17 July 2008
Dear Australian Friends,
It is with great joy that I greet you today. I would like to thank the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery and Prime Minister Rudd for honouring me by their presence at this ceremony and for welcoming me so graciously. As you know, I have been able to enjoy some quiet days since my arrival in Australia last Sunday. I am most grateful for the hospitality that has been extended to me. Now I look forward to this evening’s “Welcome to Country” by the indigenous people and to celebrating the great events which form the purpose of my Apostolic Visit: the Twenty-Third World Youth Day.
Some might ask what motivates thousands of young people to undertake what is for many a long and demanding journey in order to participate in an event of this kind. Ever since the first World Youth Day in 1986, it has been evident that vast numbers of young people appreciate the opportunity to come together to deepen their faith in Christ and to share with one another a joyful experience of communion in his Church. They long to hear the word of God, and to learn more about their Christian faith. They are eager to take part in an event which brings into focus the high ideals that inspire them, and they return home filled with hope and renewed in their resolve to contribute to the building of a better world. For me it is a joy to be with them, to pray with them and to celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day fills me with confidence for the future of the Church and the future of our world.
It seems particularly appropriate to celebrate World Youth Day here, since the Church in Australia, as well as being the youngest of any continent, is also one of the most cosmopolitan. Since the first European settlement here in the late eighteenth century, this country has become a home not only to generations of Europeans, but to people from every corner of the globe. The immense diversity of the Australian population today gives a particular vibrancy to what may still be considered, in comparison with much of the rest of the world, a young nation. Yet for thousands of years before the arrival of Western settlers, the sole inhabitants of the land were indigenous peoples, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Their ancient heritage forms an essential part of the cultural landscape of modern Australia. Thanks to the Australian Government’s courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against the indigenous peoples in the past, concrete steps are now being taken to achieve reconciliation based on mutual respect. Rightly, you are seeking to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians regarding life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity! This example of reconciliation offers hope to peoples all over the world who long to see their rights affirmed and their contribution to society acknowledged and promoted.
The settlers who came here from Europe have always included a significant proportion of Catholics, and we may be justly proud of the contribution they have made to the building up of the nation, particularly in the fields of education and healthcare. One of the most outstanding figures in this country’s history is Blessed Mary MacKillop, at whose tomb I shall pray later this morning. I know that her perseverance in the face of adversity, her plea for justice on behalf of those unfairly treated and her practical example of holiness have become a source of inspiration for all Australians. Generations have reason to be grateful to her and to the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and other religious congregations for the network of schools that they established here and for the witness of their consecrated life. In today’s more secular environment, the Catholic community continues to make an important contribution to national life, not only through education and healthcare, but especially by highlighting the spiritual dimension of the questions that feature prominently in contemporary debate.
With many thousands of young people visiting Australia at this time, it is appropriate to reflect upon the kind of world we are handing on to future generations. In the words of your national anthem, this land “abounds in nature’s gifts, of beauty rich and rare”. The wonder of God’s creation reminds us of the need to protect the environment and to exercise responsible stewardship of the goods of the earth. In this connection I note that Australia is making a serious commitment to address its responsibility to care for the natural environment. Likewise with regard to the human environment, this country has generously supported international peace-keeping operations, contributing to conflict resolution in the Pacific, in South-East Asia and elsewhere. Owing to the many religious traditions represented in Australia, this is particularly fertile ground for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. I look forward to meeting local representatives of different Christian communities and other religions during my stay, so as to encourage this important work, a sign of the reconciling action of the Spirit who impels us to seek unity in truth and charity.
First and foremost, though, I am here to meet the young, from Australia and from all over the world, and to pray for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all those taking part in our celebrations. The theme chosen for World Youth Day 2008 is taken from words spoken by Jesus himself to his disciples, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses to the ends of the earth” (1:9). I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring spiritual renewal to this land, to the Australian people, to the Church throughout Oceania and indeed to the ends of the earth. Young people today face a bewildering variety of life-choices, so that they sometimes find it hard to know how best to channel their idealism and their energy. It is the Spirit who gives the wisdom to discern the right path and the courage to follow it. He crowns our poor efforts with his divine gifts, just as the wind filling the sails sweeps the ship forward, far surpassing what the oarsmen can achieve through their laborious rowing. In this way, the Spirit enables men and women in every land and in every generation to become saints. Through the Spirit’s action, may the young people gathered here for World Youth Day have the courage to become saints! This is what the world needs more than anything else.
Dear Australian friends, once again I thank you for your generous welcome and I look forward to spending these days with you and with the young people of the world. May God bless all who are present, all the pilgrims and all who live in this land. And may he always bless and protect the Commonwealth of Australia.
13 July 2008
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses” (Act 1:8)
The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In a few days from now, I shall begin my Apostolic Visit to your country, in order to celebrate the Twenty-Third World Youth Day in Sydney. I very much look forward to the days that I shall spend with you, and especially to the opportunities for prayer and reflection with young people from all over the world.
First of all, I want to express my appreciation to all those who have offered so much of their time, their resources and their prayers in support of this celebration. The Australian Government and the Provincial Government of New South Wales, the organizers of all the events, and members of the business community who have provided sponsorship – all of you have willingly supported this event, and on behalf of the young people taking part in the World Youth Day, I thank you most sincerely. Many of the young people have made great sacrifices in order to undertake the journey to Australia, and I pray that they will be rewarded abundantly. The parishes, schools and host families have been most generous in welcoming these young visitors, and they too deserve our thanks and our appreciation.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses” (Act 1:8). This is the theme of the Twenty-Third World Youth Day. How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit! There are still many who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, while many others, for whatever reason, have not recognized in this Good News the saving truth that alone can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. The Psalmist prays: “when you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the Spirit pours into their hearts, so that they too will be filled with hope and with thanksgiving for all the good things they have received from our heavenly Father.
Many young people today lack hope. They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers. They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond. They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.
Where can we look for answers? The Spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth. The Spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: “If you wish to remain young, seek Christ”. In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth. My prayer is that the hearts of the young people who gather in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day will truly find rest in the Lord, and that they will be filled with joy and fervour for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet.
Dear Australian friends, although I will only be able to spend a few days in your country, and I will not be able to travel outside Sydney, my heart reaches out to all of you, including those who are sick or in difficulties of any kind. On behalf of all the young people, I thank you again for your support of my mission and I ask you to continue praying for them especially. It remains only for me to renew my invitation to the young people from all over the world to join me in Australia, the great “southern land of the Holy Spirit”. I look forward to seeing you there! May God bless you all.
From the Vatican, 4 July 2008
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
6 July 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all I would like to greet affectionately the authorities and entire civil and ecclesial community of Castel Gandolfo, who, during my stay, always give me a cordial and caring reception.
My thoughts already go to Australia where, God willing, I will travel next Saturday, July 12. In Sydney, in fact, in the southeast of the country, the 23rd World Youth Day will take place. In past months, the “young people’s cross” has been taken all over Oceania and in Sydney it will be once again a silent witness of the pact of alliance between the Lord Jesus Christ and the new generations. Foreseen for July 15 is the welcome celebration for youth. The great vigil will take place on the 19th and the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday the 20th, the culminating and concluding moment of the event.
The Australian episcopal conference has planned everything carefully, at all times supported by the collaboration of the civil authorities. The first groups of young men and women from other continents are already leaving for Australia. I invite the whole Church to share in this new stage of the great pilgrimage of young people across the world, begun in 1985 by the Servant of God John Paul II.
The forthcoming World Youth Day is proclaimed as a new Pentecost. In fact, the Christian communities have been preparing following the path I indicated in the message with the theme “You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You; and You Will Be My Witnesses ” (Acts 1:8). It is the promise Jesus made to his disciples after the resurrection, and which remains always valid and actual in the Church: The Holy Spirit, awaited and received in prayer, infuses in believers the capacity to be witnesses of Jesus and his Gospel.
Blowing on the Church’s sail, the divine Spirit pushes her to “go into the deep,” always anew, from generation to generation, to take to everyone the Good News of the love of God, revealed fully in Jesus Christ, dead and resurrected for us. I am certain that from all the corners of the earth Catholics will be united with me and with all the young people gathered — as in the Cenacle — in Sydney, intensely invoking the Holy Spirit so that he will flood hearts with the inner light of love of God and of brothers, and of courageous initiative to introduce Jesus’ eternal message in the diversity of languages and cultures.
Along with the cross, the icon of the Virgin Mary accompanies the World Youth Days. We entrust to her maternal protection this trip to Australia and the meeting with young people in Sydney. Moreover, on this first Sunday of July, I wish to invoke the intercession of Mary so that the summer season might offer everyone the occasion for a time of rest and physical and spiritual renewal.
[After the Angelus]
Tomorrow, July 7, the heads of state of member countries of the G-8, together with other leaders of the world, will meet in Japan for their annual summit. In recent days numerous voices have been raised — among them those of the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the involved nations — to appeal for the carrying out of the commitments assumed in previous G-8 meetings, and to adopt all the measures necessary to overcome the scourge of extreme poverty, hunger, sicknesses and illiteracy that still affect a great part of humanity.
I also join myself to this solemn call to solidarity! Therefore, I address the participants in the Hokkaido-Toyako meeting, so that at the heart of their deliberations they will put the needs of the weakest and poorest peoples, whose vulnerability has increased because of speculation and financial turbulence and its adverse effects on the price of food and energy. I hope that generosity and foresight will help them to make decisions in regard to relaunching an equitable process of integral development to safeguard human dignity.
I greet affectionately the children and those accompanying them who are participating in the “International Festival of Children Artists 2008,” organized by the “Soong Ching Ling Foundation of Italy.” Love, concord, harmony and solidarity are the values that you want to promote in China and in the rest of the countries of the world. Art and culture can unite peoples. Children represent the future of the human family and, hence, are called in their own right to build a more beautiful and more human world. Your presence allows me to send good wishes of peace and joy to all your contemporaries in China and in the world.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]
I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus. During these months many will be taking their annual holiday. Let us pray that all who are travelling on the roads will do so in safety, with prudence and respect for others. In this way our summer break will truly be a time for relaxation, family life and friendship. In today’s Gospel we are reminded by Jesus that children welcome the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us purify our hearts so that, like them, we may receive in simplicity the will of God and follow generously day by day the path marked out for us. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
Dearest priests, deacons and seminarians,
I am pleased to address my cordial greeting to all of you gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, reopened for worship after its restoration last November. I thank Archbishop Rocco Talucci for the warm welcome he has addressed to me in your name and for all his gifts. I greet the priests to whom I wish to express my satisfaction at the immense and structured pastoral work they carry out. I greet the deacons, the seminarians and everyone present and express my joy at being surrounded by a large crowd of souls consecrated for the advent of the Kingdom of God. Here in the Cathedral, which is the heart of the Diocese, we all feel at home, united by the bond of Christ’s love. Let us commemorate here with gratitude those who spread Christianity in these regions: Brindisi was the first city of the West to welcome the Gospel, which reached it on the Roman consular roads. Among the evangelizing Saints I think of Bishop St Leucius, of St Oronzo, St Theodore of Amasea and St Lawrence of Brindisi, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by John XXIII. Their presence lives on in the hearts of the people and is witnessed to by many of the city’s monuments.
Dear brothers, in seeing you gathered in this Church, in which many of you received your diaconal and presbyteral ordination, I remember the words that St Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: “Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the Bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ”. And the holy Bishop added: “Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you” (Letter to the Ephesians, 4). Persevere, dear priests, in seeking this unity of intention and reciprocal help, so that fraternal charity and unity in pastoral work are an example and incentive for your communities. This, above all, was the goal of the pastoral visits your Archbishop made to your parishes which ended last March. Due, precisely, to your generous collaboration, it was not merely a juridical exercise but an extraordinary event of ecclesial and formative value. I am certain that it will be fruitful since the Lord will make the seed sown with love grow abundantly in the hearts of the faithful.
