Vatican City, Dec.09,2008 (vaticans.org) - Saint Augustine, a figure of "singular relevance" in the history of the Church and of Christian literature, and not only in these, was a bit like the young people of today - he had "extremely robust intelligence, but was not always a model student"'; he had widely varied experiences; he sought, at first, moral rules that were not too burdensome; he was anxious to know the Truth. Benedict XVI today illustrated the figure of the saint of Hippo to the six thousand persons present for the general audience in the Paul VI hall, and announced that he will dedicate his upcoming catecheses to this most prolific of the Fathers of the Church.
The pope today said of Augustine - who was an object of special study for him as a theologian, and the subject of his thesis - that "all the roads of Latin Christian literature lead to Hippo, where he was bishop", and he recalled the assertion of Paul VI, for whom "it may be said that all the thought of antiquity converges" in his work, and from this there branch out many of the roads travelled by Western culture, so much so that "he is known even by those who ignore Christianity".
Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, in the Roman part of Africa, to Patricius, a pagan, and Monica, a fervent Christian venerated as a saint who exerted a great influence on her son, raising him in the faith. He was an "absolute master of the Latin language", and from his reading of Cicero he was driven to "know the truth" and learned the "love of wisdom". But "the name of Jesus was missing" in Cicero, and this prompted him to read the Bible. This left him disappointed, not only because of its "insufficient" style, but also because it lacked a "lofty" philosophy.
His search for a religion that could satisfy his desire for truth and bring him close to Jesus made him "fall into the snares of the Manichaeans". Among other things, their morality left their members relatively free, something that, the pope observed, also happens today.
He went to Italy, first to Rome and then to Milan, where, disappointed by his experience with Manichaeism, he was fascinated by the preaching of Ambrose, "not only for its rhetorical style, but also for its contents". For Augustine, Ambrose "resolved the question of philosophical sophistication" in the Bible, with his reflection on the presence of the mystery of Christ in the Old Testament, and his meditation "on the Logos who became flesh".
At the summit of his tormented interior journey, Augustine converted in 386, and at the age of 32 was baptised by Ambrose. He became a priest after returning to Africa, and in 395 he was made a bishop. He was "exemplary in his tireless efforts", "very active in Church governance", and "entrusted himself to God every day, until the very end of his life". He died on August 28, 430, at the age of 75.
Vatican City, Dec.03,2008 (vaticans.org) - During the year 2007, almost three million faithful participated in public meetings with the Pope, either in the Vatican or at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo.
According to statistics released by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, a total of 2,830,100 people attended the Wednesday general audiences, special audiences, liturgical celebrations and Sunday Angelus prayers during the course of the year.
The Wednesday general audiences, held in St. Peter's Square and the Paul VI Hall, attracted 729,100 people. This figure reflects the number of tickets distributed, and does not take into account the thousands of faithful who arrive without tickets and also participate.
The Angelus prayers of 2007 drew 1,450,000 people to St. Peter's Square - 155,000 more than last year - while 442,000 attended the various liturgical ceremonies presided by the Holy Father. April 2007, the month in which Holy Week fell, saw the greatest numbers of faithful attending the Wednesday general audiences and the liturgical celebrations: respectively 130,000 and 250,000.
Nairobi,Kenya, Dec.02,2008 (vaticans.org) - At least 50 people sheltering in a church, most of them women and children, were killed in Kenya yesterday when a mob torched the building.
The victims had sought refuge at the Assemblies of God church in Eldoret, 300 kilometres from Nairobi, after rioters destroyed their homes in earlier attacks.
Red Cross officials say they have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties from the violence in the area and they fear worse is to come.
Yesterday thousands of armed people were heading towards Burnt Forest, a few Kilometres from Eldoret. Burnt Forest has a history of violent tribal clashes.
Many observers expressed concern about the fairness of the elections. Following the apparent victory of President Mwai Kibaki , four days of violent rioting has killed more than 228 people.
