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Several commentators should be filing a “missing-persons” report right about now. The Benedict they were anticipating never showed up. Not one finger was wagged. Not one enforcement was enacted. Not one growl was heard.

Just broad smiles, repeated thanks, wide embraces, and deep affection. Some critics thought they knew Cardinal Ratzinger. And so now they chase after the questions: “What happened to change the supposed ‘hard-line’ Cardinal Ratzinger into the approachable Benedict XVI?” The real question is: “Did the reviewers know Cardinal Ratzinger in the first place?” Or were they simply victims of the oldest defense mechanism around: the self-inflicted wound of projection?

Personality, various experts say, is usually set early in adulthood. The assumption of an office or new job really does not change a person all that much. The logic would follow that this past week, Benedict, instead of showing us a new person, showed us who Cardinal Ratzinger was all along. The labels were all wrong. Which begs the question as to not where, but who really is the missing person?

The net of Peter has been broadly cast. Whether in person, through cable, or on web-stream, Benedict’s interlocked words compelled a Church to unite and a nation to listen. From lawns, stadiums, cathedrals, chapels, and halls of learning and of diplomacy, the turf felt firm beneath the feet. We have to run the replay in slow motion to catch all his moves. From victims to survivors, from the culture of death to the Culture of Life, from medical care to immigration, not once did he punt. Nor can we. He handed off – or rather, handed on, the faith.

Benedict XVI made clear his game plan. In one word: Forward. He identified the secularism, materialism, anti-life preoccupation, and technology without conscience of entrenched ideologies which attempt to cut the weave of the net. He wants to “recapture the catholic vision of reality” and present it “in an engaging and imaginative way.” He called back to the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of John Paul II on the New Evangelization, and clarified the Church’s “primary mission of evangelization.”

He called us to foundations that include immigrants; he summoned us to continue the work of moral theology. In all, he reminded us of our thirst. Only the encounter with Christ can satisfy the person made in his image. Benedict read the play book well. The New Evangelization is not choosing sides, grimly keeping score, but pointing out the goal: “The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with ‘Christ Jesus, our hope’ (1 Tim 1:1).”

He said we cannot simply count on “traditional religiosity,” but must stretch ourselves to proclaim the Gospel of Life with the insistence of a two-year-old child, and to rededicate ourselves to the family. The resources and opportunities are all around us: “Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord.”

After learning the goal, the next step of culture change is to find the lost. There is a “missing persons” report we each must file and follow: it leads to our neighbor.


Rev. J. Brian Bransfield
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis

The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI offers many opportunities for renewal for the Church in the United States. With regards to young people discerning their place in the Church and their role for the future, the Pope’s visit could very well be a defining moment for some who may be contemplating ordained ministry or consecrated life.

In recent surveys of men ordained each year in the U.S., we learned that 20% attended World Youth Day in which contact with the Successor of Saint Peter offers a powerful impact on those thinking about a priestly or religious vocation.

On Saturday, April 19, 2008, Pope Benedict met with seminarians and young people at Saint Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York. He began his address by calling them to be fervent disciples of Jesus Christ. Continuing with this theme throughout his address, he offered vivid and powerful words, “Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship.”

To encourage these young people to consider the possibilities of Christian discipleship, six men and women from our Catholic tradition were upheld as models. Those identified during the rally were: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela. In reference to them, the Pope said, “…any one of us could be among them, for there is no stereotype to this group, no single mold. Yet a closer look reveals that there are common elements. Inflamed with the love of Jesus, their lives became remarkable journeys of hope.”

It was evident that the crowd possessed the love of Jesus and a desire to encounter the Vicar of Christ. Also evident was the affection between the Holy Father and the young people. He offered a personal note of his own struggles to follow the Lord. He said, “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers….”

The Holy Father also asked those gathered to learn more about the today’s priests and religious. He asked them, “Do not be shy to speak with Religious Brothers, Sisters or Priests about the charism and spirituality of their Congregation.” In this way, Pope Benedict asked them to talk to priests and religious so that those who are ordained and consecrated could help mentor young people in discerning God’s will.

