Speeches 2005-13 54
Friday, 3 November 2006
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Professors and Dear Students,
I am pleased to meet with you today. My first greeting goes precisely to you students, whom I see in large numbers in this elegant and austere interior quadrangle, but whom I know are also gathered in various halls and are in contact with us by means of screens and loudspeakers.
Dear young people, I thank you for the sentiments expressed by your representative and by you yourselves. In a certain sense, the University is truly yours. It has existed since St Ignatius founded it for you, for students, long ago in 1551.
All the energy that your Professors and Lecturers expend in teaching and research is for you. The daily efforts and worries of the Rector Magnificent, the Vice-Rectors, the Deans and the Provosts are for you. You are aware of this and I am sure that you are also grateful to them for it.
I then offer a special greeting to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski. As Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, he is Grand Chancellor of this University and represents the Roman Pontiff in it (cf. Statuta Universitatis, art. 6, 2).
For this very reason, my Predecessor Pius XI, of venerable memory, declared the Gregorian University "Pontifical": "plenissimo iure ac nomine" (cf. Apostolic Letter Gregorianam Studiorum, in AAS 24 , 268).
The actual history of the Roman College and of its heir, the Gregorian University, as the Rector said in his tribute to me, forms the basis of these very special Statutes.
I greet Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., who as Superior General of the Society of Jesus is Grand Chancellor of the University and most directly concerned with this work, which I do not hesitate to describe as one of the greatest services that the Society of Jesus carries out for the universal Church.
I greet the benefactors who are present here: the Freundeskreis der Gregoriana from Germany, the Gregorian University Foundation from New York, the Fondazione La Gregoriana of Rome and other groups of benefactors.
Dear friends, I am grateful to you for all that you generously do to support this institution which the Holy See has entrusted and continues to entrust to the Society of Jesus.
I greet the Jesuit Fathers who carry out their teaching here with a praiseworthy spirit of self-denial and austerity of life; with them I greet the other Lecturers and extend my thoughts to the Fathers and Brothers of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute.
Together with the Gregorian University, they form a prestigious academic consortium (cf. Pius XI, "Motu Proprio" Quod Maxime, 30 September 1928), since it not only covers teaching but also the patrimony of books of the three libraries, which include incomparable specialized collections.
Lastly, I greet the non-teaching personnel of the University who have wished to make their own voice heard through that of the General Secretary, whom I thank. The non-teaching staff daily carry out a hidden service, but one very important to the mission that the mandate of the Holy See requires of the Gregorian; I offer my cordial encouragement to each one of them.
I am delighted to be in this quadrangle which I have crossed on various occasions. I remember in particular the defence of the thesis of Fr Lohfink during the Council in the presence of many Cardinals and also of humble experts like myself.
I am especially fond of recalling the time in 1972 when, as Professor of Dogmatics and the History of Dogma at the University of Regensburg, I was sent by the then Rector, Fr Hervé Carrier, S.J., to give a course to students of the second cycle specializing in Dogmatic Theology. I gave a course on the Most Holy Eucharist.
With the familiarity of those times, I can tell you, dear Professors and students, that if the effort of study and teaching is to have any meaning in relation to God's Kingdom, it must be sustained by the theological virtues. In fact, the immediate object of the different branches of theological knowledge is God himself, revealed in Jesus Christ, God with a human face.
Even when, as in Canon Law and in Church History, the immediate object is the People of God in its visible, historical dimension, the deeper analysis of the topic urges us once again to contemplation, in the faith, of the mystery of the Risen Christ. It is he, present in his Church, who leads her among the events of the time towards eschatological fullness, a goal to which we have set out sustained by hope.
However, knowing God is not enough. For a true encounter with him one must also love him. Knowledge must become love.
The study of Theology, Canon Law and Church History is not only knowledge of the propositions of the faith in their historical formulation and practical application, but is also always knowledge of them in faith, hope and charity.
The Spirit alone searches the depths of God (cf. 1Co 2,10); thus, only in listening to the Spirit can one search the depths of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God (cf. Rom Rm 11,33).
We listen to the Spirit in prayer, when the heart opens to contemplation of God's mystery which was revealed to us in Jesus Christ the Son, image of the invisible God (cf. Col Col 1,15), constituted Head of the Church and Lord of all things (cf. Ep 1,10 Col 1,18).
