Archive of August 19, 2005

Pope visits synagogue, warns of rising anti-Semitism

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Gathered with members of Germany’s Jewish community, Pope Benedict today encouraged more “trustful dialogue” between Jews and Christians.

"We must come to know one another much more and much better," the pontiff said. “This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect for one another.”

Progress had been made, he said, but "much more remains to be done."

His was only the second visit by a Pope to a synagogue. Pope John Paul II made the first papal visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986. He said it was his deep desire, since his election to the papacy, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and representatives of Judaism in Germany.

The visit began with Hebrew prayers in front of the synagogue's Holocaust memorial. During his address, punctuated often with applause, the Pope stated his commitment to continue in the path of Pope John Paul and work toward improved relations between Catholics and Jews.

The Pope also warned of rising anti-Semitism and called for more vigilance.

"Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he told representatives from Germany's oldest Jewish community, which dates back to the fourth century.

“The Catholic Church is committed – I reaffirm this again today – to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between all peoples, cultures and religions.”

He spoke about the history of the Jewish people in Germany, referring to the 20th century as “the darkest period of German and European history, [when] an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.

“The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life.

He pointed out that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, and the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, “which opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian relations in terms of dialogue and solidarity.”

The Church is conscious of her duty to transmit this teaching about the dignity of all people to the younger generations that did not witness the terrible events that took place before and during the Second World War, the Pope said.

At the end of the visit, the Pope received an ornate shofar (a ram's horn) as a gift from the congregation. He also met with about a dozen volunteer workers from the synagogue congregation who are involved in the integration of Jewish immigrants to Germany from Eastern Europe.

To read the complete speech go to:

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Pope lunches with WYD pilgrims, youth touched by his warmth

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Twelve World Youth Day pilgrims had the privilege to have lunch with Pope Benedict XVI Friday at the Grand Seminary of Cologne. The six women and six men, whose ages ranged from 18 to 28, came from six continents. Five were from Europe, two from Africa and one each from North America, South America, Australia and Asia.

The lunch, which consisted of a salad, a vegetable omelet, potatoes, and apple pie for dessert, lasted for nearly an hour and a half. The Pope had been offered trout instead but he declined, saying that he wanted the same thing that the young people were having.

Canadian Veronique Rondeau was one of the 12, and she was pleasantly surprised to discover that the new pontiff was warm and welcoming. “I was expecting someone colder, more distant, guided more by protocol, but it wasn’t the case,” she admitted to reporters.

Rondeau, 23, said the Pope’s questions and eye contact demonstrated that he was really interested in what the pilgrims had to say. He asked the Montreal native about the two movements of which she is a member, namely Marie Jeunesse and Canadian Catholic Outreach, which runs peer ministry programs in university campuses across Canada.

Rondeau, a long-term volunteer at WYD, had introduced herself to the Pope in English but then said that she came from Canada’s French-speaking province, Quebec. “I think it’s really sad that a francophone is not speaking in French,” the Pope told her.

She therefore proceeded to ask the Pope her questions in her native language, and he replied in French. His English is good but his French is better, Rondeau said.

The Pope was also interested in hearing about what is happening in Canada and North America.

The Pope “sort of” touched the topic of sex abuse in the Church in North America, said Rondeau. She reported that the Pope said: “What we need are priests and religious who are really involved and engaged in their relationship with Christ, that their vocation has a solid foundation in a relationship with Christ, and that their apostolate is lived out of love, out of the fruit of this relationship.”

The Pope desires that people committed to Christ spread the message of the Gospel with life with joy, she said. “Somehow I thought he was telling me what his expectation is of North America,” she added.

She asked the Pope about his childhood dreams. According to Rondeau, the Pope replied: “In Germany, we’re more rational, somehow, so I didn’t try to find out my feelings or ideas. I tried to figure out how to build the Church.

He also spoke about the difficult situation in Africa, both generally and for priests and religious to live their vocations and run social projects.

During the lunch, the Pope spoke only briefly about himself and about the experience of being elected to the pontificate. Rondeau said she thought the Pope to be very private and reserved, yet very welcoming.

She remarked on the way Pope Benedict greets large groups of people as he enters a room. Pope John Paul II had a particular way of greeting people with one hand, she said, but Pope Benedict puts both hands out in what she interprets as a gesture of openness and great welcome.

The Pope was happy to have had lunch with the young people and seemed to have wanted to stay longer, said Rondeau.

