On Viterbo, the "City of Popes"

«Confirm Your Brothers»

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VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus in Viterbo, where he spent the day in a pastoral visit.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, I once again thank the Lord for having giving me the joy to pay this pastoral visit to your diocesan community. I have come among you to encourage you and confirm you in fidelity to Christ, as the theme that you have chosen indicates: «Confirm your brothers» (Luke 22:31). These words of Jesus were directed to the Apostle Peter during the Last Supper, entrusting to him the task of being the pastor of his entire Church here on earth.

For many centuries your diocese has distinguished itself by a singular bond of affection and communion with the Successor of Peter. I was able to experience this visiting the Palazzo dei Papi (Palace of Popes) and, in particular, the hall of the «Conclave.» St. Leo the Great, who performed a great service to truth in charity through an assiduous exercise of the word, as his sermons and letters bear witness, was born in the vast territory of ancient Tuscia. Pope Sabinian, successor of Gregory the Great, was born in Blera; Paul III was born in Canino. Viterbo was chosen for the whole second half of the 12th century as the residence of the Roman Pontiffs: Five of my predecessors were elected here, and four of them are interred here; more than 50 have visited — the last was the Servant of God John Paul II, 25 years ago. These figures have a historical significance, but I would like to stress their spiritual value above all at this moment. Viterbo has been justly named «City of Popes,» and for you this constitutes a further stimulus to live and witness to the Christian faith, the same faith that the holy martyrs Valentino and Ilario — who rest in the cathedral — gave their lives for. They are the first of a long line of saints, martyrs and blesseds from your land.

«Confirm your brothers:» Today I felt this invitation of the Lord addressed to me with a singular intensity. Pray, dear Brothers and Sisters, that I might be able to carry out the mission of the pastors of the entire flock of Christ with ever greater fidelity and love (cf. John 21:15 ff.). For my part I assure you of a constant remembrance in the Lord for your diocesan community, so that its different articulations — whose symbolic representation I was able to admire in the cathedral’s new bronze doors — will tend more and more to a complete unity and fraternal communion, indispensable conditions for offering the world an efficacious evangelical testimony. I will entrust these intentions this afternoon to the Virgin Mary in my visit to the shrine of the Madonna della Quercia (the Madonna of the Oak). Now, with the prayer that recalls her «yes» to the angel’s announcement, let us ask her always to keep our faith strong and joyful.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said in Italian:]

I would now like to address a cordial greeting to the participants in the International Congress «Men and Religions,» which is convening in Krakow on the theme: «Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue.» Numerous figures and representatives of the various religions — invited by the Archdiocese of Krakow and the Community of Sant’Egidio — are gathered to reflect and pray for peace, 70 years after the outbreak of World War II. We cannot fail to recall the dramatic events that brought on one of the most terrible conflicts in history, that caused tens of millions of deaths and provoked so much suffering among the beloved Polish people; a conflict that saw the tragedy of the Holocaust and the extermination of many other innocent people. May the memory of these events move us to pray for the victims and for those who still carry wounds in their bodies and hearts; may it also be an admonishment to all not to repeat such barbarities and to intensify the efforts to create in our time, marked by conflicts and oppositions, an enduring peace, transmitting above all to the new generations, a culture and a lifestyle shaped by love, solidarity and esteem for the other. In this perspective, what is especially important is the contributions that religions can and must make in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation against violence, racism, totalitarianism and the extremism that disfigure the image of the Creator in man, erase God from the horizon and, consequently, lead to the scorn of man himself. May the Lord help you to build peace beginning from love and from mutual understanding (cf. «Caritas in Veritate,» no. 72).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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