Speeches 2005-13 9126
Good morning, dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for coming and for your affection. I am happy to celebrate this Sunday with you.
Unfortunately, it is a little chilly but the Lord will help us at this time when we desire with great joy to dedicate this church, so that it may be the spiritual and human centre of this neighbourhood. May the Lord unite us to him and thus grant us unity with one another.
I cordially greet the leaders, children, young people and families of the Gioventù Ardente Mariana Movement of Rome, who kept vigil last night in the chapel here adjacent to their diocesan premises, in expectation of this meeting, for prayer and festivity.
Dear friends, I urge you to continue in your work of formation for the mission, faithful to those whom you like to describe as the "three white loves": the Eucharist, Mary Most Holy and the Successor of Peter the Apostle.
I willingly bless you, your intentions of evangelization and your new diocesan headquarters: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dear Young People,
Thank you for this welcome! They tell me that this will be "Benedict XVI Hall"; therefore, we are at home! Thank you for your presence! They tell me that you are on your way to First Holy Communion and Confirmation, but before that we still have Christmas to celebrate.
Christmas is the day when God gave a great gift to us, not something material, but his gift was the gift of himself. He gave us his Son, so Christmas became the feast of gifts.
Let us imitate God and not only live for ourselves, not think only of myself, but think of someone else, give a present to another, also to parents, brothers and sisters, and so forth.
And here too the most beautiful gift is to be kind to others, to show goodness, fairness and love. This is the best gift. The other gifts only express this meaning, this desire to be kind to one another.
And giving this true gift, in which we imitate God, we also prepare ourselves for First Holy Communion and Confirmation; because in First Holy Communion, Christmas becomes, so to speak, perfect. At Christmas God gave us himself; in First Holy Communion he gives this gift to each one of us individually, he comes to each one of us. Under the appearance of a little piece of bread, he himself gives himself, he wants to enter our hearts. If an important guest is expected at home, every effort is made to clean, prepare and so on, so that he will find the house welcoming.
Thus, knowing that God himself wants to enter me, my heart, let us do all we can to ensure that this heart is a good and beautiful heart, thus the joy will be greater.
And Confirmation repeats in a certain sense this same act of God. The Holy Spirit comes to guide us throughout our life. In life, there are so many complications where we need help: the Holy Spirit helps us, accompanies us and shows us the way.
Thus, in this sense, we proceed towards Christmas full of joy, because God exists, God knows me, and because God wants to know me and come to me in my heart.
I now wish you all a Merry Christmas and beautiful weeks of preparation for First Holy Communion. I compliment you on this beautiful church which will help you to rejoice in God, to rejoice in being Catholic and in having faith! My best wishes to you!
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,3).
Dear Brothers in Christ who have accompanied the venerable Archbishop of Athens and All Greece on the occasion of our brotherly meeting, I greet you in the Lord.
I am happy to welcome you with deep joy, borrowing the words St Paul addressed "to the Church of God which is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,2).
In the Name of the Lord and with sincere and brotherly affection, I welcome you here among us in the Church of Rome and I thank God who has granted us to live this moment of grace and spiritual joy.
Your presence here revives within us the great Christian tradition that was born and developed in your beloved and glorious Country. Through reading Paul's Letters and the Acts of the Apostles, this tradition reminds us daily of the first Christian communities that came into being in Corinth, in Thessalonica and in Philippi. Thus, we remember St Paul's presence and preaching in Athens and his courageous proclamation of faith in the unknown God, revealed in Jesus Christ and in the message of the Resurrection, far from easy to understand for his contemporaries.
In the first chapter of the Letter to the Christians of Corinth, who were the first to experience the problems and grave temptations of division, we can see a timely message for all Christians. Indeed, a real danger appears when people prefer to identify with one group rather than another, saying, "I belong to Paul" or "I belong to Apollos", or "I belong to Cephas". It was then that Paul asked the searching question. "Is Christ divided?" (1Co 1,13).
