It was our beloved Pope John Paul II who desired this special year dedicated to the Mystery of the Eucharist in order to reawaken in the Christian people faith, wonder and love for this great Sacrament, which constitutes the true treasure of the Church. How deep was the devotion with which he celebrated Holy Mass, the centre of every one of his days! And how much time he used to spend in silent, adoring prayer before the Tabernacle!
From the very beginning of this service which the Lord has asked of me, I therefore joyfully reaffirm the centrality of the Sacrament of the Real Presence of Christ in the Church's life and in every Christian's life. - Pope Benedict XVI
At the recent World Youth Day there were also many references to the Mystery of the Eucharist. I am thinking back, for example, to the evocative Vigil at Marienfeld on Saturday evening, 20 August, which culminated in Eucharistic adoration: a courageous choice that brought the eyes and hearts of the young people to converge on Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I also remember that during those memorable days there was perpetual adoration, day and night, in certain churches in Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf, with the participation of numerous young people who were thus able to discover together the beauty of contemplative prayer!
I am confident that with the commitment of Pastors and faithful, there will be an increasingly assiduous and fervent participation in the Eucharist in every community. Today in particular, I would like to urge people to sanctify with joy the "Lord's Day", Sunday, a holy day for Christians.
In this context, I would like to recall St Gregory the Great, whose liturgical Memorial we celebrated yesterday. That great Pope made a historically effective contribution to promoting various aspects of the liturgy and in particular, the proper celebration of the Eucharist. May his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, help us every Sunday to live to the full the joy of Easter and of the encounter with the Risen Lord.
After the Angelus, the Pope said:
In the past few days we have all been distressed at the disaster caused by a hurricane in the United States of America, especially in New Orleans. I would like to assure you of my prayers for the deceased and their relatives, for the injured and the homeless, for the sick, the children and the elderly; I bless all those who are involved in the difficult task of rescue work and rebuilding. I have charged Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to take a sign of my solidarity to the peoples affected.
My thoughts also turn to the Iraqis who, last Wednesday, saw hundreds of their fellow citizens - for the most part, elderly people, women and children - perish as victims of a wave of panic. They had gathered for a religious commemoration. May the Almighty move everyone's heart so that an atmosphere of reconciliation and reciprocal trust may at last take root in that troubled Country.
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims at today's Angelus. In a special way our hearts turn to all those suffering the devastating consequences of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. As the extent of this tragedy unfolds I ask you to join me in praying for the victims, their loved ones and all those affected. May the grieving families experience the consolation of God's presence and rescue workers be assured of our deep concern and support.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Esplanade in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The most beautiful sight that a people can offer is without any doubt is that of its own faith. At this moment I feel tangibly a moving manifestation of the faith that enlivens you and I would like immediately to express to you my admiration of this. I gladly accepted the invitation to come to your most beautiful Island on the occasion of the centenary of the proclamation of Our Lady of Bonaria as your principal Patroness. Today, together with the panorama of the wonderful nature that surrounds us, you offer me a view of your fervent devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. Thank you for this beautiful witness!
I greet you all with deep affection, starting with Archbishop Giuseppe Mani of Cagliari, President of the Sardinian Bishops' Conference, whom I thank for his courteous words at the beginning of this Holy Mass also on behalf of the other Bishops, to whom I extend my cordial thoughts, and on behalf of the whole ecclesial community which lives in Sardinia. Thank you, above all, for the dedication with which you prepared my Pastoral Visit. And I see that everything was indeed prepared perfectly. I greet the Civil Authorities and in particular the Mayor, who will address to me both his greeting and that of the City. I greet the other Authorities present and express my gratitude to them for the generous collaboration they offered to the organization of my Visit here in Sardinia. Thus I would like to greet the priests, and especially the Community of Mercedarian Fathers, the deacons, the men and women religious, those responsible for the associations and ecclesial movements, the youth and all the faithful, with a cordial remembrance for the elderly centenarians who I was able to greet at the Church entrance, and all those who have joined us in spirit or via the radio and television. In a very special way I greet the sick and the suffering, with a particular thought for the lowliest.
It is the Lord's Day, but - given this special circumstance - the Liturgy of the Word has proposed to us the Readings for the celebrations dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. These are in particular texts planned for the Feast of the Birth of Mary which for centuries has been fixed on 8 September, the date of the consecration of the basilica built in Jerusalem above the house of St Anne, Mother of Our Lady. They are Readings which effectively always contain the reference to the mystery of her birth. First of all there is the Prophet Micah's marvellous oracle concerning Bethlehem, in which the birth of the Messiah is announced. The Messiah, the oracle says, was to be a descendant of King David, like him a native of Bethlehem but a figure who would exceed human limitations: his "origin", it says, are "from ancient times", lost in the most remote ages, at the frontier of eternity. His greatness would reach "to the ends of the earth", as would also be his peace (cf. Micah 5: 1-4a). The coming of the "Lord's anointed", who was to mark the beginning of the people's liberation was described by the Prophet with an enigmatic expression: "until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth" (Micah 5: 3). Thus the Liturgy - which is a privileged school of the faith - teaches us to see in Mary's birth a direct connection with that of the Messiah, Son of David.
