Speeches 2005-13 74
Redemptoris Mater Chapel Saturday, 3 March 2007
On behalf of all of us gathered here, I would like to say "thank you" to you for the marvellous inspirational presentation you have given us this week.
At Holy Mass, before the Eucharistic Prayer, we respond every day to the invitation, "Lift up your hearts" with the words, "We lift them up to the Lord". And I fear that this response is often more ritual than existential.
But during this week you have truly taught us to rise, to elevate our hearts, to soar upwards towards the invisible, towards the true reality. And you have also given us the key to respond every day to the challenges of this reality.
During your first conference I became aware that in the in-lay of my prie-dieu the Risen Christ is shown surrounded by flying angels. These angels, I thought, can fly because they are not regulated by the gravity of the earth's material things but by the gravity of the Risen One's love; and that we would be able to fly if we were to step outside material gravity and enter the new gravity of the love of the Risen One.
You have really helped us to come out of this gravitational force of everyday things, to enter into this other gravity of the Risen One and thus, to rise to on high. We thank you for this.
I would also like to say "thank you" because you have given us a very acute and precise diagnosis of our situation today, and you have especially shown us how, behind so many phenomena of our time that appear to be very far from religion and from Christ, there is a question, an expectation, a desire; and that the one true response to this ever-present desire precisely in our time is Christ.
Thus, you have helped us to follow Christ more courageously and to have greater love for the Church, the "Immaculata ex maculatis", as you taught us together with St Ambrose.
Lastly, I would like to say "thank you" for your realism, your humour and your concreteness; even for the somewhat audacious theology of your maid: I should not dare to submit these words, "The Lord may have his faults", to the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith! But in any case, we have been able to learn and your thoughts, dear Cardinal, will accompany us for more than the weeks to come.
Our prayers are with you. Thank you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to welcome each one of you who belong to the Scientific Committee and to the Executive Committee of the Paul VI Institute, sponsored by Brescia's "Society for Christian Education" for the purpose of encouraging the study of the life, thought and work of this unforgettable Pontiff.
I greet you all cordially, starting with the Cardinals present. In particular, I greet Dr Giuseppe Camadini and thank him for the words he has addressed to me in his capacity as President of your Institute.
I then offer a special greeting to Bishop Giulio Sanguineti, Pastor of the Diocese in which my venerable Predecessor was born, baptized and ordained a priest. I am also grateful to him for all he does authoritatively to support and accompany the activity of such a praiseworthy Institute.
Thank you, dear friends, for offering me as a gift copies of all your publications to date. This is an immense series of volumes that testify to the considerable amount of work you have done in more than 25 years.
As was said, I too have had an opportunity to become acquainted with your Institute's activities. I have admired its faithfulness to the Magisterium as well as its intention to honour a great Pontiff, whose apostolic yearning you have made it your business to highlight by rigorous research work and high-grade scientific and ecclesial initiatives.
I feel closely and personally bound to the Servant of God Paul VI because of the trust he showed me in appointing me Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and, three months later, enrolling me in the College of Cardinals.
He was called by divine Providence to take the helm of the barque of Peter to steer her through a historical period marked by numerous challenges and problems.
In thinking back over the years of his Pontificate, it is striking to note the missionary zeal that motivated him and impelled him to undertake demanding Apostolic Journeys even to distant nations in order to make prophetic gestures of great ecclesial, missionary and ecumenical importance.
He was the first Pope to go to the Land where Christ lived and from which Peter set out on his journey to Rome. That Visit, only six months after his election as Supreme Pastor of the People of God and while the Second Vatican Council was underway, had a clear symbolic meaning. He showed the Church that the path of her mission is to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
This was precisely what Pope Paul VI sought to do during his Petrine ministry, which he always exercised with wisdom and prudence in complete fidelity to the Lord's command.
In fact, the secret of the pastoral action that Paul VI carried out with tireless dedication, at times adopting difficult and unpopular decisions, lies precisely in his love for Christ, a love vibrant with moving words to be found in all his teachings. His soul as a Pastor was totally consumed with missionary zeal, nourished by a sincere desire for dialogue with humanity. His prophetic invitation, several times repeated, to renew the world troubled by anxieties and violence through the "civilization of love", sprang from a total entrustment of himself to Jesus, Redeemer of man.
