Speeches 2005-13 56
I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, at this solemn ceremony for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Holy See.
I was touched by your friendly words and by the greetings you have conveyed to me from His Majesty Emperor Akihito. I should be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by expressing to him my best wishes for himself and for the Imperial Family.
I am delighted with Japan's respectful and friendly relations with the Holy See and I offer my very cordial greetings to the Japanese People in the hope that they will pursue their human and spiritual development with respect for the dignity of the human person, seeking tirelessly to further peace and solidarity between peoples.
Mr Ambassador, as you have stressed, the rich cultural and spiritual traditions of your Country have contributed to spreading the fundamental human values. Society's recognition of the spiritual dimension, which is giving rise to an authentic dialogue between religions and cultures, cannot but encourage a common journey in brotherhood and solidarity; this alone will make possible the integral development of the human being.
In fact, many possible fields of action are open to these interreligious and intercultural forms of cooperation, especially in the areas of commitment to a just society, to world peace and to the fight against poverty in growing solidarity.
More than ever, the search for peace between nations must be a priority in international relations. No definitive solution to the crises that the world is going through can be found in violence.
On the contrary, they will be settled by peaceful means and respect for the commitments made.
As people know and as experience never ceases to demonstrate, violence can never be a correct answer to the problems of societies, for it destroys the dignity, life and freedom of the human person whom it claims to defend.
To build peace, cultural, political and economic policies are important. However, "first of all peace must be built in hearts. It is here, in fact, that sentiments develop that can nurture it or, on the contrary, threaten, weaken and stifle it" (Message for the 20th Anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting in Assisi, 2 September 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 13 September, p. 3).
Thus, while I hail the steps it has taken, I ask your Country to persevere with determination in its efforts to help establish a just and stable peace in the world, especially in the Far East.
In the crisis this region is currently experiencing, the Holy See encourages bilateral or multilateral negotiations, convinced that a solution must be sought by peaceful means and with respect for the engagement of all the parties present, to achieve the nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.
Ongoing humanitarian aid
In this same perspective, I ardently hope that the international community will pursue and intensify its humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable peoples, especially in North Korea, to forestall the serious consequences to civilians that a possible interruption of it might cause.
Furthermore, Mr Ambassador, I am delighted with your Country's generous contribution to assisting the poorer nations. It is indeed essential that the constantly developing bonds of interdependence between peoples be accompanied by an intense commitment to prevent consequences of the disastrous escalation of the marked inequalities that persist between developed and developing countries.
These bonds must be transformed into genuine solidarity that encourages the economic and social growth of the poorer countries.
I rejoice in the respect that the Catholic Church enjoys in Japan. Through you, Mr Ambassador, I desire to greet warmly its Bishops and all the members of their Dioceses, as I encourage them to live ever more firmly in the communion of faith and to pursue their commitment to peace and reconciliation among the region's peoples, generously collaborating with their compatriots.
At the time when your mission to the Apostolic See is beginning, I offer you my best wishes for its success. I wish to assure you of the cordial and attentive support that you will always find here with my collaborators.
I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon His Majesty Emperor Akihito and upon the Imperial Family, upon the Japanese People and its leaders, as well as upon you, Your Excellency, your collaborators and your family.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).
With St Paul's greeting to the Romans I address you who dedicate your intelligence, love and zeal to promoting the full communion of all Christians, according to the will of the Lord himself who prayed for that unity on the eve of his passion, death and Resurrection.
First of all, I thank Cardinal Walter Kasper, your President, for his greeting and his full summary of your Plenary Assembly, and I thank all of you who have contributed your experience and hope to this meeting in an attempt to identify satisfactory responses to a changing situation.
This very factor is the focus of the theme you have chosen to study: "The changing ecumenical situation". We are living in a period of great changes in practically all the contexts of life, hence, it is not surprising that they are also affecting the life of the Church and inter-Christian relations.
Yet, it must be said at the outset that even in the presence of changing situations, sensitivities and problems, the goal of the ecumenical movement has stayed the same: the visible unity of the Church. As is well known, the Second Vatican Council considered the restoration of full unity among all Christians as one of its principal aims (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).
This is also my own aim. I gladly take this opportunity to repeat and confirm, with renewed conviction, what I affirmed at the beginning of my ministry upon the Chair of Peter: "Peter's current Successor", I said then, "takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty" (Initial Message of Pope Benedict XVI, 20 April 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 27 April, p. 4).
And I added, "The current Successor of Peter is allowing himself to be called in the first person by this requirement and is prepared to do everything in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism" (ORE, ibid.).
In fact, from the Second Vatican Council to this day, many steps have been taken towards full communion.
I picture before me the Council Hall in which the Observer Delegates of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities were attentive but silent. In the 10 years that followed, this image gave way to the reality of a Church in dialogue with all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of East and West.
Silence has been transformed into words of communion. This has been brought about by an enormous amount of work on a global and local scale.
