Speeches 2005-13 20055


Dear friends of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy,

It is with particular joy that I welcome you, a month after my election as Successor of Peter. Some may remember another moment that we spent together on the occasion of my Visit to your Academy some years ago. I cordially greet you all and, in the first place, I greet your President [Archbishop Mullor García Justo], whom I thank for his kind words to me.

I especially would like to thank you for the generosity with which you have answered the request made of you, making yourself available to offer a special service to the Church and to her supreme Pastor by working as a Pontifical Representative. It is a unique mission that demands, as does every form of priestly ministry, the faithful following of Christ. He who carries out [this service] with love is promised a hundredfold and eternal life (cf.
Mt 19,29).

In your daily activity you must apply yourselves to guarantee that the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and the Apostolic See are evermore intense and active. At the same time, you must be concerned that the solicitude which the Successor of Peter has for all members of the Lord's flock, especially for the defenceless, the weak and the abandoned, is made present and visible.

And so, it is important that in these years of formation in Rome you strengthen your sensus Ecclesiae, assuming an ecclesial manner in your entire personality, in mind and heart. May you be concerned with cultivating in yourselves the two fundamental and complementary dimensions of the Church: communion and mission, unity and evangelizing tension.

In the movement toward the centre and heart of the Church, there must be a correspondingly courageous "thrust" that pushes you to witness to the particular Churches that treasure of truth and grace which Christ entrusted to Peter and to his Successors. These dimensions of your mission are well represented in the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, who shed their blood in Rome.

While you are at the Academy, strive, therefore, to become fully "Roman" in the ecclesial sense: secure and faithful in acceptance of the Magisterium and of the pastoral guidance of the Successor of Peter, and at the same time cultivating the missionary longing typical of St Paul, who was so anxious to cooperate in the spreading of the Gospel to the extreme ends of the earth.

We were all struck by the fact that the witness of Pope John Paul II awakened a profound "echo" in non-Christians too, as was mentioned by various Apostolic Nuncios in their reports. This confirms that when Christ is proclaimed by a consistent life, it speaks to the heart of all, even the brothers and sisters of other religious traditions.

As I said a few days ago to the Roman clergy, the mission of the Church is not in conflict with respect for other religious and cultural traditions. Christ takes nothing away from man; rather, he gives fullness of life, joy, hope. Of this hope, you are also called to "give reason" (cf. 1P 3,15), in the different settings where Providence will destine you.

To carry out adequately the service that awaits you and that the Church entrusts to you, a solid cultural preparation is necessary, which includes the knowledge of languages, of history and of law, with wise openness to different cultures. It then becomes necessary that, at an even deeper level, you propose holiness and the salvation of the souls that you meet on your journey as the fundamental aim of your existence.

To this end, try tirelessly to be exemplary priests, enlivened by constant and intense prayer, cultivating intimacy with Christ. Be priests according to the Heart of Christ and carry out your ministry with success and apostolic fruit. Never allow yourselves to be tempted by the logic of career and of power.

In closing, I address a special greeting to all who will soon be leaving the Academy for their first duty as a Pontifical Representative and, as I assure each of them of a special remembrance in prayer, I wish for them a fruitful apostolic mission. Upon the entire community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy I invoke the constant protection of Mary Most Holy and of the Apostles Peter and Paul; to all of you and to your loved ones I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am pleased to welcome you as you make your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you who have received from the Lord the duty to guide his Church in Rwanda. I thank Bishop Alexis Habiyambere of Nyundo, President of your Bishops' Conference, for his fraternal words. Through you, I address an affectionate greeting to your communities, encouraging priests and faithful, severely tried by the genocide of 1994 and its consequences, to remain firm in faith, to persevere in the hope given by the Risen Christ, overcoming every temptation to become discouraged.

May the Spirit of Pentecost, diffused throughout the universe, make fruitful the efforts of those who work toward the construction of brotherhood between all Rwandans, in a spirit of truth and justice!

Your quinquennial reports show that the Spirit, builder of the Church in Rwanda in the ups and downs of its history, is at work. To contribute actively to peace and reconciliation, you give priority to a pastoral service of neighbourliness, founded on the involvement of small communities of laypeople in the missionary work of the Church, in harmony with the pastors.

I encourage you to sustain these communities so that the faithful welcome the truth of faith and its demands, developing in this way a more intense ecclesial and spiritual life, without allowing yourselves to be distracted from the Gospel of Christ, especially by the numerous sects present in your Country.

Work ceaselessly so that the Gospel may penetrate more deeply into the heart and existence of believers, inviting the faithful to undertake their individual responsibilities in society conscientiously, especially in the economic and political fields, with a moral sense that is nourished by the Gospel and the Church's social teaching.

I greet the priests of your Dioceses and the young people who, with generosity, are preparing for the priesthood. Their number is an authentic sign of hope for the future. As the clergy is becoming local, I wish to acknowledge the patient work carried out by the missionaries who proclaimed Christ and his Gospel and gave life to the Christian communities for which you are responsible today.

I invite you to stay close to your priests, concerning yourselves with their permanent formation on the theological and spiritual level, attentive to their life-style and the exercise of their mission so that they become authentic witnesses of the Word they proclaim and of the sacraments they administer.

In the gift of themselves to Christ and to the people to whom they are pastors, may they remain faithful to the demands of their state-in-life and live their priesthood as a true journey of holiness!

At the end of our meeting, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I wish to be close to the people entrusted to you, encouraging the faithful and pastors to build communities that are enlivened by sincere reciprocal love and permeated by the imperious desire to work for authentic reconciliation! May the song of the messengers of the Good News of Christ, victor over death, resound on the hilltops (cf. Is Is 52,7)!

Entrusting the hopes and sufferings of the Rwandan People to the intercession of the Queen of the Apostles, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing upon you all, willingly extending it to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the faithful of your Dioceses.


Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Collaborators,

I have come without a written text, but in my heart there are sentiments of gratitude together with the willingness to learn.

Little by little I am learning something about the structure of the Secretariat of State and especially about the bulk of documentation that comes in and of work that is carried out daily in this Secretariat of State. In this way I am able to see from the variety, the volume and also by the experience that is hidden behind all this work, how much is done here in these offices.

Even if we cannot normally live the "life of angels" - referring to the words of Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State - but rather, the life of "fish", of human beings, it is precisely in this way that we do our duty.

If one considers large international administrations - the European administration, for example, of which Archbishop Lajolo gave me the number of employees - we are actually far fewer in number. And the fact that such a small number of people carry out so much important work for the universal Church does the Holy See great credit.

This immense work done by a reduced number of people shows the diligence and dedication that goes into the work. Together with the skill and professionalism of the work done here, another characteristic aspect can be added, a particularly professional feature: love for Christ, for the Church and for souls plays a part in our professionalism.

We do not work - as many say of the work - to defend a power. We do not have a worldly, secular power. We do not work for prestige, nor do we work to expand a business or the like.

In reality, we work so that the pathways of the world are opened to Christ.

The purpose of all of our work, with all of its ramifications, is actually ultimately so that his Gospel - as well as the joy of Redemption - may reach the world. In this sense, even in the little duties of each day that appear to lack lustre, we do, as Cardinal Sodano said, the best we can to cooperate with the Truth, that is, with Christ in his working in the world, so that the world truly becomes the Kingdom of God.

And so, I can only say a great "thank you". Together we carry out the service characteristic of the Successor of Peter, the "Petrine service": confirming our brothers and sisters in the faith.



Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of your traditional visit to the tomb of St Cyril and I greet you cordially. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me. Our meeting highlights the age-old bond of respect and spiritual closeness that has always united the Roman Pontiffs to the noble People you represent.

The affection that the Apostolic See has for the Bulgarian People is great. From Pope Clement I, of venerable memory, until today, the Bishops of Rome have always maintained a fruitful dialogue with the residents of ancient Thrace.

Your visit today, Mr President, is all the more meaningful since it is in memory of the two Saints Cyril and Methodius, Co-Patrons of Europe, who shaped the human and cultural values of the Bulgarians and of other Slav nations in a Christian perspective. One could also say that, through their work of evangelization, Europe was formed, that Europe of which Bulgaria feels itself an active party.

Furthermore, Bulgaria also has a particular responsibility towards other peoples, that of being one of the bridges between East and West. In addressing you, I wish to express my encouragement to all of your citizens so that they continue this specific political and social mission with trust.