Through his words and through his personal encounter with youth representatives, the Holy Father demonstrated his affection, hope and support for them. He said to the young crowd, “Have courage! You too can make your life a gift of self for the love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family.”

The Mass earlier in the day included the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that speaks of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost. That same Spirit was present when they met with the Vicar of Christ. “What is God whispering to you? … Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today.”


Monsignor Edward J. Burns
Executive Director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

If you missed an event or if you just want to relive your favorite moments, video of the papal visit events is archived here.

Streaming video and video on demand of the 2008 Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI is made possible by a grant from the Catholic Communication Campaign. The Catholic Communication Campaign spreads the Gospel message locally and nationally on radio, television, in print, and on the Internet. The CCC is funded by an annual parish collection taken up in most dioceses the third weekend of May. The CCC Collection is split evenly between the diocese and the national office. Dioceses use their 50% share to support local communications efforts such as televised Masses and diocesan newspapers; the national share supports the development and production of a wide range of media programming.

The Catholic Communication Campaign — it’s how the Good News gets around.

Pope Benedict XVI concluded his apostolic journey to the United States this evening, departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport aboard Shepherd One at approximately 8:45 p.m. (EDT).

Pope Benedict arrived at the airport by helicopter. More than three thousand people were in attendance to bid farewell to the Holy Father. While waiting for the Holy Father to arrive, the people participated in a program of prayer and music produced by the Diocese of Brooklyn. .

Many dignitaries attended the departure ceremony, including Cardinal Edward M. Egan (Archbishop of New York), Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (Bishop of Brooklyn), Bishop William F. Murphy (Bishop of Rockville Centre), Archbishop Pietro Sambi (Apostolic Nuncio to the United States), and Archbishop Celestino Migliore (the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations). Vice President Dick Cheney,a long with his wife, represented President Bush. Other representatives from state and local government took part in the departure ceremony as well, including President and Senator Clinton.

Vice President Cheney thanked the Holy Father for his visit. He said that, though the nation faces many challenges, it has innumerable blessings. He assured the Holy Father that he will always be welcome in the United States. He thanked him for his message of hope and salvation. He bid him a safe journey and asked him to pray for the United States.

Pope Benedict gave a brief address thanking U.S. Catholics for their hospitality and for their witness of faith and devotion. He thanked all those responsible for planning the visit. The Holy Father concluded his visit with these words: “I ask you to remember me in your prayers, and I assure you of my affection and friendship in the Lord. May God bless America!” The people responded with a standing ovation. .

Several children, accompanied by Bishop DiMarzio, gave the Holy Father bouquets of flowers.

Pope Benedict is scheduled to arrive in Rome late Monday morning. May God grant him a safe journey.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy in Yankee Stadium this afternoon.

Approximately 57,000 people attended the liturgy. The Mass was preceded by a two- hour Concert of Hope, featuring Harry Connick, Jr., Jose Feliciano, Stephanie Mills, Dana, Linera, Ronan Tynan, Marcello Giordani, and area choirs.

The Mass was that for the Fifth Week of Easter and it celebrated the bicentennial of the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Louisville (formerly Bardstown), New York, and Philadelphia and the elevation of Baltimore to the first Archdiocese of the United States.

The Holy Father arrived at about 2:15 p.m. and traveled around the stadium in the Popemobile to a great ovation.

Cardinal Edward Egan welcomed the Holy Father to New York. He noted the diocesan anniversaries celebrated in this liturgy. The people punctuated the welcome with many ovations. The Holy Father gave Cardinal Egan a gold vestment as a remembrance of the visit.

The readings were Acts 6:1-7 (read in English), 1 Peter 2:4-9 (read in Spanish), and John 14:1-12 (chanted in English). The Responsorial Psalm was Psalm 33.

Pope Benedict XVI began his homily by noting that the celebration of these anniversaries is a testimony to the growth of the Church in the United States of America. While this growth has not been without its challenges, the Church remains united in the Word of God authentically proclaimed by the Apostles. While words like “authority” and “obedience” are often difficult to hear in contemporary society, believers know that true freedom comes only from self-surrender in love. True freedom is the fruit of conversion.