Since its origins as the Collegium Romanum, the Gregorian University has been distinguished for the study of philosophy and theology. It would take too long to list the names of the outstanding philosophers and theologians who have followed one another in the Chairs of this academic Centre; we should also add to them those of the famous canon lawyers and Church historians who expended their energies within these prestigious walls.
They all made a substantial contribution to the progress of the branches of knowledge they studied, hence, they offered a precious service to the Apostolic See in the exercise of its doctrinal, disciplinary and pastoral role. With the development of the times, outlooks necessarily change.
Today, one must take into account the confrontation with secular culture in many parts of the world, which not only tends to deny every sign of God's presence in the life of society and of the individual, but, with various means that bewilder and cloud the upright human conscience, is seeking to corrode the human being's capacity and readiness to listen to God.
Moreover, it is impossible to ignore relations with other religions, which will only prove constructive if we avoid all forms of ambiguity, which in a certain way undermine the essential content of Christian faith in Christ, the one Saviour of all mankind (cf. Ac 4,12), and in the Church, the necessary sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Declaration Dominus Iesus, nn. 13-15; nn. 20-22: AAS 92  742-765).
Here, I cannot forget the other human sciences which are encouraged at this famous University in the wake of the glorious academic tradition of the Roman College. The great prestige the Roman College acquired in the fields of mathematics, physics and astronomy is well known to all.
It suffices to remember that the "Gregorian" Calendar, so-called because it was desired by my Predecessor, Gregory XIII, and currently in use throughout the world, was compiled in 1582 by Fr Christopher Clavius, a Lecturer at the Roman College.
It suffices also to mention Fr Matteo Ricci, who took to as far as distant China the knowledge he had acquired as a disciple of Fr Clavius, in addition to his witness to the faith.
Today, the above-mentioned disciplines are no longer taught at the Gregorian University, but have been replaced by other human sciences such as psychology, the social sciences and social communications.
Thus, man desires to be more deeply understood, both in his profound personal dimension and his external dimension as a builder of society in justice and peace, and as a communicator of the truth.
For the very reason that these sciences concern the human being, they cannot set aside reference to God. In fact, man, both in his interiority and in his exteriority, cannot be fully understood unless he recognizes that he is open to transcendence.
Deprived of his reference to God, man cannot respond to the fundamental questions that trouble and will always trouble his heart concerning the end of his life, hence, also its meaning. As a result, it is no longer possible to introduce into society those ethical values that alone can guarantee a coexistence worthy of man.
Human destiny without reference to God cannot but be the desolation of anguish, which leads to desperation.
Only in reference to God's Love which is revealed in Jesus Christ can man find the meaning of his existence and live in hope, even if he must face evils that injure his personal existence and the society in which he lives.
Hope ensures that man does not withdraw into a paralyzing and sterile nihilism but opens himself instead to generous commitment within the society where he lives in order to improve it. This is the task that God entrusted to man when he created him in his own image and likeness, a task that fills every human being with the greatest possible dignity, but also with an immense responsibility.
It is in this perspective that you, Professors and Lecturers at the Gregorian, are called to train the students whom the Church entrusts to you. The integral formation of young people has been one of the traditional apostolates of the Society of Jesus since its origins; this is why the Roman College took on this mission at the outset.
The entrustment to the Society of Jesus in Rome, close to the Apostolic See, of The [Pontifical] German College, The Roman Seminary, The German-Hungarian College, The English College, The Greek College, The Scots College and The Irish College, was intended to ensure the formation of the clergy of those nations where the unity of the faith and communion with the Apostolic See had been broken.
These Colleges still send almost all their students or large numbers of them to the Gregorian University, in continuity with that original mission.
Down through history, many other Colleges have joined those mentioned above, so the task that weighs heavily upon your shoulders, dear Professors and Lecturers, is more demanding than ever!
Appropriately, therefore, after deep reflection, you have drafted a "Declaration of Intentions" which is essential for an institution like yours, since it sums up its nature and its mission.
On this basis you are nearing the conclusion of your revision of the Statutes of the University and of the General Rules, as well as of the Statutes and Rules of the various Faculties, Institutes and Centres.
This will help to define the identity of the Gregorian more clearly and allow for the drafting of academic programmes better suited to the fulfilment of your mission, which is at the same time both easy and difficult.
It is easy because the identity and mission of the Gregorian have been clear since its earliest days, on the basis of the indications reaffirmed by so many Roman Pontiffs, of whom at least 16 were students at this University.
At the same time, it is a difficult mission because it implies constant fidelity to its own history and tradition so as not to lose its historical roots, and openness to contemporary reality to respond creatively, after attentive discernment, to the needs of the Church and the world today.
As a Pontifical Ecclesiastical University, this academic Centre is committed to sentire in Ecclesia et cum Ecclesia. It is a commitment born from love for the Church, our Mother and the Bride of Christ. We must love her as Christ himself loved her, assuming the suffering of the world to complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions in our own flesh (cf. Col 1,24).
In this way, it will be possible to form new generations of priests, Religious and committed lay people. Indeed, it is only right to ask ourselves what type of formation we wish to impart to our students, whether priest, Religious or lay person.
Dear Professors and Lecturers, it is of course your intention to form priests who are learned but at the same time prepared to spend their lives serving all those whom the Lord entrusts to their ministry with an undivided heart, in humility and in austerity of life.
Thus, you intend to offer a solid intellectual training to men and women religious, so that they will be able to joyfully live the consecration God has given to them and to offer themselves as an eschatological sign of that future life to which we are all called.
Likewise, you wish to prepare competent lay men and women who will be able to carry out services and offices in the Church, and first and foremost, to be leaven of the Kingdom of God in the temporal sphere.
In this perspective, this very year, the University has initiated an interdisciplinary programme to train lay people to live their specifically ecclesial vocation of ethical commitment in the public arena.
However, formation is also your responsibility, dear students.
There is no doubt that studying demands constant ascesis and self-denial, but it is precisely on this path that the person is trained in self-denial and the sense of duty.
In fact, what you learn today is what you will communicate tomorrow, when the sacred ministry or other services and offices for the benefit of the community will have been entrusted to you by the Church. What in all circumstances will give joy to your hearts will be the knowledge that you have always fostered upright intentions, thanks to which one may be certain of having sought and done the will of God alone. Obviously, all these things require a purification of the heart and discernment.
Dear sons of St Ignatius, once again the Pope entrusts to you this University, such an important institution for the universal Church and for so many particular Churches. It has always been a priority among the priorities of the apostolates of the Society of Jesus. It was in the university environment of Paris that St Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions developed the ardent desire to help souls by loving and serving God in all things, for his greater glory.
Impelled by the inner promptings of the Spirit, St Ignatius came to Rome, centre of Christianity, the See of the Successor of Peter, to found the Collegium Romanum here, the first University of the Society of Jesus.
Today, the Gregorian University is the university environment in which, even after 456 years, the desire of St Ignatius and his first companions to help souls to love and serve God in all things for his greater glory is being fulfilled.
I would say that here, within these walls, is achieved what Pope Julius III said on 21 July 1550 established in the "formula Istituti", establishing that every member of the Society of Jesus was bound to "sub crucis vexillo Deo militare, et soli Domino ac Ecclesiae Ipsius sponsae, sub Romano Pontifice, Christi in terris Vicario, servire", committing himself "potissimum... ad fidei defensionem et propagationem, et profectum animarum in vita et doctrina christiana, per publicas praedicationes, lectiones et aliud quodcumque verbi Dei ministerium..." (Apostolic Letter Exposcit Debitum, n. 1).
This charismatic specificity of the Society of Jesus, expressed institutionally in the fourth vow of total availability to the Roman Pontiff in anything he may see fit to command "ad profectum animarum et fidei propagationem" (ibid., n. 3), is also evident in the fact that the Superior General of the Company of Jesus summons from across the world the Jesuits best suited to carrying out the task of teaching at this University.
Knowing that this might involve the sacrifice of other works and services to further the aims the Society proposes to achieve, the Church is deeply grateful to it and desires the Gregorian to preserve the Ignatian spirit that enlivens it, expressed in its pedagogical method and curriculum.
Dear friends, with fatherly affection, I entrust all of you who are the living stones of the Gregorian University - Professors and Lecturers, students, non-teaching staff, benefactors and friends - to the intercession of St Ignatius of Loyola, St Robert Bellarmine and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Society of Jesus, who is referred to in the University's coat of arms with the title: Sedes Sapientiae.
With these sentiments I impart the Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of an abundance of heavenly favours.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to greet the members of Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the occasion of this Plenary Assembly, and I thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo for his kind words of greeting in your name. The theme of your meeting – “Predictability in Science: Accuracy and Limitations” – deals with a distinctive attribute of modern science. Predictability, in fact, is one of the chief reasons for science’s prestige in contemporary society. The establishment of the scientific method has given the sciences the ability to predict phenomena, to study their development, and thus to control the environment in which man lives.
This increasing ‘advance’ of science, and especially its capacity to master nature through technology, has at times been linked to a corresponding ‘retreat’ of philosophy, of religion, and even of the Christian faith. Indeed, some have seen in the progress of modern science and technology one of the main causes of secularization and materialism: why invoke God’s control over these phenomena when science has shown itself capable of doing the same thing? Certainly the Church acknowledges that “with the help of science and technology…, man has extended his mastery over almost the whole of nature”, and thus “he now produces by his own enterprise benefits once looked for from heavenly powers” (Gaudium et Spes GS 33). At the same time, Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress. The very starting-point of Biblical revelation is the affirmation that God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth. In this way, man has become the steward of creation and God’s “helper”. If we think, for example, of how modern science, by predicting natural phenomena, has contributed to the protection of the environment, the progress of developing nations, the fight against epidemics, and an increase in life expectancy, it becomes clear that there is no conflict between God’s providence and human enterprise. Indeed, we could say that the work of predicting, controlling and governing nature, which science today renders more practicable than in the past, is itself a part of the Creator’s plan.
Science, however, while giving generously, gives only what it is meant to give. Man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfil all his existential and spiritual needs. Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man’s most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, after acknowledging the benefits gained by scientific advances, pointed out that the “scientific methods of investigation can be unjustifiably taken as the supreme norm for arriving at truth”, and added that “there is a danger that man, trusting too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher values” (ibid., 57).
Scientific predictability also raises the question of the scientist’s ethical responsibilities. His conclusions must be guided by respect for truth and an honest acknowledgment of both the accuracy and the inevitable limitations of the scientific method. Certainly this means avoiding needlessly alarming predictions when these are not supported by sufficient data or exceed science’s actual ability to predict. But it also means avoiding the opposite, namely a silence, born of fear, in the face of genuine problems. The influence of scientists in shaping public opinion on the basis of their knowledge is too important to be undermined by undue haste or the pursuit of superficial publicity. As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once observed: “Scientists, precisely because they ‘know more’, are called to ‘serve more’. Since the freedom they enjoy in research gives them access to specialized knowledge, they have the responsibility of using that knowledge wisely for the benefit of the entire human family” (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 11 November 2002).
Dear Academicians, our world continues to look to you and your colleagues for a clear understanding of the possible consequences of many important natural phenomena. I think, for example, of the continuing threats to the environment which are affecting whole peoples, and the urgent need to discover safe, alternative energy sources available to all. Scientists will find support from the Church in their efforts to confront these issues, since the Church has received from her divine founder the task of guiding people’s consciences towards goodness, solidarity and peace. Precisely for this reason she feels in duty bound to insist that science’s ability to predict and control must never be employed against human life and its dignity, but always placed at its service, at the service of this and future generations.
There is one final reflection that the subject of your Assembly can suggest to us today. As some of the papers presented in the last few days have emphasized, the scientific method itself, in its gathering of data and in the processing and use of those data in projections, has inherent limitations that necessarily restrict scientific predictability to specific contexts and approaches. Science cannot, therefore, presume to provide a complete, deterministic representation of our future and of the development of every phenomenon that it studies. Philosophy and theology might make an important contribution to this fundamentally epistemological question by, for example, helping the empirical sciences to recognize a difference between the mathematical inability to predict certain events and the validity of the principle of causality, or between scientific indeterminism or contingency (randomness) and causality on the philosophical level, or, more radically, between evolution as the origin of a succession in space and time, and creation as the ultimate origin of participated being in essential Being.
