Sydney , July 17, 2008 - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday warned Catholics of the perils of pop culture and pillaging the earth's resources after a rapturous welcome at the world's biggest Christian festival in Australia.
Speaking against the spectacular backdrop of Sydney's famous harbour, the pontiff told hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Australia's biggest and trendiest city that "something is amiss" in modern society.
"Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises," the pope said after a welcoming ceremony by Aborigines in tribal paint.
Benedict told a vast sea of youths from around the world, gathered under a forest of national flags for World Youth Day, that humanity was squandering the earth's resources to satisfy its insatiable appetite for material goods.
In one of his strongest-ever messages on the environment , the pope spoke poetically of his 20-hour flight from Rome to Australia, saying the wondrous views from his plane evoked a profound sense of awe.
But the 81-year-old pontiff told his young audience that the planet's problems were also easier to perceive from the sky.
"Perhaps reluctantly, we come to acknowledge that there are scars which mark the surface of our earth -- erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption," he said.
Earlier, shouts of "Viva, Papa" rang out over the harbour as a "boat-a-cade" of 13 vessels led by a water-spouting fire tug and flanked by bodyguards on jet skis glided past Sydney's iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge en route to the pope's World Youth Day debut.
Benedict arrived in Sydney last Sunday, but took a four-day holiday before beginning his formal duties, which end with a papal mass expected to draw 500,000 people on Sunday.
Ahead of his public appearance, he was welcomed by Governor-General Michael Jeffery, the representative of Australia's head of state, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
In a brief speech at the ceremony at Sydney's Government House, the pontiff hailed Rudd's apology to Aborigines for past injustices in an historic address to parliament in February.
"Thanks to the Australian government's courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against the indigenous peoples in the past, concrete steps are now being taken to achieve reconciliation based on mutual respect," Benedict said.
"This example of reconciliation offers hope to peoples all over the world who long to see their rights affirmed and their contribution to society acknowledged and promoted."
But there was some confusion over whether the pope would deliver an apology of his own -- to Australian victims of sex abuse by Catholic clergymen, as the scandal cast a shadow over the festival.
Benedict indicated to journalists on his plane on the way to Australia that he would apologise but a Vatican official late Wednesday raised doubts over the issue.
"I can't really understand why they're backpedalling on that," said Anthony Foster, as he and his wife Christine flew into Sydney after cutting short a holiday in London.
The Fosters' daughter Emma committed suicide this year aged 26, after struggling to deal with abuse by a priest while she was at primary school.
Her sister Katie was also abused and turned to alcohol in her teens before being involved in a motor accident which left her brain-damaged.
Rudd, a committed Christian who attends Anglican services, told the pope that he was welcomed by Australians of all faiths "as an apostle of peace."
The pope later toured the city in his bullet-proof "popemobile" through thousands of cheering, flag-brandishing pilgrims and bemused locals heading home from work.
World Youth Day, a celebration of the Catholic faith aimed at rejuvenating the church, has been held in a different host city around the world every two or three years since 1986.
Pope Benedict XVI stressed that Saint Paul is still a “teacher, apostle and herald” to the world today, a saint whose experience of Christ’s love freed him to love God in return.
At 6 pm Roman time at the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls -- where the remains of the Apostle have been kept for centuries -- the Holy Father, in the company of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives of other Christian denominations, arrived in procession to the atrium. In front of the famous marble statue of St. Paul, they lit the candles that will remain burning during the entire Pauline year.
The procession continued to the presbytery of the Basilica, where Pope Benedict descended to the Apostle's tomb under the altar.
“Who was this Saint Paul?” asked the Pope. He described him using the saint's own words: “Teacher of the people, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ, this is how he portrays himself in a retrospective look on the course of his life. But his gaze looks not only to the past. His phrase “teacher of the people” is open to the future, to all the peoples and all generations.
“Paul is not simply a figure of the past, who we remember with veneration. He is also a teacher, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ for us as well.”
The Pope then explained that “we are therefore gathered not to reflect on a past history,” because “Paul wants to talk to us today. That is why I have desired to convoke this Pauline Year: to listen to him and to learn from him today, as our teacher, 'the faith and the truth' in which are rooted the reasons for the unity of the disciples of Christ.”
After expressing his joy for the “ecumenical nature” of the opening ceremony of the Pauline year, the Pope returned to Paul: “We ask ourselves: ‘Who is Paul? What is he telling me?’” He then quoted the letter of the Apostle to the Galatians: “I live in the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
“Everything that Paul does starts from this core. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a completely personal manner. His faith is the recognition of the fact that Christ has confronted death not for someone unknown, but for love of him, Paul, and that, since He is Risen, He loves him still,” Pope Benedict explained.
The Holy Father also explained that in his life, Paul “never looked for a superficial harmony.”
“The truth was for him too great to be sacrificed for an external success. The truth he had experienced in the encounter with the Risen Christ very much deserved the struggle, the persecution, the suffering.”
“But what most deeply motivated him,” Pope Benedict continued, “was the fact of being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit to others this love. Paul was someone capable of loving, and all his laboring and suffering is explained only from this core.”
The Holy Father then explained what he said was one of Saint Paul's key words: Freedom.
“The experience of being loved to the core by Christ opened his eyes to the truth and to the way of human existence. It was an experience that totally embraced him. Paul was free as a man loved by God, a man who, by virtue of God, was capable of loving with Him. This love is now 'the law' of his life and therefore the freedom of his life.”
