Audiences 2005-2013 22065
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. We have before us Psalm 124, a song of thanksgiving intoned by the whole community in prayer, raising praise to God for the gift of liberation. The Psalmist opens by proclaiming the invitation: "This is Israel's song" (v. 1), thus encouraging all the people to raise lively and sincere thanks to God the Saviour. If the Lord had not taken the victims' side, with their limited strength they would have been powerless to free themselves; their adversaries, like monsters, would have torn and shattered them.
Although this Psalm has been thought to refer to some specific historical event, such as the end of the Babylonian exile, it is more likely that it was intended as a heartfelt hymn to thank the Lord for being saved from peril and a plea for liberation from all evil. In this regard it is a Psalm that is ever timely.
2. After the initial reference to certain "men" who rose up against the faithful and would have "swallowed them alive" (cf. vv. 2-3), the song has two passages. In the first, the raging waters, a biblical symbol of devastating chaos, evil and death, predominate: "Then would the waters have engulfed us, the torrent gone over us; over our head would have swept the raging waters" (vv. 4-5). The person of prayer now has the feeling that he lies on a beach, miraculously saved from the pounding fury of the waves.
Human life is surrounded by the snares of evil lying in wait that not only attack the person's life but also aim at destroying all human values. We see how these dangers exist even now. However, the Lord rises - and we can be sure of this also today - to preserve the just and save him, as the Psalmist sings in Psalm 18: "From on high he reached down and seized me; he drew me forth from the mighty waters. He snatched me from my powerful foe, from my enemies... the Lord was my support. He brought me forth into freedom, he saved me because he loved me" (vv. 17-20).
3. The second part of our thanksgiving hymn shifts from the marine image to a hunting scene, typical of many Psalms of supplication (cf. Ps 124: 6-8). Here, in fact, the Psalm evokes a wild beast clenching its prey between its teeth or the snare of fowlers that captures a bird. But the blessing this Psalm expresses enables us to understand that the destiny of the faithful, that was a destiny of death, has been radically changed by a saving intervention: "Blessed be the Lord who did not give us a prey to their teeth! Our life, like a bird, has escaped from the snare of the fowler. Indeed the snare has been broken and we have escaped" (vv. 6-7).
Here, prayer becomes a sigh of relief that wells up from the depths of the soul: even when all human hopes are destroyed, the divine liberating power can appear. The Psalmist can thus conclude with a profession of faith, which has been part of the Christian liturgy for centuries, as an ideal premise for all our prayers: "Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, qui fecit caelum et terram - Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (v. 8). In particular, the Almighty takes the side of the victims and the persecuted "who call out to him day and night" and he "will give them swift justice" (cf. Lc 18,7-8).
4. St Augustine comments clearly on this Psalm. He first observes that it is fittingly sung by the "members of Christ who have reached blessedness". In particular, "it has been sung by the holy martyrs who, upon leaving this world are with Christ in joy, ready to take up incorrupt again those same bodies that were previously corruptible. In life they suffered torments in the body, but in eternity these torments will be transformed into ornaments of justice".
However, in a second instance the Bishop of Hippo tells us that we too, not only the blessed in Heaven, can sing this Psalm with hope. He declares: "We too are enlivened by unfailing hope and will sing in exaltation. Indeed, the singers of this Psalm are not strangers to us.... Therefore, let us all sing with one heart: both the saints who already possess the crown as well as ourselves, who with affection and hope unite ourselves to their crown. Together we desire the life that we do not have here below, but that we will never obtain if we have not first desired it".
St Augustine then returns to his former perspective and explains: "The saints think back to the sufferings they encountered, and from that place of bliss and peace where they are now, look at the path they trod to arrive there; and since it would have been difficult to attain deliverance had the hand of the Liberator not intervened to rescue them, they joyfully exclaim: "If the Lord had not been on our side'. This is how their song begins. So great is their joy that they never even speak of that from which they have escaped" (Exposition on Psalm 123: 3: Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Rome 1977, p. 65).
To special groups
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Audience, including pilgrims from England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. I offer a special welcome to the women Religious attending a Formators Course, to the members of the Choir of the Pontifical Josephinum College and to the representatives of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. May your time in Rome bring you joy in the Lord's service, and may God bless you all!
I address a cordial thought to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. We not only feel the warmth of the sun, but especially the warmth of hearts. Thank you! In particular, I greet the members of the special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, who are meeting in these days at the General Secretariat of the Synod. Confirming what my Venerable and dear Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, decided last 13 November, I would like to announce my intention to convoke the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. I am very confident that this Session will effectively give an additional impetus to evangelization to the consolidation and growth of the Church and to the promotion of reconciliation and peace on the Continent of Africa.
I also greet the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of St Francis de Sales and the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret who are celebrating their respective General Chapters in these days.
Dear Sisters, always continue to listen to the Holy Spirit and continue faithfully on the apostolic journey undertaken by your Founders and Foundresses. May the Blessed Virgin make all your spiritual efforts fruitful. The Pope accompanies you with his prayers.
I then address a special thought to you, dear soldiers, who are present here in such large numbers. I express the hope that each one of you will be more and more attached to Christ and his Gospel.
Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick people and the newly-weds. I hope that you will all find in friendship with Jesus the strength and enthusiasm necessary to be his witnesses everywhere.
Let us end our meeting by singing the Pater Noster.
The Holy Father then led the prayer of the "Our Father" and imparted the Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today we have heard not a Psalm but a Hymn from the Letter to the Ephesians (cf. Ep 1,3-14), a hymn that recurs in the Liturgy of Vespers in each one of the four weeks. This hymn is a prayer of blessing addressed to God the Father. It develops and describes the various stages of the plan of salvation, fulfilled through the work of Christ.
At the centre of the blessing the Greek word mysterion rings out, a term usually associated with verbs of revelation ("to reveal", "to know", "to manifest"). In fact, this is the great and secret project which the Father had kept to himself since time immemorial (cf. v. 9) and which he decided to bring about and reveal in "the fullness of time" (cf. v. 10) through Jesus Christ, his Son.
The stages of this plan correspond in the hymn with the saving actions of God through Christ in the Spirit. The Father, first of all - this is his first act - chooses us from eternity so that we may be holy and blameless in love (cf. v. 4), then he predestines us to be his sons (cf. vv. 5-6), and in addition, he redeems us and forgives our sins (cf. vv. 7-8), fully reveals to us the mystery of salvation in Christ (cf. vv. 9-10) and finally, he offers the eternal inheritance to us (cf. vv. 11-12), already giving us a pledge of it now in the gift of the Holy Spirit, with a view to the final resurrection (cf. vv. 13-14).
2. There are, therefore, many saving events that follow one another as the hymn unfolds. They involve the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity: starting with the Father, who is the Initiator and supreme Creator of the plan of salvation: the focus is then centred on the Son, who brings about the plan in history; then comes the Holy Spirit, who impresses his "seal" upon the whole work of salvation. Let us now reflect briefly on the first two stages: holiness and sonship (vv. 4-6).
The first divine act, revealed and brought about in Christ, is the choosing of believers, the result of a free and gratuitous initiative of God. In the beginning, therefore, "before the foundation of the world" (v. 4), in the eternity of God, divine grace was ready to come into action. I am moved to meditate upon this truth: from eternity we have been in God's sight, and he decided to save us. The content of this calling is our "holiness", a great word. Holiness is participation in the purity of the divine Being. But we know that God is love.
Participating in divine purity, therefore, means participating in the "charity" of God, conforming ourselves to God who is "charity". "God is love" (1Jn 4,8): this is the comforting truth that also makes us understand that "holiness" is not a reality remote from our own lives, but we enter into the mystery of "holiness" to the extent that we can become people who love together with God. Thus, the agape becomes our daily reality. We are therefore transferred to the sacred and vital horizon of God himself.
3. We proceed along these lines towards the next stage that has also been contemplated in the divine plan since eternity: our "predestination" as children of God, who are not only human creatures, but truly belong to God as his children.
Paul has exalted elsewhere (cf. Gal Ga 4,5 Rm 8,15) the sublime condition of sonship that implies and results from brotherhood with Christ, the Son par excellence, the "first-born of many brothers" (Rm 8,29), as well as intimacy with the heavenly Father who can henceforth be invoked as Abba, whom we can address as "beloved Father" in the sense of a real familiarity with God, in a spontaneous and loving relationship.
We are therefore in the presence of an immense gift, made possible by the "purpose of [the divine] will" and by "grace", a luminous expression of the love that saves.
4. Let us now listen to the great Bishop of Milan, St Ambrose, who in one of his letters comments on the words the Apostle Paul addressed to the Ephesians, reflecting on the rich content of our own Christological Hymn. He first emphasizes the superabundant grace with which God has made us his adoptive children in Jesus Christ. "Consequently, there is no need to doubt that the members are united to their Head, above all because we were predestined from the very start to be adopted as children of God through Jesus Christ" (Letter XVI ad Ireneo, 4: SAEMO, XIX, Milan-Rome, 1988, p. 161).
The holy Bishop of Milan continued his reflection, observing: "Who is rich other than God alone, Creator of all things?". And he concludes: "But he is far richer in mercy for he has redeemed us all and - as the author of nature - has transformed us, who in accordance with the nature of flesh were children of anger and subject to punishment, so that we might be children of peace and love" (ibid., 7, p. 163).
To special groups
I am happy to greet the English-speaking visitors present at this Audience, including pilgrims from Scotland, Canada and the United States of America. I offer a special welcome to the members of the Committee "Vox Clara", and to all the Religious attending renewal programmes and holding their General Chapters at this time. Upon all of you I invoke the peace and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ; may God bless you all.
I address a warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet in particular the Dominican Sisters of Blessed Imelda who are celebrating their General Chapter in these days, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Servants of Mary who are commemorating the 150th anniversary of their Institute. Dear sisters, I hope that you will be eloquent signs of God's love in every context.
I then greet the delegation led by Archbishop Riccardo Fontana of Spoleto-Norcia which is bearing the Benedictine Torch of peace, an important event now being celebrated for the 30th time. This year the torch started out from Moscow after being received by a Depuration of Patriarch Alexis II, and it has made a stop in Germany, at the Monastery of Ottobeuren, and in Marktl am Inn, where I was born. As a symbolic sign of peace, today it is pausing at the tombs of the Apostles and will then make its way to Norcia. Dear friends, may this evocative initiative inspire an ever more generous commitment in Europe to witness to the Christian values.
Lastly, my thoughts turn as usual to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. We are advancing into the summer season, a time of healthy relaxation and well-deserved rest. I ask you, dear young people, to make the most of the summer for useful human and religious experiences. I hope that you, dear sick people, will also feel in these months the closeness of friendly people and relatives. And I invite you, dear newly-weds, to use the holidays to grow in reciprocal love, illumined by divine joy.
Brothers and Sisters,
1. After my holidays spent in the Aosta Valley, our journey in the Liturgy of Vespers continues at this meeting. Psalm 125 is now our focus; it is part of that intense and evocative collection known as the "Songs of Ascents", an ideal little prayer book for the pilgrimage to Zion with a view to the encounter with the Lord in the temple (cf. Ps 120-134).
We shall now meditate briefly on a sapiential text that gives rise to trust in the Lord and contains a short prayer (cf. Ps 125: 4).
The first sentence proclaims the stability of "those who put their trust in the Lord", comparing it to the safety and firmness of "Mount Zion", that "cannot be shaken". This is obviously due to the presence of God, "rock, fortress, saviour... refuge, shield, mighty help, stronghold", as another Psalm says (cf. 18: 3).
Even when the believer feels lonely and is surrounded by risks and hostility, his faith must be serene because the Lord is always with us; his power surrounds us and protects us.
The Prophet Isaiah also testifies to hearing God speak these words, destined for the faithful: "See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; he who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken" (Is 28,16).
2. However, the Psalmist continues, the trust that is the atmosphere of faith of the faithful has a further support: the Lord is, as it were, encamped to defend his people, just as the mountains that surround Jerusalem make it a naturally fortified city (cf. Ps 125: 2). In a prophecy by Zechariah, God says of Jerusalem: "I will be for her an encircling wall of fire... and I will be the glory in her midst" (Za 2,9).
In this atmosphere of deeply-rooted trust, which is the atmosphere of faith, the Psalmist reassures "the upright of heart", the believers. Their situation in itself can be worrying because of the tyranny of the wicked, who wish to impose their domination.
There might also be a temptation for the just to make themselves accomplices of evil to avoid serious difficulties, but the Lord protects them from oppression: "For the sceptre of the wicked shall not rest over the land of the just" (Ps 125: 3); at the same time, he preserves them from the temptation to turn their hands to evil (cf. ibid.).
Thus, the Psalm instils deep trust in the soul. This is a powerful help in facing difficult situations when the external crisis of loneliness, irony and contempt of believers is associated with the interior crisis that consists of discouragement, mediocrity and weariness. We know this situation, but the Psalm tells us that if we have trust, we are stronger than these evils.
3. The finale of the Psalm contains the prayer addressed to the Lord for the "good" and the "upright of heart" (cf. v. 4), and an announcement of misfortune to "the crooked and those who do evil" (v. 5).
On the one hand, the Psalmist asks the Lord to manifest himself as a loving father to the just and the faithful who bear aloft the torch of a righteous life and a clear conscience.
On the other hand, the hope is expressed that he will prove to be a just judge to those who have taken the winding path of evil, which leads ultimately to death.
The Psalm is sealed by the traditional greeting, shalom, "On Israel, peace", a greeting that by assonance rhymes with Jerushalajim, on Jerusalem (cf. v. 2), the city that is a symbol of peace and holiness.
This greeting becomes a wish of hope: We can explain it in St Paul's words: "Peace and mercy on all who follow this rule of life, and on the Israel of God" (Ga 6,16).
4. In his commentary on this Psalm, St Augustine compares "the crooked and those who do evil" with "the upright of heart", who never stray from God. If the former are to find themselves associated with the destiny of "those who do evil", what will be the destiny of the "upright of heart"?
In the hope that together with his listeners he too will share in their happy destiny, the Bishop of Hippo wonders: "What will we possess? What will be our inheritance? What will be our homeland? What will it be called?".
And he answers himself, pointing out its name. I make these words my own: "Peace. We greet you with the wish of peace; I proclaim peace to you; may the mountains receive peace, while justice spreads over the hills (cf. Ps 72: 3). Now, our peace is Christ: Indeed, "It is he who is our peace' (Ep 2,14)" (Esposizioni sui Salmi, IV, Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Rome, 1977, p. 105).
St Augustine concludes with an exhortation which at the same time is a wish: "We are the Israel of God and let us cling tightly to peace, for Jerusalem means a vision of peace and we are Israel: the Israel on which is peace" (ibid., p. 107), and peace is Christ.
To special groups
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I greet with particular affection the group of priests from China. I also welcome the groups from Hong Kong, Ireland, The Philippines, Australia and the United States of America. Wishing you all a pleasant stay in Rome, I cordially invoke upon you the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lastly, I address the young people, the sick, and the newly-weds. Tomorrow, the liturgy commemorates a priest who was deeply loved by his contemporaries: St John Mary Vianney, the Holy Curé d'Ars. Dear friends, may his example be an incentive and an encouragement to you all to respond generously to divine grace.
1. We have listened to only a few words, about 30 in the original Hebrew, of Psalm 131. Yet they are intense words that convey a topic dear to all religious literature: spiritual childhood. Our thoughts turn spontaneously to St Thérèse of Lisieux, to her "Little Way", her "remaining little" in order to be held in Jesus' arms (cf. Story of a Soul, Manuscript "C", p. MSC 208).
Indeed, the clear-cut image of a mother and child in the middle of the Psalm is a sign of God's tender and maternal love, as the Prophet Hosea formerly expressed it: "When Israel was a child I loved him.... I drew [him] with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered [him] like one who raises an infant to his cheeks... I stooped to feed my child" (Os 11,1).
2. The Psalm begins by describing an attitude quite the opposite of infancy, which, well aware of its own frailty, trusts in the help of others. In the foreground of this Psalm, instead, are pride of heart, haughty eyes and "great things" that are "too sublime for me" (cf. Ps 131,1 ). This is an illustration of the proud person who is described by Hebrew words that suggest "pride" and "haughtiness", the arrogant attitude of those who look down on others, considering them inferior.
The great temptation of the proud, who want to be like God, the arbiter of good and evil (cf. Gn 3,5), is decisively rejected by the person of prayer who chooses humble and spontaneous trust in the One Lord.
3. Thus, we move on to the unforgettable image of the mother and child. The original Hebrew text does not speak of a newborn child but of a child that has been "weaned" (Ps 131,2 ). Now, it is known that in the ancient Near East a special celebration marked the official weaning of a child, usually at about the age of 3 (cf. Gn 21,8 1S 1,20-23 2M 7,27).
The child to which the Psalmist refers is now bound to the mother by a most personal and intimate bond, hence, not merely by physical contact and the need for food. It is a more conscious tie, although nonetheless immediate and spontaneous. This is the ideal Parable of the true "childhood" of the spirit that does not abandon itself to God blindly and automatically, but serenely and responsibly.
4. At this point, the praying person's profession of trust is extended to the entire community: "O Israel, hope in the Lord both now and for ever" (Ps 131,3 ). In the entire people which receives security, life and peace from God, hope now blossoms and extends from the present to the future, "now and for ever".
It is easy to continue the prayer by making other voices in the Psalms ring out, inspired by this same trust in God: "To you I was committed at birth, from my mother's womb you are my God" (Ps 22,11 ). "Though my father and mother forsake me, yet will the Lord receive me" (Ps 27,10 ). "For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength" (Ps 71,5-6 ).
5. Humble trust, as we have seen, is opposed by pride. John Cassian, a fourth-fifth century Christian writer, warned the faithful of the danger of this vice that "destroys all the virtues overall and does not only attack the tepid and the weak, but principally those who have forced their way to the top".
He continues: "This is the reason why Blessed David preserved his heart with such great circumspection, to the point that he dared proclaim before the One whom none of the secrets of his conscience escaped: "Lord, may my heart not grow proud, nor my gaze be raised with haughtiness; let me not seek great things that are beyond my strength'.... Yet, knowing well how difficult such custody is even for those who are perfect, he does not presume to rely solely on his own abilities, but implores the Lord with prayers to help him succeed in avoiding the darts of the enemy and in not being injured by them: "Let not the foot of the proud overtake me' (Ps 36,12 )" (Le Istituzioni Cenobitiche, XII, 6, Abbey of Praglia, Bresseo di Teolo, Padua, 1989, p. 289).
Likewise, an anonymous elderly Desert Father has handed down to us this saying that echoes Psalm 131: "I have never overstepped my rank to walk higher, nor have I ever been troubled in the case of humiliation, for I concentrated my every thought on this: praying the Lord to strip me of the old man" (I Padri del Deserto. Detti, Rome, 1980, p. 287).
To special groups
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from Japan, South Korea, Jamaica and the United States of America. I thank you for the affection with which you have greeted me. May you have a happy stay in Rome. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ Our Lord!
My thoughts now turn to the young people, the sick, and the newly-weds. Today, we are celebrating the Memorial of St Lawrence, Martyr, a shining example of a Christian who lived his total attachment to the divine Master with courage and evangelical heroism. Dear friends, imitate his example and, like him, always be ready to respond faithfully to the Lord's call.
The Holy Father then led the prayer of the "Our Father" and imparted the Apostolic Blessing.
1. Listening to the words of Psalm 126, one has the impression of seeing before one's eyes the event of the "new Exodus" that is sung of in the second part of the Book of Isaiah: the return of Israel from the Babylonian Exile to the land of her fathers after the edict of the Persian King Cyrus in 538 B.C. It was thus a repetition of the joyful experience of the first Exodus, when the Jewish people were released from slavery in Egypt.
This Psalm acquired special significance when it was sung on the days when Israel felt threatened and afraid because she was once again being put to the test. Effectively, the Psalm contains a prayer for the return of the captives of that time (cf. v. 4). Thus, it became a prayer of the People of God in their historical wanderings, fraught with dangers and trials but ever open to trust in God the Saviour and Liberator, the support of the weak and the oppressed.
2. The Psalm introduces us into an atmosphere of exultation: people were laughing, celebrating their new-found freedom, and songs of joy were on their lips (cf. vv. 1-2).
There is a twofold reaction to the restored freedom.
On the one hand, the heathen nations recognized the greatness of the God of Israel: "What marvels the Lord worked for them!" (v. 2). The salvation of the Chosen People becomes a clear proof of the effective and powerful existence of God, present and active in history.
On the other hand, it is the People of God who profess their faith in the Lord who saves: "What marvels the Lord worked for us!" (v. 3).
3. Our thoughts then turn to the past, relived with a shudder of fear and affliction. Let us focus our attention on the agricultural image used by the Psalmist: "Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap" (v. 5). Under the burden of work, their faces are sometimes lined with tears: the sowing is laborious, perhaps doomed to uselessness and failure. But with the coming of the abundant, joyful harvest, they discover that their suffering has borne fruit.
The great lesson on the mystery of life's fruitfulness that suffering can contain is condensed in this Psalm, just as Jesus said on the threshold of his passion and death: "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12,24).
4. Thus, the horizon of the Psalm opens to the festive harvest, a symbol of joy born from the freedom, peace and prosperity that are fruits of the divine blessing. This prayer, then, is a song of hope to turn back to when one is immersed in moments of trial, fear, threats and inner oppression.
But it can also become a more general appeal to live one's days and make one's decisions in an atmosphere of faithfulness. In the end, perseverance in good, even if it is misunderstood and opposed, always reaches a landing place of light, fruitfulness and peace.
This is what St Paul reminded the Galatians: "If [a man] sows in the field of the flesh, he will reap a harvest of corruption; but if his seed-ground is the spirit, he will reap everlasting life. Let us not grow weary of doing good; if we do not relax our efforts, in due time we shall reap our harvest" (Ga 6,8-9).
5. Let us end with a reflection on Psalm 126 by St Bede the Venerable (672/3-735), commenting on the words by which Jesus announced to his disciples the sorrow that lay in store for them, and at the same time the joy that would spring from their affliction (cf. Jn 16,20).
Bede recalls that "Those who loved Christ were weeping and mourning when they saw him captured by his enemies, bound, carried away for judgment, condemned, scourged, mocked and lastly crucified, pierced by the spear and buried. Instead, those who loved the world rejoiced... when they condemned to a most ignominious death the One of whom the sight alone they could not tolerate. The disciples were overcome by grief at the death of the Lord, but once they had learned of his Resurrection, their sorrow changed to joy; then when they had seen the miracle of the Ascension, they praised and blessed the Lord, filled with even greater joy, as the Evangelist Luke testified (cf. Lc 24,53).
"But the Lord's words can be applied to all the faithful who, through the tears and afflictions of this world, seek to arrive at eternal jubilation and rightly weep and grieve now, because they cannot yet see the One they love and because they know that while they are in the body they are far from the Homeland and the Kingdom, even if they are certain that they will reach it with their efforts and struggles. Their sorrow will change into joy when, after the struggle of this life, they receive the reward of eternal life, as the Psalm says: "Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap' (Homily on the Gospel, 2, 13: Collana dei Testi Patristici, XC, Rome, 1990, pp. 379-380).
At the end of his Catechesis, the Holy Father expressed his deep sorrow at the death of Bro. Roger Schutz, founder of the Taizé Community, who was stabbed on Tuesday, 16 August, by a woman.
We have talked together of sorrow and joy. In fact, this morning I received some very sad, tragic news.
At Vespers yesterday evening [Tuesday, 16 August], beloved Bro. Roger Schutz, Founder of the Taizé Community, was stabbed and killed by a woman who was probably insane.
This news is an especially heavy blow because only yesterday I received a very touching and friendly letter from Bro. Roger. In it, he wrote that in the depths of his heart he was intending to tell me that "we are in communion with you and with those who have gathered in Cologne". He then wrote that because of his health he would unfortunately be unable to come in person to Cologne, but would be present in spirit, with his brethren.
At the end of this letter he told me that he wanted to come as soon as possible to Rome to meet me and tell me that "our Community of Taizé wants to journey on in communion with the Holy Father". And he then wrote in his own hand: "Holy Father, I assure you of my sentiments of deep communion. Bro. Roger of Taizé".
At this moment of grief, we can only entrust to the Lord's goodness the soul of this faithful servant of his. We know that joy will be born from sorrow - as we have just heard in the Psalm: Bro. Roger Schutz is in the hands of eternal goodness, eternal love; he has arrived at eternal joy.
He recommends to us, he urges us always to be faithful workers in the Lord's vineyard, even in sorrowful situations, certain that the Lord accompanies us and will give us his joy.
To the English-speaking pilgrims
I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors here today. I greet particularly the following groups: the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception; from Malta, the parents of altar servers assisting in St Peter's Basilica; from Nigeria, pilgrims to several shrines of Europe and the Holy Land; from Japan, a group of Salesian Sisters; and from the United States of America, a youth pilgrimage from Saint Paul's Parish, Houston, Texas. I invite you to join me during these days in praying for the success of the World Youth Day in Cologne. I wish you all a happy stay and invoke upon you the grace and peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
The Holy Father then led the prayer of the "Our Father" and imparted the Apostolic Blessing.
Audiences 2005-2013 22065