Speeches 2005-13 51707
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am particularly pleased to meet you after the solemn Eucharistic Celebration at which Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presided. In the first place, I address my cordial thoughts to him and thank him for his words to me on your behalf.
I extend my greeting to the Secretary and collaborators of the Missionary Dicastery, to the Prelates and priests present, to the men and women religious and to all who have taken part in the Congress held in the past few days to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Fidei Donum of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII.
Fifty years have passed since this venerable Predecessor of mine, facing the evolution of the times and looking out onto the scene of history of new peoples and nations, realized with farsighted pastoral wisdom that unheard of and providential horizons and missionary openings for the proclamation of the Gospel in Africa were unfolding.
Indeed, Pius XII was looking especially to Africa when, with prophetic intuition, he thought of that new missionary "subject" which takes its name "Fidei donum" from the first words of the Encyclical.
He was intending to encourage another type of missionary cooperation - parallel to the traditional forms - among the so-called "ancient" Christian Communities and those born lately or which are coming into being in recently-evangelized territories. He asked the "ancient" Churches to send several priests to help the "young" Churches, whose growth was promising, to collaborate with the local Ordinaries for a specific period.
This is what Pope Pacelli wrote: "As we direct our thoughts, on the one hand, to the countless multitudes of our sons who have a share in the blessings of divine faith, especially in countries that have long since become Christian, and on the other hand, as we consider the far more numerous throngs of those who are still waiting for the day of salvation to be announced to them, we are filled with a great desire to exhort you again and again, Venerable Brethren, to support with zealous interest the most holy cause of bringing the Church of God to all the world. May it come to pass that our admonitions will arouse a keener interest in the missionary apostolate among your priests and through them set the hearts of the faithful on fire!" (n. 4).
Consequently, the purpose that inspired the venerable Pontiff was twofold: on the one hand, to kindle a renewed missionary "flame" in every member of the Christian people, and on the other, to encourage a more aware collaboration between the Dioceses of ancient tradition and the regions of first evangelization.
In the course of these five decades, Pius XII's invitation has been reaffirmed on several occasions by all my Predecessors, and thanks to the impetus provided by the Second Vatican Council, the number of fidei donum priests has continued to multiply. They depart with religious and lay volunteers, bound for a mission in Africa and in other parts of the world, sometimes costing their Dioceses many sacrifices.
I would like here to express my special thanks to these brothers and sisters, some of whom poured out their blood in order to disseminate the Gospel.
The mission experience, as you well know, leaves an indelible mark on those who carry it out and at the same time helps to foster that ecclesial communion which makes all the baptized see themselves as members of the one Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.
During these decades, contacts and missionary exchanges have intensified, partly because of the development and increase in the means of communication, so that the Church has come into contact with practically every civilization and culture.
Moreover, the exchange of gifts between Ecclesial Communities of ancient and recent foundation has been a reciprocal enrichment and has fostered an increased awareness that we are all "missionaries", that is, we are all involved, albeit in different ways, in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel.
While we thank the Lord for today's missionary commitment, we cannot fail to perceive at the same time the difficulties which are occurring in this context today. Among them, I limit myself to stressing the dwindling numbers and the ageing of the clergy in Dioceses that once sent missionaries to distant regions.
In the context of a widespread vocations crisis, this is undoubtedly a challenge to be faced. The Congress organized by the Pontifical Missionary Union to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Fidei Donum has made possible an attentive analysis of this situation which the Church is living today.
Although we cannot ignore the problems and shadows, nevertheless we must raise our gaze confidently to the future, giving a renewed and more authentic identity to "Fidei donum" missionaries in a world context which has undeniably changed in comparison with the 1950s.
If there are many challenges to evangelization in this age of ours, there are also many signs of hope in every part of the world that witness to an encouraging missionary vitality among the Christian people.
Above all, may people never forget that before leaving his disciples and ascending into Heaven, in sending them out to proclaim his Gospel in every corner of the world, the Lord assured them, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).
Dear brothers and sisters, this certainty must never abandon us. The Lord of the harvest will not let us lack workers for his harvest if we ask him for them with trust and persistence, in prayer and in docile listening to his words and teachings.
In this regard, I would like to take up the invitation which Pius XII addressed to the faithful of that time: "Especially in this our time on which the future growth of the Church in many areas is perhaps dependent", he wrote in his Encyclical, "let many Masses be offered for the sacred missions.... This is in accordance with the prayers of Our Lord, who loves his Church and wishes her to flourish and enlarge her borders throughout the whole world" (n. 52).
I make my own this same exhortation, convinced that in coming to meet our ceaseless requests the Lord will continue to bless the Church's missionary commitment with abundant apostolic fruits.
I commend this hope to Mary, Mother and Queen of the Apostles, while I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here and to all the world's missionaries.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General. I greet and thank Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for the cordial words addressed to me.
I extend my thanks to the President of your Union, Sr Therezinha Rasera, who has been the interpreter not only of your affectionate sentiments but also of the women religious of the entire world.
Then, I greet each one of you, dear Superiors General, who represent 794 female religious families working in 85 countries on the five continents. And I thank you for the immense army of witnesses of Christ's love, who work on the frontiers of evangelization, education and social charity.
As your President recalled, the theme of the Plenary Assembly, which is being held in these days, is particularly interesting: "Called to weave a new spirituality that generates hope and life for all of humanity". The topic you have chosen is the fruit of an ample reflection on the following question: "In contemplating our world, listening to its cries, its needs, its thirst and its aspirations, what thread are we Religious, responsible for our Congregations, called to weave in this moment in order to become prophetic and mystic "weavers of God'?".
The careful analysis of the responses received have helped your Union's Executive Council to understand that the chosen symbol of "weaving" is a typically feminine image used in all cultures, and it responds to what the Superiors General felt to be a spiritual and apostolic urgency of the present moment.
In the same responses some "threads" have been emphasized - the woman, migrants, the earth and its sacredness, laity, dialogue with the religions of the world - that you deem useful in order to "weave" in this, our age, a renewed spirituality of Consecrated Life and to launch an apostolic approach that corresponds more to people's longings. And it is exactly on these themes that you have been reflecting during the work of your Plenary.
You are aware that each Superior General is called to be an animator and promoter, as your President opportunely emphasized, of a "mystic and prophetic" Consecrated Life, strongly committed to the realization of the Kingdom of God.
These are the "threads" with which the Lord urges you today, dear women Religious, to "weave" the living fabric of a useful service to the Church and to an eloquent Gospel witness, "ever ancient and ever new" in its fidelity to the radicalness of the Gospel and courageously incarnated in contemporary reality, especially where there is greater human and spiritual poverty.
Certainly, the social, economic and religious challenges that Consecrated Life in our day must face are not few! The five pastoral areas that you emphasized constitute other "threads" to be woven and inserted into the complex web of daily life, interpersonal relationships and apostolate.
Often, it means taking unexplored missionary and spiritual paths, yet always maintaining solid interior relations with Christ. In fact, only from this union with God can that "prophetic" role of your mission flow and be nourished, which consists of "proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven", an indispensable announcement in every age and in every society.
Never cede, therefore, to the temptation to distance yourself from intimacy with your Heavenly Spouse by allowing yourselves to be overly attracted by the interests and problems of daily life.
The Founders and Foundresses of your Institutes have been "prophetic pioneers" in the Church because they never lost the acute awareness of being in the world, but not of the world, according to the clear teaching of Jesus (cf. Jn 17,14). Following his example they tried to communicate God's love with words and concrete gestures through the total gift of themselves, always keeping their gaze and their heart fixed on him.
Dear Religious Sisters, if you want to walk faithfully in the footsteps of your Founders and Foundresses to help your own Sisters to follow their examples, cultivate the "mystical" dimension of Consecrated Life, that is, always keeping your soul united to God through contemplation.
As the Scriptures teach, the "prophet" first listens and contemplates, then speaks, allowing himself to be totally permeated by that love for God which fears nothing and is even stronger than death.
The authentic prophet, therefore, is not concerned so much to accomplish works, which undoubtedly are important but never essential. Above all, he tries to be a witness of God's love, seeking to live it among the realities of the world, even if his presence can sometimes be "uncomfortable" because he offers and incarnates alternative values.
May it be your prime concern, therefore, to help your own Sisters to seek Christ above all else and to place themselves generously at the service of the Gospel. Never tire of taking every possible care in the human, cultural and spiritual formation of the persons entrusted to you, so that they are able to respond to today's cultural and social challenges.
Be the first to set an example by fleeing commodities, comforts, convenience in order to bring your mission to fulfilment. Share the richness of your charisms with those who are committed to the one mission of the Church, which is to build the Kingdom.
For this purpose establish a serene and cordial collaboration with priests, the lay faithful and especially families in order to meet the suffering, the needs, the material and above all the spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries.
In addition, cultivate a sincere communion and a genuine collaboration with Bishops, the first to be responsible for evangelization in the particular Churches.
Dear Sisters, your General Assembly is taking place during the Easter Season, when the liturgy invites us to proclaim with constant exultance: "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!".
May the joy and peace of Easter accompany you and always dwell in you and in each of your communities.
In every circumstance be messengers of this Easter joy like the women who went to the tomb, found it empty and had the gift of meeting the Risen Christ. Happily, then, they ran to give the news to the Apostles.
May Mary, Queen of Virgins, and your Saints and blessed Founders and Foundresses watch over you and your respective Religious Families.
In entrusting yourselves to their intercession, I assure you from my heart of a prayerful remembrance and willingly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.
Benedict XVI: Good morning! We are flying over the Sahara on our way to the "Continent of Hope". I am going with great joy and with much hope to this meeting with Latin America. Various important events await us: first in São Paulo, the youth meeting; then the canonization, still in São Paulo, of the first saint born in Brazil; to my mind this is also an important expression of what this Journey means. He is a Franciscan saint who spread the Franciscan charism to Brazil and is known as a saint of reconciliation and peace. Let us say, therefore, that this is an important aspect of a figure who knew how to create peace, hence, also social and human coherence.
We will then have another important meeting at the "Fazenda da Esperança" [community for the rehabilitation of persons with drug addictions]. This is a place where one can see the power of healing inherent in faith that helps to open the horizons of life. All these drug problems, etc., are born precisely from lack of hope in the future. It is faith that opens one to the future and thus can also heal. It therefore seems to me that this power to heal and give hope, opening a horizon for the future, is very important.
Lastly comes the event which is the main purpose of this Journey: the meeting with the Bishops who are taking part in the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences. One might say that in itself this is a specifically religious meeting: to give life in Christ and to become disciples of Christ, knowing that we all desire life but that life is not fulfilled if it has no inner content, and furthermore, no direction in which to go. The Church's religious mission responds in this sense and opens peoples' eyes to the conditions required to solve the great social and political problems of Latin America.
The Church as such is not involved in politics - we respect secularism - but offers the conditions in which a healthy political system can develop, together with the consequent solution for social problems. Thus, we want to make Christians aware of the gift of faith, the joy of faith through which we can know God as well as our own raison d'être. In this way, Christians can be witnesses of Christ and learn both the necessary personal virtues and the great social virtues: the sense of legality which is crucial to the formation of society.
We are acquainted with the problems of Latin America, but we would like to mobilize those very capacities, those moral forces which exist there, the religious forces, in order to respond to the Church's specific mission and to our universal responsibility for the human being as such, and for society as such.
Fr Lombardi: To start with, I would like to give the floor to "Il Globo", which will be providing the coverage of most of this Visit, as well as for television.
Question: Your Holiness, is there something the Church can do about violence, which is assuming unacceptable proportions in Brazil?
Benedict XVI: Anyone who has faith in Christ, who has faith in this God who is reconciliation and who, with the Cross, set up the strongest sign against violence, is not violent and helps others to overcome violence. Therefore, the most important thing we can do is to educate to faith in Christ, to teach the message that flows from the Person of Christ. Truly, being a man or woman of faith automatically means resisting violence, and this mobilizes forces against it.
Question: Your Holiness, a referendum on the topic of abortion is being proposed in Brazil; in Mexico City two weeks ago, abortion was depenalized. What can the Church do to curb this trend and prevent it from spreading to other Latin American countries, mindful that in Mexico the Pope has even been accused of interference for having supported the Bishops? And do you agree with the Mexican Church that parliamentarians who approve these laws in opposition to God's values should be excommunicated?
Benedict XVI: Here is the Church's great battle for life. You know that Pope John Paul II made it a fundamental point of his entire Pontificate. He wrote an important Encyclical on the Gospel of Life. We are, of course, moving ahead with this message that life is a gift, that life is not a threat. I think that at the root of this legislation, on the one hand, is a certain selfishness, and on the other, also a doubt about the value of life, the beauty of life, and a doubt about the future.
And the Church responds above all to these doubts: life is beautiful, it is not something dubious but is a gift, and even in difficult conditions, life is always a gift. Therefore, re-create this awareness of the beauty of the gift of life. And then the other matter, doubt about the future: there are, of course, many threats in the world but faith gives us the assurance that God is always stronger and remains present in history and therefore that we can, with confidence, also give life to new human beings. With the awareness of the beauty of life and of God's providential presence in our future which faith gives us, we can resist these fears that are at the root of this legislation.
Question, Brazilian Television: Your Holiness, we note that in your Addresses you refer to the relativism of Europe and the poverty of Africa; but is Latin America somehow left out because it is not a preoccupation? Or perhaps because you will be addressing it more specifically in the future?
Benedict XVI: No, I am very fond of Latin America, I have visited Latin America often, I have very many friends there and I know of this Continent's immense problems but on the other hand, also of its riches. In this period we see how "dominant" the problems of the Middle East, the Holy Land, Iraq, etc., are. Hence, there is, as it were, an immediate priority to be taken into account. And Africa's suffering is immense, as we know. However, I am equally concerned about the problems of Latin America, for I do not love Latin America less, the large - indeed, the largest - Catholic Continent, and thus also the greatest responsibility for a Pope.
I am glad, therefore, that at last the time has come for me to go to Latin America, to reinforce the commitment made by Paul VI and John Paul II and to continue in the same direction. The Pope naturally desires that as well as being the Catholic Continent it may also be an exemplary continent whose huge human problems may be satisfactorily resolved. And together with the Bishops, the priests, Religious and lay people are working to make this great Catholic Continent also become a continent of life and truly of hope. For me this is a top priority.
Question: Your Holiness, in your Arrival Address, you say that it is a question of forming Christian consciences, giving moral instructions then letting them decide freely and conscientiously. Do you agree with the excommunication of the deputies of Mexico City on the issue of abortion?
Benedict XVI: Excommunication is not something arbitrary but a measure prescribed by the Code [of Canon Law]. Thus, it simply states in Canon Law that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with going to Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ. Consequently, nothing new, surprising or arbitrary, has been invented. Only what is prescribed by Church Law has been recalled publically, a Law that is based on the doctrine and faith of the Church, on our appreciation of life and of the human individual from the very first instant.
Question in German
Benedict XVI: I am answering this question in Italian. I have been asked whether I feel adequately supported by the Germans and whether I also feel a little homesick for Germany. Yes, I feel sufficiently supported; it is normal in a mixed country (Protestant and Catholic) that not all the baptized should agree with the Pope; this is to be expected. Nonetheless, it seems to me that I have great support, even from people who belong to the non-Catholic part of Germany, so there is indeed support and it helps me. I love my Homeland but I also love Rome, and I am now a citizen of the world. Thus, I am at home everywhere and I am close to my own Country just as I am to all the others.
Question: Good morning, Your Holiness! In your Book Jesus of Nazareth, you spoke of a dramatic crisis of faith. This dramatic crisis of faith may not exist in Latin America, yet there certainly is a weakening; liberation theology has been replaced by the theology of the Protestant sects, which promise paradises of faith at a cheap price; and the Catholic Church is losing her faithful. How can this haemorrhage of the Catholic faithful be stemmed?
Benedict XVI: This is our common concern. Precisely at this Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, we would like to find convincing answers and we are working on it.
The success of the sects shows, on the one hand, that there is a widespread thirst for God, a thirst for religion, that people want to be close to God and seek contact with him. On the other hand, of course, they accept those who present themselves and promise solutions to their problems of daily life. As the Catholic Church, we must implement the precise goal of the Fifth Conference, which is, we must be more missionary and therefore more dynamic in offering responses to the thirst for God, knowing that people, and the poor themselves, want God close to them.
We know that in addition to helping them with this response to their thirst for God, we must help them find a better standard of living, both at the micro-economic level in very practical situations as the sects do, and also at the macro-economic level, thinking of all the requirements of justice.
Question: As regards my colleague's question, there are still many exponents of liberation theology in various parts of Brazil. What is the specific message to these exponents of liberation theology?
Benedict XVI: I would say that with the changes in the political situation, the situation of liberation theology is also profoundly different. It is now obvious that these facile millenarianisms - which as a consequence of the revolution promised the full conditions for a just life immediately - were mistaken. Everyone knows this today. The question now concerns how the Church must be present in the fight for the necessary reforms, in the fight for fairer living conditions.
Theologians are divided on this, especially the exponents of political theology. With the Instruction published at that time by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we sought to carry out a task of discernment. In other words, we tried to rid ourselves of false millenarianisms and of an erroneous combination of Church and politics, of faith and politics; and to show that the Church's specific mission is precisely to come up with a response to the thirst for God and therefore also to teach the personal and social virtues that are the necessary conditions for the development of a sense of lawfulness.
Moreover, we have sought to identify guidelines for just policies, political measures in which we ourselves are not involved but for which we must point out the principal lines and values that - shall we say - are crucial to creating human, social and psychological conditions where these values may develop.
Thus, there is room for a difficult but legitimate debate on how to achieve this and on how best to make the Church's social doctrine effective. In this regard, certain liberation theologians are also attempting to advance, keeping to this path; others are taking other positions.
In any case, the intervention of the Magisterium was not to destroy the commitment to justice but rather to guide it on the right paths, and also with respect for the proper difference between political responsibility and ecclesiastical responsibility.
