Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pope Benedict's Vigil for All Nascent Human Life

[These are excerpts from the Vigil for All Nascent Human Life as celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, November 27, 2010.]

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfil with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator...

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension.... We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us.
The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates ... “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ”.
With regard to the embryo in the womb... This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb.
I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life...
Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!


[The Pope's final words refer to a hymn attributed to Pope Innocent VI (1282-1362). During the Middle Ages it was sung at the elevation of the host during the consecration. Mozart composed this version in 1791 to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.]

Natum de Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine:
Cuius latus perforatum
Fluxit aqua et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examine.

HAIL, true Body,
truly born Of the Virgin Mary mild
Truly offered, wracked and torn,
On the Cross for all defiled,
From Whose love-pierced, sacred side
Flowed Thy true Blood's saving tide:
Be a foretaste sweet to me
In my death's great agony.

The Church vs. the Culture

Move over Laurie Goodstein, you've got company!

You may have heard of the controversy regarding New York Times "religion" reporter Laurie Goodstein with regards to her coverage of the Catholic Church. It got so bad that Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York had to step in and call out the biased reporting.

Now it's the turn of Associated Press reporter Nicole Winfield. I generally try to ignore these things, because it can be taken for granted that the secular press is not going to give favorable coverage to the Catholic Church. But there does come a time to speak out.

The latest headline by Winfield is: "Pope urges respect for embryos". Seriously? Does she think she's writing for the Onion? How does "vigil for all nascent human life" become "respect for embryos"?

I think the best way to illustrate this is to list some recent headlines by this AP writer.
  • Pope defends family as Spanish gays hold 'kiss-in'
  • Pope blasts Spain's "aggressive" anti-church ways
  • Pope says condoms may reduce infection
  • Vatican shifts on condom use
  • Vatican explains shift in stance on condoms
Each one of these headlines is a deliberate distortion of the truth. And the worst thing is that these AP stories get picked up by papers around the world which mindlessly repeat these mistruths. This just goes to show how difficult it is for the Catholic Church to deliver its message to the general public.

This has not gone unnoticed by Pope Benedict XVI. Within the new book "Light of theWorld" – which the media has tried to turn into a new Church controversy – there is a very relevant exchange between the Pope and the interviewer Peter Seewald.
Peter Seewald: In a world that has become relativistic, a new paganism has gained more and more dominion over people’s thoughts and actions. It has long since become clear not only that there is a blank space, a vacuum, alongside the Church, but also that something Dictatorship of Relativism like an anti-church has been established. The Pope in Rome, one German newspaper wrote, should be condemned for the sole reason that by his positions he has “transgressed against the religion” that today “is valid in this country”, namely, the “civil religion”. Has a new Kulturkampf started here, as Marcello Pera has analyzed it? The former president of the Italian Senate speaks about a “large-scale battle of secularism against Christianity”.

Pope Benedict: A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called “negative tolerance”. For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. “not offending anyone”] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.

When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.

In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason— so-called Western reason—claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.

The aggressiveness with which this new religion appears was described by the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel as a “crusade of the atheists”. It is a crusade that mocks Christianity as the “God delusion” and classifies religion as a curse that is also to blame for all wars. You yourself have already spoken about a “subtle or even not so subtle aggression against the Church”. Even without a totalitarian regime, you say that there is pressure today to think the way everybody thinks, that attacks against the Church show “how this conformity can really be a genuine dictatorship”. Harsh words.

But the reality is in fact such that certain forms of behavior and thinking are being presented as the only reasonable ones and, therefore, as the only appropriately human ones. Christianity finds itself exposed now to an intolerant pressure that at first ridicules it—as belonging to a perverse, false way of thinking—and then tries to deprive it of breathing space in the name of an ostensible rationality.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vigil for All Nascent Human Life

You may have noticed that the "slogan" at the top of the webpage has changed. It used to contain a "warning" and now says "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray." These words come from Jesus Christ. It was what he said to his disciples on the night before he was arrested and handed over to the Roman authorities to be tried and eventually crucified.