“Freedom and responsibility are here united in an inseparable way. Because there is responsibility in love, he is free; because he is someone who loves, he lives completely in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as a pretext for arbitrariness or selfishness.”
Pope Benedict then explained that, in the conversion experience of St. Paul, when God tells Paul that he is persecuting God Himself by persecuting Christians, “Jesus identifies Himself with the Church as one single object. It is this revelation of the Risen Christ that transformed Paul's life, and in which is contained all of the teachings about the Church as the body of Christ... The Church is not an organization that wants to promote a certain cause. In her, it is not about a cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ, who, even though He is Risen, has remained 'flesh'”
This, Pope Benedict said, “becomes today an urgent request: it brings us back together from all divisions. It is still a reality today: here is one bread, therefore we, though many, are one single body.”
Finally, the Holy Father explained that “the call to become the teacher of the people is at the same time also intrinsically a call to suffering in the communion of Christ, who has redeemed us through His Passion. In a world where falsehood is so powerful, the truth is redeemed through suffering. Whoever wants to avoid and keep away suffering keeps away life itself and its greatness; he cannot be a servant of the truth and therefore a servant of the faith. There is no love without suffering, without the suffering of self-renunciation, transformation and purification of the self by the real truth. Wherever there is nothing worthy of suffering for, life itself loses its value.”
The Pauline Year marks the two-thousandth anniversary of the Apostle’s birth. CNA has launched a special web site dedicated to the celebration.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, will be the new vicar for Rome. His appointment confirms rumors that have circulated in Rome for several weeks. The Italian prelate will be replaced at the Apostolic Signatura by an American prelate, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis.
The son of an Italian police officer who was deported during World War II, Cardinal Vallini was ordained a priest of the Naples archdiocese in 1964, and became auxiliary bishop there in 1989. In 1999 he was appointed Bishop of Albano, and in 2004 he received his current assignment as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura-- the Vatican equivalent of the US Supreme Court. As the papal vicar for Rome he will also hold the title of Archpriest of the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran.
Cardinal Ruini's retirement had been anticipated for some time. At the age of 77, and suffering from heart problems, the Italian prelate said bluntly that his pastoral service "has ended" during a June 21 celebration of the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. He had been the vicar of the Rome diocese since 1991.
Pope Benedict , for whom Cardinal Ruini has been a key ally, saluted the outgoing vicar for his years of service to the Church. In Rome, he said, that cardinal had "given an an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to thinking the faith in absolute conformity to the magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society."
Pope Benedict recalled that Cardinal Ruini had served his predecessor, Pope John Paul II , through "a truly extraordinary time" as the 20th century ended and the 21st began. Like others who worked closely with John Paul II, including himself, Cardinal Ruini had been heavily influenced by this "true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church," the Holy Father said.
Cardinal Ruini, the Pope continued, had served the Pontiff through his commitment to the pastoral work of the Romem diocese, his zeal for evangelical mission, and his "outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection."
Vatican City, Jun. 27, 2008 - As he met on June 27 with a small group of bishops from Hong Kong and Macao, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that bishops of other Chinese dioceses would soon be free to visit Rome.
The Holy Father told the Chinese bishops, who were making the ad limina visits, "I and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your brother bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church."
The Chinese government, which has sought for years to establish an independent "Cathoilc Patriotic Association" subject to the Communist party rather than to the Holy See, does not ordinarily allow Catholic bishops to travel to Rome. In 2005, Pope Benedict issued an invitation to four Chinese bishops to participate in the October sessions of the Synod of Bishops-- a gesture that was widely interpreted as an effort to improve relations between Rome and Beijing. But after several weeks of confusion the Chinese government refused permission for the bishops to make the trip to Rome. In the Macao and Hong Kong dioceses, the Pope said, the key challenges include proper formation of young priests and promotion of Catholic schools. Both, he said, are critical to "the new evangelization which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church."
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops to "continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China," by providing material support, offering opportunities for the training of Chinese clerics, and acting as conduits for information and moral support.
Archbishop Burke will become the prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a judicial body that is roughly the equivalent of the US Supreme Court. He will replace Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who has been named the Pope's vicar for the Rome diocese.
Archbishop Burke was installed as head of the St. Louis archdiocese in January 2004. His tenure there has been marked by controversy, with the archbishop-- an acknowledged expert on canon law-- meeting resistance and public criticism as he sought to enforce the Church's norms. He announced the excommunication of women who claimed ordination to the priesthood, and of the leaders of a parish that refused to acknowledge his authority. In each case the Vatican confirmed the archbishop's decision.
Archbishop Burke was criticized by other American bishops in 2004, when he announced that he would not administer the Eucharist to a Catholic politician who supported abortion. Although he did not single out any public figure by name, the archbishop's statement clearly applied to Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate in that year's presidential election. In this instance, too, Archbishop Burke's stand was upheld by the Vatican.
As head of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Burke will now hold one of the top canonical posts in the universal Church. His new post will also put him near the top of the list of prelates likely to be named cardinals at the next consistory.
A native of Wisconsin, Archbishop Burke was ordained a priest of the La Crosse diocese in 1975, and appointed bishop of the same diocese in 1994, remaining there until his appointment to St. Louis.
The Apostolic Signatura is the final court of appeal for annulments and other juridical matters under the Church's canon law. It also examines administrative matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia as well as questions committed to it by the Holy Father.