Audiences 2005-2013 12046
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Tomorrow begins the Easter Triduum, the fulcrum of the entire liturgical year. With the help of the sacred rites of Holy Thursday, of Good Friday and of the solemn Easter Vigil, we will relive the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. These are fitting days for reawakening within us a deeper desire to adhere to Christ and to follow him generously, aware that he loved us to the point of giving his life for us.
Indeed, what are the events that the Sacred Triduum presents to us anew, other than the sublime manifestation of God's love for man? Let us therefore prepare to celebrate the Easter Triduum by accepting St Augustine's exhortation: "Consider now with attention these three most sacred days... of the Lord's Crucifixion, rest in the grave and Resurrection. Of these three, that of which the Cross is the symbol is the business of our present life: those things which are symbolized by his rest in the grave and his Resurrection we hold by faith and hope" (Letter 55, 14, 24).
The Triduum of Easter begins tomorrow, Holy Thursday, with the evening Mass, "in Cena Domini", although in the morning another important liturgical celebration is usually held, the Chrism Mass, during which the entire presbyterate of every Diocese, gathered round the Bishop, renews the priestly promises and participates in the blessing of the oils of the catechumens, of the sick and of the Chrism, and we will do this too, here in St Peter's tomorrow morning.
In addition to the institution of the Priesthood, the total offering that Christ made of himself to humanity in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is commemorated on this holy day.
As Holy Scripture records, on that same night on which he was betrayed, he left us the "new commandment" - "mandatum novum" - of brotherly love with the touching gesture of the washing of the feet, which is reminiscent of the humble service of slaves. This unique day, which calls to mind great mysteries, ends with Eucharistic Adoration, in memory of the agony of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the grip of profound anguish, the Gospel relates, Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him: "Remain here, and watch with me" (Mt 26,38), but the disciples fell asleep. Still today, the Lord says to us: "Remain here, and watch with me"; and we realize that we too, disciples of today, are frequently dozing. For Jesus, that was the hour of abandonment and loneliness, followed by his arrest in the heart of the night and the beginning of the painful journey to Calvary.
Good Friday is focused on the mystery of the Passion. It is a day of fasting and penance, completely oriented to contemplation of Christ on the Cross. In churches, the Passion Narrative is proclaimed and the words of the Prophet Zechariah ring out: "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19,37). And on Good Friday we too desire to truly turn our gaze to the pierced heart of the Redeemer, in which, St Paul writes, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2,3), indeed, "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2,9).
As a result, the Apostle can affirm that he wants nothing except "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1Co 2,2). It is true: the Cross shows "the breadth and length and height and depth" - the cosmic dimensions is the meaning - of a love that surpasses all knowledge, a love that goes beyond what is known and fills us "with all the fullness of God" (Ep 3,18-19). In the mystery of the Crucified One "is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form" (Deus Caritas est ).
The Cross of Christ, Pope St Leo the Great wrote in the fifth century, "is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces" (Discourse 8 on the Passion of the Lord, 6-8; PL 54, 340-342).
On Holy Saturday the Church, spiritually united with Mary, remains in prayer at the tomb, where the Body of the Son of God is lying inert as it were in a condition of repose after the creative work of redemption brought about with his death (cf. He 4,1-13).
Late at night the solemn Easter Vigil will begin, during which the joyful singing of the Gloria and Easter Alleluia will well up from the hearts of the newly baptized and the entire Christian community, rejoicing because Christ is risen and has conquered death.
Dear brothers and sisters, for a fruitful celebration of Easter, the Church asks the faithful in these days to receive the Sacrament of Penance, which is like a sort of death and resurrection for each one of us. In the ancient Christian community, the Bishop presided at the Rite of the Reconciliation of Penitents on Holy Thursday. Historical conditions have certainly changed, but preparing oneself for Easter with a good confession continues to be an action to make the most of, because it offers us the possibility of giving our life a fresh start and of truly having a new beginning in the joy of the Risen One and in the communion of the forgiveness that he gives us.
