Friday, May 21, 2010

Last evening in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict attended a concert to honor his birthday and the anniversary of his election that was offered by Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The patriarch was not present but the Pope listened to a message from Kirill and was greeted by Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow and composer of one of the pieces played during the concert.

The concert included pieces by 19th- and 20th-century Russian composers, and was performed by the National Orchestra of Russia conducted by Carlo Ponti, son of actress Sophia Loren, who was present. The evening also featured the Synodal Choir of Moscow and the Horn Choir of St. Petersburg.

In remarks made after the concert, Benedict said, "Deep in these works is the soul of the Russian people, and therein the Christian faith, both of which find extraordinary expression in divine liturgy and in the liturgical chants with which it is always accompanied. He recalled when John Paul II spoke of the two lungs of Europe, East and West, and expressed his hope in a renewed awareness of the continent's profound and shared cultural and religious roots, without which today's Europe would be deprived of a soul or, at least, victim of a reduced and partial vision."

"Modern culture, said the Pope, particularly in Europe, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and thus abandoning the extraordinary heritage aroused and inspired by Christian faith, which is the essential framework of the culture of Europe, and not only of Europe. "Let us again, he concluded, let Europe breathe with both lungs, restore a soul not only to believers, but to all peoples of the continent, promote trust and hope, rooting them in the millennial experience of the Christian faith.


Friday the Holy Father Received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity who are meeting on the theme: "Witnessing to Christ in Politics." He told his guests that, although the "technical formation of politicians" is not part of the Church's mission, she reserves the right to "pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls require it." "It is up to the lay faithful, he said, to show - in their personal and family life, in social cultural and political life - that the faith enables them to read reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it."

Pope Benedict stressed that, "It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church, bringing their well-founded reasoning and great ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among everyone who cares about the defense of life and freedom, the protection of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy, and the vital search for the common good."

The Pope explained how "the spread of a confused cultural relativism, and of a utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favors the dominance of strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political wisdom. "There is a need, he stated, for authentically Christian politicians but, even more so, for lay faithful who bear witness to Christ and the Gospel in the civil and political community. Christian membership in associations, ecclesial movements and new communities can be a good school for such disciples and witnesses, supported by the charismatic, community, educational and missionary resources of those groups."


You will not want to miss Part Two of my riveting conversation with former Swiss Guard Andreas Widmer as he talks about his first Christmas Eve in the Vatican, lessons from John Paul II and how to reconcile work and faith. Tune in online (, click RADIO, then LISTEN LIVE) or via a radio station near you on Saturday morning at 9:30 (ET) and again Sunday at 4:30 p.m.


The 44-day exposition of the Shroud of Turin ends this coming Sunday, May 23rd, the solemnity of Pentecost. Final figures regarding the number of visitors will be released to journalists at a press conference tomorrow morning.

As of Tuesday, May 18 the visiting hours were extended and the route was accessible until 10:15 p.m. to pilgrims with the mandatory reservations. The main entrance of the cathedral which is accessible without reservations has been open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

On Sunday 23, last day of the exposition, the pilgrims path will be open until 1 p.m. and the main gate of the cathedral will close at 2 p.m. At 4 p.m. the solemn Eucharistic closing celebration will be led by Cardinal Severino Poletto, Pontifical Custodian of the Shroud, along with the Bishops of Piedmont.

According to the media center, there has been no decrease in the flow of visitors over the last week of the Shroud exhibition. There have been many foreign visitors, including many from the United States as well as from Hong Kong, several Arab countries, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala. . Italian visitors included over 300 pilgrims from the parishes of Rome and 500 youth from the Comunit Cenacolo, accompanied by their foundress, Sister Elvira Petrozzi. The youth from the Comunit Cenacolo founded in 1983 to help young victims of family violence or drug addicts come from Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Slovakia, France, Croatia, Ireland and Mexico. Father Stefano Aragno, one of the Cenacolo priests from Saluzzo, hometown of the Comunit Cenacolo, said Seeing the image of Christs suffering is very important for these young people.

Among the pilgrims who visited the Shroud on Tuesday, May 18 was Cardinal Renato Martino, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He said, The Holy Shroud is the symbol of the sufferings of a man and his immensurable love. The Holy cloth should make us wonder: what are we doing for our brethrens?

Wednesday afternoons at the cathedral, throughout the exposition period, have been dedicated to the handicapped. As of this week, just under 40,000 people with special needs, including the blind, have been able to visit the Shroud. A total of 5,400 wheelchairs were furnished at the entrance to the exposition in the Royal Gardens.

Thursday morning, Opus Dei prelate Javier Echevarria Rodriguez and a number of his collaborates visited the Shroud. Another guest was Msgr. Jean-Marie Jehl, vicar general of the diocese of Constantine (the former Hippo) in Algeria who told members of the organizing committee, This is the first time I have ever prayed before the Shroud. To see this Cloth was like being close to the Passion of Christ and the love that passion means. It was also a strong emotion to see so many people come to the church in the early hours of the morning for Mass. St. Augustine was bishop of Hippo from 395 to 430.

Last evening in Turin, the 20th anniversary of the beatification of PierGiorgio Frassati, there was a Pentecost prayer vigil in the parish church of the Frassati family, Our Lady of Graces of Crocetta, led by Turins archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto. Because Blessed PierGiorgio has been called the Blessed of the Beatitudes there was a reading of the Gospel of Mark on the Beatitudes. He is buried in St. John the Baptist Cathedral which also houses the Shroud.

This morning Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, visited the Holy Shroud, together with 700 pilgrims from Genoa who traveled to Turin on 14 busses. A second group of 700 Genovese is expected Saturday morning. This afternoon at 5 the cardinal celebrated Mass at Turins celebrated Superga Basilica.

Upon leaving St. Johns Cathedral this morning, Cardinal Bagnasco said, we are before a very moving icon of pain and of the love of God which allows us to touch once again the need for God that flowers in the heart of man. We must rediscover Jesus who came to save us from evil and sin.

The Way of the Cross, prepared by the Liturgy Office of the diocese of Turin, will start this evening at 9 in the Royal Square, as has been customary on Fridays during the exposition

Tomorrow, the daily 7 a.m. Mass will be presided over by Fr. Pascual Chavez, rector major of the Salesians, together with 100 priests of the congregation founded by Don Bosco.

Write to Joan at:

  News Home
  Joan's Rome
  A Catholic Journalist
in London
  Inside EWTN
  Power & Witness
  Journeys home by Marcus Grodi
  Seen & Unseen
  Vatican Insider Podcast
  Joan's Rome:Video