The Gospel, a passage from the Apostle Matthew, proposed to us precisely the account of Jesus' birth. However, the Evangelist introduces it with a summary of his genealogy, which he sets at the beginning as a prologue. Here too the full evidence of Mary's role in salvation history stands out: Mary's being is totally relative to Christ and in particular to his Incarnation. "Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Matthew 1: 16). The lack of continuity in the layout of the genealogy immediately meets the eye; we do not read "begot" but instead: "Mary, of whom Jesus was born who is called Christ". Precisely in this we perceive the beauty of the plan of God who, respecting the human being, makes him fertile from within, causing the most beautiful fruit of his creative and redeeming work to develop in the humble Virgin of Nazareth. Then the Evangelist brings on stage the figure of Joseph, his inner drama, his robust faith and his exemplary rectitude. Behind Joseph's thoughts and deliberations is his love for God and his firm determination to obey him. But how is it possible not to feel that Joseph's distress, hence his prayers and his decision, were motivated at the same time by esteem and love for his betrothed? God's beauty and that of Mary are inseparable in Joseph's heart; he knows that there can be no contradiction between them; he seeks the answer in God and finds it in the light of the Word and of the Holy Spirit: "The Virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1: 23; cf. Isaiah 7: 14).
Thus, once again, we can contemplate Mary's place in the saving plan of God, that "purpose" which we find in the Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Romans. Here the Apostle Paul expresses in two verses, unusually dense with meaning, the synthesis of what human life is from a meta-historical viewpoint: a parabola of salvation that starts from God and returns to him; a parabola entirely motivated and governed by his love. This is a salvific design totally permeated by divine freedom, which nonetheless awaits a fundamental contribution by human freedom: the creature's corresponds to the Creator's love. And it is here, in this space of human freedom, that we perceive the presence of the Virgin Mary, without her ever having been explicitly mentioned: she is in fact, in Christ, the first fruits and model of "those who love him [God]" (Romans 8: 28). The predestination of Mary is inscribed in the predestination of Jesus, as likewise is that of every human person. The "here I am" of the Mother faithfully echoes the "here I am" of the Son (cf. Hebrews 10: 6), as does the "here I am" of all adoptive children in the Son, that of us all, precisely.
Dear friends of Cagliari and Sardinia, thanks to their faith in Christ and through the spiritual motherhood of Mary and of the church, your people too are called to be integrated in the spiritual "genealogy" of the Gospel. Christianity did not arrive in Sardinia with the swords of conquerors or by foreign imposition but germinated from the blood of the martyrs who gave their life here as an act of love for God and for men and women. It is in your mines that the Good News rang out for the first time. It had been brought by Pope Pontianus and the priest Hyppolitus and by many brothers condemned ad metalla [to work the silver, lead and iron mines] for their faith in Christ. Saturnius, Gavin, Protus, and Januarius, Simplicius, Lussorius, Ephysius and Antiochus were witnesses of total dedication to Christ as true God and Lord. The witness of martyrdom conquered a proud spirit such as that of the Sardinians, instinctively recalcitrant to all that came from over the sea. From the martyrs' example Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari drew the strength to defend orthodoxy against Arianism and, together with Eusebius of Vercelli, also from Cagliari, opposed the condemnation of Athanasius at the Council of Milan in 335, and for this both of them, Lucifer and Eusebius, were sentenced to exile, a very harsh exile. Sardinia has never been a land of heresies; its people have always shown filial fidelity to Christ and to the See of Peter. Yes, dear friends, in the sequence of invasions and dominations, faith in Christ endured in your peoples' soul as a constitutive element of your Sardinian identity itself.
In the fifth century, after the martyrs, many Bishops arrived from Africa who were obliged to suffer exile for refusing to adhere to the Arian heresy. They brought the riches of their faith with them to the Island. More than 100 Bishops, under the guidance of Fulgentius of Ruspe, founded monasteries and intensified the task of evangelization. Together with Augustine's glorious relics, they brought the wealth of their liturgical and spiritual tradition, traces of which you still preserve. Thus the faith became ever more deeply rooted in the hearts of the faithful until it became a culture and produced fruits of holiness. Ignatius of Laconi and Nicholas of Gésturi are Saints with whom Sardinia identifies. The martyr Antonia Mesina, the contemplative Gabriella Sagheddu, and the Sister of Charity, Josephine Nicóli, are the expression of a youth that was able to pursue great ideals. This simple and courageous faith continues to thrive in your communities, in your families, where one breathes the Gospel fragrance of the virtues that belong to your land: faithfulness, dignity, discretion, sobriety, the sense of duty.
