Archive for May, 2008

Interview With Lebanese Presidential Hopeful

ROME, JUNE 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A candidate for the Lebanese presidency says that the country needs a balanced government, which includes the participation of Christians.

General Michel Aoun, 72, a Lebanese military and political leader, came to Rome last week to visit Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

Aoun returned to his country just two years ago, after spending 15 years exiled in Paris. He has become one of the leading figures in the complex Lebanese political scene.

As the leader of the opposition-aligned Free Patriotic Movement, he is a presidential hopeful.

In this interview with ZENIT, Aoun reflects on the role of Christianity in the Middle East.

Q: General, you are the leader of one of the biggest parliamentary factions with an Arab Christian majority. What does this visit to the Vatican mean to you?

Auon: To me, the Vatican is the supreme spiritual reference point in the heart of the Catholic Church. We can also say that it is an important moral authority in the Christian world in general, Catholic or not. The Vatican’s positions are influential at an ethical and moral level. And we, as Maronites, are part of the Catholic world.

When Lebanon goes through crises or challenges, we find it important to keep the appropriate Vatican authorities informed of the situation, especially since the media coverage sometimes reflects the interests of those covering the news and not the reality lived by the Lebanese people.

From this arises the importance of my coming here in person, to have a dialogue and discuss with [Vatican] authorities and get this image clear. We certainly met with people equipped with a critical sense, and therefore able to discern what is true and what is false. This means that the Church’s position, be it a moral question, or advice or something else, is more useful and objective.

Q: Given your faith experience, is it possible to speak of Arab Christianity? Could we say that such a thing exists?

Aoun: Arab Christianity was one of the first forms of Christianity that expanded throughout the Arab peninsula, Mesopotamia and even to India.

There are multiple traces of a Christian culture that can be seen in northern Syria even today; and recorded Arab history tells us that Christians were widely spread. There are remains of only a small number of Christian Arabs but, historically speaking, they were present throughout the Arab peninsula.

Q: What is the present role of Christian Arabs in modern-day Lebanon?

Aoun: The Christians of Lebanon comprise Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and other confessions. Setting aside the fact that there are five patriarchs that bear the name of “Patriarch of Antioch,” we know that the first Christians and the Good News came out of Antioch.

In my book, I recall the Christian presence in the East, our historic roots, and the fact that we are not immigrants but authentic inhabitants established in the East 662 years before the birth of Islam. There is some confusion between Westerners regarding what is considered Arab. Everything that is Arab is not necessarily Muslim.

The Arab race includes all regions. Regarding the Arab civilization, it is the Christians that have worked to keep it alive, and the ones that have preserved the Arab language. They were among the most illustrious scribes, and in the time of the Caliphate, the court poets were Christians — for example, the poet Al-Akhtal.

Arabs form part of the Eastern world, thus the importance of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope John Paul II, and published in May 1997, in which he speaks of the Christians of Lebanon and the East.

On the other hand, the Christians of Lebanon these days serve as a reference point for the Middle East; and the model of their relationships serve as an assurance and guarantee of the Christian presence in the rest of the Arab countries of the region.

Q: In Islam there is an intimate link between the political and the social. Do you expect Lebanon to someday separate politics from religion?

Auon: As a political movement, we seek to separate the political sphere from the religious one. Lebanon has known periods — like the Ottoman War, which was one of the most cruel and unjust — during which people were forced to “affiliate” with a particular religion, under a policy of marginalization and persecution.

The situation started to improve after World War I, when Lebanon became a French protectorate and later gained its independence thanks to the national pact. At that time the Christian influence in the social life was notable and Christian elements were active in the political life until the events of the ’70s — the civil confrontation between Christians and Muslims — 1975-1980 — when the political equilibrium was shaken and Christians were marginalized.

Lebanon can’t survive without a balanced government and the participation of everyone, which includes Christians, Shiites and Sunnis. Michel Chiha — may he rest in peace — one of the most prominent figures who understood well the Lebanese reality, said, “Whoever tries to eliminate religion in Lebanon is trying in reality to eliminate Lebanon.”

