On the Papal Trip to Portugal

«A Touching and Rich Experience of So Many Spiritual Gifts»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,
Today I wish to go over with you the various stages of the apostolic journey I undertook in recent days to Portugal, moved especially by a sentiment of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who in Fatima transmitted to her visionaries and to pilgrims an intense love for the Successor of Peter. I thank God who gave me the possibility to pay homage to that people, to its long and glorious history of faith and Christian witness. Hence, as I requested you to accompany me on this pastoral visit with prayer, I now ask you to join me in thanking the Lord for its happy development and conclusion. I entrust to him the fruits that it has brought and will bring to the Portuguese ecclesial community and to the whole population.

I renew the expression of my gratitude to the president of the republic, Mr. Aníbal Cavaco Silva, and to the other authorities of the state, who received me with so much courtesy and planned everything so that all would unfold in the best way. With intense affection, I think of my brother bishops of the Portuguese dioceses, whom I had the joy to embrace in their land and I thank them fraternally for all that they did for the spiritual and organizational preparation of my visit, and for a notable profuse diligence in its fulfillment. I direct a particular thought to the patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, to the bishops of Leiria-Fatima, António Augusto dos Santos Marto, and of Porto, Manuel Macário do Nascimento Clemente, and to their respective collaborators, as well as to the various organizations of the episcopal conference led by Archbishop Jorge Ortiga.
Throughout the whole trip, which occurred on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the little shepherds Jacinta and Francisco, I felt sustained spiritually by my beloved predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, who went three times to Fatima, thanking that «invisible hand» that delivered him from death in the attack of the 13th of May, here in St. Peter’s Square.

On the evening of my arrival I celebrated Holy Mass in Lisbon in the enchanting scene of the Terreiro do Paco, which looks out on the Tago River. It was a liturgical assembly of celebration and hope, animated by the joyful participation of very numerous faithful. In the capital, from where so many missionaries left over the course of the centuries to take the Gospel to many continents, I encouraged the various components of the local Church to a vigorous evangelizing action in the various realms of society, to be sowers of hope in a world often marked by mistrust. In particular, I exhorted believers to be heralds of the death and resurrection of Christ, heart of Christianity, fulcrum and support of our faith and reason of our joy.

I was able to manifest these sentiments also in the course of the meeting with representatives of the world of culture, held in the Cultural Center of Belem. In this circumstance I made evident the patrimony of values with which Christianity has enriched the culture, art and tradition of the Portuguese people. In this noble land, as in every other country marked profoundly by Christianity, it is possible to build a future of fraternal understanding and of collaboration with other cultural entities, opening mutually to a sincere and respectful dialogue.
I then went to Fatima, a town characterized by an atmosphere of real mysticism, in which one perceives in an almost palpable way the presence of Our Lady. I made myself a pilgrim with the pilgrims in that wonderful shrine, spiritual heart of Portugal and destination of a multitude of persons from the most diverse places of the world. After having paused in prayer and overwhelming recollection in the Chapel of the Apparitions in Cova da Iria, presenting to the heart of the Holy Virgin the joys and expectations as well as the problems and sufferings of the whole world, I had the joy of presiding over the celebration of vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Inside this great and modern church, I manifested my heartfelt appreciation to priests, to men and women religious, to deacons and to seminarians who came from every part of Portugal, thanking them for their witness — often silent and not always easy — and for their fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. In this Year for Priests, which is coming to an end, I encouraged the priests to give priority to a religious listening of the Word of God, to profound knowledge of Christ, to the intense celebration of the Eucharist, looking at the luminous example of the Holy Curé d’Ars. I did not fail to entrust and consecrate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the true model of a disciple of the Lord, the priests of the whole world.
In the evening, with thousands of persons who met in the great esplanade in front of the shrine, I took part in a thought-provoking torchlight procession. It was a stupendous manifestation of faith in God and of devotion to his and our Mother, expressed with the recitation of the holy rosary. This prayer, so dear to the Christian people, has found in Fatima a propelling center for the whole Church and the world. The «White Lady,» in the apparition of June 13, said to the three little shepherds: «I want you to recite the rosary every day.» We can say that Fatima and the rosary are almost a synonym.
My visit to that very special place had its culmination in the Eucharistic celebration of May 13, the anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucía. Re-echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, I invited that immense assembly, gathered with great love and devotion at the feet of the Virgin, to rejoice fully in the Lord (cf. Isaiah 61:10), because his merciful love, which accompanies our pilgrimage on this earth, is the source of our great hope. Precisely charged with hope is the exacting and at the same time consoling message that Our Lady left in Fatima. It is a message centered on prayer, on penance and on conversion, which is projected beyond the threats, the dangers and the horrors of history, to invite man to have confidence in God’s action, to cultivate great hope, and to experience the Lord’s grace to be enamored of him, source of love and peace.  
Significant in this perspective was the overwhelming meeting with the organizations of social ministry, to which I indicated the style of the Good Samaritan in going to meet the needs of our neediest brothers and to serve Christ, promoting the common good. Many young people learn the importance of gratuitousness precisely in Fatima, which is a school of faith and prayer, because it is also a school of charity and of service to brothers.

