Audiences 2005-2013 19050
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I wish to review with you the various stages of the Apostolic Trip that I took to Portugal in the past days, inspired mainly by a desire to honour the Virgin Mary, who at Fatima passed on to her seers and to pilgrims an intense love for the Successor of Peter. I thank God for having given me the opportunity to pay homage to that People, to its long and glorious history of faith and of Christian witness. Therefore, just as I asked you to accompany in prayer this Pastoral Visit, so I now invite you to join with me in giving thanks to the Lord for its happy outcome and its conclusion. I entrust to him the fruits that the Visit has brought about and will bring about for the community of the Portuguese Church and for the entire population. I renew my heartfelt gratitude to the President of the Republic, Mr Aníbal Cavaco Silva, along with the other State Authorities, who welcomed me so cordially and did their utmost to ensure that everything might progress in the best possible way. With intense affection I recall my Brother Bishops of the Portuguese dioceses, whom I had the joy of embracing in their own homeland. I thank them fraternally for the work they carried out in the spiritual and organizational preparation of my Visit, and also for the considerable effort involved in its realization. I extend a special thought to the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, to the Bishops António Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima and Manuel Macário do Nascimento Clemente of Oporto and to their respective collaborators, and likewise to the various bodies of the Bishops' Conference led by Bishop Jorge Ortiga.
Throughout the Visit, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Beatification of the shepherd children Jacinta and Francisco, I felt spiritually sustained by my beloved Predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, who travelled to Fatima three times, in thanksgiving for that "invisible hand" which saved him from death in the attempt of 13 May, here in St Peter's Square. On the evening of my arrival I celebrated Holy Mass in Lisbon in the charming setting of Terreiro do Paço, facing the River Tagus. It was a festive liturgical gathering, full of hope and animated by the joyous participation of a great many faithful. At the Capital from where, over the course of centuries, many missionaries departed in order to take the Gospel to various continents I encouraged the several members of the local Church to pursue a vigorous evangelizing action within society's diverse milieux, in order to be sowers of hope in a world often marked by distrust. In particular, I appealed to believers to proclaim the death and Resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, fulcrum and support of our faith and reason for our joy. I also expressed these sentiments during the meeting with representatives of the world of culture, which took place in the Cultural Centre of Belém. On that occasion, I highlighted the patrimony of values with which Christianity has enriched the culture, art and heritage of the Portuguese People. In this noble Land it is possible as it is in every other country deeply influenced by Christianity to build a future of fraternal good will and collaboration with other cultural initiatives, by being open to sincere, reciprocal and respectful dialogue.
I then went to Fatima, a small city characterized by an atmosphere of real mysticism, in which one senses the almost palpable presence of Our Lady. There, in that admirable Shrine, the spiritual heart of Portugal and the destination of a multitude of people from greatly diverse places on earth, I became a pilgrim among pilgrims. After having paused in prayerful and moving contemplation in the Chapel of the Apparitions in the Cova da Iria where I entrusted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the joys and expectations, as well as the problems and sufferings, of the entire world I had the joy of presiding at a Vespers Celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Inside this large modern temple, I expressed my deep appreciation to the priests, men and women religious, deacons, and to the seminarians who came from every part of Portugal, as I thanked them for their often silent and not always easy witness, and for their fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. In this Year for Priests, which is nearing its end, I encouraged the priests to give priority to devout listening to the Word of God, to the intimate knowledge of Christ, to the intense celebration of the Eucharist, while emulating the luminous example of the Holy Curé d'Ars. I did not omit to entrust and consecrate the priests of all the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, true model of a disciple of the Lord.
In the evening, I participated in an evocative candlelit procession with the thousands of people who had chosen to join in the event in this huge square in front of the Shrine. It was a stupendous manifestation of faith in God and of devotion to his and our Mother, expressed in the recitation of the Holy Rosary. This prayer, so dear to the Christian people, has found in Fatima a central driving force for the whole Church and the world. The "White Lady", in the Apparition of 13 June, told the three shepherd children: "I want you to recite the Rosary every day". We could say that Fatima and the Rosary are practically synonymous.
