Speeches 2005-13 20
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have accompanied Jesus on the "Way of the Cross". We have accompanied him here, on the route of the martyrs, in the Colosseum where so many suffered for Christ and gave their life for the Lord, where in so many, the Lord himself has suffered once again.
Thus, we have understood that the "Via Crucis" is neither something of the past nor of any specific point of the earth. The Lord's Cross embraces the world; his "Via Crucis" crosses continents and epochs.
In the Way of the Cross, we cannot merely be spectators. We too are involved, so we must seek our place: where are we?
In the Way of the Cross, it is impossible to remain neutral. Pilate, the sceptic intellectual, tried to be neutral, to remain uninvolved; but precisely in this way he took a stance against justice, because of the conformism of his career.
In the mirror of the Cross we have seen all the sufferings of humanity today.
In the Cross of Christ we have seen the suffering of abandoned and abused children; the threats to the family; the division of the world into the pride of the rich who do not see Lazarus at the door and the misery of the multitudes who are suffering hunger and thirst.
But we have also seen "stations" of consolation.
We have seen the Mother, whose goodness stays faithful unto death and beyond death. We have seen the courageous woman, who stood before the Lord and was not afraid to show solidarity with this Suffering One. We have seen Simon the Cyrenian, an African, who carried the Cross with Jesus.
Finally, we have seen, through these "stations" of consolation, that consolation, just as suffering, is never-ending.
We have seen that on the Way of the Cross, Paul found the zeal of his faith and kindled the light of love. We have seen how St Augustine found his way: as well as Francis of Assisi, St Vincent de Paul, St Maximilian Kolbe and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
So it is that we too are invited to find our place, to discover with these great, courageous saints, the way with Jesus and for Jesus: the way of goodness and truth; the courage of love.
We have understood that the "Way of the Cross" is not simply a collection of the obscure and sad things of the world. Nor is it a form of moralism, ineffective in the end. It is not a cry of protest that changes nothing.
The Way of the Cross is the way of mercy, the way of mercy that puts a limit on evil: this is what we learned from Pope John Paul II. It is the way of mercy, hence, the way of salvation.
Thus, we are invited to take the way of mercy and with Jesus, put a limit on evil.
Let us pray to the Lord to help us be "infected" by his mercy.
Let us pray to the Holy Mother of Jesus, the Mother of Mercy, that we too can be men and women of mercy, and thereby contribute to the world's salvation, to the salvation of creatures: to be men and women of God.
ON OCCASION OF THE 2759th ANNIVERSARY OF THE "BIRTH OF ROME"
'Auditorium-Parco della Musica' Friday, 21 April 2006
Mr President of the Republic and Distinguished Authorities,
Mr Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I accepted with great joy the invitation to come to this concert in the new Auditorium and I feel duty bound to address warm thanks to Mr Mayor, who promoted the initiative. As I offer him my cordial greetings, I also express sincere gratitude to him for the respectful words he has addressed to me on behalf of all those present. My cordial greetings then go to the President of the Italian Republic, who has honoured me by his presence, together with the other Authorities who are gathered here.
Lastly, I address special thanks to Prof. Bruno Cagli, Director of the National Academy of St Cecilia, to the orchestra and choir conducted by Maestro Vladimir Jurowski, and to Laura Aikin, the soprano, who have performed famous passages and arias by that musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I very gladly accepted the invitation to be present at this evening's performance. Various reasons have combined to make it a solemn but at the same time a family celebration.
On this very day the Birth of Rome is celebrated in memory of the traditional anniversary of the City's foundation, a historical event which, thinking back to the origins of the City, becomes a favourable opportunity for a better understanding of Rome's vocation to be the beacon of civilization and spirituality for the entire world.
Thanks to the convergence of its traditions with Christianity, Rome has fulfilled a special mission down the centuries and still today continues to be an important reference point for the many visitors who are attracted by its rich artistic heritage, closely associated with the City's Christian history.
The concert this evening is also intended to commemorate the first anniversary of my Pontificate. One year ago, after the death of the beloved and unforgettable John Paul II, the Catholic community of Rome was entrusted by divine Providence, surprisingly I must say, to my pastoral care.
At my first Meeting with the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square on the evening of 19 April last year, I personally experienced how generous, open and welcoming the Roman People are. Other occasions have subsequently brought me further encounters with this special human and spiritual warmth.
How can I fail to recall, for example, the embrace with so many people that is renewed every Sunday at the traditional Midday Meeting for Prayer? I also take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the warmth by which I am surrounded and which I gladly reciprocate.
This evening I want to address a heartfelt "thank you" to the community of the City which has desired to combine the commemoration of Rome's Birthday with the anniversary of my election as Bishop of Rome. Thank you for this gesture, which I deeply appreciate.
Thank you too for selecting a musical programme taken from the works of Mozart, a great composer who left an indelible mark on history. This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth, and various initiatives have accordingly been planned throughout 2006, which has also rightly been named the "Mozartian year".
The compositions performed by the orchestra and choir of the National Academy of St Cecilia are marvellous passages by Mozart which are very famous, including some of remarkable religious inspiration. The Ave Verum, for example, which is often sung at liturgical celebrations, is a motet with deeply theological words and a musical accompaniment that moves the heart and invites us to prayer.
Thus, by raising the soul to contemplation, music also helps us grasp the most intimate nuances of human genius, in which is reflected something of the incomparable beauty of the Creator of the universe.
I once again thank those who in various capacities have made possible today's event of high artistic value, in particular the performers and musicians and those who work in this Auditorium. I assure each one of my remembrance in prayer, strengthened by a special Blessing which I now gladly impart to you all, extending it to the whole of the beloved City of Rome.
Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Jesus,
I meet you with great joy in this historical Basilica of St Peter's after the Holy Mass celebrated for you by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my Secretary of State, on the occasion of combined jubilees of the Ignatian Family. I address my cordial greeting to you all.
I greet in the first place the Superior General, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, and thank him for his courteous words expressing your common sentiments to me. I greet the Cardinals with the Bishops and priests and all those who have desired to participate in this event.
Together with the Fathers and Brothers, I also greet the friends of the Society of Jesus present here, and among them, the many men and women religious, members of the Communities of Christian Life and of the Apostolate of Prayer, the students and alumnae with their families from Rome, from Italy and from Stonyhurst in England, the teachers and students of the academic institutions and the many collaborators.
Your visit today gives me the opportunity to thank the Lord with you for having granted your Society the gift of men of extraordinary holiness and exceptional apostolic zeal, such as St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier and Bl. Peter Faber. For you they are the Fathers and Founders: it is therefore appropriate that in this centenary year you commemorate them with gratitude and look to them as enlightened and reliable guides on your spiritual journey and in your apostolic activities.
St Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first. He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.
Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And the special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as "our first and principal foundation" (MI, Series III, 1P 162), was born from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way possible.
This ecclesial characteristic, so specific to the Society of Jesus, lives on in you and in your apostolic activities, dear Jesuits, so that you may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.
Among these, it is important in my opinion to point out your cultural commitment in the areas of theology and philosophy in which the Society of Jesus has traditionally been present, as well as the dialogue with modern culture, which, if it boasts on the one hand of the marvellous progress in the scientific field, remains heavily marked by positivist and materialist scientism.
Naturally, the effort to promote a culture inspired by Gospel values in cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities demands an intense spiritual and cultural training. For this very reason, St Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for many years in spiritual life and in study. It is good that this tradition be maintained and reinforced, also given the growing complexity and vastness of modern culture.
Another of his great concerns was the Christian education and cultural formation of young people: hence, the impetus he gave to the foundation of "colleges", which after his death spread in Europe and throughout the world. Continue, dear Jesuits, this important apostolate, keeping the spirit of your Founder unchanged.
In speaking of St Ignatius, I cannot overlook the fact that the fifth centenary of St Francis Xavier's birth was celebrated last 7 April. Not only is their history interwoven through long years in Paris and Rome, but a single aspiration - one might say, a single passion - stirred and sustained them, even in their different human situations: the passion for working for the ever greater glory of God-the-Trinity and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who did not know him.
St Francis Xavier, whom my Predecessor Pius XI, of venerable memory, proclaimed the "Patron of Catholic Missions", saw as his own mission "opening new ways of access" to the Gospel "in the immense Continent of Asia". His apostolate in the Orient lasted barely 10 years, but in the four and half centuries that the Society of Jesus has existed it has proven wonderfully fruitful, for his example inspired a multitude of missionary vocations among young Jesuits and he remains a reference point for the continuation of missionary activity in the great countries of the Asian Continent.
If St Francis Xavier worked in the countries of the Orient, his confrere and friend since the years in Paris, Bl. Peter Faber, a Savoiard who was born on 13 April 1506, worked in the European countries where the Christian faithful aspired to a true reform of the Church.
He was a modest, sensitive man with a profound inner life. He was endowed with the gift of making friends with people from every walk of life and consequently attracted many young men to the Society.
Bl. Faber spent his short life in various European countries, especially Germany, where, at the order of Paul III, he took part in the Diets of Worms, Ratisbon and Speyer and in conversations with the leaders of the Reformation. He consequently had an exceptional opportunity to practise the special vow of obedience to the Pope "regarding the missions" and became a model to follow for all future Jesuits.
Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society, today you look with special devotion at the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering that on 22 April 1541, St Ignatius and his first companions made their solemn vows before the image of Mary in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls.
May Mary continue to watch over the Society of Jesus so that every member may carry in his person the "image" of the Crucified Christ, in order to share in his Resurrection. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for this, as I willingly impart my Blessing to each of you present here and to your entire spiritual family, which I also extend to all the other Religious and consecrated persons who are present at this Audience.
Dear Brother Bishops,
In these days of joyful celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, I welcome you, the Bishops of Ghana, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome for your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. Through you I offer my warm affection to the priests, Religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses. In a special way, I thank Bishop Lucas Abadamloora for the kind words of greeting he offered me on your behalf. I wish to recognize in particular Ghana's native son, Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, who recently joined the ranks of the College of Cardinals, and I also take this opportunity to greet Cardinal Peter Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast. You have all come to Rome, this city where the Apostles Peter and Paul gave of themselves completely in imitation of Christ: Peter just a short distance from where we are today and Paul along the Ostian way. As good and faithful servants of the Gospel, it is my constant prayer that, like the Princes of the Apostles, "God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him" (2Th 1,11-12).
Your country has made great strides in recent years to deal with the scourge of poverty and to strengthen the economy. Notwithstanding this laudable progress, much still remains to be done to overcome this condition which impedes a large portion of the population. Extreme and widespread poverty often results in a general moral decline leading to crime, corruption, attacks on the sanctity of human life or even a return to the superstitious practices of the past. In this situation, people can easily lose trust in the future. The Church, however, shines forth as a beacon of hope in the life of the Christian. One of the most effective ways in which she does this is by helping the faithful gain a better understanding of the promises of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, there is a particular and pressing need for the Church, as a beacon of hope, to intensify her efforts to provide Catholics with comprehensive programmes of formation which will help them to deepen their Christian faith and thus enable them to take their rightful place both in the Church of Christ and in society.
An essential part of any adequate formation process is the role of the lay catechist. It is appropriate, therefore, that I offer a word of gratitude to the many committed men and women who selflessly serve your local Church in this way. As Pope John Paul II noted in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa: "in the midst of the Christian community the catechists' responsibility is to be acknowledged and held in respect" (cf. 91). I know that these faithful men and women are often impeded in their task by a lack of resources or hostile environments, and yet they remain undaunted messengers of Christ's joy. Mindful of how grateful local Churches are for the assistance offered by catechists, I encourage you and your priests to continue to do all you can to ensure that these evangelists receive the spiritual, doctrinal, moral and material support they require to carry out their mission properly.
In many countries, including your own, young people constitute almost half of the population. The Church in Ghana is young. In order to reach out to today's youth it is necessary that the Church address their problems in a frank and loving way. A solid catechetical foundation will strengthen them in their Catholic identity and give them the necessary tools to confront the challenges of changing economic realities, globalization and disease. It will also assist them in responding to the arguments often put forward by religious sects. Consequently, it is important that future pastoral planning at both national and local levels carefully takes into account the needs of the young and tailors youth programmes to address these needs appropriately (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 46).
It is also the Church's task to assist Christian families to live faithfully and generously as true "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11). In fact, sound catechesis relies on the support of strong Christian families which are never selfish in character, constantly directed toward the other and founded upon the Sacrament of Matrimony. In reviewing your Quinquennial Reports, I noted that many of you are concerned about the proper celebration of Christian marriage in Ghana. I share your concern and therefore invite the faithful to place the Sacrament of Matrimony at the centre of their family life. While Christianity always seeks to respect the venerable traditions of cultures and peoples, it also seeks to purify those practices which are contrary to the Gospel. For this reason it is essential that the entire Catholic community continue to stress the importance of the monogamous and indissoluble union of man and woman, consecrated in holy matrimony. For the Christian, traditional forms of marriage can never be a substitute for sacramental marriage.
