Speeches 2005-13 19195
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I greet all of you with great affection and gratitude for your festive welcome and particularly for the fact that you have come to this gathering from so many countries the world over. Here we are truly a spectacular image of the Catholic Church in the world.
I thank especially the seminarian, the priest and the Bishop who have given us their own personal witness. I must say that I was moved to see these paths on which the Lord has guided these men in an unexpected way and not according to their own projects.
I cordially thank you and am very pleased to have this meeting. I had asked - and this has already been said - that the programme of these days in Cologne should include a special meeting with young seminarians, so that the vocational dimension would truly emerge in all of its importance, since it plays an evermore important role in the World Youth Days. It seems to be that the rain too that is falling down from heaven is a blessing.
You are seminarians, that is to say, young people devoting an intense period of your lives to seeking a personal relationship with Christ, an encounter with him, in preparation for your important mission in the Church. This is what a seminary is: more than a place, it is a significant time in the life of a follower of Jesus.
I can imagine the echo that resounds in your hearts from the words of the theme of this 20th World Youth Day - "We have come to worship him" - and the entire moving narration of the searching and finding of the Wise Men. Each in his own way - we consider the three witnesses we have just heard - like them, they see a star, set out on their journey, they too must face what is unclear and are able to arrive at their destination under God's guidance.
This evangelical passage of the Wise Men who search out and find Jesus has a special meaning precisely for you, dear seminarians, because you are on an authentic journey, engaged in discerning - and this is a true journey - and confirming your call to the priesthood. Let us pause and reflect on this theme.
Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the "star" which they saw "in the East" and which they recognized as the star of the "King of the Jews", that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (cf. Mt 2,2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them towards the King of the Jews, towards the kingship of God himself. This is the meaning behind our journey: to serve the kingship of God in the world.
The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.
Dear friends, this is the mystery of God's call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely.
The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as "falling in love". His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer: "Lord, why me?". But love knows no "why"; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self.
The seminary years are devoted to formation and discernment. Formation, as you well know, has different strands which converge in the unity of the person: it includes human, spiritual and cultural dimensions. Its deepest goal is to bring the student to an intimate knowledge of the God who has revealed his face in Jesus Christ.
For this, in-depth study of Sacred Scripture is needed, and also of the faith and life of the Church in which the Scripture dwells as the Word of life. This must all be linked with the questions prompted by our reason and with the broader context of modern life.
Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him. All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality, one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the priestly mission.
The role of formators is decisive: the quality of the presbyterate in a particular Church depends greatly on that of the seminary, and consequently on the quality of those responsible for formation.
Dear seminarians, for this very reason we pray today with genuine gratitude for your superiors, professors and educators, who are spiritually present at this meeting. Let us ask the Lord to help them carry out as well as possible the important task entrusted to them.
The seminary years are a time of journeying, of exploration, but above all of discovering Christ. It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord's will and consequently his own vocation.
The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This is a movement of the Spirit which lasts throughout life, and which makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true "springtime".
When the Magi came to Bethlehem, "going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him" (Mt 2,11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment: their encounter with Jesus.
"Going into the house": this house in some sense represents the Church. In order to find the Saviour, one has to enter the house, which is the Church.
During his time in the seminary, a particularly important process of maturation takes place in the consciousness of the young seminarian: he no longer sees the Church "from the outside", but rather, as it were, "from the inside", and he comes to sense that she is his "home", inasmuch as she is the home of Christ, where "Mary his mother" dwells.
It is Mary who shows him Jesus her Son; she introduces him and in a sense enables him to see and touch Jesus, and to take him into his arms. Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life.
Each moment of seminary life can be an opportunity for loving experience of the presence of Our Lady, who introduces everyone to an encounter with Christ in the silence of meditation, prayer and fraternity. Mary helps us to meet the Lord above all in the celebration of the Eucharist, when, in the Word and in the consecrated Bread, he becomes our daily spiritual nourishment.
"They fell down and worshiped him... and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Mt 2,11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man.
How can we fail to see prefigured in this gesture of the Magi the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles, the faith of Paul and of all the saints, particularly of the many saintly seminarians and priests who have graced the 2,000 years of the Church's history?
