Here are summaries and excerpts from the Holy Father's words while in France:
Friday, September 12, 2008
Following an official welcome at the airport, the Holy Father first went to a welcome ceremony at Elysée Palace. There, in the early afternoon, the Holy Father greeted President Nicholas Sarkozy and authorities of State and delivered an address. He reflected on the history of Christianity in France, going back to St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century. He also spoke of Church and State relations in present day France, specifically mentioning a new dialogue that has been in place since 2002. Expressing concern about a resurgence of old conflicts among nations (perhaps a reference to the recent conflict involving Russia and the Republic of Georgia), he mentioned the role of France in peacekeeping and reconciliation between peoples, saying this:
"In this regard, it is important to promote a unity that neither can nor desires to become a uniformity, but rather is able to guarantee respect for national differences and different cultural traditions, which amount to an enrichment of the European symphony, remembering at the same time that “national identity itself can only be achieved in openness towards other peoples and through solidarity with them” (Ecclesia in Europa, 112)."
At 5:00 p.m., he had a brief meeting with Jewish representatives. In his short address to them, he spoke of Catholic and Jewish common respect for the Scriptures and of Catholic respect for God's Covenant and the "children of the Covenant." He said, "Dear friends, because of that which unites us and that which separates us, we share a relationship that should be strengthened and lived. And we know that these fraternal bonds constitute a continual invitation to know and to respect one another better."
His 5:30 p.m. meeting with representatives of the world of culture, at the Collège des Bernardins was his first significant address of the journey. That address was discussed by Sandro Magister as a "grand discourse to the intellectual world" two years after his address at Regensburg. Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., wrote about the address for Ignatius Insight.
Speaking from a historic place where monks, followers of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, once went to learn about their vocation, he asked whether their culture of monasticism was just the world of the past, or whether it has something to say to us today. He answered that "what gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture."
In the monasteries, the treasures of ancient culture survived, and a new culture took shape. They were not seeking to create a culture; rather, they were searching for God. The Holy Father discussed how this search expressed itself in the "Word which opens the path of that search," in "music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity," in "human work was now seen as a special form of human resemblance to God, as a way in which man can and may share in God’s activity as creator of the world," and in the proclamation of the Christian message "towards searching and questioning mankind." He said:
"The novelty of Christian proclamation is that it can now say to all peoples: he has revealed himself. He personally. And now the way to him is open. The novelty of Christian proclamation does not consist in a thought, but in a deed: God has revealed himself. Yet this is no blind deed, but one which is itself Logos – the presence of eternal reason in our flesh. Verbum caro factum est (Jn 1:14): just so, amid what is made (factum) there is now Logos, Logos is among us. Creation (factum) is rational. Naturally, the humility of reason is always needed, in order to accept it: man’s humility, which responds to God’s humility."
In his homily at Vespers that evening,in Notre Dame Cathedral, he remembered the history of that place, where great religious and civil events have taken place, and "where architects, painters, sculptors and musicians have given the best of themselves." While there, the Pope said, he had just venerated the relics of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns located there. Speaking of the Incarnation, he said:
"Your cathedral is a living hymn of stone and light in praise of that act, unique in the annals of human history: the eternal Word of God entering our history in the fulness of time to redeem us by his self-offering in the sacrifice of the Cross. Our earthly liturgies, entirely ordered to the celebration of this unique act within history, will never fully express its infinite meaning. Certainly, the beauty of our celebrations can never be sufficiently cultivated, fostered and refined, for nothing can be too beautiful for God, who is himself infinite Beauty. Yet our earthly liturgies will never be more than a pale reflection of the liturgy celebrated in the Jerusalem on high, the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. May our own celebrations nonetheless resemble that liturgy as closely as possible and grant us a foretaste of it!"
He encouraged seminarians to meditate daily in the word of God. He encouraged deacons to make the Gospel the center of their lives. He encouraged men and women religious and all consecrated persons to "draw life from the Wisdom of God expressed in his word." He prayed for the unity of the Church.
At a prayer vigil with the young people in front of the cathedral, he remembered World Youth Day in Sydney. The Pope said, " All of you are seeking the truth; and all of you want to live in truth! This truth is Christ. He is the only Way, the one Truth and the true Life." He encouraged them to live and proclaim the Gospel. He also spoke of the meaning of the Cross, entrusting it to them, saying that the Holy Spirit would help them to understand its mysteries of love.
At the end of the evening, at 8:45 p.m., he greeted people from the balcony of the apostolic nunciature, thanking them for their welcome and telling them that he was counting on their prayers.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
During a brief morning visit to the Institut de France, the Holy Father's greeting mentioned that contact with French culture had been important to his own intellectual journey. Quoting Rabelais, he spoke of the need for science and conscience. Signing the Golden Book at the Institut, he wrote in Latin, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
Afterward, at 10:00 a.m., the Holy Father's homily for the Eucharistic celebration at the Esplanade des Invalides was directed to a crowd of some 200,000 in a location chosen for its ability to accommodate anyone who wanted to attend. He drew from the Epistle reading for Mass for the Feast of St. John Chrysostom, in which St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to "avoid idolatry" (I Cor. 10:14). St. Paul appeals to reason, he said, asking us to use both our reason and our faith to reach God. The Holy Father said:
"Never does God, of whom the Apostle is an authorized witness here, ask man to sacrifice his reason! Reason never enters into real contradiction with faith! The one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – created our reason and gives us faith, proposing to our freedom that it be received as a precious gift. It is the worship of idols which diverts man from this perspective. Let us therefore ask God, who sees us and hears us, to help us purify ourselves from all idols, in order to arrive at the truth of our being, in order to arrive at the truth of his infinite being!"
