Best Of Pope Benedict XVI's Trip To Lebanon

Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI for his historical visit to Lebanon on September 14 to 16, 2012. Photos from his memorable 3 days Apostolic visit.

VIDEO: Pope Benedict XVI's Arabic Message During His Last General Audience

Pope Benedict XVI gives a brief greeting in Arabic language in his last General Audience at Saint Peter's Square for All Arabic speaking pilgrims present. Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

Thank You Benedict XVI For All You've Done For The Sake Of The Maronite Church

In Almost eight years of pontificate, the Maronite church has always been in the Pope's heart and mind. Seven major events dedicated to the maronite church throughout Benedict XVI's pontificate show the attachment of the Holy Father to this oriental church and its importance to the Vatican.

On December 17, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI recognized Brother Estephan Nehme "Venerable". Furthermore, the Pope convened the congregation for the causes of saints to be held in the Vatican to study the process of the beatification of Brother Estephan. Theological experts voted unanimously for the healing miracle attributed to him which is the healing of Sister Marina Nehme, his brother’s daughter, from osteosarcoma (bone cancer). 

On June 23, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI Beatified Abouna Yaacoub Haddad Al Kabbouchi, making him "Venerable" and one step closer to sainthood. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Downtown Beirut to witness the beatification of the late Capuchin priest who gained fame for his prolific work. This Founder of an order of nuns expanded the Capuchin school network and established a number of religious and social institutions, some of which have gained iconic status in Lebanon. 

Then on June 27, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI recognized Brother Estephan Nehme "Blessed" on the altar of the Lord and a solemn ceremony took place at the Monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justine in Kfifane, presided by Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B. Prefect of the Congregation for the causes of saints by a special appointment from the Pope. He said during the ceremony: "Dear brothers, let us count on God, source of all graces and blessings, asking Him to lift Brother Estephan to the rank of saints so that he joins his saint brothers in the Lebanese Maronite Order: Charbel, Rafka and Nehmatalah. As Saint Paul says: “The crown of Glory is kept for you”, you loyal servant and faithful monk. 

On February 23, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI marked 16 centuries on the death of the father of the Maronite Church by unveiling a statue of Saint Maron on the outer wall of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and by blessing it. The presence of Saint Maron's Statue in the Vatican is highly symbolic as it occupies the last available niche in the outer perimeter of Saint Peter's Basilica and therefore closes the list of Saints that surround the tomb of Saint Peter near the place of his martyrdom on the Vatican hill.

On September 14 to 16, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made in Lebanon the last of his missionary journeys of his pontificate signing the apostolic exhortation "Church in the Middle East, communion and witness" in order to confirm the vocation of Lebanon and its key role in the region. This apostolic journey had a huge success even though it occurred  at difficult and complicated circumstances in Lebanon.

On November 24, 2012, the Pope elevated to the dignity of Cardinal the Maronite Patriarch "in order to give further impetus to his patriarchal ministry, within the universal Church". It was the last consistory for the creation of cardinals for Benedict XVI, creating six new Cardinals all of them non Europeans, and it took place at Saint Peter's basilica.

Finally The Pope entrusted to the Lebanese youth (under the guidance of the patriarch,) to prepare the meditations for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum which will be celebrated on the night of Good Friday, which falls on 29 March 2013. This initiative has been strongly desired by Benedict XVI, as a sign of recognition for the meeting of September 15, 2012 in Bkerke with Lebanese youth, who "deeply touched his heart."

Seven Joyful and holy events for eight years of pontificate, almost one event every year dedicated to the Maronite Church. It would be difficult to imagine what more could have been done by a Pope to support Maronites! The Holy Father did it to the maximum extent possible.
Benedict XVI, we thank you, we love you and we will always pray for you.

Emotional Pope's Last General Audience on Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On his last full day as pope, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an unusually personal and emotional farewell address, thanking the faithful around the world for their support and assuring them that he would remain in their service even in retirement.

"I will continue to accompany the path of the church with prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and to his bride that I have tried to live every day till now and that I want to live always," the pope told a crowd in St. Peter's Square Feb. 27, the eve of his resignation.

Under a clear blue sky with temperatures in the low 10s, the pope arrived for his last public audience shortly after 10:30 a.m., standing and waving for almost 15 minutes as his white popemobile made a circuit through the square. Cheering pilgrims waved national flags and banners with slogans such as "always with the pope" and "you will never be alone."

The crowd spilled over into the adjacent street: Via della Conciliazione, which had been closed to motorized traffic, and the Vatican estimated turnout at 200,000.

Abandoning his usual practice of giving a catechesis talk on a devotional text or theme at public audiences, the pope spoke about his time as pope and his historic decision to resign. He looked tired but composed as he read his speech, and he smiled at the frequent interruptions by applause.

Speaking off the cuff, he told the cheering crowd: “I’m moved. When I see you, I see the Church is alive.” He said that when he was elected in 2005, his heart asked: “Lord, why do you ask me this? What do you ask of me?” Being pope, he said, means “not having any privacy”, belonging “always and totally to all, to the whole Church”.

But he said throughout his pontificate he perceived the presence of God “every day”. “The Lord has guided me,” he said. “I always knew the Lord was with us and that the Church was not mine, but his, and he would not let it sink.”

