03/18/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - CAMEROON
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Pope: paternity and dedication of Saint Joseph are a model for all Christians

Celebrating vespers in Yaoundé, Benedict XVI points out the saint whose name he bears as an example for priests, religious, and laity. A statement from Fr. Lombardi clarifies that the pope's words about AIDS restated the positions of the Catholic Church on this scourge.

Yaoundé (AsiaNews) - The life of St. Joseph is a model for all Christians, whether they are priests, religious, or laity. He, who "is not the biological father of Jesus," demonstrates how in spite of this he is able to exercise "his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion." It is around this concept that, this afternoon, Benedict XVI pointed out the spouse of Mary to the priests, religious, and laity of Cameroon who took part in the celebration of first vespers for the solemnity of St. Joseph, in the basilica Marie Reine des Apôtres.

For this, the first celebration on the pope's visit to Africa, all of the places in the basilica were filled. There were also festive crowds along the pope's route from the nunciature, where he is staying.

The rite also had an ecumenical character because of the presence of representatives from the other Christian confessions of the country, to whom Benedict XVI spoke of the "great challenge" of the quest for unity. This, he added, "leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to him. In him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father."

To all those present, representatives of all the elements of the Church of Cameroon, the pope pointed to St. Joseph - the personal patron of Benedict XVI, who celebrates his name day tomorrow - as the model to follow and imitate. For all, he is the example of spiritual paternity. This is true for priests, for whom he highlighted the "great dedication" of the saint who "for the sake of Christ . . . experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ. His readiness to do all these things illustrates the words of Saint Paul: 'It is Christ the Lord whom you serve' (Col 3:24). What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a 'faithful and wise servant'. The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.

"Dear brothers in the priesthood," he continued, "your pastoral ministry demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your Bishops, united fraternally to the whole presbyterate and supported by the portion of the People of God commended to your care, you will be able to respond faithfully to the Lord who has called you, just as he called Joseph to watch over Mary and the Child Jesus! May you always remain faithful, dear priests, to the promises that you made to God before your Bishop and in the presence of the whole community."

The same is true for those who have chosen the consecrated life, and for the laity. "Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing. In contemplating Joseph, all men and women can, by God’s grace, come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to him, just as Joseph entered into the work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in her. Dear brothers and sisters from the ecclesial movements, may you be attentive to those around you, and may you reveal the loving face of God to the poor, especially by your works of mercy, your human and Christian education of young people, your programmes for the advancement of women, and in so many other ways!

"The spiritual contribution offered by consecrated persons is likewise significant and indispensable for the life of the Church. This call to follow Christ is a gift for the whole People of God. According to your vocation, that of imitating Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally consecrated to the glory of his Father and the love of his brothers and sisters, you have the mission of bearing much-needed witness before our world to the primacy of God and of eternal life (cf. Vita Consecrata, 85). By your unreserved fidelity to your commitments, you are for the Church a sapling of life, springing up to serve the coming of God’s Kingdom. At all times, and especially whenever your fidelity is put to the test, Saint Joseph reminds you of the value and meaning of your promises. The consecrated life is a radical imitation of Christ. Hence the way you live ought to show clearly what inspires you, and your actions must not conceal your deepest identity. Do not be afraid of living to the full the self-offering that you have made to God, bearing authentic witness to it wherever you find yourselves."

Finally, it is worth noting that today the director of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, spoke out on the controversy on the part of some of the media about the pope's words yesterday concerning AIDS. Benedict XVI, Fr. Lombardi said, "restated the positions of the Catholic Church and the essential features of its efforts to combat the terrible scourge of AIDS: first, with education on personal responsibility in the use of sexuality, and the reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family; second, with research and application of effective treatments for AIDS, making these available to a larger number of sick people through many health initiatives and institutions; third, with human and spiritual assistance for those sick with AIDS as for all the suffering, who have always been close to the Church's heart. These are the directions in which the Church is concentrating its efforts, not believing that focusing essentially on the wider distribution of condoms is really the best, most forward-looking and effective way to combat the scourge of AIDS and protect human life."

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