The Holy Father encouraged the faithful to dedicate their lives in service to God’s kingdom. He called them to “to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.” Service of the kingdom of God “means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life.”

Pope Benedict gave special encouragement to young people to have the courage to take responsibility for their faith and to proclaim Christ. He called all to renewed zeal in spreading God’s kingdom.

The Holy Father then gave a brief summary of his homily in Spanish.

After the people professed their faith by singing the Credo in Latin, the intercessions of the Prayers of the Faithful were announced in English, Italian, Polish, French, Tagalog, Croatian, and Igbo.

The gifts were presented by several married couples as well as other representatives of the lay faithful.

The Holy Father prayed Eucharistic Prayer I. Cardinal Egan (Archbishop of New York), Cardinal Bertone (Vatican Secretary of State), Cardinal George (Archbishop of Chcago and USCCB President), and Cardinal Rigali (Archbishop of Philiadelphia) prayed parts of the Eucharistic Prayer.

Holy Communion was distributed by the Holy Father and 530 priests and deacons. During the Communion procession, Marcello Giordani or the Metropolitan Opera sang “Panis Angelicus.”

During the final blessing, the Holy Father blessed religious articles brought by the faithful as well as cornerstone for the bicentennial garden of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and a crucifix for the chapel of Saint John Neumann Seminary residence.>.”

As Pope Benedict left the stadium, he greeted many people individually. The people responded with an enormous ovation.

The text of the Holy Father’s homily is posted here.

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI visited Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center, destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Holy Father approached the site in the Popemobile and went to the base of the site on foot, accompanied by Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York. Guests included the Mayor of New York and the Governors of New York and New Jersey.

Pope Benedict prayed silently for a period, then lit a candle brought to him by a Port Authority worker.

The Holy Father then offered words of prayer. Following the prayer, he blessed the ground in all four directions and then blessed those gathered.

Pope Benedict then personally greeted some family members of persons who died on September 11, survivors, and first responders, spending time in conversation with each person.

The text of the Holy Father’s prayer is posted here.

Approximately 25,000 young people and seminarians from around the United States participated in a youth rally with Pope Benedict XVI on the grounds of Saint Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

The youth rally was preceded by a concert featuring local choirs as well as such nationally known performers as Kelly Clarkson, Third Day, Salvador, Toby Mac, Three Graces, Father Joseph Espaillat, Father Stan Fortuna, Fragile Tomorrow, and Full Armor.

Following his meeting with young persons with disabilities in the seminary chapel, the Holy Father traveled to the rally stage by Popemobile.

The Holy Father personally greeted the seminarians, religious men and women, and others standing in the front row. Cardinal Egan welcomed the Holy Father and Pope Benedict gave him a chasuble as a remembramce of the visit.

Some youth representatives presented him with gifts of bread representing the cultural diversity of those present. Other young people then presented Pope Benedict with gifts in honor of his birthday and the anniversary of his election. These gifts included a spiritual bouquet, a book entitled Empire State Catholics: A History of the Catholic Community in New York State, and images of six holy individuals who lived or served in New York: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela. Those gathered sang “Happy Birthday” in German as well as other songs.

The Holy Father gave a brief address. He spoke of the importance of Christian witness, reminding the young people of the examples of the persons whose portraits he has received. Though very different, each of their lives was a journey of hope. The Holy Father spoke movingly of the challenges faced in the Germany of his youth. He thanked God that young people today can grow up in freedom. Still, there is darkness in our world today: dreams are shattered and people are treated as objects; truth is manipulated and the perception of reality is distorted.

Pope Benedict encouraged the young people to follow the path of truth and freedom that leads to happiness. He invited the young people to follow the example of the saints and to devote themselves to personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations. The Holy Father addressed special words to the seminarians and to the religious men and women present.

Pope Benedict then gave a brief summary of his address in Spanish.

Following the address, all sang a Litany of the Saints and the Lord’s Prayer. Cardinal Egan presented fifteen young people to the Holy Father. Pope Benedict blessed all those assembled.

Kelly Clarkson sang the “Ave Maria.” The Holy Father then left the rally field in the Popemobile.

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