Speeches 2005-13 10906
Before entering the Shrine of Manoppello, the Holy Father greeted the faithful gathered outside it:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for this most cordial welcome. I see that the Church is a large family. Wherever the Pope goes the family meets with great joy.
For me this is a sign of lively faith, of communion and of the peace that faith creates, and I am deeply grateful to you for this welcome. Thus, I see on your faces the full beauty of this Region of Italy here.
A special greeting to the sick: we know that the Lord is especially close to you, helps you and accompanies you in your sufferings. You are in our prayers, and pray for us, too!
I offer a special greeting to the young people and children making their First Communion. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for your faith.
As the Psalms say, we are all "seeking the Face of the Lord". And this is also the meaning of my Visit. Let us seek together to know the Face of the Lord ever better, and in the Face of the Lord let us find this impetus of love and peace which also reveals to us the path of our life.
Thank you, and my best wishes to you all!
Venerable Brother in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all, I must once again say a heartfelt "thank you" for this welcome, for your words, Your Excellency, so profound, so friendly, for the expression of your friendship and for the deeply meaningful gifts: the Face of Christ venerated here, for me, for my house, and then the gifts of your land that express the beauty and generosity of the earth, of the people who live and work here, and the goodness of the Creator himself. I simply want to thank the Lord for today's simple, family meeting in a place where we can meditate on the mystery of divine love, contemplating the image of the Holy Face.
I extend my most heartfelt gratitude to all of you present here for your cordial welcome and for the dedication and discretion with which you have supported my private pilgrimage, which nevertheless, as an ecclesial pilgrimage, cannot be entirely private.
I greet and thank in particular, I repeat, your Archbishop, a longstanding friend. We worked together in the Theological Commission. And in many conversations I always learned from his wisdom, and also from his books.
Thank you for your gifts which I very much appreciate as "signs", as Archbishop Forte has called them.
Indeed, they are signs of the affective and effective communion which binds the people of this beloved Abruzzi Region to the Successor of Peter.
I address a special greeting to you, priests, men and women religious and seminarians gathered here. I am particularly glad to see a large number of seminarians: the future of the Church in our midst. Since it is impossible to meet the entire diocesan Community - perhaps that will be for another time - I am glad that you are representing it, people already dedicated to the priestly ministry and the consecrated life or who are on the way to the priesthood.
You are people whom I like to think of as in love with Christ, attracted by him and determined to make your own life a continuous quest for his Holy Face.
Lastly, I address a grateful thought to the community of the Capuchin Fathers who are offering us hospitality and who for centuries have cared for this Shrine, the goal of so many pilgrims.
During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two Apostles who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River, as we read at the beginning of John's Gospel (cf. 1: 35-37).
The Evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: ""What do you seek?'. And they answered him, "Rabbi... where are you staying?'". And he said to them, "Come and see" (cf. Jn 1,38-39).
That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable experience which prompted them to say: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1,41).
The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple "rabbi" had acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited for centuries.
But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples!
They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his "Face" would prove, so that even after living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him say at the Last Supper: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?". And then the words that sum up the novelty of Jesus' revelation: "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14,9).
Only after his Passion when they encountered him Risen, when the Spirit enlightened their minds and their hearts, would the Apostles understand the significance of the words Jesus had spoken and recognize him as the Son of God, the Messiah promised for the world's redemption. They were then to become his unflagging messengers, courageous witnesses even to martyrdom.
"He who has seen me has seen the Father". Yes, dear brothers and sisters, to "see God" it is necessary to know Christ and to let oneself be moulded by his Spirit who guides believers "into all the truth" (cf. Jn 16,13). Those who meet Jesus, who let themselves be attracted by him and are prepared to follow him even to the point of sacrificing their lives, personally experience, as he did on the Cross, that only the "grain of wheat" that falls into the earth and dies, bears "much fruit" (Jn 12,24).
This is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death: he who takes it and "hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (Jn 12,25). In other words, he lives in God already on this earth, attracted and transformed by the dazzling brightness of his Face.
This is the experience of God's true friends, the saints who, in the brethren, especially the poorest and neediest, recognized and loved the Face of that God, lovingly contemplated for hours in prayer. For us they are encouraging examples to imitate; they assure us that if we follow this path, the way of love, with fidelity, we too, as the Psalmist sings, will be satisfied with God's presence (cf. Ps 17: 15).