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Faith-based Media Earning Respect

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- In spite of hostility to religion from a part of the media, faith-based material is flourishing in a number of sectors. The enthusiasm for films with a religious message shows no sign of flagging, especially with the recent announcement of a Christian entertainment company that it plans to build a $150 million studio to produce what they call “spiritainment.”

The year-old Good News Holdings hopes to make Massachusetts the home for the multimedia studio, the Boston Globe reported June 6. The company is young, but has already developed a number of products.

One of the first was FaithMobile, which delivers Bible verses through text messages. Another is LightsTogether.com, an Internet community for churches that offers tools for organizing prayer groups and Christian dating.

With regard to films, work is under way on “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” the story of Jesus at 7 years old. It is scheduled to start shooting in Israel this fall, with an aimed release in 2008.

One of the co-founders of this group is David Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures. “Our focus is on values-based entertainment across all platforms,” he told the Boston Globe. He described the company as “people who want to make a difference in the culture.”

The Web page of the company describes itself as wanting to be “the world leader in spiritainment.” Spiritainment, the page explains, “is content that challenges the mind, captures the heart and refreshes the spirit.”

According to Good News Holdings, the market for Christian, faith-based entertainment and content is substantial. In addition to movies such as “The Passion of the Christ” — $2 billion in worldwide ticket sales — and “Narnia” — $750 million — Christian music had $720 million in sales in 2004.

Doing well

Not all religious-oriented films do well, but a report cited by an article published March 13 by the Christian Post Web page revealed that they do better than movies that include explicit sex and extreme bad language.

A study carried out by Ted Baehr, publisher of MovieGuide, a publication that rates movies from a Christian point of view, looked at the top movies from 1998 through 2006. The report shows that films with a strong Christian worldview make anywhere from two to seven times more in ticket sales than those with explicit sex and nudity.

These findings, noted the Christian Post, are in marked contrast to the “sex sells” long popular in American advertising circles. “Hollywood pundits and advertisers on Madison Avenue like to tell the press that sex, nudity and obscenity sells best,” said Baehr in the report, “but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Christian books are also selling well, reported the San Francisco Chronicle on April 23. HarperSanFrancisco, which up until now has concentrated on nonfiction religious books, recently launched a line of Christian fiction for women, called Avon Inspire.

According to the article, from 2002 to 2005, religious book sales jumped from $588 million to $876 million. Sales figures for February 2006 to February this year show that religious book sales increased 33% in just one year.

The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the increased sales have motivated some of the largest publishing houses, such as Random House and Simon & Schuster, to acquire Christian publishers based outside of New York.

Bible boom

Sales of the Bible are also going well, reported the Chicago Tribune on June 4. In the United States around 25 million copies of the Bible are sold annually.

One of the most successful publishers is Thomas Nelson Inc., a Christian publishing house, which has a 36% share in Bible sales. “People still have tremendous interest in this book, and they want to make it their own,” said Wayne Hastings, who runs Nelson’s Bible group.

In addition to the Bible, Nelson has also sold nearly 50 million copies of a series of devotional books by Texas minister Max Lucado. Books on leadership by another clergyman, John Maxwell, have sold some 13 million copies.

The article cited data from the Book Industry Study Group Inc., a publishing trade association, according to which in 2006, religious books accounted for 6.4% of all book sales. This adds up to approximately $2.4 billion on Bibles and other religious books. This figure was up 5.6% in 2006, the biggest percentage increase of any book category.

One spur to sales is the production of new forms of the Bible. Bardin and Marsee, a small publisher in Birmingham, Alabama, produces “The Outdoor Bible,” a New Testament printed on folded plastic sheets, also obtainable in a camouflage bag for soldiers.

Nelson also publishes texts from the Bible in the form of magazines designed to appeal to adolescents, termed Biblezines. One of these, “Revolve,” is oriented to teenage girls. Another, “Refuel,” targets boys.

