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Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict XVI!

April 16, 2012 by

Today, Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 85th birthday and the people of Catholic Relief Services send their best wishes to the Holy Father. On Thursday, Pope Benedict will mark the seventh anniversary of his election to the papacy.

To honor the Pontiff, here are short excerpts of some of his messages we’ve featured over the past year on the CRS Newswire:

The Pope in Cuba: “I Come as a Pilgrim of Charity”

I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.

Pope Benedict XVI in Mexico: On Charity and Hope


Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ – indeed the whole Church – lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.

Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message: Reflections on Charity

We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. “The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it” (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of “those who mourn” (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace Message: Educating Young People in Justice and Peace

The grateful recognition that life is an inestimable gift, then, leads to the discovery of one’s own profound dignity and the inviolability of every single person. Hence the first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator’s image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity. We must never forget that “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension”(3), including the transcendent dimension, and that the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective.

Pope Benedict XVI: Solidarity is the Driving Force for Integral Development

“In our time the unity of the human family is an undeniable fact”, the Holy Father explained. “Thanks to the communications media which bring all regions of the planet together, transport which facilitates human contacts, commercial ties which make economies interdependent, and problems of global importance such as environmental protection and mass migration, human beings have become more aware of their shared destiny. … Mankind must see this interdependency not as a threat but as an opportunity. We are all responsible for one another, therefore it is important to maintain a positive vision of solidarity because it is the driving force of integral human development”.

Pope Benedict XVI: The Market Must Never Neglect Solidarity

“The heart of cooperative efforts has always lain in the search for harmony between the individual and community dimensions. This is a concrete expression of the complementarity and subsidiarity which Church social doctrine has always sought to promote between citizens and the State, a balance between safeguarding the rights of the individual and promoting the common good, in order to develop a local economy capable of responding to community needs. Cooperative activities are likewise characterised by their great concern for solidarity, while still respecting the due autonomy of the individual”.

Pope Benedict XVI: Africa Can Teach Authentic Values to the World

Good will and mutual respect not only aid dialogue, but are essential for building unity between individuals, ethnic groups and peoples. The word ‘fraternity’ is the first of the three words found on your national emblem. Living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian. Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labour? May Africans be able to experience reconciliation in peace and justice! These are the prayerful good wishes which I express to you, with confidence and hope, before I leave Benin.”

Pope Benedict Links Eucharist and Social Development

“To be nourished by Christ is the way not to remain foreign and indifferent to the fortunes of our brothers, but to enter into the very logic of love and of gift,” the Pope said. “He who is able to kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Lord’s body cannot fail to be attentive, in the ordinary course of the days, to situations unworthy of man, and is able to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned,” he continued.

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