Christ asked his followers to maintain a prayerful vigil through the night. They claimed to be full of zeal, but at the hour of truth they were overcome by sleep.

This coming Sunday, November 28, marks the beginning of Advent in the Catholic Church liturgical calendar. In fact this marks the beginning of a new liturgical year.

On Saturday, November 27, the eve of the new liturgical year, Pope Benedict XVI has called for a worldwide "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life". Boston Archdiocesan Pro Life Office Director, Marianne Luthin, explained the purpose of the worldwide Vigil this way.
“The fact that the Holy Father has requested every diocesan bishop to celebrate this Vigil for Nascent Life at the start of Advent is unprecedented.  “Nascent” is a word we don’t frequently use anymore. While it clearly refers to unborn human life, its other meanings include “promising”, “growing”, and “hopeful”. As we enter into Advent, our thoughts naturally focus on the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ came to us first as an unborn child, tiny, vulnerable and needing the protection and care of his mother. By calling for this worldwide prayer vigil as we begin the season of Advent, I think the Holy Father is calling us to focus both on the hope and promise of new life in Christ that we celebrate at Christmas but also to acknowledge the sad fact that world-wide there are an estimated 50 million abortions performed each year.  We need a renewal of hope about the meaning of life as the reflection of God. Here in the US, the Vigil falls on Thanksgiving weekend when families traditionally come together. The timing is a happy coincidence that reminds us of the great gift from God that each and every human life represents.”
Non-Catholics are invited to participate by joining us in prayer for the unborn. Here is some artwork I have collected from various dioceses that are taking part in this unprecedented vigil.

The Pope understands that the enemy in the battle for the lives of the unborn is not a political enemy. This is a spiritual battle and requires a spiritual response. There is no more powerful spiritual weapon than prayer.

Jesus spent the night before his arrest in prayer. We have a chance to reach out to God as a unified body in imitation of Christ, and let Him know that we have not forgotten these least among us.
Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test."

After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." (And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)

When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him.

Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"

 – Luke 22:39-48

In defense of Benedict XVI

EWTN coverage of the visit in 2008 to the US by Pope Benedict XVI

I have a bone to pick with EWTN. In case you don't know, they are a Catholic TV station that is widely available on cable. They are unabashedly orthodox in their viewpoint, which is fine with me.

The problem that I have is that it's been more than five years since Benedict XVI became the Pope. And yet EWTN seems to have barely noticed. They still feature prominently Pope John Paul II. When the recent condom controversy emerged, EWTN commentators couldn't resist asking "what would John Paul II do?"

At some point this begins to undermine the current Pope. And what about the habit of EWTN hosts of referring to the former Pope as John Paul the Great? There seems to be more to this than just promoting the sainthood of John Paul II. It feels to me like there are some among the EWTN staff that are advocating a sort of cult of personality devoted to the former Pope.

This is not intended to in any way disparage Pope John Paul II. He was definitely a great Pope. But to then refer to him as John Paul the Great is no small step. Only three Popes in history have appended to their names "the Great": Pope St. Leo I (440–61), Pope St. Gregory I (590–604), and Pope St. Nicholas I (858–67). Does a modern Pope really fall into the same category as these fathers of Christianity? And to refer to John Paul as "the Great" seems to be saying something about Pope Benedict in comparison. I don't think it is an intentional slight, but it still leaves that lingering impression.

It's true that Benedict is not as charismatic as John Paul. He is not as youthful and energetic. But should that even matter when we are talking about the head of the Catholic Church? There's nothing wrong with a charismatic Pope and this quality garnered quite a bit of sympathy for John Paul from the secular press. In contrast the press seems to smell blood whenever Pope Benedict XVI makes a slightly controversial statement.

This is all the more reason that we should rally around the current Pontiff and support him in our prayers. Benedict has a wonderful grandfatherly quality about him. He emanates a kind of quiet holiness that is his unique charisma. He does not have a powerful speaking voice, but his words and writings are profound and full of spiritual wisdom.