The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will. St Ambrose said: "Christ is everything for us"; and St Benedict warned against putting anything before the love of Christ.
May Christ be everything for you. Dear seminarians, be the first to offer him what is most precious to you, as Pope John Paul II suggested in his Message for this World Youth Day: the gold of your freedom, the incense of your ardent prayer, the myrrh of your most profound affection (cf. n. 4).
The seminary years are a time of preparing for mission. The Magi "departed for their own country" and most certainly bore witness to their encounter with the King of the Jews.
You too, after your long, necessary programme of seminary formation, will be sent forth as ministers of Christ; indeed, each of you will return as an alter Christus.
On their homeward journey, the Magi surely had to deal with dangers, weariness, disorientation, doubts. The star was no longer there to guide them! The light was now within them. Their task was to guard and nourish it in the constant memory of Christ, of his Holy Face, of his ineffable Love.
Dear seminarians! One day, God willing, by the consecration of the Holy Spirit you too will begin your mission. Remember always the words of Jesus: "Abide in my love" (Jn 15,9). If you abide close to Christ, with Christ and in Christ, you will bear much fruit, just as he promised. You have not chosen him - we have just heard this in the witnesses given -, he has chosen you (cf. Jn 15,16).
Here is the secret of your vocation and your mission! It is kept in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who watches over each one of you with a mother's love. Have recourse to Mary, often and with confidence.
I assure you of my affection and my daily prayers. And I bless all of you from my heart.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Permit me to remain seated after such a strenuous day. This does not mean I wish to speak "ex cathedra". Also, excuse me for being late. Unfortunately, Vespers took longer than foreseen and the traffic was slower moving than could be imagined.
I would like now to express the joy I feel on the occasion of my Visit to Germany, in being able to meet you and offer a warm greeting to you, the Representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
As a native of this Country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families. This was one of the reasons why, immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, I declared, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, my firm commitment to making the recovery of full and visible Christian unity a priority of my Pontificate.
In doing so, I wished consciously to follow in the footsteps of two of my great Predecessors: Pope Paul VI, who over 40 years ago signed the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, and Pope John Paul II, who made that Document the inspiration for his activity.
In ecumenical dialogue Germany without a doubt has a place of particular importance. We are the Country where the Reformation began; however, Germany is also one of the countries where the ecumenical movement of the 20th century originated.
With the successive waves of immigration in the last century, Christians from the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the East also found a new homeland in this Country. This certainly favoured greater contact and exchanges so that now there is a dialogue between we three.
Together we can rejoice in the fact that the dialogue, with the passage of time, has brought about a renewed sense of our brotherhood and has created a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities. My venerable Predecessor, in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995), saw this as an especially significant fruit of dialogue (cf. nn. 41ff.; 64).
I feel the fact that we consider one another brothers and sisters, that we love one another, that together we are witnesses of Jesus Christ, should not be taken so much for granted. I believe that this brotherhood is in itself a very important fruit of dialogue that we must rejoice in, continue to foster and to practice.
Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, Bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism which makes us all members of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12,13 Ga 3,28 Col 2,12).
Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1Tm 2,5), and we emphasize that together we are members of his Body (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 22 Ut Unum Sint, n. 42).
Based on this essential foundation of Baptism, a reality comes from him which is a way of being, then of professing, believing and acting. Based on this crucial foundation, dialogue has borne its fruits and will continue to do so.
I would like to mention the re-examination of the mutual condemnations, called for by John Paul II during his first Visit to Germany. I recall with some nostalgia that first Visit. I was able to be present when we were together at Mainz in a fairly small and authentic fraternal circle. Some questions were put to the Pope and he described a broad theological vision in which reciprocity was amply treated.
That colloquium gave rise to an episcopal, that is, a Church commission, under ecclesial responsibility. Finally, with the contribution of theologians it led to the important Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) and to an agreement on basic issues that had been a subject of controversy since the 16th century.
We should also acknowledge with gratitude the results of our common stand on important matters, such as the fundamental questions involving the defence of life and the promotion of justice and peace.
I am well aware that many Christians in Germany, and not only in this Country, expect further concrete steps to bring us closer together. I myself have the same expectation.