The Pope then turned his attention to the Eucharist. "God is present on the altar, but he is also present on the altar of our heart when, as we receive communion, we receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He alone teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds." He encouraged those considering a religious or priestly vocation to not be afraid.
The Holy Father then traveled to Lourdes, where he delivered another homily in Rosary Square for the Torchlight Procession. He spoke of the apparitions to St. Bernadette 150 years ago and of the significance of Lourdes today. Here is an excerpt:
"In this shrine at Lourdes, to which the Christians of the whole world have turned their gaze since the Virgin Mary caused hope and love to shine here by giving pride of place to the sick, the poor and the little ones, we are invited to discover the simplicity of our vocation: it is enough to love.
"Tomorrow, the celebration of the exaltation of the Holy Cross brings us into the very heart of this mystery. At this vigil, our gaze is already turned towards the sign of the new covenant on which the whole life of Jesus converges. The cross is the supreme and perfect act of the love of Jesus, who lays down his life for his friends. “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15)."
Sunday, September 15, 2008
At a Eucharistic Celebration on the Prairie at Lourdes, the Holy Father delivered another homily. Saying that "it is significant that, during the first apparition to Bernadette, Mary begins the encounter with the sign of the Cross," the Holy Father spoke of the meaning of the Cross in his homily for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:
"The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us. It is this mystery of the universality of God’s love for men that Mary came to reveal here, in Lourdes."
Speaking of the primary purpose of Lourdes as a place of prayer and service, especially to the sick, he said this of prayer:
"Mary comes to remind us that prayer which is humble and intense, trusting and persevering, must have a central place in our Christian lives. Prayer is indispensable if we are to receive Christ’s power. “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone” (Deus Caritas Est, 36). To allow oneself to become absorbed by activity runs the risk of depriving prayer of its specifically Christian character and its true efficacy. The prayer of the Rosary, so dear to Bernadette and to Lourdes pilgrims, concentrates within itself the depths of the Gospel message. It introduces us to contemplation of the face of Christ. From this prayer of the humble, we can draw an abundance of graces."
In his words at the Angelus, the Holy Father said that "Mary shows us the right way to come to the Lord. She teaches us to approach him in truth and simplicity. Thanks to her, we discover that the Christian faith is not a burden: it is like a wing which enables us to fly higher, so as to take refuge in God’s embrace." He expressed thanks "for what the Lord has chosen to reveal of his plan of salvation through the mystery of Mary" and for her presence among her people.
At a meeting with French bishops in late afternoon, the Holy Father delivered an address. He spoke of their role as bishops and of the respect that is due to them from the people. Their mission, then, he said, is to create "the necessary conditions" for the faithful, in the words of St. Ignatius, to "sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ." Toward that end, the Pope said, catechesis is of fundamental importance. He spoke somewhat about the content of catechesis. He then said that they will need co-workers and that vocations need to be encouraged. He described priests as "a gift from God for the Church" who "cannot delegate their functions to the faithful." He encouraged the bishops to seek to be attentive to the needs of their priests. He also spoke of liturgical worship and of new arrangements for the Latin Mass since Summorum Pontificum. He expressed hope that they could find solutions for all, "lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn." Addressing other specific issues affecting the French bishops, he mentioned the family, young people, the French national situation, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.
At the conclusion of the Blessed Sacrament Procession on the Prairie of Lourdes, at 6:30 p.m., the Holy Father gave a meditation. In it, he spoke of "an immense crowd of witnesses is invisibly present beside us, very close to this blessed grotto and in front of this church that the Virgin Mary wanted to be built" who "have spent hours in adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar." He said that when we contemplate the sacred host, "we contemplate what we shall contemplate in eternity." In addition to St. Bernadette, he spoke of Bl. Charles de Foucauld, quoting Bl. Charles' prayer in the presence of the sacred host:
"‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’
This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved … May it also be our own prayer, and not only at our last moment, but at every moment in our lives:
Father, I commit myself into your hands; Father, I trust in you; Father, I abandon myself to you; Father, do with me what you will; whatever you may do, I thank you; thank you for everything; I am ready for all, I accept all; I thank you for all. Let only your will be done in me, Lord, let only your will be done in all your creatures, in all your children, in all those whom your heart loves, I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you, Lord, with all the love of my heart, for I love you, and so need to give myself in love, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father."
Monday, September 15, 2008
At a Holy Mass for the Sick, the Holy Father gave his last homily for the journey, on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This homily was exceptionally beautiful, remembering Mary's smile as she now dwells in the joy and the glory of the Resurrection." Psalm 44:13, prophetically, said that "the richest of the people . . . will seek your smile." Scripture discloses it in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-47). Mary taught Bernadette to know her smile "as the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery." The Holy Father said:
"In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures, looking down on us, is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God’s tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope. . . . I would like to say, humbly, to those who suffer and to those who struggle and are tempted to turn their backs on life: turn towards Mary! Within the smile of the Virgin lies mysteriously hidden the strength to fight against sickness and for life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."
The Holy Father then spoke of the Sacrament of Prayer for the Sick. Inviting those present to receive that sacrament, he said:
"Without the Lord’s help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly. By receiving the sacrament of the sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through his promise to us that his yoke will be easy to carry and his burden light (cf. Mt 11:30). I invite those who are to receive the sacrament of the sick during this Mass to enter into a hope of this kind."
At an airport farewell ceremony, the Holy Father delivered his last address of the journey. He recounted the events of his journey, which included completing all four stages of the Jubilee Way at Lourdes. In praying for God's blessing on France, he said, "May harmony and human progress reign on her soil, and may the Church be the leaven in the dough that indicates with wisdom and without fear, according to her specific duty, who God is!"