Greece and Rome have intensified their relations since the dawn of Christianity. They also kept up their contacts, which have given life to different forms of Christian communities and traditions in those regions of the world which in our day correspond to Eastern Europe and Western Europe.
These intense relations also helped to create a sort of osmosis in the formation of ecclesial institutions. While safeguarding the particular disciplinary, liturgical, theological and spiritual features of both traditions, the Roman and the Greek, this osmosis has brought the Church's evangelizing activity and the inculturation of the Christian faith to fruition.
Today, our relations are being resumed, slowly but in depth and with the concern for authenticity. They are an opportunity for us to discover a whole new range of spiritual expressions, rich in meaning and in mutual commitment. We thank God for this.
The memorable Visit to Athens in 2001 of my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in the context of his Pilgrimage in St Paul's footsteps, stands as a milestone in the gradual intensification of our contacts and collaboration.
During this Pilgrimage, Pope John Paul II was welcomed with honour and respect by Your Beatitude and by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, and we remember in particular the moving meeting at the Areopagus where St Paul preached. This pilgrimage also resulted in the exchange of priest and student delegations.
Moreover, I do not wish to, nor could I, forget the fruitful collaboration which has been established between the Apostoliki Diakonia and the Vatican Apostolic Library. Such initiatives contribute to our reciprocal practical knowledge and I have no doubt that they will have a part to play in fostering new relations between the Church of Greece and the Church of Rome.
If we turn our gaze to the future, Your Beatitude, we have before our eyes a vast field in which our cultural and pastoral collaboration could develop.
The various European countries are working to create a new Europe, which cannot be exclusively economic. Catholics and Orthodox are called to make their cultural and especially their spiritual contribution.
Indeed, it is their duty to defend the Christian roots of the Continent that have shaped it down the ages and thereby enable the expression of the Christian tradition to continue; it is also their duty to do their utmost to safeguard the dignity of the human person and respect for minorities, taking care to avoid a cultural homogenization that might lead to the loss of immense riches of civilization.
It is likewise right to work to protect human rights which include the principle of individual freedom, especially religious freedom. These rights must be promoted and defended in the European Union and in each one of its Member States.
At the same time, it would also be appropriate to develop collaboration between Christians in each country of the European Union so as to be able to face the new risks that confront the Christian faith: in other words, the growing secularization, relativism and nihilism that pave the way to forms of behaviour, and even legislation, that undermine the inalienable dignity of the human being and call into question such fundamental institutions as marriage.
It is urgently necessary to undertake common pastoral activities that will be a common witness in the eyes of our contemporaries and will prepare us to account for the hope that is in us.
Your presence here in Rome, Your Beatitude, is the sign of this common commitment. For her part, the Catholic Church has a deep desire to do everything possible for our rapprochement, with a view to achieving full communion between Catholics and Orthodox and, for the time being, to encourage pastoral collaboration at all possible levels, so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and the Name of God blessed.
Your Beatitude, I renew my good wishes and cordial welcome to you and to the beloved brothers who have accompanied you on your visit. As I entrust you to the intercession of the Theotokos, I ask the Lord to pour out upon you an abundance of heavenly Blessings.
1. We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, in this sacred place of Rome, renowned for the preaching of the Gospel and the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, desire to live ever more intensely our mission to offer an apostolic witness, to pass on the faith to those both near and far and to proclaim to them the Good News of the Saviour's birth, which we will both be celebrating shortly. It is also our common responsibility to overcome the many problems and painful experiences of the past in love and truth, for the glory of God, the Blessed Trinity, and of his Holy Church.
2. Our meeting in charity makes us ever more conscious of our common task: to travel together along the arduous route of a dialogue in truth with a view to re-establishing the full communion of faith in the bond of love. Thus, we will be obeying the divine commandment and will put into practice the prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who accompanies Christ's Church and never abandons her, we will persevere in our commitment on this path, following the example of the Apostles and demonstrating our mutual love and spirit of reconciliation.
