Tag Archives: Pope Benedict

Goodbye Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict makes his final tour of St Peter's Square as Pope. Copyright: Caritas/Michelle Hough

Pope Benedict makes his final tour of St Peter’s Square as Pope. Copyright: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By Michelle Hough, communications officer for Caritas Internationalis

It’s a strange thought, the Pope surrounded by packing boxes. It’s an even stranger thought the Pope not being Pope any more.

As I waited for Pope Benedict to appear for his final General Audience this morning I glanced at his apartment windows overlooking St Peter’s Square. I thought about the magnitude of his decision to stand down and wondered if he felt nervous.

It’s easy to forget that the Pope’s a person with doubts and struggles, but in his final speech to the world as Pontiff, Pope Benedict reminded us that he is as human as the rest of us.

“There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy … there were moments, as there were throughout the history of the Church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping,” he said during the audience.

Tens of thousands of people were gathered in St Peter’s Square and millions were undoubtedly watching on televisions around the world as the Pope spoke in Italian. I stood in a corner of the square under an unusually warm February sun and tried not to get too squashed by the people around me as I stood on tiptoe to take pictures.

As Pope Benedict passed by in the Popemobile, it was easy to see he was tired and weighed down by the physical constraints of his 85 years.

“In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased,” said Pope Benedict, “and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.”

I can’t quite gauge what the mood of the square was. Some groups were singing and playing the guitar and waving flags while other people looked a bit subdued.

As I was leaving St Peter’s I bumped into an old Caritas friend, Francis O’Connaire OFM. A Franciscan friar, he helped us with our AIDS conference in 2009 and often comes to our offices. I asked him what he thought. “It’s a historic occasion,” he said. “I’m impressed with his decision, which was a brave one and which he took in faith.”

It was indeed a momentous day, a day of great change. Pope Benedict will fly off in a helicopter to Castel Gandolfo tomorrow, where hopefully he will get the rest he needs. And the days to come will be caught up in searching for his successor.

“I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals,” said Pope Benedict, “who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.”

But that is for Tomorrow. For Today we remember Pope Benedict and his final farewell: “In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!”

Pope: final General Audience (full text)

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World AIDS Day

More than 30 years into the pandemic, UNAIDS estimates that 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV. This number includes an estimated 3.4 million children under the age of 15 years.

The number of people living with HIV increases each year because fewer people are dying, thanks to the increasing availability of lifesaving antiretroviral medication.

The number of people receiving medication rose by 20 percent between 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the cost of a year’s supply of the medication decreased from more than $10,000 per person in 2000 to less than $100 in 2011.

Despite this progress, HIV still presents a serious global health crisis. In 2011, more than 7,000 people were infested every day.

Catholic Relief Services (a caritas member in the US)  has been on the forefront of the epidemic since launching our first HIV project in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1986. Today, CRS and its partners directly support more than 4.8 million people affected by the epidemic.

Meanwhile, at the end of the general audience on Wednesday, 28 November , Pope Benedict XVI made the following appeal: “On 1 December World AIDS Day, a United Nations initiative intended to draw attention to a disease that has caused millions of deaths and tragic human suffering, particularly in the poorest regions of the world, where there is very limited access to effective medicines. My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers each year, despite the treatments which exist to prevent its transmission. I encourage the many initiatives that, within the scope of the ecclesial mission, have been taken in order to eradicate this scourge.”

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Pope presence in Lebanon lit candle for peace

Pope Benedict XVI said he had gone to Lebanon and to the Middle East as a “pilgrim of peace”. Over the next three days, he would return to the same theme of peace in the troubled region in every speech he delivered.

President of Caritas Lebanon Father Simon Faddoul, reflecting on the visit, said, “The Pope was a messenger of peace to an area that is in a state of continuous war. His presence in Lebanon could bring conflicting parties closer.”

The Pope came to deliver the Apostolic Exhortation – the fruit of the Synod for the Middle East.
“In this Exhortation, the Pope invites the Christians to act as citizens of the land by living out their citizenship fully,” said Fr Faddoul. “And invites the Muslims to accept differences in multi-religious societies.”

The pope’s visit served as a showcase for Lebanon, which for years was a model of peaceful coexistence and religious freedom in the Middle East.

The show of enthusiasm for the Pope across sectarian and political lines, in a nation still recovering from the 1975-90 civil war, was a dramatic statement of unity to the outside world and to the Lebanese themselves.

“His visit to Lebanon means a lot to the Christians of the area whose number amounts to around 17 millions. It boosts their morale and will make them feel looked after by their ultimate head of the Church,” said Fr Faddoul. “He conveyed a message of love, peace and reconciliation to non-Christians on one hand, and a call to unification and working together for all Christians so their witness will be one of communion and love.

The pope twice the deplored the human cost of the civil war in neighboring Syria. At a Mass on the last day, he said, “Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard. Violence and hatred invade people’s lives, and the first victims are women and children.”

“His presence gave true witness to God’s love in front of millions of non-Christians and Christians alike,” said Fr Faddoul.

100 Caritas Lebanon’s young volunteers participating at Youth Meeting in Bkerke with Pope Benedict over the weekend trip and 27 young Caritas volunteers serving at mass on Sunday in Beirut.

Source: Caritas lebanon and CNS

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Pope meets with UNAIDS chief

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé. Photo: Wiki Commons

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé was in Rome yesterday for meetings with Pope Benedict XVI, Holy See officials and Caritas Internationalis representatives. Sidibé asked Pope Benedict for his support in keeping children free from HIV. He said it’s an achievable goal and one which can be reached by 2015.

“Millions of people around the world living with and affected by HIV are being supported by Catholic health care organisations,” said Mr Sidibé. “The full engagement of the Catholic Church in efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections among children is of paramount importance.”

Listen to Philipp Hitchens interview with Michel Sidibé.

UNAIDS and partners launched last year a Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The plan outlines a strategy which focuses particularly on the 22 countries that account for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in children world-wide.

Sidibé also met with Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, which serves as one of the civil society organisations represented on the steering committee of the Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children. Continue reading

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The hallmark of Christianity

More than 1000 young people gathered in the parish of the Holy Family in Madrid to hear Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga present his second catechesis at World Youth Day.

The same day, Pope Benedict arrived in the Spanish Capital from Rome, Cardinal Rodriguez spoke of the Pope’s message for World Youth Day: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” Caritas Spain looks at what he said.

Cardinal Rodriguez said, “Whatever we build must be planned in a way that that when tough winds blow, it isn’t swept away.”

“Our lives are constantly put to the test by personal, family and social crises, through relativism and the ethics of convenience which try to uproot us and make us believe that all that which satisfies our personal needs is good. Yet faith isn’t the rational adherence to an ideology but a personal meeting with Christ who lives within us.”

Cardinal Rodriguez underlines that Christ is the foundation which helps us face our crises and leads to us being stronger. He, who lives among us, is the one who can satisfy our greatest wishes, our most pressing desires for happiness and salvation.

The Hallmark of Christianity

Cardinal Rodriguez reminded the young people that “Christians receive a mark at Baptism. They are aware of this and they act in accordance with it. We are of Christ, we are his inheritance.”

The Cardinal invited young people to answer this call from Christ. Like Pope Benedict in his World Youth Day message, he asked them to offer their commitment and to learn to meet Christ in the Eurcharist where we witness his compassion in helping the poor, the sick and those in difficulty.

Other noteworthy points from Cardinal Rodriguez’s catechesis:

“Life is a song and what better director than Christ to guide the song of our lives?”
“Trusting in our solid foundations, we can have confidence if life puts us to the test. The strength of our faith enables us to face difficulties rooted in Christ.
“When people worship God and listen to his voice, a world of love can be built where each one of us is respected.”
“Christ wants to be discovered and treated as a friend. He is the way, life, happiness and salvation.”
“Being a Christian is to be baptised and to be conscious of this. But even more important is to be consistent with this baptism. That means behaving in accordance with what baptism is. With baptism we are son of God and brother of Jesus Christ. We are temple of the Holy Spirit, member of the Church and inheritor of the Kingdom.”

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Valentine’s Day with the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI arriving at the Caritas hostel in Rome. Credit: Caritas/Michelle Hough

Available in French and Spanish

By Michelle Hough, Caritas Internationalis

It’s 8.30am on Valentine’s Day, I’m at Rome’s Termini Station and I’m waiting for the Pope. Working for Caritas is never boring and can sometimes be quite surreal.

This year is European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Caritas Europa has launched a big campaign called “Zero Poverty”. Bishops around Italy and the whole of Europe are visiting social services projects in their dioceses today to show solidarity with the poor. Pope Benedict, as Bishop of Rome, has come to the Caritas hostel at Termini Station.

I’m in a press enclosure with other Caritas colleagues and journalists and the Pope will come by on the raised walkway any minute. I’m almost 6 feet tall in my heels but we’re far too low to get a good view. I feel a bit like Zacchaeus, the diminutive tax collector out of the bible, he climbed up a tree to get a better view when Jesus walked by. I think about heaving myself up onto the railings so I can get a good photo for the Caritas website, but I might just end up being told off by the Pope’s bodyguards.

Even though it’s purely coincidental that Pope Benedict is visiting the hostel on Valentine’s Day (today is also Saints Cyril and Methodius’ Day for the Church), you could say that love is the theme of the Pope’s visit.

“For Rome, the Caritas hostel is a place where love is not just a word or a feeling, but something concrete, that allows the light of God to enter the lives of the whole community,” says the Pope after he arrives at the hostel. Continue reading

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Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of Peace 2010

If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation

Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because “creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works”, and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development – wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”. Read more…

Si tu veux costruire la paix, protège la creation

Le respect de la création revêt une grande importance, car «la création est le début et le fondement de toutes les œuvres de Dieu» et, aujourd’hui, sa sauvegarde devient essentielle pour la coexistence pacifique de l’humanité. Si, en effet, à cause de la cruauté de l’homme envers l’homme, nombreuses sont les menaces qui mettent en péril la paix et le développement intégral authentique de l’homme – guerres, conflits internationaux et régionaux, actes terroristes et violations des droits de l’homme – les menaces engendrées par le manque d’attention – voire même par les abus – vis-à-vis de la terre et des biens naturels, qui sont un don de Dieu, ne sont pas moins préoccupantes. C’est pour cette raison qu’il est indispensable que l’humanité renouvelle et renforce «l’alliance entre l’être humain et l’environnement, qui doit être le miroir de l’amour créateur de Dieu, de qui nous venons et vers qui nous allons». Lisez…

Si tu quieres promover la paz, protege la creación

El respeto a lo que ha sido creado tiene gran importancia, puesto que «la creación es el comienzo y el fundamento de todas las obras de Dios», y su salvaguardia se ha hecho hoy esencial para la convivencia pacífica de la humanidad. En efecto, aunque es cierto que, a causa de la crueldad del hombre con el hombre, hay muchas amenazas a la paz y al auténtico desarrollo humano integral —guerras, conflictos internacionales y regionales, atentados terroristas y violaciones de los derechos humanos—, no son menos preocupantes los peligros causados por el descuido, e incluso por el abuso que se hace de la tierra y de los bienes naturales que Dios nos ha dado. Por este motivo, es indispensable que la humanidad renueve y refuerce «esa alianza entre ser humano y medio ambiente que ha de ser reflejo del amor creador de Dios, del cual procedemos y hacia el cual caminamos». Leer..

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