Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
13 December, 2014, 27th Sunday - 10 January, 2014, Sunday after Christmas


Saturday, 30 May 2009

St Theodore the Studie: Order, Obedience, Renunciation

The Vatican Information Service reports. 27 May 2009:

In this morning's general audience, the Pope continued with his series of catechesis on the great writers of the Eastern and Western Church in the Middle Ages, turning his attention today to St. Theodore the Studite.

Addressing more than 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope explained how St. Theodore was born in the year 759 "to a noble and religious family". At the age of twenty-two he embraced the monastic life in the monastery of Sakkudion but, because of his opposition to the adulterous marriage of the emperor Constantine VI, was exiled to Thessalonika in 796. He was able to return to Sakkudion the following year thanks to the intervention of the empress Irene, who also encouraged the saint to move to the monastery of Studios in order to evade the incursions of the Saracens.

St. Theodore "became the head of the resistance against the iconoclast emperor Leo V the Armenian". This again led "to his being exiled in various places in Asia Minor. Finally he was allowed to return to Constantinople, but not to his monastery". He died in the year 826. "Theodore stands out in Church history as one of the great reformers of monastic life", said Pope Benedict, "and, alongside Patriarch St. Nicephorus of Constantinople, as a defender of sacred images during the second stage of iconoclasm".

The saint also emphasised "the necessity for order and submission on the part of his monks ... so that the monastery could go back to being a truly organic community, a real family or, as he said, a true 'Body of Christ'". This was because persecutions had forced the monks to disband. The Holy Father went on: "One of Theodore's basic convictions was that monks, more than others, have a commitment to observe Christian duties with greater rigour and intensity in order to offer a sign, an indication, to all Christians. This is why they make a special profession, ... almost a 'new Baptism'".

"The commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience", said the Pope, "distinguishes monks from those who live in the world". Yet personal poverty, "an essential element of monasticism, also shows the rest of us a way to follow. The renunciation of private property, freedom from material things, sobriety and simplicity have radical validity only for monks, but the spirit of such renunciation is the same for everyone. We must not depend upon material things, we must learn renunciation, simplicity, austerity and sobriety. Only in this way can a united society develop and the great problem of poverty in this world be overcome".

"The main forms of renunciation are those imposed by obedience", which St. Theodore "describes as the 'martyrdom of submission'". In this context the Holy Father noted how "the social fabric cannot function if each exclusively follows his or her own path. ... Legality - in other words, submission and obedience to the rules of the common life and the common good - is the only thing that can heal a society, and ego itself, from the pride of being at the centre of the world".

"For Theodore the Studite, one important virtue - equal to the virtues of obedience and humility - was 'philergia', that is, love for work. ... He did not, then, allow monks, under the pretext of prayer or contemplation, to dispense themselves from work, which is in fact the means to discover God".

Benedict XVI also highlighted how St. Theodore was "the spiritual father of his monks", always ready "to listen to the confidences of everyone. He also gave spiritual advice to many people outside the monastery". Theodore's Rule, "known by the name of 'Hypotyposis'", was codified shortly after his death and "adopted with a few modifications on Mount Athos, ... It remains", noted the Pope, "highly relevant".

The Holy Father concluded by warning of the "numerous perils that today threaten the unity of the shared faith and push us towards a dangerous kind of spiritual individualism. It is necessary to work to defend and develop the perfect unity of the Body of Christ, a unity in which the peace of order and sincere personal relationships in the Spirit can come together harmoniously".

Thursday, 28 May 2009

St Theodore the Studite: Order, Obedience, Renunciation

The Vatican Information Service reports, 27 May 2009:

In this morning's general audience, the Pope continued with his series of catechesis on the great writers of the Eastern and Western Church in the Middle Ages, turning his attention today to St. Theodore the Studite. Addressing more than 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope explained how St. Theodore was born in the year 759 "to a noble and religious family". At the age of twenty-two he embraced the monastic life in the monastery of Sakkudion but, because of his opposition to the adulterous marriage of the emperor Constantine VI, was exiled to Thessalonika in 796. He was able to return to Sakkudion the following year thanks to the intervention of the empress Irene, who also encouraged the saint to move to the monastery of Studios in order to evade the incursions of the Saracens.

St. Theodore "became the head of the resistance against the iconoclast emperor Leo V the Armenian". This again led "to his being exiled in various places in Asia Minor. Finally he was allowed to return to Constantinople, but not to his monastery". He died in the year 826.

"Theodore stands out in Church history as one of the great reformers of monastic life", said Pope Benedict, "and, alongside Patriarch St. Nicephorus of Constantinople, as a defender of sacred images during the second stage of iconoclasm".

The saint also emphasised "the necessity for order and submission on the part of his monks ... so that the monastery could go back to being a truly organic community, a real family or, as he said, a true 'Body of Christ'". This was because persecutions had forced the monks to disband. The Holy Father went on: "One of Theodore's basic convictions was that monks, more than others, have a commitment to observe Christian duties with greater rigour and intensity in order to offer a sign, an indication, to all Christians. This is why they make a special profession, ... almost a 'new Baptism'". "The commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience", said the Pope, "distinguishes monks from those who live in the world".

