Category Archives: Popes

Pope Gets at Root of Unemployment

Ancona Speeches on Bread and Wine Seen as True Solutions
ROME, SEPT. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily newspaper says that Benedict XVI went to the root of unemployment during his one-day trip to Ancona on Sunday.
The Pope was at the Italian seaport town to close the 25th National Eucharistic Congress. He gave two full-length addresses and a homily.
“In reporting Benedict XVI’s visit to Ancona, the Italian media reflected on the anxiety of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, concerning the lack of employment and job security. It was an informative choice, understandable above all in this time of crisis, and one which stressed the Pontiff’s closeness,” Gian Maria Vian reflected.
But, the L’Osservatore editor continued, “Benedict XVI’s journey and discourses reached further.” He said the Pope went to the “root of the matter,” urging people “to think about the historical consequences of attempts to organize society on the part of ideologies which ‘have aimed at organizing society with the force of power and of the economy.'”
The Holy Father called for re-establishing the primacy of of God, Vian said, because “man needs bread in order to live. He needs his daily bread of course, but above all he needs the true bread which is Christ himself.”
The consequences of the Eucharist, the editor suggested, are political: “In fact, from the sacrament which is at the heart of the Christian faith — the Pope said — a new assumption of community responsibility comes into being and ‘a new positive social development is born which is centered on the person, especially the person who is poor, sick or in need.'”
Vian noted that Benedict XVI added to his reflection on bread a reflection on wine, the other sign of the Eucharist.
In his address to engaged couples, the Pope spoke about the wine of celebration, which had run out at Cana.
“Today too,” Vian said, “this wine has run short, but even today, as on that day, Christ wants it to be poured out for everyone: in the friendship he offers to every human being.”

Holy Father on Monastic Silence

The Environmental Condition That Most Favors Contemplation
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the Aug. 13 general audience at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer — such as monks and nuns — have established their communities in places of particular beauty: in the countryside, upon the hills, in mountain valleys, by the lakeside or on the seashore, or even on little islands. These places unite two very important elements for the contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which points to that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by their remoteness from cities and the great means of communication.
Silence is the environmental condition that most favors contemplation, listening to God and meditation. The very fact of experiencing silence, of allowing ourselves to be “filled,” so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet Elijah, on Mount Horeb — that is, Sinai — witnessed a great and strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally flashes of fire, but in none of these did he recognize the voice of God; instead, he recognized it in a still small breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). God speaks in the silence, but we need to know how to listen for Him. That is why monasteries are oases where God speaks to man; and in them there is the cloister, which is a symbolic place, for it is a space that is enclosed yet opened to heaven.
Tomorrow, dear friends, we celebrate the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi. I would therefore like to recall one of these spiritual “oases” that is particularly dear to the Fransciscan family and to all Christians: the small convent of San Damiano, situated just below the town of Assisi, amidst the olive groves that slope towards [the Basilica of] St. Mary of the Angels. Near that little church, which Francis restored after his conversion, Clare and her first companions established their community and lived a life of prayer and simple works. They were called the “Poor Sisters,” and their “way of life” was the same as the Friars Minor: “To observe the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Clare, I,2), maintaining the union of mutual charity (cf. ibid., X 7) and observing in a special way the poverty and humility lived by Jesus and His most holy Mother (cf. ibid., XII, 13).
The silence and beauty of the place where the monastic community lives — a simple and an austere beauty — serve as a reflection of the spiritual harmony that the community itself seeks to realize. The world is studded with these spiritual oases, some very ancient, particularly in Europe, others more recent, while still others have been restored by new communities. Looking at things from a spiritual perspective, these places of the spirit are a supporting structure for the world! And is it not the case that many people, especially in times of quiet and rest, visit these places and stay for a few days: even the soul, thanks be to God, has its needs!
Let us therefore remember St. Clare. But let us also remember other saintly figures who remind us of the importance of turning our gaze to the “things of heaven”; for example, St. Edith Stein — Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — Carmelite and Patroness of Europe, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. And today, Aug. 10, we cannot forget St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with a special wish offered to the people of Rome, who have always venerated him as one of their patrons. And lastly, let us turn our gaze to the Virgin Mary, that she might teach us to love silence and prayer.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]

This is the first step on which we take to Heaven. We project ourselves out of the temporal world into the light, albeit it may be very dim, of Heaven’s heavenly bliss.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the groups from Guam, Canada and the United States of America. My special greeting goes to the young people en route to World Youth Day in Madrid! In these days the Church celebrates the feasts of great saints like Lawrence, Clare of Assisi and Edith Stein. May their example and intercession help us to draw closer to God through the practice of quiet prayer and contemplation. May the Lord bless you and your families with his joy and peace!

