VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - In a recent interview on Vatican Radio, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. reviewed the activities of the Holy Father over the course of 2011. A summary of his remarks is given below.

Fr. Lombardi first turned his attention to the Pope's trips, noting that the visit to Germany in September had reflected the Holy Father's concern to speak to modern secularised society, especially in Europe, about God and His primacy. By contrast, his visit to Spain for World Youth Day was "a great experience of the vitality of the faith, of its future". In Benin, Benedict XVI had signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africa munus" in which he examines the problems facing Africa and "identifies reasons for realistic hope with which to face the future, recognising the dignity of the African people", Fr. Lombardi said.

Another key moment of 2011 was the inter-religious meeting at Assisi in October, which had focused on "the search for truth". The event had been attended not just by representatives of different religious confessions, but also by "people who, though they do not recognise a God, sincerely seek after the truth".

Among the documents published during 2011, Fr. Lombardi mentioned the Motu Proprio "Porta Fidei" with which Benedict XVI proclaims a "Year of Faith" to begin in October 2012. This, he noted, is associated with one of the great themes of the pontificate: new evangelisation. The Holy See Press Office Director also recalled the recent Mass to mark the independence of various Latin American countries, during which the Pope had announced his forthcoming trip to Mexico and Cuba.

At Christmas every year the Holy Father makes special visits of solidarity, and this year's took him to the Roman prison of Rebbibia where he gave spontaneous answers to questions put to him by the inmates. That meeting, said Fr. Lombardi, shows "how the Church, though recognising that civil society has legislative responsibility for dramatic issues such as justice and prisons, ... can send out a strong message ... about reconciliation, hope and reintegration into society".

Also during 2011 the Pope was able to speak with astronauts orbiting the earth on the international space station, "thus underlining with great willingness and joy the Church's benevolence towards scientific research and technology, when they serve the good of humanity". The beatification of John Paul II was another key moment of the past year, which "mobilised the entire Church" and was experienced "with immense delight".

The year also saw the publication of part two of Joseph Ratzinger's book "Jesus of Nazareth", focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ. "We continue to hope", Fr. Lombardi concluded, "that he will write a third volume, on the infancy, in order to complete this extraordinarily vivid and profound presentation of Jesus for us today".

OP/                                                                VIS 20111229 (480)

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