Held in such a context of faith and prayer was the important and fraternal meeting with the Portuguese episcopate, at the end of my visit to Fatima: It was a moment of intense spiritual communion, in which together we thanked the Lord for the fidelity of the Church that is in Portugal and entrusted to the Virgin our common pastoral expectations and concerns. To such pastoral hopes and prospects I also made reference in the course of the Holy Mass celebrated in the historic and symbolic city of Porto, the «City of the Virgin,» the last stage of my pilgrimage on Lusitanian soil. I reminded the great crowd of faithful gathered in the Avenue dos Aliados of the commitment to witness the Gospel in every environment, offering the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of difficulty, of suffering, of fear is transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an occasion of growth and life.
Dear brothers and sisters, the pilgrimage in Portugal was for me a touching and rich experience of so many spiritual gifts. While I have fixed in my mind and heart the images of this unforgettable trip, the warm and spontaneous reception, the enthusiasm of
the people, I give praise to the Lord because Mary, appearing to the three little shepherds, opened to the world a privileged space to find divine mercy that heals and saves.

In Fatima, the Holy Virgin invites all to consider the earth as the place of our pilgrimage to our definitive homeland, which is heaven. In fact, we are all pilgrims, we are in need of the Mother who guides us. «With you we walk in hope. Wisdom and Mission» was the motto of my apostolic journey to Portugal, and in Fatima the Blessed Virgin Mary invites us to walk with great hope, allowing ourselves to be guided by the «wisdom of on high,» which was manifested in Jesus, the wisdom of love, to take to the world the light and joy of Christ.

Hence, I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer, asking the Lord to bless the efforts of all those, in that beloved nation, who are dedicated to the service of the Gospel and to the search for the true good of man, of every man. Let us pray, moreover, so that through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Spirit will make this apostolic journey fruitful, and animate in the whole world the mission of the Church, instituted by Christ to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, of peace and of love.
 [Translation by ZENIT] [The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:] 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My Pastoral Visit to Portugal this past week enabled me to honor Our Lady of Fatima and to pay homage to the distinguished history of Christian faith and evangelizing zeal of the Portuguese people. The visit began with a Mass celebrated in the Terreiro do Paco in Lisbon, where I urged Portugal’s Christians to carry on this great work of evangelization in our own day. The heart of my journey was my pilgrimage to Fatima for the tenth anniversary of the Beatification of the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta. The evening recitation of the Rosary and the solemn Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition were centered on the message of Fatima. Our Lady’s exhortation to prayer, penance and conversion is essentially a summons to hope in God’s merciful love and trust in his saving plan, which triumphs over the threats and calamities of history. As I give thanks for the blessings of my pilgrimage, I ask you to join me in asking Our Lady of Fatima to continue, by her prayers, to guide us on our journey to heaven, to open the hearts of all to God’s infinite mercy, and to confirm the Church in her perennial mission of proclaiming before the world the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including the groups from England, Malaysia and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the students who are here and to the American Patrons of the Vatican Museums. Commending all of you to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, I ask Almighty God to pour out his blessings upon you.
Copyright 2010 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
 [In Italian, he added:] 
Finally, I turn to young people, the sick and newlyweds.
We are in the Novena of Pentecost and I invite you, dear young people, to be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, given to believers in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. I exhort you, dear sick people, to receive the Consoling Spirit, so that he will assist you in difficulties and help you to transform suffering into a pleasing offering for the good of your brothers. I wish for you, dear newlyweds, that the life of your family is always nourished by the fire of the Spirit, who is the Love itself of God.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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