At the same time, there is a higher level that necessarily transcends all scientific predictions, namely, the human world of freedom and history. Whereas the physical cosmos can have its own spatial-temporal development, only humanity, strictly speaking, has a history, the history of its freedom. Freedom, like reason, is a precious part of God’s image within us, and it can never be reduced to a deterministic analysis. Its transcendence vis-à-vis the material world must be acknowledged and respected, since it is a sign of our human dignity. Denying that transcendence in the name of a supposed absolute ability of the scientific method to predict and condition the human world would involve the loss of what is human in man, and, by failing to recognize his uniqueness and transcendence, could dangerously open the door to his exploitation.
Dear friends, as I conclude these reflections, I once more assure you of my close interest in the activities of this Pontifical Academy and of my prayers for you and your families. Upon all of you I invoke Almighty God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.
I would like first of all to offer you a cordial welcome and to express my joy at now being granted to complete your Pastoral Visit, cut short in 2005, and thus to work together again on the panorama of issues that concern us.
I still have a vivid memory of the ad limina visit in 2005, when at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we spoke of the problems that will be discussed once again in these days. I still clearly recall the atmosphere at that time of inner commitment to ensuring that the Word of God would be lively and would reach the hearts of the people of our time so that the Church might be full of life. In our common situation, rendered difficult by the secularized culture, let us seek to understand the mission entrusted to us by the Lord and to carry it out as best we can.
I have been unable to prepare a proper Address; in view of the individual aspects of the great mass of problems we will be touching on, I only want to make a few "trial attempts" that do not intend to come up with definitive assertions but only to initiate our conversation. This is a meeting of the Swiss Bishops and various Dicasteries of the Curia, in which each area of our pastoral task is identified and made visible. I shall try to make a few comments on some of them.
In keeping with my past, I will begin with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or rather, with the topic of faith.
Earlier, in my Homily [see page 6], I endeavoured to say that in all the anguish of our time, faith must truly have priority. Two generations ago, it might still have been presumed natural: one grew up in the faith; in a certain way, faith was simply present as part of life and did not need any special seeking. It needed to be formed and deepened, but seemed something perfectly obvious.
Today, the opposite seems natural: in other words, that it is basically impossible to believe, and that God is actually absent. The faith of the Church, in any case, seems something that belongs to the distant past.
Thus, even practising Christians are of the opinion that it is right to choose for oneself, from the overall faith of the Church, those things one considers still sustainable today. And especially, people also set about fulfilling their proper duty to God through their commitment to human beings, so to speak, at the same time.
This, however, is the beginning of a sort of "justification through works": the human being justifies himself and the world, in which he does what clearly seems necessary yet completely lacks the inner light and spirit.
Consequently, I believe it is important to acquire a fresh awareness of the fact that faith is the centre of all things - "Fides tua te salvum fecit", the Lord said over and over again to those he healed. It was not the physical touch, it was not the external gesture that was operative, but the fact that those sick people believed. And we too can only serve the Lord energetically if our faith thrives and is present in abundance.
In this context, I want to emphasize two crucial points.
First: faith is above all faith in God. In Christianity it is not a matter of an enormous bundle of different things; all that the Creed says and the development of faith has achieved exists only to make our perception of the Face of God clearer. He exists and he is alive; we believe in him; we live before him, in his sight, in being with him and from him. And in Jesus Christ, he is, as it were, with us bodily.
To my mind, this centrality of God must appear in a completely new light in all our thoughts and actions.
Furthermore, this is what enlivens activities which, on the contrary, can easily lapse into activism and become empty.
This is the first point I want to stress: faith actually looks to God with determination and thus impels us in turn to look to God and set out towards him.
The other thing concerns the fact that we ourselves cannot invent faith, composing it with "sustainable" pieces, but we believe together with the Church. We cannot understand all that the Church teaches, nor must all of it be present in every life.
Yet, it is important that we are co-believers in the great "I" of the Church, in her living "We", and thereby find ourselves in the great community of faith, in that great subject in which the "You" of God and the "I" of man truly touch each other; in which the past of the words of Scripture becomes the present, times flow into one another, the past is present and, opening itself to the future, allows into time the brightness of eternity, of the Eternal One.
This complete form of faith, expressed in the Creed, a faith in and with the Church as a living subject in which the Lord works: it is this form of faith that we must seek to put truly at the heart of our endeavours.
Today too, we see it very clearly: wherever development has been exclusively encouraged without nourishing the soul, it causes harm. Moreover, technological skills are indeed increasing, but they result above all in new possibilities of destruction.