How can I forget, for example, the words I too heard in the Vatican Basilica, when I was taking part as an expert in the Second Vatican Council at the opening of the Second Session on 29 September 1963?
"Christ, our principle", Paul VI said with deep feeling, and I can still hear his voice, "Christ, our Way and our Guide! Christ, our hope and our destination.... No other light shines out at this meeting except for Christ's, Light of the world; no other truth than the words of the Lord, our one Teacher, concerns our hearts; no other aspiration guides us than the desire to be absolutely faithful to him" (Teachings of Paul VI, I , 170-171). And until he drew his last breath, his thought, his energy and his action were for Christ and for the Church.
The name of this Pontiff, whose greatness public opinion understood on the occasion of his death, continues to be specially linked to the Second Vatican Council. If it was John XXIII who organized and inaugurated the Council, it was left to Paul VI, his Successor, to bring it to completion with an expert, delicate and firm hand. The government of the Church in the post-conciliar period was equally exacting for Pope Montini.
Even when he had to tolerate suffering and sometimes violent attacks, he did not let himself be conditioned by misunderstanding and criticism, but on every occasion remained a firm and wise helmsman of the barque of Peter.
As the years pass, the importance of his Pontificate for the Church and for the world, and likewise, the value of his lofty Magisterium which has inspired his Successors and to which I too continue to refer, appear ever more clearly.
I therefore willingly take this opportunity today to pay him homage, as I encourage you, dear friends, to persevere with the work you started some time ago.
Making my own the exhortation addressed to you by our beloved Pope John Paul II, I gladly repeat to you: "Study Paul VI lovingly.... Study him with scientific thoroughness.... Study him with the conviction that his spiritual heritage continues to enrich the Church and can nourish the consciences of the men of today, who are so much in need of "words of eternal life'" (Address to the Scientific and the Executive Committee of the Paul VI Institute, 26 January 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 February, p. 15).
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your visit; I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I bless you with affection, and your families and all the projects of the Paul VI Institute of Brescia.
Thank you for coming to this meeting, with which you wish to renew the sentiments of affection and devotion that bind your Sodality to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.
I offer you all my cordial greeting. I greet the members of the General Presidency of your praiseworthy Circle, and especially Don Leopoldo dei Duchi Torlonia, the President, to whom I also express my gratitude for his kind words on your behalf, describing your liturgical and charitable activities.
I extend my thoughts to your Chaplain, your families and all who work in various capacities in the activities you organize.
This annual meeting, which now has a long tradition, takes place in connection with the Feast of the Chair of St Peter in order to highlight your Circle's special fidelity to the Holy See - which you wish to emphasize - and to present to the Pope the Collection of the traditional Peter's Pence which you organize in the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Rome.
The ancient collection of Peter's Pence, which in a certain way already existed in the early Christian Communities, stems from an awareness that every member of the faithful is also called to provide material support for the work of evangelization, and at the same time to go generously to the aid of the poor and needy, mindful of Jesus' words: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40).
Thanks to the pooling of material resources, we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the Apostles' feet" (Ac 4, 34ff.); and further, "The disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea" (Ac 11,29).
This ecclesial practice developed down the centuries, adapted to the different requirements of the times, and still continues today. In every diocese and in every parish and religious community, Peter's Pence are collected every year and sent to the centre of the Church to be redistributed as required by the needs and requests that the Pope receives from every corner of the earth.
There have been times in the Church's history when the financial support donated to the Successor of Peter by Christians turned out to be quite considerable, as can be clearly understood from what, for example, Blessed Pius IX wrote in his Encyclical Saepe Venerabilis, promulgated on 5 August 1871: "We received in greater abundance than usual the Peter's Pence with which the poor and the rich spare no efforts to come to the aid of the poverty made known to us; and in addition, there are the many, various and most noble gifts and a splendid tribute of Christian art and genius, particularly suited to highlighting the twofold, spiritual and regal power which God has conferred upon us" (Ench. Enc., 2, n. 452, p. 609; in the Tablet 38 [26 Aug. 1871], 274).
In our time too, the Church continues to spread the Gospel and to cooperate in building a more fraternal and supportive humanity. And it is precisely thanks to Peter's Pence that she can accomplish her mission of evangelization and human advancement.
I am therefore grateful to you for your commitment in collecting the donations of the people of Rome, which are, as your President emphasized, a sign of their gratitude for the pastoral and charitable activity of the Successor of Peter.
I know that you are motivated by zeal and generosity: may the Lord reward you and make your ecclesial service fruitful, and may he also help you to implement every initiative of your Circle.
Among its projects, I would like in particular to recall the precious service you have been offering for more than six years to the Sacred Heart Hospice, where the daily presence of your volunteers is a comfort to the sick and their relatives: yours is a silent but especially eloquent witness of love for human life, which deserves attention and respect to its very last breath.
Dear friends, we are in the Lenten Season, during which the liturgy reminds us that together with the commitment to prayer and fasting we should combine attention to our brothers and sisters, especially those in difficulty, by going to their aid with gestures and acts of material and spiritual support.
Today, I repeat to you the invitation I addressed to every Christian in my Message for Lent, that is, my hope that this liturgical season may be for everyone "a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must "re-give' to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need" (Message for Lent 2007, 21 November 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 February 2007, p. 7).
As I express once again my gratitude for your visit today, I encourage you to continue your charitable work enthusiastically, and your formal duty of welcoming the faithful in the Vatican Basilica and at the celebrations at which the Pope presides.
I entrust you to the motherly protection of Mary, whom you invoke as Salus Populi Romani.
With these sentiments, as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you and for your initiatives, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am glad to welcome you to the Vatican today on the occasion of the annual Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. My thanks go firstly to Archbishop Foley, President of the Council, for his kind introductory comments. To all of you, I wish to express my gratitude for your commitment to the apostolate of social communications, the importance of which cannot be underestimated in our increasingly technological world.
The field of social communications is fast-changing. While the print media struggles to maintain circulation, other forms of media such as radio, television and the internet are developing at an extraordinary rate. Against the backdrop of globalization, this ascendancy of the electronic media coincides with its increasing concentration in the hands of a few multinational conglomerates whose influence crosses all social and cultural boundaries.
What have been the outcomes and effects of this rise in the media and entertainment industries? I know this question is one that commands your close attention. Indeed, given the media’s pervasive role in shaping culture, it concerns all people who take seriously the well-being of civic society.
Undoubtedly much of great benefit to civilization is contributed by the various components of the mass media. One need only think of quality documentaries and news services, wholesome entertainment, and thought-provoking debates and interviews. Furthermore, in regard to the internet it must be duly recognised that it has opened up a world of knowledge and learning that previously for many could only be accessed with difficulty, if at all. Such contributions to the common good are to be applauded and encouraged.
On the other hand, it is also readily apparent that much of what is transmitted in various forms to the homes of millions of families around the world is destructive. By directing the light of Christ’s truth upon such shadows the Church engenders hope. Let us strengthen our efforts to encourage all to place the lit lamp on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the home, the school, and society (cf. Mt 5,14-16)!
In this regard, my message for this year’s World Communications Day draws attention to the relationship between the media and young people. My concerns are no different from those of any mother or father, or teacher, or responsible citizen. We all recognise that “beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour” (No. 2). The responsibility to introduce and educate children and young people into the ways of beauty, truth and goodness is therefore a grave one. It can be supported by media conglomerates only to the extent that they promote fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity.
I appeal again to the leaders of the media industry to advise producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family. And in encouraging all of you gathered here today, I am confident that care will be taken to ensure that the fruits of your reflections and study are effectively shared with particular Churches through parish, school and diocesan structures.
To all of you, your colleagues and the members of your families at home I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 10 March 2007
Dear Young University Students,
I am very pleased to address my cordial greeting to you at the end of the Marian Vigil which the Vicariate of Rome has organized on the occasion of the European University Students' Day.
I thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini and Mons. Lorenzo Leuzzi, as well as those who have cooperated in the initiative: the Academic Institutions, the Conservatories, the Ministry for Universities and Research and the Ministry for Communications.
I congratulate the conductors of the orchestra and of the large choir, as well as you, dear musicians and choir members. As I welcome you, Roman friends, my thoughts turn with equal affection to your peers who, thanks to radio and television link-ups, have been able to take part in this moment of prayer and reflection in several Cities of Europe and Asia: Prague, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Bologna, Krakow, Turin, Manchester, Manila, Coimbra, Tirana and Islamabad-Rawalpindi. This "network", set up with the collaboration of the Vatican Television Centre, Vatican Radio and Telespazio, is truly a sign of the times, a sign of hope.
It is a "network" which demonstrates its full value if we reflect on the theme of today's vigil: "Intellectual charity for a new Europe-Asia cooperation".
It is evocative to think of intellectual charity as a force of the human spirit capable of bringing together the formation processes of the new generations.
More globally, intellectual charity can unite the existential journey of young people who, while living very far away from one another, succeed in feeling bound to one another on the level of interior inquiry and witness.
This evening, we will build a spiritual bridge between Europe and Asia, a Continent of very rich spiritual traditions where several of humanity's oldest and most noble cultural traditions developed. Consequently, how important this meeting is!
The young university students of Rome have made themselves champions of brotherhood under the banner of intellectual love; they seek a solidarity that is not motivated by financial or political interests but by study and the search for truth.
In brief, we are in a true "university" perspective, that is, a perspective of the community of knowledge that is one of the constitutive elements of Europe. Thank you, dear young people.
I now address those who are connected with us in the different cities and nations.
Dear young people who have gathered together in Prague, may friendship with Christ always enlighten your studies and your personal growth!
Dear university students from Calcutta, Hong Kong, Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Manchester and Manila, may you bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ takes nothing away from us but brings to fulfilment our deepest longings for life and truth!
Dear friends in Krakow, always treasure the teachings that venerable Pope John Paul II bequeathed to young people, and in a special way, to university students!
Dear university students of Coimbra, may the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be your guide so that you will become true disciples and witnesses of Christian wisdom!
Dear young people of Tirana, strive to build the new Albania as protagonists, drawing on the Christian roots of Europe!
Dear university students of Bologna and Turin, ensure that the construction of the new humanism, based on creative dialogue between faith and reason, does not lack your original and creative contribution!
Dear friends, we are living the Lenten Season and the liturgy continually urges us to strengthen the way in which we follow Christ. This Vigil too, in accordance with the tradition of the World Youth Days, can be considered a stage in the spiritual pilgrimage guided by the Cross.
And the mystery of the Cross is not unconnected with the theme of intellectual charity, indeed, it illumines it.
Christian wisdom is the wisdom of the Cross: may Christian students and especially Christian teachers interpret every reality in the light of the mystery of God's love, whose loftiest and fullest revelation is the Cross.
Once again, dear young people, I entrust to you the Cross of Christ: welcome it, embrace it, follow it. It is the tree of life!
At its foot you will always find Mary, Mother of Jesus. With her, Seat of Wisdom, turn your gaze to the One who was pierced for our sake (cf. Jn 19,37), contemplate the inexhaustible source of love and truth, and you too will be able to become joyful disciples and witnesses.
This is the wish that I express to each one of you. I accompany it wholeheartedly with prayer and with my Blessing, which I willingly extend to all your loved ones.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am very pleased to have this meeting with you at the headquarters of an ancient and distinguished Papal Institution: the Fabric of St Peter's. I first greet Archbishop Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter's Basilica and your President, who has expressed your common sentiments. I then greet Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, Delegate of the Fabric, and each one of you.
You work in the Apostle's venerable Basilica which is the heart of the Catholic Church, a vibrant heart, thanks to the Holy Spirit who always keeps it alive but also thanks to the activity of those who daily ensure it fulfils its role.
As Archbishop Comastri recalled, just over 500 years have passed since the foundation stone of the second Vatican Basilica was laid: yet, it is still alive and young, it is not a museum, it is a spiritual organism and even the stones feel its vitality!
You who work here, first among others, are the "living stones", as the Apostle Peter wrote, living stones of the spiritual edifice which is the Church.
I am happy to have this meeting with you, even if it is brief, to close the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the Vatican Basilica, where you carry out your duties.
I would like to take this opportunity to recall at this moment all your colleagues who preceded you in the past 500 years. I express my gratitude to you for all that you do with commitment and competence to enable this "heart" of the Church, as I said above, to continue to beat with perennial vitality, attracting men and women of the whole world and helping them to have a spiritual experience that marks their life.
In fact, thanks to your contribution, almost always unseen but always appropriate, a great many people, pilgrims from all parts of the world, are able to make the most of their pilgrimage or simply their visit to the Vatican Basilica, and take back with them in their hearts a message of faith and hope: a certainty of having seen not only great works of art but of being in contact with the Church alive, with the Apostle Peter and in the end, with Christ.
Once again, I thank and encourage you: always do your work as an act of love for the Church, for St Peter and hence, for Christ.
I entrust you all, you and your loved ones, to the special protection of St Peter and, as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and ask you to reciprocate by praying for me, I cordially bless you all.
In receiving the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Peru to the Holy See, I am pleased to offer you a most cordial welcome and to wish you success in your work to preserve the good relations that exist between your noble Country and this Apostolic See.
As I thank you for your sincere and friendly words, I ask you kindly to convey my respectful greeting to H.E. Mr Alan García Pérez, President of the Republic, to its Government and to the beloved Peruvian People.
This meeting reminds us of the deep bonds with the Church which your Nation established and preserves. The Catholic faith was welcomed from the outset. It was taken there by evangelizers such as St Turibius of Mogrovejo, the fourth centenary of whose death was commemorated last year, and little by little, succeeded in penetrating the cultural and social mysteries of this blessed people in which the first saints were soon to flourish on Latin American soil.
And as you yourself mentioned, in addition to the holy Bishop I would like to recall the following saints: Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, Francisco Solano, Juan Macías and Blessed Ana de los Ángeles Monteagudo, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II on his first Visit to Peru in 1985.
I too have had the opportunity to visit your Homeland in 1986, when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I treasure a most pleasant memory of those days, and especially of my meetings with the simple people of the poor districts in both Lima and Cuzco.
In this world of rapid social, political and economic transformation, your Country is no exception and is also experiencing profound changes. These processes directly affect people and their values.
In this regard, both Church and State have made considerable efforts in education and in the use of the new technologies in order to encourage a more extensive inclusion of the least favoured classes in the new cultural spaces of our time.
On the other hand, moral and religious problems exist which both the Church and the State must deal with, each one in its own province and specifically for the good of Peruvians.
It is known that Peru desires to deal with the phenomenon of globalization by taking advantage of the opportunities offered for economic growth, so that the wealth produced and other social goods may be equally accessible to all.
Peruvians, like all people, are also hoping that health-care services will duly be available for all social classes; that education will be everyone's patrimony and that its quality will be improved at all levels; that in the face of corruption, integrity, which will permit an effective action on the part of different public institutions, will prevail, thus helping to overcome many situations of hunger and poverty.
Moreover, a union of intentions is urgently needed to make the continuous action of Government Leaders possible in order to confront the challenges of a globalized world that must be faced with authentic solidarity.
This virtue, as my Predecessor John Paul II used to say, must inspire the action of individuals, governments, international bodies and institutions, and of all the members of civil society, committing them to work for a just development of peoples and nations, whose purpose is the good of one and all (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 40).
The Church, which recognizes the State's competence in social, political and economic affairs, assumes as a duty that stems from her evangelizing mission to safeguard and spread the truth about the human being, the meaning of his life and of his ultimate destiny, which is God. This truth is a source of inspiration, so that the dignity of the person and of life, from its conception to its natural end, may be recognized and protected as the Peruvian Constitution guarantees.
She will therefore continue to collaborate loyally and generously in education, health care and assistance to the poorest and neediest.
This Apostolic See will continue to support all the social efforts made thus far. Therefore, she will continue to cooperate so that there may always be equal opportunities and that each Peruvian may feel his or her inalienable rights respected. For this reason, the Peruvian Episcopate will continue, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church, to encourage the search for the truth in the family, work and socio-political contexts.
Peruvian Catholics, for their part, are also called to be the leaven of the Christian message in social institutions and in public life, so as to contribute to building a more fraternal society. The Church, conscious of her own mission, "will show herself to be supremely human by the very fact of being religious" (Gaudium et Spes GS 11).
Also conscious of her duty to present the truth about all human beings, who as children of God are endowed with a dignity superior to all positive law, she will continue to work to achieve these objectives.
"Experienced in human affairs" (Populorum Progressio PP 13), the Church teaches in addition that only with respect for the moral law that defends and protects the dignity of the human person, is it possible to build peace, encouraging permanent social progress.
It is therefore to be hoped that the mutual collaboration between the State and the Church that have thus far yielded good fruit may continue.
Mr Ambassador, at the end of this pleasant meeting I express to you once again my most cordial greeting and my best wishes for the success of the mission you are beginning at this time.
As I implore the Lord of Miracles to pour out abundant Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, upon your distinguished family, your collaborators and above all the Authorities of your Country, I also ask Our Lady of Mercy to protect the beloved Peruvian People so that they may continue to advance on the path of justice, solidarity and peace.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood,
I welcome you today and address my cordial greeting to each one of you, participants in the Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary.
In the first place I greet Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary, who I thank for the kind words he addressed to me, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Regent of the Penitentiary, and all those present.
Today's meeting also offers me the opportunity to reflect together with you on the importance in our day of the Sacrament of Penance and to repeat the necessity for priests to prepare themselves to administer it with devotion and fidelity to the praise of God and for the sanctification of the Christian people, as they promise to their Bishop on the day of their priestly ordination.
In fact, it is one of the qualifying duties of the special ministry that they are called to exercise "in persona Christi". With the gestures and sacramental words the priest above all makes God's love visible, which was revealed fully in Christ.
In the administration of the Sacrament of Pardon and of Reconciliation, the priest - as the Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls - acts as "the sign and the instrument of God's merciful love for the sinner" (n. 1465). What takes place in this Sacrament, therefore, is especially a mystery of love, a work of the merciful love of the Lord.
"God is love" (1Jn 4,16): in this simple affirmation the Evangelist John has enclosed the revelation of the entire mystery of the Triune God. And in meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus, foretelling his passion and death on the Cross, affirms: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16).
We all need to draw from the inexhaustible fountain of divine love, which is totally manifested to us in the mystery of the Cross, in order to find authentic peace with God, with ourselves and with our neighbour. Only from this spiritual source is it possible to draw the indispensable interior energy to overcome the evil and sin in the ceaseless battle that marks our earthly pilgrimage toward the heavenly homeland.
The contemporary world continues to present contradictions so clearly outlined by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 4-10): we see a humanity that would like to be self-sufficient, where more than a few consider it almost possible to do without God in order to live well; and yet how many seem sadly condemned to face the dramatic situations of an empty existence, how much violence there still is on the earth, how much solitude weighs on the soul of the humanity of the communications era!
In a word, it seems that today there is even loss of the "sense of sin", but in compensation the "guilt complex" has increased.
Who can free the heart of humankind from this yoke of death if not the One who by dying overcame for ever the power of evil with the omnipotence of divine love?
As St Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus: "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ" (Ep 2,4).
The priest in the Sacrament of Confession is the instrument of this merciful love of God, whom he invokes in the formula of the absolution of sins: "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and Resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace".
The New Testament speaks on every page of God's love and mercy, which are made visible in Christ. Jesus, in fact, who "receives sinners and eats with them" (Lc 15,2), and with authority affirms: "Man, your sins are forgiven you" (Lc 5,20), says: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Lc 5,31-32).
The duty of the priest and the confessor is primarily this: to bring every person to experience the love of Christ, encountering him on the path of their own lives as Paul met him on the road to Damascus. We know the impassioned declaration of the Apostle to the Gentiles after that meeting which changed his life: "[he] loved me and gave himself for me" (Ga 2,20).
This is his personal experience on the way to Damascus: the Lord Jesus loved Paul and gave himself for him. And in Confession this is also our way, our way to Damascus, our experience: Jesus has loved me and has given himself for me.
May every person have this same spiritual experience and, as the Servant of God John Paul II said, rediscover "Christ as mysterium pietatis, the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself. It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance" (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 37).
The priest, minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, must always consider it his duty to make transpire, in words and in drawing near to the penitent, the merciful love of God. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, to welcome the penitent sinner, to help him rise again from sin, to encourage him to amend himself, never making pacts with evil but always taking up again the way of evangelical perfection. May this beautiful experience of the prodigal son, who finds the fullness of divine mercy in the father, be the experience of whoever confesses in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Dear brothers, all this means that the priest engaged in the ministry of the Sacrament of Penance is himself motivated by a constant tending to holiness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church aims high in this demand when it affirms: "The confessor... should have a proven knowledge of Christian behaviour, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord's mercy" (n. 1466).
To be able to fulfil this important mission, always interiorly united to the Lord, the priest must be faithful to the Church's Magisterium concerning moral doctrine, aware that the law of good and evil is not determined by the situation, but by God.
I ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, to sustain the ministry of priest confessors and to help every Christian community to understand ever more the value and importance of the Sacrament of Penance for the spiritual growth of every one of the faithful. To you present here and to the people dear to you, I impart my Blessing with affection.
Speeches 2005-13 74