It is the Lord's commandment, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue with conviction at all levels of the Church's life. This must obviously take place with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance, in complete fidelity to the dictates of one's conscience in the awareness that it is the Lord who gives unity, that we do not create it, that it is he who gives it but that we must go to meet him.
I do not intend here to outline a programme for the immediate themes of dialogue - this task belongs to theologians working alongside the Bishops: the theologians, on the basis of their knowledge of the problem; the Bishops from their knowledge of the concrete situation in the Church in our Country and in the world.
May I make a small comment: now, it is said that following the clarification regarding the Doctrine of Justification, the elaboration of ecclesiological issues and the questions concerning ministry are the main obstacles still to be overcome. In short, this is true, but I must also say that I dislike this terminology, which from a certain point of view delimits the problem since it seems that we must now debate about institutions instead of the Word of God, as though we had to place our institutions in the centre and fight for them. I think that in this way the ecclesiological issue as well as that of the "Ministerium" are not dealt with correctly.
The real question is the presence of the Word in the world. In the second century the early Church primarily took a threefold decision: first, to establish the canon, thereby stressing the sovereignty of the Word and explaining that not only is the Old Testament "hai graphai", but together with the New Testament constitutes a single Scripture which is thus for us the master text.
However, at the same time the Church has formulated an Apostolic Succession, the episcopal ministry, in the awareness that the Word and the witness go together; that is, the Word is alive and present only thanks to the witness, so to speak, and receives from the witness its interpretation. But the witness is only such if he or she witnesses to the Word.
Third and last, the Church has added the "regula fidei" as a key for interpretation. I believe that this reciprocal compenetration constitutes an object of dissent between us, even though we are certainly united on fundamental things.
Therefore, when we speak of ecclesiology and of ministry we must preferably speak in this combination of Word, witness and rule of faith, and consider it as an ecclesiological matter, and therefore together as a question of the Word of God, of his sovereignty and humility inasmuch as the Lord entrusts his Word, and concedes its interpretation, to witnesses which, however, must always be compared to the "regula fidei" and the integrity of the Word. Excuse me if I have expressed a personal opinion; it seemed right to do so.
Another urgent priority in ecumenical dialogue arises from the great ethical questions of our time; in this area, contemporary man, who is searching, rightly expects a common response on the part of Christians, which, thanks be to God, in many cases has been forthcoming.
There are so many common declarations by the German Bishops' Conference and the Evangelical Churches in Germany that we can be grateful for, but unfortunately, this does not always happen. Because of contradictory positions in this area our witness to the Gospel and the ethical guidance which we owe to the faithful and to society lose their impact and often appear too vague, with the result that we fail in our duty to provide the witness that is needed in our time.
Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint peoples' expectations. I think that we must work with new energy and dedication to bring a common witness into the context of these great ethical challenges of our time.
We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8,13 Unitatis Redintegratio UR 2, 4, etc. ). This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 4); the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world.
On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one's own faith history. Absolutely not!
It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature.
To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 28), in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8,15 Unitatis Redintegratio UR 3, 14ff.; Ut Unum Sint UUS 10-14).
As a result of this commitment, the journey can move forward, step by step, as the Letter to the Ephesians says, until at last we will all "attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ep 4,13).
It is obvious that this dialogue can develop only in a context of sincere and committed spirituality. We cannot "bring about" unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism - prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life - constitutes the heart of the meeting and of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8 Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.
I would also like in this context to remember the great pioneer of unity, Bro. Roger Schutz, who was so tragically snatched from life. I had known him personally for a long time and had a cordial friendship with him.
He often came to visit me and, as I already said in Rome on the day of his assassination, I received a letter from him that moved my heart, because in it he underlined his adherence to my path and announced to me that he wanted to come and see me. He is now visiting us and speaking to us from on high. I think that we must listen to him, from within we must listen to his spiritually-lived ecumenism and allow ourselves to be led by his witness towards an interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism.
I see good reason in this context for optimism in the fact that today a kind of "network" of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity.
