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"Forge Your Heart as True Apostles"

VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience 150 members of the community of the Pius Pontifical Latin American College in Rome.

* * *

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Father Rector, Superiors, Women Religious and Students of the Latin American Pontifical College of Rome

1. I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Carlos José Ńáńez, archbishop of Cordoba and president of the episcopal commission of the Latin American Pontifical Pius College. I am happy to receive you when you are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the foundation of this worthy institution.

Nov. 27, 1858, marked the beginning of the fruitful course of this college as a valuable center of formation, first of seminarians and, for just over three decades, of deacons and priests. Today, more than 4,000 students feel themselves members of this great family. All of them have regarded this alma mater with profound affection, as it has distinguished itself from the beginning by a climate of simplicity, hospitality, prayer and fidelity to the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff, which contributes powerfully to the college students' growth in love of Christ and the desire to serve the Church humbly, always seeking the greater glory of God and the good of souls.

2. You, dear students of the Latin American Pius College, are heirs of this rich human and spiritual patrimony, which must be perpetuated and enriched with a serious cultivation of the various ecclesiastical disciplines and by the joyful living of the universality of the Church. Here, in this city, the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel with boldness and laid solid foundations to propagate it throughout the world, in fulfillment of the Master's mandate: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time" (Matthew 28:19-20).

You yourselves are the fruit of that wonderful sowing of Christ's redeeming message in the course of history. In fact, you come from different countries, in which, more than 500 years ago, some courageous missionaries made Jesus our Savior known. Thus, through baptism, those peoples were opened to the life of grace that made them children of God by adoption and received, in addition, the Holy Spirit, which fertilized their cultures, purifying them and developing the seeds that the Incarnate Word had put in them, thus orienting them on the paths of the Gospel (cf. Address in the inaugural session of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, No. 1).

In Rome, united to the Chair of the Prince of the Apostles, you have the privileged opportunity to forge your heart as true apostles, in which your whole being and endeavor is firmly anchored in the Lord, who must always be for you the foundation, compass and goal of your efforts. Moreover, the College allows you to share your human and priestly experience fraternally and gives you a favorable occasion to be open permanently to knowledge of other cultures and ecclesial expressions. This will help you to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ and intrepid missionaries of his Word, with longsighted and greatness of soul. Thus, you will be more capable of being men of God who know Him in depth, abnegated laborers in his vineyard and solicitous dispensers of the charity of Jesus Christ to those most in need.

3. Your bishops have sent you to the Latin American Pontifical Pius College to be filled with the wisdom of Christ crucified, so that, on returning to your dioceses, you will be able to put this treasure at the disposition of others in the various tasks entrusted to them. This requires taking good advantage of the time of your stay in Rome. Constancy in study and rigorous research, in addition to making you inquire into the mysteries of the faith and the truth about man in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Church, will foster a spiritual life in you rooted in the Word of God and always nourished by the incomparable wealth of the sacraments.

4. Love and adherence to the Apostolic See is one of the most striking characteristics of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. That is why, my meeting with you reminds me of the days I spent in Aparecida, when, deeply moved, I saw the manifestations of collegiality and fraternal communion in the episcopal ministry of the representatives of the episcopal conferences of those noble countries. With my presence there, I wished to encourage the bishops in their reflection on something fundamental to enliven the faith of the pilgrim Church in those beloved lands: to lead all our faithful to be "disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that, in Him, our peoples have life."

I invite you to associate yourselves with enthusiasm to that spirit, demonstrated in the dynamism with which all those dioceses have initiated, or are doing, the "continental Mission," promoted in Aparecida, an initiative that will facilitate the start of catechetical and pastoral programs destined to the formation and development of evangelized and missionary Christian communities. Accompany these intentions with your fervent prayer, so that the faithful will know, dedicate themselves and increasingly imitate Jesus Christ, taking part frequently in the Sunday celebrations of each community and witnessing to Him, so that they become effective instruments of that "New Evangelization," to which the Servant of God John Paul II, my venerated predecessor, repeatedly convoked.

5. On concluding this meeting, I would like to renew my cordial gratitude to all present, in particular to the episcopal commission for the College, which has the mission to encourage its students to strengthen their sense of communion and fidelity to the Roman Pontiff and their own pastors. Likewise, I wish to manifest in the persons of the College's superiors my acknowledgment of the Society of Jesus, to which my predecessor St. Pius X commended in perpetuity the direction of this illustrious institution, as well as to the women religious and the staff that accompany these young people with care and hope. I also think with gratitude of those who finance this ecclesial work with their economic aid and sustain it with their generosity and prayer.

6. I place in the hands of Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, each and every one of you, as well as your families and communities of origin, so that her maternal protection will lovingly assist you in your tasks and help you to be rooted very deeply in her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, blessed fruit of her womb.

Thank you very much.

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