My Visit to this truly special place reached its climax in the Eucharistic Celebration of 13 May, the anniversary of the first Apparition of the Virgin Mary to Francisco, Jacinta and Lúcia. In echoing the words of the Prophet Isaiah, I invited that immense prayerful gathering, united in such great love and devotion at the feet of the Virgin, to rejoice fully in the Lord (cf. Is 61,10), so that her merciful love, which accompanies us on our pilgrimage on this earth, may be the spring of our great hope. And hope is precisely what fills the demanding yet at the same time comforting Message that Our Lady left to us at Fatima. It is a Message centred on prayer, on penance and on conversion that reaches beyond the threats, dangers and horrors of history to invite mankind to have faith in God's action: to cultivate the great Hope, to experience the Lord's grace and thus to fall in love with him, who is the source of love and peace.
In this perspective, my meeting with the social assistance and pastoral organizations was especially meaningful and engrossing. To these I emphasized the Good Samaritan's way of meeting the needs of our poorest brothers and sisters and of serving Christ, by promoting the common good. Indeed, it is at Fatima a school of faith and of hope, since it is also a school of charity and service to others that many young people learn the importance of selfless giving. In this context of faith and prayer, the important, fraternal meeting with the Portuguese Episcopate took place, at the conclusion of my Visit to Fatima. It was a moment of intense spiritual communion, in which together we thanked the Lord for the faithfulness of the Church that is alive in Portugal and also entrusted to the Virgin the community's hopes and our pastoral concerns. I also spoke of these hopes and pastoral prospects during the Holy Mass celebrated in the historic and symbolic city of Oporto, the "City of the Virgin", which was the last stage of my pilgrimage through the land of Lusitania. Addressing the large crowd of the faithful gathered in the Avenida dos Aliados, I recalled the commitment to witness to the Gospel in every context, offering the Risen Christ to the world so that every difficult, painful and frightening situation might be transformed through the Holy Spirit into an opportunity for growth and life.
Dear brothers and sisters, my pilgrimage to Portugal has been a moving experience, rich with many spiritual gifts. While the memory of this unforgettable Journey the warm, spontaneous welcome, the enthusiasm of the people remain fixed in my mind and heart, I give praise to the Lord for having opened to the world, through Mary's Apparitions to the three shepherd children, a privileged space in which to encounter the divine mercy that heals and saves. At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin invites everyone to consider the earth as the place where we make our pilgrimage towards the definitive homeland, which is Heaven. In reality we are all pilgrims, and we need our Mother to guide us. The theme of my Apostolic Journey to Portugal was, "With You We Walk in Hope: Wisdom and Mission". And at Fatima the Blessed Virgin Mary invites us to walk with great hope, letting ourselves be guided by the "wisdom from on high" manifest in Jesus, the wisdom of love so that we might carry Christ's light and joy to the world. I therefore invite you to join with me in prayer, asking the Lord to bless the efforts of those in that beloved Nation who dedicate themselves to the service of the Gospel and to the search for the true good of man, of every human being. Furthermore we pray that, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Spirit may make this Apostolic Trip fruitful, and may give life to the mission of the Church worldwide, instituted by Christ, to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, peace and love. To Special Groups Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, including the groups from England, Malaysia and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the students who are here and to the American Patrons of the Vatican Museums. Commending all of you to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, I ask Almighty God to pour out his Blessings upon you.
My Pastoral Visit to Portugal this past week enabled me to honour Our Lady of Fatima and to pay homage to the distinguished history of Christian faith and evangelizing zeal of the Portuguese people. The visit began with a Mass celebrated in the Terreiro do Paço in Lisbon, where I urged Portugal’s Christians to carry on this great work of evangelization in our own day. The heart of my journey was my pilgrimage to Fatima for the tenth anniversary of the Beatification of the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta. The evening recitation of the Rosary and the solemn Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition were centred on the message of Fatima. Our Lady’s exhortation to prayer, penance and conversion is essentially a summons to hope in God’s merciful love and trust in his saving plan, which triumphs over the threats and calamities of history. As I give thanks for the blessings of my pilgrimage, I ask you to join me in asking Our Lady of Fatima to continue, by her prayers, to guide us on our journey to heaven, to open the hearts of all to God’s infinite mercy, and to confirm the Church in her perennial mission of proclaiming before the world the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including the groups from England, Malaysia and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the students who are here and to the American Patrons of the Vatican Museums. Commending all of you to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, I ask Almighty God to pour out his blessings upon you.
Saint Peter's Square26050
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Year for Priests, is drawing to a close; therefore I began to talk in the last Catecheses about the essential tasks of the priest: to teach, to sanctify and to govern. I have already given two Catecheses, one on the ministry of sanctification, the Sacraments above all, and one on that of teaching. So it remains for me today to speak of the priest's mission to govern, to guide - with the authority of Christ, not his own the portion of the People that God has entrusted to him.
How can we comprehend in our modern day culture a dimension of this kind that implies the concept of authority and has its origins in the Lord's own mandate to tend his flock? What is authority really, for us Christians? The cultural, political and historical experiences of the recent past, above all the dictatorships in Eastern and Western Europe in the 20th century, have made contemporary man suspicious of this concept. A suspicion which is often expressed in a conviction that it is necessary to eliminate every kind of authority does not come exclusively from man, and is not regulated and controlled by him. But it is precisely in reviewing those regimes which in the last century disseminated terror and death, that we are forcibly reminded that authority, in every circumstance, when it is exercised without reference to the Transcendent, if it neglects the Supreme Authority, which is God, inevitably finishes by turning against man. It is important, therefore, to recognize that human authority is never an end in itself but always and only a means and that, necessarily and in every age, the end is the person, created by God with his own inviolable dignity and called to relate to his Creator, both along the path of his earthly journey and in eternal life; it is an authority exercised in responsibility before God, before the Creator. An authority whose sole purpose is understood to be to serve the true good of the person and to be a glass through which we can see the one and supreme Good, which is God. Not only is it not foreign to man, but on the contrary, it is a precious help on our journey towards a total fulfilment in Christ, towards salvation.
The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ, who received from his Father all authority both in Heaven and on Earth (cf. Mt 28,18) Christ tends his flock through the Pastor of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter and the priests, their most precious collaborators, to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, "to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity" and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 6). Every Pastor, therefore, is a means through whom Christ himself loves men: it is through our ministry, dear priests, it is through us that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: "let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord" (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).
Even if this pastoral task is founded on the Sacraments, its efficacy is not independent of the personal existence of the priest. In order to be a priest according to the heart of God (cf. Jr 3,15) it is necessary that not only the mind, but also the freedom and the will be deeply rooted in living friendship with Christ, a clear awareness of the identity received in Priestly Ordination, an unconditional readiness to lead the flock entrusted to him where the Lord desires and not in the direction which might, apparently, seem easier or more convenient. This requires, above all, a continuous and progressive willingness to allow Christ himself to govern the sacerdotal life. In fact, no one is really able to feed Christ's flock, unless he lives in profound and true obedience to Christ and the Church, and the docility of the people towards their priests depends on the docility of the priests towards Christ; for this reason the personal and constant encounter with the Lord, profound knowledge of him and the conformation of the individual will to Christ's will is always at the root of the pastoral ministry .
During the last decades, we have heard the adjective "pastoral" used almost as if it were in opposition to the concept of "hierarchical", and in the same way the idea of "communion" has also been set against it. At this point it may be useful to make a brief comment on the word "hierarchy", which is the traditional designation of the structure of sacramental authority within the Church, ordered according to the three levels of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, episcopate, presbyterate, diaconate: The concept of "hierarchy" carries, in public opinion, an element of subordination and of judgement; therefore to many the concept of hierarchy appears to be in contrast with the flexibility and vitality of the pastoral meaning and also appears contrary to the humility of the Gospel. However, this is a misunderstanding of the meaning of hierarchy, which arose in historical times from abuses of authority and careerism. But these are, in fact, abuses, and have nothing to do with the essential meaning of "hierarchy" itself. Common opinion holds that "hierarchy" is something connected with dominion and therefore cannot correspond to the real sense of the Church, that is unity in the love of Christ. But, as I have said, this is a mistaken interpretation, which has its origins in the abuses of the past, but does not correspond to the real meaning of hierarchy. Let us begin with the word. The word hierarchy is generally said to mean "sacred dominion", yet the real meaning is not this, but rather "sacred origin", that is to say: this authority does not come from man himself, but it has its origins in the sacred, in the Sacrament; so it subjects the person in second place to the vocation, to the mystery of Christ; it makes of the individual a servant of Christ, and only as a servant of Christ can he govern and guide for Christ and with Christ. Therefore he who enters into the Sacred Order of the Sacrament, the "hierarchy", is not an autocrat but he enters into a new bond of obedience to Christ: he is tied to Christ in communion with the other members of the Sacred Order, the Priesthood. Nor can the Pope, reference point for all the Pastors and for the communion of the Church, do what he likes; on the contrary, the Pope is the custodian of obedience to Christ, to his word summed up in the "regula fidei", in the Creed of the Church, and must lead the way in obedience to Christ and to his Church. Thus hierarchy implies a triple bond: in the first place the bond with Christ and with the order given by Our Lord to his Church; then the bond with the other Pastors in the one communion of the Church; and lastly, the bond with the faithful who are entrusted to the individual, in the order of the Church.
Therefore it is clear that communion and hierarchy are not contrary to each other, but they influence each other. Together they form one thing (hierarchical communion). The Pastor fulfils his role precisely when he guides and protects his flock and sometimes prevents it from scattering. Except in a vision which is clearly and explicitly supernatural, the task of governing which belongs to the priest is incomprehensible. On the contrary, sustained by a sincere desire for the salvation of each believer, he is particularly precious and necessary, also in our time. If the aim is to spread the message of Christ and to lead men and women towards a saving encounter with him, so that they may have life, then the task of guiding appears as a service lived in pure giving, for the edification of the flock in truth and holiness, often going against the tide, and remembering that he who is greater must act as the lesser, and he who governs as he who serves (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 27).
Where can a priest today find the strength for such an exercise of his ministry, in full fidelity to Christ and to the Church, and complete devotion to his flock? There is only one answer: in Christ the Lord. Jesus' way of governing was not through dominion, but in the humble and loving service of the Washing of the feet, and the kingship of Christ over the Universe is not an earthly triumph, but reaches its highest point on the wood of the Cross, which becomes a judgement for the world and a point of reference for the exercising of that authority which is the true expression of pastoral charity. The saints, among them St John Mary Vianney, carried out with love and devotion the task of caring for the portion of God's People entrusted to them, showing themselves to be strong and determined men with the single aim of promoting the true good of souls, and capable of paying a price in person, even to martyrdom, in order to remain faithful to the truth and justice of the Gospel.
Dear priests, "tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly... being examples to the flock" (1P 5,2). Therefore, do not be afraid to lead to Christ each one of the brethren whom he has entrusted to you, certain that every word and every action will bear fruit if they come from obedience to God's will: know how to live in appreciating the merits and in recognition of the limits of the culture in which we find ourselves, with the firm assurance that the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest service to render to man. In fact, there is no greater good, in this earthly life, than to lead people to God, to reawaken faith, to lift the person out of his inertia and desperation, to give the hope that God is near and directs our personal histories and that of the world: this, in the ultimate analysis, is the deep and final meaning of the task of governing that the Lord has given to us. To form Christ in believers, through that process of sanctification that is a conversion of criteria, scale of values, and patterns of behaviour, to allow Christ to live in every one of the faithful. St Paul sums up his pastoral action in these words, "my little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you" (Ga 4,19).
Dear brothers and sisters, I should like to invite you to pray for me, the Successor of Peter, who have a specific task in governing the Church of Christ, as have all your Bishops and priests. Pray that we may know how to take care of all the sheep, including those that are lost, that make up the flock entrusted to us. You, dear priests, I cordially invite to the closing celebrations of the Year for Priests, to be held on the 9th, 10th, and 11th June, here in Rome: we shall meditate on conversion and on mission, on the gift of the Holy Spirit and on the relationship with Mary Most Holy, and we shall renew our priestly promises, sustained by all the People of God. Thank you!
To Special Groups
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, India, Barbados, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace!
Finally, I address my greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Today the Church remembers St Philip Neri, who is distinguished for his joy and for his special dedication to youth, whom he educated and evangelized through the inspired pastoral initiative of the Oratory. Dear young people, look at this saint to learn to live with evangelical simplicity. Dear sick, may St Philip Neri help you to make of your suffering an offering to the heavenly Father, in union with Jesus Crucified. And you, dear newlyweds, supported by the intercession of St Philip, be inspired always by the Gospel to build a truly Christian family.
Saint Peter's Square Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After several Catecheses on the priesthood and on my latest Journeys, today we return to our main theme: meditation on some of the great thinkers of the Middle Ages. We recently looked at the great figure of St Bonaventure, a Franciscan, and today I wish to speak of the one whom the Church calls the Doctor communis namely, St Thomas Aquinas. in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, recalled that "the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology" (FR 43). It is not surprising that, after St Augustine, among the ecclesiastical writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church St Thomas is cited more than any other, at least 61 times! He was also called the Doctor Angelicus, perhaps because of his virtues and, in particular, the sublimity of his thought and the purity of his life.
Thomas was born between 1224 and 1225 in the castle that his wealthy noble family owned at Roccasecca near Aquino, not far from the famous Abbey of Montecassino where his parents sent him to receive the first elements of his education. A few years later he moved to Naples, the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, where Frederick II had founded a prestigious university. Here the thinking of the Greek philosopher Aristotle was taught without the limitations imposed elsewhere. The young Thomas was introduced to it and immediately perceived its great value. However, it was above all in those years that he spent in Naples that his Dominican vocation was born. Thomas was in fact attracted by the ideal of the Order recently founded by St Dominic. However, when he was clothed in the Dominican habit his family opposed this decision and he was obliged to leave the convent and spend some time at home.
In 1245, by which time he had come of age, he was able to continue on the path of his response to God's call. He was sent to Paris to study theology under the guidance of another Saint, Albert the Great, of whom I spoke not long ago. A true and deep friendship developed between Albert and Thomas. They learned to esteem and love each other to the point that Albert even wanted his disciple to follow him to Cologne, where he had been sent by the Superiors of the Order to found a theological studium. Thomas then once again came into contact with all Aristotle's works and his Arab commentators that Albert described and explained.
In this period the culture of the Latin world was profoundly stimulated by the encounter with Aristotle's works that had long remained unknown. They were writings on the nature of knowledge, on the natural sciences, on metaphysics, on the soul and on ethics and were full of information and intuitions that appeared valid and convincing. All this formed an overall vision of the world that had been developed without and before Christ, and with pure reason, and seemed to impose itself on reason as "the" vision itself; accordingly seeing and knowing this philosophy had an incredible fascination for the young. Many accepted enthusiastically, indeed with a-critical enthusiasm, this enormous baggage of ancient knowledge that seemed to be able to renew culture advantageously and to open totally new horizons. Others, however, feared that Aristotle's pagan thought might be in opposition to the Christian faith and refused to study it. Two cultures converged: the pre-Christian culture of Aristotle with its radical rationality and the classical Christian culture. Certain circles, moreover, were led to reject Aristotle by the presentation of this philosopher which had been made by the Arab commentators. Avicenna and Averroës. Indeed, it was they who had transmitted the Aristotelian philosophy to the Latin world. For example, these commentators had taught that human beings have no personal intelligence but that there is a single universal intelligence, a spiritual substance common to all, that works in all as "one": hence, a depersonalization of man. Another disputable point passed on by the Arab commentators was that the world was eternal like God. This understandably unleashed never-ending disputes in the university and clerical worlds. Aristotelian philosophy was continuing to spread even among the populace.
Thomas Aquinas, at the school of Albert the Great, did something of fundamental importance for the history of philosophy and theology, I would say for the history of culture: he made a thorough study of Aristotle and his interpreters, obtaining for himself new Latin translations of the original Greek texts. Consequently he no longer relied solely on the Arab commentators but was able to read the original texts for himself. He commented on most of the Aristotelian opus, distinguishing between what was valid and was dubious or to be completely rejected, showing its consonance with the events of the Christian Revelation and drawing abundantly and perceptively from Aristotle's thought in the explanation of the theological texts he was uniting. In short, Thomas Aquinas showed that a natural harmony exists between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great achievement of Thomas who, at that time of clashes between two cultures that time when it seemed that faith would have to give in to reason showed that they go hand in hand, that insofar as reason appeared incompatible with faith it was not reason, and so what appeared to be faith was not faith, since it was in opposition to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis which formed the culture of the centuries to come.
Because of his excellent intellectual gifts Thomas was summoned to Paris to be professor of theology on the Dominican chair. Here he began his literary production which continued until his death and has something miraculous about it: he commented on Sacred Scripture because the professor of theology was above all an interpreter of Scripture; and he commented on the writings of Aristotle, powerful systematic works, among which stands out his Summa Theologiae, treatises and discourses on various subjects. He was assisted in the composition of his writings by several secretaries, including his confrere, Reginald of Piperno, who followed him faithfully and to whom he was bound by a sincere brotherly friendship marked by great confidence and trust. This is a characteristic of Saints: they cultivate friendship because it is one of the noblest manifestations of the human heart and has something divine about it, just as Thomas himself explained in some of the Quaestiones of his Summa Theologiae. He writes in it: "it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God" and for "all belonging to him" (II-II 23,1).
