Speeches 2005-13 14096

MEETING WITH PRIESTS AND PERMANENT DEACONS OF BAVARIA Cathedral of St Mary and St Corbinian, Freising Thursday, 14 September 2006

Dear Brothers in the episcopal and priestly ministry,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This moment fills me with joy and gratitude - gratitude for all that I have been able to experience and receive during this pastoral visit to Bavaria. I have sensed so much warmth, so much faith, so much joy in God. All this has affected me profoundly and will stay with me as a source of renewed vigour. I am also grateful to be able at last to return to Freising Cathedral and to see it in its new splendour. My thanks go to Cardinal Wetter, to the other two Bavarian Bishops, to all who have cooperated in this task, and ultimately to divine Providence which has made this admirable restoration possible. Now that I am back in this Cathedral many memories come to me as I see before me my old companions, and also the young priests who are handing on the message, the torch of the faith. Memories of my ordination, of which Cardinal Wetter has spoken, come to mind. Here I lay prostrate, enveloped by the litany of all the saints, by the intercession of all the saints. I realized that on this path we are not alone, that the great multitude of saints walk with us, and the living saints, the faithful of today and tomorrow, sustain us and walk with us. Then came the laying on of hands, and finally Cardinal Faulhaber proclaimed to us: “Iam non dico vos servos sed amicos” -“I do not call you servants, but friends”; at that moment, I experienced my priestly ordination as an initiation into the community of Jesus’ friends, called to be with him and to proclaim his message.

I am also reminded of the priests and deacons that I myself have ordained here. They are now dedicated to the service of the Gospel and for many years, decades even, they have been handing on the message, and they continue to do so. Naturally, I also recall the processions of Saint Corbinian. It was the custom then to open the reliquary. As the Bishop’s place was behind the urn, I had a direct view of the saint’s skull. I saw myself taking part in the procession of centuries walking the way of the faith. In this great “procession of time”, I could see that we too can walk along, moving with it into the future. This became clear as the procession passed through the nearby cloister where so many children were gathered, and I would trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Today we are still living the same experience; we are in the great procession, in the pilgrimage of the Gospel. We can be both pilgrims and guides. By following those who have walked in the footsteps of Christ, we too are following him, and so we enter into the light.

Let us now come to the homily, in which I wish to make just two points. The first relates to the Gospel we have just heard, a passage which we all have heard so often, which we have interpreted and meditated in our hearts. “The harvest is plentiful” says the Lord. In saying that it “is plentiful”, he is not simply referring to that particular moment and to those pathways of Palestine on which he journeyed during his earthly life: his words are valid for today. They mean that in people’s hearts a harvest is growing; they mean, to put it another way, that deep within, people are waiting for God, waiting for a directive full of light to show the way forward, waiting for a message that is more than just words, hoping, waiting for that love which, beyond the present instant, will welcome and sustain us for eternity. The harvest is plentiful, and labourers are needed in every generation. The other part of the quotation: “the labourers are few”, is also true, if in a different sense, for every generation.

“Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers”. This means that the harvest is ready, but God wishes to enlist helpers to bring it into the storehouse. God needs them. He needs people to say: yes, I am ready to become your harvest labourer; I am ready to offer help so that this harvest which is ripening in people’s hearts may truly be brought into the storehouses of eternity and become an enduring, divine communion of joy and love. “Pray the Lord of the harvest” also means that we cannot simply “produce” vocations; they must come from God. This is not like other professions, we cannot simply recruit people by using the right kind of publicity or the correct type of strategy. The call which comes from the heart of God must always finds its way into the heart of man. And yet, precisely so that it may reach into hearts, our cooperation is needed. To pray the Lord of the harvest means above all to ask him for this, to stir his heart and say: “Please do this! Rouse labourers! Enkindle in them enthusiasm and joy for the Gospel! Make them understand that this is a treasure greater than any other, and that whoever has discovered it, must hand it on!”

We stir the heart of God. But our prayer to God does not consist of words alone; the words must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say “yes”. As people of prayer, filled with his light, we reach out to others and bring them into our prayer and into the presence of God, who will not fail to do his part. In this sense we must continue to pray the Lord of the harvest, to stir his heart, and together with God touch the hearts of others through our prayer. And he, according to his purpose, will bring to maturity their “yes”, their readiness to respond; the constancy, in other words, through all this world’s perplexity, through the heat of the day and the darkness of the night, to persevere faithfully in his service. Hence they will know that their efforts, however arduous, are noble and worthwhile because they lead to what is essential, they ensure that people receive what they hope for: God’s light and God’s love.

The second point I wish to make is a practical matter. The number of priests has declined even if at the present moment we are able to cope, because we have young priests and old priests, and there are young men on their way towards the priesthood. And yet the burdens have increased. To be looking after two, three, or four parishes at the same time, in addition to all the new tasks that have emerged, can lead to discouragement. Often I ask myself, or rather each of us asks himself and his brethren: how are we going to cope? Is this not a profession that consumes us, that no longer brings us joy since we see that whatever we do is never enough? We are overburdened!

