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Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney

on Monday, 30 June 2008. Posted in World Youth Day

"Empowered by the Holy Spirit, bear witness to Christ to the ends of the earth"

Benedict XVI meeting with a koalaIn Australia, the Pope had the opportunity to make some new friends, including this koala...

On August 15-20, 2008 the 23rd World Youth Day took place in Sydney, Australia… but it actually lasts over five days! This gathering of Catholic young people aged 18 to 35 who come from "every nation under heaven" to celebrate their faith was created by Pope John Paul II in 1985, but the international meetings take place about every three years, and they have become more and more popular since their creation, showing the true face of the Church: young and alive!

Sydney was the 10th international gathering after Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1987, Compostella (Spain) in 1989, Czestochowa (Poland) in 1991, Denver (U.S.A.) in 1993, Manila (Philippines) in 1995, Paris (France) in 1997, Rome (Italy) in 2000, Toronto (Canada) in 2002, and Cologne (Germany) in 2005.

Benedict XVI is welcomed with flowers in SydneyIn Sydney, Pope Benedict is welcomed with flowers by two young people.

The theme of the World Youth Day in Sydney was: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). The full verse says: "my witnesses to the ends of the earth", which is really what Australia represents for most people all over the world, since it is located "down under" the globe. It meant a long trip for pilgrims from overseas (a 20-hour flight for the Holy Father, for example, who arrived in Australia as early as July 12, his longest apostolic journey so far), and some could have feared the attendance would not be as large as previous WYDs (500,000 in Denver, 800,000 in Toronto, 1,200,000 in Paris, 1,600,000 in Czestochowa, 2 million in Rome, and 4 million in Manila).

Yet, this World Youth Day in Sydney was also a great success, with over 400,000 people who attended the Final Mass in Sydney on Sunday, July 20, with 170 nations represented. Here are excerpts from the various speeches of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit in Australia, which are inspiring not only for young people, but for people of all ages… who want to remain young at heart!

Welcoming ceremony, Government House, Thursday, July 17, 2008:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Benedict XVIPrime Minister Kevin Rudd with the Pope

"Young people today face a bewildering variety of life-choices, so that they sometimes find it hard to know how best to channel their idealism and their energy. It is the Spirit who gives the wisdom to discern the right path and the courage to follow it. He crowns our poor efforts with his divine gifts, just as the wind filling the sails sweeps the ship forward, far surpassing what the oarsmen can achieve through their laborious rowing. In this way, the Spirit enables men and women in every land and in every generation to become saints. Through the Spirit’s action, may the young people gathered here for World Youth Day have the courage to become saints! This is what the world needs more than anything else."

Welcoming celebration by the young people at Barangaroo, Sydney Harbour, Thursday, July 17, 2008:

"Not only the natural but also the social environment — the habitat we fashion for ourselves — has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss. Here too, in our personal lives and in our communities, we can encounter a hostility, something dangerous; a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created.

Benedict XVI welcoming celebration in Sydney"Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment. I ask myself, could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation "explain" that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely ‘entertainment’?

"There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fueled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made ‘experience’ all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.

"Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this — in truth, in goodness, and in beauty — that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

"Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything! Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the ‘way’ which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is Baptism.

"The task of witness is not easy. There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone.

"But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the ‘good’ begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation."

Acting Way of the Cross

 

On Friday, July 18, the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross were re-enacted by young people, beginning with the first Station — the Last Supper and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist — in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. The Holy Father read the following prayer that closed the first station:

"Lord, many people lack the food and drink that bring true joy. They do not know, or have forgotten, how you wish to meet them in the Eucharist and share with them your humanity and divinity. Help us to appreciate the great gift of your body and your blood, the key to your Passion and ours. Draw us into your real presence at Mass. Help us to understand that communion with you also means union with all those to whom you give yourself. Make us generous and insightful as we try to walk in your footsteps."

Holy Mass with the Australian Bishops, seminarians and novices (with the Consecration of the new altar) at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Saturday, July 19, 2008:

"We are about to celebrate the dedication of the new altar of this venerable cathedral… In today’s liturgy the Church reminds us that, like this altar, we too have been consecrated, set ‘apart’ for the service of God and the building up of his Kingdom. All too often, however, we find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God ‘aside’.

Eucharistic Exposition by Benedict XVI"In the name of human freedom and autonomy, God’s name is passed over in silence, religion is reduced to private devotion, and faith is shunned in the public square. At times this mentality, so completely at odds with the core of the Gospel, can even cloud our own understanding of the Church and her mission. We too can be tempted to make the life of faith a matter of mere sentiment, thus blunting its power to inspire a consistent vision of the world and a rigorous dialogue with the many other visions competing for the minds and hearts of our contemporaries.

"Wherever man is diminished, the world around us is also diminished; it loses its ultimate meaning and strays from its goal. What emerges is a culture, not of life, but of death. How could this be considered ‘progress’? It is a backward step, a form of regression which ultimately dries up the very sources of life for individuals and all of society."

Vigil with the young people at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, July 19, 2008:

"Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses… There are times, however, when we might be tempted to seek a certain fulfilment apart from God. Jesus himself asked the Twelve: ‘do you also wish to go away?’ Such drifting away perhaps offers the illusion of freedom. But where does it lead? To whom would we go? For in our hearts we know that it is the Lord who has ‘the words of eternal life’ (Jn 6:67-68).

"To turn away from him is only a futile attempt to escape from ourselves (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions VIII, 7). God is with us in the reality of life, not the fantasy! It is embrace, not escape, that we seek! So the Holy Spirit gently but surely steers us back to what is real, what is lasting, what is true. It is the Spirit who leads us back into the communion of the Blessed Trinity!"

Holy Mass for the 23rd World Youth Day at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Sunday, July 20, 2008:

Benedict XVI consecration of the Host"Dear friends, I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people ‘from every nation under heaven’ (cf. Acts 2:5), will be a new Upper Room. May the fire of God’s love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and his Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ!

"The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life!… Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires.

"That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive "power from on high", enabling us to be salt and light for our world.

"Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the ‘power’ which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?

Our Lady, Help of ChristiansOur Lady, Help of Christians Patron saint of Australia

"Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships.

"Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

"The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.

"The Church also needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4)! In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul reminds us that each and every Christian has received a gift meant for building up the Body of Christ. The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!

"As we pray for the confirmands, let us ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will revive the grace of our own Confirmation. May he pour out his gifts in abundance on all present, on this city of Sydney, on this land of Australia and on all its people! May each of us be renewed in the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence!"

Pope Benedict XVI