Aware that we are sinners but trusting in divine mercy, let us be reconciled by Christ, to enjoy more intensely the joy that he communicates with his Resurrection. The forgiveness which Christ gives to us in the Sacrament of Penance is a source of interior and exterior peace and makes us apostles of peace in a world where divisions, suffering and the tragedies of injustice, hatred and violence and the inability to be reconciled to one another in order to start again with a sincere pardon, unfortunately continue.
However, we know that evil does not have the last word, because it was the Crucified and Risen Christ who overcame it, and his triumph is expressed with the power of merciful love. His Resurrection gives us this certainty: despite all the darkness that exists in the world, evil does not have the last word. Sustained by this certainty, we will be able, with greater courage and enthusiasm, to commit ourselves to work for the birth of a more just world.
I wholeheartedly formulate this wish for you, dear brothers and sisters, as I express the hope that you will prepare yourselves with faith and devotion for the Easter festivities that are now at hand. May you be accompanied by Mary Most Holy, who, after following her divine Son in the hour of the Passion and the Cross, shared in the joy of his Resurrection.
To special groups:
I warmly welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present, including the pupils and staff from De Lisle Catholic College. May your Holy Week pilgrimage be a time of great spiritual encouragement and renewal. I invoke an abundance of God's Blessings upon you and your families, and I wish everyone a happy and holy Easter!
Lastly, I offer a cordial greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.Dear friends, prepare your hearts to celebrate the Easter Mystery with deep participation, to draw from contemplation of the death and Resurrection of Christ, the light that enables you to walk faithfully in the Redeemer's footsteps. In this regard I wish you all a good Holy Week and a Holy Easter.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of today's General Audience which is taking place in the joyful atmosphere of Easter, I would like to thank the Lord together with you. After calling me, exactly a year ago, to serve the Church as the Successor of the Apostle Peter - thank you for your joy, thank you for your applause - he never fails to assist me with his indispensable help.
How quickly time passes! A year has already elapsed since the Cardinals gathered in Conclave and, in a way I found absolutely unexpected and surprising, desired to choose my poor self to succeed the late and beloved Servant of God, the great Pope John Paul II. I remember with emotion my first impact with the faithful gathered in this same Square, from the central Loggia of the Basilica, immediately after my election.
That meeting is still impressed upon my mind and heart. It was followed by many others that have given me an opportunity to experience the deep truth of my words at the solemn concelebration with which I formally began to exercise my Petrine ministry: "I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 27 April 2005, p. 2).
And I feel more and more that alone I could not carry out this task, this mission. But I also feel that you are carrying it with me: thus, I am in a great communion and together we can go ahead with the Lord's mission. The heavenly protection of God and of the saints is an irreplaceable support to me and I am comforted by your closeness, dear friends, who do not let me do without the gift of your indulgence and your love. I offer very warm thanks to all those who in various ways support me from close at hand or follow me from afar in spirit with their affection and their prayers. I ask each one to continue to support me, praying to God to grant that I may be a gentle and firm Pastor of his Church.
The Evangelist John says that precisely after his Resurrection Jesus called Peter to tend his flock (cf. Jn 21,15). Who could have humanly imagined then the development which was to mark that small group of the Lord's disciples down the centuries?
Peter, together with the Apostles and then their successors, first in Jerusalem and later to the very ends of the earth, courageously spread the Gospel message, whose fundamental and indispensable core consists in the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, the death and the Resurrection of Christ.
The Church celebrates this mystery at Easter, extending its joyous resonance in the days that follow; she sings the alleluia for Christ's triumph over evil and death.
The celebration of Easter in accordance with a date on the calendar, Pope St Leo the Great remarked, reminds us of the eternal feast that surpasses all human time. Today's Easter, he noted further, is the shadow of the future Easter. For this reason we celebrate it, to move on from an annual celebration to a celebration that will last for ever.
The joy of these days extends throughout the liturgical year and is renewed especially on Sunday, the day dedicated to the memory of the Lord's Resurrection. On Sunday, as it were, the "little Easter" of every week, the liturgical assembly gathered for Holy Mass proclaims in the Creed that Jesus rose on the third day, adding that we wait for "the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come".
This shows that the event of Jesus' death and Resurrection constitutes the centre of our faith and that it is on this proclamation that the Church is founded and develops.
St Augustine recalled incisively: "Let us consider, dear friends, the Resurrection of Christ: indeed, just as his Passion stood for our old life, his Resurrection is a sacrament of new life.... You have believed, you have been baptized; the old life is dead, killed on the Cross, buried in Baptism. The old life in which you lived is buried: the new life emerges. Live well: live life in such a way that when death comes you will not die (Sermo Guelferb. 9, 3).
I The Gospel accounts that mention the appearances of the Risen One usually end with the invitation to overcome every uncertainty, to confront the event with the Scriptures, to proclaim that Jesus, beyond death, is alive for ever, a source of new life for all who believe in him.
This is what happened, for example, in the case of Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20,11-18), who found the tomb open and empty and immediately feared that the body of the Lord had been taken away. The Lord then called her by name and at that point a deep change took place within her: her distress and bewilderment were transformed into joy and enthusiasm. She promptly went to the Apostles and announced to them: "I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20,18).
Behold: those who meet the Risen Jesus are inwardly transformed; it is impossible "to see" the Risen One without "believing" in him. Let us pray that he will call each one of us by name and thus convert us, opening us to the "vision" of faith.
Faith is born from the personal encounter with the Risen Christ and becomes an impulse of courage and freedom that makes one cry to the world: "Jesus is risen and alive for ever".
This is the mission of the Lord's disciples in every epoch and also in our time: "If, then, you have been raised with Christ", St Paul exhorts us, "seek the things that are above.... Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3,1-2). This does not mean cutting oneself off from one's daily commitments, neglecting earthly realities; rather, it means reviving every human activity with a supernatural breath, it means making ourselves joyful proclaimers and witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ, living for eternity (cf. Jn 20,25 Lc 24,33-34).
Dear brothers and sisters, in the Pasch of his Only-begotten Son, God fully revealed himself, his victorious power over the forces of death, the power of Trinitarian Love. May the Virgin Mary, who was closely associated with the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Son and at the foot of the Cross became the Mother of all believers, help us to understand this mystery of love that changes hearts and makes us experience fully the joy of Easter, so that we in turn may be able to communicate it to the men and women of the third millennium.
To special groups
I offer a warm welcome to the newly-ordained deacons of the Pontifical Irish College and their families. I also greet the pilgrims from the Diocese of Kerry. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.
My thoughts now go to the sick and to the newly-weds. For you, dear sick people, may the Resurrection of Christ be an inexhaustible source of comfort and hope. And you, dear newly-weds, may you be witnesses of the Risen Lord with your faithful conjugal love.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for your affection! In the new series of catecheses, recently begun, we are seeking to understand the original plan of the Church which the Lord desired, in order to understand better our place, our Christian life, in the great communion of the Church.
So far we have understood that ecclesial communion is inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit and preserved and promoted by the apostolic ministry. And this communion, which we call "Church", does not only extend to all believers in a specific historical period, but also embraces all the epochs and all the generations. Thus, we have a twofold universality: a synchronic universality - we are united with believers in every part of the world - and also a so-called diachronic universality, that is: all the epochs belong to us, and all the believers of the past and of the future form with us a single great communion.
The Holy Spirit appears to us as the guarantor of the active presence of the mystery in history, the One who ensures its realization down the centuries. Thanks to the Paraclete, it will always be possible for subsequent generations to have the same experience of the Risen One that was lived by the apostolic community at the origin of the Church, since it is passed on and actualized in the faith, worship and communion of the People of God, on pilgrimage through time.
And so it is that we today, in the Easter Season, are living the encounter with the Risen One not only as something of the past, but in the present communion of the faith, liturgy and life of the Church. The Church's apostolic Tradition consists in this transmission of the goods of salvation which, through the power of the Spirit makes the Christian community the permanent actualization of the original communion.
It is called "original" because it was born of the witness of the Apostles and of the community of the disciples at the time of the origins. It was passed on under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament writings and in the sacramental life, in the life of the faith, and the Church continuously refers to it - to this Tradition, which is the whole, ever up-to-date reality of Jesus' gift - as her foundation and her law, through the uninterrupted succession of the apostolic ministry.
In his historical life furthermore, Jesus limited his mission to the house of Israel, but already made it clear that the gift was not only destined for the People of Israel but to everyone in the world and to every epoch.
The Risen One then explicitly entrusted to the Apostles (cf. Lc 6,13) the task of making disciples of all the nations, guaranteeing his presence and help to the end of the age (cf. Mt 28,19 ff.).
The universalism of salvation, moreover, requires that the Easter memorial be celebrated in history without interruption until Christ's glorious return (cf. 1Co 11,26). Who will bring about the saving presence of the Lord Jesus through the ministry of the Apostles - heads of the eschatological Israel (cf. Mt 19,28) - and through the whole life of the people of the New Covenant? The answer is clear: the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles - in continuity with the pattern of Luke's Gospel - show vividly the interpenetration between the Spirit, those sent out by Christ and the community they have gathered.
Thanks to the action of the Paraclete, the Apostles and their successors can realize in time the mission received from the Risen One. "You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lc 24,48 ff.).
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Ac 1,8). And this promise, which at first seems incredible, already came true in the Apostles' time: "And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him" (Ac 5,32).
So it is the Spirit himself, who through the laying on of hands and prayers of the Apostles, consecrates and sends out new Gospel missionaries (as, for example, in Ac 13,3 ff. and 1Tm 4,14). It is interesting to observe that whereas in some passages it says that Paul appointed elders in every Church (cf. Ac 14,23), elsewhere it says that it is the Spirit who has made them guardians of the flock (cf. Ac 20,28).
The action of the Spirit and the action of Paul thus are deeply interwoven. At the time of solemn decisions for the life of the Church, the Spirit is present to guide her. This guiding presence of the Holy Spirit was particularly acutely felt in the Council of Jerusalem, in whose conclusive words resound the affirmation: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Ac 15,28); the Church grows and walks "in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit" (Ac 9,31). This permanent actualization of the active presence of the Lord Jesus in his People, brought about by the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church through the apostolic ministry and fraternal communion is what, in a theological sense, is meant by the term "Tradition": it is not merely the material transmission of what was given at the beginning to the Apostles, but the effective presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus who accompanies and guides in the Spirit the community he has gathered together.
Tradition is the communion of the faithful around their legitimate Pastors down through history, a communion that the Holy Spirit nurtures, assuring the connection between the experience of the apostolic faith, lived in the original community of the disciples, and the actual experience of Christ in his Church.
In other words, Tradition is the practical continuity of the Church, the holy Temple of God the Father, built on the foundation of the Apostles and held together by the cornerstone, Christ, through the life-giving action of the Spirit: "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Ep 2,19-22).
Thanks to Tradition, guaranteed by the ministry of the Apostles and by their successors, the water of life that flowed from Christ's side and his saving blood reach the women and men of all times. Thus, Tradition is the permanent presence of the Saviour who comes to meet us, to redeem us and to sanctify us in the Spirit, through the ministry of his Church, to the glory of the Father.
Concluding and summing up, we can therefore say that Tradition is not the transmission of things or words, a collection of dead things. Tradition is the living river that links us to the origins, the living river in which the origins are ever present, the great river that leads us to the gates of eternity. And since this is so, in this living river the words of the Lord that we heard on the reader's lips to start with are ceaselessly brought about: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).
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To special groups
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present, including the pupils and staff from Holy Faith Convent School in Dublin. May your Easter pilgrimage be a time of deep spiritual renewal. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of God's blessings of peace and joy!
While we are still in the joyful atmosphere of Easter, I would like to address an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. I exhort you, dear young people, especially you students from the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, led by your Pastor, Bishop Salvatore Boccaccio, to follow faithfully in Christ's footsteps. Dear sick people, I invite each one of you to accept with faith the sufferings and trials of life, glimpsing in them mysterious manifestations of divine love. Dear newly-weds, I hope that you will live marriage as a gift and a daily process of maturation, for yourselves personally and for the family, so that you may become generous servants of the Gospel. I thank you all!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In these Catecheses we wish to understand a little more what the Church is. The last time we meditated on the theme of Apostolic Tradition. We saw that it is not a collection of things or words, like a box of dead things. Tradition is the river of new life that flows from the origins, from Christ down to us, and makes us participate in God's history with humanity.
This topic of Tradition is so important that I would like to reflect upon it again today: indeed, it is of great importance for the life of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council pointed out in this regard that Tradition is primarily apostolic in its origins: "God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.
Therefore, Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the Most High God is summed up (cf. 2Co 1,20; and 2Co 3,16-4,6), commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel... and communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline" (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum DV 7).
The Council noted further that this was faithfully done "by the Apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit" (ibid.).
The Council adds that there were "other men associated with the Apostles, who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing" (ibid.).
As heads of the eschatological Israel, and likewise as Twelve, the number of the tribes of the Chosen People, the Apostles continued the "gathering" begun by the Lord and did so first and foremost by transmitting faithfully the gift received, the Good News of the Kingdom that came to people in Jesus Christ.
Their number not only expresses continuity with the holy root, the Israel of the 12 tribes, but also the universal destination of their ministry, which brought salvation to the very ends of the earth.
This can be understood from the symbolic value that the numbers have in the Semitic world: twelve results from the multiplication of three, a perfect number, and four, a number that refers to the four cardinal points, hence, to the whole world.
The community, born from the proclamation of the Gospel, recognizes that it was called by the words of those who were the first to experience the Lord and were sent out by him.
It knows that it can count on the guidance of the Twelve, as well as that of those who were gradually associated with them as their successors in the ministry of the Word and in the service of communion. Consequently, the community feels committed to transmit to others the "Good News" of the actual presence of the Lord and of his Paschal Mystery, brought about in the Spirit.
This is clearly highlighted and visible in certain passages of the Pauline Letters: "I delivered to you... what I also received" (1Co 15,3). And this is important. St Paul, it is well-known, originally called by Christ with a personal vocation, was a real Apostle, yet for him too, fidelity to what he received was fundamentally important. He did not want "to invent" a new, so-to-speak, "Pauline" Christianity. Therefore, he insisted, "I have passed on to you what I too received". He passed on the initial gift that comes from the Lord and the truth that saves.
Then, towards the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy: "Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us (2Tm 1,14).
It is also effectively demonstrated by this ancient testimony of the Christian faith written by Tertullian in about the year 200: "(The Apostles) after first bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judea and founding Churches (there), they next went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner founded Churches in every city, from which all the other Churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become Churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic Churches" (Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 20: PL 2, 32).
The Second Vatican Council comments: "What was handed on by the Apostles comprises everything that serves to make the People of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith. In this way the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes" (Dei Verbum DV 8).
The Church transmits all that she is and believes, she hands it down through worship, life and doctrine.
So it is that Tradition is the living Gospel, proclaimed by the Apostles in its integrity on the basis of the fullness of their unique and unrepeatable experience: through their activity the faith is communicated to others, even down to us, until the end of the world. Tradition, therefore, is the history of the Spirit who acts in the Church's history through the mediation of the Apostles and their successors, in faithful continuity with the experience of the origins.
This is what St Clement of Rome said towards the end of the first century: "The Apostles", he wrote, "have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent by God. Christ, therefore, was sent forth by God, and the Apostles by Christ.
"Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God.... Our Apostles also knew, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the episcopal office.
"For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry" (Ad Corinthios, 42, 44: PG 1, 292, 296).
