National Catholic Register



Holy Father Celebrates His First Anniversary

BY John Lilly

April 30-May 6, 2006 Issue | Posted 5/1/06 at 10:00 AM


Register Summary

Pope Benedict XVI met with 60,000 pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on April 19. He spoke about the meaning of Easter, but first noted that the day marked the first anniversary of his election as Pope.

The Holy Father recalled his surprise upon being elected Pope, and thanked the Lord for his unfailing help. He also thanked Christians everywhere for their support in prayer and asked that they continue to pray for him: “I ask each one to continue to support me by asking God to grant me to be a gentle yet firm shepherd of his Church.” He pointed out that the ministry of Peter’s successor is closely tied in to the Easter season when Christ entrusted the nascent Church to Peter’s care. “Who could have humanly imagined at that time the development that would mark the small group of the Lord’s disciples over the course of the centuries?” Pope Benedict XVI pondered.

The Holy Father pointed out that during the days following Easter the Church proclaims the paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. This paschal mystery is the core of the Catholic faith and the yearly celebration of Easter is a foretaste of the eternal joy of heaven. This joy, he said, is renewed each Sunday at the celebration of the Eucharist, when we proclaim “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” and celebrate the new life we received in Baptism.

During Easter, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized, all Christians are called to encounter the Risen Lord, to renew their faith in him, to be transformed by the power of this grace, and to share with the men and women of our time the Good News that Christ is truly risen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of today’s general audience, which takes place during the joyful Easter season, I would like to give thanks with you to the Lord who, after calling me to serve the Church as the successor of the Apostle Peter exactly one year ago, never fails to assist me with his indispensable help. (Thank you for your joy and thank you for your applause!)

Unexpected Surprise

How quickly time passes! A year has already gone by since the cardinals, meeting together in the conclave, to my utter amazement and surprise, chose to select me as the successor of the late and beloved Servant of God, the great Pope John Paul II. I remember with deep emotion the impact of my first meeting from the central loggia of the basilica — right after my humble election —  with the faithful who were gathered in this very square. That meeting remains imprinted in my mind and on my heart and it was followed by so many others, allowing me to experience how true were my words during the solemn concelebration with which I inaugurated the Petrine ministry: “I am keenly aware that I must not carry alone what I really could never carry alone.”

More and more I feel that I could never carry this task — this mission — alone. But I also feel that you are carrying it with me. In this way, I am in a great communion and together we can carry the Lord’s mission forward. The heavenly protection of God and the saints is an irreplaceable support for me, and your closeness to me gives me comfort, dear friends, who never fail to give me the gift of your understanding and your love. From my heart, I truly thank all those who in various ways assist me near at hand or who support me spiritually from afar with their love and their prayers. I ask each one to continue to support me by asking God to grant me to be a gentle yet firm shepherd of his Church.

The Ministry of Peter

John the Evangelist tells us that it was after his resurrection that Jesus called Peter to care for his flock (see John 21:15-23). Who could have humanly imagined at that time the development that would mark that small group of the Lord’s disciples over the course of the centuries? Beginning in Jerusalem and from there to the ends of the earth, Peter, together with the apostles and later their successors, courageously spread the Gospel message whose fundamental and indispensable core is the paschal mystery: the passion, the death, the resurrection of Christ. The Church celebrates this mystery on Easter and its joyful resonance extends throughout the following days; she sings the alleluia for Christ’s triumph over evil and death. “The celebration of Easter according to a date on the calendar,” Pope St. Leo the Great noted, “reminds us of the eternal feast that surpasses all human time.” He further notes that “this present Easter is a shadow of the future Easter. The reason we celebrate it is that we may go from an annual feast to a feast that will be eternal.”

The Core of Our Faith

The joy of these days extends throughout the liturgical year and is renewed especially on Sunday, the day dedicated to remembering the Lord’s resurrection. During this weekly “Little Easter,” the liturgical assembly, gathered together for Holy Mass, proclaims in the creed that Jesus rose on the third day, adding that we look for “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” This shows that the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection constitutes the core of our faith and that it is upon this proclamation that the Church is founded and that it grows. Saint Augustine incisively reminds us: “Let us ponder Christ’s resurrection, my dear brothers and sisters. Indeed, just as his passion signified our old life, so his resurrection is the sacrament of new life. …You have believed and you have been baptized: The old life is dead, killed on the cross and buried in baptism. The old life in which you lived has been buried: Let the new life rise. Live well: Live in such a way that you will live, so that when you have died, you may not die” (Sermo Guelferb. 9:3).

The Gospel stories that recount the apparitions of the risen Lord usually conclude with an invitation to overcome any uncertainty, to compare the event with the Scriptures, and to proclaim that Jesus, beyond death, lives eternally and is the fount of new life for all who believe. This is what happens, for example, in the case of Mary Magdalene (see John 20:11-18), who finds the tomb open and empty, and right away fears that the Lord’s body has been carried away. Then the Lord calls her by name and at that moment a profound change takes place in her: Distress and confusion give way to joy and enthusiasm. She eagerly goes to the apostles and announces: “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). See: Whoever meets the risen Jesus undergoes an interior transformation; they cannot “see” the risen Lord without “believing” in him. Let us ask him to call each of us by name and so convert us, opening us up to the “vision” of faith.

A Personal Encounter

Faith is born from a personal encounter with the risen Christ and spurs us on to the courage and freedom to shout to the world: Jesus is risen and lives forever. This is the mission of the Lord’s disciples in every age and also in our time: “If then you were raised with Christ,” St. Paul exhorts us, “seek what is above. … Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). This does not mean cutting ourselves off from the tasks of daily life or being disinterested in earthly realities; rather, it means imbuing every human activity with a supernatural breath of life. It means becoming joyful proclaimers and witnesses of the resurrection of Christ who lives eternally (see John 20:25; Luke 24:33-34).

Dear brothers and sisters, in the Easter mystery of his only Son, God reveals himself fully — his victorious power over the powers of death, and the power of the love of the Trinity. May the Virgin Mary, who was so closely associated with the passion, death and resurrection of the Son and who became at the foot of the cross the mother of all believers, help us to understand this mystery of love that changes hearts and help us to fully experience Easter joy so we in turn can communicate it to the men and women of this third millennium!

(Register translation)