If, as well as aid to developing countries, as well as learning all that the human being is able to do, all that human intelligence has invented and that human determination makes possible, the human heart is not illuminated at the same time and God's power does not arrive, human beings learn above all to destroy.
And for this reason I believe that missionary responsibility must once again become strong within us: if our faith makes us glad, let us feel bound to speak of it to others. The extent to which people will be able to accept it will then be in God's hands.
I would now like to move on from this topic to "Catholic Education", touching on two areas.
One thing which I believe is a cause of "concern" - in the positive sense of the word - to all of us, is the fact that future priests and other teachers and preachers of the faith must receive a good theological training; we therefore need good theological faculties, good major seminaries and qualified theology teachers who not only impart knowledge but inculcate in students an intelligent faith so that faith becomes intelligence and intelligence, faith.
In this regard, I have a very specific wish.
Our exegesis has progressed by leaps and bounds. We truly know a great deal about the development of texts, the subdivision of sources, etc., we know what words would have meant at that time.... But we are increasingly seeing that if historical and critical exegesis remains solely historical and critical, it refers the Word to the past, it makes it a Word of those times, a Word which basically says nothing to us at all; and we see that the Word is fragmented, precisely because it is broken up into a multitude of different sources.
With Dei Verbum, the Council told us that the historical-critical method is an essential dimension of exegesis because, since it is a factum historicum, it is part of the nature of faith. We do not merely believe in an idea; Christianity is not a philosophy but an event that God brought about in this world, a story that he pieced together in a real way and forms with us as history.
For this reason, in our reading of the Bible, the serious historical aspect with its requirements must be truly present: we must effectively recognize the event and, precisely in his action, this "making of history" on God's part.
Dei Verbum adds, however, that Scripture, which must consequently be interpreted according to historical methods, should also be read in its unity and must be read within the living community of the Church. These two dimensions are absent in large areas of exegesis.
The oneness of Scripture is not a purely historical and critical factor but indeed in its entirety, also from the historical viewpoint, it is an inner process of the Word which, read and understood in an ever new way in the course of subsequent relectures, continues to develop.
This oneness itself, however, is ultimately a theological fact: these writings form one Scripture which can only be properly understood if they are read in the analogia fidei as a oneness in which there is progress towards Christ, and inversely, in which Christ draws all history to himself; and if, moreover, all this is brought to life in the Church's faith.
In other words, I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with Dei Verbum: may they experience the inner unity of Scripture - something that today is helped by "canonical exegesis" (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages) - and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion in the presence of the Word.
It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis. I do not know how this should be done in practice, but I think that in the academic context and at seminaries, as well as in an introductory course, it will be possible to find capable teachers to ensure that this timely encounter with Scripture in the faith of the Church - an encounter on whose basis proclamation subsequently becomes possible - can take place.
The other thing is catechesis. Precisely in the past 50 years or so, it has come a long way in its methodology.
On the other hand, however, since much has been lost in anthropology and in the search for reference points, all too often catechesis does not even reach the content of the faith.
I can understand this since, even at the time when I was a parochial vicar - some 56 years ago -, it was already very difficult to proclaim the faith in pluralistic schools with numerous non-believing parents and children, because it appeared to be a totally foreign and unreal world.
Today, of course, the situation is even worse. Yet, it is important in catechesis, which includes the contexts of school, parish, community, etc., that faith be expounded fully, in other words, that children truly learn what "creation" is, what the "history of salvation" brought about by God is, and who Jesus Christ is, what the sacraments are and what is the object of our hope....
I think that we must all do our utmost for a renewal of catechesis in which the courage to witness to our faith and find ways to make it understood and accepted is fundamental.
Today, religious ignorance has sunk to an abysmal level. And yet in Germany, children are given at least 10 years of catechesis, so basically, they ought to know many things.
For this reason, we should certainly reflect seriously on our possibilities of finding ways to communicate knowledge, even simply, so that the culture of faith may be present.
And now, for some remarks on "Divine Worship". The Year of the Eucharist gave us much in this regard. I can say that the Post-Synodal Exhortation is at a good point. It will certainly be a great enrichment.
In addition, we have received the Document of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the proper celebration of the Eucharist, which is very important.