The gift of self to the other is also at the heart of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Those who receive this sacrament are configured in a particular way to Christ the Head of the Church. They are therefore called to give of themselves completely for the sake of their brothers and sisters. This can only happen when God's will is no longer seen as something imposed from without, but becomes "my own will based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself" (cf. Deus Caritas Est ). The priesthood must never be seen as a way of improving one's social standing or standard of living. If it is, then priestly gift of self and docility to God's designs will give way to personal desires, rendering the priest ineffective and unfulfilled. I therefore encourage you in your continuous endeavours to ensure the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and to guarantee proper priestly formation for those who are studying for the sacred ministry. We must strive to help them discern Christ's will and nurture this gift so that they may become effective and fulfilled ministers of his joy.
My dear Brothers, I am aware that this year is a special Jubilee for the Church in Ghana. In fact, just yesterday, April 23rd, was the Hundredth Anniversary of the arrival of missionaries in the northern part of your Country. It is my special prayer that missionary zeal will continue to fill you and your beloved people, strengthening you in your efforts to spread the Gospel. As you return to your homes, I ask that you take consolation from the words the Apostle Peter offered to the early Christians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1P 1,3). Commending your ministry to Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all those entrusted to your pastoral care.
Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,
It gives me great joy to meet you at the end of your Annual Plenary Meeting. I remember each one of you with affection since I became personally acquainted with you during my years as President of this Commission. I would like to share with you my gratitude and appreciation of the important work you are doing at the service of the Church and for the good of souls, in harmony with the Successor of Peter.
I thank Cardinal William Joseph Levada for his greeting and for his summary of the topic that has been the object of your attentive reflection during the meeting.
You have gathered once again to examine a very important subject: The relationship between the Bible and morals. This topic not only concerns the believer but every person as such. And it concerns us, particularly at a time of cultural and moral crisis. Indeed, man's first impulse is his desire for happiness and for fulfilment in life. Today, however, many people think that this should be achieved absolutely autonomously, without any reference to God or to his law.
Some have reached the point of theorizing on the absolute sovereignty of reason and freedom in the context of moral norms: they presume that these norms constitute the context of a purely "human" ethic, in other words, the expression of a law that man makes for himself by himself. The advocates of this "secular morality" say that man as a rational being not only can but must decide freely on the value of his behaviour.
This erroneous conviction is based on the presumed conflict between human freedom and every form of law. In fact, the Creator, because we are creatures, has inscribed his "natural law", a reflection of his creative idea, in our hearts, in our very being, as a compass and inner guide for our life.
For this very reason, Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church tell us that the vocation and complete fulfilment of the human being are not attained by rejecting God's law, but by abiding by the new law that consists in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Together with the Word of God and the teaching of the Church, it is expressed in "faith working through love" (Ga 5,6).
And it is precisely in this acceptance of the love that comes from God (Deus caritas est ), that the freedom of man finds its loftiest realization. There is no contradiction between God's law and human freedom: God's law correctly interpreted neither attenuates nor, even less, eliminates man's freedom. On the contrary, it guarantees and fosters this freedom because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "freedom... attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude" (n. 1731).
The moral law established by God in creation and confirmed in the Old Testament revelation reaches fulfilment and greatness in Christ. Jesus Christ is the way of perfection, the living and personal synthesis of perfect freedom in total obedience to God's will. The original function of the Decalogue is not abolished by the encounter with Christ but is led to this fullness.
An ethic that in listening to revelation also seeks to be authentically rational, finds its perfection in the encounter with Christ, who gives us the new Covenant.
A model of this authentic moral action is the behaviour of the Incarnate Word himself. He makes his will coincide with the will of God the Father in the acceptance and carrying out of his mission: his food is to do the Father's will (cf. Jn 4,34). He always does the things that are pleasing to the Father, putting his words into practice (cf. Jn 8,29-55); he says the things that the Father asked him to say and to proclaim (cf. Jn 12,49).
In revealing the Father and his way of acting, Jesus at the same time reveals the norms of upright human action. He affirms this connection in an explicit and exemplary way when, in concluding his teaching on loving one's enemies (cf. Mt 5,43-47), he says: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5,48).
This divine, divine-human, perfection becomes possible for us if we are closely united with Christ, our Saviour.
The path marked out by Jesus with his teaching is not an externally imposed regulation. Jesus himself took this path and asks no more of us than to follow him. Moreover, he does not limit himself to asking: first of all, through Baptism, he allows us to participate in his own life, thereby enabling us to understand his teaching and put it into practice.
This appears with increasing evidence in the New Testament writings. His relationship with the disciples was vital, not an external teaching. He called them "little children" (Jn 13,33 Jn 21,5), "friends" (Jn 15,14-15), "brothers", "brethren" (Mt 12,50 Mt 28,10 Jn 20,17), and invited them to enter into communion of life with him and to accept in faith and joy his "easy" yoke and his "light" burden (cf. Mt 11,28-30).
In the quest for a Christologically inspired ethic, it is therefore necessary always to bear in mind that Christ is the Incarnate Logos who enables us to share in his divine life and sustains us with his grace on the journey towards our true fulfilment.
What man really is, appears definitively in the Logos made man; faith in Christ gives us the fulfilment of anthropology. Consequently, the relationship with Christ defines the loftiest realization of man's moral action. This human action is directly based on obedience to God's law, on union with Christ and on the indwelling of the Spirit in the believer's soul. It is not an action dictated by merely exterior norms, but stems from the vital relationship that connects believers to Christ and to God.
While I hope that the continuation of your reflection will be fruitful, I invoke upon you and your work the light of the Holy Spirit, and as confirmation of my trust and affection I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a comfort to be with you today to recite the Holy Rosary at this Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, where the faithful express the devout affection for the Virgin Mary that is rooted in the soul and history of the Roman people.
Special joy springs from the thought of thus renewing the experience of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II, who, on the first day of the month of May in 1979, exactly 27 years ago, made his first Visit to this Shrine as Pontiff.
I greet with affection the Rector, Mons. Pasquale Silla, and thank him for his cordial address. With him, I greet the other Priests Oblates Sons of Our Lady of Divine Love and the Sisters Daughters of Our Lady of Divine Love who are joyfully and generously devoted to serving in the Shrine and the whole range of its different good works. I greet the Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and the Auxiliary Bishop of the Southern Sector of Rome, Bishop Paolo Schiavon, and all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who are here in large numbers.
We have recited the Holy Rosary going through the five "Joyful" Mysteries, which portray to the eyes of the heart the beginnings of our salvation, from Jesus' conception in the Virgin Mary's womb, brought about by the Holy Spirit, until he was found in the temple of Jerusalem when he was 12 years old, listening to the teachers and asking them questions.