Radio is another field where religion is enjoying a boom, reported the weekly National Catholic Register on June 3. The article focused on Catholic stations, noting that while they lag behind the Protestant radio stations, their numbers are slowly growing.

Come October, Catholics will have an unprecedented opportunity to double the number of FM terrestrial stations operating across the country. That’s when the Federal Communications Commission is opening the application window for new FM noncommercial educational (NCE) stations.

Steve Gajdosik, president of the Charleston, South Carolina-based Catholic Radio Association, told the Register that there are currently approximately 150 operating Catholic broadcast facilities in the United States. Last year 21 new stations opened.

This could increase sharply in the near future, once the Federal Communications Commission opens up applications for new FM noncommercial educational radio stations.

These new stations need content and Catholic Radio International, founded by Jeff Gardner and Tom Szyszkiewicz, was established for this purpose. Catholic Radio International launched three programs in early May, available on the Internet for stations to download. “We’re trying to raise the quality of Catholic radio programming,” said Szyszkiewicz.

The Internet, commented Gardner, has opened up many possibilities. “It’s a great social leveler and presents an opportunity to communicate with an audience at an economy never before seen,” he said.

Christ’s light

On March 9, Benedict XVI urged the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to pay close attention to the role of media in shaping culture. “Undoubtedly much of great benefit to civilization is contributed by the various components of the mass media,” the Pontiff commented. “Such contributions to the common good are to be applauded and encouraged.”

It is also evident, the Pope continued, that a large part of what is transmitted into the homes of many millions of families is destructive. One answer to this problem is to direct the light of Christ’s truth upon these realities.

“Let us strengthen our efforts to encourage all to place the lit lamp on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the home, the school and society,” he exhorted. A task being taken up by growing numbers of Christians active in the media.

Temperatures Rise in British Debate

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The abortion debate was rekindled with a vengeance recently in Britain. In a sermon May 31, Edinburgh’s archbishop, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, strongly criticized the assurances given when abortion was legalized in Britain.

The cardinal described the claims given when the 1967 Abortion Act was approved as being “lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth.” People were told that abortion would be infrequent and only used in extreme cases, he explained.

The sermon was delivered on the occasion of the Day for Life celebration of the Church in Scotland. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast of the Visitation, which Cardinal O’Brien described as “the affirmation of the immense value of life from its very conception.”

“With every life conceived God acts directly to create a new and unique human being, a person destined to life everlasting,” stated the cardinal.

He added that unfortunately in today’s world, pregnancy is not always welcomed. In the almost 40 years since the introduction of legal abortion in Britain around 7 million lives have been ended, Cardinal O’Brien noted.

Just prior to his homily, figures were published that showed an increase in abortions in Scotland. An all-time high of 13,081 pregnancies were terminated in 2006, compared with 12,603 the previous year, the BBC reported May 29. The number of abortions for teenagers under 16 also hit a new high, with 362 in 2006, up from 341 the year before.

“The scale of the killing is beyond our grasp,” Cardinal O’Brien declared in his sermon. “In Scotland we kill the equivalent of a classroom full of school children every day.”

Cardinal O’Brien also had strong words for politicians. He urged them to have nothing to do with “the evil trade of abortion,” and to find means to overturn the legislation allowing it. For those politicians who “claim to be Catholic,” the cardinal said, “I ask them to examine their consciences and discern if they are playing any part in sustaining this social evil.”

As well, he touched on a theme much debated in the United States when he also adverted that cooperating “in the unspeakable crime of abortion” implicates a barrier to receiving Communion.

Life is sacred

The very same day, the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, issued a statement on the sacredness of life. His comments were in preparation for the annual Day for Life, which the Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates July 1.

All life, from the moment of conception to the point of natural death, is sacred, declared Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in the May 31 press statement.

“I would urge all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the Church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity,” he added.

The cardinal also recalled the teaching of the Church that those who have freely and knowingly committed a serious wrong should not receive the Eucharist before having gone to confession.

These words were backed up shortly afterward by Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales. Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive Communion, he stated, according to a June 2 report by Reuters.