"Jesu... quam bonus te quaerentibus! - How kind you are, Jesus, to those who seek you!". This is what we have just sung in the ancient hymn "Jesu, dulcis memoria" [Jesus, the very thought of you], which some people attribute to St Bernard.
It is a hymn that acquires rare eloquence in the Shrine dedicated to the Holy Face, which calls to mind Psalm 24: "Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob" (v. 6).
But which is "the generation" of those who seek the Face of God, which generation deserves to "ascend the hill of the Lord" and "stand in his holy place"?
The Psalmist explains: it consists of those who have "clean hands and a pure heart", who do not speak falsehoods, who do not "swear deceitfully" to their neighbour (cf. vv. 3-4). Therefore, in order to enter into communion with Christ and to contemplate his Face, to recognize the Lord's Face in the faces of the brethren and in daily events, we require "clean hands and a pure heart".
Clean hands, that is, a life illumined by the truth of love that overcomes indifference, doubt, falsehood and selfishness; and pure hearts are essential too, hearts enraptured by divine beauty, as the Little Teresa of Lisieux says in her prayer to the Holy Face, hearts stamped with the hallmark of the Face of Christ.
Dear priests, if the holiness of the Face of Christ remains impressed within you, pastors of Christ's flock, do not fear: the faithful entrusted to your care will also be infected with it and transformed.
And you, seminarians, who are training to be responsible guides of the Christian people, do not allow yourselves to be attracted by anything other than Jesus and the desire to serve his Church.
I would like to say as much to you, men and women religious, so that your activities may be a visible reflection of divine goodness and mercy.
"Your Face, O Lord, I seek": seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all of us Christians; indeed, we are "the generation" which seeks his Face in our day, the Face of the "God of Jacob". If we persevere in our quest for the Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, he, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory for ever: "Sis Jesu nostrum gaudium, qui es futurus praemium: sit nostra in te gloria, per cuncta semper saecula".
This is the certainty that motivated the saints of your Region, among whom I would like to mention in particular Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and Camillus de Lellis; our reverent remembrance and our prayer is addressed to them.
But let us now address a thought of special devotion to the "Queen of all the saints", the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate in the various shrines and chapels scattered across the valleys and mountains of the Abruzzi Region. May Our Lady, in whose face - more than in any other creature - we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word, watch over the families and parishes and over the cities and nations of the whole world.
May the Mother of the Creator also help us to respect nature, a great gift of God that we can admire here, looking at the marvellous mountains surrounding us. This gift, however, is exposed more and more to the serious risks of environmental deterioration and must therefore be defended and protected. This is urgently necessary, as Archbishop Forte noted and as is appropriately highlighted by the Day of Reflection and Prayer for the Safeguarding of Creation, which is being celebrated by the Church in Italy this very day.
Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you once again for your presence and for your gifts, I invoke the Blessing of God upon you and upon all your loved ones with the ancient biblical formula: "May the Lord bless you and keep you: may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace" (cf. Nm Nb 6,24-26). Amen!
I am pleased to receive you at this Audience for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Chile to the Holy See. I welcome you as you assume the lofty responsibility that your Government has entrusted to you, and I offer you my best wishes that your mission will continue to strengthen and make fruitful the good diplomatic relations that exist between your Country and this Apostolic See.
Thank you for the kind words you have just addressed to me and for the respectful greeting that H.E. President Michelle Bachelet has desired to convey to me through you, Your Excellency, as an expression of the Chilean People's spiritual closeness to the Successor of Peter. This closeness has been built up in the course of history in concomitance with the Church's ceaseless work through her members and institutions.
Chile is approaching its bicentenary as a Republic. Its aspirations are born from a particularly significant period in which remarkable development goals have been achieved and institutions strengthened that seem to be thriving in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence.
The positive economic trend has also encouraged progress in areas such as education and health, as well as in social projects which aim to ensure that all citizens can live as fully befits their dignity.
These factors, as well as openness to horizons that extend beyond individual boundaries, are undoubtedly a cause of pleasure. They also call for a new sense of responsibility to ensure that the highest ideals, which are vital for all true progress and make it possible in the long run, continue to thrive.
As you said, Your Excellency, in order to further the common good, the perennial development of the values that must inspire technological achievements is a dimension which both the national and international communities must develop.
In this regard, the Church carries out her mission proclaiming Christ's Gospel, casting his light on the realities of the world and of humankind, and proclaiming through them the exalted dignity of the human being. Indeed, "faith throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man, thus guiding the mind towards solutions that are fully human" (Gaudium et Spes GS 11).
In this sense, the Church shares the desire for a justice that is not reduced by insufficient respect for human dignity or for the inalienable rights that derive from it.
These rights are inalienable precisely because man possesses them by his very nature, and consequently, they are not at the service of other interests. Among them should be mentioned first of all the right to life at every stage of its development and in all circumstances.
Mention should also be made of the right to form a family, based on bonds of love and faithfulness and established in marriage between a man and a woman, which must be given protection and assistance if it is to fulfil its incomparable task as a source of successful coexistence and as the basic cell of all society.
Moreover, the primary right to educate children in accordance with the ideals with which their parents have desired to enrich them by joyfully welcoming them into their lives is implicit in the family as a natural institution.
Your Excellency, you know well that your beloved Chilean Homeland counts on abundant historical and spiritual resources to face the future with well- founded hopes of attaining new goals of humanity, thereby also helping to encourage bonds of cooperation and peaceful coexistence in the concert of nations.
Proofs of this are Saints such as Teresa of Los Andes and Fr Alberto Hurtado, who have acquired such widespread fame.
The many natural gifts that the Creator has conferred upon the sons and daughters of Chile must continue to bear fruits that will pave the way to a more prosperous future for the generations to come; and may they be lovers of peace who keep to a transcendent path through life, in accordance with the Country's age-old Christian roots.
At the end of this Meeting, I renew my greeting and my welcome to you. I wish you a happy stay in Rome, which is not only rich in professional experiences but also personal ones. Rome is a city which in itself offers so many possibilities, and in a certain way is a privileged watchtower for understanding the ups and downs of the world.
With these sentiments, I invoke the motherly protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who under the title of Our Lady of Carmel is Patroness of Chileans. And I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to your distinguished family and to the rest of your loved ones, as well as to your colleagues at the Embassy.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1Jn 4,16). With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of Ontario, and I thank Bishop Smith for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, and to the successor of Peter, is an occasion to affirm your commitment to make Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through joyful witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.
The Evangelist John's numerous exhortations to abide in the love and truth of Christ evoke an appealing image of a sure and safe dwelling place. God first loves us (1Jn 4,10) and we, drawn towards this gift, find a resting place where we can "constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" (Deus Caritas Est ). Saint John was also compelled to urge his communities to remain in that love. Already some had been weakened by the disputes and distractions which eventually lead to division.
2. Dear Brothers, your own Diocesan communities are challenged to resonate with the living statement of faith: "we know and believe the love God has for us" (1Jn 4,16). These words, which eloquently reveal faith as personal adherence to God and concurrent assent to the whole truth that God reveals (cf. Dominus Iesus, 7), can be credibly proclaimed only in the wake of an encounter with Christ. Drawn by his love the believer entrusts his entire self to God and so becomes one with the Lord (cf. 1Co 6,17). In the Eucharist this union is strengthened and renewed by entering into the very dynamic of Christ's self-giving so as to share in the divine life: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (Jn 6,56 cf. Deus Caritas Est ).
St John's admonition, however, still holds. In increasingly secularized societies such as yours, the Lord's outpouring of love to humanity can remain unnoticed or rejected. By imagining that withdrawing from this relationship is somehow a key to his own liberation, man in fact becomes a stranger to himself, since "in reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et spes GS 22). Dismissive of the love which discloses the fullness of man's truth, many men and women continue to walk away from the Lord's abode into a wilderness of individual isolation, social fragmentation and loss of cultural identity.
3. Within this perspective, one sees that the fundamental task of the evangelization of culture is the challenge to make God visible in the human face of Jesus. In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church. This is our mission. It expresses our ecclesial nature and ensures that every initiative of evangelization concurrently strengthens Christian identity. In this regard, we must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the 'Kingdom of God', to indefinite talk of 'kingdom values' weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church's contribution to the regeneration of society. When believing is replaced by 'doing' and witness by talk of 'issues', there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord's presence, "burned within them" impelling them to "tell their story" (cf. Lc 24,32 Lc 35).
Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities. At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of 'tolerance' your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of 'freedom of choice' it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.
False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendour of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. Doctrinal Note The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 2-3; 6). In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.