Yet personal poverty, "an essential element of monasticism, also shows the rest of us a way to follow. The renunciation of private property, freedom from material things, sobriety and simplicity have radical validity only for monks, but the spirit of such renunciation is the same for everyone. We must not depend upon material things, we must learn renunciation, simplicity, austerity and sobriety. Only in this way can a united society develop and the great problem of poverty in this world be overcome". "The main forms of renunciation are those imposed by obedience", which St. Theodore "describes as the 'martyrdom of submission'". In this context the Holy Father noted how "the social fabric cannot function if each exclusively follows his or her own path. ... Legality - in other words, submission and obedience to the rules of the common life and the common good - is the only thing that can heal a society, and ego itself, from the pride of being at the centre of the world".

"For Theodore the Studite, one important virtue - equal to the virtues of obedience and humility - was 'philergia', that is, love for work. ... He did not, then, allow monks, under the pretext of prayer or contemplation, to dispense themselves from work, which is in fact the means to discover God".

Benedict XVI also highlighted how St. Theodore was "the spiritual father of his monks", always ready "to listen to the confidences of everyone. He also gave spiritual advice to many people outside the monastery".

Theodore's Rule, "known by the name of 'Hypotyposis'", was codified shortly after his death and "adopted with a few modifications on Mount Athos, ... It remains", noted the Pope, "highly relevant".

The Holy Father concluded by warning of the "numerous perils that today threaten the unity of the shared faith and push us towards a dangerous kind of spiritual individualism. It is necessary to work to defend and develop the perfect unity of the Body of Christ, a unity in which the peace of order and sincere personal relationships in the Spirit can come together harmoniously".

Friday, 15 May 2009

Pope Benedict visits the Armenian Patriarch Torkom of Jerusalem


The Vatican Information Service reports, 15 May 2009:


This morning the Holy Father visited the Armenian Patriarchal Apostolic Church of Jerusalem, where he was greeted by Patriarch Torkom Manoukian. The Pope assured the Armenian Community of his prayers and spoke of the need for Christian unity. There are 10,000 people of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate who are present in the Palestinian Territories of Jordan and Israel.


"I count it a great blessing," said the Pope in his address, "to have met in this past year with the Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians Karekin II and with the Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I. Their visits to the Holy See, and the moments of prayer which we shared, have strengthened us in fellowship and confirmed our commitment to the sacred cause of promoting Christian unity."


The Holy Father also mentioned his appreciation for the commitment of the Armenian Apostolic Church "to the continuing theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This dialogue, sustained by prayer, has made progress in overcoming the burden of past misunderstandings, and offers much promise for the future."


He continued, "A particular sign of hope is the recent document on the nature and mission of the Church produced by the Mixed Commission and presented to the Churches for study and evaluation." In this context he expressed the hope that the work of the commission may "bear abundant fruit for the growth of Christian unity, and advance the spread of the Gospel among the men and women of our time."


Pope Benedict gave assurances of his prayers that the Armenian Community in Jerusalem "will constantly draw new life from its rich traditions, and be confirmed in its witness to Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection in this Holy City."


"I ask you in turn to pray with me that all the Christians of the Holy Land will work together with generosity and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel of our reconciliation in Christ, and the advent of His Kingdom of holiness, justice and peace," he concluded.

Pope Benedict visits the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Resurrection

Pope Benedict prays in the Holy Sepulchre on visiting the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and leaders of other Christian Churches and communities in Jerusalem at the close of his pastoral visit to the Holy Land.

Pope Benedict visits the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

The Holy Father's address to Patriarch Theophilus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with profound gratitude and joy that I make this visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; a moment to which I have much looked forward. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III for his kind words of fraternal greeting, which I warmly reciprocate. I also express to all of you my heartfelt gratitude for providing me with this opportunity to meet once again the many leaders of Churches and ecclesial communities present.

This morning I am mindful of the historic meetings that have taken place here in Jerusalem between my predecessor Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, and also between Pope John Paul II and His Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros. These encounters, including my visit today, are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East (cf. Is 60:1; Rev 21:10) has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a "rising sun" came to visit us (Lk 1:78) and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.

Standing in this hallowed place, alongside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the site where our crucified Lord rose from the dead for all humanity, and near the cenacle, where on the day of Pentecost "they were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1), who could not feel impelled to bring the fullness of goodwill, sound scholarship and spiritual desire to our ecumenical endeavors? I pray that our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.

Of particular joy for our Churches has been the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome dedicated to the theme: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The warm welcome he received and his moving intervention were sincere expressions of the deep spiritual joy that arises from the extent to which communion is already present between our Churches. Such ecumenical experience bears clear witness to the link between the unity of the Church and her mission. Extending his arms on the Cross, Jesus revealed the fullness of his desire to draw all people to himself, uniting them together as one (cf. Jn 12:32). Breathing his Spirit upon us he revealed his power to enable us to participate in his mission of reconciliation (cf. Jn 19:30; 20:22-23). In that breath, through the redemption that unites, stands our mission! Little wonder, then, that it is precisely in our burning desire to bring Christ to others, to make known his message of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor 5:19), that we experience the shame of our division. Yet, sent out into the world (cf. Jn 20:21), empowered by the unifying force of the Holy Spirit (ibid. v. 22), proclaiming the reconciliation that draws all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God (ibid. v. 31), we shall find the strength to redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father who sends the Son so that the world may know his love for us (cf. Jn 17:23).