I believe that subsequent to all this it will slowly become clear that the Liturgy is not a "self-manifestation" of the community through which, as people say, it makes its entrance onto the scene; rather, it is the exit of the community from merely "being-its-self", its access to the great banquet of the poor and its entry into the vast living community in which God himself nourishes us. This universal character of the Liturgy must once again penetrate the awareness of one and all.
In the Eucharist we receive something that we cannot do, but instead enter something greater that becomes our own, precisely when we give ourselves to this thing that is greater, truly seeking to celebrate the Liturgy as the Church's Liturgy.
Furthermore, connected with this there is also the famous problem of the homily. From the purely functional viewpoint I can understand it very well: perhaps the parish priest is weary or has already preached again and again, or perhaps he is elderly and overburdened with tasks.
As a result, if there should be a pastoral assistant skilled in interpreting the Word of God convincingly, one might spontaneously ask: why should not the pastoral assistant speak; he is better at it so the people will draw greater benefit from it.
This, however, is the purely functional viewpoint. Instead, people should take into account the fact that the homily is not a discursive interruption in the Liturgy but part of the sacramental event, and that it brings the Word of God into the present of this community.
It is the moment when this community as a subject truly wants to be called into question, to be brought to listen to and accept the Word. This means that the homily itself is part of the mystery, of the celebration of the mystery, and therefore cannot simply be detached from it.
Above all, however, I think it is also important not to reduce the priest to the sacrament and to jurisdiction - in the conviction that all his other tasks could be done equally well by others - but to preserve the integrity of his office.
Moreover, the priesthood is only beautiful if the mission to be carried out is kept intact, without having bits and pieces chopped off here and there.
And the priest's duty to connect the sacrifice with the Word, which is an integral part of the whole, has always been part of this role, even in the Old Testament.
From the purely practical viewpoint, we must then, of course, see to providing priests with the necessary help so that they are also able to carry out properly the ministry of the Word. As a rule, this interior oneness, both of the essence of the Eucharistic Celebration and of the essence of the priestly ministry, is of great importance.
The second subject I would like to talk about concerns the Sacrament of Penance, whose practice in the past 50 years or thereabouts has gradually diminished. Thanks be to God, cloisters, abbeys and shrines exist where people go on pilgrimage, where their hearts are opened and also prepared for confession.
We must truly learn this Sacrament anew. From a purely anthropological viewpoint it is important, on the one hand, to recognize sin and on the other, to practice forgiveness. The widespread absence of an awareness of sin is a disturbing phenomenon of our time.
Thus, the gift of the Sacrament of Penance not only consists in the reception of forgiveness, but also and above all in being aware of our need for forgiveness. With this Sacrament we are purified, we are inwardly transformed and subsequently able to understand others even better and to forgive them.
For the human being, the recognition of sin is elementary - he is ill if he no longer perceives it -, and the liberating experience of being granted forgiveness is equally important for him. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the crucial place where both these things take place.
In this Sacrament, furthermore, faith becomes something completely personal; it is no longer concealed in collectivity. If man faces up to this challenge and in his need of forgiveness presents himself defenceless, as it were, before God, he then has the moving experience of a quite personal encounter with the love of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, I would like once again to focus attention on the ministry of the Bishop. Basically, we have already been talking about it implicitly all this time.
It seems to me important that Bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, on the one hand truly bear responsibility for the local Churches which the Lord has entrusted to them, ensuring that the Church as the Church of Jesus Christ grows and lives.
On the other hand, they must open the local Churches to the universal dimension. Given the difficulties the Orthodox encounter with the Autocephalous Churches as well as the problems of our Protestant friends in the face of the disintegration of the regional Churches, we realize the great significance of universality and the importance of the Church being open to totality, to become in universality a Church which is truly one.
The Church is only capable of this if she is active in her own local area. This communion must be nurtured by the Bishops together with the Successor of Peter in the spirit of a conscious succession to the College of the Apostles.
We must all strive continuously to find the right balance in this mutual relationship so that the local Church may live her authenticity, and that the universal Church may likewise be enriched by it so that both will give and receive, and thus the Lord's Church will grow.
Bishop Grab mentioned the ecumenical difficulties: this is an area I can only entrust to all your hearts. In Switzerland, you are confronted daily with this task which is tiring but also creates joy.