Pope Benedict’s message to Secular Franciscans

Imitate St. Francis, Pope Benedict tells young people
Assisi, Jun. 18, 2007 (CWNews.com) –
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged young people to imitate St. Francis, during a Sunday-afternoon meeting in Assisi on June 17.
Recognizing the “special attraction” that the figure of St. Francis has for the young, the Holy Father recalled that the great saint experienced a conversion at the age of 25, after an early life of ease and pleasure.
“How can we deny that may people are tempted to follow the life of the young Francis before his conversion?” the Pope asked. Yet the young Francis did not find any lasting joy in secular life, the Pope continued. He found “that finite things can give glimmers of joy but only the infinite can fill the heart.”
“Do not be afraid to imitate St. Francis,” the Pope urged his young audience. He recommended in particular the saint’s “ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure.” Turned to the service of God, that ambition had an enormous impact on the world, Pope Benedict said.
During his Sunday visit to Assisi the Holy Father visited the churches and religious communities there, and prayed before the tomb of St. Francis. His visit was made on the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis.

BE COURAGEOUS WITNESSES
TO CHRISTIAN AND FRANCISCAN LIFE, Pope John Paul II
VATICAN CITY, NOV 22, 2002 (VIS) –
The Pope today welcomed members of the presidency of the International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order, meeting in their Tenth General Chapter on the theme “Vital, Reciprocal Communion in the Franciscan Family.”
The Pope noted that the Chapter “brought to an end the updating of your basic legislation,” including the Rule, the Ritual, the General Constitutions and the International Statute, which was approved in the current Chapter. He said the Church awaits the Order’s “great service to the cause of the Kingdom in today’s world” and she desires your Order to be a model of an organic whole and of structural and charismatic union at all levels.”
”Your renewed legislation,” he added, “gives you optimum instruments to realize and fully express the unity of your Order and the communion with the Franciscan family” as well as your mission to be “courageous and coherent witnesses of Christian and Franciscan life.”
”You are called,” John Paul II affirmed, “to offer your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St. Francis of Assisi, to hasten the advent of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co-responsibility and love are living realities. You must study deeply the true foundations of universal brotherhood and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fellowship. Commit yourselves strongly to fighting every form of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization and every attitude of indifference towards others.”
The Holy Father said he wished to conclude his message “by recommending to you to consider your family as the priority place in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation,” doing so through prayer, Christian catechesis, promoting respect for every life from conception to natural death and “offering a convincing example of the possibility of marriage lived in a way that fully conforms to God’s plan.”

In Reference to the Holy Father’s Message to Secular Franciscans

The following communication was received at NAFRA from Fr. Nils Francis Thompson, OFM, former General Spiritual Assistant.
“We are blessed to hear the hope the Holy Father expresses for us as Secular Franciscans, in his message at the General Chapter of the SFO. …
I’m attaching an item, which you likely already have seen: The statement of Pope John Paul II to the SFO General Chapter last week.
The statement of the Holy Father was a great blessing to me, as well as to the whole SFO internationally. He makes it very clear that your organic unity and your autonomy within the Franciscan Family are a witness to the whole world of what Christian living is meant to be.
I am sure you will be publishing this to NAFRA-USA in some way or other, and I hope that our people will really understand how important this step in your Secular Franciscan history really is. It is a sign to the Church that the Secular Franciscan Order is measuring up to make Jesus present to this new millennium.
The Pope’s mandate for the SFO … is to be taken seriously by the SFO because he is telling you to take seriously the Franciscan desire to be instruments of evangelization and peace-making.
The Gospel from which you take life leads you to care for all the universe, which is so sorely needed today. Thank you for answering your call from God.
This is so exciting! It was a blessing to me because I worked hard to promote your unity and autonomy. It was worth the effort and the difficulties. I believe the Spirit has led the SFO in this new direction back to its roots. This direction has been confirmed by the Pope’s discernment if you continue to obey the Spirit. The S.F.O. in the U.S. and in the world will see an even more impressive blossoming. It’s happening, my brothers, and I pray that all of you will keep going forward courageously. God be praised for my small part in this amazing work of His! Forgive me for preaching to the converted, but I feel so enlivened by this development.
Nils Thompson, O.F.M.

