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Wednesday's Audience - On the Journey to Brazil

5/25/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"The Church Must Mobilize All of the Moral and Spiritual Energies"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on his recent trip to Brazil.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this general audience I would like to reflect on my recent apostolic journey to Brazil from May 9-14. After the first two years of my pontificate, I finally had the joy of going to Latin America, a place I love dearly and where a great number of the world's Catholics live.

The central destination of my journey was Brazil, but I also extended my embrace to the entire Latin American continent because the ecclesial event that called me there was the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I wish to reiterate my profound gratitude for the welcome I received from my dear brother bishops, in particular, those of São Paulo and Aparecida. I thank the president of Brazil and the other civil authorities for their cordial and generous cooperation, with great affection I thank the Brazilian people for the warmth with which they welcomed me -- it was great and moving -- and for the attention they paid to my words.

My journey was an act of praise to God for the "wonders" he has done in the midst of the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and their culture for more than 500 years. It was also a pilgrimage, culminating at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.

The theme of the relationship between faith and culture was always in the hearts of my venerated predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II. I also wished to take up this theme to confirm the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean in their walk of faith that has been and still is a living history -- as we see in popular piety, art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions as well as numerous European influences and influences from other continents.

A look back at a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization of the Latin American continent: It is impossible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous peoples, who often had their basic human rights trampled on. But the very mention of these unjustifiable crimes -- crimes that were condemned at the time by missionaries such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca -- must not stop us from expressing gratitude for the wonderful work carried out by divine grace among those populations in these past five centuries.

Brazil is a great country that has deeply rooted Christian values, but is experiencing enormous social and economic problems. To help resolve these problems, the Church must mobilize all of the moral and spiritual energies of its communities, to find points of convergence with the healthy energies of the country.

Among the positive elements to point out are the creativity and the fecundity of the Church there, from which many new movements and institutes of consecrated life are born. No less worthy of praise is the generous dedication of the many lay faithful, who show themselves to be very active in the various initiatives promoted by the Church.

Brazil is also a country that can offer the world a new model of development: The Christian culture can facilitate a "reconciliation" between men and creation, beginning with the recovery of personal dignity in the relationship to God the Father.

An eloquent example of this is the "Fazenda da Esperança," a network of rehabilitation centers for young people who wish to come out of the dark tunnel of drug abuse. At the one I visited, taking away a profound impression that I will keep alive in my heart, I noticed the importance of the presence of the Poor Clares.

This appeared symbolic for the world of today, which is in need of a psychological and social "rehabilitation," but an even deeper spiritual rehabilitation.

Also symbolic was the canonization, celebrated in joy, of the first native Brazilian saint: Father Antonio de Sant'Ana Galvão. This Franciscan priest of the 18th century, devoted to the Blessed Virgin, an apostle of the Eucharist and of confession, was called, while living, "a man of peace and charity." His witness is yet another confirmation that holiness is the true revolution, which can promote the authentic reform of the Church and society.

In the cathedral of São Paulo, I met with the Brazilian bishops, the largest bishops' conference in the world. Conveying to them the support of the Successor of Peter was one of the major goals of my mission, because I know the great challenges that the proclamation of the Gospel faces in that ...

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