Speeches 2005-13 9157
My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals and in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
1. I am very pleased to begin my Pastoral Visit to Brazil and to express to Your Excellency, as Head of State and Supreme Representative of the great Brazilian Nation, my gratitude for the warm welcome offered to me. I willingly extend my thanks also to the members of the Government accompanying you, as well as to the civil and military dignitaries present, and to the authorities of the State of São Paulo. In the words of welcome which you addressed to me, Mr President, I hear an echo of the sentiments of affection and love that all the Brazilian people bear towards the Successor of the Apostle Peter.
I offer my fraternal greetings in the Lord to my dear Brother Bishops who have come to receive me in the name of the Church in Brazil. I also greet the priests, religious men and women, the seminarians and the lay people dedicated to the Church’s task of evangelization and to authentic Christian living. Finally, I extend my warm greetings to all Brazilians without distinction, men and women, families, the old and the sick, young people and children. To all of you I say from my heart: thank you very much for your generous hospitality!
2. Brazil has a very special place in the Pope’s heart, not only because it was born Christian and has today the largest number of Catholics, but above all because it is a nation endowed with a rich potential and an ecclesial presence that gives joy and hope to the whole Church. My visit, Mr President, has a scope that goes beyond national borders: I have come to preside at the opening Session of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at Aparecida. This country, in the providence and goodness of the Creator, will become the cradle of the ecclesial proposals that, with God’s help, will give renewed vigour and missionary impetus to this Continent.
3. In this geographical area, Catholics are in the majority. This means that they must make a particular contribution to the common good of the nation. The word solidarity will acquire its full meaning when the living forces of society, each in its own sphere, commit themselves seriously to building a future of peace and hope for all.
The Catholic Church, as I stated in the Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, “transformed by the Holy Spirit, is called to become a witness before the world of the love of the Father who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son” (cf. no. 19). From here springs her deep commitment to the mission of evangelization at the service of the cause of peace and justice. Hence the decision to undertake an essentially missionary Conference reflects clearly the concern of the Bishops, as it does mine, to seek suitable ways by which in Jesus Christ “our peoples may have life”, as the theme of the Conference reminds us. With these sentiments I raise my eyes beyond the frontiers of this country, and I extend my greetings to all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the words of the Apostle: “Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (1P 5,14).
4. Mr President, I am grateful to Divine Providence for this grace of visiting Brazil, a Nation with a great Catholic tradition. I have had occasion to point out the principal motive of my visit, which is concerned with Latin America and has a fundamentally religious significance.
I am happy to be able to spend some days among the Brazilian people. I am well aware that the soul of this people, as of all Latin America, safeguards values that are radically Christian, which will never be eradicated. I am certain that at Aparecida, during the Bishops’ General Conference, this identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature. It will also make the promotion of the human person the axis of solidarity, especially towards the poor and abandoned.
The Church seeks only to stress the moral values present in each situation and to form the conscience of the citizens so that they may make informed and free decisions. She will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is strengthened, and likewise young people, whose formation is a decisive factor for the future of any nation. Last but not least, she will defend and promote the values present at every level of society, especially among indigenous peoples.
With these good wishes and with renewed gratitude for the warm reception that I have received as the Successor of Peter, I invoke the maternal protection of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, remembered also as Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Patroness of all America, so that she may protect and inspire those who govern in their difficult task as promoters of the common good, and renew the bonds of Christian fellowship for the good of all the people. May God bless Latin America! God bless Brazil! Thank you!
Your affectionate welcome is heart-warming for the Pope! Thank you for waiting here to greet me.
These days, for all of you and for the Church, will be full of emotion and joy.
The Church is in festal mode! In every corner of the world people are praying for the fruits of this journey, the first Pastoral Journey to Brazil and to Latin America that Providence has granted me to carry out as the Successor of Peter.
The canonization of Frei Galvão and the inauguration of the Fifth Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean will be milestones in the history of the Church. I am counting on you and on your prayers!
My dear young friends!
"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor…and come, follow me" (Mt 19,21).
1. I was particularly eager to include a meeting with you during this my first journey to Latin America. I have come to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America which, according to my wish, will take place at Aparecida, here in Brazil, at the Shrine of Our Lady. It is she who leads us to the feet of Jesus so that we can learn his teachings about the Kingdom, and it is she who stirs us up to be his missionaries so that the people of this "Continent of Hope" may have full life in him.