I would like to encourage you with my presence today to place yourselves with ever growing openness at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. I know that you already work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no energy in spreading the joyful Gospel proclamation. Christ, to whom you have consecrated your lives, is with you! In him we all believe, to him alone we entrust our lives, it is he whom we desire to proclaim to the world. May Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14: 6), be the object of our thought, the topic of our words, the reason for our life. Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus’ example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest’s life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to congratulate you on the new Archdiocesan Seminary which was inaugurated last November by my Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. On the one hand, it expresses the present state of a Diocese, understood as the culmination of work undertaken by priests and parishes in the area of the pastoral care of youth, in teaching the catechism, in the religious animation of families. On the other hand, the Seminary is a precious investment for the future, because it ensures that through patient and generous work the Christian community will not be deprived of shepherds of souls, of teachers of faith and of zealous guides and witnesses of Christ’s charity. Besides being the place of your formation, dear seminarians, true hope of the Church, this seminary of yours is also a place for the up-dating and continuing formation of youth and adults who wish to make their contribution to the cause of the Kingdom of God. The careful formation of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests and other pastoral workers is a primary concern of your Bishop, to whom God has entrusted the mission of guiding the People of God who live in your City as a wise pastor.
Another opportunity for the spiritual growth of your community is the Archdiocesan Synod, the first since the Second Vatican Council and since the unification of the two Dioceses of Brindisi and Ostuni. It is an opportunity to relaunch the apostolic commitment of the entire Diocese but above all it is a privileged moment of communion that is a help in the rediscovery of the value of fraternal service, as indicated in the biblical scene of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13: 12-17) that you chose, with the words of Jesus that comment on it: “As I have done” (Jn 13: 15). If it is true that the Synod, every Synod, is called to establish laws and to issue the appropriate norms for an organic pastoral activity, raising and stimulating renewed commitment to evangelization and Gospel witness, it is also true that a Synod must reawaken in every baptized person the missionary outreach that constantly animates the Church.
Dear brother priests, the Pope assures you of his special remembrance in prayer so that you may continue on the journey of authentic spiritual renewal which you have been making with your community. May the experience of “being together” in faith and reciprocal love help you in this commitment, like the Apostles around Christ in the Upper Room. It was there that the Divine Teacher taught them, opening their eyes to the splendour of the truth and giving them the sacrament of unity and love: the Eucharist. In the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, at the moment of the washing of the feet, it clearly emerged that service is one of the fundamental dimensions of Christian life. It is therefore a duty of the Synod to help all the members of your local Church to rediscover the meaning and the joy of service: a service for love. This applies above all for you, dear priests, configured to Christ “Head and Pastor”, always ready to guide his flock. Be thankful and happy for the gift received! Be generous in carrying out your ministry! Sustain it with assiduous prayer and a continuing cultural, theological and spiritual formation!
While I renew the expression of my lively appreciation and my warmest encouragement, I invite you and the entire Archdiocese to prepare for the Pauline Year which is shortly to begin. It can be an occasion on which to relaunch generous missionary activity, for a more profound proclamation of the Word of God, welcomed, meditated and translated into a fruitful apostolate, as it happened exactly for the Apostle to the Gentiles. Conquered by Christ, Paul lived entirely for him and for his Gospel, spending his existence even to the point of martyrdom. May you be assisted by the Blessed Mother of the Church and Virgin of Listening; may the Patron Saints of this beloved land of Apulia protect you. Be missionaries of God’s love; may each of your parishes experience the joy of belonging to Christ. As a pledge of divine grace and of the gifts of his Spirit, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to begin today a new cycle of catecheses, dedicated to the great Apostle Saint Paul. To him, as you know, I have consecrated this year, which extends from the liturgical feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, 2008, to the same feast in 2009.
The Apostle Paul, an exceptional and virtually inimitable yet stimulating figure, is before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is just, therefore, that we reserve a particular place for him, not only in our veneration, but also in an effort to understand what he has to say to us, Christians of today, as well.
In this, our first meeting, I would like to pause to consider the environment in which he lived and worked. Such a topic would seem to take us far from our time, given that we must insert ourselves in the world of 2,000 years ago. And yet, this is only apparently and partly true, because it can be verified that in many ways, the socio-cultural environment of today is not so different than that of back then.
A primary and fundamental factor to keep in mind is the relationship between the environment in which Paul was born and developed and the global context in which he successively inserted himself. He came from a very precise and specific culture, certainly of the minority, which was that of the people of Israel and their tradition. In the ancient world and notably at the heart of the Roman Empire, as scholars of the subject teach us, the Jews constituted about 10% of the total population. Here in Rome, their number around the middle of the first century was even fewer, reaching a maximum of 3% of the inhabitants of the city.
Their beliefs and lifestyle, as happens also today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment. And this could have two results: either derision, which might lead to intolerance, or admiration, which was expressed in different ways, such as the case of the “God-fearing” or “proselyte,” pagans who associated themselves in the synagogue and shared the faith in the God of Israel.
As concrete examples of this double attitude we can mention, on one hand, the sharp judgment of an orator such as Cicero, who scorned their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69), and on the other, the attitude of Poppea, Nero’s wife, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a “sympathizer” of the Jews (cf. Antichita giudaiche 20, 195.252; Vita 16). And we should note Julius Caesar had already officially recognized particular rights for them, noted by the already-mentioned Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (cf. Ibid. 14, 200-216). What is certain is that the number of Jews, as is true today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, namely, in the Diaspora, and not in the territory that others called Palestine.
It is no wonder, then, that Paul himself was the object of the double, contrasting evaluation, of which I have spoken. One thing is certain: The particularity of the Jewish culture and religion easily found a place within a reality as all-pervasive as the Roman Empire. More difficult and trying was the position of the group of those Jews and Gentiles who adhered in faith to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, insofar as they were distinguished both from Judaism and the prevailing paganism.
In any case, two factors favored Paul’s commitment. The first was the Greek, or rather the Hellenistic culture, which after Alexander the Great became the common patrimony at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, though integrating within itself many elements of peoples traditionally regarded as barbarians. A writer of the time states, in this regard, that Alexander “ordered that all keep the whole ‘ecumene’ [inhabited earth] as homeland … and that there be no longer a distinction between Greek and Barbarian” (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, paragraphs 6.8).
The second factor was the political-administrative structure of the Roman Empire, which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain to southern Egypt, unifying a territory of a dimension never before seen. In this space, one could move with sufficient liberty and security, enjoying among other things an extraordinary road system, and finding in every point of arrival, basic cultural characteristics that, without detriment to local values, represented in any case a common fabric of unification “super partes,” so much so that the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, contemporary of Paul himself, praises the emperor Augustus because he “has brought together in harmony all the savage peoples … becoming a guardian of peace” (Legatio ad Caium, paragraphs 146-147).
The universalistic vision typical of St. Paul’s personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, certainly owes its basic impetus to faith in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the figure of the Risen One goes beyond that of any particularistic restriction. In fact, for the apostle “there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free man, no longer male or female, but all are only one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Yet, the historical-cultural situation of his time and environment also influenced his choices and commitment. Paul has been described as a “man of three cultures,” taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of “civis romanus,” as attested also by his name of Latin origin.
We must recall in particular the Stoic philosophy, which prevailed in Paul’s time and also influenced, though marginally, Christianity. In this connection, we cannot but mention the names of Stoic philosophers, such as the initiators Zeno and Cleanthes, and then those chronologically closer to Paul, such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus. Found in them are very lofty values of humanity and wisdom, which were naturally received in Christianity. As a scholar on the subject writes masterfully, “Stoicism … proclaimed a new ideal, which imposed on man duties toward his fellowmen, but at the same time freed him from all physical and national ties and made him a purely spiritual being” (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence 2, 1978, pp. 565ff).
It is enough to think, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as one great harmonious body and, consequently, of the doctrine of the equality of all men without social distinctions, to the equating at least in principle of man and woman, and then the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and of self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul writes to the Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8), does no more than take up a strictly humanist concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.
In Paul’s time, there was also a crisis of the traditional religion, at least in its mythological and also civic aspects. After Lucretius, already a century earlier, had controversially stated that “religion has led to so many misdeeds” (De rerum natura 1, 101), a philosopher such as Seneca, going well beyond any external ritualism, taught that “God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you” (Lettere a Lucilio, 41, 1).
Similarly, when Paul addressed an auditorium of Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens, he says literally that “God does not live in shrines made by man … but in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 24.28). With this, he certainly echoes the Jewish faith in one God that cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms, but he also follows a religious line with which his listeners were familiar. We must take into account, moreover, that many educated pagans did not frequent the official temples of the city, and went to private places that promoted the initiation of followers.
Not a motive for wonder, therefore, was the fact that Christian meetings (the “ekklesiai”), as attested to especially in the Pauline Letters, took place in private homes. At the time, moreover, there was still no public building. Therefore, the meetings of Christians must have seemed to their contemporaries as a simple variation of this more intimate religious practice. Nevertheless, the differences between pagan and Christian worship are not of slight importance and involved as much the awareness of the participants’ identity as well as the common participation of men and women, the celebration of the “Lord’s Supper” and the reading of the Scriptures.
In conclusion, from this brief review of the cultural environment of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without considering the background, both Jewish as well as pagan, of his time. Thus his figure acquires a historical and ideal depth, revealing shared and original elements of the environment. However, this is also equally true for Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul is a paradigm of the first order, from whom all of us today have much to learn. This is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn the faith from him, to learn from him who Christ is, to learn, in the end, the path for an upright life.
[Translated by ZENIT]
[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Sunday, the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, marked the beginning of a Year dedicated to the figure and teaching of the Apostle Paul. Today’s Audience begins a new series of catecheses aimed at understanding more deeply the thought of Saint Paul and its continuing relevance. Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and consequently a member of a distinct cultural minority in the Roman Empire. At the same time, he spoke Greek, the language of the wider Hellenistic culture, and was a Roman citizen. Paul’s proclamation of the Risen Christ, while grounded in Judaism, was marked by a universalist vision and it was facilitated by his familiarity with three cultures. He was thus able to draw from the spiritual richness of contemporary philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, in his preaching of the Gospel. The crisis of traditional Greco-Roman religion in Paul’s time had also fostered a greater concern for a personal experience of God. As we see from his sermon before the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22ff.), Paul was able to appeal to these currents of thought in his presentation of the Good News. Against this broad cultural background, Paul developed his teaching, which we will explore in the catecheses of this Pauline Year.
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the Pallottine Missionary Sisters, the Columban Missionaries and the Soweto Catholic Church Choir. I also greet the various groups coming from England, Ireland, Norway, the Bahamas, Canada and the United States. May your visit to Rome be a time of deep spiritual renewal. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
Mr Mayor and Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like first of all to express my joy at being in your midst and I greet you all very warmly. I thank the Hon. Raffaele Fitto, Minister for Regional Affairs, who has conveyed the Government’s greeting to me and I thank the Mayor of Brindisi for his fervent words of welcome on behalf of all the citizens, as well as for his kind gift. I greet and thank with affection the young man who spoke on behalf of the youth of Brindisi. I know, dear young people, that you animated the assembly while awaiting my arrival and that you will continue at a prayer vigil, with which you desire to prepare for the Eucharistic celebration tomorrow. I cordially greet Archbishop Rocco Talucci, your Pastor, Archbishop emeritus Settimio Todisco, the priests, the men and women religious and all those present.
