Vatican City (AsiaNews) – An appeal for the restitution of “full freedom" to Asia Bibi was launched today by Benedict XVI, at the end of the general audience. He noted that "the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, often victims of violence or discrimination." The Pope expressed his "spiritual closeness" to Asia Bibi and her family and called for the liberation of women. "I pray - he concluded - for those who are in similar situations that their human dignity and their fundamental rights be fully respected."
Before the appeal, in his address to the 40 thousand people in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI said the church is undergoing a "springtime of the Eucharist", with many people, even young, "stopping in silence before the tabernacle to spend time with Him" . It is a "wonderful development" of Eucharistic worship for which the Church is particularly indebted to St. Juliana of Cornillon, from Liège a nun who lived between1191 and 1258 to whom Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience.
The Pope, continuing in his series of lessons on the great female figures of the medieval Church said that Jiuliana was born into an environment, that of Liege, which was "a true Eucharistic Cenacle, theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Eucharist and there were women's groups generously dedicated to the worship of the Eucharist and fervent communion. "
Orphaned at 5, Juliana, with her sister Agnes, was entrusted to the Augustinian nuns, whose orders she entered at 18. She was a woman of "high culture to the point that she cites the works of the Latin Fathers, especially Augustine and Bernard." She had a "lively intelligence" and "propensity for contemplation." At 16 she had her first vision that repeated itself several times. The vision represented "the moon in its full splendour with a diametric dark stripe. The Lord made it clear that the Moon was the life of the Church on earth and the dark line represents the absence of a liturgical feast" in which "believers could worship the Eucharist to increase faith in the practice of virtue and advancing reparation for the offenses of the Blessed Sacrament. "
It became the purpose of her life. Together with two other women, "Blessed Eve, who lived a hermit's life, and Isabella, who had entered the monastery of Mont-Cornillon", she created a kind of "spiritual covenant". They also questioned "theologians and clergy on what was in their heart. The responses were positive and encouraging. " This "appears frequently in the lives of saints: to confirm that an inspiration comes from God, they must always be immersed in prayer, they must know how to wait patiently, to seek friendship and comparison with other good souls, and submit everything to the judgement of the pastors of the Church". And it was the bishop of Liege, Robert of Thourotte, who welcomed the proposal of Juliana and her companions, and instituted for the first time, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later, other bishops followed suit.
The Lord, however, often ask the Saints to pass tests, so their faith may grow. This was also the case with Juliana, who had to suffer the bitter opposition of some members of the clergy and the same leaders from which her monastery depended. " Juliana, then "voluntarily" left the convent, and for ten years, from 1248 to 1258, was the guest of various monasteries of Cistercian nuns. She died in 1258 in Fosses-la-Ville, Belgium. "In the cell where she was lying, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, in the words of the biographer, Juliana died contemplating a last outburst of love for Jesus in the Eucharist, which she had always loved, honoured and adored." James Pantaléon of Troyes also joined in the "good cause of the feast of Corpus Domini, who had met during his ministry the Holy Archdeacon of Liege and who became Pope Urban IV in 1264, establishing the feast of Corpus Christi as a feast of obligation for the universal Church. It was he who wanted to take the lead in celebrating the feast of Corpus Domini in Orvieto, the city where he then lived and that still custodies the famous coporal with traces of the Eucharistic miracle” that had occurred ' years earlier, in 1263, in Bolsena. A priest, as he consecrate the bread and wine, was taken by strong doubts about the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Miraculously, a few drops of blood began to flow from the consecrated host, confirming that way what our faith professes".
Urban IV also asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the texts of the liturgical office of this great feast. "They still used today in the Church, they are masterpieces, which combine poetry and theology. They are texts that pull on the heart strings in an expression of praise and gratitude to the Blessed Sacrament, while the intelligence, entering into the mystery with surprise, in the Eucharist recognize the true and living presence of Jesus, his sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation. "
Remembering Saint Juliana of Cornillon, the Pope concluded, "we also renew our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist." "Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way with his body and his blood, his soul and his divinity. In it he is thus present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and man. "