Speeches 2005-13 26036


Dear Parish Priest,
Dear Friends,

I see that you really are a living parish where you all collaborate, where you bear each other's burdens - as St Paul says - and thus contribute to the growth of the living building of the Lord, which is the Church.

She is not made of material stones but of living stones, of baptized people who feel the full responsibility of the faith for others, the full joy of being baptized and knowing God in the face of Jesus. Consequently, you are striving to ensure that this parish can truly grow.

We are approaching Easter and the two aspects of Christian life appear to us: one part constitutes an ascent, a climb that can also be somewhat difficult; the other part is always bathed in the light of God, in the light of Our Lord.

I would simply like to say thank you for your commitment. To see in a parish so many active people who visit the sick, who help those in difficulty, who collaborate with the parish priest, who see that there is a good celebration of the liturgy, is a joy to the Bishop of Rome, who I am, even if it is the Cardinal Vicar who sees to the specific actions.

However, I feel this responsibility and I am truly glad to see that Rome, "old Rome", is a "young Rome" and truly alive in vibrant parishes.

The faith must be carried forward because outside Italy, people often think that there is nothing in Rome but ecclesiastical ceremonies and bureaucracy with little ecclesial life, which, on the contrary, is visible precisely in the suburbs of Rome.

Rome is young, the Church is always young again. It is lovely for me to see this participation, and I can only say "thank you" to you and encourage you to persevere under the guidance of your parish priest.

And from this moment, a happy Easter to you all.



Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Friends,

After the solemn celebration of the Consistory, which gave us the opportunity to spend moments of prayer and intense brotherhood, I am pleased also to meet you today. With hearts grateful to the Lord for this happy event, let us ask him to sustain the new Cardinals and to protect them in the fulfilment of the various ministries they carry out in the Church. Let us in particular ask Jesus the Good Shepherd to continue to accompany them with his grace. To all of you present here, the relatives and faithful who have come to share these days of festivity with the new Cardinals, I address my most cordial welcome.

I greet you, first of all, venerable Italian Cardinals; I greet you, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; I greet you, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna; I greet you, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls.

Venerable Brothers, today you are encircled by all these beloved people whose presence, as well as being a sign of friendship and affection, is also a visible expression of the communion, fertile with good, that gives life to the Church. May the Lord make each one of you an ever more generous witness of his love.

I cordially greet the new Cardinal Albert Vanhoye as well as his Jesuit confreres, his loved ones and all the French-speaking pilgrims who have come on the occasion of the Consistory at which I also created a Cardinal Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, the esteemed President of the Bishops' Conference of France. I give thanks for the fruitful exegesis of Cardinal Vanhoye, who has been devoted to examining the Word of God and passing on his knowledge patiently to numerous generations of young people, thereby providing them with the means to live on the Gospel and be its witnesses. May you all take the time to nourish yourselves regularly on Scripture.

I extend warm greetings to the newly created English-speaking Cardinals: Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, The Philippines; Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk, Archbishop of Seoul, Korea; Cardinal Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston, United States of America; Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., Bishop of Hong Kong, China; and Cardinal Peter Dery, Archbishop emeritus of Tamale, Ghana.

Venerable and dear Brothers, in renewing to you my fraternal greetings and offering my fervent prayers for the mission that has been entrusted to you for the service of the universal Church, I once again commend you to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church.

I also wish to greet the family members and friends of our newly created Cardinals, together with the lay faithful who have accompanied them to Rome for the solemn celebrations of last Friday and Saturday. I trust that your time here in the Eternal City will deepen your love of the Church and strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord! I encourage you to continue to pray for our Cardinals and to support them with your love and affection. May God bless you all!

I greet the new Spanish-speaking Cardinals and all the faithful of Latin America and Spain who have accompanied them. I greet in particular their relatives, their Brother Bishops, priests, Religious and seminarians, especially those from the Seminary of Toledo.

Venezuela rejoices in its Cardinal, Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, who is also accompanied by his elderly mother. In Valencia and now also in the Capital, he has carried out many pastoral initiatives for the good of his beloved Nation.

Spain is being honoured by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Archbishop of Toledo, who formerly carried out a fruitful ministry in Avila and in Granada, giving proof of the constant gift of devotion to their respective Ecclesial Communities.

Your peoples are distinguished by fidelity to the Successor of Peter and by their devotion to the Virgin Mary. May she always be the Star that guides your particular Churches in the task of evangelization.

I greet Cardinal Stanis³aw Dziwisz, his family, his friends and his guests. With you I express gratitude to the new Cardinal for all the years he spent beside John Paul II and for all that this service contributed to the universal Church. I pray that his future ministry will be equally fruitful. With all my heart I bless all of you present here.

I address a cordial welcome to Cardinal Franc Rodé, to his compatriots and to his friends, and especially to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Ljubljana, of which he was Pastor until very recently. I am pleased to note that the Church in Slovenia is also making her contribution to the mission of the Apostolic See in the person of the newly-appointed Cardinal. His office as Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life is of great importance. Continue to accompany him in his service with prayers, so that the Church may progress better and better on her journey to holiness!

