VATICAN CITY, 7 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 8.30 a.m. today, Benedict XVI departed from Rome's Ciampino airport, landing at the airport of Cagliari-Elmas on the Italian island of Sardinia at 9.30 a.m. Having greeted the political, civil and ecclesiastical authorities, he travelled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, which he visited briefly.
At 10.30 a.m., the Pope celebrated Mass in the presence of 100,000 people on the esplanade in front of the Marian shrine. The wooden statue of Our Lady of Bonaria - the centenary of whose proclamation as patroness of Sardinia falls this year - stood next to the altar during the ceremony.
In his homily, the Holy Father highlighted how "Christianity arrived in Sardinia not with the sword of the conquerors or through external imposition, but by growing from the blood of the martyrs who here gave their lives in an act of love towards God and mankind".
"Sardinia", he went on, "has never been a land of heresies; her people have always demonstrated filial faithfulness to Christ and to the See of Peter. ... Through the sequence of invasions and domination, faith in Christ has remained in the soul of your people as a constitutive element of your Sardinian identity. ... This simple and courageous faith continues to live in your communities and in your families, where one may inhale the evangelical fragrance of the virtues that distinguish your land: loyalty, dignity, reserve, sobriety and a sense of duty".
Going on to refer to the hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of the Virgin as patroness of the island, the Pope called on the faithful "to give thanks to Mary for her protection and to reiterate our faith in her, recognising her as the 'Star of the new evangelisation'".
The Holy Father asked the Virgin to help the people of Sardinia "to bring Christ to families, small domestic Churches and cells of society, which today more than ever need trust and support at both a spiritual and social level".
May Mary, he said, "help you to discover appropriate pastoral strategies to ensure that young people encounter Christ", young people who "by their nature are bearers of fresh energy but are often victims of a widespread nihilism, thirsty for truth and for ideals precisely when they seem to deny them. May she help you evangelise the world of work, of the economy and of politics, which needs a new generation of committed lay Christians, capable of seeking solutions of sustainable development with competency and moral rigour".
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI performed an act of consecration to Mary which concluded with the consignment of a golden rose to Our Lady of Bonaria.
VATICAN CITY, 7 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 6.15 p.m. today, Benedict XVI arrived at Piazza Yenne in the Italian city of Cagliari where he met with young people from the island of Sardinia, to whom he pronounced an address.
"Dear young people", said the Pope, "you are the hope-filled future of this region, despite the difficulties of which we are all aware. I know your enthusiasm, the desires you nourish and the commitment you show in order to realise them. And I am not unaware of the difficulties and problems you face" such as "the blight of unemployment and precariousness, which puts your projects at risk, ... emigration, the exodus of the most original and enterprising forces, ... and the consequent displacement from one's environment which sometimes leads to psychological and moral damage, even more than social problems.
"And what can we say", he added, "of the fact that in modern consumer society earnings and success have become the new idols before which so many prostrate themselves? The consequence of this is that people are led to give value only to those who ... 'have found fortune' or who are 'notorious', and not to those who must struggle with life every day".
"There is a risk of becoming superficial, of taking dangerous shortcuts in search of success, thus giving life up to experiences that bring immediate satisfaction but that are in themselves precarious and deceptive. There is a growing tendency to individualism, and when we concentrate only on ourselves we inevitably become fragile; we lose the patience to listen which is an indispensable part of understanding others and working together".
Benedict XVI reaffirmed the three values presented by John Paul II during his visit to Sardinia 23 years ago, values that "are still important today". The first is "the value of the family, which must be safeguarded as an ancient and sacred heritage. ... In the past traditional society was more helpful in forming and protecting a family" while today "other forms of cohabitation are admitted, and sometimes the term 'family' is used for unions that are not, in fact, families at all".
"Dear young people", cried the Holy Father, "re-appropriate the value of the family, love it nor just for the sake of tradition but as a mature and conscious choice". He also recalled how Vatican Council II had described the family as a "small Church" because "marriage is a Sacrament, in other words a holy and effective sign of the love God gives us in Christ through the Church".
The second value is "serious intellectual and moral formation", said Pope Benedict. "The crisis of a society begins", he said, "when it no longer knows how to transmit its cultural heritage and its fundamental values to the new generations. I am not only referring to the system of education. The question is a broader one. ... Jesus said : 'The truth will make you free', yet modern nihilism preaches the opposite: that freedom will make you true. There are, indeed, those who maintain that there is no truth, thus opening the way to rendering the concepts of good and evil meaningless, even making them interchangeable".
The third value identified by the Pope was "sincere and profound faith". He said: "When a sense of the presence and reality of God is lost, everything becomes 'flat' and is reduced to a single dimension. Everything is 'squashed' into the material plane. ... The mystery of existence also disappears: things and people interest me not for themselves but in the degree to which they satisfy my needs. Faith, in this sense, before being a religious belief, is a way of experiencing reality, a way of thinking, an interior sensibility which enriches human beings. ... Being with Jesus, frequenting Him as a friend in the Gospel and in the Sacraments, you may learn ... that which society is often no longer capable of giving you: a religious sense".
"May each of you rediscover God as meaning and foundation for all creatures, light of truth, flame of charity, bond of unity", he concluded. "You will no longer be afraid to lose your liberty, because you will experience it fully by giving it for love. You will no longer be attached to material goods, because in yourselves you will feel the joy of sharing them. You will no longer be sad at the sadness of the world, but will experience pain for evil and joy for good, especially for mercy and forgiveness. ... If you really discover God in the face of Christ, you will no longer think of the Church as an institution external to yourselves, but as your spiritual family".
The meeting with young people over, Benedict XVI travelled to the airport of Cagliari where he bid farewell to the authorities before boarding his flight for Rome. He landed at Ciampino airport at 8.30 p.m. whence he travelled to his residence in Castelgandolfo.