Archbishop Smith said he would not actually bar such politicians from Communion, but he added that he would expect the politician involved not to seek it.

Critical reactions

The issue of Catholic politicians and abortion proved to be a sensitive point, as evidenced by a number of strong reactions by the press and commentators. A June 1 editorial in the Scotsman newspaper acknowledged Cardinal O’Brien’s right to express his opposition to abortion.

The newspaper was less approving of his words on politicians, saying he was “on dangerous ground by seeming to interfere in politics.”

A June 2 editorial in the Guardian newspaper intoned that on the issue of abortion the efforts of the Catholic Church “must be resisted.” In a somewhat patronizing concession, however, the Guardian did add that it approved of the Church’s interventions in public life when it comes to the issue of canceling the debt of the developing world.

In a June 3 opinion article for the newspaper Scotland on Sunday, Dani Garavelli, who described herself as a practicing Catholic, dismissed Cardinal O’Briens’ words as “emotional blackmail.”

Characterizing the cardinal’s admonishment to Catholic politicians as “sinister,” Garavelli derided Catholic leaders as “ideologues.”

A more favorable reaction came from Jemima Lewis, writing in the opinion columns of the Independent newspaper June 2. The freedom to voice one’s beliefs is a central feature of any democracy, she said in defending Cardinal O’Brien’s right to speak out on abortion.

Describing herself as “a pro-choice lapsed Catholic,” Lewis nevertheless acknowledged that “the pro-choice argument is riddled with dishonesty and evasion.” She agreed with Cardinal O’Brien’s argument that abortion has come to be far too freely available. Lewis also argued that not sufficient attention is paid to its side effects on women.

This issue had, in fact, been raised in an article published in the Scotsman newspaper Feb. 26. It described the feelings of misery and guilt that a woman referred to as “Sarah” felt after she aborted her baby in the 22nd week of pregnancy.

Soul-destroying

The article was published shortly after a baby, Amillia Taylor, was born in the United States at just 22 weeks of pregnancy, and survived. “It was soul-destroying,” said Sarah of her abortion experience. Public opinion in Britain was also shocked at the recent announcement that around 1 in 30 aborted babies survive the procedure. The survivors live for an average of 80 minutes, the Daily Mail newspaper reported April 20.

Most of the babies who initially survive the abortion were between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, although some had been in the womb for as little as 17 weeks.

The figures, explained the Daily Mail, came from a study in the West Midlands region, where researchers looked at the outcome of 3,189 abortions performed on seriously handicapped fetuses at 20 hospitals between 1995 and 2004.

The results showed that 102, mainly aborted for reasons such as Down syndrome and heart defects, were born alive. The study was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics.

Abortion has also been a theme of debate in the U.K.’s Parliament, with three bills proposed by backbench members in the last eight months, the Guardian reported June 4. The bills, private initiatives without government support, never really had much chance of success.

In spite of knowing this, pro-life parliamentarians nevertheless attempted to gain approval for their proposals. The bills contemplated measures ranging from the introduction of counseling for women seeking abortion, to obliging a cooling-off period before proceeding with abortion, and reducing the current 24-week period during which abortion is freely permitted.

Attention will remain focused on the abortion issue, added the Guardian, because the British Medical Association’s conference, to be held at the end of June, will debate a proposal to vote in favor of liberalizing abortion regulations.

In his May 31 sermon, Cardinal O’Brien called for the building of a society, “which joyfully accepts new life,” and to fight against the culture of death promoted by the abortion industry.

“We must remain witnesses to the truth and be unambiguous in defending life in all that we do,” he concluded. Challenging words in a battle that continues to divide opinions.

Interview With Auxiliary Bishop-Designate Elliott

MELBOURNE, Australia, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A love for the liturgy attracted former-Anglican Peter John Elliott to the Catholic Church, a love which he will carry over into his activities as an auxiliary bishop.

Bishop-designate Elliott, 63, of Melbourne, is the third Australian prelate to have an Anglican background. He converted to the Catholic Church during his studies at Oxford. He will receive his episcopal ordination June 15.