The other young people represented France, Ireland, Chile, Benin, Kongo, China, Germany, Slovenia, Australia and Palestine.

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Papal tour brings city center to a halt, youth gather to celebrate

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Young pilgrims were perched in trees, on signposts and atop ladders, craning their necks to see or snap a photo of Pope Benedict XVI on his first papal tour of Cologne, Germany, and his first World Youth Day as the head of the Catholic Church.

The banks of the Rhine River were packed with youth, who roared with cheers and clapping as the Pope waved and sailed past. Pilgrims spontaneously chanted “Benedetto!” while others commented on his warmth or on the presence of the WYD Cross that stood on the boat’s deck.

Most of the bridges and streets leading to the city center were blocked to all traffic yesterday for security reasons.

The Pope issued his first address to youth from the boat, reading parts in German, English, French, Spanish and Italian. After sailing about two kilometers up and down the river, the boat docked and the Pope made his way to the Cologne Cathedral.

Some pilgrims skipped the crowds on the riverbank and chose to watch the event from one of five big screens that were set up in different parts of the city. At Tanzbrennen Köln, about 1,000 young people cheered as they watched the Pope walk off the boat and head toward the cathedral.

They cheered again as Pope Benedict held hands with the African and South American youth walking beside him. They also broke out into the chant “Benedetto!” at various intervals.

Back at the cathedral, the rector expressed a warm welcome to Pope Benedict before he entered the elaborate basilica and prayed before the relics of the Magi. The 78-year-old pontiff also sat in a chair by the high altar, which is reserved for the Pope. The cathedral has had this special papal chair since 1049.

Once outside the cathedral on Roncalli Square, Cardinal Joachim Meisner extended yet another welcome. Both he and the Pope sought to settle the cheering crowd in order to communicate their messages. The pilgrims chuckled at the sight.

Pope Benedict had a prepared speech, but he diverted from it somewhat, speaking freely from his heart and referring to it only on occasion. He spoke solely in German, and one woman in the crowd in Tanzbrennen Köln commented on how poetic and beautiful his German was.

He spoke briefly of his memories of Cologne, his teaching experiences in neighboring Bonn, and his participation at the Second Vatican Council as a young priest.

He spoke of how the relics of the Magi made their way from Milan to Cologne in 1164 thanks to the Archbishop Reinald von Dassel of Cologne.

“Along with Jerusalem, the “Holy City”, Rome, the “Eternal City” and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cologne, thanks to the Magi, has become down the centuries one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Christian West,” he said.

He also mentioned the many saints who marked the northern German city, like St. Ursula, St. Boniface, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blessed Adolph Kolping, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

“In these and all the other saints, both known and unknown, we discover the deepest and truest face of this city and we become aware of the legacy of values handed down to us by the generations of Christians who have gone before us,” he said. “It is a very rich legacy. We need to be worthy of it. It is a responsibility of which the very stones of the city’s ancient buildings remind us. Indeed it is these spiritual values that make possible mutual comprehension between individuals and peoples, between different cultures and civilizations.”

He extended another a warm greeting to the representatives of different Christian denominations and other religions, whose presence at WYD, he said, marks a step forward on the path towards reconciliation and unity.

“You represent those distant peoples who came to know Christ through the Magi and who were brought together as the new People of God, the Church, which gathers men and women from every culture,” the Pope told the young people.

“Today it is your task to live and breathe the Church’s universality. Let yourselves be inflamed by the fire of the Spirit, so that a new Pentecost will renew your hearts,” he said.

“Through you, may other young people everywhere come to recognize in Christ the true answer to their deepest aspirations, and may they open their hearts to receive the Word of God Incarnate, who died and rose from the dead for the salvation of the world,” he concluded.

The young people then prayed the Our Father and the Hail Mary with the Pope and Cardinal Meisner for the repose of the soul of Br. Roger, the founder of the Taize Community who was killed Monday.

Rona Chavez of Toronto, Canada, said the Pope’s message was one of hope. “He is calling us to go beyond our capabilities and search for Jesus, like the Magi,” said the 27-year-old Filipino.

For 23-year-old Fernando Serrano, it was very important to participate in Benedict’s first WYD. “It was important to support Pope Benedict because Germany is not a very Catholic country,” he said.

The first-time pilgrim traveled with 300 other young people from the diocese of Cordoba, Spain. “I am grateful to him,” Serrano continued. “We don’t know him very well yet but he is still close to the young people.”