Here I am among you, dear friends! I very gladly accepted the invitation of your diocesan community’s Pastor and I am glad to visit this city of yours which, while playing an important role in the context of Southern Italy, is called to project its image beyond the Adriatic Sea to communicate with other cities and other peoples. Actually, Brindisi was once a place from which traders, legionaries, students and pilgrims embarked for the East and it remains a door open on the sea. In recent years, the newspapers and television have shown pictures of refugees from Croatia and from Montenegro, from Albania and from Macedonia who landed in Brindisi. I believe it is only right to remember with gratitude the efforts made, which are still being made, by the Civil and Military Administrations in collaboration with the Church and with various humanitarian organizations to provide shelter and assistance for them despite the financial difficulties which, unfortunately, continue to be a cause of concern particularly to your Region. Your City has been and continues to be generous and this merit was justly recognized by the assignment, in the context of international solidarity, of an authentic institutional role: indeed it hosts the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, run by United Nations’ World Food Programme.
Dear People of Brindisi, this solidarity is part of the virtues which make up your rich civil and religious patrimony: continue with a renewed impetus to build your future together. Among the values that have taken root in your region I would like to recall respect for life and, especially, attachment to the family, today exposed to the converging attacks of numerous forces that seek to undermine it. How necessary and urgent it is, in the face of these challenges too, for all people of good will to strive to safeguard the family, the solid basis on which to build the life of society as a whole! Your society is also founded on the Christian faith which your ancestors considered as one of the elements that qualified the identity of the people of Brindisi. May adherence to the Gospel, consciously renewed and lived with responsibility, spur you today, as in the past, to face the difficulties and challenges of the present time with confidence. May faith encourage you to respond without compromise to your city’s legitimate expectations of the human and social advancement. The new University, called to serve those who are aware of their dignity and tasks and who desire to play an active part in life, cannot fail to make its own contribution to the economic, political, cultural and religious development of the territory. Dear People of Brindisi, so that the culture of solidarity may increase in your City, serve one another, letting yourselves be guided by an authentic spirit of brotherhood. God is with you and will not let you be deprived of the constant support of his grace.
I would now like to address in particular the many young people present. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome, thank you for the fervent sentiments expressed by your representative. Your voices, which find an immediate correspondence in my heart, communicate to me your trusting exuberance and your will to live. I also perceive in them the problems that assail you which sometimes risk stifling the enthusiasm typical of this season of your life. I am aware, in particular, of the burden that weighs upon many of you and upon your future because of the dramatic phenomenon of unemployment which primarily affects the young men and women of Southern Italy. Likewise, I know that your youth is threatened by the demand for easy earnings, by the temptation to seek refuge in artificial paradises or to let yourselves be attracted by distorted forms of material satisfaction. Do not let yourselves be caught in the snares of evil! Rather, seek an existence rich in values in order to give life to a society that is more just and more open to the future. Bring to fruition the gifts with which God has endowed your youth: strength, intelligence, courage, enthusiasm and determination to live. On the basis of these attributes, relying always on divine support, you will be able to nourish hope within you and around you. It is up to you and to your hearts to ensure that progress is transformed into a greater good for all. And the way of good – as you know – has a name: it is called love.
The key to every hope is found in love, solely in authentic love, because love is rooted in God. We read in the Bible: “We know and believe the love God has for us. God is love” (1 Jn 4: 16). And God’s love has the sweet and compassionate Face of Jesus Christ. Here then we have reached the heart of the Christian message: Christ is the response to your questions and problems; in him every honest aspiration of the human being is strengthened. Christ, however, is demanding and shuns half measures. He knows he can count on your generosity and coherence; for this reason he expects a lot of you. Follow him faithfully and, in order to encounter him love his Church, feel responsible, do not avoid being courageous protagonists, each in his own context. Here is a point to which I would like to call your attention: seek to know the Church, to understand and love her, paying attention to the voice of her Pastors. She is made up of human beings, but Christ is her Head and his Spirit firmly guides her. You are the youthful face of the Church so do not fail to make your contribution in order that the Gospel she proclaims may spread everywhere. Be apostles of your peers!
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your welcome. I have read several letters sent to me by young people of your Province. I learned from them, dear friends, to understand your situation better. Thank you for your affection. I assure you and all the people of Brindisi of my prayers that you may witness to the Gospel message of peace and justice. May Mary, Regina Apuliae, protect you and accompany you always. I warmly bless you and wish you all a good night!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My Visit in Apulia, the second after the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, begins as a Marian pilgrimage, on this extreme tip of Italy and Europe, at the Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae. With great joy I address my affectionate greeting to you all. I warmly greet Bishop Vito De Grisantis for having invited me and for his cordial welcome; together with him I greet the other Bishops of the Region, in particular Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi of Lecce, as well as all the priests and deacons, consecrated persons and all the faithful. With gratitude I greet Minister Raffaele Fitto, who is representing the Italian Government, and the various civil and military Authorities present.
In this place, so important historically for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wanted the liturgy to be dedicated to her, Star of the Sea and Star of Hope. “Ave, maris stella, / Dei Mater alma, / atque semper virgo, / felix caeli porta!”. The words of this ancient hymn are a greeting which in some way echoes that of the Angel at Nazareth. All Marian titles, in fact, have as it were budded and blossomed from that first name with which the heavenly messenger addressed the Virgin: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1: 28). We heard it in St Luke’s Gospel, most appropriately because this Shrine – as the memorial tablet above the central door of the atrium attests – is called after the Most Holy Virgin of the “Annunciation”. When God called Mary “full of grace” the hope of salvation for the human race was enkindled: a daughter of our people found grace in the Lord’s eyes, he chose her as Mother of the Redeemer. In the simplicity of Mary’s home, in a poor village of Galilee, the solemn prophecy of salvation began to be fulfilled: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3: 15). Therefore the Christian people have made their own the canticle of praise that the Jews raised to Judith and that just a little while ago we prayed as a Responsorial Psalm: “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth” (Jdt 13: 18). Without violence but with the meek courage of her “yes”, the Virgin freed us, not from an earthly enemy but from the ancient adversary, by giving a human body to the One who was to crush his head once and for all.
This is why Mary shines on the sea of life and history as a Star of Hope. She does not shine with her own light, but reflects the light of Christ, the Sun who appeared on humanity’s horizon so that in following the Star of Mary we can steer ourselves on the journey and keep on the route towards Christ, especially in dark and stormy moments. The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with this experience because he had lived it in the first person. One night, while he was crossing the Sea of Galilee with the other disciples, he was caught in a storm. Their boat, at the mercy of the waves, was unable to sail on. Walking on the waters, Jesus came to them at that very moment and asked Peter to get out of the boat and walk towards him. Peter took a few steps on the waves but then felt himself sinking and cried out: “Lord, save me!”. Jesus grasped him by the hand and he brought him to safety (cf. Mt 14: 24-33). This episode later proved to be a sign of the trial that Peter would have to pass through at the time of Jesus’ Passion. When the Lord was arrested, he was afraid and denied him three times: he was overcome by the storm. But when his eyes met Christ’s gaze, God’s mercy renewed him and, causing him to dissolve in tears, raised him from his fall.
I have wished to recall the story of St Peter because I know that this place and your whole Church have a special link with the Prince of the Apostles. Tradition credits him with the first proclamation of the Gospel in this land, as your Bishop recalled at the outset. The Fisherman “caught” by Jesus cast his nets as far as here and today we give thanks for having been the object of this “miraculous catch” that has lasted 2,000 years, a catch that, exactly as St Peter wrote: “called [us] out of darkness into the marvellous light [of God]” (cf. 1 Pt 2: 9). In order to become fishers of men with Christ one first needs to be “caught” by him. St Peter is a witness of this reality, as also is St Paul, the great convert, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we shall be celebrating in a few days. As Successor of Peter and Bishop of the Church founded on the blood of these two outstanding Apostles, I have come to confirm you in the faith of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of man and of the world.
Peter’s faith and Mary’s faith are combined at this Shrine. Here one can draw from the double principle of the Christian experience: Marian and Petrine. Both, together, help us, dear brothers and sisters, to “start afresh from Christ”, to renew your faith so that it may respond to the demands of our time. Mary teaches you to continue ceaselessly to listen to the Lord in the silence of prayer, to welcome his word with generous openness and the deep desire to offer yourselves, your actual lives, to God so that by the power of the Holy Spirit his eternal Word may “become flesh” once again today, in our history. Mary will help you to follow Jesus faithfully and to unite yourselves to him in the Sacrificial offering, to carry in your hearts the joy of the Resurrection and to live in constant docility to the Spirit of Pentecost. In a complimentary manner St Peter too will teach you to feel and believe with the Church, steadfast in the Catholic faith. He will bring you to have the taste and passion for unity, communion and joy in walking together with your Pastors. And, at the same time, you will participate in the missionary concern to share the Gospel with everyone, to take it to the ends of the earth.
“De finibus terrae”: the name of this holy place is very beautiful and evocative because it re-echoes one of Jesus’ last words to his disciples. Jutting out between Europe and the Mediterranean, between the West and the East, it reminds us that the Church has no boundaries, she is universal. And geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious frontiers are an invitation to the Church to evangelize with a view to “communion in diversity”. The Church was born at Pentecost, she was born universal and her vocation is to speak all the world’s languages. The Church exists, according to her original vocation and mission that were revealed to Abraham, to be a blessing to benefit all the peoples of the earth (cf. Gn 12: 1-3); to be, in the language of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1). The Church in Apulia possesses a marked vocation to be a bridge between peoples and cultures. This land and this Shrine are effectively an “outpost” in this sense and I was very pleased to note, both in your Bishop’s letter and also in his words today, how this sensitivity is alive among you and perceived positively, with a genuine Gospel spirit.
Dear friends, we know well, because the Lord Jesus was very clear about this, that the effectiveness of witness is proportional to the intensity of love. It is pointless reaching out to the ends of the earth if we do not love one another first and help one another within the Christian community. The exhortation of the Apostle Paul, which we listened to in the Second Reading (Col 3: 12-17), is therefore not only fundamental for the life of your ecclesial family but also for your commitment to animate the social milieu. In fact, in a context that is tending increasingly to encourage individualism, the first service of the Church is that of educating in the social sense, in attention for one’s neighbour and in solidarity and sharing. The Church, endowed by her Lord as she is with continuously renewed spiritual energy, can also exercise a positive influence at the social level because she fosters a renewed humanity and open and constructive human relationships, in respect and at the service, in the first place, of the least and of the weakest.
Here in the Salento, as in all of Southern Italy, ecclesial communities are places where the young generations can learn hope, not as a utopia but rather as a tenacious confidence in the power of goodness. Goodness wins through and although at times it can seem to have been defeated by oppression and cunning, in reality it continues to work in silence and discretion, bearing fruit in the long term. This is Christian social renewal, based on the transformation of consciences, on moral formation and on prayer; yes, because prayer gives the strength to believe and to fight for goodness even when humanly it would tempt one to be discouraged and to withdraw. The initiatives your Bishop mentioned at the start, those of the Marcelline Sisters and of the Trinitarian Fathers, as well as others that are being implemented in your territory, are eloquent signs of this typically ecclesial style of human and social promotion. At the same time, making the most of the opportunity of the Civil Authorities’ presence, I am pleased to recall that the Christian community cannot and does not wish to encroach upon the legitimate and rightful domains of the Institutions; rather, it urges and supports them in their tasks and always offers to collaborate with them for the good of all, starting with the most unfavourable and difficult situations.
Lastly, my thoughts return to the Most Holy Virgin. From this Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae I would like to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to the various Marian Shrines in the Salento, true gems set in this peninsula, set like a bridge over the sea. The Marian piety of the populations was formed under the wonderful influence of the Basilian devotion to the Theotokos, a devotion cultivated later by the sons of St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis, and expressed in the most beautiful churches and simple holy chapels that are cared for and preserved as signs of the rich religious and civil heritage of your people. Let us therefore turn once again to you, Virgin Mary, who stood unwavering at the foot of your Son’s Cross. You are a model of faith and hope in the power of truth and goodness. With the words of the ancient hymn we invoke you: “Break the fetters of the oppressed, / give light to the blind, / cast all evil from us, / beseech our every good”. And, extending our gaze to the horizon where heaven and sea meet, we want to entrust to you the peoples who look out on the Mediterranean and those of the whole world, invoking development and peace for all: “Grant us peace in our day, / watch over our way, / grant that we may see your Son, / in the fullness of joy in heaven”. Amen.
1 July 2008
General prayer intention
That there may be an increase in the number of those who, as volunteers, offer their services to the Christian community with generous and prompt availability.
His mission intention
That the World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia, may awaken the fire of divine love in young people and make them sowers of hope for a new humanity.
30 June 2008
Holiness and Fraternal Delegates, Lord Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are gathered before the tomb of Saint Paul, who was born 2,000 years ago in Tarsus of Cilicia, in present-day Turkey. Who was this Paul? In the temple of Jerusalem, before an agitated crowd that wanted to kill him, he introduced himself with these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but educated in this city, instructed at the feet of Gamaliel in the exact observance of the Law of our fathers; I was full of zeal for God.” At the end of his journey he would say of himself: “I have been made a herald and apostle, teacher of the Gentiles in the faith and in the truth.”
Teacher of the Gentiles, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ, thus he characterized himself in a retrospective look over his life. However, he did not look only to the past. “Teacher of the Gentiles” — this word opens to the future, which we recall with veneration. He is, also for us, our teacher, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we have come together not to reflect on a past history, irrevocably surpassed. Paul wants to speak with us today. That is why I wanted to convoke this special “Pauline year”: to listen to him and to drink from him, as our teacher, in the faith and truth, in which are rooted the reasons for unity among the disciples of Christ. In this perspective, I wished to light — for this bimillenary of the apostle’s birth — a special “Pauline Flame,” which will remain lit during the whole year, in a special niche placed in the portico of the basilica. To solemnize this event, I have also opened the so-named Pauline Door, through which I entered the basilica accompanied by the patriarch of Constantinople, the cardinal archpriest and other religious authorities.
For me it is a motive of profound joy that the opening of the Pauline year assumes a special ecumenical character, given the presence of numerous delegates and representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities, which I welcome with an open heart. I greet first of all His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I and the members of the delegation accompanying him, as well as the large group of laymen from several parts of the world who have come to Rome to participate in these moments of prayer and reflection with him and all of us. I greet the fraternal delegates of the Churches that have a special bond with the Apostle Paul — Jerusalem, Antioch, Cyprus and Greece — that form part of the geographic environment of the apostle’s life before his arrival in Rome. I cordially greet the brothers of the different Churches and ecclesial communities of the East and West, together with all of you I have wished to take part in this solemn opening of the year dedicated to the Apostles of the Gentiles.
We are gathered, therefore, to questions ourselves about the great apostle of the Gentiles. Not only do we ask ourselves, “Who was Paul?” Above all, we ask ourselves “Who is Paul?” “What is he saying to me?” At this hour of the beginning of the Pauline year that we are inaugurating, I would like to choose three texts from the rich testimony of the New Testament, in which [Paul's] inner physiognomy appears, that which is specific about his character.
In the Letter to the Galatians, he has given us a very personal profession of faith, in which he opens his heart to the readers of all times and reveals what is the most profound source of his life: “I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.” All that Paul does starts from this center. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a totally personal way; it is awareness of the fact that Christ faced death not for something anonymous, but for love of him, of Paul, and that, risen, Christ still loves him, has given himself for him. His faith is having been captured by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that affects him in his innermost being and transforms him. His faith is not a theory, an option about God or the world. His faith is the impact of the love of God on his heart. So, this faith itself is love of Jesus Christ.
For many, Paul appears as a combative man who knows how to use the sword of the word. Indeed, in his path as apostle, there was no lack of disputes. He did not seek a superficial harmony. In his first letter dedicated to the Thessalonians, he himself says: “We had the courage in our God to declare to you the Gospel of God in face of great opposition. … For we never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed.” The truth was too great for him to be ready to sacrifice it in view of an external success. The truth he had experienced in his encounter with the Risen One merited for him struggle, persecution, and suffering. However, what motivated him in the depth of his being was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit this love to others. Paul was someone able to love, and all his work and suffering is explained from this center.
The concepts underlying his proclamation can only be understood on the basis of this. Let us take only one of his key words: freedom. The experience of being loved to the end by Christ opened his eyes about truth and the path of human existence; that experience embraced everything. Paul was free as a man loved by God that, in virtue of God, was able to love together with him. This love is now the “law” of his life and, precisely thus, was the freedom of his life. He speaks and acts, moved by the responsibility of love; he is free, and given that he is one who loves, he lives totally in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as a pretext for pleasure and egoism. He who loves Christ as Paul loved him, can truly do what he wills, because his love is united to the will of Christ and, therefore, to the will of God, because his will is anchored in truth and because his will is no longer simply his will, arbiter of his autonomous I, but is integrated in the freedom of God and from it receives the path to follow.
In the search for Saint Paul’s inner physiognomy, I would like, in the second place, to recall the word that the Risen Christ spoke to him on the road to Damascus. Earlier the Lord asked him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” And he received the reply: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” By persecuting the Church, Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. “You are persecuting me.”
Jesus identifies himself with the Church in a single subject. In this exclamation of the Risen One – which transformed Saul’s life – is contained the whole doctrine of the Church as Body of Christ. Christ did not return to Heaven, leaving a handful of followers to carry his cause forward. The Church is not an association that wishes to promote a certain cause. It is not about a cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ, who also as Risen remained “flesh.” He has flesh and bones,” affirms the Risen One in Luke, in face of the disciples who thought he was a ghost. He has a body. He is personally present in the Church. “Head and Body” form a single subject, said Augustine. “‘Know you not that your bodies are members of Christ?’ wrote Paul to the Corinthians, and he adds: ‘That, according to the Book of Genesis, man and woman become one flesh?’”
So Christ becomes one spirit with his own, one subject in the new world of the resurrection. In all this, the Eucharistic mystery is visualized, in which Christ constantly gives his Body and makes of us one Body: “Is not the bread we break communion with the body of Christ? Because, though being many, we are only one bread and one body, as we all share in one bread.”
He addresses us with these words, at this moment, not just Paul but the Lord himself: “How were you able to lacerate my Body?” Before the face of Christ, this question becomes at the same time an urgent appeal: Bring us together again from all our divisions. Make this again a reality today: There is only one bread; therefore, we, despite being many, are only one body.
For Paul the word Church as Body of Christ is not just any analogy. It goes far beyond a comparison. “Why do you persecute me?”
Christ attracts us continually to his Body, he builds his Body from the Eucharistic center, which for Paul is the center of Christian existence, in virtue of which all, as well as each individual can experience in a totally personal way: “He has loved me and given himself up for me.”
I would like to conclude with a later word of Saint Paul, an exhortation to Timothy from prison, in face of death. “Endure with me sufferings for the Gospel,” said the apostle to his disciple. This sentence, which is at the end of the roads travelled by the apostle as a testament, leads us back to the beginning of his mission. While, after his encounter with the Risen One, the blind Paul was in his room in Damascus, Ananias received the order to go where the feared persecutor was and lay his hands on him, so that he would recover his sight.
To Ananias’ objection that this Saul was a dangerous persecutor of Christians, this answer was given: “This man must take my name to the Gentiles, to kings and to the children of Israel. I will show him all he will have to suffer for my name.”
The task of proclamation and the call to suffering for Christ are inseparably together. The call to be teacher of the Gentiles is at the same time and intrinsically a call to suffering in communion with Christ, who has redeemed us through his passion. In a world in which lying is powerful, truth is paid for with suffering. He who wishes to avoid suffering, to keep it far from himself, will have pushed away life itself and its grandeur; he cannot be a servant of truth and thus a servant of faith. There is no love without suffering, without the suffering of denying ourselves, of the transformation and purification of the “I” for true freedom.
Wherever there is nothing worth suffering for, life itself also loses its value. The Eucharist – center of our Christian being – is based on the sacrifice of Jesus for us; it was born from the suffering of the love that found its culmination on the cross. We live from this love that gives itself. This gives us the courage and strength to suffer with Christ and for him, thus knowing that precisely in this way our life becomes great, mature and true.
In the light of all of Saint Paul’s letters we see how on his journey as teacher of the Gentiles, the prophecy of Ananias was fulfilled at the hour of the calling: “I will show him all that he will have to suffer for my name.” His suffering makes him credible as teacher of truth, which does not seek its own benefit, its own glory or personal pleasure, but is committed to him who loved us and gave himself up for all of us.
At this hour in which we thank the Lord for having called Paul, making him the light of the Gentiles and teacher of us all, we pray: Give us also today the testimony of the Resurrection, touched by your love, and [make us] able to carry the light of the Gospel in our time. Saint Paul, pray for us. Amen.
With profound and sincere joy I greet you and the distinguished party accompanying you, and I am pleased to do so with the words expressed in the Second Letter of Saint Peter: “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2:1-2).
The celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome, as well as that of Saint Andrew, patron of the Church of Constantinople, offer us annually the possibility of an exchange of visits, which are always important occasions for fraternal conversations and common moments of prayer. Thus reciprocal personal knowledge grows; initiatives are harmonized and hope increases, which animates everything, to be able to attain full unity soon, in obedience to the Lord’s mandate.
This year, here in Rome, to the patronal feast is added the joyful occasion of the opening of the Pauline Year, which I wanted to call to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of Saint Paul, in the hope of promoting an ever more profound reflection on the theological and spiritual heritage left to the Church by the Apostle to the Gentiles, with his vast and profound work of evangelization.
I learned with pleasure that Your Holiness has also called a Pauline Year. This happy coincidence highlights the roots of our shared Christian vocation and the significant harmony of feelings and pastoral commitment we are experiencing. For this I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, who guides our path to unity with the strength of His Spirit.
Saint Paul reminds us that full communion between all Christians has its foundation in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). May the common faith, the one baptism for the remission of sins and obedience to the one Lord and Savior, be able to express themselves fully as soon as possible in the communal and ecclesial dimension.
“Only one body and one Spirit,” affirms the Apostle to the Gentiles, and adds: “As only one is the hope to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:4). Saint Paul indicates to us, moreover, a sure way to maintain unity and, in the case of division, to repair it.
The decree on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, has taken up the Pauline indication and proposes it again in the context of the ecumenical commitment, making reference to the weighty and always current words of the Letter to the Ephesians: “I exhort you, therefore, I who am a prisoner of the Lord, to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the vocation you have received, with all humility, meekness and patience, enduring events with love, seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:1-3).
To the Corinthians, among whom discord had arisen, Saint Paul does not hesitate to address a strong call for them all to remain in agreement, for there to be no divisions among them, and for them to unite in the same mind and purpose (cfr1 Corinthians 1:10).
In our world, in which the phenomenon of globalization is being consolidated, yet, despite this, persistent divisions and conflicts continue, men and women feel a growing need for certainty and peace. However, at the same time, they remain lost, as if ensnared by a certain form of hedonist and relativist culture which casts doubt upon the very existence of truth.
The apostle’s guidance in this matter is extremely helpful in encouraging efforts aimed at seeking full unity among Christians, which is so necessary in order to offer mankind of the third millennium an ever more resplendent witness of Christ, way, truth and life. Only in Christ and in his Gospel can humanity find the answer to its deepest hopes.
May the Pauline Year, which will begin solemnly this evening, help Christian people renew the ecumenical commitment, and may there be an intensification of joint efforts on the journey to the full communion of all Christ’s disciples. And as part of that journey, your presence here today is certainly an encouraging sign. For this I express again to all of you my joy, while together we raise our grateful prayer to the Lord.
30 June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul occurs on a Sunday, thus, the whole Church, and not only the Church of Rome, celebrates it in a solemn way.
This coincidence is also propitious insofar as it further highlights an extraordinary event: the Pauline Year, which I officially opened last night at the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and which will last until 29 June 2009.
Historians in fact situate the birth of Saul — who later became Paul — about 7 to 10 years after Christ’s. Thus, after the passage of about 2,000 years, I wanted to call this special jubilee, which will naturally have Rome as its center, especially the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the place of martyrdom at Tre Fontane.