In this interview with ZENIT, Bishop-designate Elliott discusses his new mission as a Church leader, and the challenges of secularization and religious formation in Australia.

Q: As a convert from the Anglican Church, and now appointed as an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, you bring with you a background not shared by many bishops. What influence has your personal history had on your priesthood, and what will it mean for you as a bishop?

Bishop-designate Elliott: As far as I can see, I am the third Australian bishop with an Anglican background. Archbishop Lancelot Goody [1908-1992] of Perth came into the Church as a child, when his family converted. Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, New South Wales, was an Anglican clergyman until he was reconciled to the Church in 1964.

I came in four years later, halfway through my theology studies at Oxford, where I was training for the Anglican clergy.

But apart from the ecumenical advantages, the Anglicanism in which I was raised was firmly based in the High Church Oxford Movement, so my father, an Anglican vicar, was not anti-Catholic. I could say that I learned the basics of the faith at home.

When I was ordained a priest in Melbourne in 1973, my parents were delighted to be involved in the celebrations. Yet what has influenced my priesthood, rising from this background, was a love of the liturgy, a valuing of the sacraments and a sense of beauty, reverence and awe, which characterized the Anglican tradition at its best. My father also taught me to preach — without notes!

Q: Your work in Rome at the Pontifical Council for the Family, and then in Melbourne as the director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, meant you were in close contact with family questions. In these times when there is so much debate over the future of the family, what do you think the Church has to offer a secular society?

Bishop-designate Elliott: Working in the pontifical council from 1987 to 1997 was a fascinating experience, especially guided by Cardinal Edouard Gagnon and Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, two leaders I was honored to serve, in our common service of Pope John Paul II.

It was the era of the famous, or infamous, U.N. conferences. I served in the delegation of the Holy See at the Cairo Population Conference, the World Justice Summit at Copenhagen and the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing.

Here I learned in no uncertain terms that the family, marriage and human life itself is under direct attack, and that God’s providence is guiding the Catholic Church to meet the challenge of global secularism in all its aggressive and destructive forms.

The battleground in not merely in international conferences heavy with ambiguous jargon and deceitful strategies, but right here in your family and mine — this is where the struggle for the soul of the human person is taking place.

Yet the Church meets this not with negativity, but by proclaiming the good news of life and love, by saying that babies are beautiful, that the future does move by way of the family, that the great hope for humanity is the living cell of all societies, the family based on marriage.

To put it simply: In a world weighed down by doom-and-gloom postmodern ideologies, we proclaim the virtue word “hope.”

Q: You are also a well-known commentator on liturgical questions. Amid all the worries over changes in liturgy and a lack of respect for Church norms, how do you think we can recover a sense of the sacred in the liturgy, while at the same time making it attractive to a mentality that often sees ceremonies as boring and repetitive?

Bishop-designate Elliott: Sometimes I regret getting into writing books on liturgy. Some e-mails I receive are quite amazing. But I love the liturgy, and it was largely through the liturgy that I “came home” to Catholicism.

That is why I deeply regret the abuses of liturgy or the sheer liturgical laziness found in various places. While these abuses continue, I believe they are less frequent, and I see signs of hope, particularly through the liturgical vision and leadership of Benedict XVI.

He takes us beyond techniques, details and issues, and he leads us deeply into the “spirit of the liturgy.” The wonderful vision of the Second Vatican Council was of a liturgy that linked earth to heaven, the worship of the mystical body.

Our Holy Father understands this well, and interprets it wisely. The sense of the sacred is returning, gradually. Young Catholics bear witness to this trend.

I am delighted at the prospect of real, dignified and accurate texts for Mass in English, and that this reform is being extended to all languages.

Also, I am not so sure that many people see ceremonies as “boring and repetitive.” I think there has been a reaction against that phase when ceremonies were made so “meaningful” as to be performances, a liturgical cabaret approach.

People seek stability in worship, and that is where the fixed liturgical forms of Catholic worship in the East and West come into play in our lives.

