Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The joy intrinsic to the ordination and the sorrow caused by news of violence coming from tormented Africa marked Benedict XVI’s day today as he ordained 29 deacons from the diocese of Rome this morning in St Peter’s Basilica. The Pope later talked about the rite and made an appeal for Somalia, Darfur and Burundi. He also mentioned his ‘mission’ to the United States and extended his best wishes to Orthodox Christians who celebrate Easter today, thus renewing his hope in full unity.
“Where Christ is preached with the power of the Holy Spirit and welcomed with open heart, society becomes a ‘city of Joy’ despite its many problems as the title of a famous book dedicated to Mother Teresa’s work in Kolkata says.” Benedict XVI extended this wish to the new priests and referred to it in his homily before 40,000 people in St Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli, inspired by Chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles which says “There was great joy in that city” (Acts, 8: 8) which converted to the new faith.
“Dear friends, this is your mission,” he told the 29 ordinands; “bringing the Gospel to everyone so that everyone can try the joy of Christ and that there be joy in every city. What greater joy can there be than this? What is there that is greater, more enthusiastic, than to cooperate in spreading the Word of life around the world, communicating the living water of the Holy Spirit? Announcing and bearing witness to this joy is the central core of your mission.”
The Pope then talked about the imposition of hands which is done during the rite. “It is inseparable from prayer, of which it is the silent extension. Without saying a word, the consecrating bishop, and after him the other priests, place their hands on the head of the ordinands, thus expressing the invocation to God that he may effuse his Spirit upon them and transform them so that they can share in the Priesthood of Christ. It is but a few seconds, a short moment, but one that is charged with extraordinary spiritual density. In that silent prayer,” he added, “two freedoms meet: God’s freedom, operating via the Holy Spirit, and man’s freedom.”
Lastly, the Pope turned to the Gospel to stress the evangelical words “If you love me.’ “Dear friends,” he said, “Jesus uttered these words during the Last Supper when he contextually instituted the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Although they were for the Apostles, in a certain sense they were directed to all their successors and to the priests, who are the closest collaborators of the Apostles’ successors. We listen to them again today as an invitation to live more coherently our vocation in the Church. You, dear Ordinands, listen to them with particular emotion because today Christ makes you share in his Priesthood. Welcome them with faith and love! Let them become imprinted in your heart; let them accompany you along the path of your existence. Do not forget them, nor lose them along the way! Read them again and again, meditate them and especially pray them. This way you will remain faithful to the love of Christ and will realise with renewed joy how this divine Word ‘will walk’ with and ‘grow” in you.
He concluded saying: “Dearest, here is my wish in this day so important for you. May the hope rooted in faith always and increasingly be yours! May you bear witness and be wise and generous givers, sweet and strong, respectful and confident.”
A little bit later the Pope reminded the crowd gathered in St Peter’s, that “today many Eastern Churches celebrate the great solemnity of Easter according to the Julian calendar. I wish to express to our brothers and sisters my fraternal spiritual closeness. I cordially greet them, praying God one and triune to confirm them in the faith, fill them with the shining light that emanates from the resurrection of the Lord and comfort then in the not easy situation in which they must live and bear witness to the Gospel. I urge everyone to join me in calling upon the name of the Mother of God so that the collaboration and the dialogue which we have already undertaken for some time may soon bring the disciples of Christ into a more complete communion so that they may be a brighter sign of hope for the whole of humanity.”
The Pope ended the long morning with an appeal for Africa. “The news that come from some African countries continue to cause deep suffering and great concern,” he said. “I call upon you not to forget the tragic events in which your brothers and sisters are caught up. I urge you to pray for them and act as their voice. In Somalia, especially in Mogadiscio, heavy fighting has made the humanitarian situation even worse, oppressed by too many years by brutality and misery. Despite a momentary ray of home, the Darfur remains an endless tragedy for hundreds of thousands of defenceless people left on their own. Finally, Burundi; after the bombing of the last few days which have hit and terrorised the residents of the capital Bujumbura, with the risk of another civil war looming, reaching the Apostolic Nunciatura as well, I urge all the parties involved in the conflict to resume without delay talks and get back on the path of reconciliation. I am confident that local political authorities, the international community and every person of good will not neglect all the efforts made to end the violence and honour the commitments undertaken so as to lay more solid foundations for peace and development. Let us entrust our intentions,” he concluded, “to Mary, Queen of Africa.”