But it will involve the whole Church, beginning with Tarsus, Paul’s city of birth, and the other Pauline places in present day Turkey and the Holy Land, which are pilgrimage destinations, as well as the island of Malta, where the apostle came after a shipwreck and sowed the fruitful seed of the Gospel.
In reality, the horizon of the Pauline Year cannot but be universal because Saint Paul was, par excellence, the apostle of those who, in regard to the Jews, were “distant,” and who, “thanks to the blood of Christ,” were drawn “near” (Ephesians 2:13). For this reason, today too, in a world that has become “small,” but where many have not yet met the Lord Jesus, the jubilee of Saint Paul invites all Christians to be missionaries of the Gospel.
This missionary dimension must always be accompanied by that of unity, represented by Saint Peter, the “rock” on which Jesus Christ built his Church. As is underscored by the liturgy, the charisms of the two great apostles are complementary in building up the one people of God and Christians cannot offer a valid witness to Christ if they are not united.
The theme of unity is highlighted today by the traditional rite of the pallium, which I bestowed upon the metropolitan archbishops who were named this past year. There are 40, and two others will receive the pallium in their Sees. Again I greet them too.
Today’s solemnity is further a special cause of joy for the Bishop of Rome inasmuch as he welcomes the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the dear person of His Holiness Bartholomew I, to whom I renew my fraternal greeting, extending it to the entire delegation of the Orthodox Church that he leads.
The Pauline Year, evangelization, communion in the Church and full unity among Christians: Let us now pray for these great intentions, entrusting them to the celestial intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles.
Your Holiness and fraternal Delegates, Lord Cardinals, Venerable brothers in the episcopate and priesthood, Dear brothers and sisters,
From the earliest times, the Church of Rome has celebrated the solemnity of the great apostles Peter and Paul as a single feast on the same day, June 29. Through their martyrdom, they became brothers; together, they are the founders of the new Christian Rome. They are sung of as such in the hymn of the second vespers, which goes back to Paulinus of Aquileia (+806): “O Roma felix — Oh happy Rome, adorned with the crimson of the precious blood of such great princes, you surpass every beauty of the world, not by your own merit, but trough the merit of the saints whom you have killed with bloody sword”. The blood of martyrs does not call for revenge — but reconciles. It does not present itself as an accusation but as a “golden light,” according to the words of the hymn of the first vespers. It presents itself as the power of love which overcomes hate and violence, founding, in this way, a new city, a new community.
By their martyrdom, they — Peter and Paul — are now part of Rome. Through martyrdom, even Peter became a Roman citizen forever. Through their martyrdom, through their faith and their love, the two apostles show us where true hope lies, and are the founders of a new kind of city, which must again and again form itself in the midst of the old city of man, which continues to be threatened by the opposing forces of the sin and egotism of men.
By virtue of their martyrdom, Peter and Paul are in reciprocal relationship forever. A favorite image of Christian iconography is the embrace of the two apostles on the way to martyrdom. We can say that their martyrdom itself, in its deepest reality, is the realization of a fraternal embrace. They die for the one Christ and, in the witness for which they give their lives, they are one. In the writings of the New Testament, we can, so to speak, follow the development of their embrace, this unity in witness and in mission.
Everything starts when Paul, three years after his conversion, goes to Jerusalem “to consult Cephas” (Galatians 1:18). Fourteen years later, he again goes up to Jerusalem to explain “to the most esteemed persons” the Gospel that he preaches in order so that he might not run the risk of “running, or having run, in vain” (Galatians 2:1f). At the end of this meeting, James, Cephas and John give him their right hands, thus confirming the communion that unites them in the one Gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal 2:9). A beautiful sign of this growing interior embrace, which develops despite the difference in temperaments and in tasks, I find in the fact that the co-workers mentioned at the end of the First Letter of St. Peter — Silvanus and Mark — were equally close co-workers of St. Paul. This having of the same co-workers makes the communion of the one Church, the embrace of the great apostles, visible in a very concrete way.
Peter and Paul met each other at least twice in Jerusalem; at the end their paths take them to Rome. Why? Was this perhaps more than just pure chance? Is there perhaps a lasting message in it? Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner, but at the same time as a Roman citizen who, after his arrest in Jerusalem, as a Roman citizen appealed to the emperor, to whose tribunal he was brought. But in a more profound sense, Paul came to Rome voluntarily. Through the most important of his letters, he had already drawn close to this city interiorly: to the Church in Rome, he had addressed the writing which, more than any other, is the synthesis of his whole proclamation and his faith. In the opening salutation of the letter, he says that the whole world speaks of the faith of the Christians of Rome and that this faith, therefore, was known everywhere as exemplary (Romans 1:8). And then he writes: “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I often planned to come to you, though I was prevented until now” (1:13). At the end of the letter he comes back to this theme, now speaking of a plan to travel to Spain. “When I go to Spain I hope to see you when I pass through and to be helped by you on my way to that region, after having enjoyed your presence for a little while” (15:24). “And I know that, having come to you, I shall come in the fullness of Christ’s blessing” (15:29). There are two things made evident here: Rome is for Paul a stage on the way to Spain, that is — according to his conception of the world — towards the extreme end of the earth. He considers his mission to be the fulfillment of the task received from Christ, the bringing of the Gospel to the very ends of the world. Rome is along this route. While Paul usually only goes to places where the Gospel had not yet been announced, Rome is an exception. There he finds a Church whose faith the world speaks about. Going to Rome is part of the universality of his mission as one sent to all peoples. The way to Rome, which, already before his external trip, he had traveled interiorly with his letter, is an integral part of his task of bringing the Gospel to all peoples — of founding the Church, catholic and universal. Going to Rome is for him the expression of his mission’s catholicity. Rome must make the faith visible to the whole world, it must be the meeting place in the one faith.
But why did Peter go to Rome? About this the New Testament does not say anything directly. But it gives us some indication. The Gospel of St. Mark, which we may consider a reflection of the preaching of St. Peter, is intimately oriented towards the moment when the Roman centurion, facing the death of Christ on the cross, says, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15:39). At the cross the mystery of Jesus Christ is revealed. Beneath the Cross the Church of the gentiles is born: the centurion of the Roman execution squad recognizes the Son of God in Christ. The Acts of the Apostles describe the episode of Cornelius, the centurion of the Italic cohort, as a decisive stage for the entrance of the Gospel into the pagan world. Following a command of God, he sends someone to get Peter, and Peter, also following a divine order, goes to the centurion’s house and preaches. While he is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on the gathered domestic community and Peter says: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?” (Acts 10:47).
Thus, in the Council of the Apostles, Peter becomes the intercessor for the Church of the pagans who do not need the Law because God “has purified their hearts with faith” (Acts 15:9). Certainly, in the Letter to the Galatians, Paul says that God gave strength to Peter for the apostolic ministry among the circumcised, and to Paul himself, the ministry among the pagans instead (Gal 2:8). But this assignment could be in force only as long as Peter remained with the 12 in Jerusalem in the hope that all of Israel would adhere to Christ. In the face of later developments, the 12 recognized the time in which they too must go forth into the world to announce the Gospel to it. Peter who, following divine order, had been the first to open the door to pagans, now leaves the leadership of the Christian-Jewish Church to James the Less, in order to dedicate himself to his true mission: to the ministry of the unity of the one Church of God made up of Jews as well as pagans. The desire of Paul to go to Rome highlights above all, as we have seen, the word “catholica” ["catholic"] among the characteristics of the Church.
St. Peter’s journey to Rome, as representative of the peoples of the world, is above all associated with the word “una” ["one"]: he has the task of creating the “unity” of the “catholica,” of the Church made up of Jews and pagans, the Church of all peoples. And this is the permanent mission of Peter: to make sure that the Church never identifies herself with any one nation, any one culture or any one state. That it may always be the Church of all. That it may unite mankind beyond every frontier and, amidst the divisions of this world, make God’s peace present, the reconciling power of his love. Due to technology that is now the same everywhere, due to the global information network, and due also to the linking of common interests, there are new modes of unity in the world, which have caused the explosion of new oppositions and given new impetus to old ones. In the midst of this external unity, based on material things, we have all the more need of interior unity which comes from the peace of God – the unity of all those who, through Jesus Christ, have become brothers and sisters. This is the permanent mission of Peter, as well as the special task entrusted to the Church of Rome.
Dear confreres in the Episcopate! I wish now to address those of you who have come to Rome to receive the pallium as the symbol of your rank and your responsibility as archbishops in the Church of Jesus Christ. The pallium is woven from the wool of the sheep that the Bishop of Rome blesses every year on the Feast of Peter’s Chair, thus setting them apart, so to speak, to be a symbol for the flock of Christ, over which you preside.
When we put the pallium on our shoulders, this gesture reminds us of the Shepherd who puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders — the lost sheep who by himself can no longer find the way home — and takes him back to the sheepfold. The Fathers of the Church saw in this sheep the image of all mankind, of human nature in its entirety, which is lost its and can no longer find the way home. The Shepherd who takes the sheep home can only be the Logos, the eternal Word of God himself. In the Incarnation, he placed us all — the sheep who is man — on his shoulders. He, the eternal Word, the true Shepherd of mankind, carries us; in his humanity he carries each of us on his shoulders. On the way of the Cross, he carried us home, he takes us home. But he also wants men who can “carry” together with him. Being a shepherd in the Church of Christ means taking part in this task, which the pallium commemorates. When we put it on, he asks us: “Will you also carry, together with me, those who belong to me? Will you bring them to me, to Jesus Christ?” What comes to mind next is the order Peter received from the Risen Christ, who links the command, “Feed my sheep” inseparably with the question, “Do you love me? Do you love me more than others do?” Every time we put on the pallium of the shepherd of Christ’s flock, we should hear this question, “Do you love me?” and we must ask ourselves about that “more” of love that he expects from the shepherd.
Thus the pallium becomes a symbol of our love for the Shepherd Christ and our loving together with him — it becomes the symbol of the calling to love men as he does, together with him: those who are searching, those who have questions, those who are self-assured and the humble, the simple and the great; it becomes the symbol of the calling to love all of them with the strength of Christ and in view of Christ, so that they may find him, and in him, find themselves. But the pallium which you will receive “from” the tomb of Peter has yet another meaning, inseparably connected with the first. To understand this, a word from the First Letter of St. Peter may help us. In his exhortation to priests to feed the flock in the correct way, St. Peter calls himself a “synpresbýteros” — co-priest (5:1). This formula implicitly contains the affirmation of the principle of apostolic succession: the shepherds who follow are shepherds like him; together with him, they belong to the common ministry of the shepherds of the Church of Jesus Christ, a ministry that continues in them. But this “co-” (in co-priest) has still two other meanings. It also expresses the reality that we indicate today by what is said today about the “collegiality” of bishops. We are all “co-priests.” No one is a shepherd by himself. We are in the succession of the apostles thanks only to being in the communion of the college in which the college of apostles finds its continuation. The communion — the “we” — of the shepherds is part of being shepherds, because there is only one flock, the one Church of Jesus Christ. Finally, this “co-” also refers to communion with Peter and his successor as a guarantee of unity. Thus, the pallium speaks to us of the catholicity of the Church, of the universal communion of shepherd and flock. And it refers us to apostolicity: to communion with the faith of the apostles on which the Church is founded. It speaks to us of the “ecclesia” that is “una,” “catholica,” “apostolic,” and naturally, binding us to Christ, it speaks to us of the fact that the Church is “sancta” us that the Church is holy, and that our work is a service of this holiness.