3. With regard to our relations, we recognize the important steps that have been taken in the dialogue of charity and by the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore, we hope that the bilateral theological dialogue will carry forward these positive elements to formulate proposals accepted by both parties in a spirit of reconciliation, after the example of our illustrious Father of the Church, Saint Basil the Great, who, in a period of manifold divisions in the Ecclesial Body, declared his conviction "that by extended communication and mutual experience without strife, if anything more requires to be added by way of explanation, the Lord, who works all things together for the good of those who love him, will grant it" (cf. Letter, 113).
4. We unanimously declare the need to persevere on the path of constructive theological dialogue. Despite the difficulties noted, this path is one of the essential means we have at our disposal to re-establish around the altar of the Lord the unity so longed for by the Ecclesial Body, and likewise, to strengthen the credibility of the Christian message in this period of social upheaval in which we live, amid the great spiritual hunger of many of our contemporaries who are anxious about the increasing globalization that sometimes even threatens man's existence and his relationship to God and to the world.
5. In a very special way, we solemnly renew our desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, especially to the new generations because "the love of Christ impels us" (II Cor 5: 14), and to enable them to discover the Lord, who came into our world so that all might have life and have it abundantly. This is particularly important in our societies where many currents of thought distance people from God and fail to give life meaning. We desire to proclaim the Gospel of grace and love so that all people may also be in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that their joy may be complete.
6. We believe that religions have a role to play in guaranteeing the spread of peace in the world and in ensuring that they themselves in no way foster intolerance or violence. As Christian religious leaders, together we urge all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to strive to create a society of peace and brotherhood between individuals and peoples. This is one of the tasks of religions. In this regard, Christians are working and wish to continue working in the world with all people of good will in a spirit of solidarity and brotherhood.
7. We wish to pay tribute to the impressive progress achieved in all areas of science, especially with regard to the human being. However, we invite governments and scientists to respect the sacredness of the human person and his dignity, because his life is a divine gift. We are concerned to see that some branches of science are experimenting on the human being, without respect for either the dignity or the integrity of the person in all the stages of his life, from conception to his natural end.
8. Furthermore, we ask for greater sensitivity in order to protect more effectively in our countries, in Europe and internationally, the fundamental human rights that are based on the dignity of the human being created in God's image.
9. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration to enable our contemporaries to rediscover the Christian roots of the European Continent which forged the different nations and contributed to developing increasingly harmonious links between them. This will help them live and promote the fundamental human and spiritual values for all people, as well as the development of their own societies.
10. We recognize the merits of the progress of technology and economics for a great number of modern societies. Nevertheless, we also invite rich countries to pay greater attention to developing and poorer countries in a spirit of generous solidarity, recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters and that we are duty bound to come to the aid of the lowliest and the poorest who are the beloved of the Lord. In this regard, it is also important not to exploit or abuse creation, which is the work of God. In this regard, we appeal to social leaders and to all people of good will to engage in a reasonable and respectful stewardship of creation, so that it may be correctly administered in a spirit of solidarity, especially for the sake of peoples afflicted by famine, so as to bequeath to future generations a world that is truly inhabitable for everyone.
11. Our common convictions impel us to repeat our wish to work together in the development of society with constructive cooperation for the service of humanity and of peoples, bearing witness to the faith and hope that motivate us.
12. Especially mindful of the Orthodox and Catholic faithful, we offer them our greeting and entrust them to Christ the Saviour, so that they may be tireless witnesses of God's love, and we make it our fervent prayer that the Lord will grant peace to all people, in the charity and unity of the human family.
From the Vatican, 14 December 2006
Benedictus PP. XVI
I am pleased to receive you and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of Denmark to the Holy See. I am grateful for the message of greetings which you have brought from Queen Margrethe II. I recall with pleasure my meeting with Her Majesty last spring and I ask you kindly to convey to her my own warm greeting, together with my prayerful good wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the Danish people.
In this, the twenty-fifth year since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Denmark, I wish to express the Holy See’s esteem for your country’s efforts to promote an effective solidarity with poorer nations by supporting integral development and by working to alleviate the tragic situation of poverty, violence, hunger and disease which weighs upon so much of the human family. Denmark has been in the forefront of international efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals and has generously contributed to the establishment of mechanisms for security and peacebuilding in areas of the world scarred by armed conflicts. These praiseworthy initiatives have been inspired by a sober recognition that global problems require global solutions. Coordination between national governments, the various institutions and agencies of the international community, and the many regional and local bodies committed to strengthening the social fabric, represent a sure path to increased respect for fundamental human rights and the promotion of justice and peace at every level.
I am grateful for your words of appreciation for the Holy See’s presence and contribution within the international community. This service to peace is grounded in a firm conviction, inspired by faith, of the unity of the human family and the God-given dignity and rights of each person. Peace, in the words of the prophet Isaiah (32:17), is the fruit of justice, but it is also the fruit of love, which surpasses what justice alone can ensure (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 78). In her proclamation of the Gospel and her service of charity, the Church wishes to cooperate with all men and women of good will in building a global community in which hatred and intolerance, injustice and violence will give way to mutual understanding, reconciliation and generous cooperation in the pursuit of the common good. Only such cooperation, capable of transcending national, ethnic and religious boundaries, can ultimately prevail against the many contemporary threats to peace, including the scourge of international terrorism and the ideologies which inspire it.
As the Danish people confront complex political and ethical issues which will determine the future of your society, the nation’s rich heritage of Christian faith can serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration in the demanding task of respecting Denmark’s distinct identity and cultural heritage, while addressing the challenges of the present time. A vigorous public life benefits from the contribution of believers and a creative dialogue with the nation’s religious tradition and values, since a healthy democracy requires a solid ethical foundation and respect for “the moral structure of freedom” (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, 98). For her part, the Church is ready “to contribute to the purification of reason and reawaken those moral forces without which just structures are neither set in place nor prove effective in the long run” (Deus Caritas Est ). I assure you that Denmark’s Catholic community, though small in number, desires to play its part, in cooperation with other Christian believers, in this work of discernment and the elaboration of wise and far-sighted social policies. This is especially so with regard to the fundamental role and mission of the family founded upon marriage, the education of children, respect for God’s gift of life from conception to natural death, and the responsible stewardship of the environment.
Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission, I offer my best wishes for the work you will undertake in the service of your nation, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfilment of your responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to consolidate the good relations existing between the Holy See and Denmark. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Danish people, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican today and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Holy See. On this significant occasion I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the people of your country. Assure them of my gratitude for their good wishes and of my prayers for the nation’s peace and well-being.
The Church’s diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must acknowledge and consider man’s supernatural vocation. The Holy See strives therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who “receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness” (Centesimus Annus CA 38). From this understanding the Church assists the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world to articulate and protect the universal values which safeguard the dignity of every person and serve the common good.
The extraordinary natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan is a blessing for your nation. Such dramatic evidence of the hand of the Creator gladdens the hearts of your people and helps them lift their thoughts towards the Almighty. Indeed, the people of Kyrgyzstan know well the importance of religious freedom and understand that if the spiritual dimension of persons is repressed or even denied, the soul of a nation is crushed. During the tragic epoch of intimidation in Central Asian history, while the supremacy of force endured, religious believers in your country nurtured a hope for freedom and justice, a future in which the supremacy of truth about the human person and the purpose of society would prevail. Today, that hope is experienced in a variety of ways including the tolerance demonstrated between religious and ethnic communities, the respect for the role of the family at the heart of your society, and the flourishing of your nation’s fine arts. Such traits and values, which have in fact long adorned your history, assume a heightened importance of regional significance when we consider Kyrgyzstan’s unique geographical position as a cultural crossroads.
As the Kyrgyz Republic continues to forge its national identity, it must be borne in mind that the important component of economic development contains a moral aspect, of crucial importance to the well-being and peaceful progress of a nation. It is here that the demand for justice is satisfied (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 10). The right to meaningful work and an acceptable standard of living, the assurance of a fair distribution of goods and wealth, and the responsible use of natural resources all depend upon a concept of growth which is not limited to merely satisfying material necessities. Instead, such a notion must also highlight the dignity of every human person – the proper subject of all progress – and thereby enhance the common good of all humanity.
The legitimate aspirations of economic development are intrinsically linked to the principles and practices which favour the civic stability necessary for prosperity. Your country has already taken some steps towards protecting the fundamental rights of citizens and promoting democratic practices. Responsible and transparent governance free of interference, the maintenance of law and order, freedom of the press, and public participation in the civic institutions committed to the genuine development of the nation, all have their particular role in contributing to a culture of peace and collaboration. I encourage your government in its efforts to ensure that this process does not stall but indeed is strengthened.
Mr Ambassador, the members of the Catholic Church in your country are very few. Enjoying friendly relations with the Muslim and Orthodox communities, they are eager to reach out impartially to all peoples of Kyrgyzstan. Already their charitable activity extends from University teaching to prison visiting and to caring for the handicapped. This forms part of the Church’s commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being and in a special way for the poor. In providing these services she desires neither power nor privilege, but only the freedom to express her belief in the “unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour” (Deus Caritas Est ) through works of goodness, justice and peace. I am confident that as new social and spiritual needs arise in your land the Catholic community will respond generously and wisely.
Your Excellency, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the willing assistance of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia. You have kindly noted that the relations existing between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Holy See are friendly and based on mutual respect and cooperation. May your mission serve to strengthen these bonds of understanding. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all your fellow citizens the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Mozambique to the Holy See.
On this auspicious occasion I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency President Armando Guebuza, and to the Government and People of your Country. Assure them of my gratitude for their good wishes and of my prayers for the Nation's peace and well-being.
The Church's diplomatic activity forms part of her mission of service to the international community. It is specifically intended to promote the dignity of the human person and to encourage peace and harmony within nations and among the world's peoples.
These essential conditions for progress in attaining the authentic development of countries find their deepest meaning in the moral order established by God the Creator, who seeks to draw all men and women into the fullness of his life.
For this reason the Holy See speaks so insistently and fervently about respect for individuals, the vital importance of the family as the primary vital cell of society and the need for good governance to ensure the promotion of fundamental human rights and legitimate aspirations.
The People of Mozambique know well that "peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person" (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, n. 6). During the years of civil war which ravaged your Nation the wounds - both physical and psychological - of countless innocent men, women and children became a haunting reminder of conflict and aggression.
In more recent years the devastation of war has, thank God, given way to the commitment to peace. Building on the lasting reconciliation that comes from forgiveness and the readiness to look ahead, Mozambicans are today confident of a future of greater serenity.
Indeed, your Nation is already enjoying political stability, impressive economic growth and the beginnings of a reduction in poverty.
Peace is more than simply the absence of war. Peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth which stems from an order planned and willed by God (cf. ibid., n. 3). Thus, in order to attain it the exercise of the highest responsibility is demanded at every level.
It is incumbent upon all citizens - especially civic, political and religious leaders - to contribute in every way possible to the respect of the human person and the promotion of justice and equality in order that individuals and communities may grow, free of the menace of oppression and corruption, and the indignity of poverty, debt or discrimination.
Mr Ambassador, your Government has introduced various initiatives with the intention of improving the standard of living of the Nation's citizens.
The priority given to promoting social and commercial projects capable of creating a more equitable society and offering sorely needed employment constitutes a stimulating though difficult challenge for all who regulate and work in the business sector. Authentic development requires a coordinated plan of national progress which honours the reasonable expectations of all segments of society.
In fact, human history teaches us repeatedly that if such programmes are to effect lasting change for the better, they must be grounded in the practice of accountable and transparent governance, and accompanied by an impartial judiciary system, political freedom and a robust independent press. Without these foundations common to all civilized societies, the hope for progress, to which every human being rightly aspires, remains elusive.
For generations African cultures have celebrated with great joy the place of marriage and the family at the heart of society. Through the introduction of family laws your Government has sought to protect this fundamental truth and value, which stands at the base of all civilizations.
Yet, even on the African Continent moves to empty marriage of its proper meaning are afoot. The institution of marriage established by the Creator with its own nature and purpose, and preserved in natural moral law, is not something that can be modified to meet the demands of particular interest groups.
Marriage necessarily entails the complementarity of husbands and wives who participate in God's creative activity through the raising of children. Spouses thereby ensure the survival of society and culture and, as Mozambique has recognized, rightly deserve specific legal recognition by the State.
As Your Excellency has kindly observed, the Church in Mozambique serves the Nation through her extensive educational and social apostolate. Faithful to her spiritual and humanitarian mission, she actively seeks to contribute to the advancement of the people.
Among the many charitable services in which she is engaged are the care of orphans, whose number is growing owing to the tragedy of AIDS, health clinics, integral development projects, schools and a university.
I am confident that the Catholic community will continue to respond generously to the social and spiritual needs of Mozambicans as they arise.
Mr Ambassador, the mission which you begin today will do much to strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between us, and I am confident that the Agreement between the Holy See and Mozambique, under negotiation now for some years, will soon be brought to completion.
As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties.
Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant Blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic, and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and the people of Uganda.
Your country, situated at the heart of the Great Lakes Region, shares many of the characteristics present in African culture. Some of these splendid values come clearly to mind: the respect which should be given to every human life from conception to natural death, the place of the family as the corner-stone of society, and an inspiring sense of the sacred.
I have followed closely the challenges facing the African Continent, some of which have presented themselves with varying degrees of urgency in your homeland. Sadly these events often arise from human pride and violence. As the people of your nation aspire to a future of peaceful stability, your Government is faced with the pressing obligation of responding decisively to the needs of all who suffer the tragic effects of prolonged violence in the North. The international community is impelled to give proper attention to the grave humanitarian crisis affecting more than a million people in the region. Many Ugandans and some international organizations have been working diligently, often at great risk to their own lives, to assist these displaced and marginalized people, but the situation calls for increasing cooperation in order to create an environment of security and stability.
Uganda can make progress towards authentic integral development by remaining faithful to her own roots. In this regard, your nation must continue to strive for a balanced blend of the old and the new, always fostering respect for the family and the wider community, material progress and cultural enrichment, together with individual freedom and national solidarity. One of the keys to ensuring the success of a democracy lies in participation in, and encouragement of sincere and fruitful dialogue. The mutual exchange of opinions and ideas is not always easy. Good governance, however, requires that those with different opinions be heard, respected and involved in the decision-making process. It is only in such an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation that true and lasting progress can be realized and sustained. In this context, it is my hope that those in authority will do all in their power to ensure that the Church remains an important partner in this exchange of ideas by assigning her the juridical guarantees that recognize her freedom to carry out the divine mission entrusted to her. Her desire is to promote hope and courage through the proclamation of the Good News to all God’s people (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).
I would reassure you that the Catholic Church is sincerely committed to assisting all efforts to promote peace. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, it is the Church’s duty to foster and elevate all that is true, all that is good, and all that is beautiful in the human community by consolidating peace among men for the glory of God (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). In this regard, the Holy See is hopeful that the Second Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which begins today, will raise hopes for a future of security based on dialogue and cooperation. In the various conflicts some agreements have been reached and a number of those under arms have returned home, availing themselves of the new climate of reconciliation. I remain confident that this regional momentum will be sustained and that those in authority will do all in their power to see that the expectations raised in the hearts of so many are brought to fulfilment. I pray that Almighty God will grant renewed wisdom and courage to those in positions of responsibility so that all parties will return to dialogue and the quest for peaceful and lasting solutions.
It is encouraging to hear of the progress your country is making in promoting long-term development through the reduction of poverty and the extension of educational opportunities. The high proportion of young people in your population gives vitality and renewed hope to the nation. Collaboration between the Church and civil society has yielded many blessings in Uganda, above all in education, in health-care and in the struggle against HIV/Aids, where statistics confirm the practical value of a policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage. It is my sincere hope that the people of Uganda will continue to draw increasing benefits from this support.
Your Excellency, I assure you of my prayers for the success of your mission as your country’s representative to the Holy See. You may be certain that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you. I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and upon the beloved people of Uganda.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for your words and for the greetings which you bring from your President, Mr Bachar Al Assad. Please assure him of my sincere good wishes and my continuing prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your nation.
As you have indicated, Syria from ancient times has witnessed a great flowering of civilizations and religions. Your capital city, Damascus, is dear to Christians as the site of Saint Paul’s baptism, following his dramatic experience of conversion during his journey there. And many great saints have led lives of exemplary holiness on Syrian soil. For centuries now, there have been harmonious relations between the Christian and Muslim communities in your country. Syria, then, is uniquely placed to offer to the world an example of peaceful coexistence and tolerance between the followers of different religions. In this regard, I can assure you of the support of the Holy See for the efforts your Government has made both at home and abroad to promote dialogue between religions and cultures. As I recently had occasion to reaffirm, “all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, Ankara, 28 November 2006).
You have spoken of your Government’s concern over the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1967. With a heavy heart, I note that a wide range of territorial and other disputes have led to armed conflicts in recent times that threaten the peace and stability of the entire Middle East. Repeatedly I have pleaded for a cessation of violence in Lebanon, in the Holy Land and in Iraq. The world looks on with great sadness at the cycle of death and destruction, as innocent people continue to suffer and targeted individuals are kidnapped or assassinated. Like many impartial observers, the Holy See believes that solutions are possible within the framework of international law through the implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions. In this regard, I have frequently urged that the various nations of the Middle East should be supported in their aspirations to live in peace within secure internationally recognized borders.
The Church, as you know, emphatically rejects war as a means of resolving international disputes, and has often pointed out that it only leads to new and still more complicated conflicts. Sadly, from the current situation in the Middle East it is only too evident that this is the case. In particular, the scourge of terrorism increases the fear and insecurity experienced by so many in the region today (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 9) and in this regard, I am glad to note your words about the Syrian Government’s commitment to counter this growing threat to peace and stability. The world looks especially to countries with significant influence in the Middle East in the hopeful expectation of signs of progress towards the resolution of these long-standing conflicts.
The Catholic community in Syria, as you know, is eager to play its part in national life, in cooperation with fellow Christians from the various Eastern Churches represented there. Your country is certainly fertile ground for progress in ecumenical relations between the followers of Christ and I would like to pledge the continued support of the Catholic Church for this important work. Indeed, I was recently able to do so publicly when I had the joy of visiting the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Phanar; together we signed a Common Declaration expressing the commitment of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches to work in every way towards the goal of full visible communion. I particularly appreciate the recent legislation implemented by the Syrian Government to recognize the juridical status of the Catholic Churches present in your country, in accordance with the norms of canon law. This step augurs well for a future of growing reciprocal understanding between the members of different Churches and different religions in Syria. Moreover, it sets the scene for increasing cooperation between the Church and the Government, that should facilitate the discovery of a solution to differences, such as the question of Church property taken over by the State. It is a sign of real maturity in relations when such matters can be discussed with openness, honesty and mutual respect.
Your Excellency, I am confident that the noble task which you begin today will consolidate these good relations between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Holy See. In offering you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always glad to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Syria I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.
I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from King Letsie III. Please convey to His Majesty my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of all the people of your nation.