4. Within the context of the evangelization of culture, I wish to mention the fine network of Catholic schools at the heart of ecclesial life in your Province. Catechesis and religious education is a taxing apostolate. I thank and encourage those many lay men and women, together with Religious, who strive to ensure that your young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received. More than ever this demands that witness, nourished by prayer, be the all-encompassing milieu of every Catholic school. Teachers, as witnesses, account for the hope that nourishes their own lives (cf. 1P 3,15) by living the truth they propose to their pupils, always in reference to the one they have encountered and whose dependable goodness they have sampled with joy (cf. Address to Rome's Ecclesial Diocesan Convention, Living the Truth that God Loves his People, 6 June 2005). And so with Saint Augustine they say: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (St. Augustine, Sermons, 23:2).
A particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of 'intellectual charity' which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who "enlightens every person who comes into the world" (Jn 1,9) and satisfies every desire of humanity.
5. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and encourage you in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Experience his love and in this way cause the light of God to enter into the world! (cf. Deus Caritas Est ). Invoking upon you the intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.
Madam Chancellor and Mr Prime Minister,
My Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear fellow countrymen!
Today with great emotion I set foot, for the first time since my elevation to the Chair of Peter, on German and Bavarian soil. I return to my homeland and among my own people, in order to visit certain places of fundamental importance in my life. I thank you, Mr President of the Republic, for your cordial words of welcome. In these words I sense a faithful echo of the sentiments of all our people. I thank the Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, and the Prime Minister, Dr Edmund Stoiber, for the kindness with which they have honoured my arrival on German and Bavarian soil. I also offer greetings and the expression of my gratitude to the members of Government, the ecclesiastical, civil and military authorities, and all those who are here to welcome me on this visit, which is so meaningful for me.
At this moment, many memories of the years I passed in Munich and Regensburg come back to mind: memories of people and events which have deeply marked my life. Conscious of how much I have received, I have come here above all to express my deep gratitude towards all those who helped shape me as a person over decades of my life. But I also come here as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to reaffirm and strengthen the deep bonds linking the See of Rome and the Church in our native land.
These bonds have a history going back centuries and constantly nourished by firm adherence to the values of the Christian faith, an adherence in which the region of Bavaria can take particular pride. It is witnessed to by famous monuments, majestic cathedrals, statues and paintings of great artistic value, literary works, cultural initiatives and above all, the many individual and community events which reflect the Christian beliefs of successive generations in this Land which is so dear to me. The relations between Bavaria and the Holy See, notwithstanding some moments of tension, have always been marked by cordial respect. At decisive moments in their history, the Bavarian people have always confirmed their sincere devotion to the See of Peter and their firm attachment to the Catholic faith. The Mariensäule, which stands in the central square of our capital Munich, is an eloquent testimony to that faith.
Today’s social context is in many ways different from that of the past. Still, I think we are all united in the hope that new generations will remain faithful to the spiritual patrimony which has withstood all the crises of history. My visit to the land of my birth is meant to be an encouragement in this regard: Bavaria is a part of Germany; sharing in the ups and downs of Germany’s history, and has good reason to be proud of the traditions inherited from the past. My hope is that all my compatriots in Bavaria and throughout Germany will play an active part in transmitting to tomorrow’s citizens the fundamental values of the Christian faith, which sustains all and is not a source of division, but rather opens up and brings closer together persons of different peoples, cultures and religions. I would gladly have visited other parts of Germany too, including all the various local Churches, especially those linked to personal memories. I have received many signs of affection from everywhere, and especially from the Dioceses of Bavaria, during this early stage of my Pontificate and over all these years. This is a source of strength to me every day. So I want to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude. I have also been able to read about and to follow what has been done in these weeks and months, and how many people have helped in every way possible to make this a wonderful visit. And now let us thank the Lord who gives us also the Bavarian sky, since this was not something we could have ordered. Thank you! May God repay you for all that has been done by all sorts of people – I will come back to this on other occasions – in order to guarantee the smooth running of this visit and these days.
In addition to this greeting to you, my dear compatriots – I see before me the stages of my visit, from Marktl and Tittmoning to Aschau, Traunstein, Regensburg and Munich – in addition to you I wish naturally to greeting with affection all the people of Bavaria and the whole of Germany. I am thinking here not only of the Catholic faithful, to whom my visit is principally directed, but also of the members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, particularly Evangelical and Orthodox Christians. With your words, Mr President of the Republic, you have interpreted the sentiments of my own heart: even if five hundred years cannot simply be eliminated by a bureaucratic move or through intelligent speeches, we will be committed with heart and reason to draw closer one to another. Finally I greet the followers of other religions and all people of good will who have at heart the peace and freedom of this country and our world. May the Lord bless the efforts of all those concerned to build a future of true well-being, based on that justice which creates peace. I entrust these prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, venerated in this land as the Patrona Bavariae. I do so in the classic prayer of Jakob Balde, written here on the base of the Mariensäule: Rem regem regimen regionem religionem conserva Bavaris, Virgo Patrona, tuis! – Preserve, O Virgin and Patroness, for your Bavarian people, their goods (as they say in dialect, their “stuff”), their government, their land and their religion!
To all those present I offer a heartfelt “Grüß Gott!”
Madam Chancellor and Mr Prime Minister,
My Brother Cardinals, Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
It is very moving for me to stand once more in this beautiful square at the foot of the Mariensäule – in a place which, as was already pointed out, has witnessed two other decisive turning-points in my life. Here, as it was said, thirty years ago the faithful gave me a very warm welcome, and I entrusted to the Virgin Mary the path that lay ahead of me, since the move from a university chair to the ministry of Archbishop of Munich and Freising was a big step, and only with such protection and the palpable affection of the people of Munich and Bavaria could I hope to take up that ministry as the successor of Cardinal Döpfner. Then, again in 1982, I bade farewell here. Archbishop, later Cardinal, Hamer, the Archbishop of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was present, and he remarked: “The people of Munich are like the people of Naples: they want to touch their Archbishop and they love him”. He was amazed to see such warmth here in Munich, and to encounter the Bavarian heart in this place, where once more I entrusted myself to the Virgin.
I thank your, distinguished and dear Mr Minister President, for your cordial words of welcome in the name of the Bavarian government and people. I also offer a heartfelt thanks to my dear successor as Pastor of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, for his warm words of greeting. I greet Madam Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, and all the political, civil and military authorities taking part in this ceremony of welcome and prayer. I would like to offer a special greeting to the priests, especially those with whom I was able to work in my home Diocese of Munich and Freising. But I wish to greet all of you, my dear compatriots assembled in this square, with great heartfelt gratitude and affection. I thank you for your warm Bavarian welcome, and I thank, as I have already done at the airport, all those who helped to prepare this visit are now working so that everything will go so smoothly.
I hope you will allow me to recall on this occasion a few thoughts which I set down in my brief memoirs with regard to my appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. I was to become, and did become, the successor of Saint Corbinian. From my childhood I was very much taken with the story that a bear had attacked and killed the horse on the saint was riding across the Alps. Corbinian severely scolded the bear and he punished him by loading him down with all his baggage and making him carry it all the way to Rome. So the bear, carrying the baggage of the saint, had to go to Rome, and only there was he allowed by the saint to go free.
In 1977, when I had to face the difficult choice of whether or not to accept my appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, knowing that it would take me away from my usual work at the university and mean new work and new responsibilities, I had to do a lot of reflecting. And precisely then I remembered this bear and the interpretation of verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 73 that Saint Augustine, in a situation much like my own and in the context of his own priestly and episcopal ordination, had come up with and later set down in his sermons on the Psalms. In Psalm 73, the Psalmist asks why in this world good things often happen to bad people, while bad things happen to many good people. And he goes on to say: “I was foolish in my thinking, I stood in your presence like a dumb beast. But then I entered the sanctuary and I understood how even amid my troubles I was close to you and that you were always with me”. Augustine loved this Psalm and often made reference to it, seeing in the words “I stood in your presence like a dumb beast” (in Latin, iumentum)a reference to the beasts of burden used in North Africa to work the land. In this iumentum he saw an image of himself as a beast of burden for God, someone burdened by his responsibility, the sarcina episcopalis. He had chosen the life of a scholar and God had called him to become a “beast of burden”, a sturdy ox drawing the plough in God’s field, doing the heavy labour assigned to him. But he came to realize: just as the beast of burden is very close to the farmer, working under his direction, so I am very close to God, because thus I serve him directly for the building up of his Kingdom, the the building up of his Church.
With these words of the Bishop of Hippo in mind, I have found in Saint Corbinian’s bear a constant encouragement to carry out my ministry with confidence and joy – thirty years ago, and again now in my new task – and to say my daily “yes” to God: I have become for you a beast of burden, but as such “I am always with you” (Ps 73,23). Saint Corbinian’s bear was set free in Rome. In my case, the Lord decided otherwise. And so I find myself once more at the foot of the Mariensäule, imploring the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, not only for the city of Munich and for my beloved Bavaria, but for the universal Church and for all people of good will.
Speeches 2005-13 10906