In their General Assembly last year, your Bishops here in Brazil reflected on the theme of the evangelization of youth and they placed a document into your hands. They asked you to receive that document and add your own reflections to it in the course of the year. At their most recent Assembly, the Bishops returned to the theme, enriched now by your collaboration, in the hope that the reflections and guidelines proposed therein would serve as a stimulus and a beacon for your journey. The words offered by the Archbishop of São Paulo and the Director of Pastoral Care for Young People, both of whom I thank, confirm the spirit that moves your hearts.
While flying over the land of Brazil yesterday evening, I was already anticipating our encounter here in the Stadium of Pacaembu, anxious to extend to all of you a warm Brazilian embrace and to share with you the sentiments which I carry in the depths of my heart, and which are very appropriately indicated to us in today’s Gospel.
I have always felt a very special joy at these encounters. I remember especially the Twentieth World Youth Day at which I was able to preside two years ago in Germany. Some of you gathered here today were also present! It is an emotional memory for me on account of the abundant fruits of the Lord’s grace poured out upon those who were there. Among the many fruits which I could point to, there is little doubt that the first was the exemplary sense of fraternity that stood as a clear witness to the Church’s perennial vitality throughout the world.
2. For this reason, my dear friends, I am certain that today the same impressions I received in Germany will be renewed here. In 1991, during his visit to Mato Grosso, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, said that "youth are the first protagonists of the third millennium … they are the ones who will be charged with the destiny of this new phase in human history" (16 October 1991). Today, I feel moved to make the same observation regarding all of you.
The Christian life you lead in numerous parishes and small ecclesial communities, in universities, colleges and schools, and most of all, in places of work both in the city and in the countryside, is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord. But it is necessary to go even further. We can never say "enough", because the love of God is infinite, and the Lord asks us—or better—requires us to open our hearts wider so that there will be room for even more love, goodness, and understanding for our brothers and sisters, and for the problems which concern not only the human community, but also the effective preservation and protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part. "Our forests have more life": do not allow this flame of hope which your National Hymn places on your lips to die out. The devastation of the environment in the Amazon Basin and the threats against the human dignity of peoples living within that region call for greater commitment in the different areas of activity than society tends to recognize.
3. Today I would like to reflect on the text we have just heard from Saint Matthew (cf. 19:16-22). It speaks of a young man who ran to see Jesus. His impatience merits special attention. In this young man I see all of you young people of Brazil and Latin America. You have "run" here from various regions of this Continent for this meeting of ours. You want to listen to the words of Jesus himself—spoken through the voice of the Pope.
You have a crucial question—a question that appears in this Gospel—to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which—in all of you—is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?
We see at once that in the very formulation of the question, the "here" and "now" are not enough; to put it another way, we cannot limit our life within the confines of space and time, however much we might try to broaden their horizons. Life transcends them. In other words: we want to live, not die. We have a sense of something telling us that life is eternal and that we must apply ourselves to reach it. In short, it rests in our hands and is dependent, in a certain way, on our own decision.
The question in the Gospel does not regard only the future. It does not regard only a question about what will happen after death. On the contrary, it exists as a task in the present, in the "here" and "now", which must guarantee authenticity and consequently the future. In short, the young man’s question raises the issue of life’s meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted?
Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness.
4. But before giving his response, Jesus asks about a very important aspect of the young man’s enquiry: why do you ask me about what is good? In this question, we find the key to the answer. This young man perceives that Jesus is good and that he is a teacher—a teacher who does not deceive. We are here because we have the very same conviction: Jesus is good. It may be that we do not know how to explain fully the reason for this perception, but it undoubtedly draws us to him and opens us up to his teaching: he is a good teacher. To recognize the good means to love. And whoever loves—to use a felicitous expression of Saint John—knows God (cf. 1Jn 4,7). The young man in the Gospel has perceived God in Jesus Christ.
Jesus assures us that God alone is good. To be open to goodness means to receive God. In this way, he invites us to see God in all things and in everything that happens, even where most people see only God’s absence. When we see the beauty of creation and recognize the goodness present there, it is impossible not to believe in God and to experience his saving and reassuring presence. If we came to see all the good that exists in the world—and moreover, experience the good that comes from God himself—we would never cease to approach him, praise him, and thank him. He continually fills us with joy and good things. His joy is our strength.