Some two thousand years ago, along these same streets, a group of Greeks put this request to Philip: "Sir, we should like to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). It is a request made again of us today, here in Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, in the region and throughout the world. How do we respond? Is our response heard? Saint Paul alerts us to the gravity of our response: our mission to teach and preach. He says: "faith comes from hearing, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Rm 10:17). It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked these streets, through his words and actions calls people of every age to his life of truth and love.

Dear friends, while encouraging you to proclaim joyfully the Risen Lord, I wish also to recognize the work to this end of the Heads of Christian communities, who meet together regularly in this city. It seems to me that the greatest service the Christians of Jerusalem can offer their fellow citizens is the upbringing and education of a further generation of well-formed and committed Christians, earnest in their desire to contribute generously to the religious and civic life of this unique and holy city. The fundamental priority of every Christian leader is the nurturing of the faith of the individuals and families entrusted to his pastoral care. This common pastoral concern will ensure that your regular meetings are marked by the wisdom and fraternal charity necessary to support one another and to engage with both the joys and the particular difficulties which mark the lives of your people. I pray that the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and - for young people in particular - unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability.

Your Beatitude, I thank you again for your kindness in inviting me here, together with the other guests. Upon each of you and the communities you represent, I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings of fortitude and wisdom! May you all be strengthened by the hope of Christ which does not disappoint!

Pope Benedict at Nazareth encourages the Christian Families of the Holy Land



The Vatican Information Service reports, 14 May 2009:


Today the Pope travelled by helicopter to Nazareth, town of the Annunciation and of the Holy Family, which is located some 110 kilometres from Jerusalem. Having landed, the Holy Father continued his journey by car to the Mount of the Precipice where he celebrated Mass to mark the closure of Year of the Family, an initiative organised by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.


Benedict XVI was welcomed by the mayors of Nazareth and of Nazareth Illit, by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin patriarchal vicar for Israel, and by Archbishop Paul Nabil El-Sayah of Haifa and the Holy Land of the Maronites. The Holy Father saluted the faithful from his popemobile as he toured the site, a natural amphitheatre located near a wood dedicated to Pope John XXIII. Having then received greetings from Archbishop Elias Chacour, Greek Melkite ordinary for Galilee, he presided at Mass. Among those attending the ceremony was Shimon Peres, president of the State of Israel.


In his homily, the Holy Father affirmed that, following the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, "we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God's plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God's gift of new life.


"How much the men and women of our time need to re-appropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilisation of love", he added.


"In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first building block of a well-ordered and welcoming society. We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity".


"In the town of the Annunciation", the Holy Father proceeded, "our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, 'full of grace'. ... Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents.


Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the workforce and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that 'human ecology' which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness".


He also noted how from St. Joseph's "strong and fatherly example" Jesus "learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one's word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!"


Benedict XVI told the children present "to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God".


He then called on everyone to reaffirm their commitment "to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us. This Mount of the Precipice reminds us ... that our Lord's message was at times a source of contradiction and conflict with His hearers. Sadly, as the world knows, Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities. I urge people of goodwill in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence. Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men's souls before it kills their bodies!"


Benedict XVI concluded his homily by expressing his "gratitude and praise for all those who strive to bring God's love to the children of this town, and to educate new generations in the ways of peace. I think in a special way of the local Churches, particularly in their schools and charitable institutions, to break down walls and to be a seedbed of encounter, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity".


Finally, he encouraged educators "to persevere in bearing witness to the Gospel, to be confident in the triumph of goodness and truth, and to trust that God will give growth to every initiative which aims at the extension of His Kingdom of holiness, solidarity, justice and peace".


At the conclusion of Mass, Benedict XVI blessed the cornerstones of various new buildings, including an international centre for the family, a memorial park dedicated to John Paul II and the Pope Benedict XVI University.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Pope Benedict at Bethlehem


The Vatican Information Service reports, 14 May 2009:


The Pope has today visited the Basilica and the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The present situation of co-ownership and administration of the Basilica of the Nativity by Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Latin Catholics dates back to the Status Quo, an 1862 Ottoman decree which regulates religious life at the Holy Sepulchre and at Bethlehem.


The Greeks own the basilica, except for the north part of the transept which belongs to the Armenians. The Grotto of the Nativity belongs to the Franciscans and is divided into two parts: the Altar of the Nativity, of the Greeks, and the Altar of the Manger in the Grotto of the Magi, of the Latins. Next to the basilica the Franciscans built the church of St. Catherine where the Roman rite is celebrated.


On both sides of the Greek choir in the basilica are the two entrances to the Grotto of the Nativity which is rectangular and measures 12 meters in length and 3 meters in both width and height. The bronze doors and marble portals date from the era of the crusades. The apse covers the Altar of the Nativity, under which there is a marble slab with a silver star and the Latin inscription: "Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est" (Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary). To the right of the Altar of the Nativity is the Grotto of the Magi where Catholic Masses are celebrated.


Having completed his visit, Benedict XVI moved on to the Caritas Baby Hospital, a children's hospital founded in 1952 and supported by the "Kinderhilfe Bethlehem" Association, established by Fr. Ernst Schnydrig who died in 1978. The hospital enjoys the support of the German and Swiss episcopal conferences.