Brotherhood among all Christians has been rediscovered and re-established as a condition for dialogue, cooperation, common prayer and solidarity. This is what my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II of happy memory, emphasized in his Encyclical on Commitment to Ecumenism, in which he explicitly asserted, among other things, that "a valuable result of the contacts between Christians and of the theological dialogue in which they engage is the growth of communion. Both contacts and dialogue have made Christians aware of the elements of faith which they have in common" (Encyclical Ut Unum Sint UUS 49).
That Encyclical highlighted the positive results of ecumenical relations between Christians of both East and West.
How can we fail to remember in this context the experience of communion lived with the representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities who came from every continent to attend the funeral of the unforgettable Pope John Paul II, as well as the inauguration of my own Pontificate?
Sharing in sorrow and joy is a visible sign of the new situation created among Christians. Blessed be God!
My upcoming Visit to His Holiness Bartholomew I and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be a further sign of consideration for the Orthodox Churches and will act as an incentive - we are confident of this - to hasten our steps toward the re-establishment of full communion.
Realistically, however, we have to recognize that much ground still remains to be covered. Many aspects of the situation have changed since the Second Vatican Council, and Cardinal Kasper has outlined these changes for us. The rapid upheavals in the world have also had repercussions on ecumenism.
At the time of the Council, many of the venerable Churches of the East existed in conditions of oppression under dictatorial regimes.
Today, they have recovered their freedom and are involved in a broad process of reorganization and revitalization. We are close to them with our sentiments and our prayers.
The Eastern and Western parts of Europe are drawing closer to each other. This encourages the Churches to coordinate their efforts to safeguard the Christian tradition and to proclaim the Gospel to the new generations. The situation of advanced secularization, especially in the Western world, makes this collaboration particularly urgent.
Fortunately, after a period fraught with difficulty, the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches has acquired a new impetus.
The International Joint Commission for Dialogue had a positive meeting in Belgrade, generously hosted by the Orthodox Church of Serbia. We have great hopes for the future journey that will be undertaken, with respect for the legitimate theological, liturgical and disciplinary variety, for the achievement of an ever fuller communion of faith and love in which an increasingly profound exchange of the spiritual riches of every Church will be possible.
With the Ecclesial Communities of the West too, we are engaged in various bilateral dialogues that are open and friendly. They are recording progress in reciprocal knowledge, in overcoming prejudices, in the confirmation of certain convergences and even in a more precise identification of the real divergences.
I would like to mention in particular the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" which was achieved in the dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation, and the fact that for its own part, the World Methodist Council gave its assent to this Declaration.
In the meantime, various important issues have arisen that require deeper examination and agreement.
The main difficulty consists in finding a common conception of the relationship between the Gospel and the Church, and related to this, of the mystery of the Church and of her unity as well as on the question of ministry in the Church.
New difficulties are then appearing in the field of ethics, with the result that the different positions taken by the Christian Confessions on current problems have reduced the effect of their guidance on public opinion. Precisely from this viewpoint, an indepth dialogue on Christian anthropology and on the interpretation of the Gospel and its concrete application is essential.
In any case, what should be encouraged first of all is the ecumenism of love, which directly descends from the new commandment that Jesus left to his disciples. Love accompanied by consistent behaviour creates trust and opens hearts and eyes.
The dialogue of charity nourishes and enlightens by its nature the dialogue of truth: indeed, the definitive encounter to which the Spirit of Christ leads us will take place in the full truth.
It is certainly not relativism or a facile and false irenicism that will resolve the ecumenical search; indeed, they distort it and confuse it.
Furthermore, ecumenical training should be intensified, starting from the foundations of the Christian faith, that is, from the proclamation of the love of God who revealed himself in the Face of Jesus Christ, and at the same time revealed man to himself and brought to light his most high calling (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22).
These two essential dimensions are supported by the practical cooperation among Christians that "vividly expresses that bond which already unites them, and... sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 12).
As a conclusion to my words, I would like to reaffirm the quite special importance of spiritual ecumenism. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, therefore, is rightly committed to it, relying on prayer, charity and conversion of heart for personal and communal renewal.
I urge you to continue in this direction, which has already produced so much fruit and will bear more.
For my part, I assure you of the support of my prayers as I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all, as confirmation of my trust and affection.
Dear Confreres in the Episcopate,
I welcome you here at the Pope's house with special joy, dear Confreres from our common German and Bavarian Homeland. Your visit ad limina Apostolorum brings you to the tombs of the Apostles, which do not only speak of the past but above all refer us to the Risen Lord, who is always present in his Church and always "goes before" her (cf. Mc 16,7).
The tombs tell us that the Church is ever bound to witness to her origins but at the same time continues to be alive in the sacrament of Apostolic Succession; and that, through the apostolic ministry, the Lord always speaks to us in the present.
This touches on our apostolic task as Successors of the Apostles; we live within the bond that binds us to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega (cf. Rv Ap 1,8 Ap 21,6 Ap 22,13), the One who is and who was and who is to come (Ap 1,4).
We proclaim the Lord in the living community of his Body, enlivened by his Spirit - in living communion with the Successor of Peter and the College of Bishops. The ad limina visit must strengthen us in this communion; it must help us so that we are increasingly guided to be faithful and wise stewards of the goods entrusted to us by the Lord (cf. Lc 12,42).
To stay faithful to the Lord, hence, to herself, the Church must be continually renewed. But how should this be done?
To answer this question we must first probe the will of the Lord, Head of the Church, and recognize clearly that all ecclesial reform is born from the serious commitment to acquire a deeper knowledge of the truth of the Catholic faith, and from the ongoing aspiration to moral purification and virtue. This appeal is addressed primarily to every individual, and then to the entire People of God.
The reform process can easily slip into external activism if those who are implementing it do not lead an authentic spiritual life and constantly examine the reasons for their action in the light of the faith. This is true for all the members of the Church: Bishops, priests, deacons, Religious and all the faithful.
In his Regula Pastoralis, Pope St Gregory the Great set, as it were, a mirror before the Bishop: "not relaxing in his care for what is inward from being occupied in outward things.... One whose estimation is such that... great necessity is laid upon him to maintain rectitude. He often receives inappropriate external praise but should not relax his care for what is inward" (cf. Book II, 1).
It is a matter of setting aside the individual ego - and this is certainly also the daily duty of every Christian - and of exposing oneself to the loving and challenging gaze of Jesus. The encounter with the living Christ is always the centre of our service and gives our life its decisive orientation.
In him, God focuses his love on us, and through our priestly and episcopal ministry it is passed on to people in the most varied situations, to the healthy as well as to the sick, to the suffering as well as to those who are at fault. God gives us his love that forgives, heals and sanctifies.
He encounters us again and again "in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his Word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence, and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives" (Deus Caritas Est ).
Naturally, the Church needs institutional and structural planning. Ecclesial institutions, pastoral planning and other juridical structures are, to a certain extent, simple needs. At times, however, they are presented as the essential, which makes it impossible to discern what is truly essential. They correspond to their authentic meaning only if they are assessed and oriented to the criterion of the truth of faith.
In short, it must and will be faith itself in all its greatness, clarity and beauty that defines the rhythm of reform, which is fundamental and which we need.
In all this, of course, it should never be forgotten that those on whose skills and good will depend the implementation of the measures for reform are always human beings. However difficult it may seem in the individual case, in this regard new and clear personal decisions must always be made.
Dear Brothers in the episcopal ministry, I know that many of you are quite rightly concerned that pastoral structures develop in keeping with the present situation.
In the face of the currently dwindling numbers of priests and unfortunately also of the faithful who go to (Sunday) Mass, models are being applied in various German-speaking Dioceses for the modification and restructuring of pastoral care which threaten to blur the image of the parish priest, that is, the priest who, as a man of God and of the Church, guides a parish community.
I am sure, dear Confreres, that you are not leaving these projects to be worked out by aloof planners, but that you entrust them only to priests and collaborators who not only possess the necessary enlightened judgment of faith and an adequate theological, canonical, historical and practical training as well as sufficient pastoral experience, but who also truly have at heart the salvation of humankind.
Thus, as we would have said in the past, they should be marked by "zeal for souls" and have the integral, hence, eternal salvation of man as the suprema lex of their thought and action.
Above all, you will give your approval only to those structural reforms that are in full harmony with the Church's teaching on the priesthood and with her juridical norms, taking care that the application of the reforms in no way lessens the magnetism of the priestly ministry.
If people sometimes hold that the laity are unable to become sufficiently integrated into Church structures, it is because their opinions are based on a restrictive fixation on collaboration in directive bodies, on important positions in Church-funded structures or on the exercise of specific liturgical roles.
Of course, these areas also have their importance, but must not lead to forgetfulness of the broad and open field of the urgently necessary apostolate of lay people and its multiple tasks: the proclamation of the Good News to millions of their fellow citizens who do not know Christ and his Church; catechesis for children and adults in our parish communities; charitable services; work in the social communications media, as well as the social commitment to the integral protection of human life, to social justice and to the area of Christian cultural initiatives.
Indeed, there is no lack of tasks for committed lay Catholics, but perhaps today, it is the missionary spirit, creativity and courage to set out on new routes that are sometimes lacking.
In my Address to the first group of German Bishops I mentioned briefly the many liturgical roles that lay people can carry out in the Church today: the role of extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, and in addition, the roles of lector and of guidance of the liturgy of the Word. I do not wish to return to this subject here.
It is important that these duties are not exercised or claimed as a right but rather are carried out in a spirit of service. The Liturgy calls us all to God's service, for God and for humankind. In this service we do not wish to be prominent but to stand humbly before God and let his light shine through us.
In this Discourse, I would like briefly to address an additional four points that truly matter to me.
The first point is the proclamation of the faith to the youth of our time.
Young people today live in a secularized culture, totally oriented to material things. In daily life - in the means of communication, at work, in leisure time - they experience at most a culture in which God is absent. Yet, they are waiting for God.
The World Youth Days have shown us what expectation and readiness for God and the Gospel exist in the young people of our time.
Our response to this expectation must take many forms. The World Youth Days presuppose that youth in their own surroundings, especially the parish, can encounter faith.
Here, for example, the task of altar servers is important; it brings children and young people into contact with the altar, with the Word of God and the intimate life of the Church. It was beautiful, during the altar-servers pilgrimage, to see so many young people from Germany joyfully gathered in faith. Persevere in this task and make sure that altar servers can truly find God, his Word, the Sacrament of his Presence in the Church and can learn from this to shape their own lives.
Another important way is also work with choirs, where young people can acquire an education in beauty and an education in communion and can experience the joy of participating in Mass and thus receive a formation in the faith.
After the Council, the Holy Spirit endowed us with the "movements". They sometimes appear to be rather strange to the parish priest or Bishop but are places of faith where young people and adults try out a model of life in faith as an opportunity for life today.
I therefore ask you to approach movements very lovingly. Here and there, they must be corrected or integrated into the overall context of the parish or Diocese. Yet, we must respect the specific character of their charism and rejoice in the birth of communitarian forms of faith in which the Word of God becomes life.
The second subject I would like to touch on at least briefly are ecclesial charitable institutions.
In my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I spoke of the service of charity as a fundamental and indispensable expression of faith in the Church's life. I also mentioned the interior principle of charitable acts. ""The love of Christ urges us on,' (II Cor 5: 14)" (n. 35).
The "duty" of charity itself (cf. 1Co 9,16) which spurred St Paul to go out into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel, this "duty" of the love of Christ itself has inspired German Catholics to set up charitable institutions to help people who live in poverty to claim their right to share in the goods of the earth.
It is now important to see that, in their programmes and actions, such charitable works truly correspond to the inner impulse of love sustained by faith. It is important to make sure that they do not fall into political dependence but solely serve their task of justice and love.
For this reason, close collaboration with the Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences is in turn essential, because they are truly familiar with the local situation and can ensure that the gift of the faithful is kept safe from the confusion of political and other interests and used for the good of people.
The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" has much experience in this field and will gladly offer its help and advice in all these matters.
I also have the topic of marriage and the family particularly at heart.
Today, the order of marriage as established in creation and of which the Bible tells us expressly in the narrative of creation (cf. Gn Gn 2,24) is gradually being obscured.
To the extent that man seeks in new ways to build for himself the world as a whole, thereby ever more perceptibly endangering its foundations, he also loses his vision of the order of creation with regard to his own life. He considers he can define himself as he pleases by virtue of an inane freedom.
Thus, the foundations that support his life and the life of society are undermined. It becomes difficult for young people to commit themselves definitively. They are afraid of finality, which seems to them impracticable and contrary to freedom.
In this way it becomes more and more difficult to welcome children and to give them that lasting space for the growth and development that only the family founded on marriage can provide.
In this situation just mentioned, it is very important to help young people say to themselves the definitive "yes" that is not in opposition to freedom but constitutes its greatest opportunity.
Love reaches its true maturity in the patience required by being together for the whole of life. It is in this environment of lifelong love that children too must learn to live and love.
Therefore, I would like to ask you to do all you can to see that marriage and the family are formed, promoted and encouraged.
Lastly, here are a few brief words on ecumenism.
All the praiseworthy initiatives on the journey to the full unity of all Christians find common prayer and reflection on the Holy Scriptures fertile soil in which to grow and develop communion.
In Germany, our efforts must be directed above all to Christians of the Lutheran and Reformed faith. At the same time, let us not lose sight of our brothers and sisters of the Orthodox Churches, although they are proportionally fewer.
From all Christians the world is entitled to expect a unanimous profession of faith in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of humanity. The ecumenical commitment, therefore, cannot stop at joint documents. It becomes visible and effective wherever Christians of various Churches and Ecclesial Communities, in a social context that is ever more foreign to religion, profess the values passed on by the Christian faith convincingly and together, and forcefully emphasize them in their political and social action.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Since I myself come from your Land which is so dear to me, I feel particularly involved in the achievements of the Church in Germany as well as by the challenges she must face.
I know all that is good in the Church in our Country, not only by observation and personal experience but also because Bishops, priests and other visitors from Europe and from many other parts of the world speak to me time and again of the good they receive through ecclesial structures and people.
The Church in Germany truly has a wealth of spiritual and religious resources. The faithful service of so many priests, deacons, Religious and professional ecclesial collaborators in pastoral situations that are not always easy, all too often too little appreciated, deserves respect and recognition.
I am also deeply grateful because an ever greater number of Christians are willing to be involved in parish communities and Dioceses, in associations and movements, and also as Catholic believers to take on responsibility in the heart of society. In this context, I share with you the firm hope that the Church in Germany will become more and more mission oriented and will find ways to pass on the faith to future generations.
I am well acquainted, dear Confreres in the Episcopate, with your generous commitment and with that of all the priests, deacons, Religious and lay people in your Dioceses. Thus, I desire to witness once again today to my affection and to encourage you to carry out your service as united and confident Pastors.
I am sure that the Lord will accompany and reward your faithfulness and zeal with his Blessing.
May Mary, Virgin Most Holy and Mother of God, Mother of the Church and Help of Christians, implore for you, the clergy and the faithful of our Country, the strength, joy and perseverance to face the necessary commitment for an authentic renewal of the life of faith with courage and with firm trust in the help of the Holy Spirit.
Through her maternal intercession and through that of all the saints venerated in our Country, I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the faithful in Germany.
Clementine Hall Saturday, 18 November 2006
Mr President of the Republic,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would first of all like to express my personal thanks in particular to Daniel Stabrawa, Christian Stadelmann, Neithard Resa and Jan Diesselhorst, the four musicians of the "Philharmonia Quartett Berlin", for their brilliant performance at this concert.
Distinguished Gentlemen, in your 20 years of concert performances together as a string quartet, you have acquired international fame. Today too, you have confirmed this with your refined style, your perfect way of playing together and a deep richness of expression in the delicate nuances of tone and marvellous harmony of your ensemble.
Playing together as soloists not only requires the individual to make the most of all his technical and musical skills in playing his own part, but at the same time, he must also know how to stand back to listen attentively to others.
Only if the soloist succeeds in doing this, that is, if no one monopolizes centre stage but in a spirit of service fits in with the whole group and as it were makes himself available as an "instrument" so that the composer's thought can become sound and thus reach the hearts of listeners, only then is the performance truly great, like the one we have just heard.
This is also a beautiful image for us who, in the context of the Church, are committed to being "instruments" in order to communicate to people the thought of the great "Composer", whose work is the harmony of the universe.
Thank you, Mr President of the Republic, for making it possible for us to have this intense experience of listening to precious music. I am likewise grateful to you for the cordial words with which you greeted us and prepared our minds to listen to this masterful musical performance.
I also address my heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to organizing this concert.
Dear Mr President, you could not have given me any more beautiful a gift than this!
OFFICIAL VISIT OF H.E. Mr GIORGIO NAPOLITANO
Monday, 20 November 2006
I am deeply grateful to you for the visit with which you honour me today and I offer my cordial greeting to you, and through you, to the whole of the Italian People, whose representatives summoned you last May to assume the highest office of the State. On this solemn occasion, I would like to renew to you personally my warm congratulations on the lofty office which has been conferred upon you.
I also extend my greeting to the distinguished Members of the Delegation that has accompanied you.
At the same time, I would also like to convey once again to all Italians that gratitude which I had the opportunity to express during my Visit to the Quirinal on 24 June 2005. Indeed, almost daily since my election they have shown me with warmth and enthusiasm their sentiments of acceptance, attention and spiritual support in the fulfilment of my mission.
Moreover, in this heartfelt closeness, the Pope finds a meaningful expression of that special bond of faith and history that for centuries has bound Italy to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, whose abode, not without the dispositions of Divine Providence, is located in this Country.
To assure the Holy See "absolute and visible independence" and "to guarantee it indisputable sovereignty also in the international arena", the Vatican City State was established with the Lateran Pacts. By virtue of this Treaty, the Italian Republic offers at different levels and in different ways a precious and daily contribution to my mission as Pastor of the universal Church.
The visit to the Vatican of the Head of the Italian State is therefore a welcome opportunity for me to extend my respectful thoughts to all the State bodies as I thank them for their effective cooperation for the benefit of the Petrine ministry and the work of the Holy See.
Your visit today, Mr President, is not only the felicitous confirmation of a tradition of reciprocal visits over many decades between the Successor of Peter and the highest Office of the Italian State, but it also has an important meaning, for it provides a special pause for reflection on the profound reasons for the meetings of Church and State representatives.
They seem to me to have been clearly explained by the Second Vatican Council, which says in the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes: "The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles. This service will redound the more effectively to the welfare of all insofar as both institutions practice better cooperation according to the local and prevailing situation" (n. 76).
This vision is also shared by the Italian State, which declares in its Constitution first of all that "the State and the Catholic Church, each in its own province, are independent and sovereign", and goes on to assert that "their relations are regulated by the Lateran Pacts" (art. 7).
This structuring of Church-State relations also inspired the Agreement signed by the Holy See and Italy on 18 February 1984, which revised the Lateran Concordat. This Agreement reasserted the independence and sovereignty of the State and the Church, as well as their "cordial collaboration in support... of the human person... of the common good... of a people" (art. 1).
I willingly associate myself with the hope you expressed, Mr President, at the beginning of your mandate: that this collaboration might continue to develop in practice.
Yes, Church and State, although quite distinct, are both called, in accordance with their respective roles and their own scope and means, to serve the human being, who is both the object of the Church's saving mission and a participator in it, as well as a citizen of the State. It is in man that these two societies meet and collaborate, the better to promote the integral good.
