Audiences 2005-2013 8049

Wednesday, 8 April 2009 - Holy Triduum of Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Holy Week, which for Christians is the most important week of the year, gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the central events of the Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great Mystery of faith. As of tomorrow afternoon, with the Mass in Coena Domini, the solemn liturgical rites will help us to meditate more vividly on the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord in the days of the Holy Triduum of Easter, the cornerstone of the entire liturgical year. May divine grace open our hearts to an understanding of the invaluable gift of salvation, obtained for us by Christ's sacrifice. We find this immense gift wonderfully described in a famous hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians (cf.
Ph 2,6-11), upon which we have meditated several times during Lent. The Apostle concisely and effectively retraces the mystery of the history of salvation, mentioning the arrogance of Adam who, although he was not God, wanted to be like God. And he compares the arrogance of the first man, which we all tend to feel in our being, with the humility of the true Son of God who, in becoming man does not hesitate to take upon himself all human weaknesses, save sin, and going even as far as the depths of death. This descent to the ultimate depths of the Passion and death is followed by his exaltation, the true glory, the glory of love which went to the very end.
And it is therefore right as St Paul says that "at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue profess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (ibid., Ph 2,10-11). With these words, St Paul refers to a prophecy of Isaiah in which God says: I am God... to me every knee shall bend in Heaven and on earth (cf. Is Is 45,23). This, Paul says, applies to Jesus Christ. He truly is, in his humility, in the true greatness of his love, the Lord of the world and before him every knee bends.

How marvellous and at the same time surprising this mystery is! We can never sufficiently meditate on this reality. In spite of being God, Jesus does not want to make his divine prerogative an exclusive possession; he does not want to use his being as God, his glorious dignity and his power, as an instrument of triumph and a sign of remoteness from us. On the contrary, "he empties himself", taking on the wretched and weak human condition. In this regard Paul uses a rather evocative Greek verb to indicate the kénosis, this humbling of Jesus'. In Christ the divine form (morphé) was hidden beneath the human form, that is, beneath our reality marked by suffering, by poverty, by our human limitations and by death. His radical, true sharing in our nature, a sharing in all things save sin, led him to that boundary which is the sign of our finiteness, death. However, all this was not the fruit of an obscure mechanism or blind fatality: rather, it was his own free choice, through generous adherence to the Father's saving plan. And the death he went to meet, Paul adds, was that of crucifixion, the most humiliating and degrading death imaginable. The Lord of the universe did all this out of love for us: out of love he chose "to empty himself" and make himself our brother; out of love he shared our condition, that of every man and every woman. Theodoret of Cyrus, a great witness of the Oriental tradition, wrote on this subject: "being God and God by nature and having equality with God he did not consider this something great, as do those who have received some honour greater than that which they deserve but, concealing his merits, he chose the most profound humility and took the form of a human being" (Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, 2: 6-7).

The prelude to the Easter Triduum which will begin tomorrow as I said with the evocative afternoon rites of Holy Thursday, is the solemn Chrism Mass, which the Bishop celebrates with his priests in the morning, and during which the priestly promises pronounced on the day of Ordination are renewed. This is a gesture of great value, an especially favourable opportunity in which priests reaffirm their personal fidelity to Christ who has chosen them as his ministers. This priestly encounter acquires, in addition, a special importance because it is, as it were, a preparation for the Year for Priests, which I established on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars and which will begin next 19 June. Again, during the Chrism Mass the oil of the sick and that of the catechumens will be blessed and the Chrism consecrated. These are rites that symbolically signify the fullness of Christ's Priesthood and the ecclesial communion that must inspire the Christian people gathered for the Eucharistic sacrifice and enlivened in unity by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the afternoon Mass, called in Coena Domini, the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood and the new Commandment of love that Jesus entrusted to his disciples. St Paul offers one of the oldest accounts of what happened in the Upper Room, on the vigil of the Lord's Passion. "The Lord Jesus", he writes at the beginning of the 50s, on the basis of a text he received from the Lord's own environment, "on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1Co 11,23-25). These words, laden with mystery, clearly show Christ's will: under the species of the Bread and the Wine, he makes himself present with his body given and his Blood poured out. This is the sacrifice of the new and everlasting covenant offered to all, without distinction of race or culture. It is from this sacramental rite, which he presents to the Church as the supreme evidence of his love, that Jesus makes ministers of his disciples and all those who will continue the ministry through the centuries. Thus, Holy Thursday constitutes a renewed invitation to give thanks to God for the supreme gift of the Eucharist, to receive with devotion and to adore with living faith. For this reason the Church encourages the faithful to keep vigil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament after the celebration of Holy Mass, recalling the sorrowful hour that Jesus spent in solitude and prayer at Gethsemane, before being arrested and then sentenced to death.

