Speeches 2005-13 30409
I receive you with great joy, Your Excellency, on this solemn occasion when you are presenting the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Dominican Republic to the Holy See. I am grateful for the respectful words you have addressed to me and for the kind greeting on behalf of Mr Leonel Antonio Fernández Reyna, President of this noble nation. Please be so kind as to assure him that in my prayers to the Lord I remember his Government and the beloved Dominican people, so close to the Pope's heart.
Your Excellency, you come as Representative of a country with deep Catholic roots whose very name, as you have just pointed out, recalls the majority of its peoples' adherence to the Christian message with reference to Santo Domingo de Guzmán (St Dominic), the celebrated preacher of the word of God. I express the hope that your nation's cordial diplomatic relations with the Apostolic See may become even closer in the future.
As you also recalled, Your Excellency, the Dominican Catholic community is preparing to commemorate the fifth centenary of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, established on 8 August 1511. This event, together with the continental mission desired by the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, celebrated at Aparecida, continues to be a reason for renewed missionary and evangelizing dynamism that will encourage the human advancement of all the members of society.
The Church, which can never be confused with the political community, joins the State in promoting the dignity of the person in the quest for the common good of society (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). In this context their reciprocal self-determination and healthy cooperation form part of the diplomatic initiatives which, in the words of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, are "a labour of serving the great cause of peace, rapprochement and cooperation among peoples and a fruitful exchange for building more human and just relations" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Dominican Republic, 11 October 1992, n. 1. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 14 October 1992, p. 5). For this reason, the Holy See holds in high esteem the work you are beginning today, Your Excellency. Over time your country has built up a rich cultural patrimony, deeply impressed upon the soul of the people, in which important traditions and customs stand out. Many of them originate in and are nourished by Catholic teaching, which encourages in those who profess it a longing for freedom and a critical conscience, responsibility and solidarity.
More than 500 years ago Holy Mass was celebrated on the American continent for the first time on the territory which today is the Dominican Republic. Since then, and thanks to a generous and self-sacrificing labour of evangelization, faith in Jesus Christ grew ever more vigorous and active so that missionaries set out from the Island of La Hispaniola, charged with proclaiming the Good News of salvation on the continent. From that first seed the Church in Latin America subsequently developed and became a leafy tree, which, with the passing of the years, has borne abundant fruits of holiness, culture and prosperity for all the members of society.
In this regard it is right to recognize the contribution of the Church, through her institutions, for the benefit of your country's progress, especially in the educational sector, with the various universities, technical training centres and parish institutes and schools; and in the sector of social assistance, focussed on the numerous immigrants, refugees, disabled, the sick and the elderly, orphans and the needy. In this regard I am pleased to stress the practical collaboration that exists between the local Catholic bodies and the State institutions for development programmes which, in view of the common good of society, always seek to favour the neediest and give an impetus to authentic moral and spiritual values.
Moreover it is supremely important that those noble principles which have characterized the rich history of Santo Domingo since the foundation of your country be implanted and spread by means of the significant political and social exchanges in which the Dominican Republic has recently been involved. I am referring first of all to the defence and dissemination of such basic human values as the recognition and safeguard of the dignity of the person, respect for human life from the moment of conception until its natural end, and the defence of the family institution based on marriage between a man and a woman, since these are irreplaceable and indispensable elements of the social fabric.
In recent times, thanks to the work of your country's various institutions, considerable progress has been achieved on both the social and the economic level, which promise hope in a brighter and peaceful future. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go to assure Dominicans of a dignified life and to remove the stains of poverty, drug trafficking, marginalization and violence. Therefore, all that aims to reinforce the institutions is fundamental to the well-being of society which is supported by pillars such as the practice of honesty and transparency, juridical autonomy, the care of and respect for the environment, and the implementation of social services, social assistance, health-care and education for the entire population. These steps must be accompanied by a strong determination to eradicate once and for all corruption, the cause of so much suffering, especially to the poorest and most defenceless of society. In establishing an atmosphere of real harmony and the search for effective and permanent responses and solutions to the most acute problems, the Dominican Authorities will always find the Church willing to lend a hand to build a freer, more peaceful, just and brotherly civilization.
Mr Ambassador, before concluding our meeting, I would like to renew to you my spiritual closeness together with my fervent good wishes that the important task which has been entrusted to you may be of benefit to your nation. Please express this hope to the President and to the Government of the Dominican Republic. Your Excellency, you, your family and the personnel of this diplomatic mission will always be able to count on the esteem, good will and support of this Apostolic See in carrying out your lofty duty, which I hope will bear an abundance of fruit. I pray the Lord through the intercession of Our Lady of Altagracia and St Dominic de Guzmán that he may fill with heavenly gifts all the sons and daughters of this beloved country to whom, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Members of the Circle of St Peter,
With genuine pleasure, I meet you and offer each one of you my cordial greeting, which I gladly extend to your relatives and to all those who work with you in the different activities organized by your praiseworthy sodality. I greet in particular Duke Leopoldo Torlonia, President General, whom I thank for his words expressing your common sentiments, and your Chaplain, Mons. Franco Camaldo. This occasion gives me the opportunity to renew my deep appreciation of your service to the Pope and of the contribution you offer to the Christian community of Rome, especially by meeting the needs of so many of our poor and needy brethren. I thank you because with these initiatives of human and evangelical solidarity you make present, in a certain way, the Successor of Peter's concern for those who are experiencing particularly hard conditions.
We know that the authenticity of our fidelity to the Gospel is also confirmed by the attention and practical concern that we strive to show to our neighbour, especially to the weakest and most marginalized. Thus charitable service, which can be expressed in a multiplicity of ways, becomes a privileged form of evangelization in light of Jesus' teaching which maintains that what we do to our brethren we do to him, especially to those who are "lowly", and neglected (cf. Mt 25,40). Then, so that our service, however useful and praiseworthy, is not solely philanthropic action, it must be nourished by constant prayer and trust in God. It is necessary to harmonize our gaze with Christ's gaze, our heart with his heart. In this way, loving support offered to others is expressed in a sympathetic participation in and sharing of their hopes and sufferings, making visible and, I would say, almost tangible on the one hand God's infinite mercy to every human being and on the other, our faith in him. In dying on the Cross Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, revealed to us the Father's merciful love that is the source of true brotherhood among all human beings and showed us the only possible way to become credible witnesses of this Love.
In a few days, in Holy Week, we shall have the opportunity to intensely relive the supreme manifestation of divine love. We shall once again be able to immerse ourselves in the mysteries of the sorrowful Passion and glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Easter Triduum be for each one of you, dear brothers and sisters, a favourable opportunity to strengthen and purify your faith; and to open yourselves to the contemplation of the Cross which is a mystery of infinite love from which to draw strength to make your life a gift to your brethren. "The Cross of Christ", Pope St Leo the Great wrote, is "the fountain of all blessings, it is the cause of all graces" (cf. Serm. 8 on the Lord's Passion, 6-8). From the Cross also flows joy and heartfelt peace which testify to that hope for which a great need is felt in this time of a widespread and generalized financial crisis. And the various charitable initiatives of your praiseworthy Circle of St Peter will be eloquent signs of this hope, as well as your own example, if you let yourselves be guided by Christ's Spirit.
Dear friends, as you do every year, you have come today to present to me Peter's Pence which you have collected in the parishes of Rome. Thank you for this sign of ecclesial communion and practical participation in the financial efforts the Apostolic See is making to meet the increasing and urgent needs of the Church, especially in the earth's poorest countries. I would like once again to express my deep appreciation of your service that is motivated by convinced faithfulness and loyalty to the Successor of Peter. May the Lord reward you and fill your Circle with Blessings; may he help each one of you to fulfil your Christian vocation completely, in the family, at work and within your Association. May the Blessed Virgin accompany and sustain with her motherly protection your resolutions and praiseworthy projects. For my part, I assure you of my prayers for you who are present here, for all the members and volunteers, as well as for those who support you in your various activities and those whom you meet in your daily apostolate. With these sentiments I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend with pleasure to your families and to your loved ones.
It gives me great joy to receive such a numerous group at this Audience. You came from Madrid and Spain to receive the Youth Day Cross that will travel through various cities until the World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. I cordially greet Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, who is leading this pilgrimage; the General Coordinator of the Youth Day, his Auxiliary, Bishop César Augusto Franco Martínez and the other Bishops, priests and catechists who have wished to be here. I greet you with special affection, dear young people, who in carrying the Cross profess your faith in the One who loves you infinitely, the Lord Jesus, whose Paschal Mystery we shall be celebrating in these Holy Days. As I said on another occasion, "Faith, in its own way, needs to see and to touch.
The encounter with the World Youth Day Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with the One who died for us on the Cross. The encounter with the Cross awakens within young people the remembrance of the God who chose to become man and to suffer with us" (Address to the Roman Curia for the exchange of Christmas Greetings, 22 December 2008). I am glad to know that you will carry this cross that you have received in procession on Good Friday through the streets of Madrid so that it may be acclaimed and venerated.
I therefore encourage you to discover in the Cross the infinite measure of Christ's love, so as to be able to say, like St Paul: "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Ga 2,20). Yes, dear young people, Christ gave himself for each one of you and loves you in a unique and personal way. Respond to Christ's love by lovingly offering him your life. In this way, the preparation for World Youth Day, on which you have started working with great hope and dedication, will be rewarded with the fruit that these Days claim to bear: the renewal and strengthening of the experience of encountering Christ who died and rose for us.
Follow in Christ's footsteps! He is your destination, your way and also your reward. In the theme you have chosen for the World Youth Day, the Apostle Paul invites you to go on your way "rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith" (cf. Col Col 2,7). Life is undoubtedly a journey. Yet it is not an uncertain journey without a precise destination; on the contrary, it leads to Christ, the goal of human life and history. On this journey you will succeed in encountering the One who, by giving up his life for love, opens to you the door to eternal life. I therefore ask you to educate yourselves in the faith that gives meaning to your life and to strengthen your convictions so that you may stand firm in the face of the difficulties of daily life. I also urge you, on your journey towards Christ, to attract your young friends, your fellow students and co-workers, in such a way that they too may know and profess him as the Lord of their life. In order to do this, let the power from on High that is within you, the Holy Spirit, express himself with his immense attraction. Young people today need to discover the new life that comes from God, to be satiated by the truth, whose source is Christ who died and has risen, which the Church received as a treasure for all men.
Dear young people, this period of preparation for the Day in Madrid is an extraordinary occasion also to experience the grace of belonging to the Church, the Body of Christ. World Youth Day reveals the dynamism of the Church and her eternal youth. Whoever loves Christ loves the Church with the same passion because she enables us to live in a close relationship with the Lord. Therefore cultivate initiatives that enable young people to feel as though they are members of the Church in full communion with their Pastors and with the Successor of Peter. Pray as a community, opening the doors of your parishes, associations and movements so that all may feel at home in the Church, where they are loved with God's own love. Celebrate and live your faith with immense joy. This is the gift of the Spirit. Thus your heart and those of your friends will be prepared to celebrate the great festival which is the World Youth Day, and we shall all live a new epiphany of the Church's youth.
In these most beautiful days of Holy Week which we began yesterday, I encourage you to contemplate Christ in the mysteries of his Passion, death and Resurrection. In them you will find what surpasses any wisdom and knowledge: God's love manifested in Christ. Learn from him, who came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,45). This is the style of Christ's love, marked with the sign of the glorious Cross on which Christ was raised up in sight of all, with open heart, so that the world might look and see, through his perfect humanity, the love that saves us. The Cross thus becomes the very sign of life, because on it Christ defeated sin and death through the total gift of himself. For this reason we must embrace and adore the Lord's Cross, make it our own, accept its weight like the Cyrene, to participate in the one reality that can redeem all humanity (cf. Col Col 1,24). In Baptism you were marked with the Cross of Christ and you now belong to him totally. Become ever more worthy of him and never be ashamed of this supreme sign of love.
With this profoundly Christian attitude you will carry on with the work of preparation for the World Youth Day successfully and productively. For, as St Paul says, we can do everything through the One who gives us strength (cf. Ph 4,13) and in the Crucified Christ God's power and wisdom are manifested in us (cf. 1Co 1,24). Let yourselves be imbued with this power and wisdom. Communicate it to others and, under the protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, prepare with dedication and joy for the World Youth Day that will make Madrid a place radiant with faith and life, where young people from across the world will celebrate Christ with enthusiasm.
Bring my affectionate greeting back to your families and to the friends and companions who were unable to come here today, whom I bless warmly.
Happy Easter! Thank you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of his dramatic Passion narrative, the Evangelist Saint Mark tells us: “The centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, and said: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mc 15,39). We cannot fail to be surprised by the profession of faith of this Roman soldier, who had been present throughout the various phases of the Crucifixion. When the darkness of night was falling on that Friday so unlike any other in history, when the sacrifice of the Cross was already consummated and the bystanders were making haste to celebrate the Jewish Passover in the usual way, these few words, wrung from the lips of a nameless commander in the Roman army, resounded through the silence that surrounded that most singular death. This Roman army officer, having witnessed the execution of one of countless condemned prisoners, was able to recognize in this crucified man the Son of God, who had perished in the most humiliating abandonment. His shameful end ought to have marked the definitive triumph of hatred and death over love and life. But it was not so! Hanging from the Cross on Golgotha was a man who was already dead, but that man was acknowledged to be the “Son of God” by the centurion, “on seeing that he thus breathed his last”, as the Evangelist specifies.
We are reminded of this soldier’s profession of faith every time we listen anew to the Passion according to Saint Mark. This evening, like the centurion, we pause to gaze on the lifeless face of the Crucified One at the conclusion of this traditional Via Crucis which, through the radio and television coverage, has brought many people together from every part of the world. We have re-lived the tragic event of a man unique in the history of all times, who changed the world not by killing others but by letting himself be killed as he hung from a cross. This man, seemingly one of us, who while he was being killed forgave his executioners, is the “Son of God”, who, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant … he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Ph 2,7-8).
The anguish of the Passion of the Lord Jesus cannot fail to move to pity even the most hardened hearts, as it constitutes the climax of the revelation of God’s love for each of us. Saint John observes: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3,16). It is for love of us that Christ dies on the cross! Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed him, making in their turn, like him and with his help, a gift to others of their own lives. They are the saints and the martyrs, many of whom remain unknown to us. Even in our own time, how many people, in the silence of their daily lives, unite their sufferings with those of the Crucified One and become apostles of a true spiritual and social renewal! What would man be without Christ? Saint Augustine observes: “You would still be in a state of wretchedness, had He not shown you mercy. You would not have returned to life, had He not shared your death. You would have passed away had He not come to your aid. You would be lost, had He not come” (Discourse 185:1). So why not welcome him into our lives?
Let us pause this evening to contemplate his disfigured face: it is the face of the Man of sorrows, who took upon himself the burden of all our mortal anguish. His face is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despised. Pouring out his blood, he has rescued us from the slavery of death, he has broken the solitude of our tears, he has entered into our every grief and our every anxiety.
Brothers and Sisters! As the Cross rises up on Golgotha, the eyes of our faith are already turned towards the dawning of the new Day, and we begin to taste the joy and splendour of Easter. “If we have died with Christ”, writes Saint Paul, “we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rm 6,8). In this certainty, let us continue our journey. Tomorrow, on Holy Saturday, we will watch and pray. And now, let us pray together with Mary, the Sorrowful Virgin, let us pray with all who are sorrowful, and especially with all the suffering people from the earthquake zone in L’Aquila: let us pray that in this dark night, the star of hope will appear also to them, the light of the Risen Lord.
I wish all of you, even now, a Happy Easter in the light of the Risen Lord!
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Franciscan Family,
I welcome you with great joy at this happy and historical event which has gathered you: the eighth centenary of the approval of the "Protorule" of St Francis by Pope Innocent III. Eight hundred years have passed and that dozen Friars has become a multitude, scattered across every part of the world and today here, is worthily represented by you. In the past few days you have been meeting in Assisi for what you have chosen to call the "Chapter of Mats", to recall your origins. And at the end of this extraordinary experience you have come together to see the "Lord Pope", as your Seraphic Founder would have said. I greet you all with affection: the Friars Minor of the Three Obediences, led by their respective Minister General, among whom I thank Fr José Rodríguez Carballo for his courteous words; the members of the Third Order, with their Minister General; the Franciscan women religious and the members of the Franciscan Secular Institutes; and, knowing that they are present in spirit, the Poor Clares who constitute the "Second Order". I am glad to welcome several Franciscan Bishops; and in particular I greet Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi who represents the Church of Assisi, the native region of Francis and Clare and, spiritually, of all Franciscans. We know how important for Francis was his relationship with Guido, the Bishop of Assisi in that period, who recognized his charism and supported him. It was Guido who introduced Francis to Cardinal Giovanni di San Paolo who then presented him to the Pope, encouraging the approval of the Rule. Charism and Institution are always complementary elements for building the Church.
What can I say to you, dear friends? First of all I would like to join you in thanking God for the long way he has granted you to come, filling you with his benefits. And as Pastor of the whole Church I want to thank him for the precious gift that you yourselves are for the Christian people in its entirety. The tiny stream that flowed from Mount Subasio has become a great river that has made a remarkable contribution to spreading the Gospel throughout the world. Everything began with the conversion of Francis who, after the example of Jesus, "emptied himself" (cf. Ph 2,7), and, by espousing Our Lady Poverty, became a witness and herald of the Father who is in Heaven. Certain words that the Apostle Paul applies to himself and which I like to recall in this Pauline Year may be appropriately applied to the Poverello: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Ga 2,20). And further, "Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" (Ga 6,17). These texts from the Letter to the Galatians apply literally to the figure of St Francis. Francis follows perfectly in Paul's footsteps and one can truly say with him: "For to me to live is Christ" (Ph 1,21). He experienced the power of divine grace and he is as it were dead and risen. All the riches he previously owned, every cause for vanity and security, all this became "loss" from the moment of his encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ (cf. Ph 3,7-11). At that point, leaving everything almost becomes necessary, in order to express the super-abundance of the gift received which is so great that it demands total self-emptying, which however does not suffice; it needs a whole life lived "in accordance with the form of the Holy Gospel (2 Test., 4: Fonti Francescane, 116).
And here we come to the point that certainly lies at the heart of our meeting. I shall sum it up like this: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and the Life of the Friars Minor is this, that is, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ". This is what Francis wrote at the beginning of his Regula bullata (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He understood himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his fascination. This is his perennial timeliness. Thomas of Celano says that the Poverello "always carried Jesus in his heart. Jesus on his lips, Jesus is his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all his other members.... Indeed, finding himself frequently travelling and meditating on or praising Jesus, he would forget that he was on a journey and he would stop and invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF, 115). Thus the Poverello became a living Gospel, capable of attracting to Christ men and women of every epoch, especially young people who prefer radicalism to half measures. Bishop Guido of Assisi and, later, Pope Innocent III recognized the evangelical authenticity of the proposal of Francis and his companions and they were able to encourage their commitment, also in view of the good of the universal Church.
Here a reflection springs spontaneously to mind: Francis might also not have gone to the Pope. Many religious groups and movements were forming at that time and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution or at least did not seek her approval. A polemical attitude to the hierarchy would undoubtedly have gained Francis many followers. Instead, he immediately thought of putting his journey and that of his companions in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This act reveals his authentic ecclesial spirit. From the very first he had conceived of the little "we", which had begun with his first friars, as being within the great "we" of the Church, one and universal. And the Pope recognized and appreciated this. Indeed, the Pope for his part might not have given his approval to Francis' life project either. In fact we can easily imagine that some of Innocent III's collaborators might have advised him not to approve it, perhaps fearing precisely that that little group of friars might resemble other heretical and pauperist cliques of the time. On the contrary, the Roman Pontiff, well informed by the Bishop of Assisi and by Cardinal Giovanni di San Paolo, was able to discern in it the initiative of the Holy Spirit and accepted, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of "friars minor".
Dear brothers and sisters, eight centuries have passed and you have desired to renew the gesture of your Founder. All of you are children and heirs of those origins. From that "good seed" which was Francis, conformed in his turn to the "grain of wheat" which is the Lord Jesus, who died and was raised to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 12,24). The Saints propose anew the fruitfulness of Christ. Like Francis and Clare of Assisi, you too strive to follow this same logic always: to lose your life in the cause of Jesus and the Gospel, in order to save it and make it abundantly fruitful. While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to belong to such a large and beautiful "family", continue to be attentive to what the Spirit says to it today, to each of its components, so that you may continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God fervently, treading in the footsteps of the Seraphic Father. May every brother and every sister always preserve a contemplative, simple and joyful heart: always set out anew from Christ, just as Francis set out from the gaze of the Crucifix of San Damiano and from the meeting with the leper, in order to see Christ's Face in the suffering brethren and bring his peace to all. May you be witnesses of God's "beauty", which Francis was able to praise while contemplating the marvels of Creation, and which made him exclaim to the Most High "You are beauty!" (Lodi di Dio altissimo, 4,6: FF, 261).
Dear friends, the last word I wish to leave you with is the same word that the Risen Jesus consigned to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28,19); Mk 16: 15). Go, and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. A few days ago the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo seriously damaged many churches and you of Assisi know well what this means. But there is another "ruin" which is far more serious: that of people and communities! Like Francis, always begin with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore. If you are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel you will continue to help the Pastors of the Church to make her face as Christ's Bride ever more beautiful. This is what the Pope expects of you, today, as at the outset. Thank you for coming! Go now and take the peace and love of Jesus Christ the Saviour to all. May Mary Immaculate, "the Virgin made Church" (cf. Greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1: FF, 259), always go with you. And may the Apostolic Blessing which I warmly impart to all of you present here and to the entire Franciscan Family sustain you always.
The Pope then greeted those present in various languages. To the English-speaking Franciscans he said:
I am pleased to welcome in a special way the Minister Generals gathered with the priests, Sisters and Brothers of the world-wide Franciscan community present at this Audience. As you mark the Eighth-hundredth Anniversary of the approval of the Rule of St Francis, I pray that through the intercession of the Poverello Franciscans everywhere will continue to offer themselves completely at the service of others, especially the poor. May the Lord bless you in your Apostolates and shower your communities with abundant vocations.
Speeches 2005-13 30409