And then, obviously, there is your love for Our Lady. Indeed, we are here today to commemorate a great act of faith made by your ancestors a century ago when they entrusted their lives to the Mother of Christ, choosing her to be the most important Patroness of the Island. They could not have known then that the 20th century was to be a very difficult century but it was certainly in that consecration to Mary that they subsequently found the strength to face the difficulties that arose, especially with the two World Wars. It could only be like this. Your Island, dear friends of Sardinia, could have no other protectress than Our Lady. She is the Mother, Daughter and Wife par excellence: "Sa Mama, Fiza, Isposa de su Segnore", as you like to sing. She is the Mother who loves, protects, advises, consoles and gives life so that life may be born and endure. She is the Daughter who honours her family, is ever attentive to the needs of her brothers and sisters and is prompt in making her home beautiful and welcoming; she is the Wife capable of faithful, patient love, of sacrifice and of hope. In Sardinia at least 350 churches and shrines are dedicated to Mary. A people of mothers is reflected in that humble girl from Nazareth who with her "yes" enabled the Word to become flesh.
I well know that Mary is in your hearts. A hundred years later, let us thank her today for her protection and renew our trust in her, recognizing her as the "Star of the New Evangelization" at whose school we may learn how to bring Christ the Saviour to the men and women of our time.
Mary is the harbour, refuge and protection for the Sardinian people who have within them the strength of oak. When the storm has passed the oak stands strong; fires rage and it sends out new shoots; the drought comes and it wins through once again. Let us therefore renew joyfully our consecration to such a caring Mother. I am sure that generations of Sardinians will continue to climb to the Shrine at Bonaria to invoke the Virgin's protection. Those who entrust themselves to Our Lady of Bonaria, a merciful and powerful Mother, will never be disappointed. May Mary Queen of Peace and Star of Hope intercede for us. Amen!
Esplanade in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration I would like to express again my greetings and my gratitude. Above all I would like to acknowledge and thank for their welcome and their presence Hon. Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister; Hon. Dr Giovanni Letta, Undersecretary, and all of the civil and military authorities present here. And finally let us cast yet another glance toward the "Sweet Queen of the Sardinian people", venerated on this hill of Bonaria. Over the course of centuries, how many renowned personages have come to render her homage! How many of my Predecessors have wished to honour her with particular affection! Blessed Pius IX decreed her coronation; St Pius X, about 100 years ago, proclaimed her Patroness of All of Sardinia; Pius XI attributed the title of Minor Basilica to the new church; Pius XII, 50 years ago, made himself spiritually present with a special Message transmitted directly by Vatican Radio and Blessed John XXIII, who in 1960 sent a Letter for the reopening of the Shrine to her cult after its restoration. The first Pope to return to the Island after 1,650 years was the Servant of God Paul VI, who visited the Shrine on 24 April 1970. And before the holy effigy of the Blessed Mother, the beloved John Paul II paused in prayer on 20 October 1985. In the footsteps of the Popes who have preceded me, I too have chosen the Shrine of Bonaria to round off a Pastoral Visit that aspires to embrace the whole of Sardinia.
Today we have renewed the entrustment of the city of Cagliari, of Sardinia and all its inhabitants to Mary. May the holy Virgin continue to watch over each and every one, so that the patrimony of Gospel values may be transmitted integrally to the new generations and so that Christ may reign in the families, in the communities and in the various spheres of society. May the Blessed Mother particularly protect those who, at this moment, are most in need of her maternal intervention: children and youth, elderly and families, the sick and all the suffering.
Aware of the important role that Mary has in the existence of every one of us, as devoted children we celebrate her birth today. This event constitutes a fundamental step for the Family of Nazareth, crib of our redemption - an event that regards each one of us, because every gift that God has granted to her, the Mother, he has granted thinking also of each one of us, her children. Therefore, with immense gratitude, let us ask Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate and our Mother, to protect every earthly mother: those who, together with their husband, raise their children in a harmonious family context, and those who, for many reasons, find themselves alone to face a very difficult duty. May they carry out with dedication and loyalty their daily service within the family, the Church and society. May the Blessed Mother be for all a support, comfort and hope!
Under Mary's gaze I would like to recall the dear peoples of Haiti, so sorely tried in the past days by the passage of three hurricanes. I pray for the victims, unfortunately numerous, and for the homeless. I am close to the entire nation and I hope that the help needed reaches them as soon as possible. I entrust all to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria.
28 September 2014
She is the Mother, Daughter and Wife par excellence: "Sa Mama, Fiza, Isposa de su Segnore", as you like to sing. She is the Mother who loves, protects, advises, consoles and gives life so that life may be born and endure. She is the Daughter who honours her family, is ever attentive to the needs of her brothers and sisters and is prompt in making her home beautiful and welcoming; she is the Wife capable of faithful, patient love, of sacrifice and of hope.
- Pope Benedict XVI