Pope lauds Spain's 'profoundly Catholic soul' upon departure

After thanking WYD volunteers, Benedict XVI left immediately for Madrid”s Barajas airport. In the presence of Spain”s King and Queen, he thanked the Spanish authorities and assured the country of his prayers. He specifically mentioned his concern for those suffering from the high rate of unemployment in Spain.

The Holy Father called Spain “a great nation” that is “capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul.”

The Pope also congratulated pilgrims for their “joyful, enthusiastic and intense presence.” He says they will be returning home as “missionaries of the Gospel” who will help their friends “discover that loving Christ means living life to the full”.

The papal plane is expected to land at Rome”s Ciampino Airport at 9:30pm local time.

The English translation of the Pope”s farewell address is posted below.
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Thanking volunteers, Benedict XVI asks for something more

Today is the Pope’s last day in Madrid, but he wasn’t going to leave without expressing a personal thank you. Before heading to the airport, the Holy Father met with World Youth Day volunteers at the IFEMA Fairgrounds.

In his address to volunteers, he said that their work and prayer was like “weav[ing], stitch by stitch, a magnificent, colourful tapestry”. In particular, he praised the sacrifice of those who had to miss World Youth Day events because they needed to keep working behind the scenes.

The Pope asked them to consider extending their service to the Church through priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage. In doing so, he acknowledged that even as he was thanking the volunteers, he was asking them to do something more.

“But that is the mission of the Pope, the Successor of Peter,” he explained, to call the faithful to “respond in love to the One who for love gave himself up for us.”

The English translation of the Pope”s address continues below.
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WYD 2013, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro will host the next World Youth Day in 2013. Pope Benedict XVI announced at the Final Mass, before millions of young pilgrims at the military airbase of Cuatro Vientos in Madrid.

“I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro”

Pope’s Homily at Final Mass

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day.  Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy.  I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you.  Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15).  He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father.  For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received.  Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better.  They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns.  But who is he really?  How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ.  The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion.  When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”.  In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him.  Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”.  Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”.  Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life.  Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation.  So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard.  Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus.   Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?”  Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own.  Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me.  I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word.  You know me and you love me.  I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands.  I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”.  What do these words mean?  Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other.  Rather, she is closely joined to God.  Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church.  Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12).  The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles.  Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life.  But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church.  We cannot follow Jesus on our own.  Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others.  I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love.  Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference.  We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others.  So do not keep Christ to yourselves!  Share with others the joy of your faith.  The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God.  I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).  You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection.  I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word.  I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith.  May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day.  May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope.  Amen.

– Photo Credit © M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

Pope: People with disabilities awaken our hearts

Before leading the World Youth Day Vigil, Pope Benedict met with young people with physical and mental disabilities. He visited the San José Institute, which assists in their care and specializes in treating epilepsy. 120 patients and workers from several Spanish centres were present, along with the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.

On stage, the Pope was joined by ten youth, who gave the Pope gifts that included a painting by a young person with disabilities. A welfare centre was then dedicated to Benedict XVI.

Here is the full text of the Pope”s address:

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Young People, Family Members and Volunteers,

I thank you most sincerely for your kind greeting and heartfelt welcome.

This evening, just before the Prayer Vigil with the young people from throughout the world gathered in Madrid for this World Youth Day, we have this chance to spend time together as a way of showing the Pope’s closeness and esteem for each of you, for your families and for all those who help and care for you in this Foundation of Saint Joseph’s Institute.
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Benedict XVI: Seminarians have to be saints

A priest spends his entire life devoted to one task: to be modeled on Christ. This was Pope Benedict’s message this morning, as he celebrated a special World Youth Day Mass with seminarians.

In the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena, the Pope preached that since the holiness of the Church is one and the same with the holiness of Christ, priests “have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction”. The Pope concedes that “we will not fully succeed” in this task, but, quoting St. Paul, they should nevertheless “run towards the goal, hoping to reach it”.

In their process of discernment, the Holy Father cautions seminarians only to continue toward priesthood “if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.”

Keeping one’s heart “open to the Master”, the Pope adds, “inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretense.”

The official translation of the Pope’s homily is below.

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear Priests and Religious,

Dear Rectors and Formators,

Dear Seminarians,

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

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