Pope John Paul II speaks to Franciscans

Pope says, “It is up to you to make God’s merciful love more visible and tangible.
Pope John Paul II told Franciscans to offer their “simple and intense” prayer life to modern men and women, who he said were in search of authentic spirituality.
”Our time shows ever more evident signs of a profound thirst for values, paths and goals of the spirit,” he said, this year on Feb. 17, to participants in the general chapter of Conventual Franciscans.
The pope said this renewed spiritual desire should find “a valid and fruitful response” from the Franciscans, who have traditionally emphasized a simple and direct approach to the Gospel.
”You will thus respond to the requests that come to you in different ways from the men and women of our time and you will be able to effectively draw souls to the paths of spiritual growth and rediscovered interior vitality,” he said.
During their February general chapter in Ariccia, just south of Rome, the Conventual Franciscans elected as the order’s new head, 57-year-old Father Joachim Anthony Giermek, from the U.S. Province of St. Anthony of Padua.
The pope told the Franciscans to persevere in their traditional mission to ordinary people.
”It is up to you to make God’s merciful love visible and, I would say, almost tangible: A love which welcomes and reconciles, which forgives and renews the heart of believers, drawing into a consoling embrace every man and every woman,” he said. – CNS

ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
22 November 2002
Secular Franciscans, you have by vocation [belong] to the Church and to society as inseparable realities. For this reason, you are asked first of all to bear a personal witness in the place where you live: “before all: in [your] family life; in [your] work; in [your] joys and sufferings; in [your] associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same father; to [your] presence and participation in the life of society; in [your] fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO, General Constitutions, art. 12.1). Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your Hood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. By virtue of this profession, the Rule and the General Constitutions must represent for each of you the point of reference for daily living, based on your explicit vocation and special identity (cf. Promulgation of the General Constitutions of the SFO). If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity” (Now Millennia meunte, n. 31). You must be sincerely dedicated to a “high standard of ordinary Christian living” (ibid.), to which I invited all the faithful at the end of the Great jubilee of the Year 2000.
I do not want to end this Message without recommending that you consider your family as the primary setting in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation, finding time for prayer, for the Word of God and for Christian catechesis, and doing your utmost to make every life respect^ from its conception and in every situation until death. You must live in such a way mat your families “show convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person-of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Now Millennia ineunte, n. 47).
At this time, I urge you to take again into your hands the Rosary, which, by ancient tradition, “has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed [in] the Spirit of God” (Rwanum Vtrgmis Marwe,n. 41). Do so keeping your gaze on me Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, ready for his Word and for all his calls, whom Francis enveloped in inexpressible love and who was made Protectress and Advocate of the Franciscan family. Witness to her your burning love, by imitating her unconditional readiness and pouring out a stream of confident and conscious prayer (cf. SFO, Rule, art. 9). With these wishes, I cordially impart to you, Secular Franciscans and to the members of “Franciscan Youth”, a special Apostolic Blessing.

Pius XII Saved Roman Jews

Puis XII's audience 1956

Documents Reveal Pius XII Saved 11,000 Roman Jews

Pave the Way Foundation Announces Findings
By Jesús Colina
ROME, JULY 22, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The direct action of Pope Pius XII saved the lives of more than 11,000 Jews in Rome during the Second World War, according to documentation recently discovered by historians.
Pave the Way Foundation representative for Germany, historian and investigative researcher Michael Hesemann, discovered a number of very important original documents in his research of the open archives of Santa Maria dell Anima Church, which is the National Church of Germany in Rome.
The U.S.-based foundation, founded by Jew Gary Krupp, announced the findings in a statement sent to ZENIT.
“Many have criticized Pius XII for remaining silent during the arrest and when trains left Rome containing 1,007 Jews who were sent to the death camp Auschwitz,” Krupp stated. “The critics also do not acknowledge Pius XII’s direct intervention to end the arrests of Oct. 16, 1943.”
“New discoveries prove that Pius XII acted directly behind the scenes to end the arrests at 2:00 p.m., on the very day they began, but who was powerless to stop the ill-fated train,” he added.
According to a recent study by researcher Deacon Dominiek Oversteyns, there were 12,428 Jews in Rome on Oct. 16, 1943.
“Pope Pius XII’s direct action saved the lives of over 11,400 Jews,” Krupp explained. “On the morning of Oct. 16, 1943, when the Pope learned of the arrests of the Jews, he immediately ordered an official Vatican protest with the German ambassador, which he knew would no doubt be fruitless.
“The Pope then sent his nephew, Prince Carlo Pacelli, to meet with Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal. Bishop Hudal, head of the National Church of Germany in Rome, was by some accounts, sympathetic to the Nazi’s and had good relations with them. Prince Carlo Pacelli told Hudal that he was sent by the Pope, and that Hudal must write a letter to the German Governor of Rome, General Rainier Stahel, to demand that the arrests stop.”
Bishop Hudal’s letter to General Stahel stated: “Just now, a high Vatican source […] reported to me that this morning, the arrest of the Jews of Italian nationality has started. In the interest of a peaceful dialogue between the Vatican and the German military command, I ask you with urgency to give order to immediately stop these arrests in Rome and the surrounding area. The German reputation in foreign countries requires such a measure and also the danger that the Pope would openly protest against it.”
The letter was then hand-delivered to General Stahel by a close confidant to Pope Pius XII, German Father Pancratius Pfeiffer, superior general of the Society of the Divine Savior, who personally knew General Stahel.
The following morning, General Stahel responded by telephone: “I forwarded the affair immediately to the local Gestapo and to Himmler personally, Himmler ordered that, concerning the special status of Rome, these arrests are to be stopped immediately.”
These events are further confirmed by the testimony obtained during the investigation of relator (high Judge) to the cause of Pius XII, Jesuit Priest Father Peter Gumpel.
Father Gumpel stated that he personally spoke to General Dietrich Beelitz, who was then liaison officer between Kesselring’s office and Hitler’s command. General Beelitz listened in to the Stahel-Himmler telephone conversation and confirmed that General Stahel used a threat of military failure to Himmler if the arrests were to continue.
Exemptions
An additional document titled “The direct actions to save innumerable persons of the Hebrew nation” states that Bishop Hudal managed — through his contacts with Stahel and Colonel Baron von Veltheim — to get “550 religious colleges and institutions to be exempt from inspections and visitations of the German military Police.”
Just in one of these places, the Institute of St. Joseph, 80 Jews were being hidden.
The note also mentions the involvement “for a great part” of Prince Carlo Pacelli, the nephew of Pius XII. “The German soldiers were very disciplined and respected the signature of a high German official … Thousands of local Jews in Rome, Assisi, Loreto, Padua etc. were saved due to this declaration.”
Michael Hesemann stated that it is obvious that any public protest by the Pope when the train departed could have triggered the resumption of the arrests.
In addition, Hesemann explains that Pave the Way has on its Web site the original SS order to arrest 8,000 Roman Jews, who were to be sent to the work camp at Mauthausen — to be held as hostages — not the death camp in Auschwitz. One may speculate that the Vatican may have felt they could negotiate their release.
We have learned that it was also Bishop Hudal who was acknowledged by the Vatican as actively participating in helping some Nazis war criminals escape arrest after the war’s end.
Because of his political position, Bishop Hudal was persona-non-grata at the Vatican and in fact, was chastised in writing by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI), for even suggesting that Vatican help any Nazi escape arrest.
Gary Krupp, President of Pave the Way, further commented that “Pave the Way has devoted vast resources in order to obtain and post publicly all of this information for historians and scholars. Curiously, none of the most outspoken critics of Pope Pius XII, has bothered to either come to the open Vatican Archives (completely opened since 2006 up to 1939) for original study, or even accessed our restricted free Web site, according to sign in sheets in Rome and our registration records.”
Krupp further commented that he has the sincere hope that the scholarly representatives of the Roman Jewish community, research original materials only steps from their homes.
“I believe they will find that the very existence today of what Pope Pius XII called ‘this vibrant community’ is because of the secret efforts of Pope Pius XII to save every life,” said Krupp. “Pius XII did what he could, while under the threat of invasion, death, surrounded by hostile forces and infiltrated by spies.”
Elliot Hershberg, chairman of Pave the Way Foundation, added: “In the service of our mission, we are committed to try to bring some resolution to this controversy, which affects over 1 billion people.
“We have used our international connections and trust to obtain and post on our free restricted Web site over 46,000 pages of original documents, original news articles, video eyewitness, and scholarly interviews in order to spoon-feed this documentation to the historians and scholars.
“The international publicity from this project has yielded new documentation almost weekly, which show how we have moved to eliminate the academic logjam that has existed since 1963.”

