"This Is Our Home!"
Two accounts of the text and delivery: first, that of the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen:
Delivering his most direct appeal yet to Latin Americans not to desert the Catholic church, Benedict visited the largest Marian sanctuary in the southern hemisphere tonight and thundered, “The church is our home! This is our home!”...and the dispatch from Catholic News Agency:
Almost imploring his audience, Benedict said, “In the church, we find everything that’s good, everything that brings us security and relief! Whoever accepts Christ as ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ in his totality, is assured of peace and happiness, in this life and the next! For this reason, the pope has come here to pray and to confess with all of you: It’s worth it to remain faithful, it’s worth it to persevere in the faith!”
Those exclamation points, by the way, are all in the original....
Benedict addressed Latin Americans directly, telling them he is aware they have a “great thirst for God,” and assuring them that their desires can be satisfied within the Catholic church. The pope called for a “new Pentecost” in the region.
At the same time, Benedict said that simply wearing the Catholic label is not enough.
“Coherence in the faith requires a solid doctrinal and spiritual formation, contributing to building a more just, more human and more Christian society,” he said. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, also in its abbreviated version published under the title of the Compendium will be of help in developing a clear understanding of our faith.”
Benedict’s remarks came after praying the rosary with bishops, priests and religious of Brazil, along with delegates to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. The service took place in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, the largest Marian shrine in Latin America, and for that matter, anywhere outside of Europe.
The word “Aparecida” means “she who appeared,” and it refers to the tradition that a statue of Mary without its head was discovered in a river by some local fishermen in 1717. Later, the fishermen found the head, and began to bring in huge numbers of fish. Devotion to the statue spread along with stories of miracles attributed to its intercession. In 1929, Our Lady of Aparecida was declared the Patroness of Brazil.
Among other things, Benedict advised his audience to “remain in the school of Mary.”
Thanking the Brazilians for their warm welcome, Benedict said that his predecessor, John Paul II, “mentioned many times your kindness and your fraternal welcome. He was absolutely right!”
Benedict went on to thank priests, deacons and seminarians for their service to the church. As he has on other occasions during the Brazil trip, Benedict made a special point of singling out members of religious communities for praise.
“You, men and women religious, are an offering, a gift, a divine blessing that the church has received from its Lord,” the pope said. “I thank God for your live and for the testimony that you give to the world of a faithful love of God and to others. This love without reserve – total, definitive, without conditions, and passionate – manifests itself in silence, in contemplation, in prayer, and in the most varied activities that you perform, in your religious families, in favor of all humanity, especially the poor and abandoned.”
The gesture carries special significance, given that under John Paul II many members of religious communities felt neglected by the Vatican in favor of new lay movements such as the Focolare, the Neocatechumenate, Sant’Egidio, and Communion and Liberation. While Benedict XVI has endorsed the growth of lay movements and associations while in Brazil, they have not received the sustain attention the pope has devoted to religious orders in his prepared texts.
[Benedict] praised “all the priests spread throughout the world, especially those in Latin America and the Caribbean” and said that their “faithfulness in the exercise of the ministry and the life of prayer, your search for holiness, your total self-giving to God at the service of your brothers and sisters”, speak “powerfully to my pastoral heart.”
The Pope highlighted that “the witness of a priestly life well lived brings nobility to the Church, calls forth admiration among the faithful, and is a source of blessings for the community” and it is also “the best way to promote vocations.”
Later, addressing religious men and women, the Pope said that consecrated life is “a divine gift that the Church has received from her Lord,” and he gave thanks to God for “your unreserved, totally, definitive, unconditional and impassioned love,” manifested “in silence, in contemplation, in prayer and in the most varied activities that you undertake in your religious families, in favor of humanity and especially of the poorest and most abandoned.”
The Pontiff then insisted one the need to “maintain our sense of belonging to the Church.” “The Pope therefore wants to say to all of you: The Church is our home! This is our home! In the Catholic Church we find all that is good, all that gives grounds for security and consolation!”
“For this reason,” he continued, “the Pope has come here to pray and to bear witness with you all: It is worth being faithful, it is worth persevering in our faith!”
In his closing remarks before the enthusiastic flag-waving crowd that filled the world’s largest Marian shrine and a large area of the surrounding parking lots, Pope Benedict reminded Latin American Catholics that coherence of the faith requires “a solid doctrinal and spiritual formation, which thus contributes to building a more just, humane and Christian society.”
PHOTO 1: AP/Dado Gaglieri
PHOTO 2: Reuters/Caetano Barriera
PHOTO 3: Reuters/Luiz Doro