Question: We know that you visited Colombia twice when you were a Cardinal and we know that Colombia is dear to your heart. We would like to know what the Church can do to enable us to surmount the current internal conflict in Colombia.
Benedict XVI: Of course, I am not an oracle that automatically has all the right answers. We know that the Bishops have strongly committed themselves to finding these answers. I can only confirm the fundamental line of the Bishops, that is, to put a strong emphasis on faith, which is the surest guarantee against the growth of violence, and at the same time a decisive commitment to educating a conscience that shuns situations incompatible with faith.
Naturally, financial conditions are at stake whereby small farmers survive on a certain market which subsequently permits huge profits elsewhere. One cannot untangle these different financial, political and ideological complexities immediately, but it is necessary to go forward with great determination in sincere adherence to a faith that entails respect for lawfulness and at the same time love and responsibility for the other.
It seems to me that education in the faith is also the most reliable humanization that will gradually be able to solve these very concrete problems.
Question: Your Holiness, we are going to the Continent of Archbishop Oscar Romero. There has been a lot of talk about the process of his Beatification. Your Holiness, would you kindly consider telling us what point it has reached, if he is about to be beatified, and how you see this figure?
Benedict XVI: According to the latest information on the work of the competent Congregation, many cases are underway and I know that they are going forward. H.E. Mons. Paglia has sent me an important biography which clarifies many points of the question. Archbishop Romero was certainly an important witness of the faith, a man of great Christian virtue who worked for peace and against the dictatorship, and was assassinated while celebrating Mass. Consequently, his death was truly "credible", a witness of faith. The problem was that a political party wrongly wished to use him as their badge, as an emblematic figure. How can we shed light on his person in the right way and protect it from these attempts to exploit it? This is the problem. It is under examination and I await confidently what the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will have to say on the matter.
Question: How do you regard the impact of the left-wing political regimes in Latin America on the Church's programme for the Continent, and to what extent has Brazilian culture been part of your personal formation?
Benedict XVI: Well, I cannot talk about these aspects of the political action of the left here since I am not sufficiently informed. Above all, as is obvious, I do not wish to enter into questions directly connected with politics. As for my formation, my personal commitment to Brazil, it must be taken into account that this is the largest country in Latin America, a nation that extends from Amazonia to Argentina. Various indigenous cultures exist in Brazil. I have been told that there are more than 80 languages.
Moreover, it has a great past in which the presence of African Americans and African Brazilians is recorded. It is interesting how this people was formed and how the Catholic faith developed in it. The faith was defended in all ages with much difficulty. We know that in the 19th century the Church was persecuted by neo-liberal forces.
Thus, in my formation, one important aspect was to accompany the development of these Catholic peoples in Latin America. I am not an expert, but I am convinced that it is here, at least in part - and a fundamental part -, that the future of the Catholic Church is being decided. This has always been evident to me. Obviously, I also feel the need to further increase my knowledge of this world.
Question: The Portuguese are following and praying for this Journey, which coincides with 13 May. You will be at Aparecida. This date is very important for us because it is the 90th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima. Would you like to tell us something about this coincidence for the Portuguese People?
Benedict XVI: For me it is truly a gift of Providence that my Mass in Aparecida, Brazil's great Marian Shrine, coincides with the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima. Thus, we see that she herself, Mother of God, Mother of the Church and our Mother, is present on the various continents, and on different continents she reveals herself as Mother always in the same way, showing her special closeness to every people. I find this very beautiful. She is always Mother of God, she is always Mary, yet she is, so to speak, "inculturated": she has her face, her own special countenance, in Guadalupe, Aparecida, Fatima, Lourdes, in all the countries of the earth.
Thus, in this very way she shows herself as Mother: by being close to all. Consequently, all people draw closer to one another through this love for Our Lady. This link which Our Lady creates between continents, between cultures, by being close to each specific culture and at the same time by unifying them all among themselves, seems to me truly important: the whole of the culture's specific features - each has its own richness - is the unity in communion of God's family itself.
Question in Portuguese: In Brazil there are some people who do not want to listen to the Church's message.
Benedict XVI: This is not exclusive to Brazil. In every corner of the earth there are very many people who do not want to listen to what the Church says. We hope that at least they hear her; then they can also disagree, but it is important that at least they hear her in order to respond. Let us also try to convince those who disagree with her and do not want to listen.
Moreover, we cannot forget that Our Lord did not manage to make everyone listen to him, either. We do not expect to convince everyone all at once. However, with the help of my collaborators, I am endeavouring to speak to Brazil at this moment in the hope that masses of people will want to listen and that very many may also be convinced that this is the road to take, even if it is a road that is always open even to many options and different opinions.
Speeches 2005-13 51707