Bishop Martin Kivuva of Machakos Catholic Diocese said that history had shown violence brews violence. He appealed for political leaders to restrain their supporters.
"When we preach an eye for an eye, it means that many people would go blind," he said.
Kivuva said it was the ordinary Kenyan and not the leaders that were suffering.
"The skirmishes we are witnessing today are affecting the poorest of all and not those who live in estates like Muthaiga and other high class estates," he said.
Vatican City, Dec.14, 2007 (CINS/VIS) - Yesterday evening following a Eucharistic celebration for Roman university students, celebrated in the Vatican Basilica and presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, the Pope arrived in the basilica to greet the young people gathered there.
In his remarks to them, the Holy Father reflected on two themes: the spiritual formation of the young, and his own recent Encyclical "Spe salvi."
He began by recalling how 150 university students from the diocese of Rome have decided to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on the eve of Pentecost next year. Addressing them and the other young people present, the Pope invited them "to turn their gaze to the Virgin Mary. From her 'yes' you should learn to pronounce your own 'yes' to the divine call. The Holy Spirit enters our lives in the extent to which we open our hearts with our 'yes.' The fuller that 'yes' is, the fuller is the gift of His presence."
Referring to his Encyclical on Christian hope, Benedict invited his listeners to reflect upon and consider, individually and as a group, the section dedicated to hope in the modern age.
The Pope continued: "In the seventeenth century Europe went through an epoch-making change. Since then a mentality has become ever more widespread according to which human progress is the work of science and technology, while faith concerns only the salvation of the soul.
"The two great concepts of modernity - reason and freedom - have been, so to say, 'disengaged' from God," the Holy Father added. They have "become autonomous and work together in the construction of the 'kingdom of man,' which in practice contrasts with the Kingdom of God. Hence the spread of materialist ideas, nourished by the hope that, by changing economic and political structures, it will finally be possible to achieve a just society in which peace, freedom and equality reign.
This process," the Pope concluded, "which is not without its merits and its historical causes, contains, however, a basic error: man is not just the result of certain economic and social conditions; technological progress does not correspond to the moral development of mankind. In fact without ethical principles science and technology can be used - as has happened and unfortunately still does happen - not for the good but to the detriment of individuals and humanity."
Ohio, U.S.A, Dec.13, 2007 (CINS/CNS) -- "Maybe I should be reading more," mused Marianist Brother Francis Deibel.
The 99-year-old brother may have a point. Each day he spends up to four hours at his computer exchanging e-mails with more than 100 contacts.
"Lately I've been getting too many e-mails," added Brother Deibel, who thinks too many older people are afraid of technology and computers. "I try to open and read all of them, but sometimes they are too numerous."
He begins his computer time by forwarding readings about the saint of the day. "I send this information to all my Marianist contacts," he said. He then spends hours answering personal e-mails and deleting junk e-mails.
Brother Deibel has been a Marianist since 1926 -- one year before the first "talkie" feature film.
"I began using a computer when it was just a bunch of wires put together," he said. He refined his skills in classes at the University of Dayton, where he worked for 48 years as a librarian. He also credits 86-year-old Marianist Brother Bill Callahan, whom Brother Deibel calls his "young" friend, with teaching him additional skills.
Brother Deibel started e-mailing in 1990 and he says he has used his computer daily ever since. His e-mail address book has four groups: Marianists, relatives, "something else," and "all." The size of his groups are growing, too.
"When I learn of a new e-mail address for someone I know, I'll add it to my list, if it is OK with that person. It doesn't cost extra to add them, so I go ahead and do it," he said.
Brother Deibel said it's possible for all of his fellow senior citizens to pick up the technological tricks of the trade.
"I would encourage old people not to be afraid of the computer," he said. "Too many old people are, but there is nothing to be afraid of. It's just like a typewriter. It won't talk back at you! Learn how to use it. Don't lose time watching TV. Using the computer is much more personal and enjoyable."