church’s mission to speak the truth, including in the public forum. Recognizing that faith and reason can never be at odds, speaking the truth can help to bring about consensus while never abandoning categories of right and wrong.

Truth means more than knowledge. It leads to the good and to a life-changing response. Leading young people to truth is an act of love.

Pope Benedict thanked the educators for their professionalism, dedication, and generosity. He reaffirmed the principle of academic freedom, but noted that it cannot be used to justify teaching that contradicts the faith of the Church. Inside and outside the classroom, Catholic educational institutions must provide formation in Catholic doctrine and practice.

The Holy Father offered special encouragement to teachers of catechesis and encouraged religious orders not to abandon their commitment to schools, especially in poorer areas.

Pope Benedict closed his talk with words of inspiration: “Bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy.”

The educators greeted the Holy Father’s address with a standing ovation.

The complete text of the Holy Father’s address is available here.

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Mass at Nationals Park

This morning, Pope Benedict celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The gates opened and people began to gather at 6:00 a.m. They were greeted by music representing the cultural diversity present in the Archdiocese of Washington. In addition, priests were available for those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Penance.

The procession of the clergy began at 8:30. The procession of the bishops began at 9:00 a.m. More than 1,300 priests and 250 bishops from around the country came to celebrate the Mass with the Holy Father. Prelude music was provided by four choirs (the Papal Choir, the Intercultural Choir, the Gospel Choir, and the Children’s Choir) as well as an orchestra, a handbell choir, a brass choir, and other instrumentalists. The music sung during the prelude and the liturgy used more than 10 languages. The final song before the entrance hymn was “We Are One in the Spirit,” a traditional spiritual led by opera singer Denyce Graves.


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Homily at Nationals Park

The Holy Father’s homily as Nationals Park is now available online here. A fuller post on this liturgy will be posted when the Mass ends.

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The Pope and the President

At the conclusion of their private meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush issued a joint statement.

The complete text of the statement follows:

President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his Apostolic Journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope’s upcoming visit to “Ground Zero” in New York.

During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States’ substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.

The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.

The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.

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