The full text of Pope Benedict XVI's last and public address:

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!

Distinguished Authorities!

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for coming in such large numbers in this last General Audience of my pontificate.

As the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart to have to especially thank God that guides and builds up the Church, which is sowing his Word and thus nourishes the faith in his people. At this moment my heart expands to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in recent years the Petrine ministry I could receive about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love that circulates in the body of the Church and to live in love, and hope that it opens and directs us towards the fullness of life, towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I bring all in prayer, in a present that is of God, where I collect every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. Everything and everyone gather in prayer to entrust them to the Lord, because we have full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and why we behave in a manner worthy of Him and His love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1 0.9 to 10).

At this time, there is great confidence in me, because I know, all of us know, that the word of the truth of the Gospel is the power of the Church, it is his life. The Gospel purifies and renews, bears fruit, wherever the community of believers hears and receives the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my belief and this is my joy.

When, on April 19, almost eight years ago, I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I always had the certainty that has always accompanied me. At that time, I had already stated several times, words that have been spoken in my heart were: Lord, what do you ask of me? The weight that you place on my shoulders is very great, but if you ask me, at your word I will let down the nets, confident that you will guide me. And the Lord has really driven, I was close, I could feel his presence every day. It ‘was a part of the journey of the Church that had moments of joy and light, but also moments that were not easy. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ??Galilee. The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze. Days when the fishing is plentiful, and there were also times when the water was rough and there was a head wind, as in the whole history of the Church and it appeared to us that the Lord appeared to be sleeping. But I always knew that the boat is in the Lord and I always knew that the boat of the Church was not mine, not ours, but was his and not let her sink, it is he who leads it, certainly through men that he had chosen, because it wanted it to be so. This was and this is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that’s why today my heart is filled with gratitude to God because he did not ever let the Church lack in any way especially his consolation, his light, his love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I wanted to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to put it more and more into the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to trust like children in the arms of God, resting assured that those arms support us and are what allow us to walk every day, even when this requires effort. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave his Son for us and showed us his love without boundaries. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning, we pray: “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for creating me and for making me Christian … did. “Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith is the most precious thing. No one can take from us! We thank God for this every day, with prayer and with an authentic Christian life. God loves us, but waits for us and expects that we love him!

But it is not only God that I want to thank at this time. A Pope is not alone in the leading the ship of Peter, even if it is your primary responsibility, and I have not ever heard only bring joy and weight of the Petrine ministry, the Lord placed many people next to me, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and I have been close. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your advice, your friendship was precious to me, my collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various fields, give their service to the Holy See: there are many unseen faces which are not arise, remain in the shade, but in the silence, in their daily work, in a spirit of faith and humility, they have been a safe and reliable support to me. A special thought to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, consecrated persons and the entire People of God in the pastoral visits, in meetings, at the audiences, travel, I always received great care and deep affection, but I too have loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, the heart of a father.

I want my greetings to reach out to all of you, everywhere: the heart of a Pope extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes up, this, our great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication system and I thank them for their important service.

At this point I would like to thank with all of my heart the many people around the world in recent weeks who have sent me touching tokens of attention, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone, now I experience it again in a way that is great and touches the heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and a lot of people feel very close to him. In the truth that I receive letters from the world’s largest – by the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. But I also received many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and make me feel their affection born out of experience with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me as they write to a prince or a great one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of family ties very affectionate. Here you can touch what is really the Church – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian goals, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. We experience the Church in this way and could almost be able to touch it with your hands; the very power of his truth and love is a source of joy, in a time when many people speak of it in its decline.

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with his light to make me take the right decision not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also new, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make tough choices, suffering, having always before the good of the Church and not themselves.

Allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The severity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was always and forever committed for the Lord. Always – those who assume the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. Always and totally belongs to everyone, the entire Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I experienced, and I am experiencing it right now that one receives life just as He gives. I said before that a lot of people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are very fond of him. I’ve said before that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels in the embrace of their communion, because it no longer belongs to himself, instead he belongs to everyone, everywhere.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is a return to the private sector. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this fact. I am not returning to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but I am remaining at the foot of the Crucified Lord. I will no longer vest the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer rest, so to speak, in the yard of St. Peter. St. Benedict, whose name I bare as Pope, is a great example of this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God I thank each and everyone for your respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I will continue to accompany the journey of the Church through prayer and reflection, with dedication to the Lord and to his Spouse, with which I have tried to live up to now every day and which I want to live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to such an important task, and the new Successor of Peter, the Lord accompany him with the light and the power of his Spirit.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church that she may accompany each of us and the whole ecclesiastic community, to her, as we trust, deep trust.

Dear friends! God guides His Church, holds always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, do not abandon us, near us and surrounds us with his love. Thank you!

Message of the Virgin Mary on February 25, 2013 From Medjugorje

“Dear children! Also today I call you to prayer. Sin is pulling you towards worldly things and I have come to lead you towards holiness and the things of God, but you are struggling and spending your energies in the battle with the good and the evil that are in you. Therefore, little children, pray, pray, pray until prayer becomes a joy for you and your life will become a simple walk towards God. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Pope Benedict XVI's Last Sunday Angelus Message on February 24, 2013

“Dear brothers and sisters…The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this, it is so I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength”.