We have repeated and made our own the Angel's words: "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!", and also the words with which St Elizabeth welcomed the Virgin who went with haste to help and serve her: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!".
We have contemplated the docile faith of Mary, who trusted in God without reserve and put herself entirely in his hands. Like the shepherds, we too have felt close to the Child Jesus lying in the manger and recognized and adored him as the eternal Son of God who, through love, became our brother, hence, our one Saviour.
We too entered the temple with Mary and Joseph, to offer the Child to God and to carry out the rite of purification: and here, together with salvation, we felt ourselves anticipating, in the words of the elderly Simeon, the contradictory sign of the Cross, and of the sword that beneath the Cross of the Son was to pierce the Mother's soul, thereby making her not only the Mother of God but also Mother of us all.
Dear brothers and sisters, in this Shrine we venerate Mary Most Holy with the title "Our Lady of Divine Love".
Thus, full light is shed on the bond that united Mary with the Holy Spirit from the very beginning of her existence when, as she was being conceived, the Spirit, the eternal Love of the Father and of the Son, made their dwelling within her and preserved her from any shadow of sin; then again, when the same Spirit brought the Son of God into being in her womb; and yet again when, with the grace of the Spirit, Mary's own words were fulfilled through the whole span of her life: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord"; and lastly, when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary was taken up physically to be beside the Son in the glory of God the Father.
"Mary", I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "is a woman who loves.... As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves" (n. 41). Yes, dear brothers and sisters, Mary is the fruit and sign of the love God has for us, of his tenderness and mercy. Therefore, together with our brothers in the faith of all times and all places, we turn to her in our needs and hopes, in the joyful and sorrowful events of life. My thoughts go at this moment, with deep sympathy, to the family in the Island of Ischia, hit by yesterday's disaster.
In the month of May an increasing number of people come here as pilgrims from the parishes of Rome and also from many other districts, to pray and to enjoy the beauty and restful tranquillity of these places. From here, from this Shrine of Divine Love, we therefore expect powerful help and spiritual support for the Diocese of Rome, for myself, its Bishop, and for the other Bishops my collaborators, for the priests, for families, for vocations, for the poor, the suffering and the sick, for the children and for the elderly, for the entire beloved Italian Nation. We are expecting in particular the inner energy to fulfil the vow made by the Roman People on 4 June 1944, when they solemnly asked Our Lady of Divine Love that this City be preserved from the horrors of war, and they were heard: the vow and the promise, that is, to correct and improve one's own moral conduct to bring it more into line with that of the Lord Jesus. Today too, there is a need to convert to God, to God who is Love, so that the world may be freed from war and terrorism. We are unfortunately reminded of this by the victims, such as the service men who fell last Thursday in Nassiriya in Iraq, whom we entrust to the motherly intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, from this Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, I therefore renew the invitation I expressed in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "To practise love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world" (n. 39). Amen!
I am pleased to offer my cordial greetings to you all, dear friends, former Swiss Guards and participants in the special "march" organized on the occasion of the 500th Anniversary of the descent on Rome of the first 150 "Gwardiknechte".
Following the same route taken 500 years ago, passing through Milan, Fidenza, Lucca, Siena and Acquapendente, you have reached Rome and here you are now in St Peter's Square, so well-known to you. Here to welcome you and offer you his greeting is the Successor of Pope Julius II, whose name is inseparably linked to the praiseworthy Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps.
Dear former Swiss Guards, with this important event that started in Bellinzona on 7 April and ends here in Rome today, you have wished to honour your predecessors, and at the same time you have been able to thank the Lord for having been personally a member of the Swiss Guard Corps, thus strengthening your bond with this "family" also at the end of your service.
You wanted to undertake this long journey as a "pilgrimage", following the famous "Via Francigena", a way travelled by pilgrims in the Middle Ages, on the route from France to Rome.
During the days of your journey, on which you have covered approximately 720 km., you were able to cross through many villages and towns and tell the people your story, and thus make them acquainted with the spirit that enlivens the Swiss Guard Corps.
In a certain way you have been able to share the sentiments of the first 150 Swiss Guards who, on 21 January 1506, upon reaching the Eternal City, dressed immediately in the yellow- and red-striped uniform, the colours of the Della Rovere family.
The following day, they left off from the Porta del Popolo and crossed the Campo de' Fiori, arriving at the Vatican Hill. It was 22 January 1506, the day on which the Pontifical Swiss Guard was created.
Dear friends, I rejoice with you in this beautiful initiative that commemorates the courage of the 150 Swiss citizens who with great generosity defended the Sovereign Pontiff unto death, writing with their sacrifice an important page in the history of the Church.
Looking back at these last five centuries, let us give thanks to God for the good done by your predecessors and for the valuable contribution that the Pontifical Swiss Guard still continues to offer to the Holy See today.
As we entrust those who died to Divine Mercy, let us invoke upon the members who make up your large and worthy Former Swiss Guards' Association the constant protection of the Lord.
May he continue to guide your steps and support with his grace all your actions, and may he enliven with his spirit the many initiatives that you took to perpetuate and accomplish your own special experience in the Eternal City, at the service of the Apostolic See! ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Friends in Christ,
In this joyful season as we offer thanks and praise to God for Christís victory over sin and death, I am pleased to greet you, the members of the Papal Foundation, on your annual pilgrimage to Rome. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ph 1,2).
Our Easter faith gives us hope that the risen Lord will truly transform the world. In his Resurrection we recognize the fulfilment of Godís promise to the exiled people of Israel: "I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel" (Ez 37,12). Truly, the risen Christ gives renewed hope and strength to many in our world today who suffer injustice or deprivation and who long to be able to live with the freedom and dignity of the children of God.
Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to enkindle the hearts of believers, moving them to love their brothers and sisters as Christ loved them, and to witness through their charitable activity to the Fatherís love for all humanity (cf. Deus Caritas Est ). The fruit of that gift of the Spirit can be clearly seen in the assistance that the Papal Foundation gives in Christís name to developing countries, in the form of aid projects, grants and scholarships. I am most grateful for your support and for the help you give me in carrying out my mission to care for Christís flock in every corner of the world.
I assure you that your love of the Church and your dedication to the practice of Christian charity is deeply appreciated. As we prepare to celebrate the great outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, I encourage you to continue in your generous commitment, so that the flame of divine love may continue burning brightly in the hearts of believers everywhere. Commending you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your families as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Savior.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies,
I address my warm greeting to each one of you, with a special thought for Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe - I am grateful for his words on your behalf - and for Mons. Henryk Hoser, President of The Pontifical Mission Societies. Welcome to this meeting, which is taking place on the occasion of the Annual Ordinary General Assembly of your Superior Council.
Your presence witnesses to the Church's missionary commitment on the various continents, and the "Papal" character that marks your Association emphasizes the special ties that bind you to the See of Peter. I know that after an intense effort of "updating", you have completed the draft of your new Statutes and obtained their approval. I hope that they will contribute to offering broader prospects to the task of missionary animation and assistance to the Church in which you are involved.
At your General Assembly you intend to reflect on the missionary mandate that Jesus entrusted to his disciples. This urgent pastoral need is felt by all the local Churches, mindful of the words of the Second Vatican Council, that missionary commitment is essential to the Christian community.
By placing themselves at the service of evangelization, the Pontifical Mission Societies, since their establishment in the 19th century, have pointed out that missionary action consists ultimately in communicating God's love to the brothers and sisters as it is revealed in the plan of salvation.
Knowing and accepting this saving Love is indeed fundamental for our lives - I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est - and gives rise to crucial questions about who God is and who we are (cf. n. 2).
Through interventions of effective and generous charity, the Societies of the Propagation of the Faith, of St Peter the Apostle and of the Holy Childhood have spread the proclamation of the Good News and helped to found and to consolidate the Churches in new territories.
The Missionary Union for the Clergy has encouraged the clergy and Religious to pay increased attention to evangelization.
All this has inspired in the Christian people a reawakening of faith and love, combined with great missionary enthusiasm.
Dear friends of the Pontifical Mission Societies, thanks also to the missionary animation you carry out in parishes and Dioceses, prayers and material support for the missions are today regarded as an integral part of every Christian's life.
Just as the early Church sent the "aid" collected in Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem for the Christians of that Church (cf. Rom Rm 15,25-27), so today a responsible spirit of sharing and communion involves the faithful of every community in supporting the needs of the mission lands.
Your Statutes, highlighting that the mission, God's work in history, is not a mere instrument but an event that puts everyone at the disposal of the Gospel and of the Spirit (cf. art. 1), encourage you to work to enable Christians to grow in the knowledge that missionary commitment involves them in the spiritual dynamic of Baptism, gathering them together in communion around Christ to participate in his mission (cf. ibid.).
This intense missionary dynamic that involves Ecclesial Communities and individual members of the faithful has developed in recent years into a promising missionary cooperation.
You are important witnesses of it, because everywhere you help to nourish that universal missionary spirit which was the badge of your birth as Mission Societies and has been the strength of your development.
Continue to carry out this precious service to the Ecclesial Communities, encouraging their reciprocal cooperation. Harmony of intentions and the hoped-for unity of evangelizing action grow to the extent that the reference of every activity is God who is Love and the pierced Heart of Christ in which this love is supremely expressed (cf. Deus Caritas Est ).
In this way, dear friends, none of your actions will ever be reduced to mere organizational efficiency or linked to individual interests of any kind, but will always be revealed as a manifestation of divine Love.
Moreover, the fact that you come from different Dioceses makes it even clearer that the Pontifical Mission Societies, "Although they are the Societies of the Pope... belong to all the Bishops and to the entire People of God" (Cooperatio Missionalis, n. 4).
Dear National Directors, I address my thanks to you especially, for all you do to meet the needs of evangelization. May your commitment be an incentive to all who benefit from your aid to accept the invaluable gift of salvation and to open their hearts to Christ, the one Redeemer.
With these sentiments, as I invoke the motherly assistance of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here and to the particular Churches you represent.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am pleased to welcome you, Pastors of the Church in the ecclesiastical region of Quebec who have come to make your ad limina visit and to share your worries and hopes with the Successor of Peter and his collaborators.
Our meeting is an expression of the deep communion that unites each one of your Dioceses with the See of Peter. I thank Bishop Gilles Cazabon, President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, for presenting the sometimes difficult context in which you carry out your pastoral ministry. Through you, I would also like to greet warmly the members of your Dioceses, the priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay people, with appreciation for the part that many play in the life of the Church. May God bless the generous efforts made to proclaim to all the Good News of the Risen Lord!
With the three other groups of Bishops from your Country, I will have the occasion to continue my Reflection on important topics for the Church's mission in Canadian society, marked by pluralism, subjectivism and increasing secularism.
In 2008, when Quebec will be celebrating its fourth centenary, your region will host the International Eucharistic Congress. I would also like first of all to invite your Dioceses to a renewal of the meaning and practice of the Eucharist, through a rediscovery of the essential place that "the Eucharist, the gift of God for the life of the world" must have in the life of the Church. In fact, in your quinquennial reports, you have stressed the notable decline in religious practice in recent years, noting in particular that few young people go to Eucharistic gatherings. The faithful must be convinced that it is vital to take part regularly in Sunday Mass if their faith is to increase and be expressed coherently.
Indeed, the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life, unites us and conforms us to the Son of God. It also builds the Church and strengthens her unity as the Body of Christ; no Christian community can be established if it is not founded and centred in the Eucharistic celebration.
In spite of the ever greater difficulties that you are experiencing, it is the duty of Pastors to offer to all the effective possibility of fulfilling the Sunday precept and to invite them to participate. Gathered in church to celebrate the Pasch of the Lord, the faithful draw from this Sacrament light and strength in order to live their baptismal vocation to the full.
Furthermore, the meaning of the Sacrament does not end with the celebration. In "receiving the Bread of Life, the disciples of Christ ready themselves to undertake with the strength of the Risen Lord and his Spirit the tasks which await them in their ordinary life" (Dies Domini, n. 45). Having lived and proclaimed the presence of the Risen One, the faithful will have at heart to be evangelizers and witnesses in their daily life.
However, the decline in the number of priests, which sometimes makes the celebration of Sunday Mass impossible in certain places, disconcertingly calls into question the place of sacramentality in the life of the Church. The needs of pastoral organization must not compromise the authenticity of the ecclesiology that is expressed in it. The central role of the priest, who teaches, sanctifies and governs the community in persona Christi capitis, must not be minimized. The ministerial priesthood is indispensable to the existence of an ecclesial community. The importance of the role of lay people, whose generous service to the Christian communities I acknowledge, must never overshadow the ministry of priests, which is absolutely indispensable to the life of the Church. Thus, the ministry of the priest cannot be entrusted to others without damaging the authenticity of the very existence of the Church. Furthermore, how can young men desire to become priests if the role of the ordained ministry is not clearly defined and recognized?
