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'Americans . . . a people of hope'

More than 46,000 people attended Pope Benedict's papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on April 17. Benedict is on his first papal visit to the United States this week.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Here are excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's homily Thursday at Nationals Park:

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Americans have always been a people of hope: Your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity. . . . To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character.

It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation. . . . These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your bishops about this.

Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do.

Excerpts from the pope's meeting with Catholic educators:

A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction. Are we ready to commit our entire self-intellect and will, mind and heart to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?

While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in -- a participation in being itself. Hence, authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom, you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission.


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