What EWTN is doing is really not fair to either John Paul or Benedict. There is no reason that the network should continue to cling so tightly to the memory of John Paul II after so many years. For example, how about a show to discuss the encyclicals of Pope Benedict instead of the "Threshold of Hope" show which continues to highlight the encyclicals of John Paul?

I know that for me personally John Paul II had become the very face of the Church, and it was hard for me to accept a new Pope. But we must remember that the true face of the Church is, and will always be, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christian persecution in Pakistan

Children of Asia Bibi holding a picture of their mother
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward who stated, "This man said, 'I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'"

The high priest rose and addressed him, "Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?" But Jesus was silent.

Then the high priest said to him, "I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God."

Jesus said to him in reply, "You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see 'the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power' and 'coming on the clouds of heaven.'"

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?" They said in reply, "He deserves to die!"

Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?"

 – Matthew 26:59-68
On November 17 Pope Benedict XVI personally appealed for the life of a Pakistani woman that was condemned to death on November 8 for the crime of blasphemy. Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, is a Christian in predominantly Muslim Pakistan. In his statement the Pope said he felt a “spiritual closeness” to Bibi and her family. Her crime is described in this account from a Pakistani newspaper.
Ms Asia’s case dates back to June 2009 when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. But a group of Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she should not touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and alleged that Ms Asia made derogatory remarks about the Prophet (peace be upon him). The cleric went to police, who opened an investigation.

Ms Asia was arrested in Ittanwalai village and prosecuted under Section 295-C of the PPC, which carries the death penalty.
The "derogatory remarks" that Mrs. Aisa is accused of having made apparently amount to nothing more than defending her Christian beliefs. This account is from the Pakistan Christian Post.
While working in farms with other Muslim women, Asia Bibi was dragged in religious dialogues on June 19, 2009, when Muslim women termed her an “Infidel” and Christianity a “Religion of infidels” and pressed her to embrace Islam.

Asia Bibi who is married and have two children, defended Christianity with her little knowledge and told Muslim women that Christianity is only True religion on which Muslim women made a roar and accused her defiling Prophet Mohammad.

The Muslim men working in nearby fields also gathered and attacked Asia Bibi on which she fled to village in her home. The angry Muslims followed her and took her out of home and started beating her. They tortured her children also but meanwhile some one informed police.

The police took Asia Bibi to police Station and filed FIR against her under section 295-B and C of Pakistan Penal Code but showed it a protective custody to other Christians of Ittanwali village.

Section 295 B and C PPC are subject to life in prison or death sentence but it is first judgment in history of Pakistan when a woman is sentenced to death.
And here is another account which offers some more details. This one is from a group called Release International, the "voice of persecuted Christians". They have an online petition here.
Asia, who is from Ittanwali in Punjab province, laboured in the fields for a Muslim landlord. She was arrested after a heated discussion about religion with her fellow farmworkers. Hers was one of only three Christian families in the village.

Some of the women workers had been putting her under pressure to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam. She responded by sharing with them about her faith in Christ.

Asia spoke of how Jesus Christ had died on the cross for their sins and then asked them what Mohammed had done for them.

On hearing this response the Muslim women became very angry and began to beat her. Some men took Asia by force and locked her in a room. They used the PA system of a local mosque to broadcast plans to punish Asia by blackening her face and parading her through the village on a donkey.

According to Release partners, a mob formed and Asia was violently abused by Muslim villagers and clerics. Her children were also beaten.

However, some Christians informed the police and Asia was taken into protective custody. Pressure to charge her was brought to bear by Muslim leaders. Sentence was passed yesterday.

Asia was also fined £728 – the equivalent of two-and-a half years’ salary for an unskilled worker.

Release partners in Pakistan say the sentence is a crushing blow for Asia, who was hoping to be acquitted and return to her husband and children. They say: ‘Although Asia has great courage, her dreams of release have vanished now. Please pray for her encouragement, strength and protection.’
Mrs. Asia has been condemned to death for the same crime which Jesus was condemned to death some 2000 years ago. The crime of blasphemy.

Pakistan is a partner with the United States in its "war against terror" in Afghanistan. And yet I couldn't find a single statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that even mentioned Asia Bibi.