Nonetheless, it is always necessary to point out as a real sign of hope the thirst for renewal that is making itself felt among the faithful. The World Youth Day events in Toronto have had a positive impact on many young Canadians. The celebration of the Year of the Eucharist has made a spiritual awakening possible, especially through the development of Eucharistic Adoration. The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass but strictly linked to the celebration, is also of great value for the life of the Church, for it aspires to sacramental and spiritual communion. As John Paul II wrote, "If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the "art of prayer', how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 25). From this experience we cannot but receive strength, comfort and support.
The life of prayer and contemplation founded on the Eucharistic mystery is also at the heart of the vocation of consecrated people who have chosen the path of the sequela Christi, to give themselves to the Lord with an undivided heart in an ever more intimate relationship with him. By their unconditional attachment to Christ and to his Church, they have the special mission to reminding everyone of the universal vocation to holiness.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the Church is grateful to the Institutes of Consecrated Life of your Country for the apostolic and spiritual commitment of their members. This commitment is expressed in many ways but especially through contemplative life, which causes a ceaseless prayer of praise and intercession to rise to God, and also in the generous service of the catechetical and charitable activities of your Dioceses and closeness to the most underprivileged members of society, thus manifesting the Lord's bounty to the humble and the poor. It is through this daily commitment that the search for holiness, which consecrated people wish to live, matures, particularly through a way of life different from that of the world and the surrounding culture.
However, through these commitments it is of paramount importance that while having an intense spiritual life, consecrated men and women proclaim that God alone can give fullness to human existence.
To help consecrated people live their specific vocation in authentic fidelity to the Church and to her Magisterium, I therefore ask you to pay special attention to strengthening relations of trust with them and with their Institutes. Consecrated life is a gift of God for the benefit of the entire Church and for the service of life in the world. It is therefore necessary that it develop in solid ecclesial communion.
The challenges that confront the consecrated life can only be faced by showing profound unity among its members and with the whole of the Church and her Pastors. I therefore invite consecrated people, men and women, to increase their sense of Church and their concern to work ever more closely with the Pastors, accepting and spreading the Church's teaching in its integrity and completeness.
Ecclesial communion, which is based on the person of Jesus Christ himself, also demands fidelity to the Church's teaching, especially through a correct interpretation of the Second Vatican Council: in other words, as I have said before, in "the "hermeneutic of reform', of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us" (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 January 2006, p. 5). Indeed, if we read and receive the Council in this way, "It can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church" (ibid., p. 6).
The renewal of priestly and Religious vocations must also be a permanent concern for the Church in your Country. True pastoral care for vocations will draw strength from the lives of men and women who witness to passionate love for God and for their brethren, in faithfulness to Christ and the Church. And one cannot overlook the essential place of confident prayer in order to create a new sensitivity in the Christian people that will enable the young to respond to the Lord's call. A primordial duty for you and for the entire Christian community is to fearlessly transmit the Lord's call, inspire vocations and accompany young people on the path of discernment and commitment in the joy of giving themselves in celibacy. In this spirit, it is your task to be attentive to the catechesis provided for children and young people, to enable them to know the truth of the Christian mystery and to have access to Christ.
On this topic I therefore invite the entire Catholic community of Quebec to renew its adherence to the truth of the Church's teaching with regard to theology and morals, two inseparable aspects of being Christians in the world. The faithful cannot subscribe to the ideologies that are spreading in society today without losing their own identity.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of our meeting I would like to encourage you warmly in your ministry at the service of the Church in Canada. May the Risen Christ give you joy and peace as you lead the faithful on the paths of hope, so that they may be authentic Gospel witnesses in Canadian society. I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I meet you today with great joy on this 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Pontifical Lateran University. I greet you all with affection and I thank you for the great affection that I have encountered. I warmly thank Mons. Livio Melina for his kind words and also for his briefness. We will be able to read what he wished to say, while more time will be left for friendly exchanges.
The beginning of your Institute is connected with a singular event: on that day, 13 May 1981, my beloved Predecessor John Paul II suffered the well-known serious attack on his life during the Audience at which he was to have announced the creation of your Institute.
This event has special importance at this commemoration, which we are celebrating a little more than a year after his death. You have wished to emphasize it with the fitting initiative of a Congress on The legacy of John Paul II on marriage and family: loving human love.
You rightly feel that this legacy of yours is very special, since the vision that is one of the structural centres of his mission and reflections was addressed to you and you are its perpetuators: God's plan for marriage and the family.
This bequest is not merely a collection of doctrines or ideas but first and foremost a teaching endowed with enlightening unity on the meaning of human love and life. The presence of numerous families at this Audience - therefore not only the students of the present and the past but above all the students of the future - is a particularly eloquent testimony of how the teaching of this truth has been received and has born fruit.
As a young priest, Karol Wojty≥a already had the idea of "teaching how to love". It was later to fill him with enthusiasm when, as a young Bishop, he confronted the difficult times that followed the publication of my Predecessor Paul VI's prophetic and ever timely Encyclical Humanae Vitae.
It was then that he realized the need for a systematic study of this topic. It was the basis of this teaching which he later offered to the entire Church in his unforgettable Catechesis on human love.
Thus, two fundamental elements were highlighted that in recent years you have sought to examine more deeply and that give novelty to your Institute as an academic reality with a specific mission in the Church.
The first element concerns the fact that marriage and the family are rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny. Sacred Scripture reveals that the vocation to love is part of the authentic image of God which the Creator has desired to impress upon his creature, calling them to resemble him precisely to the extent in which they are open to love.
Consequently, the sexual difference that distinguishes the male from the female body is not a mere biological factor but has a far deeper significance. It expresses that form of love with which man and woman, by becoming one flesh, as Sacred Scripture says, can achieve an authentic communion of people open to the transmission of life and who thus cooperate with God in the procreation of new human beings.
A second element marks the newness of John Paul II's teaching on human love: his original way of interpreting God's plan precisely in the convergence of divine revelation with the human experience. Indeed, in Christ, fullness of the revelation of the Father's love, is also expressed the full truth of the human vocation to love that can only be found completely in the sincere gift of self.
In my recent Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to emphasize that it is precisely through love that "the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny" (n. 1) shines forth.
In other words, God used the way of love to reveal the intimate mystery of his Trinitarian life. Furthermore, the close relationship that exists between the image of God-Love and human love enables us to understand that: "Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love" (n. 11).
It is here that the duty incumbent on the Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in academic structures overall stands out: to illumine the truth of love as a path to fullness in every form of human life. The great challenge of the new evangelization that John Paul II proposed with such enthusiasm needs to be sustained with a truly profound reflection on human love, since precisely this love is the privileged path that God chose to reveal himself to man and in this love he calls human beings to communion in the Trinitarian life.
This approach enables us also to overcome a private conception of love that is so widespread today. Authentic love is transformed into a light that guides the whole of life towards its fullness, generating a society in which human beings can live. The communion of life and love which is marriage thus emerges as an authentic good for society.
Today, the need to avoid confusing marriage with other types of unions based on weak love is especially urgent. It is only the rock of total, irrevocable love between a man and a woman that can serve as the foundation on which to build a society that will become a home for all mankind.
The importance of the Institute's work in the Church's mission explains its structure: in fact, John Paul II approved a single Institute but with different headquarters located on the five continents, for the purpose of offering a reflection that would display the riches of the one truth in the plurality of cultures.
This unity of vision in research and teaching, embracing the diversity of places and sensibilities, constitutes a value which you must safeguard, developing the riches embedded in each culture. This feature of the Institute has proven to be particularly suited to the study of a reality such as that of the marriage and family. Your work can express how the gift of creation lived in the different cultures was raised to a redeeming grace by Christ's redemption.
To be successful in your mission as the faithful heirs of the Institute's Founder, beloved John Paul II, I ask you to look to Mary Most Holy, Mother of Fair Love. The redeeming love of the Incarnate Word must be transformed into "fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 42), for every marriage and in every family.
I offer you all, dear teachers, students of today and yesterday and the staff in charge, as well as all the families who look up to your Institute, my most cordial good wishes, which I accompany with a special Apostolic Blessing.
Friday 12May 2006
Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
Esteemed members of the Anima College,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The commemoration of the canonical establishment 600 years ago of Santa Maria dell'Anima brings you to the Pope's house today. I therefore offer you a warm welcome here at the Vatican and I greet in particular the Rector and those in charge of this Pontifical Institute.
What began in 1406 with the Bull Piae Postulatio of my Predecessor Innocent VII, has borne abundant fruit down the centuries: the Santa Maria dell'Anima Institute was and is a home for German-speaking Catholics in Rome, for those who visit the Eternal City and especially for the large stable number of German-speaking Christian faithful who live and work here. The name Anima likewise denotes a residential college of priests whose members study at one of the Pontifical Athenaeums for advanced studies located in the city or work in the Roman Curia at the service of the universal Church. I address to you all a cordial "Hello!", together with my thanks for your faithfulness to the Successor of Peter, whom you desire to strengthen with this meeting!
The dell'Anima Institute has been marked from the outset by two distinctive features: veneration for Mary, Mother of God, and its special ties with the Holy See to which it is subordinate. The fact that the Blessed Virgin is venerated with the special title of "Santa Maria dell'Anima", Mother of souls, in your Institute and in your community highlights two aspects: Mary keeps her precious hand on the souls of the numerous pilgrims who walk the path of life and, for Rome, Santa Maria dell'Anima has become an important, and in many cases crucial, stopping place.
At the same time, this title of Mary reminds us of the deceased whom in our language we call "poor souls" and whose memory makes us aware of our mortality and our eternal destination to a life in the infinity of God's light and love. May Mary, our heavenly Mother, keep her protective hand upon the parish life of the Anima community and upon the members of the Collegiate!
Ever since 1859, when my Predecessor, Bl. Pope Pius IX entrusted to the Anima Foundation the management of a college for priests, this Institute has rendered a special liaison service in the Church. The priests and seminarians who live at the Anima are able to understand the greatness and beauty of the universal Church and her catholicity, and find pleasure in the "romanitas Ecclesiae". I hope that the orientation of this German and at the same time Roman Institution will communicate to its residents and its guests special love for the Successors of the Apostle Peter and for the Holy See.
The German-speaking community of Rome finds its homeland in the Church of Santa Maria dell'Anima. This Church offers Catholics from the German-speaking countries the possibility of praying, singing and receiving the sacraments in their own language. I ask the priests and all who are responsible for it always to give priority in the dell'Anima community to sacramental life rather than to any of the other activities; for wherever German-speaking Catholics in Rome seek and find their own spiritual homeland, Jesus Christ, Lord of the Church, will desire to feel at home in their hearts. If the Lord is the centre of your parish life, your community will increasingly become an apostolic and missionary community that shines out in its surroundings and especially among the numerous visitors to this Church.
Dear friends, the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the canonical establishment of Santa Maria dell'Anima must be a fruitful spiritual jubilee for you. As I thank you for your affection, through the intercession of Mary, the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Saturday 13 May 2006
I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Holy See.
I thank you for your warm good wishes for the first anniversary of my Pontificate and the greetings you have brought to me from H.E. President Georgi Parvanov, and I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by conveying to him my cordial good wishes for him and for the whole of the Bulgar People. In particular, I am praying to the Lord for the population recently tried by the serious floods, that they may soon return to normal life and enjoy the solidarity of the international community.
As you mentioned, Your Excellency, still today the example of the two brothers, Sts Cyril and Methodius, the first evangelizers of your Country, is a model of dialogue between cultures. It was thanks to their apostolic zeal that the Good News of Christ reached the inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe in their own language, and a new culture, nourished by the Gospel and the Christian Tradition, was born and was able to develop under their guidance through the liturgy, the law and the institutions, until it became the common good of the Slav peoples.
These two apostles, overcoming the rivalry and dissent of the epoch, have shown us the paths of dialogue and unity to be built ceaselessly, and they therefore also became the Patron Saints of Europe. Each year, on the occasion of their feast, a delegation from your Country pays a visit to the Bishop of Rome to commemorate them and to continue to weave, after their example and in their footsteps, ties of brotherhood and peace.
Today, Mr Ambassador, your Country is preparing to join the European Union. Because of its history and culture, the Bulgar People, which continues to make its Christian heritage fruitful, is asked to play an important role in helping to restore to our Continent the spiritual enthusiasm which it often lacks.
I am thinking in particular of the situation of the youth of our countries, who readily witness to their noble aspirations at the time of important gatherings such as the World Youth Days, but who have difficulty in finding their place in our societies that are too exclusively centred on the consumption of material goods and the sometimes individualistic search for well-being, while young people need spiritual and moral values in order to build their personality and to prepare to participate in the construction of society.
Your Country will be able to contribute its special stone to the common building, so that it is not only a great market for the exchange of more and more abundant material goods but also has a soul, a true spiritual dimension that reflects the heritage of so many witnesses of the past and may be a fertile terrain for life and creativity to produce the Europeans of the future.
Thus, the young generations will be able to rediscover trust in the future and engage without fear in long-term projects, giving birth to new families solidly founded upon marriage and open to welcoming children, learning to serve the common good of society through political, financial and social activity, and also showing solidarity with the least privileged and with immigrants who come from other spheres in search of shelter or another chance.