This chain of service has continued until today; it will continue to the end of the world. Indeed, the mandate that Jesus conferred upon the Apostles was passed on by them to their successors. Going beyond the experience of personal contact with Christ, unique and unrepeatable, the Apostles passed on to their successors the solemn mandate that they had received from the Master to go out into the world. "Apostle" comes precisely from the Greek term, "apostÚllein", which means "to send forth".
The apostolic mandate - as the text of Matthew shows (Mt 28,19ff.) - implies a service that is pastoral ("Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."), liturgical ("baptizing them"), and prophetic ("teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"), guaranteed by the Lord's closeness, until the end of time ("and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age").
Thus, but differently from the Apostles, we too have a true, personal experience of the presence of the Risen Lord.
Therefore, through the apostolic ministry it is Christ himself who reaches those who are called to the faith. The distance of the centuries is overcome and the Risen One offers himself alive and active for our sake, in the Church and in the world today.
This is our great joy. In the living river of Tradition, Christ is not 2,000 years away but is really present among us and gives us the Truth, he gives us the light that makes us live and find the way towards the future.
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To special groups
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from Britain and Ireland, from Asia and from the United States of America. In this month of May I entrust you to the maternal protection of our Blessed Lady, Queen of Peace. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant Blessings of our Risen Saviour.
I would now like to address the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. We have just begun the month of May, dedicated especially to the Virgin Mary, and I urge you, dear young people, to study every day at her school, to learn from her to do God's will. Contemplating the Mother of the Crucified Christ, dear sick people, may you be able to accept the saving value of every cross, even those that are the heaviest. Lastly, I entrust you, dear newly-weds, to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, so that you may create in your families the atmosphere of prayer and love of the House of Nazareth.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the last two Audiences we meditated on what Tradition in the Church is and we saw that it is the permanent presence of the word and life of Jesus among his people. But in order to be present, the word needs a person, a witness.
And so it is that this reciprocity comes about: on the one hand, the word needs the person, but on the other, the person, the witness, is bound to the word, entrusted to him and not invented by him. This reciprocity between the content - the Word of God, life of the Lord - and the person who carries on the work is characteristic of the Church's structure. Let us meditate today on this personal aspect of the Church.
The Lord founded the Church, as we have seen, by calling together the Twelve, who were to represent the future People of God. Faithful to the Lord's mandate, after his Ascension, the Twelve first made up their number by appointing Matthias in Judas' place (cf. Ac 1,15-26), thereby continuing to involve others in the duties entrusted to them so that they might continue their ministry.
The Risen Lord himself called Paul (cf. Gal Ga 1,1), but Paul, although he was called by the Lord to be an Apostle, compared his Gospel with the Gospel of the Twelve (cf. ibid., Ga 1,18), and was concerned to transmit what he had received (cf. 1Co 11,23 1Co 15,3-4). In the distribution of missionary tasks, he was associated with the Apostles together with others, for example, Barnabas (cf. Gal Ga 2,9).
Just as becoming an Apostle begins with being called and sent out by the Risen One, so the subsequent call and sending out to others was to be brought about, through the power of the Spirit, by those who are already ordained in the apostolic ministry. And this is the way in which this ministry, known from the second generation as the episcopal ministry, episcope, was to be continued.
Perhaps it would be useful to explain briefly what "Bishop" means. It is the Italian form of the Greek term, "episcopos". This word means one who has a vision from on high, who looks with the heart. This is what St Peter himself calls Jesus in his First Letter: bishop, "Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (1P 2,25).
And according to this new model of the Lord, who was the first Bishop, Guardian and Pastor of souls, the successors of the Apostles were later called Bishops, "episcopoi". The role of "episcope" was entrusted to them. This specific role of the Bishop was gradually to evolve, in comparison with the origins, until it took the form - already clearly attested to by Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century (cf. Ad Magnesios, 6, 1: PG 5, 668) - of the threefold office of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.
This development was guided by God's Spirit who helps the Church in the discernment of the authentic forms of Apostolic Succession, ever more clearly defined among the plurality of experiences and charismatic and ministerial forms present in the earliest communities.