Amnesty International which was originally founded by a Jewish convert to Christianity, Peter Benenson, has absolutely nothing to say about Asia Bibi. Apparently protecting the freedoms of Christians to practice their faith is not on the AI agenda, while pro-abortion activity has recently become a new campaign. CORRECTION: After some pleading from the British Pakistani Christian Association, AI finally came out with a statement on November 19 asking for the release of Asia (Aasia) Bibi. But don't try to find this statement on the AI website without a direct link.

Human Rights Watch has done a much better job of campaigning to free Asia Bibi. They have launched a high profile campaign to repeal the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan as a direct result of her case.  I would however offer a note of caution regarding the stance of HRW. It may be that they are so eagerly pursuing the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws because they see in it a chance to attack organized religion – in this case Islam. This case should not be taken as an opportunity to attack Muslims in general. While Christians have many differences with Muslims, we also share many of the same beliefs rising from our shared heritage rooted in Abraham.

You should also be aware that like Amnesty International, HRW has become a pro-abortion advocacy group. In fact it appears that they actually preceded AI in declaring abortion to be a "human right". HRW appears to have gone pro-abortion in 2005, while AI turned pro-abortion in 2007. It shouldn't even need to be said that by declaring abortion to be a fundamental "human right" these organizations have declared that unborn children are not human.

Consider then the response of Asia Bibi when her coworkers refused to drink the water she had touched because they claimed that she was unclean. She said, “are we not human?”

And for that she was condemned to death.


UPDATE: There are some conflicting news reports that Asia Bibi has been released or pardoned. These seem to be mostly rumors at this point, but hopefully they will soon become reality.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sagrada Familia - from this altar...

Yesterday, November 7, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain. The work on this great church was begun over 100 years ago in 1882. The famous architect Antoni Gaudí (from Catalán, a region of Spain) took over the design of the Cathedral in 1883. Gaudí is famous for his "organic" architecture which imitates the forms found in nature. He was also a very devout Catholic.

Below are excerpts from the Pope's homily. As in his previous homily at Santiago de Compostela, the Pope stressed the need to re-evangelize Europe which has become increasingly secularized. Sagrada Familia is Spanish for Holy Family, and the Pope used this to form a theme about the importance of the family to society.

In his homily the Pope used the family as a symbol of human life from conception to the moment of natural death. He stressed the importance of respecting the dignity of human life and not interfering in God's plan.

Once again there was an exorcism-like quality to the Pope's prayers as he declared that the altar of this newly consecrated temple of Christ would produce a "flood of grace and charity" upon the whole world. I'm reminded of the words of Christ when he referred to himself as "the living water". As a society we need to remember to strengthen ourselves spiritually as well as physically. Without a strong spiritual foundation, society reverts to barbarism. It may be a high-tech form of barbarism as the world has experienced in two World Wars, but it is barbarism nonetheless.

I'm also reminded of the image of the Sacred Heart of Christ. The blood and the water that poured forth from Jesus on the Cross, are like the "flood of grace and charity" which the Pope spoke of.

Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father,
Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Formed by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mother,
Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Substantially united to the Word of God,
Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Of Infinite Majesty,
Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Holy Temple of God,
Have mercy on us...

[See also my previous post "Along the way to Santiago de Compostela" for excerpts from the Pope's homily on Saturday, November 6.]


Excerpts from the dedication of the church of the Sagrada Familia and the altar in Barcelona: Homily of the Holy Father

This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord. In this sense, I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him. In this masterpiece, Gaudí shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God.


The home formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph has always been regarded as a school of love, prayer and work. The promoters of this church wanted to set before the world love, work and service lived in the presence of God, as the Holy Family lived them. Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.


Dear brothers and sisters, as I dedicate this splendid church, I implore the Lord of our lives that, from this altar, which will now be anointed with holy oil and upon which the sacrifice of the love of Christ will be consumed, there may be a flood of grace and charity upon the city of Barcelona and its people, and upon the whole world. May these fruitful waters fill with faith and apostolic vitality this archdiocesan Church, its pastors and its faithful.