But we can only know in an imperfect, partial way. To understand what is good, we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis. Jesus himself shows what is good for us by giving us the first element in his catechesis: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19,17). He begins with the knowledge that the young man has surely already acquired from his family and from the synagogue: he knows the commandments. These lead to life, which means that they guarantee our authenticity. They are the great signs which lead us along the right path. Whoever keeps the commandments is on the way that leads to God.
It is not enough, however, simply to know them. Witness is even more important than knowledge; or rather, it is applied knowledge. The commandments are not imposed upon us from without; they do not diminish our freedom. On the contrary: they are strong internal incentives leading us to act in a certain way. At the heart of them we find both grace and nature, which do not allow us to stay still. We must walk. We are motivated to do something in order fulfil our potential. To find fulfilment through action is, in reality, to become real. To a large extent, from the time of our youth, we are whatever we want to be. We are, so to speak, the work of our own hands.
5. At this point, I turn once more to you, young people, because I want to hear you give the same response that the young man in the Gospel gave: all these I have observed from my youth. The young man in the Gospel was good. He kept the commandments. He was walking along the way of God. Jesus, therefore, gazing at him, loved him. By recognizing that Jesus was good, he showed that he too was good. He had an experience of goodness, and therefore of God. And you, young people of Brazil and Latin America, have you already discovered what is good? Do you follow the Lord’s commandments? Have you discovered that this is the one true road to happiness?
These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your "tomorrow" depends much on how you are living the "today" of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility.
Many times, we who are pastors feel a sense of trepidation as we take stock of the situation in today’s world. We hear talk of the fears of today’s youth. These fears reveal an enormous lack of hope: a fear of death, at the very moment when life is blossoming and the young are searching to find how to fulfil their potential; fear of failure, through not having discovered the meaning of life; fear of remaining detached in the face of a disconcerting acceleration of events and communications. We see the high death rate among young people, the threat of violence, the deplorable proliferation of drugs which strike at the deepest roots of youth today. For these reasons, we hear talk of a "lost youth".
But as I gaze at you young people here present—you who radiate so much joy and enthusiasm—I see you as Christ sees you: with a gaze of love and trust, in the certainty that you have found the true way. You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential. May they too may discover the sure ways of the commandments, and, by following them, come to God.
You can be the builders of a new society if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels.
Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one’s own worldly aspirations—economic or political—through fraud and deceit.
There exists, in the final analysis, an immense panorama of action in which questions of a social, economic and political nature take on particular importance, as long as they draw their inspiration from the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. This includes building a more just and fraternal society, reconciled and at peace, it includes the commitment to reduce violence, initiatives to promote the fullness of life, the democratic order and the common good and especially initiatives aimed at eliminating certain forms of discrimination existing in Latin American societies: avoiding exclusion, for the sake of mutual enrichment.
Above all, have great respect for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony. There cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses. Marriage is an institution of natural law, which has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament; it is a great gift that God has given to mankind: respect it and honour it. At the same time, God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage. I repeat here to all of you that "eros tends to rise . . . towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, 5). To put it briefly, it requires a spirit of sacrifice and renunciation for the sake of a greater good, namely the love of God above all things. Seek to resist forcefully the snares of evil that are found in many contexts, driving you towards a dissolute and paradoxically empty life, causing you to lose the precious gift of your freedom and your true happiness. True love "increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to ‘be there for’ the other" (ibid., 7) and therefore will always grow in faithfulness, indissolubility and fruitfulness.
In all these things, count upon the help of Jesus Christ who will make them possible through his grace (cf. Mt 19,26). The life of faith and prayer will lead you along the paths of intimacy with God, helping you to understand the greatness of his plans for every person. "For the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19,12), some are called to a total and definitive self-giving, by consecrating themselves to God in the religious life—an "exceptional gift of grace", as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (cf. Decree Perfectae Caritatis PC 12). Consecrated persons, by giving themselves totally to God, prompted by the Holy Spirit, participate in the Church’s mission, bearing witness before all people to their hope in the heavenly Kingdom. I therefore bless and invoke divine protection upon all those religious who have dedicated themselves to Christ and to their brothers and sisters within the vineyard of the Lord. Consecrated persons truly deserve the gratitude of the ecclesial community: monks and nuns, contemplative men and women, religious men and women dedicated to apostolic works, members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, hermits and consecrated virgins. "Their existence witnesses to their love for Christ as they walk the path proposed in the Gospel and with deep joy commit themselves to the same style of life which he chose for himself" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ, 5). I pray that in this moment of grace and profound communion in Christ, the Holy Spirit will awaken in the hearts of many young people an impassioned love, prompting them to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally devoted to the glory of the Father and to love for their brothers and sisters.
6. The Gospel assures us that the young man who went to meet Jesus was very rich. We may understand this wealth not only on the material level. Youth itself is a singular treasure. We have to discover it and to value it. Jesus appreciated it so much that he went on to invite the young man to participate in his saving mission. He had great potential and could have accomplished great things.
But the Gospel goes on to say that this young man, having heard the invitation, was saddened. He went away downcast and sad. This episode causes us to reflect further on the treasure of youth. It is not, in the first place, a question of material wealth, but of life itself, and the values inherent in youth. This wealth is inherited from two sources: life, transmitted from generation to generation, at the ultimate origin of which we find God, full of wisdom and love; and upbringing, which locates us within a culture, to such an extent that we might almost say we are more children of culture and therefore of faith, than of nature. From life springs freedom, which manifests itself, especially in this phase, as responsibility. There comes the great moment of decision, in a twofold choice: firstly, concerning one’s state of life, and secondly concerning one’s profession. It is about providing an answer to the question: what do I do with my life?
In other words, youth appears as a form of wealth because it leads to the discovery of life as a gift and a task. The young man in the Gospel understood that his youth was itself a treasure. He went to Jesus, the good Teacher, in order to seek some direction. At the moment of the great decision, however, he lacked the courage to wager everything on Jesus Christ. In consequence, he went away sad and downcast. This is what happens whenever our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking. He understood that what he lacked was generosity, and this did not allow him to realize his full potential. He withdrew to his riches, turning them to selfishness.
Jesus regretted the sadness and the cowardice of the young man who had come to seek him out. The Apostles, like all of you here today, filled the vacuum left by that young man who went away sad and downcast. They, and we, are happy, because we know the one in whom we believe (cf. 2Tm 1,12). We know and we bear witness with our lives that he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6,68). Therefore, we can exclaim with Saint Paul: Rejoice always in the Lord! (cf. Ph 4,4).
7. My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.
You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured.
My dear young people, soon I shall inaugurate the Fifth Conference of the Bishops of Latin America. I ask you to follow its deliberations attentively; to participate in its discussions; to receive its fruits. As was the case with earlier Conferences, the present one will also leave a significant mark on the next ten years of evangelization in Latin America and the Caribbean. No one must stay on the sidelines or remain indifferent in the face of this ecclesial initiative, least of all you young people. You are full members of the Church, which represents the face of Jesus Christ for Latin America and the Caribbean.
I greet the French speakers who live on the Latin American continent, and I invite them to be witnesses of the Gospel, and to be actively engaged in the life of the Church. My prayer is addressed to you young people in a particular way: you are called to build your lives on Christ and on fundamental human values. Everyone should feel invited to work together in order to build a world of justice and peace.
My dear young friends, like the young man in the Gospel who asked Jesus: "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?", you are all seeking ways to respond generously to God’s call. I pray that you may listen to his saving words and that you may become his witnesses for the peoples of today. May God pour out upon all of you his blessings of peace and joy.
My dear young people, Christ is calling you to be saints. He himself is inviting you and wants to walk with you, in order to enliven with his Spirit the steps that Brazil is taking at the beginning of this third millennium of the Christian era. I ask the Senhora Aparecida to guide you with her maternal help and to accompany you throughout your lives.
Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!
Dear Brother Bishops!
"Although he was the Son of God, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him." (cf. He 5,8-9).
1. The text we have just heard in the Lesson for Vespers contains a profound teaching. Once again we realize that God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates to the depths of the soul and it grants solace and inspiration to his faithful servants (cf. He 4,12).
I thank God for the opportunity to be with this distinguished Episcopate, which presides over one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. I greet you with a sense of deep communion and sincere affection, well aware of your devotion to the communities entrusted to your care. The warm reception given to me by the Rector of the Catedral da Sé and by all present has made me feel at home in this great common House which is our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church.
I extend a special greeting to the new Officers of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops and, with gratitude for the kind words of its President, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, I offer prayerful good wishes for his work in deepening communion among the Bishops and in promoting common pastoral activity in a territory of continental dimensions.
2. With its traditional hospitality, Brazil is hosting the participants in the Fifth Conference of Latin American Bishops. I express my gratitude for the kind welcome given to its members, and my deep appreciation for the prayers of the Brazilian people, particularly their prayers for the success of the Bishops’ meeting in Aparecida.
This meeting is a great ecclesial event and part of the missionary outreach which Latin America needs to undertake, beginning here—on Brazilian soil. That is why I wished to speak first to you, the Bishops of Brazil, evoking these words, so rich in content, from the Letter to the Hebrews: Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (He 5,8-9). Filled with meaning, these verses speak of God’s compassion for us, as expressed in the passion of his Son. They speak of Christ’s obedience and his free, conscious acceptance of the Father’s plan, which appears most clearly in his prayer on the Mount of Olives: "Not my will, but yours, be done" (Lc 22,42). Jesus himself teaches us that the true way of salvation lies in conforming our will to the will of God. This is what we pray for in the third petition of the "Our Father": that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, since wherever God’s will reigns, there the Kingdom of God is present. Jesus attracts us by his will, his filial will, and so he leads us to salvation. By freely accepting the will of God, in union with Jesus Christ, we open the world to God’s Kingdom.
We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are directly bound to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us as teachers of the faith consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, that our Saviour "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls. For this reason the Father sent his Son, and in the Lord’s own words transmitted to us in the Gospel of Saint John, "as the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20,21). Hence the mandate to preach the Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,19-20). These words are simple yet sublime; they speak of our duty to proclaim the truth of the faith, the urgent need for the sacramental life, and the promise of Christ’s continual assistance to his Church. These are fundamental realities: they speak of instructing people in the faith and in Christian morality, and of celebrating the sacraments. Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing. Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we Bishops and priests must offer to our people (cf. Populorum Progressio PP 21).
3. Our ministry as Bishops thus impels us to discern God’s saving will and to devise a pastoral plan capable of training God’s People to recognize and embrace transcendent values, in fidelity to the Lord and to the Gospel.
Certainly the present is a difficult time for the Church, and many of her children are experiencing difficulty. Society is experiencing moments of worrying disorientation. The sanctity of marriage and the family are attacked with impunity, as concessions are made to forms of pressure which have a harmful effect on legislative processes; crimes against life are justified in the name of individual freedom and rights; attacks are made on the dignity of the human person; the plague of divorce and extra-marital unions is increasingly widespread. Even more: when, within the Church herself, people start to question the value of the priestly commitment as a total entrustment to God through apostolic celibacy and as a total openness to the service of souls, and preference is given to ideological, political and even party issues, the structure of total consecration to God begins to lose its deepest meaning. How can we not be deeply saddened by this? But be confident: the Church is holy and imperishable (cf. Ep 5,27). As Saint Augustine said: "The Church will be shaken if its foundation is shaken; but will Christ be shaken? Since Christ cannot be shaken, the Church will remain firmly established to the end of time" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 103, 2, 5: PL 37, 1353).
A particular problem which you face as Pastors is surely the issue of those Catholics who have abandoned the life of the Church. It seems clear that the principal cause of this problem is to be found in the lack of an evangelization completely centred on Christ and his Church. Those who are most vulnerable to the aggressive proselytizing of sects—a just cause for concern—and those who are incapable of resisting the onslaught of agnosticism, relativism and secularization are generally the baptized who remain insufficiently evangelized; they are easily influenced because their faith is weak, confused, easily shaken and naive, despite their innate religiosity. In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I stated that "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (no. 1). Consequently, there is a need to engage in apostolic activity as a true mission in the midst of the flock that is constituted by the Catholic Church in Brazil, and to promote on every level a methodical evangelization aimed at personal and communal fidelity to Christ. No effort should be spared in seeking out those Catholics who have fallen away and those who know little or nothing of Jesus Christ, by implementing a pastoral plan which welcomes them and helps them realize that the Church is a privileged place of encounter with God, and also through a continuing process of catechesis.
What is required, in a word, is a mission of evangelization capable of engaging all the vital energies present in this immense flock. My thoughts turn to the priests, the men and women religious and the laity who work so generously, often in the face of immense difficulties, in order to spread the truth of the Gospel. Many of them cooperate with or actively participate in the associations, movements and other new ecclesial realities that, in communion with the Pastors and in harmony with diocesan guidelines, bring their spiritual, educational and missionary richness to the heart of the Church, as a precious experience and a model of Christian life.
