History’s Dark Pages Called Lessons for Today

Categories: Papal Movements

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Benedict XVI Recalls Predecessor Exiled by Napoleon

SAVONA, Italy, MAY 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The “dark page” of history written by Napoleon Bonaparte when he exiled Pope Pius VII from Rome is a lesson for today’s Church as it teaches courage to face the challenges of the world.

The German Pontiff affirmed this Saturday during his two-day apostolic trip to the Italian cities of Savona and Genoa.

He celebrated Mass on Saturday evening at Savona’s Piazza del Popolo. In his homily, the Holy Father commented on the day’s readings, which included the passage from Exodus where God reveals his name to Moses.

“The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” the Holy Father quoted. “These are human words; they tell us the truth about God. They were true yesterday, they are true today and they will be true always. They cause us to see the face of the Invisible with the eyes of the mind. They tell us the name of the Ineffable. That name is Mercy, Grace, Faithfulness.”

He then recalled how the Virgin Mary had appeared to a local peasant in the year 1536, and how she is still venerated today with the name of Virgin of Mercy.

“This is the essence of Christianity because it is the essence of God himself,” the Bishop of Rome stated. “God is one in that he is entirely and solely love, but precisely because he is love, he is openness, acceptance, dialogue. And in his relations with us, sinful mankind, he is mercy, compassion, grace, forgiveness. God created everything for existence, and he always and exclusively wills life.

“During the history of the Church, the Virgin Mary has always invited her children to return to God, to entrust themselves to him in prayer, to knock with trusting insistence at the door of his merciful heart. […] My visit to Savona on the day of the Blessed Trinity is above all a pilgrimage, through Mary, to the font of faith, of hope and of love.”

World’s challenges

Benedict XVI then mentioned the figure of his predecessor Pius VII, who was pope from 1800-1823.

He said: “Two centuries on, I have come to renew the recognition of the Holy See and of the Church for the faith, the love, and the courage with which your fellow citizens supported the Pope during the exile imposed upon him here by Napoleon Bonaparte.

“That dark page of European history has, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become a rich source of grace and education, even for our own time. It teaches us the courage to face the challenges of the world — materialism, relativism, laicism — never giving way to compromise but ready to pay in person in order to remain faithful to the Lord and his Church.”

Those events, and the apparition of the Virgin at a tragic moment in the history of Savona, “come together to transmit a message of hope to the Christian generations of our own day. They encourage us to have faith in the instruments of grace which the Lord places at our disposal in all situations.”

Rediscovering Sunday

Among these “instruments of grace,” the Holy Father highlighted “individual, family and community prayer.”

In this context he also recalled how “Sunday needs to be rediscovered in its Christian roots, beginning with the celebration of the risen Lord,” and how “the sacrament of penance” represents a “fundamental means of spiritual development.”

“Works of charity are other indispensable means of growth,” he continued. “In the modern world, which often makes beauty and physical efficiency an ideal to be pursued in every possible way, we are called as Christians to discover the face of Jesus Christ, ‘the most handsome of men,’ in the suffering and the excluded.”

Go out

Turning to address members of the clergy, the Pope invited them “to trust in the effectiveness of your daily priestly service,” and to “go out and seek people, as the Lord Jesus did, […] making your presence felt in all areas of work and life.”

To religious he reiterated the fact that “the world has need of your witness and your prayer.”

Finally, Benedict XVI called upon young people “to put your youth at the service of God and your fellow men. […] Give this city the passion and enthusiasm that derive from your living experience of faith, an experience that does not dampen the expectations of human life but exalts them by sharing in Christ’s own experience.”

Following the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope traveled by car to the port of Savona whence he was taken by helicopter to Genoa where he spent the night.

The Pope loves you

On Sunday morning, he visited Genoa’s Giannina Gaslini pediatric hospital where he greeted sick children and their parents, as well as the directors and medical personnel of the institution.

In his address to them the Holy Father recalled how the hospital was founded on May 15, 1938, and how, “with understandable pride, the Genoese look upon it as a precious heritage.”

After thanking the hospital staff “for the professionalism and dedication of their service,” which “covers almost all areas of pediatric specialization,” the Pope noted that “the hope cultivated here has, then, good foundations.”

Nonetheless,” he added, “in order to face the future effectively, it is vital that this hope be upheld by an exalted vision of life, one that enables scientists, doctors, professionals, assistants and parents themselves, to use all their capacities, sparing no effort to obtain the best results that science and technology can offer in both prevention and cure.”

Turning to address the hospital’s young patients, Benedict XVI told them: “The Pope loves you. Next to you I see your relatives, who share these moments of trepidation and hope with you. Be sure that God never abandons us. Remain united to him and you will never lose your serenity, not even in the darkest and most difficult moments.”

Original Article may be found: http://www.zenit.org/article-22628?l=english

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