In our uncertain and troubled world, Europe can become a witness and messenger of the necessary dialogue between cultures and religions. Indeed, the history of the Old Continent, deeply marked by divisions and fratricidal wars but also by its efforts to overcome them, invites it to carry out this mission as a response to the expectations of so many men and women in many countries of the world who are still aspiring to development, democracy and religious freedom.
As you know, the Holy See never ceases to act within its own province to encourage true dialogue between nations and between religious leaders. It is primarily a matter of discouraging violence, dangerously on the rise today, mainly by breaking down the barriers of ignorance and distrust that can give rise to it.
Moreover, since Europe cannot withdraw into itself, it is right to foster equality in the distribution of wealth in the world and to bring about the real development of Africa, which can correct the injustices of the current imbalance between North and South, a factor of tension threatening peace. I am sure that your Government will be able to become a messenger of tolerance and mutual respect in the concert of nations, as you yourself stressed.
Mr Ambassador, I am glad to be able to greet through you the Catholic community residing in Bulgaria. It cherishes the memory of Bl. Pope John XXIII who was an appreciated Apostolic Delegate in your Country, and the memorable visit of my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
I know the important part that the Catholic Church is playing in the development of the Country, especially thanks to the social assistance directed by Caritas, and I encourage one and all to continue to do their utmost to serve the common good of the Nation.
I ask the Catholic faithful, united around their pastors, to take pains to collaborate whenever possible with their brethren of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, whose Pastors I likewise greet, so that God's Gospel may be diffused. May they know that they can count on the encouragement and prayer of the Successor of Peter, so that they may find ever renewed joy and vitality in the witness they bear to Christ!
Mr Ambassador, at the time when your mission to the Holy See is officially beginning, I express my best wishes to you for its success. Rest assured that you will always find among my collaborators an attentive welcome and cordial understanding.
Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, your collaborators at the Embassy and the whole of the Bulgar People, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.
Reverend Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to meet you at the end of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Family, created by my Venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, on 9 May 1981, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in these days. I address my cordial greeting to each one of you with a special thought for Cardinal Alfonso Lůpez Trujillo, whom I thank for having interpreted your common sentiments.
This meeting has given you an opportunity to examine the challenges and pastoral projects concerning the family, rightly considered a domestic church and a sanctuary of life. It is a vast, complex and delicate field of apostolate to which you devote energy and enthusiasm, with the intention of promoting the "Gospel of the family and of life". In this regard, how can we forget the broad and far-sighted vision of my Predecessors and especially of John Paul II, who have courageously promoted the cause of the family, considering it a decisive and irreplaceable value for the common good of the peoples?
The family, founded on marriage, is the "patrimony of humanity", a fundamental social institution; it is the vital cell and pillar of society and this concerns believers and non-believers alike. It is a reality that all States must hold in the highest regard because, as John Paul II liked to repeat, "the future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Familiaris Consortio FC 86).
In the Christian vision, moreover, marriage, which Christ raised to the most exalted dignity of a sacrament, confers greater splendour and depth on the conjugal bond and more powerfully binds the spouses who, blessed by the Lord of the Covenant, promise each other faithfulness until death in love that is open to life.
For them, the Lord is the centre and heart of the family. He accompanies them in their union and sustains them in their mission to raise children to maturity. In this way the Christian family not only cooperates with God in generating natural life, but also in cultivating the seeds of divine life given in Baptism. These are the well-known principles of the Christian view of marriage and the family. I recalled them once again last Thursday, when I spoke to the members of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.
In today's world, where certain erroneous concepts concerning the human being, freedom and love are spreading, we must never tire of presenting anew the truth about the family institution, as God has desired it since creation. Unfortunately, the number of separations and divorces is increasing.
They destroy family unity and create numerous problems for children, the innocent victims of these situations. In our day it is especially the stability of the family that is at risk; to safeguard it one often has to swim against the tide of the prevalent culture, and this demands patience, effort, sacrifice and the ceaseless quest for mutual understanding. Today, however, it is possible for husbands and wives to overcome their difficulties and remain faithful to their vocation with recourse to God's support, with prayer and participating devotedly in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The unity and strength of families helps society to breathe the genuine human values and to be open to the Gospel. The apostolate of many of the Movements called to work in this context in harmonious understanding with the dioceses and parishes contributes to this.
Furthermore, a particularly sensitive topic today is the respect due to the human embryo, which ought always to be born from an act of love and should already be treated as a person (cf. Evangelium Vitae, EV 60). The progress of science and technology in the area of bioethics is transformed into a threat when human beings lose the sense of their own limitations and, in practice, claim to replace God the Creator. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae reasserts clearly that human procreation must always be the fruit of the conjugal act with its twofold unitive and procreative meaning (cf. n. 12).
The greatness of conjugal love in accordance with the divine plan demands it, as I recalled in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Eros reduced to pure "sex', has become a commodity, a mere "thing' to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.... Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body" (n. 5).
Thanks to God, many, especially young people, are rediscovering the value of chastity, which appears more and more as a reliable guarantee of authentic love. The historical period in which we live asks Christian families to witness with courageous coherence to the fact that procreation is the fruit of love. Such a witness will not fail to encourage politicians and legislators to safeguard the rights of the family. Indeed, it is well known that juridical solutions for the so-called "de facto" unions are gaining credibility; although they reject the obligations of marriage, they claim enjoyment of the same rights.
Furthermore, at times there are even attempts to give marriage a new definition in order to legalize homosexual unions, attributing to them the right to adopt children. Vast areas of the world are suffering from the so-called "demographic winter", with the consequent gradual ageing of the population. Families sometimes seem ensnared by the fear of life and of parenthood. It is necessary to restore their trust, so that they can continue to carry out their noble mission of procreation in love.
I am grateful to your Pontifical Council because at various continental and national meetings, it seeks to enter into dialogue with those who have political and legislative responsibility in this regard, as it also strives to set up a vast network of conversations with Bishops, offering the local Churches the opportunity of courses for those with pastoral responsibilities.
Next, I take this opportunity to repeat my invitation to all the diocesan communities to take part with their delegations in the Fifth World Meeting of Families that will take place next July in Valencia, Spain, and in which, please God, I will have the joy of participating.
Thank you again for your work; may the Lord continue to make it fruitful! For this I assure you of my remembrance in prayer while, invoking Mary's motherly protection, I impart to all of you my Blessing, which I willingly extend to families so that they will continue to build their homes on the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Speeches 2005-13 20