This was Pope Benedict XVI’s parting message on Sunday, during his last Angelus address. At noon the canons sounded from the Janiculum hill and the great bells of St Peter’s basilica rang out. And as the curtains were drawn from his study windows and the red papal banner unfurled, the ocean of pilgrims waiting below erupted.

They had come in their tens of thousands, pouring into the square since early dawn, men, women and children, old and young, religious and lay Catholics. They held banners, emblazoned with messages of gratitude and farewell for the 85 year old Pope, who had guided them in the faith over the past eight years.

Pilgrims such as a father and his young son from the earthquake devastated city of Aquilla, central Italy, who held aloft a homemade sign, thanking Pope Benedict for having visited the city’s people in their time of need, for his material support and spiritual solidarity. Or the Dominican nuns from the Philippines who had held vigil since dawn praying the rosary. And beside them the young people in their sleeping bags, from Spain, Brazil, Mexico with their banner that read “the gates of hell will never prevail”. 

With outstretched arms and visibly moved, Pope Benedict greeted them all, repeating ‘grazie, grazie,’ (thank you, thank you) as he attempted to quieten the crowds. An almost impossible task. Then, as is tradition, he reflected on the Sunday Gospel, Luke chapter 9, which recounts the Transfiguration of the Lord. 

Below is a translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus address:

Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).

The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3).

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

Holy Gospel on the Third Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of the Hemorrhaging Woman

Second Letter to the Corinthians 7:4-11. 
I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way disputes without and fears within. But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was consoled about you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it, for I see that I grieved you with that letter, though only briefly). Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to
Saint Luke 8:40-56. 
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhages stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’ While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. 

Cardinal Al Rahi To Make a Historical Visit to Moscow

The Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of Maronites, Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi will be soon traveling to Moscow on a visit with significant implications, both ecumenical and political-humanitarian. From 26 February to 1 March, before travelling to Rome for the Conclave, the Cardinal Patriarch will have a series of high level meetings in the Russian capital with leading Russian politicians and with prominent members of the Patriarchate of Moscow. 

The tight programme of Patriarch Al Rahi’s visit will start with a meeting with the local Lebanese community at the church of San Maron, to which His Beatitude will donate a relic of the patron Saint and where there will be a Maronite liturgical service. On 27 February there will be a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the department for foreign relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and then lunch with Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. The day after, in the morning , Patriarch Al Rahi will be received by Sergej Naryshkin, Chairman of the Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament.

Friday 1 March the Patriarch will celebrate the liturgy at the Catholic Immaculate Conception Cathedral and meet Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Ordinary of the Mother of God Catholic archdiocese in Moscow. The visit of Cardinal Al Rahi continues a tradition of bilateral encounters between the Maronite Church and the Patriarchate of Moscow which began with the emeritus Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and marked a significant moment in November 2011, when Patriarch Kirill I visited Lebanon. The focus of talks with the representatives of the Russian Church and politics will be the dramatic scenes being played out in the Middle East, where for some time the government of Moscow has laid claim to a role of mediation in the Syrian conflict.

"We will discuss the Christian presence in the Middle East and express our opinion regarding the tragic situation in Syria" Archbishop Paul Nabil el-Sayah, vicar general of the Patriarch of Antioch of Maronites said. Archbishop Sayah, who will accompany His Beatitude Al Rahi to Moscow continued: "The conflict in Syria has worked its way into a situation from which there appears to be no way out. Neither party seems capable of prevailing over the other. The passing of time only increases the massacres, the destruction of infrastructures, of the entire Syrian society, and all the suffering of a martyred people . Syrian Christians are also paying a high price for this war. What is needed is a peaceful solution to the conflict, to be reached as quickly as possible". 

The Most Famous Window In The World

The Pope's apartment seen from Saint Peter's Square

Before this window, millions of people have cheered, sung and prayed year after year, generation after generation. It is the window of the Pope's apartment, which is a short distance from his bedroom. Pope John XXIII began a tradition where every Sunday the Angelus is led from there. The last window, to the right is the Pope's bedroom. The eyes of the world where set on that window on April 2nd, 2005 when John Paul II passed away. 

Then on May 1, 2005 Benedict XVI appeared before this window for the first time and he said: “I address you for the first time from this window, which my beloved predecessor made familiar to countless people around the world.” 

Almost eight years later, in his second to last Angelus his voice reflected his elderly age of 85 saying: “I ask you to continue to pray for me and for the next Pope, and for our Spiritual Exercises, which I begin this afternoon along with members of the Roman Curia.”

On the 28th of February at Rome time, these windows will be closed off during the so called Sede Vacante (Vacant Seat). They will be reopened after the Conclave when the new Pope is elected. 

A Guide to the Next Conclave

As the princes of the Church, only cardinals have the exclusive responsibility to choose a successor to the Pope. As soon the Sede Vacante (Vacant Seat) begins, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Card. Angelo Sodano will officially call all able-bodied cardinals to Rome. But only the ones under 80 can take part in the election. 
The Vatican code of arms during the Sede Vacante

The start of the conclave has to be delayed 15 days, to give all cardinals time to get to Rome, but start no later than 20 days after the beginning of the Sede Vacante.

The Sistine Chapel, where the conclave has to take place, must be sealed off, and the insides checked for any hidden recording devices. For the entire conclave, the cardinals are required to stay at the Vatican's Domus Sanctae Marthae. Cardinals are not allowed to communicate with the outside world, or have access to the media. They could be excommunicated if they do.

The conclave starts with the Pro Eligendo Papa Mass, asking for God's help in electing the new Pope. From there, they'll head to the Sistine Chapel and take an individual oath of secrecy and to not help any outsiders trying to intervene in the conclave. Then they start voting.

In many ways, the voting is the most complicated and time consuming part of this process. In order for a cardinal to become Pope, he's required to get two thirds of the votes. On the first day they'll vote only once. But after that, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. There will be a pause for prayer and discussion each time, after thirteen ballots, if no cardinal gets the two thirds majority. 

Mexico's Cardinal Barragán shares his experience from the 2005 conclave: “On the line of each ballot, we must write the name of the cardinal we choose, but in capital letters, and in a way that no one can tell who's voting.” Each papal elector then walks up the altar of the Sistine Chapel, folds his ballot twice, and places it in this plate. After affirming it's his, he drops it into a receptacle. Three cardinals, whose names were chosen at random, will tally the ballots individually.

“The first cardinal, on the far left, will silently read the ballot. He passes it to the second, who reads it silently. He passes it to the third who reads it out loud” says Cardinal Barragan. The ballots will be strung together using a needle, to avoid double counts. Three other cardinals will double check the tallies to ensure the counts are correct. After that, all cardinals will turn in their notes, which will be burned, along with final ballot tallies.

When the ballots where the candidate's name was written are burnt, the smoke is black. Once a Cardinal has crossed a two-thirds majority, incense is added to the ballots, which produces the white smoke while burning, that is called the fumata bianca. Then the bells of Saint Peter's Basilica would start ringing as a sign of joy.

The dean of the College of Cardinals steps out to the balcony, would come to the newly elect Cardianl and ask him: :do you accept your canonically vowed position as successor to Saint Peter?", and as soon as he says, 'acceto', or I accept in Italian, he becomes the Pope.”

The Cardinal Dean, or highest ranking Cardinal Bishop, will also ask the newly elected Pope (and therefore Bishop of Rome) what name he would like to take on. The new Pope will change into one of the three best-fitting white tunics, already prepared for his election. After greeting his peers, he then prepares for the Apostolic Blessing Urbi et Orbi (To the City and to the World) at Saint Peter's Square, marking the end of the conclave.

The Most Popular Cardinal on Facebook

He's the most popular Cardinal on Facebook and his homilies are among the most searched for on YouTube. His name is Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila (Philippines). He was born back in 1957 in that very city and at 55 years old, he's the second youngest in the College of Cardinals. His mother, who is originally from China, attended the consistory where he was made Cardinal. 

He said at the ceremony of the consistory: “It's a grace. Some of the cardinals approach me, and they told me that their parents no longer here so it's a real blessing that my parents are both healthy and my brother is here too and many many relatives to witness this event.”

Cadinal Tagle was ordained a priest at the age of 24. In 1991 he received this doctorate in Theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington. Ten years later he was appointed Bishop of Imus and then in 2011, Bishop of Manila. Tagle is a theologian in Ratzinger's mold, with a twist. He has been serving on the International Theological Commission, part of Ratzinger's former Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, since 1997. Having studied in the U.S., Tagle also speaks and writes in English, a necessity for any pope-to-be? He raised the issue of the shortage of priests at the 2005 synod of Asian bishops (code for a reconsideration of celibacy) and he is an outspoken advocate of the poor. He's also from a country that has suffered two rounds of colonialism (Spain and the United States), which give him a different theological voice, even if he's speaking in the "standard" European and North American theological categories.

He's a great communicator (in the mold of John Paul II) and his Facebook page has more than 118,000 'Likes' and he also has a YouTube channel.  Cardinal Tagle also enjoys a wonderful reputation in his home Country the Philippines.

His consistory back in November got plenty of attention, after Tagle couldn't hold back his tears as he received his red biretta and ring from the Pope: “I cry easily and I guess when you are before a great mystery that you know is beyond you, a calling, a grace, a mission. Then you know tremble but at the same time you're happy. For me, tears just come naturally.”

It's hard to find anyone who says anything bad about this Cardinal: He takes the bus, eschews clerical privilege, rides a cheap bike, and exudes simplicity, humility, and down-to-earthiness. If the College of Cardinals were to choose him as the next bishop of Rome, they would be making a choice for change indeed.

Egyptian Churches Speak About the Pope's Resignation

The Egyptian Catholic Church welcomed the news of the resignation of Benedict XVI in a positive and constructive note. The Coptic Orthodox Church instead took a discreet profile and many prelates consider this decision unusual and unprecedented in the tradition of the Eastern Churches. However, they respect the choice of the Pope and refrain from making comments. 

The Coptic Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib, said that'' the Pope made before God Almighty the right decision at the right time.'' Recently, the same prelate, ten years younger than Benedict XVI, has resigned for health reasons.