Finally, I wish to commend to the loving protection of the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, April Rose, Mother of Mercy, all who enter here and all who in word or deed, in silence and prayer, have made this possible this marvel of architecture. May Our Lady present to her divine Son the joys and tribulations of all who come in the future to this sacred place so that here, as the Church prays when dedicating religious buildings, the poor may find mercy, the oppressed true freedom and all men may take on the dignity of the children of God. Amen.

Along the way to Santiago de Compostela

The following are excerpts from the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at Santiago de Compostela on Saturday, November 6. The great Cathedral of this city (in the part of Spain known as Galicia) is a pilgrimage site where the remains of the Apostle St. James are buried.

The great theme of the Pope's homily is a call to Europe to return to Christ. He traces the current anti-Christian ideology back to the 19th century, which is the time of Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx. He points out the failures of European society based on these secular philosophies. And he makes clear that Christianity and "freedom" are in harmony - not in opposition as is often depicted.

The Pope's prayers spoken from this spiritual hub of Europe have great strength and resonance. His prayers are spiritually amplified by all the souls who have made pilgrimages throughout the centuries. It is as if the Pope were conducting an exorcism over Europe's corrupted spiritual body.

The Pope has stated repeatedly that what is needed is nothing less than a re-evangelization of Europe; a return to the spirit of the times of the first Apostles just after the death and resurrection of Christ.


Excerpts from: Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela Homily of the Holy Father

Brothers and sisters, today we are called to follow the example of the apostles, coming to know the Lord better day by day and bearing clear and valiant witness to his Gospel. We have no greater treasure to offer to our contemporaries.


I would like this message to reach all young people: this core content of the Gospel shows you in particular the path by which, in renouncing a selfish and short-sighted way of thinking so common today, and taking on instead Jesus’ own way of thinking, you may attain fulfilment and become a seed of hope.


This is what, in the secret of their heart, knowing it explicitly or sensing it without being able to express it, so many pilgrims experience as they walk the way to Santiago de Compostela to embrace the Apostle. The fatigue of the journey, the variety of landscapes, their encounter with peoples of other nationalities - all of this opens their heart to what is the deepest and most common bond that unites us as human beings: we are in quest, we need truth and beauty, we need an experience of grace, charity, peace, forgiveness and redemption. And in the depth of each of us there resounds the presence of God and the working of the Holy Spirit.


From this place, as a messenger of the Gospel sealed by the blood of Peter and James, I raise my eyes to the Europe that came in pilgrimage to Compostela. What are its great needs, fears and hopes? What is the specific and fundamental contribution of the Church to that Europe which for half a century has been moving towards new forms and projects? Her contribution is centred on a simple and decisive reality: God exists and he has given us life.


Tragically, above all in nineteenth century Europe, the conviction grew that God is somehow man’s antagonist and an enemy of his freedom. As a result, there was an attempt to obscure the true biblical faith in the God who sent into the world his Son Jesus Christ, so that no one should perish but that all might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16).


God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent. How can mortal man build a firm foundation and how can the sinner be reconciled with himself? How can it be that there is public silence with regard to the first and essential reality of human life? How can what is most decisive in life be confined to the purely private sphere or banished to the shadows?


This is why we need to hear God once again under the skies of Europe; may this holy word not be spoken in vain, and may it not be put at the service of purposes other than its own. It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.


It is this Christ whom we can find all along the way to Compostela for, at every juncture, there is a cross which welcomes and points the way. The cross, which is the supreme sign of love brought to its extreme and hence both gift and pardon, must be our guiding star in the night of time. The cross and love, the cross and light have been synonymous in our history because Christ allowed himself to hang there in order to give us the supreme witness of his love, to invite us to forgiveness and reconciliation, to teach us how to overcome evil with good. So do not fail to learn the lessons of that Christ whom we encounter at the crossroads of our journey and our whole life, in whom God comes forth to meet us as our friend, father and guide. Blessed Cross, shine always upon the lands of Europe!