Benedict XVI Says Brazil Was a Highlight of '07
Meets With Cardinals and Curia for Christmas Greetings
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Today, the Pope held his traditional meeting with cardinals, bishops and members of the Curia, for the exchange of Christmas greetings.
"The Curia is a 'working community,'" he said, "held together by bonds of fraternal love, which the Christmas festivities serve to reinforce."
The Holy Father's review of 2007 gave special emphasis to his May trip to Brazil, where he opened the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held near the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.
Referring to his encounter with young people in São Paolo, he observed: "There are mass events which have the single effect of self-affirmation, in which people allow themselves to be carried away by rhythm and sounds, and end up deriving joy merely from themselves.
"On that occasion [in Brazil], however, [...] the profound communion which spontaneously arose between us caused us, by being with one another, to be for one another. It was not an escape from daily life, but became a source of strength for accepting life in a new way."
Recalling the May 11 canonization of Brazilian St. Antônio de Santa'Ana Galvão, the Pope said, "Each saint who enters into history represents a small portion of Christ's return, a renewal of his entrance into time, showing us his image in a new light and making us sure of his presence."
"Jesus Christ does not belong to the past," the Holy Father affirmed, "and he is not confined to a distant future. [...] Together with his saints, he is [...] journeying toward us, toward our today."
With another reference to the Brazil trip, Benedict XVI recalled how the drug rehabilitation center "Fazenda da Esperança" brought him to feel "the renovating power of God's creation."
"We must defend creation," he said, "not only with a view to its utility, but for itself -- as a message from the Creator, as a gift of beauty that is promise and hope," because "mankind has need of transcendence."
Turning to his meeting with Brazilian bishops, the Pope highlighted how "the experience of 'effective and affectionate collegiality' of fraternal communion in the shared ministry led us to feel the joy of catholicity. Over and above all geographical and cultural confines we are brothers, together with the risen Christ who has called us to his service."
Benedict XVI spoke of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, first noting the possible objections to an episcopal meeting dedicated to the theme of discipleship and the missionary mandate.
"Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, So That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him" was the theme. "Was [the theme] not," the Pope asked, "perhaps excessively concentrated on interior life at a time in which the great challenges of history -- the urgent problems of justice, peace and freedom -- require the complete commitment of all men and women of good will, and in particular of Christianity and the Church?"
But, he said, "It is necessary to understand the true meaning of the theme."
The key idea is that of "finding life and the theme presupposes that this objective [...] is to be attained through discipleship of Jesus Christ and through commitment to his word and his presence," the Pontiff explained.
Being a disciple of Christ, he continued, "means in the first place coming to know him" by listening to the Word. And to meet Christ "we must listen, then reply through prayer and through practicing what he tells us."
Benedict XVI affirmed, "The disciple of Christ must also be a 'missionary,' a messenger of the Gospel."
He added: "Here too the objection could be made as to whether it is still legitimate to 'evangelize' today? Should not all the religions and philosophies of the world coexist peacefully and together seek what is best for humanity, each in its own way?
"Of course, it is indisputable that we must coexist and cooperate with mutual tolerance and respect."
In this context, the Pope mentioned the letter sent to him by 138 Muslim religious leaders "bearing witness to their joint commitment to promoting peace in the world."
The Holy Father said his reply expressed "my convinced adherence to such noble sentiments, at the same time underlining the urgent need for a harmonious commitment in order to safeguard values, mutual respect, dialogue and collaboration. The shared recognition of the existence of the One God [...] is a premise for joint action in defense of [...] the dignity of all human beings, for the edification of a more just and united society."
"Those who have recognized a great truth, those who have discovered a great joy," he said, "must pass it on, they cannot keep it to themselves. [...] In order to reach fulfillment, history needs the announcement of the good news to all peoples, to all men and women. How important it is for forces of reconciliation, of peace, of love and of justice to come together in humanity.
"And this is what happens in the Christian mission. Through the encounter with Jesus Christ and his saints, [humankind] is re-equipped with those forces for good without which none of our plans for social order is realized but, faced with the enormous pressure of other interests contrary to peace and justice, remain as abstract theories."
The Holy Father then mentioned the June letter he sent to Catholics in China, in which he gave "certain guidelines for confronting and resolving, in a spirit of communion and truth, the delicate and complex problems of Church life in China. I also indicated the Holy See's willingness to undertake a serene and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities, with the aim of finding a solution to the various problems concerning the Catholic community. [...] It is my hope that, with the help of God, the letter may produce the desired fruits."
The Pope concluded with a message of hope: "We must not delude ourselves [...] the secularism of our time and the pressure of ideological presumption -- to which the secularist mentality with its exclusive claim to definitive rationality tends -- present no small-scale problem." Nonetheless, he said, "we also know that the Lord maintains his promise: 'Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"