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Benedict XVI's Address to Brazil's Bishops

5/12/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"Become Messengers of Eternal Salvation"

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 12, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to 400 Brazilian bishops who gathered today in the Cathedral of São Paulo to pray vespers with the Holy Father.

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Dear Brother Bishops!

Although he was the Son of God, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him." (cf. Hebrews 5:8-9).

1. The text we have just heard in the Lesson for Vespers contains a profound teaching. Once again we realize that God's word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates to the depths of the soul and it grants solace and inspiration to his faithful servants (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

I thank God for the opportunity to be with this distinguished Episcopate, which presides over one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. I greet you with a sense of deep communion and sincere affection, well aware of your devotion to the communities entrusted to your care. The warm reception given to me by the Rector of the Catedral da Sé and by all present has made me feel at home in this great common House which is our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church.

I extend a special greeting to the new Officers of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops and, with gratitude for the kind words of its President, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, I offer prayerful good wishes for his work in deepening communion among the Bishops and in promoting common pastoral activity in a territory of continental dimensions.

2. With its traditional hospitality, Brazil is hosting the participants in the Fifth Conference of Latin American Bishops. I express my gratitude for the kind welcome given to its members, and my deep appreciation for the prayers of the Brazilian people, particularly their prayers for the success of the Bishops' meeting in Aparecida.

This meeting is a great ecclesial event and part of the missionary outreach which Latin America needs to undertake, beginning here -- on Brazilian soil. That is why I wished to speak first to you, the Bishops of Brazil, evoking these words, so rich in content, from the Letter to the Hebrews: Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). Filled with meaning, these verses speak of God's compassion for us, as expressed in the passion of his Son. They speak of Christ's obedience and his free, conscious acceptance of the Father's plan, which appears most clearly in his prayer on the Mount of Olives: "Not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Jesus himself teaches us that the true way of salvation lies in conforming our will to the will of God. This is what we pray for in the third petition of the "Our Father": that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, since wherever God's will reigns, there the Kingdom of God is present. Jesus attracts us by his will, his filial will, and so he leads us to salvation. By freely accepting the will of God, in union with Jesus Christ, we open the world to God's Kingdom.

We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are directly bound to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us as teachers of the faith consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, that our Saviour "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls. For this reason the Father sent his Son, and in the Lord's own words transmitted to us in the Gospel of Saint John, "as the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Hence the mandate to preach the Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). These words are simple yet sublime; they speak of our duty to proclaim the truth of the faith, the urgent need for the sacramental life, and the promise of Christ's continual assistance to his Church. These are fundamental realities: they speak of instructing people in the faith and in Christian morality, and of celebrating the sacraments. Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing. Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we Bishops and priests must offer to our people (cf. "Populorum Progressio," 21).

3. Our ...

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