This brings me back, finally, to St. Paul and his mission. He expressed the essence of his mission, as well as the most profound reason for his desire to go to Rome, in Chapter 15 of the Letter to the Romans, in an extraordinarily beautiful passage. He knows he has been called “to be a ‘leitourgos’ of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles, serving the Gospel of God as a priest, so that the pagans become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the holy Spirit” (15:16). Only in this passage does Paul use the word “hierourgein” — serving as a priest — together with “leitourgos” — liturgist: he speaks of the cosmic liturgy, in which the world of men itself must become worship of God, an offering in the Holy Spirit. When the whole world will have become the liturgy of God, when in its reality it will have become adoration, then it will have reached its goal, then it will be whole and saved. And this is the ultimate objective of St. Paul’s apostolic mission and of ours. It is to such a mystery that the Lord calls us. Let us pray in this hour that he may help us carry it out in the right way, to become true liturgists of Jesus Christ. Amen.
27 June 2008
Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood, Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I am very happy to receive you and to offer each of you my cordial welcome. I address it in the first place and especially to you, dear Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whom today I wish to publicly thank, at the end of your long service as vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. I already had the occasion a few days ago to express my sentiments to you with a letter, in which I recalled the many aspects of such a long and appreciated ministry, begun in January 1991, when the Servant of God John Paul II called you to succeed Cardinal Ugo Poletti. Now I have the opportunity to renew to you the expression of my gratitude before the auxiliary bishops, prefects, parish priests, and the other representatives of the Diocese of Rome.
The closing years of last century, and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time, and all the more so for people who, such as us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor. He led the people of God through the historic finish of the year 2000 and, through the Great Jubilee, introducing it in the third millennium of the Christian era.
Collaborating closely with him, we were “drawn along” by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with his Most Holy Mother. John Paul II’s missionary charisma had, as it should, a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000.
And this was directly evident in the Diocese of Rome, the Pope’s own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators. As an example of this, I will limit myself to recall Rome’s Citizens’ Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral. These were manifestations of a Church which, at the very moment in which it was gaining a greater awareness of its own diocesan identity and assuming progressively its physiognomy, opened itself decisively to a missionary mentality and a style consistent with it, a mentality and style destined to last not just the length of a season, but, as was often confirmed, to become permanent.
This, venerable brother, is a particularly important aspect, for which I wish to give you merit, to the extent that, as president of the episcopal conference, you promoted and cared for it, not only here in Rome, but also at the level of the entire Italian nation.
Solicitude for the mission was always accompanied and backed up by an outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection, which you manifested and exercised since your youthful years. The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions, which otherwise lapse into sterile activism.
And you, Cardinal, offered in this respect an outstanding contribution, putting at the service of the Holy Father, of the Holy See and of the whole Church your well-noted gifts of intelligence and wisdom. I witnessed this myself in my previous office, and even more so in these last years, in which I have been able to make use of your closeness in serving the Church in Italy, and particularly in Rome. I am pleased to recall in this respect our collaboration on the topics of diocesan ecclesial meetings, called to respond to the most urgent pastoral questions, while taking into account the social and cultural context of the city.
We all know that the “cultural project” is a special initiative of the Italian Church due to the zeal and farsightedness of Cardinal Ruini, but this expression, “cultural project,” requires more attention generally and radically to the Church’s place in society; in other words, the desire of the Christian community — responding to the mission of its Lord — to be present among men and women, and in history, with a plan for mankind, family and social relationships, inspired by the Word of God and expressed through dialogue with the culture of the time.
In this, dear cardinal, you have given an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to “thinking the faith” in absolute conformity to the magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society.
While I express my gratitude to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, I am happy to communicate that, in his place, as vicar for the Diocese of Rome, I have appointed Cardinal Agostino Vallini, until now Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature. I greet you with great affection and welcome you in the new office. I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great Archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality. At the same time I have appointed you archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University.
Dear cardinal, from today my prayer for you will be particularly intense, so that the Lord will grant you all the graces necessary in this new office. I encourage you to express fully your pastoral zeal and wish you a serene and profitable ministry, in which — I am sure — you will be able to count on the constant and generous collaboration of the auxiliary bishops and priests, religious and laity that work in the Vicariate of Rome. I take advantage also of this happy circumstance, dear brothers and sisters, to express to all of you, who work in the central offices of the diocese, my heartfelt gratitude and my encouragement to do always better, for the good of the Church that is in Rome.
Dear cardinals, may God fill you with an abundance of his gifts. Recompense him who retires and sustain him who takes his place. May he multiply in all thanksgiving for his infinite goodness and always grant each one the joy of serving Christ by working humbly for his Church. May the Virgin Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” watch over us from heaven and accompany us. Invoking her intercession, I impart from my heart to all of you here present and to the entire city of Rome the apostolic blessing.
My dear Brother Bishops,
Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30). With these words I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to you. I thank His Eminence Cardinal Zen for the kind words of filial devotion which he expressed on your behalf. Please be assured of my personal affection and my prayers for you and for all who have been entrusted to your pastoral care. I am thinking at this moment of the priests, the religious men and women and all the lay faithful of your two diocesan communities. This Ad Limina Apostolorum visit is an occasion to renew your commitment to make Jesus ever more visible in the Church and better known in society by bearing witness to his love and the truth of his Gospel.
As I wrote in my letter of 27 May 2007 to the Catholic Church in China, referring to the invitation Duc in altum (cf. Lk 5:4) which Jesus offered to Peter, to his brother Andrew and to the first disciples, “these words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Heb 13:8)” (cf. No. 3). Your two particular Churches are also called to be witnesses to Christ, to look forward in hope and to announce the Gospel facing up to the new challenges that the people of Hong Kong and Macao must embrace.
The Lord has given every man and woman the right to hear the proclamation that Jesus Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Corresponding to this right is the duty to evangelize: “For I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16; cf Rom 10:14). All of the Church’s activities are oriented towards evangelization and may not be separated from the commitment to assist everyone to encounter Christ in faith, which is the primary aim of evangelization: “Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little” (Benedict XVI Homily during Holy Mass at Munich’s Neue Messe Esplanade [10 September 2006] AAS 98  710).
The Church’s mission is taking place today in the context of globalization. I observed recently that the forces generated by globalization hold humanity suspended between two poles. On the one hand are the many social and cultural bonds which tend to promote attitudes of world-wide solidarity and shared responsibility for the good of mankind. On the other hand, there are worrying signs of fragmentation and individualism dominated by secularism which pushes the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipses the very source of harmony and unity of the universe. The negative aspects of this cultural phenomenon draw attention to the need for a solid formation and call for concentrated efforts aimed at supporting the spiritual and moral ethos of your people.
I am aware that in both Dioceses, just as in the rest of the Church, an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is needed. Hence the invitation extended to you as Bishops who are responsible for your ecclesial communities, to give special attention to young priests confronted with new pastoral challenges arising from the task of evangelizing a society as complex as today’s. Ongoing formation of the clergy “is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom the priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that ‘new evangelization’ which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the Second Millennium” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis [25 March 1992], 70: AAS  78). Your pastoral solicitude should embrace especially all consecrated men and women, called to render visible in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient.
Dear Brothers, as you know, Catholic schools offer an important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations. This crucial aspect of personal growth is what motivates Catholic parents, and those from other religious traditions, to seek out Catholic schools. In this regard I wish to send greetings to all the men and women who offer generous service to the Catholic schools of both Dioceses. They are called to be “witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world” and to posses “the courage of witnessing and the patience of dialogue” serving “human dignity, the harmony of creation, the existence of peoples and peace” (Consecrated Persons and their mission in schools, 1-2). It is therefore of great importance to be close to students and to their families, to watch over the formation of the young in the light of Gospel teaching and to follow closely the spiritual needs of all who form part of the school community. The Catholic schools of your two dioceses have given significant impulse to the social development and cultural growth of your people. Today these educational centres face new difficulties; be assured that I am with you, and I encourage you to ensure that this important service will never fall by the wayside.
In your mission as Pastors, draw confidence from the Paraclete who defends, counsels and protects (cf. Jn 14:16)! Encourage the faithful to welcome all to which the Spirit gives birth! I have recalled on different occasions that ecclesial movements and new communities are a “luminous sign of the beauty of Christ and of the Church his Bride” (cf. Message to the Participants in the Congress of 22 May 2006). Addressing them as my “dear friends of the movements”, I encouraged them to act so that they would always be “schools of communion, journeying together and learning the truth and the love that Jesus has revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the great family of his disciples” (ibid.). I exhort you to support the movements with great love because they are one of the most important new realities fostered by the Spirit in the Church in order to put into practice the Second Vatican Council (cf. Address to the participants of a Seminar promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity [17 May 2008]). I pray too that the movements themselves will make every effort to harmonize their activities with the pastoral and spiritual programmes of the Dioceses.
I am personally grateful to you for the affection and devotion you have shown to the Holy See in different ways. As I congratulate you on the many achievements of your well organized Diocesan communities, I encourage you to even greater commitment in the search for adequate means of presenting the Christian message of love in a more comprehensible way to the world in which you live. By doing so you will effectively show to all your brothers and sisters the enduring youthfulness and inexhaustible capacity for renewal of the Gospel of Christ, and bear witness to the fact that one can be authentically Catholic and authentically Chinese at the same time.
I also encourage your Dioceses to continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China, both by offering personnel for formation purposes and by supporting initiatives in the field of human promotion and assistance. In this regard I cannot but recognize the invaluable service which the charitable organization Caritas of both Dioceses has offered to the needy with such generosity and professionalism. We must never forget however that Christ is also for China a Teacher, Pastor and loving Redeemer. The Church must never allow this good news to remain unspoken.
I hope and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your Brother Bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church. I willingly avail myself of the occasion to send to the Catholic community of China and to all the people of that vast country the assurance of my prayers and my affection.
25 June 2008
Today I would like to present the figure of one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church of later times. He is a monk, Saint Maximus, who merited from Christian tradition the title of Confessor because of the intrepid courage with which he was able to give witness — “to confess” — even while suffering, the integrity of his faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Savior of the world
Maximus was born in Palestine, the Lord’s land, around 580. From his boyhood he was directed to the monastic life and to the study of Scripture, also through the works of Origen, the great teacher who already in the third century had already managed to define the Alexandrian exegetic tradition.
From Jerusalem, Maximus went to Constantinople, and from there, because of the barbarian invasions, he sought refuge in Africa. Here he distinguished himself with extreme courage in the defense of Orthodoxy. Maximus did not accept any attempt to minimize the humanity of Christ. The theory had arisen according to which Christ had only one will, the divine. To defend the uniqueness of his person, they denied he had a true human will.
At first glance, it might appear to be something good that in Christ there was only one will. However, St. Maximus understood immediately that this would have destroyed the mystery of salvation, because a humanity without will — a man without a will — is not a true man, but rather an amputated man. Therefore, the man Jesus Christ would not have been a true man, would not have experienced the drama of the human being, which consists precisely in the difficulty of conforming our will with the truth of being.
Thus Saint Maximus affirmed with great determination: Sacred Scripture does not show us an amputated man, without a will, but a true complete man: God, in Jesus Christ, has truly assumed the totality of the human being — obviously except for sin — hence, also, a human will. Stated that way, the question was clear: Christ is either a true man or not.
However, the problem arises: Does not one end in this way in a sort of dualism? Is not one faced with affirming two complete personalities with reason, will, sentiment? How can this dualism be overcome? How can the completeness of the human being be preserved while protecting the unity of the person of Christ, who was not schizophrenic?
Saint Maximus demonstrates that man finds his unity, the integration of himself, his totality not in himself, but in surpassing himself, by coming out of himself. Thus, also in Christ, man, coming out of himself, finds in God, in the Son of God, himself.
Man must not “amputate” the human Christ to explain the Incarnation. One must only understand the dynamism of the human being who is fulfilled only by coming out of himself. Only in God do we find ourselves, our totality and our completeness.
Thus we see that it is not the man who is closed in on himself who is complete the man, but it is the man who opens himself, who comes out of himself — it is he who becomes complete, who finds himself in the Son of God, he finds in him his true humanity.
