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Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI Recalls Apostolic Trip to France
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HOLY FATHER RECALLS HIS APOSTOLIC TRIP TO FRANCE VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2008 (VIS) - In today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke of his recent apostolic trip to France, which culminated in his pilgrimage to Lourdes for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette. The Church in France "has since the 2nd century played a vital civilising role", said the Holy Father, noting how, "in this context, the need developed for a healthy distinction between the political and religious spheres. ... True laicism", he went on, "does not mean overlooking the spiritual dimension, rather it means recognising that such a dimension is, in a radical way, the guarantor of our freedom and of the autonomy of earthly things, thanks to the dictates of creative Wisdom which human conscience knows how to accept and put into effect. "This was the perspective of my broad-ranging reflections on the theme of 'the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture', which I delivered at my meeting with the world of culture in a place chosen for its symbolic significance, the College des Bernardins". The starting point of that talk, Benedict XVI explained, was "a reflection upon monasticism, the aim of which was to seek God, 'quaerere Deum'". This practice, "by its nature, led monks to a culture of the word. ... In seeking God Who revealed Himself to us in Sacred Scripture, an important role was played by the physical sciences, which seek to investigate the secrets of language. Consequently, what developed in monasteries was the 'eruditio' which facilitated the formation of culture. Precisely for this reason 'quaerere Deum' - seeking God - is today, as it was yesterday, the foundation of all true culture".

The Pope recalled how he had encouraged priests, deacons, religious and seminarians "to give priority to listening to the divine word", while to young people "I consigned two treasures of Christian faith: the Holy Spirit and the Cross. The Spirit opens human intelligence to horizons larger than itself, and brings it to understand the beauty and the truth of God's love revealed on the Cross". During the Eucharistic celebration on the esplanade of Les Invalides, said the Pope, "I invited the faithful ... to seek the living God, Who showed us His true face in Jesus, present in the Eucharist, encouraging us to love our fellows just as He loved us". "In Lourdes", he went on, "I immediately joined thousands of faithful on the 'Jubilee Way'" and "participated in the traditional torchlight procession, which is such a stupendous expression of faith in God and of devotion to His Mother and ours. Lourdes really is a place of light, of prayer, of hope and of conversion, ... where pilgrims learn to see the crosses of their own lives in the light of the glorious Cross of Christ". The Pope highlighted the fact that "the first gesture Mary made when she appeared to Bernadette in the Grotto of Massabielle was the sign of the cross. ... That gesture encapsulates the entire message of Lourdes", he said. During the Mass for sick people, celebrated in front of the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary on the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Benedict XVI recalled, "I meditated upon the tears Mary shed upon the Cross, and upon her smile which illuminated Easter morning". Having called on the faithful to render thanks to God for the fruits of this apostolic trip, the Holy Father affirmed that "in Lourdes the Holy Virgin invites everyone to consider the earth as the place of our pilgrimage towards our definitive homeland in heaven. The truth is we are all pilgrims, we need the Mother who guides us; and in Lourdes her smile invites us to continue our journey trusting in the knowledge that God is good, God is love".

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