Before greeting the medical and administrative staff, and the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters of Padua who help care for the patients, the Pope visited the chapel and the maternity ward.

Addressing some words to the young patients and their families, he said: "The Pope is with you! Today he is with you in person, but he spiritually accompanies you each and every day in his thoughts and prayers, asking the Almighty to watch over you with His tender care.


"Fr. Schnydrig described this place as 'one of the smaller bridges built for peace'. Now, having grown from fourteen cots to eighty beds, and caring for the needs of thousands of children each year, this bridge is no longer small! It brings together people of different origins, languages and religions, in the name of the Reign of God, the Kingdom of Peace. I heartily encourage you to persevere in your mission of showing charity to all the sick, the poor and the weak".


Today being the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the Holy Father concluded by invoking the Virgin Mary in these terms: "May love triumph over hatred, solidarity over division, and peace over every form of violence!" And he concluded: "We ask your Son Jesus to bless these children and all children who suffer throughout the world".


Having completed his visit to the Caritas Baby Hospital, the Holy Father boarded his popemobile and travelled the two kilometres separating it from the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.


The Aida camp is one of the refugee camps in the Palestinian Territories, which house a total of 1,300,000 refugees who arrived in two waves: in 1948 with the birth of the State of Israel, and in 1967 following the Six-Day War. The Aida camp, an example of co-existence between Christians and Muslims, houses some 5,000 people, including a number of Christian families.


Various estimates give the number of people living in the Palestinian Territories as between three and four million. According to 2008 estimates from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Palestinian refugees number 4,600,000 scattered between Jordan (1,700,000 of whom 329,000 live in ten camps); the West Bank (500,000 in nineteen camps); the Gaza Strip (1,000,000 in eight camps, in a total population of 1,500,000); Lebanon (409,000 in twelve camps) and Syria (120,000 in nine camps).


In his remarks, the Pope welcomed the opportunity to express his "solidarity with all the homeless Palestinians who long to be able to return to their birthplace, or to live permanently in a homeland of their own". He also praised the work of UNRWA officials in this camp and others throughout the region.


Benedict XVI reiterated the importance of education and called on young people present to "renew your efforts to prepare for the time when you will be responsible for the affairs of the Palestinian people in years to come". In this context, he also called on parents "to support your children in their studies and to nurture their gifts, so that there will be no shortage of well-qualified personnel to occupy leadership positions in the Palestinian community in the future.


"I know", he added, "that many of your families are divided - through imprisonment of family members, or restrictions on freedom of movement - and many of you have experienced bereavement in the course of the hostilities. ... Please be assured that all Palestinian refugees across the world, especially those who lost homes and loved ones during the recent conflict in Gaza, are constantly remembered in my prayers".


The Holy Father also praised the work of certain Church agencies in the Palestinian Territories, such as the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who "call to mind the charismatic figure of St. Francis, that great apostle of peace and reconciliation", and the Franciscan family in general which cares "for the people of these lands, by making themselves 'instruments of peace'".


"Instruments of peace", the Pope reiterated. "How much the people of this camp, these Territories, and this entire region long for peace! In these days, that longing takes on a particular poignancy as you recall the events of May 1948 and the years of conflict, as yet unresolved, that followed from those events. You are now living in precarious and difficult conditions, with limited opportunities for employment.


"It is understandable that you often feel frustrated. Your legitimate aspirations for permanent homes, for an independent Palestinian State, remain unfulfilled. Instead you find yourselves trapped, as so many in this region and throughout the world are trapped, in a spiral of violence, of attack and counter-attack, retaliation, and continual destruction. The whole world is longing for this spiral to be broken, for peace to put an end to the constant fighting. Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached - the wall.


"In a world where more and more borders are being opened up - to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges - it is tragic to see walls still being erected. How we long to see the fruits of the much more difficult task of building peace! How earnestly we pray for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built!


"On both sides of the wall, great courage is needed if fear and mistrust is to be overcome, if the urge to retaliate for loss or injury is to be resisted. It takes magnanimity to seek reconciliation after years of fighting. Yet history has shown that peace can only come when the parties to a conflict are willing to move beyond their grievances and work together towards common goals, each taking seriously the concerns and fears of the other, striving to build an atmosphere of trust. There has to be a willingness to take bold and imaginative initiatives towards reconciliation: if each insists on prior concessions from the other, the result can only be stalemate".


Benedict XVI emphasised the fact that humanitarian aid, such as the kind provided in the Aida camp, is essential "but the long-term solution to a conflict such as this can only be political. No one expects the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to arrive at it on their own. The support of the international community is vital, and hence I make a renewed appeal to all concerned to bring their influence to bear in favour of a just and lasting solution, respecting the legitimate demands of all parties and recognising their right to live in peace and dignity, in accordance with international law. Yet at the same time, diplomatic efforts can only succeed if Palestinians and Israelis themselves are willing to break free from the cycle of aggression".


The Holy Father concluded his comments with a plea "for a profound commitment to cultivate peace and non-violence, following the example of St. Francis and other great peacemakers. Peace has to begin in the home, in the family, in the heart. I continue to pray that all parties to the conflict in these lands will have the courage and imagination to pursue the challenging but indispensable path of reconciliation. May peace flourish once more in these lands! May God bless His people with peace!"