A group of 80 pilgrims from nine dioceses in Haiti watched the Pope from the riverbank, and then moved over to the big screen for what followed at the cathedral.

“The Pope’s message was stimulating,” said Fr. Clarke de la Cruz, a professor at the Grand Seminary in Haiti. “He invited the young people to a greater understanding of the Church. He encouraged young people in their search for God. He invited them to look around and contribute in the ways that God is calling us.”

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High number of WYD pilgrims receive sacrament of reconciliation

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - World Youth Day organizers report that many pilgrims are receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. They are heading to the Center of Reconciliation, set up by WYD organizers in the Cologne Exhibition Hall.

About 650 confessors are on rotation at the Center of Reconciliation, which opened Wednesday and will run until Friday. One hundred priests are available to hear confessions at the center at any given time, between 9 a.m. and midnight. The sacrament is available in 40 languages.

WYD organizers chose to hold confessions in Halls 6 and 7 of the center because these rooms hold historic significance. It was in these halls that Polish prisoners of war and forced laborers were held during World War II.

Resources to help pilgrims prepare for the sacrament are available in the Pilgrim Guidebook.

The sacrament is expected to be available on Saturday and Sunday at Marienfeld, where the pilgrims will gather for the overnight vigil and mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

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Archbishop celebrates spirit of service with WYD volunteers

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Since the start of World Youth Day in Cologne, 30,000 volunteers have been assisting pilgrims and journalism professionals with a keen spirit of service. Some of them may have been inspired by a mass, celebrated for them, by the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

On Monday, about half of them attended a special opening mass, celebrated by Archbishop Stanislav Rylko, at the Bay Arena in Leverkusen, near Cologne.

Dressed in their easily identifiable red-and-white T-shirts, the volunteers also waved flags or banners from their native countries.

Archbishop Rylko said he was impressed by the number of volunteers that attended the mass, “how attentive and alert they are, and how wonderfully they reacted to the words of Christ.”

He told volunteers that the Eucharist is a model for their work. “It shows you how to give yourself completely to others, and how you can help,” said the archbishop and he urged volunteers to be Good Samaritans.

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Dissident Catholic group demands Africa, not Sydney, be the site for 2008 World Youth Day

Victoria, Canada, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - An Australian based “Catholic” AIDS charity, known for their dissent from Church teaching and support of condoms to fight HIV/AIDS, has expressed their disappointment in the choice of Sydney as the host of the 2008 World Youth Day, saying that Africa would be more appropriate.

The Australian AIDS Fund Incorporated, said yesterday that, “Given its global focus on youth, we are strongly of the opinion that the WYD event in 2008 ought to be located in Africa where millions of young people are being mown down and families the scourge of HIV/AIDS.”

“That's where we believe”, the group said, “the pope ought to be headed in 2008. We have no doubt that that's where Jesus Himself would have gone. For these reasons we would view the choice of Sydney not as a celebration for Australia…but rather as a massive slap in the face for common sense.”

The group has also called on Pope Benedict to approve the use of condoms to fight the rise of HIV/AIDS--something the Church has expressed unequivocal opposition to.

The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception places an unnatural barrier between a man and woman during sex--something which they say, is fundamentally contrary to the dignity of the individuals and the nature of sex itself.

The Church vocally supports abstinence and marital fidelity in the fight against AIDS, but many critics say that the these principles are too demanding.

The Australian AIDS Fund themselves, said that “We…have already distanced ourselves against the existing Vatican stance” which they call “completely indefensible on all grounds.”

Although the pope’s choice of Sydney has not yet been confirmed, Australian Prime Minister John Howard told youth in Cologne, in a videotaped message that Sydney will indeed be the host.

Pope Benedict is expected to confirm the news during the closing Mass for this year’s World Youth Day on Sunday. 

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U.S. Bishop’s president expresses ‘profound sympathy’ over murder of Taizé founder

Washington D.C., Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops joined Pope Benedict XVI and much of the Christian community in expressing shock and sorrow at the surprise killing of Brother Roger Schutz, founder of France’s ecumenical Taizé community on Tuesday.

In a letter to Brother Aloïs, Brother Roger’s successor, Spokane Washington’s Bishop Skylstad expressed “the great sadness that we experienced on receiving the horrific news that Brother Roger Schutz was killed during Evening Prayer on August 15, 2005, in the monastery’s Church of the Reconciliation.”