Q: Benedict XVI has specifically mentioned Australia, along with some other Western nations, as being one of the countries most affected by secularization and a weakening of the Church. What do you see as the priorities for the Church in Australia to affront this situation?

Bishop-designate Elliott: Yes, secularization is prevalent in Australia. I recently took part in a dialogue with evangelicals and Pentecostals on this question, which is of concern to all Christians.

The secularizing process, and a kind of ideology of secularism, has made great inroads into our families, and into the lives of individuals. But that is just the kind of challenge we have had to face, in other pagan forms, in other societies in the past.

In Australia we need to strengthen the Church by concentrating on two points: formation of priests and promoting vocations, and a radical revision of religious education and catechesis.

I have been involved in that second area since I returned from Rome 10 years ago. Cardinal George Pell made me episcopal vicar for religious education in Melbourne, and editor of a 13-volume set of school texts entitled “To Know, Worship and Love.”

As a bishop, I will continue working in this field with Archbishop Denis Hart, a hands-on leader who recognizes priorities. We now see these texts spreading across Australia because they “put the beef back into the hamburger” — in an attractive, creative way.

Formation and education, these are the keys to family ministry, to parish revitalization, and will be evident at World Youth Day in Sydney next year.

In turn, formation and education lead to a real “new evangelization,” which, putting aside all the debates about detail, really means converting nonbelieving people to Jesus Christ and his Church. By forming better Catholics we can carry out a mission to others.

So many “secular” people are hungering for God, even if they do not know it. But without formation we have little to offer them.

Nevertheless, when it is all said and done, we Catholics still have to respond to the greatest gift of Vatican II, the universal call to holiness. That is how we meet and transform a secularized society, by deeper personal spirituality, by union with the merciful heart of the Lord Jesus.

Q: We often tend to focus on the negative side. What do think are some of the positive steps that the Church and religious organizations have made in recent years in Australia?

Bishop-designate Elliott: Spiritual movements are growing in Australia, with their different charisms, spiritualities and approaches that reflect the variety, and yet build up the organic unity of the Church. None of these movements is the perfect “silver bullet,” yet together they are reshaping large sections of the Church.

Again, that will be evident at World Youth Day. I also see the deep concern for social justice as a major contribution the Church in Australia has made to the life of our nation, and beyond, as in East Timor and the Pacific Islands. Australian Catholicism has a grand heritage of justice work and action based on the social teachings of the Church.

This is another way to penetrate a very prosperous but uncertain — and fear-ridden — society. We bring the balance and wisdom of the Christian cultures of the past to bear on our society today. Australia is a changing multiethnic society, ranging from our indigenous Australians through to new waves of refugees and immigrants who seek a new life in our land.

But this is a land of hope, named centuries ago by Catholic explorers — the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence”

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: “This is my body … this is my blood.” He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, “Sacramentum Caritatis” (cf. Nos. 66-69).

Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church’s greatest act of adoration: “No one eats this food,” St. Augustine writes, “if he has not first worshipped it” (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.

Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today’s solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration. I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life.

I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community. I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one’s “I” but rather in the company of that “You” full of love who is Jesus Christ, “the God who is near us.”

May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.

[After the Angelus, the Pope said in Italian:]

Unfortunately, I receive frequent requests for intervention on behalf of persons — some of whom are even priests — who have been seized for different reasons and in different parts of the world. I carry all in my heart and they are present in my prayer. I think, among other cases, of the painful situation in Colombia. I direct my solicitous call to the authors of such detestable deeds that they reflect on the evil they have done and return those they hold prisoner as soon as possible to the affection of their loved ones. I entrust the victims to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of all men.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English, he said:]

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who have gathered here for the Angelus. On this day, many are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist. We give thanks to God for the great gift of the Eucharist, the sacred banquet in which we receive Christ. We remember his sufferings, our minds are filled with his grace and we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours. I pray that all of you may grow in love for the Lord through the great sacrament of his Body and Blood. May God bless you all.