In this way, succession in the role of Bishop is presented as the continuity of the Apostolic ministry, a guarantee of the permanence of the Apostolic Tradition, word and life, entrusted to us by the Lord. The link between the College of Bishops and the original community of the Apostles is understood above all in the line of historical continuity.
As we have seen, first Matthias, then Paul, then Barnabas joined the Twelve, then others, until, in the second and third generations, the Bishop's ministry took shape.
Continuity, therefore, is expressed in this historical chain. And in the continuity of the succession lies the guarantee of the permanence, in the Ecclesial Community, of the Apostolic College that Christ had gathered around him.
This continuity, however, that we see first in the historical continuity of ministries, should also be understood in a spiritual sense, because Apostolic Succession in the ministry is considered a privileged place for the action and transmission of the Holy Spirit.
We find these convictions clearly echoed in the following text, for example, by Irenaeus of Lyons (second half of the second century): "It is within the power of all... in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the Apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to count those who were by the Apostles instituted Bishops in the Churches and... the succession of these men to our own times.... [The Apostles] were desirous that these men, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, should be very perfect and blameless in all things, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon, but if they should fall away, the direst calamity" (Adversus Haereses, III, 3, 1: PG 7, 848).
Pointing to this network of Apostolic Succession as a guarantee of the permanence of the Lord's word, Irenaeus then concentrated on that Church, "the very great, the very ancient and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul", highlighting the Tradition of faith that in her comes down to us from the Apostles through the succession of the Bishops.
In this way, for Irenaeus and for the universal Church, the Episcopal Succession of the Church of Rome becomes the sign, criterion and guarantee of the unbroken transmission of apostolic faith: "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of her pre-eminent authority (propter potiorem principalitatem) - that is, the faithful everywhere - inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously..." (ibid., III, 3, 2: PG 7, 848).
Apostolic Succession, verified on the basis of communion with that of the Church of Rome, is therefore the criterion of the permanence of the particular Churches in the Tradition of the common apostolic faith, which from the origins has come down to us through this channel: "In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical Tradition from the Apostles and the preaching of the truth have come down to us. And this is a most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed down in truth" (ibid., III, 3, 3: PG 7, 851).
According to this testimony of the ancient Church, the apostolicity of ecclesial communion consists in fidelity to the teaching and praxis of the Apostles, through whom the historical and spiritual bond of the Church with Christ is assured. The Apostolic Succession of the episcopal ministry is a means of guaranteeing the faithful transmission of the Apostolic witness.
What the Apostles represent in the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the Church of the origins is similarly represented by the ministerial succession in the relationship between the primitive Church and the Church of today. It is not merely a material sequence; rather, it is a historical instrument that the Spirit uses to make the Lord Jesus, Head of his people, present through those who are ordained for the ministry through the imposition of hands and the Bishops' prayer.
Consequently, through Apostolic Succession it is Christ who reaches us: in the words of the Apostles and of their successors, it is he who speaks to us; through their hands it is he who acts in the sacraments; in their gaze it is his gaze that embraces us and makes us feel loved and welcomed into the Heart of God. And still today, as at the outset, Christ himself is the true Shepherd and Guardian of our souls whom we follow with deep trust, gratitude and joy.
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To special groups
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, particularly those from England, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the Blessings of the Risen Christ and wish you a most pleasant time in Rome.
I now greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. In this month dedicated especially to Our Lady, I invite you, dear young people, especially you children of Catholic Action from the Diocese of Acerra, to follow Mary's example, always trusting in her motherly intercession so that she will help you to bring serenity wherever there is anxiety and loneliness. I hope that you, dear sick people, will live your condition trustingly, abandoning yourselves to the hands of the Lord and sustained by the One who on Calvary stayed faithful beneath the Cross of Christ. May the Blessed Virgin accompany you in family life, dear newly-weds, so that you can taste the joy that flows from reciprocal fidelity and always be witnesses of divine love.
Audiences 2005-2013 12046