The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an "invisible cloister" which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves interiorly to the Lord's prayer "that all may be one" (Jn 17,21), then this prayer, made in the Name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14,13 Jn 15,7, 16, etc. ).
With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfilment, whenever and however the Lord wills.
Now let us all go along this path in the awareness that walking together is a form of unity. Let us thank God for this and pray that he will continue to guide us all.
Dear Muslim Friends,
It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my heartfelt greetings.
As you know, I have come here to meet young people from every part of Europe and the world. Young people are the future of humanity and the hope of the nations. My beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca, Morocco: "The young can build a better future if they first put their faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in accordance with God's plan, with wisdom and trust" (Insegnamenti, VIII/2, 1985, p. 500).
It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.
I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up one of our concerns as we notice the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.
Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, plunging people into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.
Thanks be to God, we agree on the fact that terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel choice which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil coexistence.
If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.
The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer - and all of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers - knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.
The dignity of the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples' hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism.
Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.
During my Meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian Communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that "the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (L'Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4).
Past experience teaches us that, unfortunately, relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the Name of God, as if fighting and killing, the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.
The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative, and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.
"The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God.... Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people" (Declaration Nostra Aetate NAE 3).
For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these intentions.
You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.
Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.
Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.
Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.
The young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love.
I pray with all my heart, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always.
May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world.
Dear young friends,
In our pilgrimage with the mysterious Magi from the East, we have arrived at the moment which St Matthew describes in his Gospel with these words: "Going into the house (over which the star had halted), they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him" (Mt 2,11). Outwardly, their journey was now over. They had reached their goal.
But at this point a new journey began for them, an inner pilgrimage which changed their whole lives. Their mental picture of the infant King they were expecting to find must have been very different. They had stopped at Jerusalem specifically in order to ask the King who lived there for news of the promised King who had been born. They knew that the world was in disorder, and for that reason their hearts were troubled.
They were sure that God existed and that he was a just and gentle God. And perhaps they also knew of the great prophecies of Israel foretelling a King who would be intimately united with God, a King who would restore order to the world, acting for God and in his Name.
It was in order to seek this King that they had set off on their journey: deep within themselves they felt prompted to go in search of the true justice that can only come from God, and they wanted to serve this King, to fall prostrate at his feet and so play their part in the renewal of the world. They were among those "who hunger and thirst for justice" (Mt 5,6). This hunger and thirst had spurred them on in their pilgrimage - they had become pilgrims in search of the justice that they expected from God, intending to devote themselves to its service.
Even if those who had stayed at home may have considered them Utopian dreamers, they were actually people with their feet on the ground, and they knew that in order to change the world it is necessary to have power. Hence, they were hardly likely to seek the promised child anywhere but in the King's palace. Yet now they were bowing down before the child of poor people, and they soon came to realize that Herod, the King they had consulted, intended to use his power to lay a trap for him, forcing the family to flee into exile.
The new King, to whom they now paid homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting. In this way they had to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. This was where their inner journey began. It started at the very moment when they knelt down before this child and recognized him as the promised King. But they still had to assimilate these joyful gestures internally.
They had to change their ideas about power, about God and about man, and in so doing, they also had to change themselves. Now they were able to see that God's power is not like that of the powerful of this world. God's ways are not as we imagine them or as we might wish them to be.
God does not enter into competition with earthly powers in this world. He does not marshal his divisions alongside other divisions. God did not send 12 legions of angels to assist Jesus in the Garden of Olives (cf. Mt 26,53). He contrasts the noisy and ostentatious power of this world with the defenceless power of love, which succumbs to death on the Cross and dies ever anew throughout history; yet it is this same love which constitutes the new divine intervention that opposes injustice and ushers in the Kingdom of God.
God is different - this is what they now come to realize. And it means that they themselves must now become different, they must learn God's ways.
They had come to place themselves at the service of this King, to model their own kingship on his. That was the meaning of their act of homage, their adoration. Included in this were their gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - gifts offered to a King held to be divine. Adoration has a content and it involves giving. Through this act of adoration, these men from the East wished to recognize the child as their King and to place their own power and potential at his disposal, and in this they were certainly on the right path.
By serving and following him, they wanted, together with him, to serve the cause of good and the cause of justice in the world. In this they were right.
Now, though, they have to learn that this cannot be achieved simply through issuing commands from a throne on high. Now they have to learn to give themselves - no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King. Now they have to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine way of exercising power, to God's own way of being.
They must become men of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy. They will no longer ask: how can this serve me? Instead, they will have to ask: How can I serve God's presence in the world? They must learn to lose their life and in this way to find it. Having left Jerusalem behind, they must not deviate from the path marked out by the true King, as they follow Jesus.
Dear friends, what does all this mean for us?
What we have just been saying about the nature of God being different, and about the way our lives must be shaped accordingly, sounds very fine, but remains rather vague and unfocused. That is why God has given us examples. The Magi from the East are just the first in a long procession of men and women who have constantly tried to gaze upon God's star in their lives, going in search of the God who has drawn close to us and shows us the way.
It is the great multitude of the saints - both known and unknown - in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.
My venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II, who is with us at this moment, beatified and canonized a great many people from both the distant and the recent past. Through these individuals he wanted to show us how to be Christian: how to live life as it should be lived - according to God's way. The saints and the blesseds did not doggedly seek their own happiness, but simply wanted to give themselves, because the light of Christ had shone upon them.
They show us the way to attain happiness, they show us how to be truly human. Through all the ups and downs of history, they were the true reformers who constantly rescued it from plunging into the valley of darkness; it was they who constantly shed upon it the light that was needed to make sense - even in the midst of suffering - of God's words spoken at the end of the work of creation: "It is very good".
One need only think of such figures as St Benedict, St Francis of Assisi, St Teresa of Avila, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Charles Borromeo, the founders of 19-century religious orders who inspired and guided the social movement, or the saints of our own day - Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, Padre Pio. In contemplating these figures we learn what it means "to adore" and what it means to live according to the measure of the Child of Bethlehem, by the measure of Jesus Christ and of God himself.
The saints, as we said, are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.
In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common programme - expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism. It does not liberate man, but takes away his dignity and enslaves him.
It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true. True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?
Dear friends! Allow me to add just two brief thoughts.
There are many who speak of God; some even preach hatred and perpetrate violence in God's Name. So it is important to discover the true face of God. The Magi from the East found it when they knelt down before the Child of Bethlehem. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father", said Jesus to Philip (Jn 14,9). In Jesus Christ, who allowed his heart to be pierced for us, the true face of God is seen. We will follow him together with the great multitude of those who went before us. Then we will be travelling along the right path.
This means that we are not constructing a private God, we are not constructing a private Jesus, but that we believe and worship the Jesus who is manifested to us by the Sacred Scriptures and who reveals himself to be alive in the great procession of the faithful called the Church, always alongside us and always before us.
There is much that could be criticized in the Church. We know this and the Lord himself told us so: it is a net with good fish and bad fish, a field with wheat and darnel.
Pope John Paul II, as well as revealing the true face of the Church in the many saints that he canonized, also asked pardon for the wrong that was done in the course of history through the words and deeds of members of the Church. In this way he showed us our own true image and urged us to take our place, with all our faults and weaknesses, in the procession of the saints that began with the Magi from the East.
It is actually consoling to realize that there is darnel in the Church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners.
The Church is like a human family, but at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which he establishes an overarching communion and unity that embraces every continent, culture and nation. So we are glad to belong to this great family that we see here; we are glad to have brothers and friends all over the world.
Here in Cologne we discover the joy of belonging to a family as vast as the world, including Heaven and earth, the past, the present, the future and every part of the earth. In this great band of pilgrims we walk side by side with Christ, we walk with the star that enlightens our history.
"Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him" (Mt 2,11). Dear friends, this is not a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the Sacred Host he is present before us and in our midst. As at that time, so now he is mysteriously veiled in a sacred silence; as at that time, it is here that the true face of God is revealed. For us he became a grain of wheat that falls on the ground and dies and bears fruit until the end of the world (cf. Jn 12,24).
He is present now as he was then in Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called adoration. Let us set off on this pilgrimage of the spirit and let us ask him to be our guide. Amen.
Speeches 2005-13 19195