Updated 10/8/09: This post is still in progress. I have had too much to do to make much time for blogging lately, but I will have some time over the next week to get caught up on some things, including this post about the Pope's journey to the Czech Republic.
I understand that it is visually beautiful, and I am planning to make time to watch part of it tomorrow evening. So I will try to add a little to this post each day beginning today to eventually complete the kind of post I have done in the past for each of the Pope's journeys.
The events of the journey are available for viewing on demand online on KTO TV (French Catholic). The commentary is in French.
The Vatican page on the journey includes a downloadable program, missal, and the official translations of each of the Holy Father's addresses and homilies. It also includes videos of the Pope delivering his homily or address at several of the events. There is also an official website for the journey.
In addition to earlier texts of the Pope's words while there, Vatican Radio has short audio broadcasts to download about the journey. Those include a preview of the visit, a broadcast about Czech bishops preparation for the visit, a broadcast about the original Infant of Prague at the Church of Our Lady of Victory (an interview with Father Renzi, a Carmelite monk assigned to the church), and another broadcast about the Pope's visit to the Church of Our Lady of Victory and his gift to the Church.
Saturday, September 26
In the inflight interview with the Holy Father, during his flight to the Czech Republic, he spoke about the historic importance of the Czech Republic, freedom and values, the role of Christianity as a creative minority putting its legacy into practice, his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, and his hope that his book in progress might be finished by spring.
In a welcome ceremony at the airport, he spoke about the influence of the Czech Republic's Christian heritage and the saints of the Czech Republic.
Soon after the Pope's arrival, he visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague, where the well known statue of the "Holy Infant of Prague" is kept. In his greeting there, he said this about the statue::
"The image of the Child Jesus calls to mind the mystery of the Incarnation, of the all-powerful God who became man and who lived for thirty years in the lowly family of Nazareth, entrusted by Providence to the watchful care of Mary and Joseph. My thoughts turn to your own families and to all the families in the world, in their joys and difficulties. Our reflections should lead us to prayer, as we call upon the Child Jesus for the gift of unity and harmony for all families. We think especially of young families who have to work so hard to offer their children security and a decent future. We pray for families in difficulty, struggling with illness and suffering, for those in crisis, divided or torn apart by strife or infidelity. We entrust them all to the Holy Infant of Prague, knowing how important their stability and harmony is for the true progress of society and for the future of humanity."
The Pope's next visit was a meeting with civil and political charges and members of the diplomatic corps. He mentioned this year's "twentieth anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, and the 'Velvet Revolution' which restored democracy to this nation" and the changes that have followed. Speaking of the "radiant hope that has its origin beyond ourselves," he said:
He explained, "For Christians, truth has a name: God. And goodness has a face: Jesus Christ." He spoke of the Czech Republic's Christian roots. He added, "At the present crossroads of civilization, so often marked by a disturbing sundering of the unity of goodness, truth and beauty and the consequent difficulty in finding an acceptance of common values, every effort for human progress must draw inspiration from that living heritage.
That evening, he also led and spoke at Vespers.
Sunday, September 27
The Holy Father traveled from Prague to Brno, and then presided at Mass at the airport in Brno, followed by his Sunday midday Angelus address. He flew back to Prague early that afternoon.
In his homily at Mass, he spoke about Jesus' words, "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28), written above the entrance to the cathedral in Brno. The Scripture readings were chosen for that assembly based on the theme of hope. In the first reading, Isaiah 61:1-3a, "the Prophet speaks as one invested with the mission of proclaiming liberation, consolation and joy to all the afflicted and the poor." In Luke 4:16-21, he said, Jesus stated that the prophecy was fulfilled in him, when by his death and resurrection, "he freed us from our slavery to selfishness and evil, to sin and death." Christ, as our hope, is the message that we are called upon "to spread every day, through our witness."
In his words at the midday Angelus prayer, the Holy Father mentioned the ideas expressed by Pope John Paul II when he visited Central and Eastern Europe in 1995, after the fall of communist totalitarianism. He also mentioned the country's many Marian shrines. Referencing the region's traditions of popular piety, he said, "At times one cannot help noticing, with a certain nostalgia, that the pace of modern life tends to diminish some elements of a rich heritage of faith. Yet it is important not to lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs, and above all to maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and to make it answer to the needs of the present day."
After returning to Prague, Pope Benedict met with ecumenical leaders and, later, with members of the academic community.
In his address at the ecumenical meeting, he reflected on Europe's Christian roots and on present day attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity from public life. Calling to mind the examples of St. Adalbert and St. Agnes of Bohemia, he said, "Their commitment to spreading the Gospel was motivated by the conviction that Christians should not cower in fear of the world but rather confidently share the treasury of truths entrusted to them. Likewise Christians today, opening themselves to present realities and affirming all that is good in society, must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace."
In his address to the academic community, Pope Benedict spoke about academic freedom and the role of religion, faith and ethics "within the purview of collective reason." He said:
"The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity’s own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis."
He warned of the "pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals", and recalled Pope John Paul II's work in "mending of the breach between science and religion."
Monday, September 28
On the feast day of St. Wenceslaus, the patron saint of the Czech Republic (his feast day is also Czech Statehood Day there), the Pope presided at Mass in Stará Boleslav. Stará Boleslav, just outside of Prague, is where St. Wenceslaus was slain. 45,000 people were present at that Mass. In his homily, the Pope asked, "in our day, is holiness still relevant?" He answered:
"Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God’s will at every moment."
He offered St. Wenceslaus as an example of a saint who, rather than putting himself forward, allowed God to shine through, being "credible" in being consistent with the principles that he professed, and not merely appearing good and honest but truly being so.
Following the homily, the Pope delivered a message to youth. In it, he spoke of each person's aspiration toward happiness, an aspiration that can be satisfied by Christ alone, as described by St. Augustine. He spoke about the calling to raise a Christian family and the calling to the priesthood and consecrated life, calling them the hope of the Church. He emphasized relationship with Christ:
"The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction. And when the heart of a young person opens up to his divine plans, it is not difficult to recognize and follow his voice. The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society."
The Pope's last address in the Czech Republic was his farewell address at the airport. He expressed gratitude and remembered the events of his visit. Quoting Czech author Franz Kafka, he said:
"According to a saying attributed to Franz Kafka, “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old” (Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka). If our eyes remain open to the beauty of God’s creation and our minds to the beauty of his truth, then we may indeed hope to remain young and to build a world that reflects something of that divine beauty, so as to inspire future generations to do likewise."
Vatican Radio has an audio broadcast summing up the Pope's final day in his journey to the Czech Republic. The broadcast mentions the change in perception shown in the Czech media, which changed from criticism to interest in the course of the three-day journey, as the Pope won them over. Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, reflected on the importance of the youth to the future in another Vatican Radio broadcast.
Wednesday, September 30
In the General Audience following his return, the Holy Father spoke about the recently completed journey, as he usually does following each journey. Zenit has a full English translation of the text. The Daily Bulletin has the original Italian text. Vatican Information Service has a press release.
Here is his English language summary of that General Audience: