Vatican City, Jun 24, 2007 (CNA) - Today on the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims gathered under the hot June sun in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday recitation of the Angelus. To a packed crowd, the vicar of Christ recalled the example of John the Baptist. His message to those gathered was to engage in true conversion and an ardent witness of the Lord.
The Holy Father noted that all the Gospels begin their narration of Jesus’ public life with his baptism by John in the Jordan. Benedict also commented on his new book: “My book Jesus of Nazareth also begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, an event which resounded widely in those times.”
Benedict noted that John’s life “was wholly oriented towards Christ”. Therefore, “to commemorate his birth means in reality to celebrate Christ.”
Explaining the mission of the saint, the Holy Father said, “He remains as the first “witness” to Jesus, having received an indication from Heaven.”
John knew how to give a courageous witness: “As an authentic prophet, John gave witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced the transgressions of God’s commandments, even when those who did so were powerful. In this way, when he accused Herod and Herodias, he paid with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ.”
He is, therefore, a prophet and model for our times: “Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, so that also in our times the Church may know how to keep herself as a Virgin faithful to Christ, and witness courageously his truth and his love for all.”
After the angelus, the Pope directed these words towards the English-speaking pilgrims: “let us ask for the gift of true conversion and growth in holiness, so that our lives will prepare a way for the Lord and hasten the coming of his Kingdom.”
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2007 (CNA) - Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of England met yesterday in the Vatican with His Holiness Benedict XVI. The Prime Minister had been vacationing for the week in Italy, and had also met with his counterpart, Romano Prodi, President of the Italian Council.
According to BBC new service, the two discussed the challenges of globalization, as well as the need to combat terrorism. A Downing Street representative said: "One of the themes of discussion was how the moderate voices in all the world's major religions need to stand up to religious extremism in all its forms."
Some viewed the meeting with Benedict as confirmation that Blair intended to convert from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church; however, a statement released today by the Vatican after the meeting made no such mention of the issue.
Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, and four children are Catholic. While Blair is Anglican, he regularly attends Mass with his wife and children.
During the meeting, Blair gave Pope Benedict three pictures of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Newman was a 19th Century Anglican leader who converted to Catholicism and was later made a Cardinal. His cause for sainthood is currently being studied.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Bishop of Westminster, was also present at the meeting.
Speculation regarding Blair’s potential conversion has grown since the British newpaper The Times reported that Fr. Sheed, who has welcomed other prominent figures into the Catholic Church, told friends recently that he expected Blair to make public his conversion once he officially steps down from office June 27.
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father joined rectors and university professors from all over Europe in the Paul VI Auditorium on Saturday to discuss the theme of a ‘New Humanism.’ The meeting was organized to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, “which gave rise to the present European Union”, the Holy Father noted.
The pontiff first noted the moral climate of Europe: “Europe is presently experiencing a certain social instability and diffidence in the face of traditional values, yet her distinguished history and her established academic institutions have much to contribute to shaping a future of hope.”
Commenting on what this new philosophy might embody, Benedict remarked: “Promoting a new humanism, in fact, requires a clear understanding of what this "newness" actually embodies. Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history.”
The current moral and intellectual crisis is largely due to the attempt “to build a regnum hominis detached from its necessary ontological foundation.” Modern man has attempted to construct a kingdom of mankind, without any reference to its Creator.
The Holy Father diagnosed the current cultural crisis in Europe as suffering from “a false dichotomy between theism and authentic humanism.” In its extreme form, this belief sees “an irreconcilable conflict between divine law and human freedom”.
Quoting his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict questioned the result of man’s progress: “we need to ask ‘whether in the context of all this progress, man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible and more open to others.’” (Redemptor Hominis, 15).
Benedict spoke of a theme often touched on by John Paul II: Man cannot know himself without knowing Christ. He said, “In my recent visit to Brazil, I voiced my conviction that "unless we do know God in and with Christ, all of reality becomes an indecipherable enigma."
In conclusion, the Holy Father referred to universities as “laboratories of culture”, stated that they provided a needed service of wisdom to society, and hoped that they would work, with the help of theologians, to address “the questions of particular importance to society.”