Audiences 2005-2013 24102
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Wednesday, with the beginning of the Year of Faith, I started a new series of catecheses on faith. And today I would like to reflect with you on a fundamental question: What is faith? Does faith still make sense in a world in which science and technology have unfolded horizons unthinkable until a short time ago? What does believing mean today? In fact, in our time we need a renewed education in the faith that includes, of course, knowledge of its truths and of the history of salvation, but that is born above all from a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ, from loving him, from trusting him, so that the whole of our life becomes involved.
Today, together with so many signs of goodness a certain spiritual desert is also developing around us. At times we get sort of feeling, from certain events we have news of every day, that the world is not moving towards the building of a more brotherly and peaceful community; the very ideas of progress and wellbeing have shadows too. Despite the greatness of scientific discoveries and technological triumphs, human beings today do not seem to have become truly any freer or more human; so many forms of exploitation, manipulation, violence, abuse and injustice endure.... A certain kind of culture, moreover, has taught people to move solely within the horizon of things, of the feasible, to believe only in what they can see and touch with their own hands. Yet the number of those who feel bewildered is also growing, and search to go beyond a merely horizontal view of reality they are prepared to believe in everything and nothing.
In this context certain fundamental questions reemerge that are far weightier than they seem at first sight. What is life’s meaning? Is there a future for humanity, for us and for the generations to come? In which direction should we orient our free decisions for a good and successful outcome in life? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?
From these irrepressible questions it becomes clear how the world of planning, of precise calculation and of experimentation, in a word the knowledge of science, although important for human life is not enough on its own. We do not only need bread, we need love, meaning and hope, a sound foundation, a solid terrain that helps us to live with an authentic meaning even in times of crisis, in darkness, in difficulty, and with our daily problems. Faith gives us precisely this: it is a confident entrustment to a “You”, who is God, who gives me a different certitude, but no less solid than that which comes from precise calculation or from science. Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God; it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me; it is adherence to a “You” who gives me hope and trust.
Of course, this adherence to God is not without content; with it we are aware that God has shown himself to us in Christ, he has made us see his face and has made himself really close to each one of us. Indeed, God has revealed that his love for man, for each one of us, is boundless: on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God made man, shows us in the clearest possible way how far this love reaches, even to the gift of himself, even to the supreme sacrifice. With the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection, God plumbs to the depths of our humanity to bring it back to him, to uplift it to his heights. Faith is believing in this love of God that is never lacking in the face of human wickedness, in the face of evil and death, but is capable of transforming every kind of slavery, giving us the possibility of salvation. Having faith, then, is meeting this “You”, God, who supports me and grants me the promise of an indestructible love that not only aspires to eternity but gives it; it means entrusting myself to God with the attitude of a child, who knows well that all his difficulties, all his problems are understood in the “you” of his mother. And this possibility of salvation through faith is a gift that God offers all men and women. I think we should meditate more often — in our daily life, marked by problems and at times by dramatic situations — on the fact that believing in a Christian manner means my trusting abandonment to the profound meaning that sustains me and the world, that meaning that we are are unable to give to each other but can only receive as a gift, and that is the foundation on which we can live without fear. And we must be able to proclaim this liberating and reassuring certainty of faith with words and show it by living our life as Christians.
However, we see around us every day that many remain indifferent or refuse to accept this proclamation. At the end of Mark’s Gospel we heard harsh words from the Risen One who says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mc 16,16), loses himself. I would like to invite you to reflect on this.
Trust in the action of the Holy Spirit must always impel us to go and preach the Gospel, to the courageous witness of faith; but, in addition to the possibility of making a positive response to the gift of faith, there is also the risk of rejecting the Gospel, of not accepting the vital encounter with Christ. St Augustine was already posing this problem in one of his commentaries on the Parable of the Sower. “We speak”, he said, “we cast the seed, we scatter the seed. There are those who deride us, those who reproach us, those who mock at us. If we fear them we have nothing left to sow and on the day of reaping we will be left without a harvest. Therefore may the seed in the good soil sprout” (Discourse on Christian Discipline, 13,14: PL 40, 677-678). Rejection, therefore, cannot discourage us. As Christians we are evidence of this fertile ground. Our faith, even with our limitations, shows that good soil exists, where the seed of the Word of God produces abundant fruits of justice, peace and love, of new humanity, of salvation. And the whole history of the Church, with all the problems, also shows that good soil exists, that the good seed exists and bears fruit.
Yet, let us ask ourselves: where can man find that openness of heart and mind to believe in God who made himself visible in Jesus Christ who died and Rose, to receive God’s salvation so that Christ and his Gospel might be the guide and the light of our existence? The answer: we can believe in God because he comes close to us and touches us, because the Holy Spirit, a gift of the Risen One, enables us to receive the living God. Thus faith is first of all a supernatural gift, a gift of God.
The Second Vatican Council says: “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior help of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth’” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, n. 5).
Our journey starts from Baptism, the sacrament that gives us the Holy Spirit, making us become children of God in Christ, and marks our entry into the community of faith, into the Church: one does not believe by oneself, without the prior intervention of the grace of the Holy Spirit, one does not believe alone, but together with one’s brethren. As from Baptism every believer is called to new life, and to make this confession of faith his or her own, together with the brethren.
Faith is a gift of God, but it is also a profoundly free and human act. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says so clearly: “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior help of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act... contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason” (n. 154). Indeed, it involves them and uplifts them in a gamble for life that is like an exodus, that is, a coming out of ourselves, from our own certainties, from our own mental framework, to entrust ourselves to the action of God who points out to us his way to achieve true freedom, our human identity, true joy of the heart, peace with everyone. Believing means entrusting oneself in full freedom and joyfully to God’s providential plan for history, as did the Patriarch Abraham, as did Mary of Nazareth. Faith, then, is an assent with which our mind and our heart say their “yes” to God, confessing that Jesus is Lord. And this “yes” transforms life, unfolds the path toward fullness of meaning, thereby making it new, rich in joy and trustworthy hope.
Dear friends, our time needs Christians who have been grasped by Christ, who grow in faith through their familiarity with Sacred Scripture and the sacraments. People who are, as it were, an open book that tells of the experience of new life in the Spirit, of the presence of that God who supports us on our way and opens us to everlasting life. Many thanks.
To special groups:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a cordial greeting to the General Chapter of the Salvatorian Sisters. I also greet the large group of pilgrims from Japan. My warm welcome goes to the priests from the Archdiocese of Westminster. I welcome the members of the Apostolic Union of Clergy. I also greet the study group of Anglican clergy visiting Rome. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present, including those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Nigeria, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings.
Lastly a thought for the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.Last Monday we celebrated the Memorial of Blessed John Paul II, whose figure is ever present among us: dear young people, learn to face life with his zeal and enthusiasm; dear sick people, carry the cross of suffering with joy as he himself was able to teach us; and you, dear newlyweds, always put God at the centre, so that your life as a married couple may have greater love and greater happiness.
And now, with great joy I announce that on 24 November I shall hold a Consistory at which I will appoint six new Members of the College of Cardinals.
Cardinals have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in carrying out his Ministry of strengthening his brethren in the faith and of being the principle and foundation of the unity and communion of the Church.
The names of the new Cardinals are:
1. Archbishop JAMES MICHAEL HARVEY, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, whom I intend to name Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls;
2. H.B. BÉCHARA BOUTROS RAÏ, OMM, Patriarch of Antioch for Maronites, Lebanon;
3. H.B. BASELIOS CLEEMIS THOTTUNKAL, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum for Syro-Malankaras, India;
4. Archbishop JOHN OLORUNFEMI ONAIYEKAN, of Abuja, Nigeria;
5. Archbishop RUBÉN SALAZAR GÓMEZ, Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia;
6. Archbishop LUIS ANTONIO G. TAGLE of Manila, the Philippines.
The new Cardinals — as you have heard — carry out their ministry at the service of the Holy See or as Fathers and Pastors of the particular Churches in various parts of the world.
I ask everyone to pray for the newly appointed Cardinals, as I invoke the motherly intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that they may always assiduously love Christ and his Church with courage and dedication.
Saint Peter's Square31102
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us continue on our journey of meditations on the Catholic faith. Last week I showed how faith is a gift, because it is God who takes the initiative and comes to meet us, and like this the faith is an answer by which we receive him as the permanent foundation of our life. It is a gift that changes our existence, because it makes us enter into Jesus’ own vision, which works in us and opens us to love for God and for others.
Today I would like to take another step in our reflection, starting once more with a few questions: Does faith have a solely personal, individual nature? Does it concern only myself? Do I live my faith alone? Of course, the act of faith is an eminently personal act; it happens in the deepest part of us and signals a change in direction through personal conversion. It is my life that changes, that is given a new direction. In the Rite of Baptism, at the moment of the promises, the celebrant asks for a profession of the Catholic faith and formulates three questions: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? In ancient times these questions were addressed to the person who was to receive Baptism before being immersed three times in water. And today, too, the answer is one and the same: “I do”. But this faith of mine is not the result of my own solitary reflection, it is not the product of my thought, it is the fruit of a relationship, a dialogue, in which there is a listener, a receiver and a respondent; it is communication with Jesus that draws me out of the “I” enclosed in myself to open me to the love of God, the Father. It is like a rebirth in which I am united not only to Jesus, but also to all those who have walked and are walking on the same path; and this new birth, that begins with Baptism, continues for the rest of my life. I cannot build my personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus, because faith is given to me by God through a community of believers that is the Church and projects me into the multitude of believers, into a kind of communion that is not only sociological but rooted in the eternal love of God who is in himself the communion of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is Trinitarian Love. Our faith is truly personal, only if it is also communal: it can be my faith only if it dwells in and moves with the “we” of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one Church.
On Sunday, in the Holy Mass, reciting the “Creed”, we speak in the first person, but we confess as one the one faith of the Church. That “I believe” said individually joins a vast chorus across time and space, in which each person contributes, so to speak, to the harmonious poliphany in faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums this up in a clear way: thus, “believing” is an act of the Church. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the Mother of all believers. “‘No one can have God as his Father, who does not have the Church as his Mother’ (St Cyprian)” (n. 181). Therefore, the faith is born in the Church, leads to her and lives in her. This is important to remember.
At the start of the Christian adventure, when the Holy Spirit descends with power upon the disciples, on the day of Pentecost — as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Ac 2,1-13) — the early Church receives the power to begin the mission entrusted to her by the Risen Lord: to spread the Gospel to every corner of the earth, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and thus to lead every human person to the encounter with Him, to the faith that saves. The Apostles overcome every fear in proclaiming what they had heard, seen, personally experienced with Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they start to speak in tongues, openly announcing the mystery of which they were witnesses. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told then of the great discourse that Peter gives on the day of Pentecost. He begins with a passage from the Prophet Joel (Jl 3,1-5), referring to Jesus, and proclaiming the central nucleus of the Christian faith: The One who had benefited all, who was attested to by God with mighty works, wonders and signs, who was nailed to the Cross and killed, but God raised him from the dead, making him Lord and Christ. With Him we have come into the ultimate salvation foretold by the Prophets and whoever invokes his name will be saved (cf. Ac 2,17-24). Listening to these words of Peter, many, who felt called personally, repented of their sins and were baptized receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ac 2,37-41). And so began the journey of the Church, the community that bears this proclamation through time and space, the community that is the People of God founded on the New Covenant thanks to the Blood of Christ. Her members do not belong to a particular social or ethnic group, but are men and women of every nation and culture. It is a “catholic” people, a people who speaks in tongues, universally open to welcoming all, beyond all boundaries, breaking down every barrier. St Paul says: “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3,11).
The Church, therefore, from the beginning is the place of faith, the place for the transmission of the faith, the place in which, through Baptism, we are immersed in the Pascal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, who frees us from the slavery of sin, gives us the freedom of children and introduces us into communion with the Trinitarian God. At the same time, we are immersed in communion with other brothers and sisters of the faith, with the entire Body of Christ, brought out of our isolation. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminds us: “God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals without any mutual bonds but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness” (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium LG 9). Referring back again to the Rite of Baptism, we note that, at the end of the promises in which we voice our renunciation of evil and we repeat “I believe” to the truths of the faith, the celebrant declares: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord”. The faith is a theological virtue, given by God, but transmitted by the Church throughout history. St Paul himself, writing to the Corinthians, affirms he has communicated to them the Gospel that he too had received (cf. 1Co 15,3).
There is an unbroken chain in the life of the Church, in the proclamation of the Word of God, of the celebration of the Sacraments, that has come down to us and that we call Tradition. It gives us the guarantee that what we believe is the original message of Christ, preached by the Apostles. The nucleus of the primordial proclamation is the death and the Resurrection of the Lord, from which stems the entire patrimony of the faith. The Council says: “The apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by a continuous line of succession until the end of time” (Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum DV 8). In this way, if Sacred Scripture contains the Word of God, the Tradition of the Church preserves it and faithfully transmits it, so that the men and women of every age might have access to its vast resources and be enriched by its treasures of grace. Thus, the Church, “in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes” (ibid.).
Lastly, I would like, to emphasize that it is in the ecclesial community that personal faith grows and matures. It is interesting to observe how in the New Testament the word “saints” designates Christians as a whole, and certainly not all would have qualified to be declared saints by the Church. What is meant, then, by this term? The fact that whoever had and lived the faith in Christ Risen were call to become a point of reference for all others, setting them in this way in contact with the Person and the Message of Jesus, who reveals the face of the Living God. And this holds true also for us: a Christian who lets himself be guided and gradually shaped by the faith of the Church, in spite of his weaknesses, his limitations and his difficulties, becomes like a window open to the light of the living God, receiving this light and transmitting it to the world. Blessed John Paul II in his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio declared that “missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others” (n. 2).
Today’s widespread tendency to relegate faith to the private sphere thus, contradicts its very nature. We need the Church in order to confirm our faith and in order to experience the gifts of God: his Word, the Sacraments, the support of grace and the witness of love. Like this, our “I” can be perceived in the “we” of the Church and, at the same time, be the recipient and the protagonist of an overwhelming event: experiencing communion with God, that is the foundation of communion among men. In a world in which individualism seems to rule personal relationships, making them ever more fragile, the faith calls us to be the People of God, to be Church, bearers of the love and communion of God for all mankind (cf. Pastoral Constitution Guadium et spes GS 1). Thank you for your attention.
To special groups:
Conscious of the devastation caused by the hurricane which recently struck the East Coast of the United States of America, I offer my prayers for the victims and express my solidarity with all those engaged in the work of rebuilding. I now greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Malaysia, Canada and the United States. My greetings go in particular to the group of elders from Nigeria visiting Rome on pilgrimage, and to the members of the Vox Clara Committee. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Lastly a thought for the young people, the sick and newlyweds.Tomorrow we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, which reminds us of the universal call to holiness: dear young people, may your hopes for happiness be realized in the Evangelical Beatitudes; dear sick people, may the cross that you carry with Christ sanctify you in his love; and you, dear newlyweds, may you know how to give the right space to prayer, so that your married life may be a journey to holiness. Thank you all.
Saint Peter's Square7112
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The journey of reflection that we are making together during this Year of Faith leads us to meditate today on a fascinating aspect of the human and the Christian experience: man carries within himself a mysterious desire for God. In a very significant way, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens precisely with the following consideration: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (n. 27).
A statement like this, that even today in many cultural contexts seems quite acceptable, even obvious, might, however, be taken as a provocation in the West’s secularized culture. Many of our contemporaries might actually object that they have no such desire for God. For large sectors of society he is no longer the one longed for or desired but rather a reality that leaves them indifferent, one on which there is no need even to comment. In reality, what we have defined as “the desire for God” has not entirely disappeared and it still appears today, in many ways, in the heart of man. Human desire always tends to certain concrete goods, often anything but spiritual, and yet it has to face the question of what is truly “the” good, and thus is confronted with something other than itself, something man cannot build but he is called to recognize. What can really satisfy man’s desire?
In my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I sought to analyze how such dynamism can be found in the experience of human love, an experience that in our age is more easily perceived as a moment of ecstasy, of leaving oneself, like a place in which man feels overcome by a desire that surpasses him. Through love, a man and a woman experience in a new way, thanks to each other, the greatness and beauty of life and of what is real. If what is experienced is not a mere illusion, if I truly want the good of the other as a means for my own good, then I must be willing not to be self-centred, to place myself at the other’s service, even to the point of self-denial. The answer to the question on the meaning of the experience of love then passes through the purification and healing of the will, required in loving the other. We must cultivate, encourage, and also correct ourselves, so that this good can truly be loved.
Thus the initial ecstasy becomes a pilgrimage, “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ). Through this journey one will be able to deepen gradually one’s knowledge of that love, initially experienced. And the mystery that it represents will become more and more defined: in fact, not even the beloved is capable of satisfying the desire that dwells in the human heart. In fact, the more authentic one’s love for the other is, the more it reveals the question of its origin and its destiny, of the possibility that it may endure for ever. Therefore, the human experience of love has in itself a dynamism that refers beyond the self, it is the experience of a good that leads to being drawn out and finding oneself before the mystery that encompasses the whole of existence.
One could make similar observation about other human experiences as well, such as friendship, encountering beauty, loving knowledge: every good experienced by man projects him toward the mystery that surrounds the human being; every desire that springs up in the human heart echoes a fundamental desire that is never fully satisfied. Undoubtedly by such a deep desire, hidden, even enigmatic, one cannot arrive directly at faith. Men and women, after all, know well what does not satisfy them, but they cannot imagine or define what the happiness they long for in their hearts would be like. One cannot know God based on human desire alone. From this point of view he remains a mystery: man is the seeker of the Absolute, seeking with small and hesitant steps. And yet, already the experience of desire, of a “restless heart” as St Augustine called it, is very meaningful. It tells us that man is, deep down, a religious being (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 28), a “beggar of God”. We can say with the words of Pascal: “Man infinitely surpasses man” (Pensées, ed. Chevalier 438; ed. Brunschvicg 434). Eyes recognize things when they are illuminated. From this comes a desire to know the light itself, what makes the things of the world shine and with them ignites the sense of beauty.
We must therefore maintain that it is possible also in this age, seemingly so blocked to the transcendent dimension, to begin a journey toward the true religious meaning of life, that shows how the gift of faith is not senseless, is not irrational. It would be very useful, to that end, to foster a kind of pedagogy of desire, both for the journey of one who does not yet believe and for the one who has already received the gift of faith. It should be a pedagogy that covers at least two aspects. In the first place, to discover or rediscover the taste of the authentic joy of life. Not all satisfactions have the same effect on us: some leave a positive after-taste, able to calm the soul and make us more active and generous. Others, however, after the initial delight, seem to disappoint the expectations that they had awakened and sometimes leave behind them a sense of bitterness, dissatisfaction or emptiness. Instilling in someone from a young age the taste for true joy, in every area of life – family, friendship, solidarity with those who suffer, self-renunciation for the sake of the other, love of knowledge, art, the beauty of nature — all this means exercising the inner taste and producing antibodies that can fight the trivialization and the dulling widespread today. Adults too need to rediscover this joy, to desire authenticity, to purify themselves of the mediocrity that might infest them. It will then become easier to drop or reject everything that although attractive proves to be, in fact, insipid, a source of indifference and not of freedom. And this will bring out that desire for God of which we are speaking.
A second aspect that goes hand in hand with the preceding one is never to be content with what you have achieved. It is precisely the truest joy that unleashes in us the healthy restlessness that leads us to be more demanding — to want a higher good, a deeper good — and at the same time to perceive ever more clearly that no finite thing can fill our heart. In this way we will learn to strive, unarmed, for the good that we cannot build or attain by our own power; and we will learn to not be discouraged by the difficulty or the obstacles that come from our sin.
In this regard, we must not forget that the dynamism of desire is always open to redemption. Even when it strays from the path, when it follows artificial paradises and seems to lose the capacity of yearning for the true good. Even in the abyss of sin, that ember is never fully extinguished in man. It allows him to recognize the true good, to savour it, and thus to start out again on a path of ascent; God, by the gift of his grace, never denies man his help. We all, moreover, need to set out on the path of purification and healing of desire. We are pilgrims, heading for the heavenly homeland, toward that full and eternal good that nothing will be able to take away from us. This is not, then, about suffocating the longing that dwells in the heart of man, but about freeing it, so that it can reach its true height. When in desire one opens the window to God, this is already a sign of the presence of faith in the soul, faith that is a grace of God. St Augustine always says: “so God, by deferring our hope, stretched our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious” (Commentary on the First Letter of Jn 4,6, PL 35, 2009).
On this pilgrimage, let us feel like brothers and sisters of all men, travelling companions even of those who do not believe, of those who are seeking, of those who are sincerely wondering about the dynamism of their own aspiration for the true and the good. Let us pray, in this Year of Faith, that God may show his face to all those who seek him with a sincere heart. Thank you.
To special groups:
I welcome the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Religious Affairs from Vietnam on official visit to the Vatican. I also greet the group from Saint Paul High School in Japan. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Denmark, Finland, Ghana, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Canada and the United States, I cordially impart God’s abundant blessings.
And finally, I would like to greet, as usual, the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. The day after tomorrow we will celebrate the liturgical feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, Rome’s Cathedral. May this be an invitation to you, dear young people, to become the precious living stones of the House of the Lord. May it encourage you, dear sick people, to offer to God your daily sacrifice for the good of the whole Christian community; and may it urge you, dear newlyweds, to make your families little domestic Churches.
I continue to follow with great concern the tragic situation of violent conflict in Syria, where the fighting has not ceased and each day the toll of victims rises, accompanied by the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes.
As a sign of my own solidarity and that of the whole Church for the Syrian people, as well as our spiritual closeness to the Christian communities in that country, I had hoped to send a Delegation of Synod Fathers to Damascus.
Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned, and so I have decided to entrust a special mission to Cardinal Robert Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”.
From today until 10 November, he will be in Lebanon, where he will meet the Pastors and faithful of the Churches present in Syria. He will visit a number of refugees from that country and will chair a meeting of Catholic charitable agencies to coordinate efforts, as the Holy See has urgently requested, to provide assistance to the Syrian people, within and outside the country.
As I make my prayer to God, I renew my invitation to the parties in conflict, and to all those who have the good of Syria at heart, to spare no effort in the search for peace and to pursue through dialogue the path to a just coexistence, in view of a suitable political solution of the conflict.
We must do everything that is possible, because one day it may be too late.
Paul VI Audience Hall
Audiences 2005-2013 24102