Bishop Adel Zaki, Egyptian bishop of the Latin Church and former head of the Franciscan order in Egypt said:'' At first we were amazed and surprised. The decision has given rise to many questions. Soon we realized that this man has always stood out for his simple and bold decisions, as well as for his clarity and profound sense of responsibility. As a result, he is aware that his duties require a solid spiritual and physical energy due to the current pace of life and the impact that the Church has on the world. In a time when everyone is in the struggle for power, the position counter is a model we should follow. This is very important for Egypt, where many parties are trying to gain consensus. Only Christ is eternal and not the thrones or glory.'' 

Bishop Kyrillos William of the Coptic Catholic Diocese of Assiut in Upper Egypt, said:'' The Pope has revealed a deep modesty and courage at the right time and has taken a bold and unprecedented decision.''

For Mgr. Youhanna Golta, patriarchal vicar of the Catholic Copts,'' Benedict XVI gave to the whole Church an example of true holiness. Demonstrating the depth of his spirit and his belief in the continuity of the Church based on Christ. With great pride and some sadness he went on to say that the Pope is a great gift for us, sacrificing himself to the end. May God welcome him as a saint by the Church.'' 

The bishop of the greek orthodox diocese of the Nile Delta Nicolaus, said that'' the greek-orthodox reacted with great respect and esteem for this brave and difficult decision. In our day, the resignation is a very positive attitude that each and every ecclesiastical personality should keep in mind. Everyone should follow the example of Benedict XVI.''

Archbishop Georges Chihan, Maronite Bishop of Egypt emphasizes the historic step taken by the pope and his wisdom that made him aware of the difficulties in continuing his pastoral action. Surely Benedict XVI has made his choice after a period of profound prayer and deep meditation. Do not forget that before being appointed Pope was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "

Bishop Antonios Aziz, Coptic Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of South Cairo said we pray to God to send to the Church a shepherd'' good and brave as Benedict XVI.'' 

Father Henri Boulad, a Jesuit priest expressed his deep appreciation for the Pope and thanks him for his'' courage, his humility, his simplicity and sense of responsibility.''

Finally, p. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt and priest of the Melkite Church notes that'' this passage shows the greatness of the Church and the glory and the greatness of man ... the Pope is leading the way for a renewal of leadership. In only eight years, he has enriched the Church with his thoughts, his science and his wise management. The history will remember him as the one who has convened two synods specific regions of the Middle East and Africa. This is of vital importance if we consider the great challenges that emerged after the movements of the Arab Spring and the precarious economic situation in Africa. He will also be remembered as the pope who has consistently urged Europe to get rid of atheism, in recognition of its Christian roots, and to abandon the consumer economy.''

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus Message on February 17, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent. Tens of thousands of pilgrims were on hand, beneath a bright and unseasonably warm Roman sky. Speaking from his window in the Apostolic Palace above the Square ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father placed the Lenten season on which the Church is embarked in the context of the Year of Faith.

“In this Year of Faith,” he said, “Lent is a favorable time to rediscover the faith in God as the basic criterion of our life and the life of the Church.” The Pope went on to say that this always involves a struggle – a real spiritual combat – because the spirit of evil that is opposed to our sanctification seeks to throw us off the path that God has set out for us. Noting that it is for this reason that the Church traditionally proclaims the Gospel narrative of Christ’s temptation in the desert on the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Benedict said, “The tempter is subtle: he does not push us directly toward evil, but to a false good.” The Holy Father went on to explain that, ultimately, what is at stake in the temptations is faith. “In the decisive moments of life,” he said, “but, if we look closely, in every moment, we are at a crossroads: do we want to follow the self, or God?” It was a theme to which Pope Benedict returned during his greetings to Pilgrims in English:

Today we contemplate Christ in the desert, fasting, praying, and being tempted. As we begin our Lenten journey, we join him and we ask him to give us strength to fight our weaknesses. Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days. May God bless all of you!

Beginning Sunday evening, Pope Benedict is spending the week in Lenten spiritual retreat, together with members of the Curia and the Pontifical household, under the direction of the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. The Pope has no public engagements scheduled for this week. 

Holy Gospel; Second Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of the Man With Leprosy. February 17, 2013

Letter to the Romans 6:12-23. 
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 1:35-45. 
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 
And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

The Never Ending Drama of Iraqi Christians

" Ten years after the war, almost nothing has changed . " These are the words of Archbishop Emile Shimon Nona the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul in northern Iraq. He is the mouthpiece of the complete loss of hope of his people, tired of the perpetuation of tension, instability and insecurity.

In this decade, the divisions between the various ethnic and religious groups have also been intensified. "And now all social actors are lined up against each other . " The fragmentation of society and the lack of Iraqi national identity is also reflected in the composition of political parties founded on the basis of ethnicity and religion. " A situation that we Christians suffer more than others, because there are no sides that protect our interests. Our only defense is peaceful coexistence . "

The Archbishop refers to the level of security in Mosul that has remained virtually unchanged over the years. Pastoral activities and celebrations still have place only in the churches and in some local parish. Archbishop Nona is also forced to avoid the ecclesiastic cassock to visit the faithful in some areas particularly difficult in the city. " Sometimes I have to hide a bit ', but I've never tried streets safer. I wish to go through the normal roads. Same jokes every day from my followers when going to school or work . "

In Mosul, in 2013 opened with the anti-government protests Sunni groups, took to the streets to express their dissent ahead of provincial consultations in April. This was followed by riots and violence which has also affected the Christian minority. A new blow to the hopes of the Christians on December 24 last year, for the first time since 2003, had been able to celebrate Mass in the evening. In recent years, many Iraqi cities, Mass of the vigil was held in the afternoon for safety reasons.

" Ten years after the start of the war, Iraq is still looking for stability. The faithful do not believe in change and continue to leave the country . " Prior to 2003 the Christians in Mosul were about 35 thousand. Today there are less than 3 thousand. Since the fall of Saddam's regime the exodus of the faithful had no end and is indicative consider that, although the Christian minority represents only 2% of the population, the UNHCR reported that 40% of the one million and 600 thousand Iraqi asylum seekers in the world are Christian. And the thought of Archbishop Nona is also " the plight "of the many Iraqi refugees in Syria.

Looking to the future, the archbishop of Mosul sees the election of the new Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Louis Raphael The Sako, a hope for change. " The first step is to understand that the divisions between the Christian churches do not lead to anything. We need unity. In Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries as Christians we are still in a very few. And to witness to our faith, we must be united . "

Since 2003 the Church in Iraq has been receiving multiple donations from Catholic organization around the world to support its existence. The offerings include millions of dollars in aid to Iraqi refugees abroad and internally displaced persons; contributions to education, reconstruction of churches, convents, diocesan centers, institutes and seminars; and tens of thousands of copies of the Child's Bible in Arabic and Assyrian Eastern Europe.

Priests Abducted in Aleppo, Syria

Christians in Aleppo are seeking contacts with the kidnappers of the two priests Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox) kidnapped on February 9 by a group of armed rebels on the road that leads from Aleppo to Damascus. But so far, attempts to open channels and negotiations to free the two priests have failed. The Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Boutros Marayati gave the following account: "The so-called kidnappers phoned the brother of one of the two priests and said only: 'They are with us'. But they did not explain what is behind the 'we', and have not asked for any demands. On our behalf, we have limited the area in which they are held hostage, and we are trying to open a channel of negotiation with the tribal leader of that area. So far our attempts have not had concrete effects. We do not know what is the matrix of the group of kidnappers, if we are dealing with rebels, bandits.... We wonder why this choice of kidnapping the two priests was made, among the many passengers of the bus attacked by the kidnappers." 

This recent photo of the Altar at Saint Kevork Church in Aleppo
 is a witness on the continuous massacre of Christians in Syria

Father Kayyal and father Mahfouz were traveling aboard a public bus, heading to the Salesian house in Kafrun, On the road that goes from Aleppo to Damascus. Thirty kilometers from Aleppo, the kidnappers stopped the vehicle, checked the passengers’ documents and then they only asked the two priests to get off, bringing them away immediately. Mgr. Marayati does not confirm the rumors of a ransom of 160 thousand euro required by the kidnappers for the release of two priests. The Archbishop said recently the area of Aleppo where he resides and the pastoral settlements of the Armenian Catholic community is at the heart of explosions and armed clashes between the loyalist army and rebels.

Violence Against Children in Egypt Increases

The scene that one sees walking the streets of Cairo is many homeless wandering victims of sexual violence and subjected to the use of drugs. They live in poverty and danger. Although there are no official figures on how many there are, the latest estimates of the Centre for Egyptian Social and Criminal Research, reported that 36% of street children have suffered sexual abuse, violence and other coercive practices such as prostitution. Some are lucky enough to end up in reception centers.

A common scene in Egypt where more than 3 million children live on the streets

One of these centers, run by the NGO Hope Village, is in the district of Nasser where twenty children live eat, sleep, study and play in shared spaces. The NGO is present in various cities of the country, and every year are able to assist an average of nearly 6,000 needy children, orphans, abandoned or with families in economic difficulties. Most of them have been victims of sexual violence and some need medical care due to physical and psychological after-effects. The perpetrators tend to look for younger people because they think they have less chance of contracting diseases such as AIDS. The situation becomes more complicated when the girls raped become pregnant. Insecurity of the roads and the political instability of the country contribute to the phenomenon. Although there is detention for the perpetrators of this violence, the current laws are not enough. 

Statement of Cardinal Al Rahi on the Resignation of the Pope

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Raï has seen the resignation of the Pope by reasons of age, a model of responsible behavior. Today the head of the Maronite Church has paid tribute to the courage and sincerity of Benedict XVI, pointing out that his gesture of renunciation of the papal ministry - from 28 February - caused a "positive shock" to the world. The Patriarch added that this decision is a "model" in the exercise of duties, worthy to be offered to all the leaders of the world who have positions of responsibility, both in the Church and in politics and civil society.