The concern of the civil community for the good of citizens cannot be limited to a few dimensions of the person, such as physical health, financial well-being, intellectual training or social relations.
Man also presents himself to the State with his religious dimension, which "consists primarily of those voluntary and free internal acts by which a man directs himself to God" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 3).
"Acts of this kind cannot be commanded or forbidden" by any human authority, who is bound on the contrary to respect and to further this dimension. As the Second Vatican Council authoritatively taught with regard to the right to religious freedom, no one can be forced "to act against his conscience", nor must he be "prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters" (ibid.).
It would be reductive, however, to claim that the right to religious freedom is sufficiently guaranteed when personal religious beliefs are not attacked or meddled with, or when this right is limited to respect for the expression of faith in the context of the place of worship.
Indeed, it cannot be forgotten that "his own social nature requires that man give external expression to these internal acts of religion, that he communicate with others on religious matters and profess his religion in community" (ibid.).
Religious freedom, therefore, is not only the right of the individual but also of families, of religious groups and of the Church herself (cf. Dignitatis Humanae DH 4-5), and the exercise of this right is felt in many spheres and situations where believers may work.
The proper respect for the right to religious freedom, therefore, presupposes the civil Authority's commitment "to create conditions favourable to the fostering of religious life, so that the citizens will be really in a position to exercise their religious rights and fulfil their religious duties and so that society itself may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from man's faithfulness to God and his holy will" (ibid. n. 6).
Moreover, these lofty principles which the Second Vatican Council proclaimed are the patrimony of many civil societies, including Italy. Indeed, they are present both in Italy's Constitution and in numerous international documents that proclaim human rights.
And, Mr President, you also fittingly recalled the need to give recognition to the social and public dimensions of the religious element. The same Council recalled that when society respects and encourages the religious dimension of its members, it receives in exchange "the benefits of justice and peace, which result from man's faithfulness to God and his holy will" (ibid.).
The freedom that the Church and Christians claim does not jeopardize the interests of the State or of other social groups. It does not aim for an authoritarian supremacy over them but rather, as I said during the recent National Ecclesial Convention held in Verona, is the condition for carrying out that precious service which the Church offers to Italy and to every country where she is present.
This service to society, which consists principally in giving "positive and convincing responses to the longings and questions of our people" (cf. Discourse to the Participants at the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention in Verona, 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 October, p. 6), offering to their life the light of faith, the force of hope and the warmth of charity, is also expressed in the civil and political context.
Indeed, if it is true that by her nature and her mission, "the Church... is not and does not intend to be a political agent", she nevertheless "has a profound interest in the good of the political community" (ibid. p. 9).
This specific contribution is mainly made by the lay faithful, who, acting with full responsibility and making use of the right to participate in public life, work with other members of society "to build a just order in society" (ibid.).
In their action, moreover, they rely on the "fundamental values and anthropological principles and ethics rooted in the nature of the human being" (ibid.), which are also recognizable through the proper use of reason.
Thus, when they undertake to confront with their words and actions today's great challenges, such as war and terrorism, hunger and thirst, the extreme poverty of so many human beings, several terrible epidemics, but also the safeguard of human life in all its stages from conception until natural death and the promotion of the family founded on marriage and primarily responsible for education, they are not acting in their own special interests or on behalf of principles that can only be perceived by those who profess a specific religious creed: they do so, instead, in the context of, and abiding by, the rules of democratic coexistence for the good of the whole of society and on behalf of values that every upright person can share.
Proof of this is the fact that the majority of the values that I mentioned are proclaimed by the Italian Constitution, which was drafted almost 60 years ago by people holding different ideals.
Mr President, I would like to end these reflections with the warm wish that the Italian Nation will be able to advance on the path of authentic progress and make its precious contribution to the international Community, always fostering those human and Christian values that substantiate its history, its culture, its spiritual, juridical and artistic heritage, and which are still the basis of the life and commitment of its citizens.
I am sure that this effort will include the loyal and generous contribution given by the Catholic Church through the teaching of her Bishops, whom I will shortly be meeting during their visit ad limina Apostolorum, and thanks to the work of all the faithful.
I also express this wish through prayer, imploring from Almighty God a special Blessing upon this noble Country, its inhabitants and in particular, those who govern its future.
Forty years ago, our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, met together in this city sanctified by the ministry and the blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They began a new journey of reconciliation based on the Gospels and the ancient common traditions. Centuries of estrangement between Anglicans and Catholics were replaced by a new desire for partnership and co-operation, as the real but incomplete communion we share was rediscovered and affirmed. Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey undertook at that time to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love.
Since that meeting, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have entered into a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith and a desire to give expression, through joint prayer, witness and service, to that which we hold in common. Over thirty-five years, the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has produced a number of important documents which seek to articulate the faith we share. In the ten years since the most recent Common Declaration was signed by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the second phase of ARCIC has completed its mandate, with the publication of the documents The Gift of Authority (1999) and Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ (2005). We are grateful to the theologians who have prayed and worked together in the preparation of these texts, which await further study and reflection.
True ecumenism goes beyond theological dialogue; it touches our spiritual lives and our common witness. As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical co-operation and service. This fellowship in the service of Christ, experienced by many of our communities around the world, adds a further impetus to our relationship. The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) has been engaged in an exploration of the appropriate ways in which our shared mission to proclaim new life in Christ to the world can be advanced and nurtured. Their report, which sets out both a summary of the central conclusions of ARCIC and makes proposals for growing together in mission and witness, has recently been completed and submitted for review to the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and we express our gratitude for their work.
In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them. At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous.
As Christian leaders facing the challenges of the new millennium, we affirm again our public commitment to the revelation of divine life uniquely set forth by God in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that it is through Christ and the means of salvation found in him that healing and reconciliation are offered to us and to the world.
There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us: the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism; promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of children in the context of healthy family life; outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; addressing the negative effects of materialism; and care for creation and for our environment. We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters.
Mindful of our forty years of dialogue, and of the witness of the holy men and women common to our traditions, including Mary the Theotókos, Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury, we pledge ourselves to more fervent prayer and a more dedicated endeavour to welcome and live by that truth into which the Spirit of the Lord wishes to lead his disciples (cf. Jn 16,13). Confident of the apostolic hope “that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion”(cf. Ph 1,6), we believe that if we can together be God’s instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us.
From the Vatican, 23 November 2006
Benedictus PP. XVI
His Grace Rowan Williams
Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! Your visit here today brings to mind the important custom established by our predecessors in recent decades. It also reminds us of the much longer history of relations between the See of Rome and the See of Canterbury which began when Pope Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine to the land of the Anglo-Saxons over 1,400 years ago. I am happy today to welcome you and the distinguished delegation accompanying you. This is not our first meeting. Indeed, I was grateful for your presence, and that of other representatives of the Anglican Communion, at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, and again at the inauguration of my pontificate a year and a half ago.
Your visit to the Holy See coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the visit of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, to Pope Paul VI. It was a visit filled with great promise, as the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church took steps towards initiating a dialogue about the questions to be addressed in the search for full visible unity.
There is much in our relations over the past forty years for which we must give thanks. The work of the theological dialogue commission has been a source of encouragement as matters of doctrine which have separated us in the past have been addressed. The friendship and good relations which exist in many places between Anglicans and Catholics have helped to create a new context in which our shared witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been nourished and advanced. The visits of Archbishops of Canterbury to the Holy See have served to strengthen those relations and have played an important role in addressing the obstacles which keep us apart. This tradition helped give rise to a constructive meeting of Anglican and Catholic bishops in Mississauga, Canada, in May 2000, when it was agreed to form a joint commission of bishops to discern appropriate ways to express in ecclesial life the progress which has already been made. For all of this, we give thanks to God.
In the present context, however, and especially in the secularized Western world, there are many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities. Over the last three years you have spoken openly about the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the future of the Communion itself. Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue to be taken seriously in your discernment. In these deliberations we accompany you with heartfelt prayer. It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.
The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the Gospel. The immense sufferings of the human family and the forms of injustice that adversely affect the lives of so many people constitute an urgent call for our shared witness and service. Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue. I hope that your visit will assist in finding constructive ways forward in the current circumstances.
May the Lord continue to bless you and your family, and may he strengthen you in your ministry to the Anglican Communion!
It gives me great pleasure to be able to greet you in this city, which was sanctified in the very early days of the Christian era by the ministry of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and from which so many of your predecessors have borne noble witness to the transforming Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Early in my ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury, I was able to visit your much loved and venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and to bring to him the greetings of the worldwide Anglican family of churches of some eighty million Christians. Pope John Paul had inspired many throughout the world by his dedication to Christ, and, as you know, had won a special place in the hearts of many beyond the Roman Catholic Church by the compassion and steadfastness revealed in his ministry to all.
As we meet on this occasion, we are also recalling and celebrating the visit forty years ago of my predecessor Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI, when this encounter between the leaders of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches initiated a process of reconciliation and friendship which has continued to this day. The ring that I wear today is the episcopal ring which Pope Paul gave to Archbishop Michael, this cross the gift from Pope John Paul II, symbolic of our shared commitment to work together for the full visible unity of the Christian family.
It is in that same fraternal spirit that I make this visit now, since the journey of friendship that they began is one that I believe that we should continue together. I have been heartened by the way in which from the very beginning of your ministry as Bishop of Rome, you have stressed the importance of ecumenism in your own ministry. If the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be fully proclaimed to a needy world, then the reconciliation of all Christians in the truth and love of God is a vital element for our witness.
I say this, conscious that the path to unity is not an easy one, and that disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modern society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue, common witness and service. In the modern world, no part of the Christian family acts without profound impact on our ecumenical partners; only a firm foundation of friendship in Christ will enable us to be honest in speaking to one another about those difficulties, and discerning a way forward which seeks to be wholly faithful to the charge laid upon us as disciples of Christ. I come here today, therefore, to celebrate the ongoing partnership between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but also ready to hear and to understand the concerns which you will wish to share with me.