Dear Brothers, thank you again for coming! Your Eminences, my fraternal greeting, I wish to assure you that I will continue to accompany you with prayer. For my part, I know that I can always count on your collaboration, of which I feel in need. The meetings of the entire College of Cardinals with the Successor of Peter, like the one last Thursday, will continue to be privileged opportunities to seek together to improve our service to the Church, which Christ entrusted to our care.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and Sts Peter and Paul watch over each one of you and over your daily work. With these sentiments, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and willingly extend it to all those who surround you with so much joy and affection.


Honourable Parliamentarians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the Study Days on Europe, organized by your Parliamentary Group. The Roman Pontiffs have always devoted particular attention to this continent; today’s audience is a case in point, and it takes its place in the long series of meetings between my predecessors and political movements of Christian inspiration. I thank the Honourable Mr Pöttering for his words addressed to me in your name, and I extend to him and to all of you my cordial greetings.

At present, Europe has to address complex issues of great importance, such as the growth and development of European integration, the increasingly precise definition of neighbourhood policy within the Union and the debate over its social model. In order to attain these goals, it will be important to draw inspiration, with creative fidelity, from the Christian heritage which has made such a particular contribution to forging the identity of this continent. By valuing its Christian roots, Europe will be able to give a secure direction to the choices of its citizens and peoples, it will strengthen their awareness of belonging to a common civilization and it will nourish the commitment of all to address the challenges of the present for the sake of a better future. I therefore appreciate your Group’s recognition of Europe’s Christian heritage, which offers valuable ethical guidelines in the search for a social model that responds adequately to the demands of an already globalized economy and to demographic changes, assuring growth and employment, protection of the family, equal opportunities for education of the young and solicitude for the poor.

Your support for the Christian heritage, moreover, can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one’s own religious convictions. Policies built on this foundation not only entail the repudiation of Christianity’s public role; more generally, they exclude engagement with Europe’s religious tradition, which is so clear, despite its denominational variations, thereby threatening democracy itself, whose strength depends on the values that it promotes (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 70). Given that this tradition, precisely in what might be called its polyphonic unity, conveys values that are fundamental for the good of society, the European Union can only be enriched by engaging with it. It would be a sign of immaturity, if not indeed weakness, to choose to oppose or ignore it, rather than to dialogue with it. In this context one has to recognize that a certain secular intransigence shows itself to be the enemy of tolerance and of a sound secular vision of state and society. I am pleased, therefore, that the European Union’s constitutional treaty envisages a structured and ongoing relationship with religious communities, recognizing their identity and their specific contribution. Above all, I trust that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments. It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or an interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest.

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

These principles are not truths of faith, even though they receive further light and confirmation from faith; they are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity. The Church’s action in promoting them is therefore not confessional in character, but is addressed to all people, prescinding from any religious affiliation they may have. On the contrary, such action is all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, because this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, a grave wound inflicted onto justice itself.

Dear friends, in exhorting you to be credible and consistent witnesses of these basic truths through your political activity, and more fundamentally through your commitment to live authentic and consistent lives, I invoke upon you and your work the continued assistance of God, in pledge of which I cordially impart my Blessing to you and to those accompanying you.


AFTER VIEWING THE FILM ON JOHN PAUL II Paul VI Audience Hall Thursday, 30 March 2006

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

While images of this interesting new presentation of John Paul II's Pontificate are still vivid in my mind and heart, I address my cordial thoughts to those who contributed to making this film entitled "Karol: A Pope who Remained a Man". This evening we relived the emotions we felt last May, when we saw the first part of the film in this same hall shortly after the beloved Pontiff passed away.

I am grateful to the director and scriptwriter, Giacomo Battiato, and to his collaborators who with wise skill have presented to us anew the most important events in the apostolic ministry of my venerable Predecessor; I address a heartfelt "thank you" to Piotr Adamczyk, the actor who in playing the lead role brought his face to life, as well as to the other actors; I would like to express sincere appreciation to Pietro Valsecchi, the producer, and to the directors of the Production companies, Taodue and Mediaset, who are present here.

The story of the beloved Pontiff's earthly life ends with this second part of the film. We heard again the initial appeal of his Pontificate, so frequently re-echoed in the course of the years: "Open wide the doors to Christ! Do not be afraid!". The motion pictures showed us a Pope in deep contact with God and, for this very reason, always sensitive to the expectations of others.

The film has made us think ideally of his Apostolic Journeys in every part of the world; it has given us an opportunity to relive his Meetings with numerous people, with the great figures of this earth, simple citizens, illustrious personages and unknown people. Among them all his embrace with Mother Teresa of Calcutta deserves mention. She was linked to John Paul II by an intimate spiritual harmony.

Glued to the spot as though we were present, we heard once again the shots of the tragic attempt on his life in St Peter's Square on 13 May 1981. From it all emerged the figure of a tireless prophet of hope and peace, who trod the paths of the globe to communicate the Gospel to all. His vibrant words condemning the oppression of totalitarian regimes, homicidal violence and war spring to mind; words full of comfort and hope, to express closeness to the relatives of the victims of conflicts and dramatic attacks, such as the one on the Twin Towers in New York; words of courage and denunciation addressed to the consumer society and the culture of hedonism that simply seek to achieve material well-being, which cannot satisfy the human heart's deep expectations.

These are the sentiments that spontaneously well up in my heart this evening and which I wanted to share with you, dear brothers and sisters, by reviewing, with the help of this film's images, the phases of the unforgettable Pontificate of John Paul II. May the beloved Pontiff accompany us from on High and obtain for us from the Lord the grace to be, like him, ever faithful to our mission. My Blessing to all of you present here and to your loved ones.

                                                  April 2006




Saint Peter's Square Sunday, 2 April 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are meeting this evening, on the first anniversary of the departure of beloved Pope John Paul II, for this Marian Vigil organized by the Diocese of Rome. I greet with affection all of you present here in St Peter's Square, starting with the Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini and the Auxiliary Bishops, with a special thought for the Cardinals, Bishops, priests and Religious, and for the lay faithful, especially the youth.

Truly, the entire city of Rome is symbolically gathered for this emotional moment of prayer and reflection. I address a special greeting to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, who is linked to us by television and who was for many years a faithful collaborator of the late Pontiff.

A year has already passed since the death of the Servant of God John Paul II at this very moment - it was 9: 37 p.m. - but his memory lives on, more alive than ever, as is testified to by the many events scheduled to take place in these days throughout the world.

He continues to be present in our minds and hearts; he continues to communicate to us his love for God and his love for man; he continues to inspire in one and all, and especially in the young, enthusiasm for good and the courage to follow Jesus and his teachings.

How can we sum up the life and evangelical witness of this great Pontiff? I will attempt to do so by using two words: "fidelity" and "dedication", total fidelity to God and unreserved dedication to his mission as Pastor of the universal Church.

Fidelity and dedication appeared even more convincing and moving in his final months, when he embodied in himself what he wrote in 1984 in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris: "Suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbour, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a "civilization of love'" (n. 30).

His courageously-faced illness made everyone more attentive to human suffering, to all physical and spiritual pain; he gave dignity and value to suffering, witnessing that the human being's value does not depend on his efficiency or appearance but on himself, because he was created and loved by God.

With his words and gestures, the dear John Paul II never tired of pointing out to the world that if a person allows himself to be embraced by Christ, he does not repress the riches of his humanity; if he adheres to Christ with all his heart, he will never lack anything. On the contrary, the encounter with Christ makes our lives more impassioned.

Precisely because he drew ever closer to God in prayer, contemplation and love for Truth and Beauty, our beloved Pope was able to become the travelling companion of each one of us and even to speak authoritatively to those who had nothing to do with the Christian faith.

This evening, the first anniversary of his return to the Father's House, we are invited to accept anew the spiritual legacy he has bequeathed to us; we are urged, among other things, to live by seeking tirelessly the Truth that alone brings relief to our hearts. We are encouraged not to be afraid to follow Christ in order to bring everyone the Gospel proclamation which is the leaven of a more fraternal and supportive humanity.

May John Paul II help us from Heaven to continue on our way, remaining docile disciples of Jesus in order to be, as he himself loved to repeat to young people, "dawn watchmen" at the beginning of this third Christian millennium. For this, let us call on Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, for whom he always felt a tender devotion.

I now address the faithful in Poland who are linked up with us.

Let us join in spirit the Poles who have gathered in Krakow, Warsaw and other places for the Vigil. The memory of John Paul II is alive within us; the sense of his spiritual presence has not faded. May the memory of the special love he felt for his fellow countrymen always be for you the light on your way towards Christ. "Stay strong in the faith". I bless you with all my heart.

I now impart my Blessing to you all.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I welcome you with joy in these days when you are making your visit ad limina Apostolorum, thus expressing your indestructible bond with the Successor of Peter and with the universal Church.
Indeed, the Bishop, who "is the visible principle and foundation of unity in his own particular Church, is also the visible bond of ecclesiastical communion between his particular Church and the universal Church" (Pastores Gregis ).

I thank the President of your Bishops' Conference, Bishop Laurent Akran Mandjo, for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf, sketching a vast panorama of the Church's situation in Côte d'Ivoire.

On your return, please convey to everyone the warm greetings of the Pope and the assurance of his fervent prayers that the Nation will recover unity and peace in authentic brotherhood among all its children.

Indeed, the crisis your Country is living through has unfortunately brought to light the divisions that are a deep wound in relations between the different members of society. The resulting violence has seriously undermined trust between people and the stability of the Country, leaving in its wake great suffering which it is difficult to heal.

The re-establishment of true peace will only be possible through forgiveness, generously granted, and through effectively achieved reconciliation between the individuals and groups concerned. To succeed in this, all parties involved must agree to pursue dialogue courageously, to examine thoroughly and loyally the causes that have led to the present situation and to find the means to reach a solution in justice and in truth acceptable to all.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Catholics play their part in this joint effort, for the construction of a reconciled world can never be foreign to them. It is their responsibility to help establish harmonious and brotherly relations between people and between communities.

If the full realization of this goal is to be credible, trust must first be re-created among the disciples of Christ, despite their possible differences of opinion. For authentic love must first be lived within the Church, in unity and reconciliation, thus following the Lord's teaching: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

It is thus up to Christians to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them so that they may be true witnesses of the love of the Father, who wants to make all men and women into one family. This commitment, which brings them into contact with the sufferings and needs of their brothers and sisters, will be a convincing expression of God's love.

In your diocesan Churches, in response to political or ethnic tension, Bishops, priests and consecrated persons must be models of brotherhood and love for everyone. Furthermore, they must contribute, with their words and behaviour, to the edification of a united and reconciled society.

In this perspective, the initial and continuing formation of priests must always be one of your priority concerns. To deal with the difficult situations in the contemporary world and especially to enable priests to fulfil their priesthood, this formation will place an essential importance on spiritual life.

Indeed, the priest's role is to help the faithful discover God's mystery and be open to others. For this reason, he is called to be a genuine seeker of God, while remaining close to human preoccupations. An intense spiritual life, which enables him to enter more deeply into communion with the Lord, will help him to allow God's love to possess him, so that he can proclaim to men and women that this love stops short at nothing. Moreover, by faithfully living chastity in celibacy, the priest shows that his whole being is a gift of himself to God and to his brothers and sisters.

I therefore ask you to watch over your priests with fatherly concern, and to encourage unity and a fraternal life among them. May they find in you a brother who listens to them and supports them in difficult moments, and a friend who encourages them to go ahead with their personal life and with the proclamation of the Gospel!

In your quinquennial reports, you underlined the urgent need for the formation of lay people. In fact, deepening the faith is essential if they are to be able to resist returning to former practices, to stand up to the pressure of the sects, and especially, to account for Christian hope in a complex world that is experiencing new and serious problems.

I encourage you particularly to give catechists, whose devotion to the Church I acknowledge, a solid formation that will enable them to take on the mission entrusted to them, while living their faith consistently.

The faithful, particularly those who are involved in intellectual, political and economic milieus, will find the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church a fundamental instrument for formation and evangelization with a view to their human and spiritual growth and their mission in the world.

If the Church is to be an increasingly comprehensible sign of what she is and be increasingly suited to her mission, the task of inculturation of the faith is indispensable. This process, so important for proclaiming the Gospel to all cultures, must not jeopardize the specificity and integrity of the faith but must help Christians to understand and live the Gospel message better in their own culture, and enable them to give up practices that contradict their baptismal commitments.

As you mentioned in your reports, the burden of the traditional mindset is frequently an obstacle to accepting the Gospel. Thus, one of the most important requirements to present to the faithful is fidelity in the Sacrament of Marriage.

Polygamy or de facto cohabitation without a religious ceremony are often major obstacles. It is therefore necessary to persevere in your efforts to bring people, especially young people, readily to accept that for Christians, marriage is a path to holiness. "Marriage thus demands an indissoluble love; thanks to this stability it can contribute effectively to the complete fulfilment of the spouses' baptismal vocation" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

Lastly, I would also like to point out with interest the development in your Dioceses of ecclesial movements that contribute to giving a renewed missionary impulse to Christian communities. I invite the members of these groups to increasingly deepen their personal knowledge of Christ and to give themselves to him generously, while remaining deeply rooted in the faith of the Church.

However, these movements must be the focus of enlightened and constant discernment on the Bishops' part, so as to guarantee the ecclesiality of their approach and to maintain an authentic communion with the universal and the diocesan Church.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, in concluding this meeting I would like to remind you of the affection of the Successor of Peter for the People of Côte d'Ivoire, addressing to them once again a pressing appeal: "I invite all to continue with constructive dialogue, in order to attain reconciliation and peace" (Angelus, 22 January 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 January, p. 1).

I entrust you as well as the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the members of your Dioceses to the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of Peace. I very cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.




WITH THE YOUTH Saint Peter's Square Thursday, 6 April 2006

1. Your Holiness, I am Simone from St Bartholomew's Parish. I am 21 years old and am studying chemical engineering at "La Sapienza University" of Rome.

First of all, thank you for addressing to us the Message for the 21st World Youth Day on the topic of the Word of God that illuminates the human being's steps through life. In the face of anxieties and uncertainties about the future, and even simply when I find myself grappling with the daily routine, I also feel the need to be nourished by God's Word and to know Christ better in order to find answers to my questions.

I often wonder what Jesus would have done in my place in a specific situation, but I don't always manage to understand what the Bible tells me. Moreover, I know that the books of the Bible were written by different people in different ages, in any case, very distant from me. How can I understand that what I read is nevertheless the Word of God which calls my life into question? Thank you.

To begin, I shall answer by stressing a first point: it must first of all be said that one must not read Sacred Scripture as one reads any kind of historical book, such as, for example, Homer, Ovid or Horace; it is necessary truly to read it as the Word of God, that is, entering into a conversation with God.

One must start by praying and talking to the Lord: "Open the door to me". And what St Augustine often says in his homilies: "I knocked at the door of the Word to find out at last what the Lord wants to say to me", seems to me to be a very important point. One should not read Scripture in an academic way, but with prayer, saying to the Lord: "Help me to understand your Word, what it is that you want to tell me in this passage".

A second point is: Sacred Scripture introduces one into communion with the family of God. Thus, one should not read Sacred Scripture on one's own. Of course, it is always important to read the Bible in a very personal way, in a personal conversation with God; but at the same time, it is important to read it in the company of people with whom one can advance, letting oneself be helped by the great masters of "Lectio divina".

For example, we have many beautiful books by Cardinal Martini, a true master of "Lectio divina", who helps us enter into the life of Sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, one who is thoroughly familiar with all the historical circumstances, all the characteristic elements of the past, always seeks to open the door to show that the words which appear to belong to the past are also words of the present. These teachers help us to understand better and also to learn how to interpret Sacred Scripture properly. Moreover, it is also appropriate in general to read it in the company of friends who are journeying with me, who are seeking, together with me, how to live with Christ, to find what life the Word of God brings us.

A third point: if it is important to read Sacred Scripture with the help of teachers and in the company of friends, travelling companions, it is particularly important to read it in the great company of the pilgrim People of God, that is, in the Church.

Sacred Scripture has two subjects. First and foremost, the divine subject: it is God who is speaking. However, God wanted to involve man in his Word. Whereas Muslims are convinced that the Koran was verbally inspired by God, we believe that for Sacred Scripture it is "synergy" - as the theologians say - that is characteristic, the collaboration of God with man.

God involves his People with his Word, hence, the second subject - the first subject, as I said, is God - is human. There are individual writers, but there is the continuity of a permanent subject - the People of God that journeys on with the Word of God and is in conversation with God. By listening to God, one learns to listen to the Word of God and then also to interpret it. Thus, the Word of God becomes present, because individual persons die but the vital subject, the People of God, is always alive and is identical in the course of the millenniums: it is always the same living subject in which the Word lives.

This also explains many structures of Sacred Scripture, especially the so-called "rereading". An ancient text is reread in another book, let us say 100 years later, and what had been impossible to perceive in that earlier moment, although it was already contained in the previous text, is understood in-depth.

And it is read again, ages later, and once again other aspects, other dimensions of the Word are grasped. So it was that Sacred Scripture developed, in this permanent rereading and rewriting in the context of profound continuity, in a continuous succession of the times of waiting.

At last, with the coming of Christ and the experience of the Apostles, the Word became definitive. Thus, there can be no further rewriting, but a further deepening of our understanding continues to be necessary. The Lord said: "The Holy Spirit will guide you into depths that you cannot fathom now".
Consequently, the communion of the Church is the living subject of Scripture. However, here too the principal subject is the Lord himself, who continues to speak through the Scriptures that we have in our hands.

I think that we should learn to do three things: to read it in a personal colloquium with the Lord; to read it with the guidance of teachers who have the experience of faith, who have penetrated Sacred Scripture: and to read it in the great company of the Church, in whose liturgy these events never cease to become present anew and in which the Lord speaks with us today.
Thus, we may gradually penetrate ever more deeply into Sacred Scripture, in which God truly speaks to us today.

2. Holy Father, I am Anna. I am 19 years old, I am studying literature, and I belong to the Parish of St Mary of Carmel.

One of the problems we are constantly facing is how to approach emotional issues. We frequently find it difficult to love. Yes, difficult: because it is easy to confuse love with selfishness, especially today when most of the media almost impose on us an individualistic, secularized vision of sexuality in which everything seems licit and everything is permitted in the name of freedom and individual conscience.

The family based on marriage now seems little more than a Church invention, not to speak of premarital relations, whose prohibition appears, even to many of us believers, difficult to understand or anachronistic.... Knowing well that so many of us are striving to live our emotional life responsibly, could you explain to us what the Word of God has to tell us about this? Thank you.

This is a vast question and it would certainly be impossible to answer it in a few minutes, but I will try to say something.

Anna herself has already given us some of the answers. She said that today love is often wrongly interpreted because it is presented as a selfish experience, whereas it is actually an abandonment of self and thus becomes a self-discovery.

She also said that a consumer culture falsifies our life with a relativism that seems to grant us everything, but in fact completely drains us.

So let us listen to the Word of God in this regard. Anna rightly wanted to know what the Word of God says. For me it is a beautiful thing to observe that already in the first pages of Sacred Scripture, subsequent to the story of man's Creation, we immediately find the definition of love and marriage.

The sacred author tells us: "A man will leave his father and mother and will cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh", one life (cf. Gn Gn 2,24-25). We are at the beginning and we are already given a prophecy of what marriage is; and this definition also remains identical in the New Testament. Marriage is this following of the other in love, thus becoming one existence, one flesh, therefore inseparable; a new life that is born from this communion of love that unites and thus also creates the future.

Medieval theologians, interpreting this affirmation which is found at the beginning of Sacred Scripture, said that marriage is the first of the seven sacraments to have been instituted by God already at the moment of creation, in Paradise, at the beginning of history and before any human history.

It is a sacrament of the Creator of the universe, hence, it is engraved in the human being himself, who is oriented to this journey on which man leaves his parents and is united to a woman in order to form only one flesh, so that the two may be a single existence.

Thus, the sacrament of marriage is not an invention of the Church; it is really "con-created" with man as such, as a fruit of the dynamism of love in which the man and the woman find themselves and thus also find the Creator who called them to love.

It is true that man fell and was expelled from Paradise, or, in other words, more modern words, it is true that all cultures are polluted by the sin, the errors of human beings in their history, and that the initial plan engraved in our nature is thereby clouded. Indeed, in human cultures we find this clouding of God's original plan.

At the same time, however, if we look at cultures, the whole cultural history of humanity, we note that man was never able to forget completely this plan that exists in the depths of his being. He has always known, in a certain sense, that other forms of relationship between a man and a woman do not truly correspond with the original design for his being.

And thus, in cultures, especially in the great cultures, we see again and again how they are oriented to this reality: monogamy, the man and the woman becoming one flesh. This is how a new generation can grow in fidelity, how a cultural tradition can endure, renew itself in continuity and make authentic progress.

The Lord, who spoke of this in the language of the prophets of Israel, said referring to Moses, who tolerated divorce: Moses permitted you to divorce "because of the hardness of your hearts". After sin, the heart became "hard", but this was not what the Creator had intended, and the Prophets, with increasing clarity, insisted on this original plan.

To renew man, the Lord - alluding to these prophetic voices which always guided Israel towards the clarity of monogamy - recognized with Ezekiel that, to live this vocation, we need a new heart; instead of a heart of stone - as Ezekiel said - we need a heart of flesh, a heart that is truly human.

And the Lord "implants" this new heart in us at Baptism, through faith. It is not a physical transplant, but perhaps we can make this comparison. After a transplant, the organism needs treatment, requires the necessary medicines to be able to live with the new heart, so that it becomes "one's own heart" and not the "heart of another".

This is especially so in this "spiritual transplant" when the Lord implants within us a new heart, a heart open to the Creator, to God's call. To be able to live with this new heart, adequate treatment is necessary; one must have recourse to the appropriate medicines so that it can really become "our heart".

Thus, by living in communion with Christ, with his Church, the new heart truly becomes "our own heart" and makes marriage possible. The exclusive love between a man and a woman, their life as a couple planned by the Creator, becomes possible, even if the atmosphere of our world makes it difficult to the point that it appears impossible.

The Lord gives us a new heart and we must live with this new heart, using the appropriate therapies to ensure that it is really "our own". In this way we live with all that the Creator has given us and this creates a truly happy life.

Indeed, we can also see it in this world, despite the numerous other models of life: there are so many Christian families who live with faithfulness and joy the life and love pointed out to us by the Creator, so that a new humanity develops.

And lastly, I would add: we all know that to reach a goal in a sport or in one's profession, discipline and sacrifices are required; but then, by reaching a desired goal, it is all crowned with success.

Life itself is like this. In other words, becoming men and women according to Jesus' plan demands sacrifices, but these are by no means negative; on the contrary, they are a help in living as people with new hearts, in living a truly human and happy life.

Since a consumer culture exists that wants to prevent us from living in accordance with the Creator's plan, we must have the courage to create islands, oases, and then great stretches of land of Catholic culture where the Creator's design is lived out.

3. Most Holy Father, I am Inelida. I am 17 years old, an assistant to the Scout Cub Master in the Parish of St Gregory Barberigo, and I am studying at the "Mario Mafai" senior secondary art school.

In your Message for the 21st World Youth Day you said: "There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the Word of Christ" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 March 2006, p. 3). These are such forceful and demanding words that they are almost frightening.

Of course, we also want to be new apostles, but could you explain to us in greater detail what in your opinion are the greatest challenges to face in our time, and how you imagine these new apostles should be? In other words, what does the Lord expect of us, Your Holiness?

We all ask ourselves what the Lord expects of us. It seems to me that the great challenge of our time - this is what the Bishops on their ad limina visits tell me, those from Africa, for example - is secularization: that is, a way of living and presenting the world as "si Deus non daretur", in other words, as if God did not exist.

There is a desire to reduce God to the private sphere, to a sentiment, as if he were not an objective reality. As a result, everyone makes his or her own plan of life. But this vision, presented as though it were scientific, accepts as valid only what can be proven.

With a God who is not available for immediate experimentation, this vision ends by also injuring society. The result is in fact that each one makes his own plan and in the end finds himself opposed to the other. As can be seen, this is definitely an unliveable situation.

We must make God present again in our society. This seems to me to be the first essential element: that God be once again present in our lives, that we do not live as though we were autonomous, authorized to invent what freedom and life are. We must realize that we are creatures, aware that there is a God who has created us and that living in accordance with his will is not dependence but a gift of love that makes us alive.

Therefore, the first point is to know God, to know him better and better, to recognize that God is in my life, and that God has a place.

The second point - if we recognize that there is a God, that our freedom is a freedom shared with others and that there must consequently be a common parameter for building a common reality - the second point, I was saying, presents the question: what God? Indeed, there are so many false images of God, a violent God, etc.

The second point, therefore, is recognizing God who has shown us his face in Jesus, who suffered for us, who loved us to the point of dying, and thus overcame violence. It is necessary to make the living God present in our "own" lives first of all, the God who is not a stranger, a fictitious God, a God only thought of, but a God who has shown himself, who has shown his being and his face.

Only in this way do our lives become true, authentically human; hence, the criteria of true humanism emerge in society.

Here too, as I said in my first answer, it is true that we cannot be alone in building this just and righteous life but must journey on in the company of good and upright friends, companions with whom we can experience that God exists and that it is beautiful to walk with God; and to walk in the great company of the Church, which presents to us down the centuries God who speaks, who acts, who accompanies us.

Therefore, I would say: to find God, to find God revealed in Jesus Christ, to walk in company with his great family, with our brothers and sisters who are God's family, this seems to me to be the essential content of this apostolate of which I spoke.

4. Your Holiness, I am Vittorio, I am from the Parish of St John Bosco in Cinecittà. I am 20 years old and am studying educational sciences at the University of Tor Vergata.
Once again, in your Message you invite us not to be afraid to respond to the Lord with generosity, especially when he suggests following him in the consecrated or priestly life.

You tell us that if we are not afraid, if we trust in him, then we will not be deceived.
I am convinced that many of us, here or among those at home who are watching us this evening on television, are thinking of following Jesus in a life of special consecration, but it is not always easy to understand if this is the right path. Can you tell us how you yourself came to understand your vocation? Can you give us some advice so that we can really understand whether the Lord is calling us to follow him in the consecrated or priestly life? Thank you.

As for me, I grew up in a world very different from the world today, but in the end situations are similar.

On the one hand, the situation of "Christianity" still existed, where it was normal to go to church and to accept the faith as the revelation of God, and to try to live in accordance with his revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime which loudly stated: "In the new Germany there will be no more priests, there will be no more consecrated life, we do not need these people; look for another career". However, it was precisely in hearing these "loud" voices, in facing the brutality of that system with an inhuman face, that I realized that there was instead a great need for priests.

This contrast, the sight of that anti-human culture, confirmed my conviction that the Lord, the Gospel and the faith were pointing out the right path, and that we were bound to commit ourselves to ensuring that this path survives. In this situation, my vocation to the priesthood grew with me, almost naturally, without any dramatic events of conversion.

Two other things also helped me on this journey: already as a boy, helped by my parents and by the parish priest, I had discovered the beauty of the Liturgy, and I came to love it more and more because I felt that divine beauty appears in it and that Heaven unfolds before us.

The second element was the discovery of the beauty of knowledge, of knowing God and Sacred Scripture, thanks to which it is possible to enter into that great adventure of dialogue with God which is theology. Thus, it was a joy to enter into this 1,000-year-old work of theology, this celebration of the Liturgy in which God is with us and celebrates with us.

Of course, problems were not lacking. I wondered if I would really be able to live celibacy all my life. Being a man of theoretical and not practical training, I also knew that it was not enough to love theology in order to be a good priest, but that it was also necessary to be always available to young people, the elderly, the sick and the poor: the need to be simple with the simple. Theology is beautiful, but the simplicity of words and Christian life is indispensable. And so I asked myself: will I be able to live all this and not be one-sided, merely a theologian, etc.?

However, the Lord helped me and the company of friends, of good priests and teachers especially helped me.

To return to the question, I think it is important to be attentive to the Lord's gestures on our journey. He speaks to us through events, through people, through encounters: it is necessary to be attentive to all of this.

Then, a second point, it is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us.

And then, the awareness of what I am, of my possibilities: on the one hand, courage, and on the other, humility, trust and openness, with the help also of friends, of Church authority and also of priests, of families: what does the Lord want of me?

Of course, this is always a great adventure, but life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous, trusting that the Lord will never leave me alone, that the Lord will go with me and help me.

5. Holy Father, I am Giovanni, I am 17 years old, I am studying at "Giovanni Giorgi" technological and scientific secondary school in Rome, and I belong to Holy Mary Mother of Mercy Parish.

I ask you to help us to understand better how biblical revelation and scientific theory can converge in the search for truth.

We are often led to believe that knowledge and faith are each other's enemies; that knowledge and technology are the same thing; that it was through mathematical logic that everything was discovered; that the world is the result of an accident, and that if mathematics did not discover the theorem-God, it is because God simply does not exist.

In short, especially when we are studying, it is not always easy to trace everything back to a divine plan inherent in the nature and history of human beings. Thus, faith at times vacillates or is reduced to a simple sentimental act.

Holy Father, like all young people, I too am thirsting for the truth: but what can I do to harmonize knowledge and faith?

The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics. He was convinced that God has given us two books: the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of nature. And the language of nature - this was his conviction - is mathematics, so it is a language of God, a language of the Creator.

Let us now reflect on what mathematics is: in itself, it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit which as such in its purity does not exist. It is always approximated, but as such is an intellectual system, a great, ingenious invention of the human spirit.

The surprising thing is that this invention of our human intellect is truly the key to understanding nature, that nature is truly structured in a mathematical way, and that our mathematics, invented by our human mind, is truly the instrument for working with nature, to put it at our service, to use it through technology.

It seems to me almost incredible that an invention of the human mind and the structure of the universe coincide. Mathematics, which we invented, really gives us access to the nature of the universe and makes it possible for us to use it.

Therefore, the intellectual structure of the human subject and the objective structure of reality coincide: the subjective reason and the objective reason of nature are identical. I think that this coincidence between what we thought up and how nature is fulfilled and behaves is a great enigma and a great challenge, for we see that, in the end, it is "one" reason that links them both.

Our reason could not discover this other reason were there not an identical antecedent reason for both.

In this sense it really seems to me that mathematics - in which as such God cannot appear - shows us the intelligent structure of the universe. Now, there are also theories of chaos, but they are limited because if chaos had the upper hand, all technology would become impossible. Only because our mathematics is reliable, is technology reliable.

Our knowledge, which is at last making it possible to work with the energies of nature, supposes the reliable and intelligent structure of matter. Thus, we see that there is a subjective rationality and an objectified rationality in matter which coincide.

Of course, no one can now prove - as is proven in an experiment, in technical laws - that they both really originated in a single intelligence, but it seems to me that this unity of intelligence, behind the two intelligences, really appears in our world. And the more we can delve into the world with our intelligence, the more clearly the plan of Creation appears.

In the end, to reach the definitive question I would say: God exists or he does not exist. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of creative Reason that is at the beginning of all things and is the principle of all things - the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom -, or one holds the priority of the irrational, inasmuch as everything that functions on our earth and in our lives would be only accidental, marginal, an irrational result - reason would be a product of irrationality.

One cannot ultimately "prove" either project, but the great option of Christianity is the option for rationality and for the priority of reason. This seems to me to be an excellent option, which shows us that behind everything is a great Intelligence to which we can entrust ourselves.

However, the true problem challenging faith today seems to me to be the evil in the world: we ask ourselves how it can be compatible with the Creator's rationality. And here we truly need God, who was made flesh and shows us that he is not only a mathematical reason but that this original Reason is also Love. If we look at the great options, the Christian option today is the one that is the most rational and the most human.

Therefore, we can confidently work out a philosophy, a vision of the world based on this priority of reason, on this trust that the creating Reason is love and that this love is God.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for coming and for the words that have just been addressed to me. I remember our previous meetings and I am glad to offer you hospitality here.

You represent the atmosphere that has existed around the ZNAK Publishing House for years. I know that its scope is not limited to activities connected with the publication of books, but includes the promotion of Christian culture, meant in the broad sense, and charitable initiatives. It makes a valuable contribution to the formation of the spiritual face of Krakow, of Poland and of the Church.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank your Publishing House for publishing my books in Polish. I am grateful for the accuracy with which these texts have been prepared for printing.

Your visit to Rome is connected with the anniversary of my great Predecessor, John Paul II. I know that he already took a particular interest in ZNAK when he was Bishop of Krakow. He kept in contact with this establishment even when divine Providence called him to the See of Peter.

He always appreciated the active participation of lay people in the Church's life and supported their timely initiatives. It was not by chance that he entrusted his last book, Memory and Identity, to your Publishing House. He thankfully received the first copies while he was in the Gemelli Polyclinic, shortly before his departure to the Father's House.

I am certain that his patronage still lives on and that he is imploring God's Blessing and graces for you.

I ask you to remain faithful to Christ and to the Church - in honour of his memory. May your zeal in spreading culture based on eternal values never be extinguished!

Once again, I thank you for your visit and bless you with all my heart: in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Dear Friends,

I offer a cordial welcome to all of you who, continuing a tradition that has now existed for several years, have come to Rome to live Holy Week and take part in the international UNIV meeting. You belong, as one can see, to numerous countries and are diligently devoted to the activities of Christian formation that the Prelature of Opus Dei promotes in your city. Welcome to this meeting and thank you for coming.

I greet in particular your Bishop Prelate, Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, as well as your young representative, and I express my gratitude to them for the sentiments expressed to me on behalf of all.

Your presence in Rome, the heart of the Christian world, gives you an opportunity to live the Paschal Mystery intensely during Holy Week. In particular, it enables you to have a more intimate encounter with Christ, especially through contemplation of his Passion, death and Resurrection.
Christ guides you through life

As I wrote in my Message for the 21st World Youth Day, it is he who guides your steps, your university studies and your friendships in the comings and goings of daily life. Moreover, for each one of you, as for the Apostles, the personal encounter with the divine Teacher who calls you friends (cf. Jn 15,15) can be the beginning of an extraordinary adventure: that of becoming apostles among your peers, to lead them to have the same experience as you of friendship with God made Man, with God who made himself my friend. Never forget, dear young people, that in the end your happiness, our happiness, depends on the encounter with Jesus and on friendship with him.

I find the topic you are studying at your Congress very interesting: that is, culture and the means of social communication. Unfortunately, we are obliged to note that in our time the new technologies and the mass media do not always encourage personal relations, sincere dialogue and friendship between people; nor do they always help to cultivate the interiority of the relationship with God.

For you, as I know well, friendship and contact with others, especially with your peers, are an important part of everyday life. You must view Jesus as one of your dearest friends, indeed, the dearest. Then you will see how friendship with him will lead you to open yourselves to others, whom you consider as brothers or sisters, maintaining with each one a relationship of sincere friendship.

In fact, Jesus Christ is truly "the incarnate love of God" (Deus Caritas Est ), and in him alone can we find the strength to offer our brothers and sisters human affection and supernatural love in a spirit of service, expressed above all in understanding.

It is great to feel oneself understood by another and to begin to understand the other person.
Dear young people, may I repeat to you what I said to your peers gathered at Cologne in August last year: those who have discovered Christ must bring others to him too, given that a great joy should not be kept for oneself but passed on.

This is the task to which the Lord calls you; this is the "apostolate of friendship" that St Josemaría, Founder of Opus Dei, described as "a "personal' friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart" (Furrow, n. 191). Every Christian is asked to be a friend of God and with God's grace, attract his own friends to him.

In this way, apostolic love becomes an authentic passion that is expressed in communicating to others the happiness to be found in Jesus. Again, it is St Josemaría who reminds you of some key words in your spiritual itinerary: "Communion, union, conversation, confidence: Word, Bread, Love" (The Way, n. 535), the important words that express the essential milestones on our way.

If you cultivate friendship with Jesus, if you are diligent in receiving the sacraments, and especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, you will be able to become the "new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the Word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide" (Message for the 21st World Youth Day, 22 February 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 March, p. 3).

May the Blessed Virgin help you say your "yes" to the Lord, who calls you to follow him always, and may St Josemaría intercede for you. As I express the hope that you will spend Holy Week in prayer and reflection, in contact with many of the early remains of the Christian faith in Rome, I bless with affection all those who are in charge of your formation and all your loved ones.
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