And so we come to Good Friday, the day of the Passion and the Crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, standing in silence before Jesus hanging on the wood of the Cross, we feel how full of love the words were that he spoke on the previous evening during the Last Supper. "This is my blood, of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mc 14,24). Jesus wanted to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. As it does before the Eucharist, as well as before the Passion and death of Jesus on the Cross, the mystery eludes reason. We are placed before something which, humanly, may appear senseless: a God who is not only made Man, with all the needs of man, who not only suffers to save man, taking upon himself the whole tragedy of humanity, but also dies for man.

Christ's death recalls the accumulated sorrow and evils that weigh upon humanity of every age: the crushing weight of our death, the hatred and violence that still today stain the earth with blood. The Passion of the Lord continues in the suffering of human beings. As Blaise Pascal has rightly written: "Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not sleep during that time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sorrow, it is therefore at the same time a particularly propitious day to reawaken our faith, to consolidate our hope and courage so that each one of us may carry our cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and his victory. The liturgy of this day sings: O Crux, ave, spes unica Hail, O Cross, our only hope!

This hope is nourished in the great silence of Holy Saturday, in expectation of the Resurrection of Jesus. On this day the Churches are unadorned and no particular liturgical rites are scheduled. The Church keeps vigil in prayer like Mary and with Mary, sharing her same sentiments of sorrow and of trust in God. It is rightly recommended that a prayerful atmosphere be preserved throughout the day, favourable for meditation and reconciliation; the faithful are encouraged to receive the sacrament of Penance, to be able to take part in the Easter festivities truly renewed.

The recollection and silence of Holy Saturday will usher us into the night of the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils", when the hymn of joy in Christ's Resurrection will burst forth in all the churches and communities. Once again the victory of light over darkness, of life over death will be proclaimed and the Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord. Thus we shall enter into the atmosphere of Easter.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us prepare to live the Holy Triduum intensely, in order to share ever more deeply in the Mystery of Christ. We are accompanied in this itinerary by the Blessed Virgin who silently followed her Son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with deep sorrow in his sacrifice and thus cooperating in the mystery of the Redemption and becoming Mother of all believers (cf. Jn 19,25-27). Together with her we shall enter the Upper Room, we shall remain at the foot of the Cross, we shall watch in spirit beside the dead Christ, waiting with hope for the dawn of the radiant day of the Resurrection. In view of this, I express to you all from this moment my most cordial good wishes for a happy and holy Easter, together with your families, parishes and communities.

To English-speaking pilgrims:

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. May your visit to Rome during this Holy Week fill you with the peace, hope and joy of Christ Jesus!

Greeting to those affected by the earthquake in the Italian town of L'Aquila:

I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to the beloved community of L'Aquila and the other towns harshly struck by the violent seismic phenomenon in the past days which has taken such a heavy toll of victims and so many injured, as well as causing immense material damage. The concern with which the Authorities, the police force, volunteers and other workers are rescuing these brothers and sisters of ours shows how important solidarity is in overcoming such painful trials together. Once again I wish to say to those beloved peoples that the Pope shares their suffering and their worries. Dear friends, I hope to come and visit you as soon as possible. Know that the Pope is praying for you all, imploring the Lord's mercy for the deceased, and for their relatives and the survivors, the maternal comfort of Mary and the support of Christian hope.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 15 April 2009 - Octave of Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the usual Wednesday General Audience is imbued with spiritual joy, that joy which no suffering or sorrow can erase because it is a joy that springs from the certainty that Christ, with his death and Resurrection, has triumphed over evil and death once and for all. "Christ is risen! Alleluia!", the Church sings, rejoicing. And this festive atmosphere, these characteristic sentiments of Easter are not only prolonged during this week the Octave of Easter but extend over the 50 days until Pentecost. Indeed, we can say: the Paschal Mystery embraces our whole life-span.

The biblical references and incentives to meditation offered to us in this liturgical season so that we may acquire a deeper knowledge of the meaning and value of Easter are truly numerous. The "Via Crucis" [Way of the Cross] to Calvary that we walked with Jesus in the Sacred Triduum has become the comforting "Via lucis" [way of light]. Seen from the Resurrection we can say that this way of suffering is a path of light and spiritual renewal, of inner peace and firm hope. After the weeping, after the bewilderment of Good Friday, followed by the silence laden with expectation of Holy Saturday, at dawn on the "first day after the Sabbath" the proclamation of Life that triumphed over death resounded: "Dux vitae mortuus/regnat vivus the Lord of life was dead; but he is now alive and triumphant!". The overwhelming newness of the Resurrection is so important that the Church never ceases to proclaim it, prolonging its commemoration especially every Sunday: every Sunday, in fact, is the "Lord's Day" and the weekly Easter of the People of God. As if to highlight this mystery of salvation that invests our daily life, our Eastern brothers and sisters call Sunday, in Russian, "the day of the Resurrection" (voskrescénje).

Consequently, it is fundamental for our faith and for our Christian witness to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historical event, attested by many authoritative witnesses. We assert this forcefully because, in our day too, there are plenty of people who seek to deny its historicity, reducing the Gospel narrative to a myth, to a "vision" of the Apostles, taking up and presenting old and already worn-out theories as new and scientific. For Jesus, of course, the Resurrection was not a simple return to his former life. Should this have been the case, in fact, it would have been something of the past: 2,000 years ago someone, such as, for example, Lazarus, was raised and returned to his former life. The Resurrection is placed in another dimension: it is the passage to a profoundly new dimension of life that also concerns us, that involves the entire human family, history and the universe. This event that introduced a new dimension of life, an opening of this world of ours to eternal life, changed the lives of the eye-witnesses as the Gospel accounts and the other New Testament writings demonstrate; it is a proclamation that entire generations of men and women down the centuries have accepted with faith and to which they have borne witness, often at the price of their blood, knowing that in this very way they were entering into this new dimension of life. This year too, at Easter this Good News rings out unchanged and ever new in every corner of the earth: Jesus who died on the Cross is risen, he lives in glory because he has defeated the power of death, he has brought the human being to a new communion of life with God and in God. This is the victory of Easter, our salvation! And therefore we can sing with St Augustine: "Christ's Resurrection is our hope!", because it introduces us into a new future.

It is true: our firm hope is founded on the Resurrection of Jesus that brightens the whole of our earthly pilgrimage, including the human enigma of pain and death. Faith in the Crucified and Risen Christ is the heart of the entire Gospel message, the central core of our "Creed". We may find an authoritative expression of this essential "Creed" in a well-known Pauline passage contained in the First Letter to the Corinthians (
1Co 15,3-8), in which, to respond to some of the communities of Corinth which were paradoxically proclaiming Jesus' Resurrection but denying the resurrection of the dead our hope the Apostle faithfully hands on what he Paul had received from the first apostolic community concerning the Lord's death and Resurrection.

He begins with an almost peremptory affirmation: "Brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand firm. You are being saved by it at this very moment if you hold fast to it as I preached it to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain" (vv. 1-2). He immediately adds that he has transmitted to them what he himself had received. This is followed by the passage we heard at the beginning of our meeting. St Paul first of all presents Jesus' death and in this pithy text makes two additions to the information: "Christ died". The first addition is: died "for our sins"; the second is: "in accordance with the Scriptures" (v. 3). The words: "in accordance with the Scriptures" place the event of the Lord's Resurrection in relation to the Old Testament history of God's Covenant with his People, and make us understand that the death of the Son of God belongs to the fabric of salvation history and indeed makes us understand that this history receives from it both its logic and its true meaning. Until that moment Christ's death had remained as it were an enigma, whose outcome was still uncertain. In the Paschal Mystery the words of Scripture are fulfilled, that is, this death which comes about "in accordance with the Scriptures" is an event that bears within it a logos, a logic: the death of Christ testifies that the Word of God was made "flesh", was made human "history", through and through. How and why this should have happened can be understood from St Paul's other addition: Christ died "for our sins". With these words the Pauline text seems to take up Isaiah's prophecy contained in the Fourth Song of the Servant of God (cf. Is Is 53,12). The Servant of God the Song says "surrendered himself to death"; he bore "the guilt of many" and, by interceding for the "wicked", was able to bring the gift of the reconciliation of men and women with one another and of men and women with God. Thus, his is a death that puts an end to death; the Way of the Cross leads to Resurrection.

In the verses that follow, the Apostle then reflects on the Lord's Resurrection. He says that Christ "was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures". Once again, "in accordance with the Scriptures"! Many exegetes see the words: "he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" as an important reference to what we read in Psalm 16[15] in which the Psalmist proclaims: "Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption" (ibid., v. 10). This is one of the texts of the Old Testament, cited frequently in early Christianity to prove Jesus' messianic character. Since according to the Jewish interpretation corruption began after the third day, the words of Scripture are fulfilled in Jesus who rose on the third day, that is, before corruption began. St Paul, faithfully passing on the teaching of the Apostles, emphasizes that Christ's victory over death happens through the creative power of the Word of God. This divine power brings hope and joy: this is ultimately the liberating content of the Paschal revelation. At Easter God reveals himself and the power of Trinitarian love that annihilates the destructive forces of evil and death.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be illumined by the splendour of the Risen Lord. Let us welcome him with faith and adhere generously to his Gospel, as did the privileged witnesses of his Resurrection; and as, some years later, did St Paul who encountered the divine Teacher in an extraordinary manner on the Road to Damascus. We cannot keep for ourselves alone the proclamation of this Truth that changes the life of all. And with humble trust let us pray: "Jesus, who in rising from the dead anticipated our Resurrection, we believe in You!". I would like to end with an exclamation that Sylvan of Mount Athos used to like to repeat: "Rejoice my soul. It is always Easter, for the Risen Christ is our Resurrection!". May the Virgin Mary help to cultivate within us and around us this climate of Easter joy, so that we may be witnesses of divine Love in every situation of our existence. Once again, Happy Easter to you all!

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's audience. I extend particular greetings to the groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Malta, Australia, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage to the Eternal City strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord, the Giver of Life. I wish all of you a Happy Easter!

I greet you, dear young people, among whom I have a special thought for those from the Archdiocese of Milan who are preparing for the profession of faith, a stage that follows the sacrament of Confirmation. May the Lord accompany you on your way. I greet you, dear sick people, and lastly you, dear newly weds. I warmly hope that each one of you will let yourself be enlightened by the light of the Risen Christ to be able to experience the joy of his presence within you.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 - Ambrose Autpert

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church lives in people and those who want to know the Church better, to understand her mystery, must consider the people who have seen and lived her message, her mystery. In the Wednesday Catechesis I have therefore been speaking for some time of people from whom we can learn what the Church is. We began with the Apostles and Fathers of the Church and we have gradually reached the eighth century, Charlemagne's period. Today I want to talk about Ambrose Autpert, a lesser known author; in fact, the majority of his works were attributed to other, better known people, from St Ambrose of Milan to St Ildefonsus, not to mention those that the monks of Monte Cassino claimed came from the pen of an abbot of theirs of the same name who lived almost a century later. Apart from a few brief autobiographical notes in his important commentary on the Apocalypse, we have little information about his life. Yet, an attentive reading of the works whose authorship the critic recognizes makes it possible, little by little, to discover in his teaching a precious theological and spiritual treasure for our time too.

Born into a noble family in Provence according to his late biographer, Giovanni Ambrose Autpert was at the court of the Frankish King Pepin the Short where, in addition to his function as official, he somehow also played the role of tutor to the future Emperor Charlemagne. Autpert, probably in the retinue of Pope Stephen ii, who in 753-54 went to the Frankish court, came to Italy and had the opportunity of visiting the famous Benedictine Abbey of St Vincent, located near the sources of the River Volturno in the Duchy of Benevento. Founded at the beginning of the century by three brothers from Benevento Paldone, Tatone and Tasone the abbey was known as an oasis of classical and Christian culture. Shortly after his visit, Ambrose Autpert decided to embrace the religious life and entered that monastery where he acquired an appropriate education, especially in the fields of theology and spirituality, in accordance with the tradition of the Fathers. In about the year 761, he was ordained a priest and on 4 October 777 he was elected abbot with the support of the Frankish monks despite the opposition of the Lombards, who favoured Potone the Lombard. The nationalistic tension in the background did not diminish in the subsequent months. As a result, in the following year, 778, Autpert decided to resign and to seek shelter, together with several Frankish monks, in Spoleto where he could count on Charlemagne's protection. This, however, did not solve the dissension at St Vincent's Monastery. A few years later, when on the death of the abbot who had succeeded Autpert, Potone himself was elected as his successor (a. 782), the dispute flared up again and even led to the denunciation of the new abbot to Charlemagne. The latter sent the contenders to the tribunal of the Pontiff who summoned them to Rome. Autpert was also called as a witness. However, he died suddenly on the journey, perhaps murdered, on 30 January 784.

Ambrose Autpert was a monk and abbot in an epoch marked by strong political tensions which also had repercussions on life within the monasteries. We have frequent and disturbing echoes of them in his writings. He reports, for example, the contradiction between the splendid external appearance of monasteries and the tepidity of the monks: this criticism was also certainly directed at his own abbey. He wrote for his monastery the Life of the three founders with the clear intention of offering the new generation of monks a term of reference to measure up to. He also pursued a similar aim in a small ascetic treatise Conflictus vitiorum atque virtutum ("Combat between the vices and the virtues"), which met with great acclaim in the Middle Ages and was published in 1473 in Utrecht, under Gregory the Great's name and, a year later, in Strasbourg under that of St Augustine. In it Ambrose Autpert intends to give the monks a practical training in how to face spiritual combat day after day. Significantly he applies the affirmation in
2Tm 3,12: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted", no longer by external forces but by the assault that the Christian must face within him on the part of the forces of evil. Twenty-four pairs of fighters are presented in a sort of disputation: every vice seeks to lure the soul by subtle reasoning, whereas the respective virtue rebuffs these insinuations, preferably by using words of Scripture.

In this treatise on the combat between the vices and the virtues, Autpert sets contemptus mundi (contempt for the world) against cupiditas (greed) which becomes an important figure in the spirituality of monks. This contempt for the world is not a contempt for Creation, for the beauty and goodness of Creation and of the Creator, but a contempt for the false vision of the world that is presented to us and suggested to us precisely by covetousness. It insinuates that "having" is the supreme value of our being, of our life in the world, and seems important. And thus it falsifies the creation of the world and destroys the world. Autpert then remarks that the acquisitive greed of the rich and powerful in the society of his time also exists within the souls of monks and thus he writes a treatise entitled De cupiditate, in which, together with the Apostle Paul, he denounces greed from the outset as the root of all evil. He writes: "In the earth's soil various sharp thorns spring from different roots; in the human heart, on the other hand, the stings of all the vices sprout from a single root, greed" (De cupiditate 1: CCCM 27b, p. 963). In the light of the present global financial crisis, this report reveals its full timeliness. We see that it was precisely from this root of covetousness that the crisis sprang. Ambrose imagines the objection that the rich and powerful might raise, saying: but we are not monks, certain ascetic requirements do not apply to us. And he answers: "What you say is true, but for you, in the manner of your class and in accordance with your strength, the straight and narrow way applies because the Lord has proposed only two doors and two ways (that is, the narrow door and the wide door, the steep road and the easy one); he has not pointed to a third door or a third way" (loc. cit., p. 978). He sees clearly that life-styles differ widely. Nonetheless the duty to combat greed, to fight the desire to possess, to appear, and the false concept of freedom as the faculty to dispose of all things as one pleases applies to the man in this world too and also to the rich. The rich person must also find the authentic road of truth, of love, and thus of an upright life. As a prudent pastor of souls, Autpert was thus able to speak a word of comfort at the end of his penitential homily: "I have not spoken against the greedy, but against greed, not against nature but against vice" (loc. cit., p. 981).