Pray for Salvation of Humanity in Daily Prayer

by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last two Catecheses we have reflected on prayer as a universal phenomenon which – although in different forms – is present in the cultures of all times.

Today instead I would like to start out on a biblical path on this topic which will guide us to deepening the dialogue of the Covenant between God and man, which enlivened the history of salvation to its culmination, to the definitive Word that is Jesus Christ.

This path will lead us to reflect on certain important texts and paradigmatic figures of the Old and New Testaments. It will be Abraham the great Patriarch, the father of all believers (cf. Rom 4:11-12, 16-17), to offer us a first example of prayer in the episode of intercession for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And I would also like to ask you to benefit from the journey we shall be making in the forthcoming catecheses to become more familiar with the Bible, which I hope you have in your homes and, during the week, to pause to read it and to meditate upon it in prayer, in order to know the marvellous history of the relationship between God and man, between God who communicates with us and man who responds, who prays.

The first text on which we shall reflect is in chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis. It is recounted that the evil of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached the height of depravity so as to require an intervention of God, an act of justice, that would prevent the evil from destroying those cities.

It is here that Abraham comes in, with his prayer of intercession. God decides to reveal to him what is about to happen and acquaints him with the gravity of the evil and its terrible consequences, because Abraham is his chosen one, chosen to become a great people and to bring the divine blessing to the whole world. His is a mission of salvation which must counter the sin that has invaded human reality; the Lord wishes to bring humanity back to faith, obedience and justice through Abraham. And now this friend of God seeing the reality and neediness of the world, prays for those who are about to be punished and begs that they be saved.

Abraham immediately postulates the problem in all its gravity and says to the Lord: “Will you indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18: 23-25).

Speaking these words with great courage, Abraham confronts God with the need to avoid a perfunctory form of justice: if the city is guilty it is right to condemn its crime and to inflict punishment, but – the great Patriarch affirms – it would be unjust to punish all the inhabitants indiscriminately. If there are innocent people in the city, they must not be treated as the guilty. God, who is a just judge, cannot act in this way, Abraham says rightly to God.

However, if we read the text more attentively we realize that Abraham’s request is even more pressing and more profound because he does not stop at asking for salvation for the innocent. Abraham asks forgiveness for the whole city and does so by appealing to God’s justice; indeed, he says to the Lord: “Will you then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” (v. 24b).

In this way he brings a new idea of justice into play: not the one that is limited to punishing the guilty, as men do, but a different, divine justice that seeks goodness and creates it through forgiveness that transforms the sinner, converts and saves him. With his prayer, therefore, Abraham does not invoke a merely compensatory form of justice but rather an intervention of salvation which, taking into account the innocent, also frees the wicked from guilt by forgiving them.

Abraham’s thought, which seems almost paradoxical, could be summed up like this: obviously it is not possible to treat the innocent as guilty, this would be unjust; it would be necessary instead to treat the guilty as innocent, putting into practice a “superior” form of justice, offering them a possibility of salvation because, if evildoers accept God’s pardon and confess their sin, letting themselves be saved, they will no longer continue to do wicked deeds, they too will become righteous and will no longer deserve punishment.

It is this request for justice that Abraham expresses in his intercession, a request based on the certainty that the Lord is merciful. Abraham does not ask God for something contrary to his essence, he knocks at the door of God’s heart knowing what he truly desires.

Sodom, of course, is a large city, 50 upright people seem few, but are not the justice and forgiveness of God perhaps proof of the power of goodness, even if it seems smaller and weaker than evil? The destruction of Sodom must halt the evil present in the city, but Abraham knows that God has other ways and means to stem the spread of evil. It is forgiveness that interrupts the spiral of sin and Abraham, in his dialogue with God, appeals for exactly this. And when the Lord agrees to forgive the city if 50 upright people may be found in it, his prayer of intercession begins to reach the abysses of divine mercy.

Abraham – as we remember – gradually decreases the number of innocent people necessary for salvation: if 50 would not be enough, 45 might suffice, and so on down to 10, continuing his entreaty, which became almost bold in its insistence: “suppose 40… 30… 20… are found there” (cf. vv. 29, 30, 31, 32). The smaller the number becomes, the greater God’s mercy is shown to be. He patiently listens to the prayer, he hears it and repeats at each supplication: “I will spare… I will not destroy… I will not do it” (cf. vv. 26,28, 29, 30, 31, 32).

Thus, through Abraham’s intercession, Sodom can be saved if there are even only 10 innocent people in it. This is the power of prayer. For through intercession, the prayer to God for the salvation of others, the desire for salvation which God nourishes for sinful man is demonstrated and expressed. Evil, in fact, cannot be accepted, it must be identified and destroyed through punishment: The destruction of Sodom had exactly this function.

Yet the Lord does not want the wicked to die, but rather that they convert and live (cf. Ez 18:23; 33:11); his desire is always to forgive, to save, to give life, to transform evil into good. Well, it is this divine desire itself which becomes in prayer the desire of the human being and is expressed through the words of intercession.

With his entreaty, Abraham is lending his voice and also his heart, to the divine will. God’s desire is for mercy and love as well as his wish to save; and this desire of God found in Abraham and in his prayer the possibility of being revealed concretely in human history, in order to be present wherever there is a need for grace. By voicing this prayer, Abraham was giving a voice to what God wanted, which was not to destroy Sodom but to save it, to give life to the converted sinner.

This is what the Lord desires and his dialogue with Abraham is a prolonged and unequivocal demonstration of his merciful love. The need to find enough righteous people in the city decreases and in the end 10 were to be enough to save the entire population.

The reason why Abraham stops at 10 is not given in the text. Perhaps it is a figure that indicates a minimum community nucleus (still today, 10 people are the necessary quorum for public Jewish prayer). However, this is a small number, a tiny particle of goodness with which to start in order to save the rest from a great evil.

However, not even 10 just people were to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah so the cities were destroyed; a destruction paradoxically deemed necessary by the prayer of Abraham’s intercession itself. Because that very prayer revealed the saving will of God: the Lord was prepared to forgive, he wanted to forgive but the cities were locked into a totalizing and paralyzing evil, without even a few innocents from whom to start in order to turn evil into good.

This the very path to salvation that Abraham too was asking for: being saved does not mean merely escaping punishment but being delivered from the evil that dwells within us. It is not punishment that must be eliminated but sin, the rejection of God and of love which already bears the punishment in itself.

The Prophet Jeremiah was to say to the rebellious people: “Your wickedness will chasten you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God” (Jer 2:19).

It is from this sorrow and bitterness that the Lord wishes to save man, liberating him from sin. Therefore, however, a transformation from within is necessary, some foothold of of goodness, a beginning from which to start out in order to change evil into good, hatred into love, revenge into forgiveness.

For this reason there must be righteous people in the city and Abraham continuously repeats: “suppose there are…”. “There”: it is within the sick reality that there must be that seed of goodness which can heal and restore life. It is a word that is also addressed to us: so that in our cities the seed of goodness may be found; that we may do our utmost to ensure that there are not only 10 upright people, to make our cities truly live and survive and to save ourselves from the inner bitterness which is the absence of God. And in the unhealthy situation of Sodom and Gomorrah that seed of goodness was not to be found.

Yet God’s mercy in the history of his people extends further. If in order to save Sodom 10 righteous people were necessary, the Prophet Jeremiah was to say, on behalf of the Almighty, that only one upright person was necessary to save Jerusalem: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her” (5:1).

The number dwindled further, God’s goodness proved even greater. Nonetheless this did not yet suffice, the superabundant mercy of God did not find the response of goodness that he sought, and under the siege of the enemy Jerusalem fell.

It was to be necessary for God himself to become that one righteous person. And this is the mystery of the Incarnation: to guarantee a just person he himself becomes man. There will always be one righteous person because it is he. However, God himself must become that just man. The infinite and surprising divine love was to be fully manifest when the Son of God was to become man, the definitive Righteous One, the perfect Innocent who would bring salvation to the whole world by dying on the Cross, forgiving and interceding for those who “know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Therefore the prayer of each one will find its answer, therefore our every intercession will be fully heard.

Dear brothers and sisters, the prayer of intercession of Abraham, our father in the faith, teaches us to open our hearts ever wider to God’s superabundant mercy so that in daily prayer we may know how to desire the salvation of humanity and ask for it with perseverance and with trust in the Lord who is great in love. Many thanks.

——————————————————————————–

To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the alumni of the Venerable English College on the occasion of their annual meeting in Rome. I also greet the members of the Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue in Sweden, with prayerful good wishes for their work for Christian unity. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Australia, the Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Risen Saviour.

Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newly weds. Dear young people, I hope that you will be able to recognize, in the midst of the many voices of this world, the voice of Christ who continues to address his invitation to the heart of anyone who is ready to listen. Be generous in following him, do not be afraid to devote your energy and enthusiasm to serving his Gospel. And you, dear sick people, open your hearts to him with trust; he will not let you lack the comforting light of his presence. Lastly, I hope for you, dear newlyweds, that your families will respond to the vocation of being a transparent examples of God’s love. Thank you.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Easter season, the liturgy sings to Christ risen from the dead, conqueror of death and sin, living and present in the life of the Church and in the affairs of the world. The Good news of God’s Love made manifest in Christ, the Lamb that was slain, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, is constantly spreading until it reaches the ends of the earth, and at the same time it encounters rejection and obstacles in every part of the world. Now, as then, the Cross leads to the Resurrection.

Tuesday, 24 May, is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai: the whole Church joins in prayer with the Church in China. There, as elsewhere, Christ is living out his passion. While the number of those who accept him as their Lord is increasing, there are others who reject Christ, who ignore him or persecute him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The Church in China, especially at this time, needs the prayers of the universal Church. In the first place, therefore, I invite all Chinese Catholics to continue and to deepen their own prayers, especially to Mary, the powerful Virgin. At the same time all Catholics throughout the world have a duty to pray for the Church in China: those members of the faithful have a right to our prayers, they need our prayers.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that when Peter was in prison, everyone prayed fervently, and as a result, an angel came to free him. Let us do likewise: let us all pray together intensely for this Church, trusting that by our prayers we can do something very real for her.

Chinese Catholics, as they have said many times, want unity with the universal Church, with the Supreme Pastor, with the Successor of Peter. By our prayers we can obtain for the Church in China that it remain one, holy and Catholic, faithful and steadfast in doctrine and in ecclesial discipline. She deserves all our affection.

We know that among our brother Bishops there are some who suffer and find themselves under pressure in the exercise of their episcopal ministry. To them, to the priests and to all the Catholics who encounter difficulties in the free profession of faith, we express our closeness. By our prayers we can help them to find the path to keep their faith alive, to keep their hope strong, to keep their love for all people ardent, and to maintain in its integrity the ecclesiology that we have received from the Lord and the Apostles, which has been faithfully transmitted to us right down to the present day. By our prayers we can obtain that their wish to remain in the one universal Church will prove stronger than the temptation to follow a path independent of Peter. Prayer can obtain, for them and for us, the joy and the strength to proclaim and to bear witness, with complete candour and without impediment, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the New Man, the conqueror of sin and death.

With all of you I ask Mary to intercede that all of them may be ever more closely conformed to Christ and may give themselves ever more generously to their brethren. I ask Mary to enlighten those who are in doubt, to call back the straying, to console the afflicted, to strengthen those who are ensnared by the allure of opportunism. Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, pray for us!