For Saint Maximus this vision does not remain a philosophical speculation. He sees it realized in the concrete life of Jesus, above all in the drama of Gethsemane.
In this drama of Jesus’ agony, of anguish and death, of the opposition between the human will not to die and the divine will that offers itself to death, in this drama of Gethsemane the whole human drama is realized, the drama of our redemption. Saint Maximus tells us, and we know that this is true: Adam — and Adam is us — thought that the “no” was the apex of liberty; that only he who can say “no” is truly free; that to truly realize his liberty, man must say “no” to God.
Only in this way, he thinks, he is finally himself; he has arrived at the summit of liberty. This tendency was also present in Christ’s human nature, but he overcame it, because Jesus saw that “no” is not the greatest liberty. The greatest liberty is to say “yes,” to conform with the will of God. Only in saying “yes” does man really become himself. Only in the great opening of the “yes,” in the unification of his will with the divine will, does man become immensely open, he becomes “divine.”
To be like God was Adam’s desire, namely, to be completely free. However, he is not divine, the man who is closed in on himself is not completely free. He is so by coming out of himself, it is in the “yes” that he becomes free. And this is the drama of Gethsemane: not my will but yours.
Transferring one’s will to the divine will, that is how a true man is born. That is how we are redeemed.
This, in a few words, is the fundamental point of what St. Maximus wished to say, and we see that here the whole human being is questioned; here is the whole question of our life.
Saint Maximus already had problems in Africa defending this vision of man and of God; then he was called to Rome. In 649 he took an active part in the Lateran Council, called by Pope Martin I to defend the two wills of Christ, against the emperor’s edict, which — pro bono pacis — prohibited the discussion of this question.
Pope Martin paid dearly for his courage: Although he was in poor health, he was arrested and taken to Constantinople. Prosecuted and condemned to death, his sentence was commuted to final exile in Crimea, where he died on Sept. 16, 655, after two long years of humiliation and torments.
Not long after, in 662, it was Maximus’ turn who — also opposing the emperor — continued to repeat: “It is impossible to affirm only one will in Christ!” (cfr PG 91, cc. 268-269).
Thus, together with two of his disciples, both called Anastasius, Maximus was subjected to an extenuating prosecution, though he was already older than 80 years of age. The emperor’s tribunal condemned him, accused of heresy, to the cruel mutilation of his tongue and right hand — the two organs with which, through words and writing, Maximus had combated the erroneous doctrine of the one will of Christ.
In the end, the holy monk, thus mutilated, was exiled in Colchide, on the Black Sea, where he died, exhausted by the sufferings undergone, at the age of 82, on Aug. 13 of the same year, 662.
Speaking of the life of Maximus, we referred to his literary work in defense of orthodoxy. We are referred in particular to the dispute with Pirro, then patriarch of Constantinople, in which Maximus succeeded in persuading the adversary of his errors. With great honesty, in fact, Pirro concluded the dispute thus: “I apologize for myself and for those who preceded me. Through ignorance we arrived at these absurd thoughts and arguments. I pray that the way will be found to cancel these absurdities, rescuing the memory of those who erred” (PG 91, c. 352).
There were then added some dozen important works, outstanding among which is the “Mistagoghia,” one of Saint Maximus’ most significant writings, which brings together his theological thought in a well-structured synthesis. Saint Maximus’ thought was never only theological, speculative, closed in on itself, because he always had as his compass the concrete reality of the world and of its salvation. In this context, in which had to suffer, he could not evade the question with solely theoretical philosophical affirmations. He had to seek the meaning of life, asking himself: who am I? What is the world?
To man, created in his image and likeness, God has entrusted the mission to unify the cosmos. And as Christ has unified the human being in himself, so the Creator has unified the cosmos in man. He has shown us how to unify the cosmos in communion with Christ and thus truly arrive at a redeemed world.
One of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Hans Urs von Balthasar, referred to this powerful saving vision when, in “re-launching” the figure of Maximus, he defined his thinking as the representative expression of “cosmic liturgy.”
At the center of this solemn liturgy Jesus Christ always remains, the only Savior of the world. The efficacy of his salvific action, which has definitively unified the cosmos, is guaranteed by the fact that he, though being God in everything, is also integrally man — with the “energy” and the will of man.
The life and thought of Maximus remain powerfully illumined by an immense courage in witnessing to the integral reality of Christ, without any reduction or compromise. And so we see who is truly man, how we must live to respond to our vocation. We must live united to God, and thus be united to ourselves and the cosmos, giving the cosmos itself and humanity their just form.
Christ’s universal “yes” shows us with clarity how to give the right place to all the other values. We are thinking of values justly defended today, such as tolerance, liberty and dialogue. However, a tolerance that is no longer able to distinguish between good and evil would become chaotic and self-destructive. So, moreover, would a liberty that does not respect the freedom of others and does not find the common measure of our respective liberties, it would become anarchic and destroy authority. Dialogue that no longer knows what to dialogue about becomes empty chatter.
All these values are great and fundamental, but they can remain true values only if they have the point of reference that unites them and gives them true authenticity. This point of reference is the synthesis between God and the cosmos, and the figure of Christ in which we learn the truth about ourselves and so learn where to place all the other values, because we discover their genuine meaning.
Jesus Christ is the point of reference that gives light to all the other values. This is the end point of the testimony of this great Confessor. And thus, in the end, Christ shows us that the cosmos must become liturgy, glory of God and that adoration is the beginning of the true transformation, of the true renewal of the world.
Because of this, I would like to conclude with a fundamental passage from St. Maximus’ works: “We adore the only Son, together with the Father and teh Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and for all times, and the times after time. Amen.” (PG 91, c. 269).
[After the audience, the Pope greeted those present in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Maximus the Confessor, a heroic defender of the Church’s faith in the true humanity of Christ amid the bitter theological controversies of the seventh century. Born in Palestine, Maximus became a monk and lived in Constantinople, Roman Africa and Rome itself. In his preaching and writings he defended the mystery of the Incarnation and opposed the Monothelite heresy, which refused to acknowledge the presence of an integral human will in Jesus Christ. Maximus clearly understood that our salvation depends on Christ’s complete humanity, which necessarily includes a human will capable of freely cooperating with the divine will in achieving the work of our redemption. The salvation of man, and indeed the entire cosmos, is central to the theology of Saint Maximus. Through the Incarnation of the Son of God, the whole universe is now redeemed and unified. Christ is thus the one absolute Value, to whom all wordly values are directed. This vision of a “cosmic liturgy,” centered on the Incarnate Lord, ought to inspire the efforts of Christians today to make our world conform ever more fully to its ultimate meaning and goal in God’s saving plan.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a warm welcome, together with the assurance of my closeness in prayer, to the group of pilgrims from the International Foundation for the Service of Deaf Persons. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden, Pakistan and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
[In Italian, he said:]
I offer a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the group of the Little Mission for the Deaf and Mute and the Penitentiary Complex of Sollicciano. Dear friends, I thank you for your visit and I invoke on each of you continuous divine assistance for a fruitful journey of fidelity to the Gospel.
With great affection I now greet the large group of the Orione family, joyfully gathered around the Vicar of Christ to celebrate the Pope’s feast. The inauguration of the statue of your founder “will constitute for all his spiritual children a renewed stimulus to continue along the path indicated by Saint Luigi Orione, especially in bringing to Peter’s Successor — as he himself said — ‘the small, the humble, the poor workers, and the rejects of life who are most dear to Christ, and the real treasures of the Church of Jesus Christ.’”
Finally, I greet young people, the sick, and newlyweds. On Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. May the example and constant protection of these pillars of the Church, sustain you, dear young people, in the effort to follow Christ; help you, dear sick, to live your situation with patience and serenity; and drive you, dear newlyweds, to give witness in your family life and in society to courageous adherence to the Gospel teachings.
To the Most Reverend
President of the Catholic Biblical Federation
“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:14-15). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I am pleased to greet the delegates and all those attending the Seventh General Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation taking place in Dar-es-Salaam from 24 June to 3 July 2008, dedicated to the theme: Word of God — Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. The General Assembly is always a privileged opportunity for the members of the Catholic Biblical Federation to listen together to the word of God and renew their service to the Church, called to proclaim the gospel of peace.
The fact that your meeting is being held in Dar-es-Salaam is an important gesture of solidarity with the Church in Africa, more so in view of next year’s special Synod for Africa. “The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (“Gaudium et Spes,” 4). The message you bring to Dar-es-Salaam is clearly a message of love of the Bible and love of Africa. The theme of your General Assembly draws attention to how God’s word can restore humanity in reconciliation, justice and peace. This is the word of life that the Church has to offer to a broken world. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:19-20). May the African Continent set the context for the lectio divina which will assist you in these days and may your efforts help the Church in Africa to “pursue its evangelizing mission, in order to bring the peoples of the Continent to the Lord, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded [cf. Mt 28:20]” (cf. “Ecclesia in Africa,” 6).
Christianity is the Religion of the Word of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living” (Saint Bernard, S. Missus est 4, 11 PL 183, 86). It is only Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, who through the Holy Spirit, can open our minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:15, Catechism, 108). I warmly encourage you therefore not only to continue to make known the profound relevance of the Scriptures to the contemporary experience of Catholics and particularly to the younger generations, but also to lead them to interpret them from the central perspective of Christ and his Paschal mystery. The community of believers can be the leaven of reconciliation, but only if “she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus” (Homily, Solemnity of Pentecost, 11 May 2008). In this regard, I wish to make my own a reflection from the Servant of God, Pope John Paul ii, who observed: “How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). Let this observation also find its way into your undertakings these days. May your hearts be guided always by the Holy Spirit in the unifying power of the word of God.
All Christians are called to imitate the openness of Mary who received the Word of God “in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world” (Lumen Gentium, 53). May the peoples of Africa receive this Word as the life-giving source of reconciliation and justice, and especially of the true peace that comes only from the Risen Lord. Commending to the same Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, all those gathered for this General Assembly, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
23 June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
While you are gathered for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, I am happy to join you through the medium of satellite and thus unite myself to your prayer. I would like first of all to greet the Lord Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, and the Lord Cardinal Jozef Tomko, special envoy for the congress, as well as all the cardinals and bishops present. I also address my cordial greetings to the personalities of civil society who decided to take part in the liturgy. My affectionate thought goes to the priests, deacons and all the faithful present, as well as to all Catholics of Quebec, of the whole of Canada and of other continents. I do not forget that your country celebrates this year the 400th anniversary of its foundation. It is an occasion for each one of you to recall the values that animated the pioneers and missionaries in your country.
“The Eucharist, gift of God for the Life of the World,” this is the theme chosen for this latest International Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the sacrament par excellence; it introduces us early into eternal life; it contains the whole mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and of the life of the Church, as the Second Vatican Council recalled (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” No. 8).
It is, therefore, particularly important that pastors and faithful dedicate themselves permanently to furthering their knowledge of this great sacrament. Each one will thus be able to affirm his faith and fulfill ever better his mission in the Church and in the world, recalling that there is a fruitfulness of the Eucharist in his personal life, in the life of the Church and of the world. The Spirit of truth gives witness in your hearts; you also must give witness to Christ before men, as the antiphon states in the alleluia of this Mass. Participation in the Eucharist, then, does not distance us from our contemporaries; on the contrary, because it is the expression par excellence of the love of God, it calls us to be involved with all our brothers to address the present challenges and to make the planet a place where it is good to live.
To accomplish this, it is necessary to struggle ceaselessly so that every person will be respected from his conception until his natural death; that our rich societies welcome the poorest and allow them their dignity; that all persons be able to find nourishment and enable their families to live; that peace and justice may shine in all continents. These are some of the challenges that must mobilize all our contemporaries and for which Christians must draw their strength in the Eucharistic mystery.
“The Mystery of Faith”: this is what we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council’s text on the Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery. I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it. I urge priests especially to give due honor to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church’s treasure.
Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament — by this we mean deepening our communion, preparing for it and prolonging it — is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church. It is by receiving the Body of Christ that we receive the strength “of unity with God and with one another” (Saint Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, 11:11; cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 577).
We must never forget that the Church is built around Christ and that, as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Albert the Great have all said, following Saint Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17), the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church’s unity, because we all form one single body of which the Lord is the head. We must go back again and again to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where we were given a pledge of the mystery of our redemption on the Cross. The Last Supper is the locus of the nascent Church, the womb containing the Church of every age. In the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice is constantly renewed, Pentecost is constantly renewed. May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honor Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God.
I would also like to invite the pastors and faithful to a renewed care in their preparation for reception of the Eucharist. Despite our weakness and our sin, Christ wills to make his dwelling in us, asking him for healing. To bring this about, we must do everything that is in our power to receive him with a pure heart, ceaselessly rediscovering, through the sacrament of penance, the purity that sin has stained, “putting our soul and our voice in accord,” according to the invitation of the Council (cf. “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” No.11). In fact, sin, especially grave sin, is opposed to the action of Eucharistic grace in us. However, those who cannot go to communion because of their situation, will find nevertheless in a communion of desire and in participation in the Mass saving strength and efficacy.
The Eucharist had an altogether special place in the lives of saints. Let us thank God for the history of holiness of Quebec and Canada, which contributed to the missionary life of the Church. Your country honors especially its Canadian martyrs, Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions, who were able to give up their lives for Christ, thus uniting themselves to his sacrifice on the Cross.
They belong to the generation of men and women who founded and developed the Church of Canada, with Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite d’Youville, Marie of the Incarnation, Marie-Catherine of Saint Augustine, Mgr Francis of Laval, founder of the first diocese in North America, Dina Belanger and Kateri Tekakwitha. Put yourselves in their school; like them, be without fear; God accompanies you and protects you; make of each day an offering to the glory of God the Father and take your part in the building of the world, remembering with pride your religious heritage and its social and cultural brilliance, and taking care to spread around you the moral and spiritual values that come to us from the Lord.
The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. It is a mystery of covenant. “The prayers and the rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice make the whole history of salvation revive ceaselessly before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle, and make us penetrate ever more its significance” (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, [Edith Stein], Wege zur inneren Stille Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of covenant by conforming our life increasingly every day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as Vatican Council II reminds: “Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree ” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” No. 7). In a certain way, it is a “heavenly liturgy,” anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ, until he comes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).
In order that the People of God never lack ministers to give them the Body of Christ, we must ask the Lord to make the gift of new priests to his Church. I also invite you to transmit the call to the priesthood to young men, so that they will accept with joy and without fear to respond to Christ. They will not be disappointed. May families be the primordial place and the cradle of vocations.
Before ending, it is with joy that I announce to you the meeting of the next International Eucharistic Congress. It will be held in Dublin, in Ireland, in 2012. I ask the Lord to make each one of you discover the depth and grandeur of the mystery of faith. May Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit, invoked over the bread and wine, accompany you on your daily way and in your mission. May you, in the image of the Virgin Mary, be open to the work of God in you. Entrusting you to the intercession of Our Lady, of Saint Anne, patroness of Quebec, and of all the saints of your land, I impart to all of you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, as well as to all the persons present, who have come from different countries of the world.
Dear friends, as this significant event in the life of the Church draws to a conclusion I invite you all to join me in praying for the success of the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2012 in the city of Dublin! I take this opportunity to greet warmly the people of Ireland, as they prepare to host this ecclesial gathering. I am confident that they, together with all the participants at the next Congress, will find it a source of lasting spiritual renewal.
23 June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us on the one hand “not to be afraid of men” and on the other hand to “fear” God (cf. Matthew 10:26, 28). We are thus moved to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God.
Fear is a natural part of life. From the time we are children we experience forms of fear that are revealed to be imaginary or that disappear. There are other fears that follow them that have a precise basis in reality: These must be faced and overcome by human effort and confidence in God. But there is also — and today above all — a more profound form of fear of an existential type that sometimes overflows into anxiety: It is born from a sense of emptiness that is linked to a culture that is permeated by a widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.
In the face of the ample and diversified panorama of human fears, the word of God is clear: He who “fears” the Lord is “not afraid.” The fear of God, which the Scriptures define as the “beginning of true wisdom,” coincides with faith in God, with the sacred respect for his authority over life and the world. Being “without the fear of God” is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, feeling ourselves to be masters of good and evil, of life and death.
But he who fears God feels interiorly the security of a child in the arms of his mother (cf. Psalm 130:2): He who fears God is calm even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed to us, is a Father who is full of mercy and goodness. He who loves God is not afraid: “In love there is no fear,” writes the Apostle John. “Perfect love,” he goes on, “casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment and whoever is afraid is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
The believer, therefore, is not afraid of anything, because he knows that he is in the hands of God, he knows that evil is irrational and does not have the last word, and that Christ alone is the Lord of the world and life, the Incarnate Word of God, he knows that Christ loved us to the point of sacrificing himself, dying on the cross for our salvation.
The more we grow in this intimacy with God, impregnated with love, the more easily we will defeat every kind of fear. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus exhorts us twice not to be afraid. He reassures us as he did the apostles, as he did St. Paul, appearing to him is a vision one night in a particularly difficult moment in his preaching: “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to him, “for I am with you” (Acts 18:9). Strengthened by Christ’s presence and comforted by his love, the Apostle of the Gentiles did not even fear martyrdom.
We are preparing to celebrate the bimillennium of St. Paul’s birth with a special jubilee year. May this great spiritual and pastoral event awaken in us, too, a renewed confidence in Jesus Christ, who calls us to announce and witness to his Gospel without being afraid of anything.
I invite you, then, dear brothers and sisters, to prepare yourselves to celebrate with faith this Pauline Year, which, if it may please God, I will solemnly open next Saturday evening at 6 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, with the first vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. From this moment we entrust this great ecclesial initiative to the intercession of St. Paul and Mary most holy, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of Christ, source of our joy and our peace.
[Following the Angelus the Pope made the following remarks:]
With great emotion I learned this morning of the ferry that was capsized in the typhoon that has raged in the Philippines. As I assure the people of these islands who have suffered from Typhoon Fengshen of my spiritual nearness, I offer a prayer to the Lord for the victims of this new tragedy at sea in which many children also seem to have been involved.
Today in Beirut, capital of Lebanon, Yaaqub da Ghazir Haddad, whose name in the world was Khalil, a priest of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon, was beatified. Felicitations to his spiritual daughters. I hope with all my heart that the intercession of Blessed Abuna Yaaqub, joined with that of the saints of Lebanon, will obtain for that beloved and martyred country, which has suffered too much, progress toward a stable peace.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[The Holy Father also greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are personally loved by our heavenly Father, whose providence watches over us and frees us from all fear. May these consoling words strengthen us in our witness to the joy and hope proclaimed by the Gospel! Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Pakistan, as you make your quinquennial pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Grateful to Archbishop Saldanha for his kind words, I convey warm greetings to the priests, religious and laity of your dioceses, assuring them of my prayers for their well-being. May they never tire in giving thanks for having received the “first fruits” of the Holy Spirit, who is always with them to strengthen them and to intercede on their behalf (cf. Rom 8:23-27).
The seeds of the Gospel, sown in your region by zealous missionaries in the sixteenth century, continue to grow despite conditions that sometimes hinder their capacity to take root. Your visit to the See of Peter not only provides me with an opportunity to rejoice with you over the fruits of your labours, but to listen to your account of the hardships which you and your flock must endure for the sake of the Lord’s name. Whenever we courageously shoulder the burdens placed upon us in circumstances often beyond our control, we encounter Jesus himself, who gives us a hope that surpasses the sufferings of the present because it transforms us from within (cf. Spe Salvi, 4).
Your priests, united by a special bond to Christ the Good Shepherd, are heralds of Christian hope as they proclaim that Jesus lives among his people to ease their anguish and strengthen them in their weakness (cf. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 75). I would ask you to assure your clergy of my spiritual closeness to them as they carry out this task. Just as the Lord continually gave to his Apostles signs of his love and solicitude for them, so should you strive to create a climate of affection and trust with your clergy who are your principal and irreplaceable co-workers. By looking upon you as a father and brother (cf. Pastores Gregis, 47) and hearing your words of encouragement for their pastoral initiatives, they will be inspired to unite their will to yours and dedicate themselves more completely to the spiritual good of God’s people (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14-15).
The centrality of the Eucharist, both through the worthy celebration of the Lord’s Supper and in silent adoration of the Sacrament, should be especially apparent in the lives of priests and Bishops. This will lead the laity to follow your example and come to a deeper appreciation for the Lord’s abiding presence among them. As Bishops, you are the chief stewards of the mysteries of God and the main promoters of the liturgical life of your local Churches (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 22). In this regard, I am pleased to note the various programmes you have initiated to raise awareness of the radical change that becomes possible when Christians allow their entire life to take on a “eucharistic form” (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 70-83). The source and summit of the Church’s life radically reorients the way Christians think, speak and act in the world and makes present the salvific meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, thus renewing history and vivifying all creation. The breaking of the bread reminds us again and again that the absurdity of violence never has the last word, for Christ has conquered sin and death through his glorious resurrection. The holy Sacrifice assures us that his wounds are the remedy for our sins, his weakness the power of God within us, and his death our life (cf. 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 13:4; 2 Cor 4:10). I am confident that the daily offering of the Mass by you and your priests will lead your people to give constant thanks and praise to God the Father for the graces granted us in his Son, through whom we have received the Spirit of filial adoption (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1110).
Eucharistic spirituality embraces every aspect of the Christian life (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 77). This is evident in the emerging vitality of ecclesial movements within your Dioceses. The charisms of these associations both reflect and meet the particular needs of our time. By exhorting the members of these movements and all the faithful to listen attentively to the word of God and to cultivate a habit of daily prayer, may your people foster genuine fellowship and create ever expanding networks of charitable solicitude for their neighbours.
My dear brothers, I join you in thanking God who calls forth men to serve as priests in your local Churches. The theologate in Karachi, the programme of philosophy in Lahore and your minor seminaries are vital institutions for the future of the Church in Pakistan. Never doubt that your investment of human and material resources will ensure a solid formation for your candidates for the priesthood. Generous collaborators are also to be found among members of religious orders who can help to enhance programmes of priestly formation and strengthen bonds of cooperation between religious and diocesan clergy. Of particular urgency at the present time is the task of preparing these men – and indeed all catechists and lay leaders – to become effective promoters of interreligious dialogue. They share a responsibility with all Christians in Pakistan to foster understanding and trust with members of other religions by constructing peaceful forums for open conversation.
Likewise, other Catholic institutions continue to serve the common good of the Pakistani people. They demonstrate that the love of Christ is no mere abstraction, but reaches out to every man and woman as it passes through real persons working in the Church’s charitable institutions. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus cannot be loved in the abstract (cf. Mt 25:31-37). Those who serve in Catholic hospitals, schools, social and charitable agencies respond to the concrete needs of others, knowing well that they are ministering to the Lord himself through their particular acts of charity (cf. Mt 25:40). I encourage you to build on the noble example of service to neighbour etched in the history of these institutions. Priests, religious and the lay faithful in your Dioceses, by caring for the sick, helping young people grow in knowledge and virtue, and meeting the needs of the poor, reveal the human face of God’s love for each and every person. May their encounter with the living Christ awaken in their hearts a desire to share with others the joy of living in God’s presence (cf. Ps 73:25, 28). In imitation of Saint Paul, may they freely give to others what they themselves have received without cost (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 2 Cor 11:7; Mt 10:8).
My brothers in the Episcopate, you exercise a special mission as preachers of the Gospel and as agents of love and peace in the Church and in society. May you support one another in prayer and effective collaboration as you face the difficult tasks that lie ahead. Invoking upon you and your priests, religious and lay faithful the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.