However, there is a task which is laid upon us both as pastors of the Christian family: to be advocates of reconciliation, justice and compassion in this world - to be ambassadors for Christ - and I am confident that an honest exchange of our concerns will not be allowed to eclipse what we can affirm and proclaim together - the hope of salvation and healing found in the Grace and Love of God revealed in Christ.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you with great joy and address my cordial welcome to each one of you.
I first greet Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate, and thank him for his words expressing your affection and emphasizing the special interest the Supreme Pontiffs have taken in the Vatican Museums, which are celebrating their fifth centenary this year.
I also greet Bishop Renato Boccardo, the General Secretary, and Dr Francesco Buranelli, Director of the Museums.
Naturally, I had intended to meet you, who form the largest group of employees in Vatican City, and I am glad that it is taking place during these Jubilee celebrations.
I would also like to greet your relatives who are present and extend my thoughts to all your families.
Thousands of people visit the Vatican Museums every day. In 2005, they totalled over 3.8 million and this year, 2006, more than 4 million have already visited them. This is food for thought!
Who actually are these visitors?
They are a fairly heterogeneous representation of humanity. Many of them are not Catholic, a great many are not Christian and perhaps not even believers. A large number also visit St Peter's Basilica, but many of them, when they come to the Vatican, only visit the Museums.
All this prompts one to reflect on this institution's extraordinary responsibility from the viewpoint of the Christian message.
The inscription that Pope Benedict XIV had placed above the entrance to the so-called "Christian Museum" in the mid-18th century to indicate its purpose: "Ad augendum Urbis splendorem / et asserendam Religionis veritatem", springs to mind: "To add to the splendour of Rome and to assert the truth of the Christian Religion".
The approach to Christian truth mediated through the expression of art or of history and culture, has an extra chance of getting through to the intelligence and sensibility of people who do not belong to the Catholic Church and are sometimes prejudiced towards and diffident about her.
Those who visit the Vatican Museums have an opportunity to be "immersed" in a concentrated "theology through images" by pausing in this shrine of art and faith.
I realize how demanding the daily task of safeguarding, conserving and preserving these rooms is, and I am grateful for your efforts to make them eloquent to all in the best possible way.
Dear friends, this is a task in which all of you are involved and important: because, as you well know, the smooth functioning of the Museum depends on the contribution of each one of you.
May I now highlight a truth that is inscribed in the "genetic code" of the Vatican Museums: that is, that the great classical and Judeo-Christian civilizations are not in opposition to each other but converge in the one plan of God.
This is proven by the fact that the distant origins of this institution date back to a work we might well describe as "profane" - the magnificent sculptural group of the Laocoon - but which, in fact, acquires its fullest and most authentic light in the Vatican context. It is the light of the human creature shaped by God, of freedom in the drama of his redemption that extends between Heaven and earth, flesh and spirit. It is the light of a beauty that shines out from within the work of art and leads the mind to open itself to the sublime, where the Creator encounters the creature made in his image and likeness.
We can observe all this in a masterpiece such as the Laocoon itself, but this logic pertains to the whole of the Museum, which in this perspective truly seems a single unit in the complex sequence of its sections, even though they are so different from one another.
The synthesis between Gospel and culture appears even more explicit in certain sections and as if "materialized" in certain works: I am thinking of the sarcophagi in the Pio-Christian Museum, or the tombs of the Necropolis on the Via Trionfale - the area of whose museum premises has been doubled this year - and of the exceptional ethnological collection of missionary provenance.
The Museum truly displays a continuous interweaving between Christianity and culture, between faith and art, between the divine and the human. The Sistine Chapel, in this regard, is an unsurpassable peak.
Let us now return to you, dear friends. The Vatican Museums are your daily workplace. Many of you are in direct contact with the visitors: how important it is, therefore, that your approach and example offer to all a simple but effective witness of faith.
A temple of art and culture such as the Vatican Museums requires that the beauty of the works on display be accompanied by that of the people who work in them: a spiritual beauty, which truly makes the environment ecclesial and imbues it with a Christian spirit.
Working in the Vatican, therefore, is in itself an additional commitment to fostering one's own faith and Christian witness. In this regard, as well as active participation in the life of your parish communities, a useful aid is also offered to you by the moments of celebration and spiritual formation animated by your chaplains, whom I thank for their dedication.
I ask you especially to ensure that all your families are a "domestic Church", in which faith and life are interwoven in the joyful and sorrowful events of every day. And for this very reason I am glad that a large number of your relatives are here today.
May the Virgin Mary and St Joseph help you to live in perennial thanksgiving, savouring the simple joys of every day and increasing your good works. I assure you of my prayers for each one of you, especially the elderly, children and the sick, and as I thank you for your welcome visit, I bless you all with affection, together with your loved ones.
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