What response can be given? Obviously I cannot offer infallible remedies: nevertheless I wish to suggest some basic guidelines. I take the first one from the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:5-8), where Saint Paul says to all, especially of course to those who work in God’s field: “have in yourselves the mind of Christ Jesus”. His mind was such that, faced with the destiny of humanity, he could hardly bear to remain in glory, but had to stoop down and do the incredible, take upon himself the utter poverty of a human life even to the point of suffering on the Cross. This is the mind of Jesus Christ: feeling impelled to bring to humanity the light of the Father, to help us by forming the Kingdom of God with us and in us. And the mind of Jesus Christ also deeply roots him in all-pervading communion with the Father. An external indication of this, as it were, is that the Evangelists repeatedly recount that he withdraws to the mountain alone, to pray. His activity flows from his profound union with the Father, and precisely because of this, he has to go out and visit all the towns and villages proclaiming the Kingdom of God, announcing that it is present in our midst. He has to inaugurate the Kingdom among us so that, through us, it can transform the world; he has to ensure that God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven and that Heaven comes down upon earth. These two aspects belong to the mind of Christ Jesus. On the one hand we must know God from within, know Christ from within, and be with him; only in this way will we discover the “treasure”. On the other hand we must also go out towards others. We cannot simply keep the “treasure” to ourselves; we must hand it on.

I would like to be more specific with regard to this basic guideline with its two aspects. It is necessary to combine zeal with humility, with an awareness of our limitations. On the one hand there has to be zeal: if we truly encounter Christ again and again, we cannot keep him to ourselves. We feel impelled to go out to the poor, the elderly, the weak, to children and young people, to those in their prime. We feel impelled to be “heralds”, apostles of Christ. Yet our zeal, lest it become empty and begin to wear us down, must be combined with humility, with moderation, with the acceptance of our limits. So many things should be done, yet I see that I am not capable of doing them. This is true, I imagine, for many pastors, and it is also true for the Pope, who ought to do so many things! My strength is simply not enough. In this way I learn to do what I can and I leave the rest to God and to my assistants, saying: “Ultimately you must do this work, Lord, because the Church is yours. You give me only the energy I have. I give it to you, since it comes from you; everything else I place in your hands.” I believe that the humility which prompts us to say: “my energy goes no further, I leave you, Lord, to do the rest” is crucial. And then trust is needed: he will give me the assistants I need, and they will do what I am unable to do.

To take this idea a step further, the combination of zeal and humility also means combining all aspects of service with our inner life. We can serve others and give to others only if we personally also receive, if we do not empty ourselves. That is why the Church offers us free spaces, which on the one hand allow us to “breathe in” and “breathe out” anew, and on the other hand become the source and centre of our service. In the first place there is the daily celebration of Holy Mass. We must never do this merely out of routine, as “something that I have to do”, but rather “from within”! Let us identify with the words and actions, and with the event that is really present there! If we celebrate Mass prayerfully, if our saying “this is my body” is born from our communion with Jesus Christ who has laid his hands upon us and authorized us to speak with his own “I”, if we celebrate the Eucharist with intimate participation in faith and prayer, then it is not simply an external duty; then the ars celebrandi comes naturally, because it consists in celebrating from the Lord’s perspective and in communion with him, and hence in the way that best serves the people. Then we ourselves are constantly enriched and at the same time, we hand on to others something more than what is ours, that is to say: the Lord’s presence.

The other free space to which the Church, so to speak, obliges us, and in so doing liberates us, is the Liturgy of the Hours. Let us aim to recite it as a true prayer, a prayer in communion with the Israel of the Old and New Testaments, a prayer in communion with all who pray throughout history, a prayer in communion with Jesus Christ, a prayer that arises from the deepest “I”, from the deepest subject of these prayers. In this way we draw into our prayer those others who lack the time or the energy or the capacity to pray. As people of prayer, we represent others when we pray and in so doing, we fulfil a pastoral ministry of the first order. This is not withdrawing into the private sphere, it is a pastoral priority, it is a pastoral activity in which our own priesthood is renewed, and we are once again filled by Christ. We include others in the communion of the praying Church and at the same time, we allow the power of prayer, the presence of Jesus Christ, to flow into this world.

The motto of these days has been: “those who believe are never alone”. These words apply and must apply especially to priests, to each one of us. They apply in two senses: a priest is never alone because Jesus Christ is always with him. He is with us, let us also be with him! But they must apply in another sense too. He who becomes a priest enters into a presbyterate, a community of priests together with their Bishop. He is a priest in this communion with his confrères. Let us commit ourselves to live this out, not only as a theological and juridical precept, but as a practical experience for each of us. Let us offer this communion to one another, let us offer it especially to those that we know are suffering from loneliness, those that we know are troubled by questions and problems, and perhaps by doubts and uncertainties! Let us offer this communion to each other, and so experience our communion with Jesus Christ ever anew, more fully and more joyfully, through being with the other, through being with others! Amen.

FAREWELL CEREMONY International Airport Franz Joseph Strauss, Munich Thursday, 14 September 2006

Mr Minister President,
Distinguished Government Leaders and Public Authorities,
Dear Cardinals and Brothers in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

As I leave Bavaria for Rome, I would like to say to you here present, and through you to all the citizens of my native land, a cordial farewell and to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was deeply moved by the enthusiasm and fervent devotion of the faithful who gathered devoutly to hear the Word of God and to join in prayer, and who greeted me in the streets and squares. I was able to see how many people in Bavaria still today are endeavouring to journey in communion with their Bishops along the paths of God and to testify to their faith in today's secularized world and to make it present in that world as a shaping force. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the organizers, everything took place in an orderly and peaceful way, in fellowship and joy. And so my first word, in this farewell, must be one of thanks to all who cooperated in achieving these results. I can only say whole-heartedly: “May God reward you!”.

Naturally, I turn first to you, Mr Minister President, with gratitude for the kind words which you have rendered a great witness on behalf of our Christian faith as a force for shaping our public life. Hearfelt thanks for this! I thank the other civil and ecclesiastical authorities gathered here, especially those who contributed to the success of this visit, which enabled me to meet everywhere people from this region who testified to me their joyful affection and to whom my heart remains always bound. These have been busy days, when I was able to re-live in memory many past events which have left a mark on my life. Everywhere I was received with an attention and care, and, I must say more, a welcome marked by the greatest cordiality. This has touched me deeply. I can in some way imagine the challenges, concerns and the work involved in organizing my visit to Bavaria: many people had a part to play, both those from the Church, Regional and State agencies, and the many people who volunteered their time. To all of you I offer a heartfelt “May God reward you!” and the assurance of a special remembrance in my prayers.

I came to Germany, to Bavaria, to bring once more to my fellow-citizens the eternal truths of the Gospel as a truth and power for today, and to confirm believers in their fidelity to Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation. I am convinced, in faith, that in Christ, in his word, we find the way not only to eternal happiness, but also to the building of a humane future even now, on this our land. Impelled by this conviction, the Church, led by the Spirit, has constantly looked to the Word of God so as to be able to respond to new historical challenges. She sought to do so in a special way with regard to the problems arising from the so-called "worker question", beginning particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century. I mention this here, because today, 14 September, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Laborem Exercens, in which the great Pope John Paul II called work "a fundamental dimension of man's existence on earth" (No. 4), and insisted that "the primary basis of the value of work is man himself" (No. 6). Work, he observed, is therefore "something good for man", because with it "man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but also achieves fulfilment as a human being, and, in a certain sense, becomes more human" (No. 9). On the basis of this profound intuition, the Pope offered in his Encyclical some guidelines which are still helpful today. That text was not lacking in prophetic value, and I would like to recommend it to the people of my native land. I am certain that its concrete application will prove very beneficial in Germany's present situation.

And now, as I take leave of my beloved homeland, I entrust the present and future of Bavaria and of Germany to the intercession of all those saints who lived in German territory, faithfully serving Christ and experiencing in their lives the truth expressed in the words which have been like a leitmotif during the various parts of my visit: "Those who believe are never alone". This too was surely the experience of the composer of our Bavarian anthem. In his words, in the words of our anthem, which are also a prayer, I would like to leave behind my own prayer for my homeland: "God be with you, land of the Bavarian people, German soil, my native land! Upon your vast borders may his hand rest in blessing! May he watch over your countryside and cities, and keep for you the colours of his white and blue sky!".

To everyone I offer a hearty “Vergelt’s Gott” and “Auf Wiedersehen”, if God so wills.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SECRETARIAT OF STATE Castel Gandolfo Friday, 15 September 2006


Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Collaborators,

I cannot conclude this meeting without adding once again the words that well up from my heart at this moment. It is, in a certain sense, a moment of sadness; but above all it is a moment of profound gratitude.

Your Eminence, you have worked as Secretary of State with so many Popes - and lastly with me - with the dedication, competence and willingness to serve of which I have already spoken.

In associating myself with your words, I would like to extend my thanks to all the collaborators and to the Papal Representations throughout the world. I have more and more understood that it is only this great network of collaboration which enables me to respond to the Lord's mandate: "Confirma fratres tuos in fide".

Only by virtue of the confluence of all these skills, only by virtue of the humility of the demanding and highly expert commitment of so many people can this "strengthening of the brethren" in which the Pope obeys the Lord at last take place. He can carry out his mission satisfactorily thanks to your extensive collaboration.

Only in recent years, while I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, did I come to understand better what great competence exists here, what dedication, what humility and what willingness to truly serve the Lord in his Church! This curial labour is in fact pastoral work in an eminent sense, for it truly helps guide the People of God to green pastures, as the Psalm says, where the Word of God is present and nourishes us throughout our lives.

Your Eminence, in these past weeks I have been wondering what sign of gratitude I would be able to give you at this moment. I had the joy of being accompanied by you on my Journey to Bavaria. We visited important Episcopal Sees: Munich, Regensburg and the ancient See of Freising - and we visited our national Shrine, so to speak, at Altötting, which for centuries has been called the "heart" of Bavaria. It is the true "heart" of this Land because there, in finding the Mother, we find the Lord. There, in all the vicissitudes of history, in all the problems also of the present, we once again discover, with the Mother's protection, the joy of the faith. There, our people are renewed.

Your Eminence, you were present when the Bishop of Passau presented to me a perennial keepsake of a copy of the 15th century figure of Our Lady, which still continues to attract pilgrims who desire to experience the love of our common Mother. I was able to obtain a faithful copy - less precious copies exist - of Our Lady of Altötting. And I think that this image of Our Lady of Altötting could not only be the sign of my eternal gratitude but also of our prayerful communication.

May Our Lady always be beside you and protect and guide you always! This is the expression of my sincere gratitude.


Mr Ambassador,

The cordial and solemn act of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Slovenia to the Holy See recalls the thousand-year-old relations between the Successor of Peter and the beloved People whom you are representing here. Welcome, Mr Ambassador.

I am sure that the sentiments you recalled in your words to me reflect the deep convictions of your compatriots with regard to the Pope. I take note of these genuine feelings and express my grateful appreciation to the Authorities who have accredited you, and especially to H.E. Mr Janez Drnovsek, President of the Republic.

The Republic of Slovenia, of its own accord, encourages a fruitful and constructive dialogue with the ecclesial bodies present on its territory, recognizing their positive contribution to the life of the Nation. This confirms that the Catholic traditions, which have always been a feature of the Slovene People, are a precious treasure to draw from in order to express the deepest and truest identity of that noble Land.