On the one hand, I think personal relationships are important, where we recognize and esteem one another in an immediate way as believers, and as spiritual persons purify ourselves and help one another in turn.
On the other, as Bishop Grab said, it is a question of guaranteeing the essential values and framework of our society, since they come from God.
In this area, all of us - Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox - have a great, joint task. And I am glad that awareness of this is growing.
In the West it is the Church in Greece which, in spite of some occasional problems with the Latins, always says very clearly: in Europe, we can only carry out our task if we work together for the great Christian heritage. The Church in Russia is also seeing this ever more clearly and likewise, our Protestant friends are aware of this fact.
I believe that if we learn to act together in this field, we could achieve a large degree of unity, even where full theological and sacramental unity are not yet possible.
To conclude, I would once again like to express to you my joy at your visit, as I wish you many fruitful exchanges during these days.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Your visit gives me great pleasure and I greet you all with affection. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Jozef Tomko, whom I thank for expressing your common sentiments and for telling me about your Plenary Assembly, which has been taking place in the past few days.
I cordially greet the Members of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses and the National Delegates who have taken part in this Meeting in order to prepare together for the upcoming 49th International Eucharistic Congress. It is scheduled to take place in Quebec in June 2008.
I next greet the representatives of the Local Preparatory Committee of this great ecclesial event, as well as the small but significant group of Adorers of the Eucharist.
You come from various parts of the world and the purpose of your Meeting is to prepare for this International Eucharistic Congress: a celebration of special importance to the whole of the Church. As Cardinal Jozef Tomko has just recalled, it constitutes a unanimous response of the People of God to the Lord's love, supremely manifested in the Mystery of the Eucharist.
It is true! The Eucharistic Congresses that take place from time to time in different places and on different continents are always a source of spiritual renewal, an opportunity to become better acquainted with the Blessed Eucharist, which is the most precious treasure Christ has bequeathed to us. They are also an encouragement to the Church to spread Christ's love in every social milieu and to witness to it unhesitatingly.
Moreover, ever since your praiseworthy Pontifical Committee was established, its proposed goal is "to make ever better known, loved and served Our Lord Jesus Christ in his Eucharistic Mystery, the centre of the Church's life and of her mission for the world's salvation".
Each one of these Eucharistic Congresses therefore represents a providential opportunity to solemnly show to humanity: "The Eucharist, a gift of God for the life of the world", as the basic text for the upcoming Congress says.
This Document was presented during your Meeting by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, to whom I address a special greeting. Not only those who have the opportunity to take part in person but also the various Christian communities who are invited to join it in spirit will be able to benefit from the special graces that the Lord will dispense at the International Eucharistic Congress.
In those days, the Catholic world will keep the eyes of its heart on the supreme mystery of the Eucharist in order to draw from it a new apostolic and missionary impetus. This is why it is important to prepare oneself well and I thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for the work you are carrying out to help the faithful on every continent to understand ever better the value and importance of the Eucharist in our lives.
Furthermore, the presence among you of several representatives of the Adorers of the Eucharist and the mention that you made, Cardinal Tomko, to the "Federación Mundial de la Adoración Nocturna", enables me to recall how helpful the rediscovery of Eucharistic Adoration is for many Christians.
In this regard, I am pleased to think back to my experience last year with the young people in Cologne on the occasion of World Youth Day, and in St Peter's Square with the children preparing for their First Communion accompanied by their families and catechists.
How great is humanity's need today to rediscover the source of its hope in the Sacrament of the Eucharist! I thank the Lord because many parishes, as well as celebrating Holy Mass devoutly, are educating the faithful in Eucharistic Adoration, and I hope also in view of the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress that this practice will continue to spread.
Dear brothers and sisters, as you well know, the next Post-Synodal Exhortation will be dedicated to the Eucharist. It will present the suggestions that were made at the last Synod of Bishops, dedicated precisely to the Eucharistic Mystery, and I am sure that this Document will also help the Church to prepare and to celebrate with interior participation the Eucharistic Congress that will be taking place in June 2008.
From this moment, I entrust it to the Virgin Mary, the first and incomparable adorer of Christ in the Eucharist. May Our Lady protect and accompany each one of you and your communities and make the work you are doing fruitful, with a view to the important ecclesial event in Quebec.
For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and warmly bless you all.
Speeches 2005-13 54