He did not stay long or permanently in Paris. In 1259 he took part in the General Chapter of the Dominicans in Valenciennes where he was a member of a commission that established the Order's programme of studies. Then from 1261 to 1265, Thomas was in Orvieto. Pope Urban IV, who held him in high esteem, commissioned him to compose liturgical texts for the Feast of Corpus Christi, which we are celebrating tomorrow, established subsequent to the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena. Thomas had an exquisitely Eucharistic soul. The most beautiful hymns that the Liturgy of the Church sings to celebrate the mystery of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist are attributed to his faith and his theological wisdom. From 1265 until 1268 Thomas lived in Rome where he probably directed a Studium, that is, a study house of his Order, and where he began writing his Summa Theologiae (cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, Tommaso d'Aquino. L'uomo e il teologo, Casale Monf., 1994, pp. 118-184).
In 1269 Thomas was recalled to Paris for a second cycle of lectures. His students understandably were enthusiastic about his lessons. One of his former pupils declared that a vast multitude of students took Thomas' courses, so many that the halls could barely accommodate them; and this student added, making a personal comment, that "listening to him brought him deep happiness". Thomas' interpretation of Aristotle was not accepted by all, but even his adversaries in the academic field, such as Godfrey of Fontaines, for example, admitted that the teaching of Friar Thomas was superior to others for its usefulness and value and served to correct that of all the other masters. Perhaps also in order to distance him from the lively discussions that were going on, his Superiors sent him once again to Naples to be available to King Charles i who was planning to reorganize university studies.
In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas' earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realized, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then "was worthless". This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas' personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God's greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: "You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?". And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: "Nothing but Yourself, Lord!" (ibid., p. 320).
To Special Groups
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I send my greetings to those gathered during these days in Scotland for the centennial of the First Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which is now acknowledged to have given birth to the modern ecumenical movement. May we all renew our commitment to work humbly and patiently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to live again together our common apostolic heritage.
Lastly, I address the young people, the sick and the newlyweds, with the wish that each one may always serve God joyfully and love his or her neighbour with an evangelical spirit.
I would now like to remind you that at 7: 00 p.m. tomorrow, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I shall be presiding at Mass outside the Basilica of St John Lateran and it will be followed by the traditional procession to St Mary Major. I invite everyone to take part in this celebration to express together faith in Christ, present in the Eucharist.
Lastly, dear friends, I ask you to accompany with your prayers the Pastoral Visit to Cyprus on which I shall be setting out the day after tomorrow, so that it may be rich in spiritual fruits for the beloved Christian communities in the Middle East.
I am following with great trepidation the tragic events taking place close to the Gaza Strip. I feel the need to express my heartfelt sorrow for the victims of these most painful occurrences that disturb everyone who has at heart peace in the region. Once again I repeat with distress that violence does not settle controversies but rather increases their dramatic consequences and spawns further violence. I appeal to all who have political responsibilities, at both the local and international level, to seek constantly, through dialogue, just solutions in order to guarantee the peoples of the area better living conditions, in harmony and in serenity. I ask you to join me in praying for the victims, for their relatives and for all who are suffering. May the Lord support the efforts of those who never tire of working for reconciliation and Peace.
Video Message of the Holy Father
to the Catholic Media Convention, New Orleans
I send cordial greetings to the delegates gathered in New Orleans for this year’s Catholic Media Convention.
The theme of your meeting, “Spreading the Good News – Byte by Byte”, highlights the extraordinary potential of the new media to bring the message of Christ and the teaching of his Church to the attention of a wider public. If your mission is to be truly effective - if the words you proclaim are to touch hearts, engage people’s freedom and change their lives – you must draw them into an encounter with persons and communities who witness to the grace of Christ by their faith and their lives. In this sense, it is my hope that your days together will renew and refresh your shared enthusiasm for the Gospel. Notwithstanding the many challenges you face, never forget the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20).
Dear friends, with these few words of encouragement, to all of you gathered for the Convention I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Saint Peter's Square
Audiences 2005-2013 19050