In an official statement Cardinal Al Rai said that "in the Year of Faith inaugurated by the Holy Father on 11 October 2012, the announcement that shocked the world, has led to a positive shock in the hearts and is a model of behavior." The head of the Maronite Church adds that "it is a great act of faith, courage and sincerity. This decision is a lesson for all, it testifies that faith is a great act of love for Christ and his Church, a act of total surrender to the will of God, and a deep sign of self-denial and humility. "

Referring to the text read by the Pope to the cardinals, in which he foretold his decision, Patriarch Al Raï drew the attention of the faithful Lebanese, who had not taken note of the text, that Benedict XVI called explicitly his "conscience." The Pope, the Patriarch added, today announced it has made its decision in these terms: "After repeatedly examined my conscience before God and have come to the certainty that my strength, advanced age, are no longer appropriate to exercise properly the Petrine ministry. "

A lesson for all

"What a great testimony to all those who have positions of responsibility in the Church and in society, in the state!" added the head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon deepened by the political and administrative corruption. "This responsibility - added Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï - must be exercised in full consciousness, and we must continually return to it, to hear the voice of God who questions the hearts and consciences, ensuring a functioning of the mission at the service of common good, which is good at the same time each and every one. "

In his message, the Maronite Patriarch recalled that Benedict XVI has made in Lebanon the last of his missionary journeys of the pontificate, September 14 to 16, signing his apostolic exhortation "Church in the Middle East, communion and witness". To confirm the vocation of Lebanon and its key role in the region, the Pope raised to the dignity of Cardinal the Maronite Patriarch "in order to give further impetus to his patriarchal ministry, within the universal Church" (24 November 2012). The Pope then entrusted to the Lebanese youth (under the guidance of the patriarch,) to prepare the meditations for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum which will be celebrated on the night of Good Friday, which falls on 29 March. This initiative has been strongly desired by Benedict XVI, as a sign of recognition for the meeting of September 15, 2012 in Bkerke with Lebanese youth, who "deeply touched his heart."

Saint Valentine

Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, he helped and gave assistance to  Christians who were persecuted under Roman Emperor Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270. Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini. The greatest part of hisrelics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal of Thomasius, in the calendar of F. Fronto and that of Allatius, in Bede, Usuard, Ado, Notker and all other martyrologies on this day. To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.
The Origin of St. Valentine

The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].

Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they're expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."

Saint Valentine was executed in 269 in Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.

Very Emotional & Touching General Audience for Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Even though only 3500 tickets had been distributed for this Wednesday’s general audience, thousands more flocked to the Paul VI hall hoping to gain access for Pope Benedict XVI’s penultimate audience with pilgrims.

As soon as the Holy Father emerged onto the stage from the side door the crowds erupted in applause and greeting. “Dear brothers and sisters, as you know I decided", he began only to be interrupted with prolonged and heavy applause. “Thank you for your kindness” he responded and began again. “I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom” the Pope added forcefully, “for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act”. 

But Pope Benedict continued, “I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine Ministry with that strength that it demands. What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking. I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me”. 

Again the Pope was interrupted by lengthy applause, and visibly moved he continued: “I have felt almost physically your prayers in these days -which haven't been easy for me- the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me. Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!".

Below is the full text of the Pope's message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter, it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.

First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.

In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. “Conversion”, an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing” our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God’s grace is at work and works wonders in life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After acompletely agnostic education, to the point he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: “No, you can not live without God”, and to change his life completely, so much so he became a monk.

I also think the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: “There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again “(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: “I live in constant intimacy with God.”

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!”. The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer … “. God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

Summary and greetings in English
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our yearly Lenten journey of conversion in preparation for Easter. The forty days of Lent recall Israel’s sojourn in the desert and the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. The desert, as the place of silent encounter with God and decision about the deepest meaning and direction of our lives, is also a place of temptation. In his temptation in the desert, Jesus showed us that fidelity to God’s will must guide our lives and thinking, especially amid today’s secularized society. While the Lord continues to raise up examples of radical conversion, like Pavel Florensky, Etty Hillesum and Dorothy Day, he also constantly challenges those who have been raised in the faith to deeper conversion. In this Lenten season, Christ once again knocks at our door (cf. Rev 3:20) and invites us to open our minds and hearts to his love and his truth. May Jesus’ example of overcoming temptation inspire us to embrace God’s will and to see all things in the light of his saving truth.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the many student groups present. With prayers that this Lenten season will prove spiritually fruitful for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you God’s blessings of joy and peace.

Cardinal Al Rahi Will Be One of the 16 Key Figures in the Next Conclave

The cardinals tasked with electing the new Pope know little of each other. A small group, the most distinguished among them, have the informal task of building consensus. They are few, but in their hands lies the outcome of the election. They can easily be considered the 16 pillars of the Church. Here are their respective identities.

Prelates from the United States and Canada command the considerable leadership that Benedict XVI seeks in his predecessor. His top five are all from these two North American countries.

One of the most admired and praised by other cardinals is Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, a Capuchin friar, and a strong supporter of the New Evangelization. Among the list, you will also findTimothy Dolan, the optimistic and greatly charismatic archbishop of New York, as well as Cardinal Donald Wuerl from Washington, D.C., author on faith and mediator between the Church and American politicians.

Two other key figures hail from Canada. Marc Ouellet from Montreal served as a missionary in Colombia and is now prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as well as an expert on dialogue with Orthodox and Protestants. Meanwhile, Thomas Collins, the archbishop from Toronto, is known for his simplicity and charisma.

The country with the most cardinals will be in Italy. They represent an important and vocal block. Among their leaders is the highly revered Archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola, intellectual disciple of Benedict XVI, whom the Pope has visited twice. Genoan Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy is widely regarded for his mediating skills. 

