.- Pope Benedict XVI departed from Rome this morning and arrived at the Portela International Airport in Lisbon, Portugal, commencing the 15th foreign visit of his pontificate. Speaking at the airport, the Holy Father announced that the goal of his visit is to share wisdom and remind Christians of their mission.
The Holy Father was greeted when he arrived at the airport by president of the Republic of Portugal Anibal Cavaco Silva and by the Patriarch of Portugal, Cardinal Jose de la Cruz Policarpo, as well as other civil authorities and members of the Portuguese episcopate.
In an address following his arrival, the Pope stated that he comes “as a pilgrim to Our Lady of Fatima, invested from on high with the mission of confirming my brothers and sisters as they advance on their own pilgrimage towards heaven.”
Referring to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Pope Benedict said, “As for the event that took place 93 years ago, when heaven itself was opened over Portugal – like a window of hope that God opens when man closes the door to him – in order to refashion, within the human family, the bonds of fraternal solidarity based on the mutual recognition of the one Father, this was a loving design from God; it does not depend on the Pope, nor on any other ecclesial authority: 'It was not the Church that imposed Fatima,' as Cardinal Manuel Cerejeira of blessed memory used to say, 'but it was Fatima that imposed itself on the Church'.”
“The Virgin Mary,” the Holy Father explained, “came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity – so lacking in love and without hope for salvation – the source of hope.”
“The aim of this visit,” he announced, “which I am now beginning under the sign of hope, is to be a proposal of wisdom and of mission.” This wisdom and mission, he said, finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“An insightful vision of life and of the world leads to a just ordering of society,” the Pontiff said, extending his reflection to the societal level. “Situated within history, the Church is open to collaborate with those who do not marginalize essential consideration for the human significance of life, or reduce it to the private sphere.”
“This does not mean an ethical confrontation between a secular system and a religious system,” he noted, “rather it concerns the question about the meaning that we give to our freedom. The distinguishing feature is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implication in public life.”
The Pope then spoke the of the foundation of a republic in Portugal 100 years ago, saying that “distinguishing between Church and State opened a new space of freedom for the Church,” within “a cultural and ecclesial context deeply marked by rapid changes.”
“Living in a plurality of value systems and ethical structures makes it necessary to journey to the core of one's own self and to the nucleus of Christianity in order to reinforce the quality of our witness unto sanctity, and to discover the paths of the mission that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom.”
After his address, the Holy Father went to the apostolic nunciature, where he traveled to the “Mosterio dos Jeronimo,” a 16th century monastery which was the site for the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Pontiff then made a brief visit to the ancient church of “Santa Maria de Belem,” where he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and visited the cloister of the monastery.
Later, the Holy Father was taken, via the popemobile, to the “Palacio de Belem,” also built in the 16th century, where the president currently resides. After paying a courtesy visit to the President Cavaco Silva and meeting with him privately, the Pope signed the visitors' book and greeted member's of the president's family. Before having lunch at the apostolic nunciature, the Holy Father spoke to staff members of the presidential palace.
To read the address of Pope Benedict XVI at the Lisbon International Airport, click here.