Benedict XVI arrived at the shrine of Aparecida to pray the Rosary with priests, religious, seminarians and deacons of Brazil. Also participating in the event were representatives of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, and tens of thousands of pilgrims.
After the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries and the singing of the "Salve Regina," the Pope pronounced his homily. Through the praying of the Rosary, he said, "the divine Comforter seeks to initiate us in the knowledge of Christ that issues forth from the clear source of the Gospel text.
"For her part," he added, "the Church of the third millennium proposes to offer Christians the capacity for 'knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'." In this, "Mary Most Holy, the pure and immaculate Virgin, is for us a school of faith."
Benedict XVI then went on to greet priests, saying: "What great challenges, what difficult situations you have to face, with such generosity, self-denial, sacrifices and renunciations! … The witness of a priestly life well lived brings nobility to the Church, calls forth admiration among the faithful, and is a source of blessings for the community; it is the best way to promote vocations. … It is true collaboration in building the Kingdom of God!" The Pope also recalled elderly and infirm priests, pointing out how their "conformation to Christ Suffering and Risen is the most fruitful apostolate."
"Your exuberance, enthusiasm, idealism and encouragement to face new challenges," said the Holy Father addressing deacons and seminarians, "serve to give the People of God a renewed openness, make the faithful more dynamic and help the community to grow, to progress, and to become more trusting, joyful and optimistic. Always keep before your eyes the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Who 'came not to be served but to serve.' Be like the first deacons of the Church: men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit, with wisdom and with faith.
"And you, seminarians," he added, "remember that the seminary is the cradle of your vocation and the first place where you experience communal life. I ask you, with God's help, to be holy, faithful and happy priests in the service of the Church."
Addressing the consecrated men and women present, the Pope described them as "an offering, a present, a divine gift that the Church has received from her Lord" and thanked them, for "the unreserved, total, definitive, unconditional and impassioned love, manifested in silence, in contemplation, in prayer and in the most varied activities that you undertake in favor of humanity and especially of the poorest and most abandoned.
"All this," he added, "calls forth in the hearts of the young the desire to follow Christ the Lord more closely and radically, and to offer their lives so as to bear witness before the men and women of our day to the fact that God is love, and that it is worth allowing oneself to be conquered and entranced in order to devote one's life exclusively to Him."
Benedict XVI also recalled the fact that "religious life in Brazil has always been important and has had a key role in the work of evangelization, from the very beginnings of the colonial era." In this context, he mentioned the figures of St. Antonio de Santa Ana Galvao, the first native-born Brazilian saint, and St. Pauline, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
"How important it is to maintain our sense of belonging to the Church, which leads us to grow and to mature as brothers and sisters, children of the one God and Father," the Holy Father concluded. "The Pope therefore wants to say to all of you: The Church is our home! This is our home! Anyone who accepts Christ is assured of peace and happiness, in this life and in the next! It is worth being faithful, it is worth persevering in our faith!"