The meeting of the President Magistrate of Bulgaria with the Successor of Peter, three years after the Visit to Bulgaria of my well-beloved late Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was a new confirmation of the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Nation that you represent. How can we fail to thank Divine Providence for this re-found ability for friendly and constructive dialogue after the long and difficult period of the Communist regime?

Contacts between your Country and the Holy See have known highly significant moments in the last century. I am thinking, for example, of the affection that the Apostolic Delegate at the time, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, always entertained for the inhabitants of Bulgaria.

Mr President, I cannot fail to mention at this time the closeness that Bulgaria has shown to the Holy See in the course of these last two months. You yourself, the Government, the Parliament and many of your citizens have expressed to the Catholic Church your sincere wishes on the occasion of the death of John Paul II and on my election as his Successor.

I also recall the faces and the warmth of the Representatives of the venerable Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, who desired to revive the dialogue of charity in the truth. I ask you to convey to them my feeling of gratitude, in particular to the venerable Bulgarian Patriarch, His Holiness Maxime.

We have before us a common obligation: we are called together to build a more free, more peaceful and more solidary humanity. In this perspective, I would like to formulate the fervent hope that your Nation may always know how to promote in Europe the cultural and spiritual values that make up her identity.

In this spirit, I assure you of my prayers and, through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings on you, the people accompanying you and all the People of the very beautiful Land of Bulgaria.


Mr Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

With great joy I greet you on the occasion of the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius and I express to you my gratitude for this welcome visit. In a particular way I greet the Prime Minister and those who are accompanying him. With equal warmth I welcome the ecclesiastical Delegation. I gladly take this opportunity to send good wishes to all the people of your beloved country.

When I received the new Ambassador a few days ago, I wanted to acknowledge how strongly the traditions and culture of the Macedonian people resonate with the values which permeate the spirit of Europe. The brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius, Apostles of the Slav peoples, contributed significantly to its formation. Their human and Christian activity left indelible traces in the history of your own country. The pilgrimage which you make every year to the tomb of Saint Cyril provides a fitting occasion to return to the roots of your history. Cyril and Methodius, natives of Salonika sent on mission among the Slav peoples by the Church of Byzantium, laid the foundations of an authentic Christian culture, and at the same time actively took steps to create the conditions for peace among all the different populations. Those values of peace and fraternity, which these holy Patrons of Europe, together with Saint Benedict, tirelessly defended, remain indispensable elements for constructing communities of solidarity, open to integral human progress, respecting the dignity of every human being and of the whole human being.

I am convinced that the way to give life to a society truly attentive to the common good is to seek in the Gospel the roots of shared values, as the experience of Saints Cyril and Methodius demonstrates. This is the ardent desire of the Catholic Church which has no other interest but to spread and bear witness to Jesus Christ’s words of hope and love, words of life which down the centuries have inspired many martyrs and confessors of the faith. I sincerely hope that your pilgrimage today will contribute to keeping vibrant throughout the Nation these high human and Christian ideals. I pray too that your country will confidently open up to Europe, thereby contributing significantly to building its future, inspired by your invaluable religious and cultural heritage.

I would like to add the assurance of my prayers for the beloved Macedonian people, that they may advance towards a future of ever firmer hope, assisted by every element of civil and religious society. I therefore invoke the heavenly blessing of Saints Cyril and Methodius. May God always bless and protect your country and all its people.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I welcome you, Pastors of the Church in Burundi, with great joy. You have come on pilgrimage to Rome to pray at the tombs of the Apostles and meet the Successor of Peter and his collaborators. I hope that this experience of communion in charity will encourage you in your mission as servants of Christ's Gospel for the hope of the world.

I express my gratitude to Bishop Jean Ntagwarara of Bubanza, President of your Bishops' Conference, for the kind words he has just expressed in your name. They demonstrate the spiritual and missionary vitality of your diocesan communities, to whom, together with all Burundians, I address my affectionate greetings.

I would also like to commemorate with you Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, who was faithful to the point of laying down his life for the mission that the Holy Father had entrusted to him at the service of your beloved Country and the local Church.

In your quinquennial reports, you bring to the fore the Catholic Church's active role in furthering peace and reconciliation in the Country, especially during this election period. The sufferings endured in the dark time of war, during which, it must be said again, many Christians witnessed heroically to their faith, has not extinguished the desire to work for the brotherhood and unity of all, following Christ and in his Name.

I hope that the pastoral plan of action that has been worked out in this context, as well as the diocesan synods that will implement it locally, will contribute to proclaiming the Gospel, to healing memories and hearts and to fostering solidarity among all Burundians, uprooting feelings of revenge and resentment and ceaselessly asking for forgiveness and reconciliation.

This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, promulgated by my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II. May it continue to be the charter of your commitment in the mission that has been entrusted to you, in communion with the other local Churches.

I encourage you in particular to renew your attention to all the faithful, so that they may live more and more intensely their Baptismal requirements. Many are suffering from great poverty and inner anguish, and are tempted to return to ancient practices that have not been purified by the Lord's Spirit or to turn to the sects. Take care of them, providing a sound Christian formation and making every effort for inculturation, especially in the area of the translation of the Bible and the texts of the Magisterium. This will enable them to "ever more fully assimilate the Gospel message, while remaining faithful to all authentic African values" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

At the end of our Meeting, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I am granted the opportunity to give thanks for the apostolic work carried out by the indigenous and foreign priests and the men and women religious of your Dioceses, often in difficult conditions. I do not forget the catechists, precious assistants in the apostolate, as well as all the faithful who take part in the development of human beings and society, in the context of the Church's institutions for social advancement and its service in the world to education and health care.

As I invoke upon all of you and upon the members of your Dioceses the Holy Spirit who strengthens people in the faith, revives hope and sustains charity, I gladly impart to you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Italian Brother Bishops,

I am happy to meet you here this morning, gathered at your General Assembly, after celebrating Holy Mass with many of you in Bari yesterday for the conclusion of the National Eucharistic Congress. I greet your President, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and thank him for his warm words on your behalf. I greet the three Vice-Presidents, the General Secretary and each one of you, and I in turn would like to express to you my sentiments of deep communion and sincere affection.

Only a few weeks have passed since my election, and the sentiments that brought us close in the days of the suffering and death of my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, are very much alive. He was a father, example and friend to each one of us. I am particularly grateful to you, for I feel that you are welcoming me in the same spirit as that with which you accompanied him during the 26 years of his Pontificate.

Dear Brothers, the bond between us also has a precise root because that is what unites all the Bishops of the world with the Successor of Peter, but it is particularly strong in this Nation because the Pope is Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy. History has shown, in the span of 20 centuries, what great fruits of good this special bond has borne, for the life of faith and the blossoming of the Italian People's civilization, as well as for the ministry of the Successor of Peter himself.

I am thus beginning the new and unexpected service to which the Lord has called me, feeling deeply comforted by your closeness and solidarity. Together we will be able to carry out the mission that Jesus Christ has entrusted to us, together we will be able to bear witness to Christ and make him as present today as he was in the past in Italian homes and hearts.

Indeed, not only does Italy's relationship with the Christian faith date back to the apostolic generation and the preaching and martyrdom of Peter and Paul, but it is also still deep and alive. The kind of culture that is based on a purely functional rationality which contradicts and seeks to exclude Christianity, and the religious and moral traditions of humanity in general, is of course as present and active in Italy as it is more or less everywhere in Europe.

Here, however, its supremacy is not total, nor, still less, is there any lack of opposition to it. Indeed, many people, even those who do not share or at any rate do not practise our faith, feel that such a form of culture is actually a harmful mutilation of man and of his reasoning.

Moreover, in Italy in particular the Church has a far-reaching network among people of every age and condition; thus, she can propose the message of salvation that the Lord has entrusted to her in the most varied situations.

Dear Brothers, I am aware of your commitment to keeping this presence alive and increasing its missionary outreach. In the Pastoral Guidelines that you presented to the Italian Dioceses for this first decade of the new century, taking up the teaching of John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte, you rightly base everything on contemplation of Jesus Christ, and in him, of the true face of God the Father and the living, daily relationship with him.

Here, in fact, lies the heart and the secret energy of the Church, the source of our apostolate's effectiveness. Especially in the mystery of the Eucharist, we ourselves, our priests and all our faithful can live to the full this relationship with Christ: here he becomes tangible among us, he gives himself ever anew, he becomes ours, so that we may become his and learn his love. The Year of the Eucharist and the Congress just celebrated in Bari are incentives that help us to penetrate deeper into this Mystery.

In contemplating the face of Christ, and in Christ, the face of the Father, Mary Most Holy precedes, sustains and accompanies us. Love and devotion for the Mother of the Lord, so widespread and deeply rooted in the Italian People, are a precious heritage that we must always nurture and a great resource in view of evangelization.

On these foundations, dear Brothers, we can truly propose to ourselves and to our faithful the vocation to holiness as "the high standard of ordinary Christian living", in keeping with John Paul II's felicitous words in Novo Millennio Ineunte (n. 31): actually, the Holy Spirit comes to us, from Christ and from the Father, precisely to usher us into the mystery of the life and love of God, over and above any human endeavour or expectation.

In practice, a characteristic of the Church's presence among the Italian People is first and foremost the close network of parishes and the vitality that they still manifest, despite the major social and cultural changes. Consequently, in one of your recent Pastoral Notes (Il volto missionario delle parrocchie in un mondo che cambia) [the missionary face of parishes in a changing world], you were wisely concerned to support parishes, reasserting their value and role and thereby giving special encouragement to pastors, who as parish priests bear a heavy burden of responsibility.

However, you have also shed light on the need for parishes to assume a more missionary attitude in their daily pastoral work so as to be open to a more intense collaboration with all the living forces available to the Church today. It is very important in this regard to strengthen the communion between the parish structures and the various "charismatic" groups that have sprung up in recent decades and are widespread in Italy, so that the mission can reach out to all the milieus of life. Religious communities, still numerous in Italy despite the scarcity of vocations, certainly make a valuable contribution to this.

The domain of culture is undoubtedly crucial for the future of the faith and the general orientation of a nation's life. I therefore ask you to persevere in the work you have undertaken so that the voice of Catholics may be constantly present in the Italian cultural debate, and especially, to reinforce the ability to work out rationally, in the light of faith, the many questions that are surfacing in the various contexts of knowledge and in the great decisions of life.

Culture and behavioural models today are increasingly conditioned and influenced by images presented by the media. Thus, your Conference's efforts to establish also in this context an adequate means of expression in order to offer to all a Christian interpretation of events and problems deserve praise.

The actual situation of the Church in Italy, therefore, confirms and justifies the attention and expectations many of her Sister Churches in Europe and across the world have of her. As my beloved Predecessor John Paul II frequently emphasized, Italy can and must play an important role in the common witness to Jesus Christ, our one Saviour, so that the standard of true humanism may be identified with Christ, in the people's conscience and the whole ordering of social life.

One crucial issue that demands of us the maximum pastoral attention is the family. In Italy, even more than in other countries, the family truly is the fundamental cell of society. It is deeply rooted in the hearts of the young generations and bears the brunt of many problems, providing support and remedies to situations that would otherwise be desperate.

Yet also in Italy, families in today's cultural atmosphere are exposed to the many risks and threats with which we are all familiar. The inner frailty and instability of many conjugal unions is combined with the widespread social and cultural tendency to dispute the unique character and special mission of the family founded on marriage.

Then, Italy itself is one of the nations where the low birth rate is the most serious and constant, with consequences that are already felt by the whole body of society. This is why for some time you Italian Bishops have been joining your voice to that of John Paul II, primarily in defending the sacredness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, but also in promoting the role of the family in the Church and in society, requesting financial and legislative measures that support young families in having children and raising them.

In the same spirit, you are currently involved in enlightening and motivating the decisions of Catholics and of all citizens concerning the upcoming referendums on the law on assisted procreation. Your clear and concrete commitment is a sign of your concern as Pastors for every human being, who can never be reduced to a means but is always an end, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us in his Gospel and as human reason itself tells us. In this commitment and in all the many different kinds of work that are part of a Pastor's mission and duty, I am close to you with my words and my prayers, trusting in the light and grace of the Holy Spirit who acts in the conscience and heart.

The same concern for the true good of human beings that impels us to take care of the future of families and of respect for human life, is expressed in attention to the poor we have among us, to the sick, to immigrants, to peoples decimated by disease, war and famine.