It is within this framework that cordial relations between the Slovenes and the See of Peter have developed: the good bilateral relations you appropriately chose to mention still testify to them today.

The power of the Gospel has been active in Slovenia since the earliest centuries of Christianity, as the presence of Saints such as St Victorinus and St Maximian shows. Their witness contributed to strengthening the Christian faith among the peoples in the seventh century, who found a home in present-day Slovenia.

Moreover, how could one fail to think of an outstanding Bishop such as Bl. Anton Martin Slomsek, who in more recent times furthered the national reawakening by carrying out valuable work as an educator of the Slovene People?

Christianity and the national identity are certainly closely connected. It is therefore natural that there should be deep harmony between the Bishop of Rome and the noble People who find in you today a representative and a voice of their own.

The Agreement between the Republic of Slovenia and the Holy See on the Legal Status of the Roman Catholic Church of 14 December 2001 was a fruit of this intense and constructive dialogue, uninterrupted by the grievous events of the century just ended.

It was an important concordat, whose faithful application can only strengthen reciprocal relations and collaboration for the promotion of the person and the common good (cf. Art. 1), with respect for the legitimate secularity of the State.

However, as you appropriately pointed out, there is a record of the existence of as yet unresolved "open questions" that are awaiting an appropriate solution.

Aware of the Slovenians' esteem and affection for the Pope, I am certain that their representatives at a political level will be able to interpret their traditions, sensitivity and culture. Indeed, the Slovene People are entitled to affirm and to assert the Christian soul that forged their identity and engraved it in the context of a Europe whose deepest roots draw strength from the Gospel seed, which for almost 2,000 years has been growing on the Continent.

Leaders today face the task of identifying appropriate methods for involving the new generations in the knowledge and appreciation of the values of the past, enabling them to bring the rich legacy they have inherited into the millennium that has just begun.

Consequently, they must be put in a position to acquire practical and specific knowledge of the cultural, ethical and religious foundations on which the Nation has been built down the centuries.

In fact, it would be a truly shortsighted policy not to encourage young people's openness to knowledge of the historical roots from which flows the sap that will guarantee the Nation new and fruitful seasons.

In this regard, the question of their instruction, also concerning the religious values shared by the majority of the population, should not be shirked if one wants to avoid the gradual erosion of the most specific traits of the national features. At stake is the respect for the freedom of citizens itself, over which the Republic of Slovenia watches attentively and which the Apostolic See also desires to be fostered in the spirit of the above-mentioned Agreement.

Moreover, this is also the experience of other Peoples on the Continent, especially the Slavs. Aware of Christianity's importance for their social identity and of the valid contribution that the Church can make in this area, they have not undervalued the duty of assuring, also by means of legislation, that the rich ethical and religious patrimony continues to bear abundant fruit for the young generations.

May the dialogue initiated in this context between the civil and religious Authorities in Slovenia - I willingly express this wish in the present circumstances - lead to that just and sincere understanding whose need is felt! It will not fail to benefit those whom, although in a different perspective, both Church and State feel duty bound to render a service.

I can assure you that the Catholic Church will not fail to collaborate with the State in sincerity and cordiality, without demanding privileges for herself but rather advancing proposals which in her eyes can contribute to the common progress of the Nation.

As I express the wish that the cordial relations between Slovenia and the Holy See will continue to develop on the solid lines that have guided them until now, I confirm to you the esteem and support of myself and of my Collaborators in the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of the lofty mission entrusted to you.

I corroborate these sentiments by invoking an abundance of divine Blessings upon you and upon your loved ones.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I address a cordial greeting to you all. This meeting with you, scientists and scholars dedicated to specialized research in the treatment of diseases that are a serious affliction to humanity, is a special comfort to me.

I am grateful to the organizers who have promoted this Congress on a topic that has become more and more important in recent years. The specific theme of the Symposium is appropriately formulated with a question open to hope: "Stem cells: what future for therapy?".

I thank Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, for his kind words, also on behalf of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), an association that has cooperated in organizing the Congress and is represented here by Prof. Gianluigi Gigli, outgoing President, and Prof. Simon de Castellvi, President-elect.

When science is applied to the alleviation of suffering and when it discovers on its way new resources, it shows two faces rich in humanity: through the sustained ingenuity invested in research, and through the benefit announced to all who are afflicted by sickness.

Those who provide financial means and encourage the necessary structures for study share in the merit of this progress on the path of civilization.

On this occasion, I would like to repeat what I said at a recent Audience: "Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness" (cf. General Audience, 16 August 2006).

In this light, somatic stem-cell research also deserves approval and encouragement when it felicitously combines scientific knowledge, the most advanced technology in the biological field and ethics that postulate respect for the human being at every stage of his or her existence.

The prospects opened by this new chapter in research are fascinating in themselves, for they give a glimpse of the possible cure of degenerative tissue diseases that subsequently threaten those affected with disability and death.

How is it possible not to feel the duty to praise all those who apply themselves to this research and all who support the organization and cover its expenses?

I would like in particular to urge scientific structures that draw their inspiration and organization from the Catholic Church to increase this type of research and to establish the closest possible contact with one another and with those who seek to relieve human suffering in the proper ways.

May I also point out, in the face of the frequently unjust accusations of insensitivity addressed to the Church, her constant support for research dedicated to the cure of diseases and to the good of humanity throughout her 2,000-year-old history.

If there has been resistance - and if there still is - it was and is to those forms of research that provide for the planned suppression of human beings who already exist, even if they have not yet been born. Research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results is not truly at the service of humanity.

In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and the lives of the researchers themselves.

History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity.

I would like to repeat here what I already wrote some time ago: Here there is a problem that we cannot get around; no one can dispose of human life. An insurmountable limit to our possibilities of doing and of experimenting must be established. The human being is not a disposable object, but every single individual represents God's presence in the world (cf. J. Ratzinger, God and the World, Ignatius Press, 2002).

In the face of the actual suppression of the human being there can be no compromises or prevarications. One cannot think that a society can effectively combat crime when society itself legalizes crime in the area of conceived life.

On the occasion of recent Congresses of the Pontifical Academy for Life, I have had the opportunity to reassert the teaching of the Church, addressed to all people of good will, on the human value of the newly conceived child, also when considered prior to implantation in the uterus.

The fact that you at this Congress have expressed your commitment and hope to achieve new therapeutic results from the use of cells of the adult body without recourse to the suppression of newly conceived human beings, and the fact that your work is being rewarded by results, are confirmation of the validity of the Church's constant invitation to full respect for the human being from conception. The good of human beings should not only be sought in universally valid goals, but also in the methods used to achieve them.

A good result can never justify intrinsically unlawful means. It is not only a matter of a healthy criterion for the use of limited financial resources, but also, and above all, of respect for the fundamental human rights in the area of scientific research itself.

I hope that God will grant your efforts - which are certainly sustained by God who acts in every person of good will and for the good of all - the joy of discovering the truth, wisdom in consideration and respect for every human being, and success in the search for effective remedies to human suffering.

To seal this hope, I cordially impart an affectionate Blessing to all of you, to your collaborators and to your relatives, as well as to the patients who will benefit from your ingenuity and resourcefulness and the results of your work, with the assurance of my special remembrance in prayer.


Your Excellency,
Mr Ambassador,

I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria to the Holy See.

I am most grateful for the cordial words you have just addressed to me and for the greetings you bring me from President Heinz Fisher.

In turn, I send to the Head of State, the Federal Government and the entire Austrian People my very best wishes, with which I express my confident hope that during your mandate relations between Austria and the Holy See, traditionally good and still good today, will continue and grow deeper.

Indeed, the harmony between Austria and the Holy See is age-old and fruitful. It is more than a historical fact. It is based above all on the membership in the Catholic Church of the majority of the Austrian population. This already gives rise to a common outlook, options and interests, which concern in particular the human being, his freedom, dignity and his future, in time and in society.

From different viewpoints, both the State and the Church are concerned with the good of human beings.

At the service of humankind is the fact that in Austrian politics - in the small towns and large cities, in the districts and regions, in Parliament and especially in the Government - people let themselves be guided by a "vision of the world" in which the values transmitted through the Christian faith are all important.

Those, therefore, who place man created by God at the centre of creation and of history, such as Judeo-Christian revelation, direct their social and political action to the authentic good of human beings, whose interests and dignity can never be subordinated to parameters of "feasibility", utility or productivity. Every authentic human policy always derives from the fact that a nation's greatest wealth is constituted by its inhabitants.

Europe and in particular the further development of the process of European union are "common interests" which the Holy See and Austria share.

The history and culture of Europe have been moulded by Christianity perhaps as in no other part of the world. This also applies, therefore, to the area in which 457 million inhabitants of 25 member countries of the European Union live, most of whom say they are Christian.

The regional and national area, the closest and the most remote homeland from which as a rule the majority draw the most important elements of their cultural identity, is increasingly becoming the common European homeland.

Mobility and the means of social communication that cross borders make a considerable contribution to this.

The Catholic Church, as the creator of the history and culture of the European Continent down the centuries, on the whole greets this development favourably. Wherever people and peoples consider themselves members of the same family, there is an increase in the possibilities of peace, solidarity, exchange and mutual enrichment.

Less and less is modern society with open frontiers allowing itself to be defined in terms of nationality. Because of this and because of their lively historical awareness Austrians, like their neighbours' next of kin, rightly feel that they are Europeans, citizens of the United Europe which is gradually taking shape.

Furthermore, Austria is a Country journeying with Europe. Its rich history as a Country formerly composed of various peoples has predisposed it to a convinced European commitment both in and beyond the framework of political and institutional directives.

Finally, the care it devotes to strengthening neighbourly relations with the trusting collaboration of all its members for the peace and good of the peoples in the Danube region forms part of Austrian foreign policy. These principles and experiences also inspired the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2006, which desired to express it as a "service to Europe" and focused on the task of creating trust between the Member States of the European Union.

Mr Ambassador, the path of European integration, the successful construction of a great European house under whose roof the people of the Continent can forge their future in peace, mutual respect and exchanges, essentially depends on the citizens' confidence in this project. In discussions on the process of enlargement of the European Union on the one hand, and on the other, on the European Constitution, new issues of fundamental importance are arising.

Lastly, it is always a matter of the identity and spiritual foundations on which the community of peoples and of European States is built.

Neither a more or less effective economic union nor a bureaucratic body of norms that regulate coexistence can ever fully satisfy people's expectations for Europe. Rather, the tap-roots of a solid European "reciprocity", exempt from crises, are embedded in the convictions and common values of the Continent's Christian history and humanist historical tradition.

Without authentic, common community values it is impossible to build any reliable community of rights, which instead is what people expect.

Today, Austria is one of the smallest Countries in Europe. Yet it can make a great contribution: a contribution to ensuring that the inviolable rights and dignity of the human being as well as the role of the family as the primary cell of society are respected and safeguarded always and in every circumstance; a contribution to ensure that Europe, in the necessary process of self-determination, turns its gaze to God, Creator of all life, in whom justice and love coincide.

Mr Ambassador, your accreditation also affords me a good opportunity to stress with pleasure once again that in your treasured Country, a fruitful and effective cooperation exists between State and Church for the good of all the inhabitants.

Mention has been made of the context of this cooperation on previous occasions. I wish here to mention only the development of secondary schools, in agreement with the Church, and to underline the commitment of the State based on the Concordat with regard to the teaching of Catholic religion, which in Austria is one of the obligatory disciplines.

In view of the growing number of students who do not belong to any religious denomination, the State is also faced with the duty of making known to these children and young people the basis of Western thought and of the "civilization of love", imbued with the Christian spirit.

Mr Ambassador, Austria is known for its great openness to the universal mission of the Successor of Peter at the service of the dissemination of the Gospel of hope and of liberating faith in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of humanity, who desires to give reconciliation, justice and peace to every people.

I can also tell you that there is gratitude throughout the world for the help that Austrian Catholics and countless people of good will offer to social, humanitarian and missionary projects in the Homeland.

In the course of your diplomatic work, you have already become familiar with the mission of the Holy See. I am sure that your new task in Rome will bring you joy and full satisfaction.

Through the intercession of the Mother of God of Mariazell, of Bl. Charles of Austria and of all the Patron Saints of your Country, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, Mr Ambassador, to the members of the Embassy of the Republic of Austria to the Holy See and to your beloved family.


Your Eminence,
Dear Friends,

Once again, I am pleased to greet here in public the new Secretary of State and his whole family. We became acquainted when His Eminence was Consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was very helpful to me in certain difficult talks that took place in 1988.

Then, when dear Mons. Bovone moved to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, we had to find a new Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And I did not need to think about it for long, because the memory of our work together was so vivid that I realized the Lord had already pointed out to me Mons. Bovone's Successor.

And very beautiful years of collaboration in the Doctrine of the Faith followed. St Eusebius of Vercelli was always present; I do not know whether this practice of invoking him to safeguard the faith continues today. We did all we could. I had the possibility of seeing Vercelli and of getting to know that beautiful Archdiocese.

At the time, in coming to the Congregation Cardinal Bertone "lost" the purple he had had in Vercelli. Then, in going to Genoa, he recovered the purple and he also had the opportunity to see the beauties of Genoa.

Then, the time came for some of the Cardinals of the Curia who had been born in 1927 to hand in their resignation. Thus, I once again remembered the years of our work together and the Lord granted me this grace of your "yes", Your Eminence.

Let us start out together on our way with courage. I am glad to see that you are supported by a strong family. My greetings to you all!

TO THE NEWLY ORDAINED BISHOPS Hall of the Swiss, Castel Gandolfo Thursday, 21 September 2006

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
My cordial greetings to each one of you.

I first address my greeting to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re who has interpreted your sentiments, and I extend it with affection to all those who have organized and coordinated your meeting.

In these days, you have heard the experience of several Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and some Bishops who have helped you reflect on certain aspects of the episcopal ministry, of great importance for our times. Today, it is the Pope who welcomes you with joy and is happy to share with you the sentiments and expectations that you are living in these first months of your episcopal ministry.

You will certainly already have had the experience of how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, acts in souls with his grace. "My grace is sufficient for you" (II Cor 12: 9), the Apostle Paul heard the Lord answer when he asked the Lord to spare him suffering. May this very awareness always nourish your faith and stimulate within you the search for ways to reach the hearts of all with the healthy optimism that you must always spread around you.

In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I noted that Bishops are primarily responsible for building up the Church as a family of God and a place of mutual help and availability (cf. n. 32).

To be able to carry out this mission, you received with episcopal consecration three special offices: the munus docendi, the munus sanctificandi and the munus regendi, which all together constitute the munus pascendi.

In particular, the aim of the munus regendi is growth in ecclesial communion, that is, in building a community in agreement and listening to the Apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship (cf. Ac 2,42).

Closely linked to the offices of teaching and of sanctifying, that of governing - the munus regendi precisely - constitutes for the Bishop an authentic act of love for God and for one's neighbour, which is expressed in pastoral charity.

The Second Vatican Council pointed this out authoritatively in the Constitution Lumen Gentium, proposing to the Bishops as their model Christ, the Good Shepherd, who came not to be served but to serve (cf. n. 27).

On this path, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis invites the Bishop to be constantly inspired by the Gospel image of the washing of the feet (cf. n. 42). Christ alone, who is the incarnate love of God (cf. Deus Caritas Est ), can point out to us authoritatively how to love and serve the Church.

Dear Brothers, after Christ's example, may each one of you make yourselves, in the daily care of your flock, "all things to all men" (cf. 1Co 9,22), proposing the truth of the faith, celebrating the sacraments of our sanctification and witnessing to the charity of the Lord.

Accept with open hearts those who knock at your door: advise them, comfort them and sustain them on the way to God, seeking to lead them all to that unity in faith and love of which, by the Lord's will and in your respective Dioceses, you must be the visible principle and foundation (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 23).

May this be your first concern with regard to the priests. Always act towards them as fathers and elder brothers who know how to listen, accept, comfort and when necessary, also to correct; endeavour to collaborate with them and be close to them, especially at important moments of their ministry and their lives.

Then, seek to treat the young men who are preparing for the priestly and Religious life with equal concern.

By virtue of the office of governing (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 27), the Bishop is also called to judge and discipline the life of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care with laws, instructions and suggestions, according to what is prescribed by the universal discipline of the Church.

This right and duty of the Bishop is especially important if the diocesan Community is to be internally united and to proceed in a profound communion of faith, love and discipline with the Bishop of Rome and with the entire Church.

I therefore urge you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, to be attentive guardians of this ecclesial communion and to promote and defend it, watching constantly over the flock of which you have been appointed Pastors.

This is an act of love that requires discernment, apostolic courage and patient kindness in seeking to convince and involve, so that your instructions will be well received and executed with conviction and promptness. With docile obedience to the Bishop, every member of the faithful contributes responsibly to the building up of the Church.

This will be possible if, conscious of your mission and your responsibility, you can nourish in each one of them the sense of belonging to the Church and the joy of fraternal communion involving the appropriate organisms foreseen by the ecclesial discipline. May building ecclesial communion be your daily commitment.

The Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis and the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops are insistent on indicating to each Pastor that his objective authority must be sustained by the authoritativeness of his life.

Serenity in relationships, sensitive treatment and simplicity of life are gifts that certainly enrich the human personality of the Bishop.

In his Book of Pastoral Rule, St Gregory the Great wrote that "the government of souls is the art of arts" (Part I, Chapter I).

It is an art that requires the constant growth of the virtues, among which I would like to recall prudence, which St Bernard described as "the mother of strength". Prudence will make you patient with yourselves and with others, courageous and firm in your decisions, merciful and just, concerned solely with your salvation and the salvation of your brethren "with fear and trembling" (cf. Ph 2,12).

The total gift of yourselves, which the care of the Lord's flock requires, needs the support of an intense spiritual life, nourished by persevering personal and community prayer. Constant contact with God should therefore mark your days and accompany your every activity.

Living in intimate union with Christ will help you to achieve that necessary balance between inner recollection and the necessary effort required by the many occupations of life, avoiding exaggerated activism.

On the day of your episcopal consecration you promised to pray tirelessly for your people. Dear Brothers, always stay faithful to this commitment, which will enable you to exercise your pastoral ministry irreproachably.

Through prayer, the doors of your hearts are opened to God's plan, which is a plan of love to which he has called you by uniting you very closely with Christ through the grace of the episcopate. Following him, Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (cf. 1P 2,25), you will be impelled to strive for holiness without tiring, which is the fundamental goal of every Christian's life.

Dear Brothers, as I thank you for your welcome visit, I would like to assure you of my daily remembrance to the Lord for your ecclesial service, which I entrust to Our Lady Mater Ecclesiae. I invoke her protection upon you, upon your Dioceses and upon your ministry.

With these sentiments, I impart to you and to all your loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters

Today, I have the joy of meeting you for the first time, dear members and consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity who have gathered for your Plenary Assembly. A special feature of your Pontifical Council is the inclusion among its members and consultors, next to the Cardinals, Bishops, priests and Religious, of a majority of lay faithful from different continents and countries, and with the most varied apostolic backgrounds behind them.

I greet you all with affection and thank you for your service to the See of Peter and to the Church, scattered in every part of the world. I offer a special greeting to Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President, whom I thank for his kind and respectful words, to Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary, and to all those who work every day in your Dicastery.

Formerly, during the years of my service in the Roman Curia, I had the opportunity to appreciate the increasing importance of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the Church; an importance that I have become even more aware of since the Lord called me to succeed the Servant of God John Paul II in guiding the entire Christian people, because I have been granted a more direct view of the work you carry out.

Indeed, I have had the opportunity of presiding at two indisputably important meetings promoted by your Dicastery: the World Youth Day, held in Cologne in August last year, and the Meeting in St Peter's Square on the eve of Pentecost this year, attended by more than 100 Ecclesial Movements and New Communities.

I then think of the First Latin-American Congress of Ecclesial Movements, which your Pontifical Council organized in Bogotà in collaboration with CELAM from 9 to 12 March 2006, with a view to the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate.

After examining the theological and pastoral nature of the parish community at the previous Plenary Assembly, you are now dealing with the question from an active point of view, seeking useful elements to encourage an authentic parish renewal.

In fact, the theme of your meeting is "The parish rediscovered: Paths of renewal". Actually, it is impossible to separate the theological, pastoral and active dimensions if one wishes to have access to the mystery of communion, of which the parish is called always to be a sign and an instrument of implementation.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the Evangelist Luke points out essential criteria for a correct understanding of the nature of the Christian community and hence, also of every parish, where he describes the first community of Jerusalem whose members were devoted to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the "breaking of bread and the prayers": a welcoming, supportive community ready to share everything (cf. 2: 42; 4: 32-35).

Parishes can relive this experience and grow in understanding and in fraternal attachment if they pray ceaselessly and continue to listen to the Word of God, and especially if they participate with faith in the celebration of the Eucharist at which the priest presides.

Beloved John Paul II wrote on this in his last Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: "Parishes are communities of the baptized who express and affirm their identity above all through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice" (n. 32).

Thus, the hoped-for renewal of parishes cannot only result from pastoral initiatives, albeit useful and timely, nor even less from programmes worked out theoretically. Inspired by the apostolic model as shown in the Acts of the Apostles, parishes "rediscover" themselves in the encounter with Christ, especially in the Eucharist. Nourished by the Eucharistic bread, they grow in Catholic communion, developing in full fidelity to the Magisterium and ever attentive to accepting and discerning the different charisms that the Lord brings forth in the People of God.

Parishes find strength in constant union with Christ in order to dedicate themselves without interruption to the service of the brethren, especially the poor, for whom they in fact represent the first reference point.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, while I express my deep appreciation to you for the activity of animation and service that you carry out, I cordially hope that the Plenary Assembly will help to make the lay faithful ever more aware of their mission in the Church, especially within the parish community, which is a "family" of Christian families.

I assure you of my constant remembrance of this in prayer, and as I invoke upon each one Mary's motherly protection, I willingly impart my Blessing to all of you, to your relatives and to the communities to which you belong.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF CHAD ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Consistory Hall, Castel Gandolfo Saturday, 23 September 2006

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

In these days when you are making your ad limina visit, I am glad to receive you whom the Lord has chosen to guide the People of God in Chad. Your pilgrimage to Rome leads you to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and enables you to meet the Successor of Peter and his collaborators in order to strengthen your communion with the universal Church.

I hope that these days will be an opportunity for you to strengthen your apostolic zeal, so that your communities receive from it a new impetus in order to be a light that illuminates the path that leads to the One who brings salvation.

I thank your President, Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard of Pala, for his presentation of the ecclesial situation in your Country. In returning to your Dioceses, please convey to the priests, consecrated men and women, catechists and all the faithful my affectionate greeting and the assurance of my spiritual closeness and encouragement for their Christian life.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you are sent to be missionaries of the Good News in the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Continue to carry out this responsibility with confidence and courage!

Holiness of life will make you authentic signs of God's love. Through the proclamation of the Gospel, guide your communities to meeting with the Lord and help them to witness to their hope, contributing to the establishment of a more just society founded on reconciliation and on unity among all!

The regular participation of the faithful in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, will give them the strength to follow Christ; they will then feel the need to share with their brothers and sisters the joy of their encounter with the Lord.

By prolonging the First National Eucharistic Congress that your Dioceses celebrated in Moundou early this year, everyone will now have at heart to deepen the knowledge of this great Sacrament in order to make it fruitful in his life.

Moreover, a sound religious formation based on strong spiritual convictions will enable the faithful to lead an existence in conformity with each one's baptismal commitments and to witness to Christian values in society.

I wish to greet your priests with special affection and to encourage them in their difficult but exalting mission of proclaiming the Gospel and serving the People of God.

As I have already had the opportunity to stress, "Being a priest means becoming an ever closer friend of Jesus Christ with the whole of one's existence" (Chrism Mass, 13 April 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 April, p. 3).

As a result of their formation, therefore, priests will be encouraged to be ever more closely involved in the friendship that the Lord never ceases to offer them.

To guarantee this formation in the best possible conditions, I ask you to watch attentively over your seminaries, encouraging the formation teachers in their task of vocational discernment.

Friendship with Christ demands a constant and joyful search of communion of thought, will and action with him, in humble and faithful obedience. This communion can be achieved to the extent that the priest is an authentic man of prayer.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, look after the spiritual life of your priests, encouraging them to stay faithful to a rule of priestly life that will help them to conform their existence to the vocation they have received from the Lord. Express to them your fraternal closeness in their ministry; in times of trial and uncertainty, be the one who comforts and, if necessary, corrects, inviting them to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.

Among the pastoral challenges to be faced is the urgent need to proclaim the whole truth about marriage and the family. Indeed, it is of paramount importance to show that the institution of marriage contributes to the true development of people and of society, and also makes it possible to assure the dignity, equality and true freedom of men and women as well as the human and spiritual growth of children.

"Having both been created in the image of God, man and woman, although different, are essentially equal from the point of view of their humanity" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

Young people who have received a sound formation will promote a renewal of the family apostolate and will help alleviate the social, cultural or financial difficulties which are obstacles to Christian marriage for many of the faithful.

While preserving the essential values of the African family, may your Country's young people welcome into their lives the beauty and grandeur of Christian marriage, which in its oneness implies indissoluble and faithful love between the spouses.

Charitable action, an expression of love of neighbour rooted in love of God, has an important place in the pastoral work of your Dioceses.

"Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man's sufferings and his needs, including material needs" (Deus Caritas Est ).

I extend my gratitude to everyone in your Dioceses, especially the women religious, who carry out charitable activity at the service of development, education and health care, as well as receiving refugees. May they not forget the ecclesial specificity of their work in fostering authentic solidarity with people in need, regardless of their origin, and may they strengthen their awareness of being credible witnesses of Christ to their brothers and sisters.

The consolidation of brotherhood between the different communities that make up the Nation is a target that demands the commitment of all, if the Country is to be protected from confrontation that can only bring a fresh outburst of violence.

The recognition of the dignity of each person, of the identity of each human and religious group and of their freedom to practise their religion is part and parcel of the common values of peace and justice that everyone must promote and in which the leaders of civil society have an important role to play.

I am pleased to know that relations between Christians and Muslims in your Country are generally good, mainly thanks above all to the search for a better mutual understanding.

I therefore encourage you to pursue collaboration in a spirit of sincere dialogue and reciprocal respect, in order to help each person lead a life in conformity with the dignity received from God, with concern for a genuine solidarity and for a harmonious development of society.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust your Country to the motherly protection of Our Lady, Queen of Africa. May she intercede with her Son to obtain peace and justice on this Continent, so sorely tried.

I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, as well as to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the faithful of your Dioceses.
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