They will also take into consideration Gianfranco Ravasi, the cardinal that will lead the last spiritual exercises of Benedict XVI as Pope.

A candidate for continental Europe is the archbishop of Budapest, Peter Erdö, always smiling, optimistic, frank, active, and an evangelizer who has urged his priests to meet personally with the millions of people within his archdiocese.

The first of the two leading candidates from Latin America is Honduran Oscar Andrés RodríguezMaradiaga, a pilot who also plays the saxophone. The second is Brazilian Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of San Paolo, a simple and discrete man but with a great reputation back home.

The only cardinal from Oceania is Australian George Pell. He is admired in Rome and is one of the few prelates Benedict XVI would seek advice on delicate matters. Two years ago, he publicly debated atheist Richard Dawkins on religion.

The main African representative is John Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize along with a Muslim leader for their commitment to peace. Benedict XVI created him cardinals during the most recent conclave.

From Asia, the three leading papal electors include Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, who monitors closely the aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and who, along with Onaiyekan, represents Christians persecuted because of their faith. One of the youngest cardinals is the Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, 55. He is a theologian admired by the media in the Philippines, as well as by Joseph Ratzinger. Among them you will also find Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, India, and the newly chosen president of the India's bishops conference.

It is very likely one of them will come out of the conclave as Pope, or, at the very least, chosen with their help. However, it is a decision that is entirely up to the 117 cardinals that will enter the conclave. And not one of them have said who their leading candidate will be.

List of Cardinals Eligible to Vote in the Next Conclave to Elect a New Pope

According to the Vatican, out of 207 living Cardinals, only 115 of them will be under the age of 80 at the moment of vacancy of the Seat of Saint Peter on February 28. Following is the list of  the 115 Cardinals & candidates eligible to vote and/or become the next Pope, by Family name's alphabetical order:

Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló
Geraldo Majella Cardinal Agnelo
George Cardinal Alencherry
Angelo Cardinal Amato, S.D.B.
Carlos Cardinal Amigo Vallejo, O.F.M.
Ennio Cardinal Antonelli
Audrys Juozas Cardinal Bačkis
Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco
Philippe Xavier Ignace Cardinal Barbarin
Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J.
Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello
Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B.
Giuseppe Cardinal Betori
Josip Cardinal Bozanić
Seán Baptist Cardinal Brady
João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Carlo Cardinal Caffarra
Domenico Cardinal Calcagno
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
Juan Luis Cardinal Cipriani Thorne
Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio
Thomas Christopher Cardinal Collins
Angelo Cardinal Comastri
Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes
Raymundo Cardinal Damasceno Assis
Godfried Cardinal Danneels
Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.
Ivan Cardinal Dias
Daniel Nicholas Cardinal DiNardo
Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Dominik Jaroslav Cardinal Duka, O.P.
Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz
Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk
Péter Cardinal Erdõ
Francisco Javier Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa
Raffaele Cardinal Farina, S.D.B.
Fernando Cardinal Filoni
Francis Eugene Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Oswald Cardinal Gracias
Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski
James Michael Cardinal Harvey
Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, O.F.M.
Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, M.S.U.
Walter Cardinal Kasper
Kurt Cardinal Koch
Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo
Karl Cardinal Lehmann
William Joseph Cardinal Levada
Nicolás de Jesús Cardinal López Rodríguez
Roger Michael Cardinal Mahony
Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach
Reinhard Cardinal Marx
Joachim Cardinal Meisner
Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya
Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
Francesco Cardinal Monterisi
Antonios Cardinal Naguib
Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, O.F.M.
Attilio Cardinal Nicora
John Cardinal Njue
Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz
Edwin Frederick Cardinal O’Brien
Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie
Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
John Olorunfemi Cardinal Onaiyekan
Jaime Lucas Cardinal Ortega y Alamino
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, P.S.S.
Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don
George Cardinal Pell
Polycarp Cardinal Pengo
Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Mân
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza
Severino Cardinal Poletto
José da Cruz Cardinal Policarpo
Vinko Cardinal Puljic
Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, O.M.M. 

Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi
Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re
Jean-Pierre Bernard Cardinal Ricard
Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali
Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera
José Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega
Franc Cardinal Rodé, C.M.
Oscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B.
Paolo Cardinal Romeo
Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela
Stanisław Cardinal Ryłko
Rubén Cardinal Salazar Gómez
Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez
Leonardo Cardinal Sandri
Robert Cardinal Sarah
Paolo Cardinal Sardi
Théodore-Adrien Cardinal Sarr
Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P.
Angelo Cardinal Scola
Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe
Luis Antonio Gokim Cardinal Tagle
Jean-Louis Pierre Cardinal Tauran
Julio Cardinal Terrazas Sandoval, C.SS.R.
Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi
Baselios Cleemis (Isaac) Cardinal Thottunkal
John Cardinal Tong Hon
Telesphore Placidus Cardinal Toppo
Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson
Jorge Liberato Cardinal Urosa Savino
Agostino Cardinal Vallini
Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò
Raúl Eduardo Cardinal Vela Chiriboga
Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi
André Armand Cardinal Vingt-Trois
Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki
Donald William Cardinal Wuerl
Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako