Papal Soundbytes, part I

Well, here is part 1 of the Cyprus edition of ‘Papal Soundbytes’. Just like I have done following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Portugal, I will share a choice selection of quotations from the various addresses, speeches and homilies given by the Holy Father when he was in Cyprus this past weekend. They’re intended as highlights of what I think are important and interesting points raised. You may read the full texts here.

Pope Benedict XVI is received with full honours as he is welcomed by President Dimitris Christofias at a windy Paphos International Airport

The intention of the visit:

“Following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Saints Paul and Barnabas, I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God. Since the Apostles brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage. I greet as a brother in that faith His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, and I look forward shortly to meeting many more members of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. […] I hope to strengthen our common bonds and to reiterate the need to build up mutual trust and lasting friendship between all those who worship the one God. […] I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.” (Welcome ceremony at Paphos International Airport.)

Pope Benedict XVI enthusiastically greets people gathered at the Church of Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa

About communion in the Apostolic faith, and ecumenism:

“This is the communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full visible unity which is the Lord’s will for all his followers. For, in Paul’s words, “there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:4-5).” (Ecumenical celebration in the archeological area of the church of Agia Kiriaka Chrysopolitissa in Paphos.)

“The unity of all Christ’s disciples is a gift to be implored from the Father in the hope that it will strengthen the witness to the Gospel in today’s world. The Lord prayed for the holiness and unity of his disciples precisely so that the world might believe (cf. Jn 17:21).” (Idem)

“Today we can be grateful to the Lord, who through his Spirit has led us, especially in these last decades, to rediscover the rich apostolic heritage shared by East and West, and in patient and sincere dialogue to find ways of drawing closer to one another, overcoming past controversies, and looking to a better future.” (Idem)

About bearing witness:

“Like Paul and Barnabas, every Christian, by baptism, is set apart to bear prophetic witness to the Risen Lord and to his Gospel of reconciliation, mercy and peace.” (Idem)

On public service:

“From a religious perspective, we are members of a single human family created by God and we are called to foster unity and to build a more just and fraternal world based on lasting values. In so far as we fulfil our duty, serve others and adhere to what is right, our minds become more open to deeper truths and our freedom grows strong in its allegiance to what is good.” (Meeting with the civil authorities and diplomatic corps in Nicosia.)

The pope thanks violin players who welcomed him with music at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia

On the role of morality in public service:

“The ancient Greek philosophers also teach us that the common good is served precisely by the influence of people endowed with clear moral insight and courage. In this way, policies become purified of selfish interests or partisan pressures and are placed on a more solid basis. Furthermore, the legitimate aspirations of those whom we represent are protected and fostered. Moral rectitude and impartial respect for others and their well-being are essential to the good of any society since they establish a climate of trust in which all human interactions, whether religious, or economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, acquire strength and substance.” (Idem)

On how the pursuit of truth can bring greater harmony to the troubles regions of the world, in three steps:

“Firstly, promoting moral truth means acting responsibly on the basis of factual knowledge. […] A second way of promoting moral truth consists in deconstructing political ideologies which would supplant the truth. […] Thirdly, promoting moral truth in public life calls for a constant effort to base positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law.”(Idem)

On what individual faithful can do for the immediate needs of the Church:

“With regard to the immediate needs of the Church, I encourage you to pray for and to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As this Year for Priests draws to a close, the Church has gained a renewed awareness of the need for good, holy and well-formed priests. She needs men and women religious completely committed to Christ and to the spread of God’s reign on earth. Our Lord has promised that those who lay down their lives in imitation of him will keep them for eternal life (cf. Jn 12:25). I ask parents to ponder this promise and to encourage their children to respond generously to the Lord’s call. I urge pastors to attend to the young, to their needs and aspirations, and to form them in the fullness of the faith.” (Meeting with the Catholic community of Cyprus in Nicosia.)

A Maronite cleric presents a gift to Pope Benedict XVI during the latter's visit to St Maron's school in Nicosia, where he addressed the small Catholic community of Cyprus

A little but loud singer

A European goldfinch has chosen the roof just above my window as one of the points from which to declare his amorous intentions towards lady goldfinches. The sparrow-sized bird is a cousin to the goldfinches that make regular appearances in Father Z’s Feeder Feed. It is also a skilled and loud singer.

There is a story about the European goldfinch that connects it to Christ’s passion. When Christ was crucified, the story goes, a goldfinch came and landed on His head. To ease the Lord’s suffering the little bird, accustomed as it was (and still is) to nest and forage among thistles and other thorny plants, started to pull out the thorns that the soldiers had crowned Christ with. That is why goldfinches still have red faces, stained with the Blood of Christ. So, in a sense, goldfinches are Eucharistic birds…

Of course, one bird’s efforts didn’t really help, but intentions matter. Goldfinches were considered symbols of endurance and persistence in medieval art. Paintings of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child often also featured a goldfinch, in part to indicate the salvation Christ would bring through His Blood.

I’ll consider the goldfinch singing outside my window as a reminder of that.

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko

While Corpus Christi was celebrated in many countries yesterday, the Catholics of Poland had something else on their minds. In Warsaw, Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, beatified Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947-1984).

A parish priest in Warsaw, Blessed Jerzy was appointed to minister especially to the steel workers in the Polish capital who, at that time, were involved in demonstrations and strikes against the government. Himself a staunch anti-Communist, Blessed Jerzy inspired people in his sermons and as such became quite popular, despite his unassuming nature.

The Polish secret service did not like this, of course, and certainly not when Radio Free Europe starting broadcasting his sermons. In 1983 he was arrested on fabricated evidence, but intervention from fellow clergy led to his release and a general amnesty. In October 1984 he survived a car accident that was set up to kill him, but six days later he was kidnapped and murdered by three Security Police officers. On October 30 1984, his body was discovered in the Vistula Water Reservoir near Włocławek.

The gruesome murder of the non-violent and popular priest sparked an uproar in Poland. More than 250,000 people attended his funeral. His grave at the church where he worked became a site of prayer and pilgrimage.

Yesterday, Fr. Jerzy joined the ranks of the recognised Blesseds. The fast track of the beatification process meant, rather remarkably, that Blessed Jerzy’s 100-year-old mother was able to attend the ceremony.

Blessed Jerzy, whose feast day falls on 19 October, the day of his death, is a symbol of the witness of the truth against oppression. He was murdered for his witnessing of Christ among the people who needed him, but never surrendered to threats from outside. We can now call on him, ask him to offer prayers for us, to intercede, when we are faced with misunderstanding, animosity, even violence for standing up for others and our faith.