He noted that “When he visited Taizé in 1986, Pope John Paul II recalled that Pope John XXIII referred to Taizé as ‘that little springtime.’”

“It is our prayer”, he said, “that the community of Taizé, inspired by the vision of its founder Br. Roger, grounded as it was in Christian charity and prayer, continue to be “that little springtime” which, though small, has already brought hopes and has established a deep longing for reconciliation and unity of all disciples of Christ.”

Bishop Skylstad also assured the community of the U.S. bishop’s “profoundest sentiments as we share in your suffering and loss. One with Br. Roger and the community in a firm faith in the Resurrection, we recommit ourselves to the communion to which he bore witness in life and death.”

Authorities have not yet confirmed the name of the 36-year old woman who fatally slit Brother Roger’s throat in front of some 2,500 onlookers on Tuesday, but say that she has been placed under formal investigation.

Schutz founded the Taizé community in 1940, where he began welcoming Christian refugees from World War II.

Today, thousands of Christians--particularly young people--travel to France to take part in the community’s prayer and song.

Brother Roger’s body is available for viewing in Burgundy’s Church of Reconciliation where the stabbing occurred. He is scheduled to be buried next week.

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Court rules that Detroit Catholic schoolteachers cannot unionize

Detroit, Mich., Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals announced their decision that a group of teachers from suburban Detroit’s Brother Rice Catholic High School could not vote to join a state teacher’s union.

The three member panel court said that it would not grant the Michigan Employment Relations Commission jurisdiction over teachers in the state’s parochial schools.

Namely, they noted a 1979 Supreme Court decision which said that government infringement into the labor issues of parochial schools would cause "substantial First Amendment concerns."

Likewise, board members of the all-boys school argued that the school’s religious freedom would be violated by allowing teachers a collective bargaining election.

The Associated Press quoted Patrick Gillen, attorney for the Christian Brothers Institute of Michigan, the school’s parent organization, who said that, "That delicate balance should be struck by the school community without any interference from the state."

He called the ruling a victory for religious liberty, and noted that the school does strive to treat its teachers fairly.

In 2003, some 30 teachers from Brother Rice, angered over teacher’s compensation and budget cuts to certain programs requested a vote on whether or not to join the Michigan Education Association--the state’s largest teacher’s union.

A green light was given by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, but the vote was put on hold pending the school’s court appeal.

A frustrated Michigan Education Association has not decided whether they will appeal the court’s decision.

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Number of priests killed in Colombia rising

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - According to statistics from the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, with the recent killing of two priests in the Colombian diocese of Ocaña, the number of priests that have been murdered during the last five years has risen to 32.

Speaking to reporters, the Secretary General of the Conference, Bishop Fabián Marulanda, expressed his concern about the lack of respect for priests and religious in the areas of the country in conflict.

“Although the guerrilla organizations have not obstructed the mission of Church personnel, they have often threatened them and forced them to leave those areas,” the bishop said, adding that bishops often counsel their priests to avoid taking risks when traveling in remote areas that are enveloped in the conflict.

With the death of two priests this week who were gunned down in their car, the number of clerics that have been killed in the last 20 years has reached 69. Of these, 59 were priests and 2 were bishops.

During the same period of time, 54 religious have been threatened, and 5 bishops, 18 priests and one missionary have been kidnapped, and 71 churches have been either destroyed or damaged by renegade groups.

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Nuncio calls for respect for women in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - During the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, the Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, exhorted Cubans to protect the dignity of all women and to treat them as daughters of God.

According to the Cubanet news agency, Archbishop Bonazzi reiterated “the need to honor women, who are treated like merchandise and objects of desire—something denounced by John Paul II.”

The archbishop “invited all women, especially those of our society, and with them all men, to always treat others, and to demand to be treated themselves, as children of God, in the same as Mary did, as it is through the men and women of the world that the Mother of the Lord desires to make herself present.”

Cubanet reported that the Nuncio prayed that Mary “would make us grow each day in the  practice of the Gospel so that we might become immaculate like her in the practice of charity, in joyful service, in loving others freely and generously, and in the confirmation of a great truth: everything passes and only love remains.”

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Archbishop warns against negative impact of homosexual “marriage”

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona warned this week that Spain’s new law granting approval to homosexual “marriage” would alter Spanish society by “modifying the institution of marriage, recognized throughout the world as the union of a man and a woman.”

The archbishop warned that the impact of this law would be “very negative” for Spanish society.  Marriage, he said, “is the basic cell of society, and the good of persons—of spouses, but above all, of children—depends greatly on the health and normality of marriage and the family.”

“We cannot forget that laws are not neutral and that, in the long or short run, they determine how we live together,” the archbishop added in an interview published by the EFE news agency.

Regarding the secularism of today’s society, Archbishop Martinez acknowledged that “it is difficult to explicitly proclaim Jesus Christ, when men and women are living as if God did not exist in a process of increasing relativism and with little or no sense of the transcendent.”  However, the archbishop recalled that “what is impossible for man is possible for God.  We do not evangelize alone.  The Risen Christ works in us, He is the one who takes center stage.”

Lastly, he expressed his hope that Pope Benedict XVI will continue to foster the relationship between the Church and young people, “who are the future of the Church and of humanity.”

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Christian unity is priority, Pope tells Christian leaders in Cologne

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed Friday his commitment to work toward Christian unity, saying that unity is God’s command and many Christians around the world expect churches to grow closer together.

During his four-day trip to Cologne, Germany, for World Youth Day, the Pope took the opportunity to meet with 27 representatives of different Christian churches, among them Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian Coptic and Romanian Orthodox.

“I am well aware that many Christians in this country, and not only in this country, expect further concrete steps to bring us closer together. I myself have the same expectation,” said the 78-year-old pontiff. “It is the Lord’s command, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue, with conviction, at all levels of the Church’s life.”

The themes of Christian unity and improved relations with Jews and Muslims have been ongoing in Pope Benedict’s speeches and meetings since his arrival here yesterday. He met with the Jewish community in the city’s oldest synagogue earlier Friday and was to meet with representatives of the Muslim community Saturday.

The pontiff also reaffirmed that the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ is the Church’s goal. “This does not, however, mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline,” he clarified. “Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity…full unity and full catholicity go together.”

“As a native of this country, I am quite aware of the painful situation, which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families,” the Pope said. This statement was a reference to the tensions that existed between German Protestants and Catholics. German Christians are about evenly split, with about half professing the Protestant faith.

“In ecumenical dialogue Germany has a place of particular importance,” the Pope continued. “Not only is it the place where the Reformation began; it is also one of those countries where the ecumenical movement of the 20th century originated.

The new dialogue, he said, has created “a renewed sense of fraternity” and more trust between Christians.

This fraternity, the Pope continued, is “grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism, which makes us members of the one Body of Christ.”

Christians must also seek uniformity in their positions on social issues, the Pope suggested. Contradictory positions of Christians on important ethical issues of the current time “are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint the expectations of our contemporaries,” he stated.

The Pope said he was optimistic about Christian unity given the spiritual links that have developed between Catholics and Christians in prayer.

“Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitute the heart of the ecumenical movement,” he said.

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‘May Christ be everything for you,’ Pope tells seminarians

Cologne, Germany, Aug 19, 2005 (CNA) - In a special meeting today with more than 500 seminarians at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI said the seminary years are a time of preparing for mission and a “springtime” in the life of a follower of Christ.

Pope Benedict wished to celebrate the vespers of this Friday, talking to the seminarians, addressing the mystery of vocations in the church, and giving them a special message on their mission.

Amid a colorful and joyful audience, and after listening to various testimonies, the first one by a seminarian, one by a young priest from Kazakhstan and  finally one from a bishop of  Quebec, all stressing on their personal encounter with Christ, and the way they answered the special call to serve him in his church.

The Pope seemingly moved by these testimonies, and smiling abundantly, then delivered his speech on vocations in the church in four different languages.

Pope Benedict spoke of the call to the priesthood and the seminarian’s search for Jesus like the journey of the Magi, the ongoing theme of the 20th WYD. “The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.”

He described each of theses seminarians call as “the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely” he said.

Referring to the years of preparation and formation all priest received prior to their ordination, he said “Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him. All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality, one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the priestly mission.”

He urged the seminarians to turn to Mary often with confidence to help them learn about Jesus. “Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life,” he said.

Finally, drawing on a theme much liked by the Pope, he said “The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will,” the Pope continued. He cited different saints, who had stated that Christ was first and foremost in their lives. “May Christ be everything for you.”

He assured the seminarians of his affection and daily prayers and concluded, saying: “I bless all of you from my heart.”

Finally he entered the church of Saint Pantaleon, greeted by hundreds of seminarians, to reach his “papamobil”, amid the cheers and now traditional acclamation.

To read the complete speech go to:

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