Ukrainian Catholic University


On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Embassy to London at Holland Park hosted a reception to celebrate and promote the achievements of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, the only Catholic university institute of higher education in the territory of the former Soviet Union. The Society was represented by Fr John Salter, Chairman, Alan Worsfold, Treasurer and Fr Mark Woodruff, Vice-Chairman, who was also representing the Society for Ecumenical Studies.


Its origins lie in the Lviv Theological Academy founded by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky in 1928, whose first rector was the future Josyf Cardinal Slipyj. It flourished for nearly two decades until 1944, following the Soviet invasion and the systematic persecution and suppression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Slipyj continued the work in exile in Rome, founding a Ukrainian Catholic University at San Clemente, which in turn produced associated institutions in other countries of the Ukrainian diaspora. Then in 1994, two years after Ukraine's independence, plans for the restoration of the old Theological Academy bore fruit: it was re-established in Lviv, gaining recognition from the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1998. Pope John Paul II laid the foundation stone of the new Ukrainian Catholic University in 2001 (pictured) and the newly re-registered body finally received recognition from the education department of the Republic of Ukraine in 2002 for its liberal arts programmes, followed in 2006 with accreditation for its theology faculty.

There is a warm and active collaboration with the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, which is the oldest Catholic university in the world. From Brussels it co-ordinates support to education and the Christian development of civil society in Ukraine, especially through the work of the Ukrainian Catholic University, through the organisation Edukraine.

The rector, the Revd Dr Borys Gudziak, told us of the impressive progress at UCU in just a few years. There are 1,000 students on a "rigorous, classical Christian curriculum in the humanities", 250 seminarians preparing for the priesthood, a thriving programme of summer schools - English and Ukrainian language, iconography, spirituality, art and culture - and an extensive and growing research library.

A very important new development for the Ukrainian Church's relation to wider society is its Lviv Business School, alongside existing work on public policy and social development. A cornerstone of its work is the promotion of the highest ethical standards in public and commercial life, stressing honesty, probity and anti-corruption.

An education school is also resourcing state and Church in religious education and also Catholic Christian principles on the rights and dignity of the human person, offering to post-Soviet Ukraine an authentic pedagogy based on a distinctively Christian ethos. This includes a particular strength in the education, engagement and inclusion of the disabled and those with special educational needs.

Perhaps of even greater interest further afield is the Institute of Ecumenical Studies. It is led by a Russian Orthodox lay theologian, Dr Antoine Arjakovsky, Director, and the Rev Dr Iwan Dacko, Chancellor of the Lviv Eparchy, President and Founder. Its mission is firmly "toward an ecumenism of love", in the conviction that after so much suffering in the Church and strife among Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Latin Catholic and Protestant Christians in the region, only generous loving forgiveness and mutual respect and collaboration can be the way forward for Christians as, together, they rebuild their nation's society and promote the Kingdom of God more widely in Europe and the world. Thus the IES not only has the support of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in Rome - but also the Revd Dr Konrad Raiser, former General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Orthodox Archbishop Athanasius of Tirana and All Albania (co-President of the WCC), Archbishops Anthony, Vsevolod and Augustin of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch, as well as Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon and Archbishop d'Ornellas of Rennes.

A welcome contribution to the Church worldwide is its distance learning Masters' programme, with teachers from across Europe contributing to the existing strengths on the faculty. A particularly interesting aspect of this is "ecumenical hagiography", led by Dr Didier Rance, devoted to what Pope John Paul called the search for a 'new memory' about the Churches' shared histories of martyrdom and mutual persecution, asking how unity, co-operation and solidarity in the modern world can be established among Christians through the power not only of honour for the innocent suffering on all sides but also of forgiveness. A similar movement has been underway in England over the last few years in London, at Charterhouse, and in Oxford.

The Society warmly wishes Father Borys and the Ukrainian Catholic University every success in its exciting and growing work and witness, and we assure him of our prayers for God's abundant blessing.


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Holy Father visits President Abbas of the Palestinian Lands and celebrates Mass in Bethlehem



The Vatican Information Service reports, 13 May 2009:


Today, Benedict XVI travelled from the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem to the presidential palace of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem, a distance of ten kilometres. During the journey the Pope crossed the frontier between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, passing through the checkpoint near the Tomb of Rachel.


The Territories are governed by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), based in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The current president of the PNA is Mahmoud Abbas. Since 1995, by the terms of the Oslo Agreement, Bethlehem has formed part of the Palestinian Territories.


Benedict XVI reached the presidential palace at 9 a.m. where, having received the greetings of President Abbas, he pronounced his address.


"My pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible would not be complete without a visit to Bethlehem, the City of David and the birthplace of Jesus Christ", said the Pope. "Nor could I come to the Holy Land without accepting the kind invitation of President Abbas to visit these Territories and to greet the Palestinian people.


"I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades", he added. "My heart goes out to all the families who have been left homeless. ... To those among you who mourn the loss of family members and loved ones in the hostilities, particularly the recent conflict in Gaza, I offer an assurance of deep compassion and frequent remembrance in prayer. Indeed, I keep all of you in my daily prayers, and I earnestly beg the Almighty for peace, a just and lasting peace, in the Palestinian Territories and throughout the region".


Addressing President Abbas, the Holy Father went on: "The Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours, within internationally recognised borders. Even if at present that goal seems far from being realised, I urge you and all your people to keep alive the flame of hope, hope that a way can be found of meeting the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for peace and stability".


Recalling the words of John Paul II to the effect that "there can be 'no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness'", Benedict XVI exclaimed: "I plead with all the parties to this long-standing conflict to put aside whatever grievances and divisions still stand in the way of reconciliation, and to reach out with generosity and compassion to all alike, without discrimination.


Just and peaceful co-existence among the peoples of the Middle East can only be achieved through a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect, in which the rights and dignity of all are acknowledged and upheld.


"I ask all of you, I ask your leaders, to make a renewed commitment to work towards these goals. In particular I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favour of a solution".

He continued: "It is my earnest hope that the serious concerns involving security in Israel and the Palestinian Territories will soon be allayed sufficiently to allow greater freedom of movement, especially with regard to contact between family members and access to the Holy Places. Palestinians, like any other people, have a natural right to marry, to raise families, and to have access to work, education and healthcare.


"I pray too that, with the assistance of the international community, reconstruction work can proceed swiftly wherever homes, schools or hospitals have been damaged or destroyed, especially during the recent fighting in Gaza. This is essential if the people of this land are to live in conditions conducive to lasting peace and prosperity. A stable infrastructure will provide your young people with better opportunities to acquire valuable skills and to seek gainful employment, enabling them to play their part in building up the life of your communities".


Turning then to address young people the Pope said: "Do not allow the loss of life and the destruction that you have witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts. Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism. Instead, let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace. Let it fill you with a deep desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Palestine, so that it can take its rightful place on the world stage. Let it inspire in you sentiments of compassion for all who suffer, zeal for reconciliation, and a firm belief in the possibility of a brighter future".


The welcome ceremony over, the Pope celebrated Mass for 5,000 people at Manger Square, which is in front of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.


At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father addressed himself particularly to "pilgrims from war-torn Gaza: I ask you to bring back to your families and your communities my warm embrace, and my sorrow for the loss, the hardship and the suffering you have had to endure. Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead, and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted".


He proceeded: "For men and women everywhere, Bethlehem is associated with the joyful message of rebirth, renewal, light and freedom. Yet here, in our midst, how far this magnificent promise seems from being realised", he said.


In this city of Christ's birth, "amid every kind of contradiction, the stones continue to cry out this 'good news', the message of redemption which this city, above all others, is called to proclaim to the world".


"And this is what the message of Bethlehem calls us to be: witnesses of the triumph of God's love over the hatred, selfishness, fear and resentment which cripple human relationships and create division where brothers should dwell in unity, destruction where men should be building, despair where hope should flourish!"


"'Do not be afraid!' This is the message which the Successor of St. Peter wishes to leave with you today, echoing the message of the angels and the charge which our beloved Pope John Paul II left with you in the year of the Great Jubilee of Christ's birth. Count on the prayers and solidarity of your brothers and sisters in the universal Church, and work, with concrete initiatives, to consolidate your presence and to offer new possibilities to those tempted to leave. Be a bridge of dialogue and constructive co-operation in the building of a culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and frustration. Build up your local Churches, making them workshops of dialogue, tolerance and hope, as well as solidarity and practical charity.


"Above all", the Holy Father added, "be witnesses to the power of life, the new life brought by the Risen Christ, the life that can illumine and transform even the darkest and most hopeless of human situations.


"Your homeland needs not only new economic and community structures, but most importantly, we might say, a new 'spiritual' infrastructure, capable of galvanising the energies of all men and women of good will in the service of education, development and the promotion of the common good. You have the human resources to build the culture of peace and mutual respect which will guarantee a better future for your children. This noble enterprise awaits you. Do not be afraid!"



In the Holy Land there is room for everyone


The Vatican Information Service reports, 12 May 2009:


Today Benedict XVI travelled to the Valley of Josaphat, located in front of the Basilica of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives, where he celebrated Mass.


The Holy Father began his homily by acknowledging the difficulties and suffering caused by "the conflicts which have afflicted these lands", as well as "the bitter experiences of displacement which so many of your families have known. ... I hope my presence here is a sign that you are not forgotten, that your persevering presence and witness are indeed precious in God's eyes and integral to the future of these lands.


"Precisely because of your deep roots in this land", he added, "your ancient and strong Christian culture, and your unwavering trust in God's promises, you, the Christians of the Holy Land, are called to serve not only as a beacon of faith to the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom and equilibrium in the life of a society which has traditionally been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious".


"In this Holy City", the Pope went on, "hope continues to battle despair, frustration and cynicism, while the peace which is God's gift and call continues to be threatened by selfishness, conflict, division and the burden of past wrongs. For this reason, the Christian community in this city which beheld the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit must hold fast all the more to the hope bestowed by the Gospel, cherishing the pledge of Christ's definitive victory over sin and death, bearing witness to the power of forgiveness, and showing forth the Church's deepest nature as the sign and sacrament of a humanity reconciled, renewed and made one in Christ, the new Adam".


Noting then that Jews, Muslims and Christians all consider Jerusalem as their spiritual home, the Holy Father exclaimed: "How much needs to be done to make it truly a 'city of peace' for all peoples, where all can come in pilgrimage in search of God, and hear His voice, 'a voice which speaks of peace'!"


The Holy City must "live up to its universal vocation", he insisted, it "must be a place which teaches universality, respect for others, dialogue and mutual understanding; a place where prejudice, ignorance and the fear which fuels them, are overcome by honesty, integrity and the pursuit of peace. There should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice. Believers in a God of mercy - whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims - must be the first to promote this culture of reconciliation and peace, however painstakingly slow the process may be, and however burdensome the weight of past memories".


Referring then to the "tragic reality" of the departure of many Christians, especially the young, from this land, the Pope said: "Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone! As I urge the authorities to respect, to support and to value the Christian presence here, I also wish to assure you of the solidarity, love and support of the whole Church and of the Holy See".


The Holy Father concluded his remarks by calling on the faithful to continue, "day by day, to 'see and believe' in the signs of God's providence and unfailing mercy, to 'hear' with renewed faith and hope the consoling words of the apostolic preaching, and to 'touch' the sources of grace in the Sacraments, and to incarnate for others their pledge of new beginnings, the freedom born of forgiveness, the interior light and peace which can bring healing and hope to even the darkest of human realities".


At the conclusion of Mass the Holy Father travelled to the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem, where he dined in private and spent the night.

Pope Benedict encourages the Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches and communities in the Holy Land: "Candles Illumining the Holy Places"


The Vatican Information Service reports, 12 May 2009:


Today, the Holy Father travelled by car from the "Hechal Shlomo" Centre in Jerusalem to the Cenacle, where he prayed the Angelus with ordinaries of the Holy Land.


The Cenacle is the place where the ordained priesthood and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance were instituted. The Latin word "Coenaculum" was used to indicate the dining area, but more generally signified the upper room where guests were welcomed; it is in the upper room that the chapel is located today. The Christian tradition on the authenticity of the Cenacle goes back to the end of the third century.


The lower floor of the building houses a cenotaph called the "Tomb of David". It is a place of national pilgrimage for Jews, although the reference to David's last resting place has no historical or archaeological foundation. Also on the lower floor is an ancient chapel dedicated to the washing of the feet. Today the building, property of the State of Israel, is one of the places under the aegis of the Custody of the Holy Land, which since the fourteenth century has been administered by Franciscans.


This was considered to be the most important of all the Franciscan provinces as it included the land where Jesus Christ was born, lived, preached the Good News, died and rose from the dead. Indeed, according to the Franciscan order, St. Francis himself visited the Holy Land and this province between 1219 and 1220.


In 1333 Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, and his wife, Queen Sancha, negotiated with the sultan of Egypt, through Friar Ruggero Garini, to purchase the Cenacle and the right to celebrate religious ceremonies in the Holy Sepulchre. Friar Garini, with financial assistance from the queen, then built a monastery near the Cenacle. The king and queen also secured the right for Franciscans to legally own certain sanctuaries and to have the right of use in others.


In 1342, Pope Clement VI, in two papal bulls, hailed the work of the king and queen of Naples and set forth instructions on running the ecclesiastical province of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The first statutes of the Franciscans regarding the Holy Land date from 1377 and state that a maximum of 20 friars should serve the Holy Places of the Cenacle, the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem. In 1517 the Custody of the Holy Land was granted complete autonomy and the Holy See granted it the status of province with special privileges and particular rights. Since 1558 the Custody has had its seat in the convent of the Most Holy Saviour.


While the term Custody of the Holy Land refers to the ecclesiastical province, the Custos of the Holy Land is the minister provincial of the friars living in the Middle East. He has jurisdiction over the territories of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt (partially), Cyprus and Rhodes. Given the importance of his role, the Custos is directly nominated by the Holy See, after consultation with the friars of the custody. The current Custos is Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

"You represent the Catholic communities of the Holy Land", said the Holy Father in his address to the assembled ordinaries, "who in their faith and devotion are like lighted candles illuminating the Holy Places that were graced by the presence of Jesus our living Lord".


"In the Upper Room the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because He has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love".


"This transforming love, which is grace and truth, prompts us, as individuals and communities, to overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others. It moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage".


"The call to communion of mind and heart ... is of special relevance in the Holy Land. The different Christian Churches found here represent a rich and varied spiritual patrimony and are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures. They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by Him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God".


"In the measure in which the gift of love is accepted and grows in the Church, the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighbouring regions will be vibrant. This presence is of vital importance for the good of society as a whole. The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbour, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness, are a leaven capable of transforming hearts and shaping actions. Christians in the Middle East, together with other people of good will, are contributing, as loyal and responsible citizens, in spite of difficulties and restrictions, to the promotion and consolidation of a climate of peace in diversity".


"Count on my support and encouragement", the Pope told the bishops, "as you do all that is in your power to assist our Christian brothers and sisters to remain and prosper here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace".


"For my part, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters world-wide to support and to remember in their prayers the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the Middle East".


After praying the Regina Coeli, Benedict XVI moved on to the Latin co-cathedral of Jerusalem where he greeted the 300 people gathered there to welcome him, among them various female religious of contemplative orders. Having venerated the Blessed Sacrament and listened to a brief greeting from the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the Pope thanked the religious for their prayers for his universal ministry and asked them, "in the words of the Psalmist, ... to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem', to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land".


The ceremony over, the Holy Father had lunch with ordinaries and abbots of the Holy Land at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

Pope Benedict Visits the Grand Mufti and the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem


The Vatican Information Service reports, 12 May 2009:


At 8.45 a.m. today Benedict XVI arrived at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known in Arabic as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), the place where Solomon raised his Temple, later rebuilt by Herod at the end of the first century BC. It is also the site of two Mosques: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa.


The area of Temple Mount is dear to the followers of all three monotheistic religions; to Jews because it was where Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac, as well as being the site of Solomon's temple; to Muslims who consider it the third pilgrimage site, after Mecca and Medina, and the place whence the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven; to Christians because it was here that Christ spoke of the destruction of the Temple.


The golden-domed, octagonal-shaped Dome of the Rock is the oldest extant Muslim monument in the Holy Land. The first mosque, built in 640, was substituted in 687 by the current one. In the twelfth century it was transformed into a Christian church by the crusaders, who called it "Templum Domini," thus giving rise to the name of the equestrian order of Templars. It was restored as a Muslim place of worship by Saladin in 1187. In the centre of this sumptuously decorated mosque is the sacred rock on which Muhammad prayed before going to heaven.


The Al-Aqsa mosque, whose name in Arabic means "the furthest away", is, according to Muslim tradition, the spot furthest from Mecca, to which Muhammad was miraculously carried one night. It was built at the start of the eighth century, was destroyed by earthquakes, rebuilt, became a church of the Templars and, like the Dome of the Rock, was later restored as a Muslim place of worship by Saladin. During the 1938 restoration of the mosque, King Farouk of EgyptCarrara marble. restored the ceiling and Mussolini donated the columns of


The Holy Father arrived at the Dome of the Rock at 9 a.m. where he was greeted by Muhammad Ahmad Husayn, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and by the president of the Waqf council (which administers religious properties). Following a brief tour of the area, the Pope was accompanied to the "al-Kubbah al-Nahawiyyah" building, where representatives of the Muslim community were waiting to greet him.

"The Dome of the Rock", said the Pope in his remarks to them, "draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognises Abraham as a forefather. ... Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony.


"In a world sadly torn by divisions", he added, "this sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.


"Since the teachings of religious traditions ultimately concern the reality of God, the meaning of life, and the common destiny of mankind - that is to say, all that is most sacred and dear to us - there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success. Yet we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in Him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess His name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating His forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family".


"Fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally inter-related, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity. This places a grave responsibility upon us. Those who honour the One God believe that He will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity".


"I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith ... as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter", said the Pope, "but also as a child of Abraham, by whom 'all the families of the earth find blessing'. I assure you of the Church's ardent desire to co-operate for the well-being of the human family. She firmly believes that the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham is universal in scope, embracing all men and women regardless of provenance or social status.


"As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family" and, he concluded, "continue to keep their gaze fixed on His absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others".


His address complete, the Holy Father continued his visit by travelling to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, a fifteen-metre high fragment of the wall which originally supported the western side of the esplanade of the Temple in Jerusalem.


The Chief Rabbi read a Psalm in Hebrew, and the Holy Father another in Latin. Having then stood for a few moments in silence, the Pope placed a piece of paper containing a prayer into a crevice on the wall, just as John Paul II did in 2000.


Benedict XVI then moved on to the "Hechal Shlomo" (House of Solomon) Centre, so-called because it has a form that recalls Solomon's Temple. It is the headquarters of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis, and of the Supreme Religious Court.


In his discourse, the Pope thanked the two rabbis - Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger - for "the desire they have expressed to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship which the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate have laboured so diligently to forge over the past decades". He also gave assurances of his own "desire to deepen mutual understanding and co-operation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.


"A great source of satisfaction for me since the beginning of my pontificate", he added, "has been the fruit yielded by the ongoing dialogue between the Delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church".


After highlighting how goodwill on both sides "has already paved the way to more effective collaboration in public life", he went on: "Jews and Christians alike are concerned to ensure respect for the sacredness of human life, the centrality of the family, a sound education for the young, and the freedom of religion and conscience for a healthy society. These themes of dialogue represent only the initial phases of what we trust will be a steady, progressive journey towards an enhanced mutual understanding".


"In approaching the most urgent ethical questions of our day, our two communities are challenged to engage people of good will at the level of reason, while simultaneously pointing to the religious foundations which best sustain lasting moral values".


The Pope took the opportunity to repeat "that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at Vatican Council II for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews". At the same time "the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues".


"I am confident that our friendship will continue to set an example of trust in dialogue for Jews and Christians throughout the world. Looking at the accomplishments achieved thus far, and drawing our inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, we can confidently look forward to even stronger co-operation between our communities - together with all people of good will - in decrying hatred and oppression throughout the world".


At the end of the ceremony in the "Hechal Shlomo" Centre, the Pope travelled to the Upper Room or Cenacle, site of the Last Supper.