In this work of evangelization the ecclesial community should be clearly marked by pastoral initiatives, especially by sending missionaries, lay or religious, to homes on the outskirts of the cities and in the interior, to enter into dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding, sensitivity and charity. On the other hand, if the persons they encounter are living in poverty, it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practising solidarity and making them feel truly loved. The poor living in the outskirts of the cities or the countryside need to feel that the Church is close to them, providing for their most urgent needs, defending their rights and working together with them to build a society founded on justice and peace. The Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor, and the Bishop, modelled on the Good Shepherd, must be particularly concerned with offering them the divine consolation of the faith, without overlooking their need for "material bread". As I wished to stress in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word" (no. 22).
The sacramental life, especially in the celebration of Confession and the Eucharist, here takes on a particular importance. As Pastors, it is your primary task to ensure that the faithful share in the eucharistic life and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You must be vigilant to ensure that the confession and absolution of sins is ordinarily individual, inasmuch as sin itself is something profoundly personal (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 31, III). Only physical or moral impossibility exempts the faithful from this form of confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained by some other means (cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 960, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 311). It is appropriate, therefore, to instil in priests the practice of generously making themselves available to the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of God’s mercy (cf. Apostolic Letter Misericordia Dei, 2).
4. Starting afresh from Christ in every area of missionary activity; rediscovering in Jesus the love and salvation given to us by the Father through the Holy Spirit: this is the substance and lifeline of the episcopal mission which makes the Bishop the person primarily responsible for catechesis in his diocese. Indeed, it falls ultimately to him to direct catechesis, surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy co-workers. It is therefore clear that the catechist’s task is not simply to communicate faith-experiences; rather—under the guidance of the Pastor—it is to be an authentic herald of revealed truths. Faith is a journey led by the Holy Spirit which can be summed up in two words: conversion and discipleship. In the Christian tradition, these two key words clearly indicate that faith in Christ implies a way of living based on the twofold command to love God and neighbour—and they also express life’s social dimension.
Truth presupposes a clear understanding of Jesus’ message transmitted by means of an intelligible, inculturated language, which must nevertheless remain faithful to the Gospel’s intent. At this time, there is an urgent need for an adequate knowledge of the faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its accompanying Compendium. Education in Christian personal and social virtues is also an essential part of catechesis, as is education in social responsibility. Precisely because faith, life, and the celebration of the sacred liturgy—the source of faith and life—are inseparable, there is need for a more correct implementation of the liturgical principles as indicated by the Second Vatican Council, as well as those contained in the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (cf. 145-151), so as to restore to the liturgy its sacred character. It was with this end in view that my Venerable Predecessor on the Chair of Peter, John Paul II, wished "to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity ... Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated" (Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52). For Bishops, who are the "moderators of the Church’s liturgical life", the rediscovery and appreciation of obedience to liturgical norms is a form of witness to the one, universal Church, that presides in charity.
5. A leap forward in the quality of people’s Christian lives is needed, so that they can bear witness to their faith in a clear and transparent way. This faith, as it is celebrated and shared in the liturgy and in works of charity, nourishes and reinvigorates the community of the Lord’s disciples while building them up as the missionary and prophetic Church. The Brazilian Episcopate has an impressive structure based on recently revised and more easily implemented statutes which focus more directly on the good of the Church. The Pope has come to Brazil to ask that, through following the word of God, all these Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate truly become messengers of eternal salvation for all those who obey Christ (cf. He 5,9). If we are to stay true to our solemn commitment as successors of the Apostles, we Pastors must be faithful servants of the word, eschewing any reductive or mistaken vision of the mission entrusted to us. It is not enough to look at reality solely from the viewpoint of personal faith; we must work with the Gospel in our hands and anchor ourselves in the authentic heritage of the Apostolic Tradition, free from any interpretations motivated by rationalistic ideologies.
Indeed, "within the particular Churches, it is the Bishop’s responsibility to guard and interpret the word of God and to make authoritative judgments as to what is or is not in conformity with it" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 19). As the primary Teacher of faith and doctrine, the Bishop will rely on collaboration with the theologian, who, in order "to be faithful to his role of service to the truth, must take into account the proper mission of the Magisterium and collaborate with it" (ibid., 20). The duty to preserve the deposit of faith and safeguard its unity calls for strict vigilance so that the faith may be "preserved and handed down with fidelity and so that particular insights are clearly integrated into the one Gospel of Christ" (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops ).
This, therefore, is the enormous responsibility you have assumed as formators of your people, and especially of the priests and religious under your care. They are you faithful co-workers. I am aware of your commitment to seeking ways of forming new vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Theological formation, as well as education in sacred sciences, needs to be constantly updated, but this must always done in accord with the Church’s authentic Magisterium.
I appeal to your priestly zeal and your sense of vocational discernment, especially so that you will know how to bring to completion the spiritual, psychological and affective, intellectual and pastoral formation needed to prepare young people for mature, generous service to the Church. Good and assiduous spiritual direction is indispensable for fostering human growth and eliminating the risk of going astray in the area of sexuality. Always keep in mind that priestly celibacy "is a gift which the Church has received and desires to retain, convinced that it is a good for the Church itself and for the world" (Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 57).
I would also like to commend to your care the religious communities which play such an important role in the lives of your dioceses. They offer their own valuable contribution since "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1Co 12,4). The Church cannot help but show its joy and gratitude for all that religious men and women are able to contribute in universities, schools, hospitals, and other works and institutions.
6. I am familiar with the dynamic of your Assemblies and the efforts involved in formulating the various pastoral plans so that they give priority to the formation of clergy and those who assist them in their pastoral work. Some of you have encouraged evangelization movements to assist in the work of gathering groups of faithful together to carry out certain types of action. The Successor of Peter is relying on you to ensure that the preparation you give them is always based on a spirituality of communion and fidelity to the See of Peter, so that the work of the Spirit is never in vain. In fact, the integrity of the faith, together with ecclesiastical discipline, is and will always be an area requiring careful oversight on your part, especially when it comes to living out the consequences of the fact that "there is only one faith and one baptism".
As you know, among the various documents dealing with Christian unity, there is the Directory for Ecumenism published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Ecumenism—or the search for unity among Christians—has become in our time an increasingly urgent task for the Catholic Church, as is evident from the growth of intercultural exchange and the challenge of secularism. Consequently, given the rapidly growing number of new Christian denominations, and especially certain forms of often aggressive proselytism, the work of ecumenism has become more complex. In this context, a good historical and doctrinal formation is absolutely essential, so as to foster necessary discernment and lead to a better understanding of the specific identity of each of these communities, the elements that divide them, and those elements that can be helpful on the road to greater unity. The greatest area of common ground for collaboration should be the defence of fundamental moral values—transmitted by the biblical tradition—against the relativistic and consumerist cultural forces that seek to destroy them. Another such area is faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ his incarnate Son. Moreover, there will always be the principle of fraternal love and the search for mutual understanding and rapprochement. Yet we must also be concerned with defending the faith of our people, confirming them in the joyful certitude that "unica Christi Ecclesia…subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata" ["The one Church of Christ…subsists in the Catholic Church which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him"] (Lumen Gentium LG 8).
In this way, through the National Council of Christian Churches, you will be able to move towards candid ecumenical dialogue, committing yourselves to complete respect for those other religious confessions that wish to remain in contact with the Catholic Church in Brazil.
7. There is nothing new in the observation that your country is living through a historic deficit in social development, whose extreme effects can seen in the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. It is your task, my dear Brothers, as the hierarchy of the people of God, to promote the search for new solutions imbued with the Christian spirit. A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church’s social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors. Hence, it is necessary to work untiringly to form politicians, and all Brazilians who wield a certain influence, be it great or small, as well as all members of society, so that they can fully assume their responsibilities and learn to give the economy a truly human and compassionate face.
There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences—direct and indirect, short-term and long-term—of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit.
8. God willing, my dear Brothers, we will find other opportunities to explore these questions that call for our joint pastoral concern. For now, without pursuing them in an exhaustive way, I have tried to put forward the more significant themes that clamour for my attention as Pastor of the universal Church. I offer you my affectionate encouragement, which is at the same time a fraternal and heart-felt plea: that you will always work and act—as indeed you are doing now—in a spirit of harmony, building yourselves on the communion that finds its highest expression and inexhaustible source in the Eucharist. Entrusting all of you to Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, I cordially impart to each of you, as well as your respective communities, my Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 9157