Dear Italian Brother Bishops, I want to thank you and your faithful for your generous charity, making the Church that new people in which no one is a stranger. Let us always remember the Lord's words: what you have done "for one of my least brothers, you did it for me" (Mt 25,40).

In August, as you know, I will go to Cologne for the World Youth Day, and I am confident that I will be meeting many of you again, accompanied by a large number of young Italians. Precisely with regard to the young, their formation and their relationship with the Lord and with the Church, I would like to add a final word. In fact, as John Paul II often repeated, they are the hope of the Church; but in today's world, they are also particularly vulnerable to the risk of being "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ep 4,14).

Hence, they must be helped to grow and develop in the faith: this is the first service they should receive from the Church and especially from us Bishops and our priests. We know well that many of them cannot understand and accept all the Church's teaching straightaway, but for this very reason it is important to re-awaken within them the desire to believe with the Church, to trust that this Church, enlivened and guided by the Spirit, is the true subject of faith and that by becoming part of her we enter and participate in the communion of faith.

If this is to happen, young people must feel loved by the Church and concretely loved by us Bishops and priests. In this way they will experience in the Church the Lord's friendship and love for them and understand that in Christ, truth coincides with love. In turn, they will learn to love the Lord and to trust in his Body, which is the Church.

Today, dear Italian Brother Bishops, this is the key point of the great challenge of transmitting the faith to the young generations.

I assure you of my daily prayers for you and for your Churches, for the whole of the beloved Italian Nation, for its present and its Christian future, for the task it is called to carry out in Europe and in the world, and I impart with affection a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your priests and to every Italian family.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join you with great joy at the end of this prayer meeting organized by the Vicariate of Vatican City. I note with pleasure that a large number of you have gathered in the Vatican Gardens for the conclusion of the month of May.

Among you, in particular, are many people who live or work in the Vatican, with their families. I offer a warm greeting to you all; in a special way the Cardinals and Bishops, beginning with Archbishop Angelo Comastri who has led this prayer meeting. I then greet the priests and the men and women religious present, with a thought also for the contemplative Sisters of Mater Ecclesiae Monastery who are spiritually united to us.

Dear friends, you have wound your way up to the Grotto of Lourdes reciting the holy Rosary, as if to respond to the Virgin's invitation to raise your spirit towards Heaven. Our Lady accompanies us every day in our prayers. During this special Year of the Eucharist in which we are living, Mary helps us above all to discover ever better the great sacrament of the Eucharist.

In his last Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, our beloved Pope John Paul II presented her to us as "Woman of the Eucharist" throughout her life (cf. n. 53). "Woman of the Eucharist" through and through, beginning with her inner disposition: from the Annunciation, when she offered herself for the Incarnation of the Word of God, to the Cross and to the Resurrection; "Woman of the Eucharist" in the period subsequent to Pentecost, when she received in the Sacrament that Body which she had conceived and carried in her womb.

Today, in particular, we pause to meditate on the mystery of the Visitation of the Virgin to St Elizabeth. Mary went to see her elderly cousin Elizabeth, whom everyone said was sterile but who instead had reached the sixth month of a pregnancy given to her by God (cf. Lc 1,36), carrying in her womb the recently conceived Jesus. She was a young girl but she was not afraid, for God was with her, within her.

In a certain way we can say that her journey was - we like to emphasize in this Year of the Eucharist - the first "Eucharistic procession" in history. Mary, living Tabernacle of God made flesh, is the Ark of the Covenant in whom the Lord visited and redeemed his people. Jesus' presence filled her with the Holy Spirit.

When she entered Elizabeth's house, her greeting was overflowing with grace: John leapt in his mother's womb, as if he were aware of the coming of the One whom he would one day proclaim to Israel. The children exulted, the mothers exulted. This meeting, imbued with the joy of the Holy Spirit, is expressed in the Canticle of the Magnificat.

Is this not also the joy of the Church, which ceaselessly welcomes Christ in the holy Eucharist and brings him into the world with the testimony of active charity, steeped in faith and hope? Yes, welcoming Jesus and bringing him to others is the true joy of Christians!

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us follow and imitate Mary, a deeply Eucharistic soul, and our whole life can become a Magnificat (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 58), praise of God. May this be the grace that we ask from the Virgin Most Holy this evening at the end of the month of May. My Blessing to you all.


Speeches 2005-13 20055