Ambrose Autpert's most important work is without a doubt his commentary on the Apocalypse [Expositio in Apocalypsim] in 10 volumes: this constitutes, centuries later, the first broad commentary in the Latin world on the last book of Sacred Scripture. This work was the fruit of many years' work, carried out in two phases between 758 and 767, hence prior to his election as abbot. In the premise he is careful to indicate his sources, something that was not usual in the Middle Ages. Through what was perhaps his most significant source, the commentary of Bishop Primasius of Hadrumetum, written in about the middle of the sixth century, Autpert came into contact with the interpretation of the Apocalypse bequeathed to us by Ticonius, an African who lived a generation before St Augustine. He was not a Catholic; he belonged to the schismatic Donatist Church, yet he was a great theologian. In his commentary he sees the Apocalypse above all as a reflection of the mystery of the Church. Ticonius had reached the conviction that the Church was a bipartite body: on the one hand, he says, she belongs to Christ, but there is another part of the Church that belongs to the devil. Augustine read this commentary and profited from it but strongly emphasized that the Church is in Christ's hands, that she remains his Body, forming one with him, sharing in the mediation of grace. He therefore stresses that the Church can never be separated from Jesus Christ. In his interpretation of the Apocalypse, similar to that of Ticonius, Autpert is not so much concerned with the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time as rather with the consequences that derive for the Church of the present from his First Coming, his Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And he speaks very important words to us: in reality Christ "must be born, die and be raised daily in us, who are his Body" (In Apoc., III: CCCM, 27, p. 205). In the context of the mystic dimension that invests every Christian he looks to Mary as a model of the Church, a model for all of us because Christ must also be born in and among us. Under the guidance of the Fathers, who saw the "woman clothed with the sun" of Ap 12,1 as an image of the Church, Autpert argues: "the Blessed and devout Virgin... daily gives birth to new peoples from which the general Body of the Mediator is formed. It is therefore not surprising if she, in whose blessed womb the Church herself deserved to be united with her Head, represents the type of the Church". In this sense Autpert considers the Virgin Mary's role decisive in the work of the Redemption (cf. also his homilies In purificatione S. Mariae and In adsumptione S. Mariae). His great veneration and profound love for the Mother of God sometimes inspired in him formulations that in a certain way anticipated those of St Bernard and of Franciscan mysticism, yet without ever deviating to disputable forms of sentimentalism because he never separates Mary from the mystery of the Church. Therefore, with good reason, Ambrose Autpert is considered the first great Mariologist in the West. He considers that the profound study of the sacred sciences, especially meditation on the Sacred Scriptures, which he describes as "the ineffable sky, the unfathomable abyss" should be combined with the devotion that he believed must free the soul from attachment to earthly and transient pleasures (In Apoc. IX). In the beautiful prayer with which his commentary on the Apocalypse ends, underlining the priority that must be given to love in all theological research, he addresses God with these words: "When you are intellectually examined by us, you are not revealed as you truly are: when you are loved, you are attained".

Today we can see in Ambrose Autpert a personality who lived in a time of powerful political exploitation of the Church, in which nationalism and tribalism had disfigured the face of the Church. But he, in the midst of all these difficulties with which we too are familiar, was able to discover the true face of the Church in Mary, in the Saints, and he was thus able to understand what it means to be a Catholic, to be a Christian, to live on the word of God, to enter into this abyss and thus to live the mystery of the Mother of God: to give new life to the Word of God, to offer to the Word of God one's own flesh in the present time. And with all his theological knowledge, the depth of his knowledge, Autpert was able to understand that with merely theological research God cannot truly be known as he is. Love alone reaches him. Let us hear this message and pray the Lord to help us to live the mystery of the Church today in our time.
* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the young people from India. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

I now greet the young people, the sick and the newly weds. May the Risen Lord fill with his love the heart of each one of you, dear young people, so that you may be ready to follow him with your youthful enthusiasm and freshness; may he sustain you dear sick people, in accepting with serenity the burden of suffering; may he guide you, dear newly weds, in founding with faithful reciprocal giving families imbued with the fragrance of evangelical holiness.

Lastly, I would like to say a special word to the young people of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre, who today are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the consignment of the Holy Year Cross to the world's young people.

In fact it was on 22 April 1984, at the end of the Holy Year of the Redemption, that beloved John Paul II entrusted to the young people of the world the great wooden cross which, complying with his wishes, had been kept beside the main altar in St Peter's Basilica during that special Jubilee Year. The Cross was then welcomed at the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre and from there began to travel over the continents, opening the hearts of very many young men and women to Christ's redeeming love. Its pilgrimage still continues, especially in preparation for the World Youth Days, so that it has become known as the "World Youth Day Cross".

Dear friends, once again I entrust this Cross to you! Continue to carry it to every corner of the earth, so that the generations to come may discover the Mercy of God and revive in their hearts hope in the Crucified and Risen Christ!
Saint Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 8049