As you have observed, you are beginning your mandate shortly after your country’s celebration of forty years of independence. In offering renewed congratulations on this significant milestone in Lesotho’s history, I would like to reaffirm the Holy See’s support and encouragement for your Government as it seeks to strengthen the foundations of democracy and to promote peace and stability within the whole region. In this regard, the recent decision to adopt a new flag symbolizing a nation “at peace with itself and its neighbours”, expresses a laudable commitment to these noble goals. Moreover, I am aware that the people of Lesotho themselves have had more than one occasion in the last forty years to demonstrate their resilience and their admirable determination to pursue the path of peace and democracy, whatever pressures to the contrary there may be.
Regrettably, the serious challenges of poverty and food shortage currently facing your people pose serious obstacles to the achievement of your country’s objectives. Economic activity has a moral character, and to the degree that every person is responsible for everyone else, the wealthier nations have a duty in solidarity and justice to promote the development of all (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 333). In a world where communications and trade have taken on a global dimension, this duty is all the more evident and the means to discharge it are more readily available. As you know, the Holy See is committed to support the efforts of the international community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and likewise all initiatives aimed at a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities for economic growth. At the same time, she continues to urge governments that receive assistance to be assiduous in cultivating accountability, honesty, and commitment to the rule of law as necessary conditions for ensuring that the aid they receive is used to benefit those most in need (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). In this regard, I am gratified to hear Your Excellency’s words concerning the high priority that the Kingdom of Lesotho has assigned to the fight against corruption, and I offer you every encouragement in this worthy endeavour.
The scourge of AIDS, which afflicts so many millions in the African Continent, has brought untold suffering to the people of your country. Please be assured of the deep concern of the Catholic Church to do all it can to bring relief to those affected by this cruel disease, and also to their families. In the faces of the sick and the dying, Christians recognize the face of Christ, and it is he whom we serve when we offer help and consolation to the afflicted (cf. Mt 25,31-40). At the same time, it is vitally important to communicate the message that fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside it are the best ways to avoid infection and to halt the spread of the virus. Indeed, the values that flow from an authentic understanding of marriage and family life constitute the only sure foundation for a stable society.
In this regard, I want to assure Your Excellency of the willingness of the Catholic community in Lesotho to continue to play its part in educating future generations of citizens in the values that sustain and promote a healthy social environment. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, Catholic schools aim to conduct the human formation of their students in “an atmosphere animated by a spirit of liberty and charity based on the Gospel” (Gravissimum Educationis GE 8). They set out to shape and direct the ideals of the young in a way that will enable them to assume their adult responsibilities with generosity and integrity, for the good of the whole of society. I know that the Government of Lesotho appreciates the work done by Catholic educators and will carry on providing them with the encouragement they need as they dedicate themselves to this noble task in the name of Christ Our Lord.
Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the already fruitful relations existing between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of Lesotho, God’s abundant blessings.
I welcome you with joy for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries: Denmark, Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Uganda, Syria and Lesotho. As I thank you for the courteous words you have conveyed to me from your Heads of State, I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate them by conveying my respectful good wishes for themselves and for their lofty mission at the service of their Nation.
Through you, I would also like to greet all the civil and religious Authorities of your respective countries as well as all your fellow countrymen, with a special thought for the Catholic communities who work among and collaborate with their brothers and sisters.
The year that is drawing to a close has seen numerous conflicts on the different continents. As diplomats, you are doubtless concerned by the situations and hotbeds of tension that are constantly developing, to the detriment of the local populations, and reaping a multitude of innocent victims.
For its part, the Holy See also shares in this anxiety; it is a threat to the survival of certain peoples and burdens the poorest with suffering, depriving them of the most essential goods.
To keep these phenomena in check, the Authorities and all who have responsibilities in civil society must listen increasingly to their people; they must seek the most fitting solutions to respond to conditions of distress and poverty and for the most equitable sharing in each nation and in the international community.
In fact, it is the duty of social Leaders not to create or allow situations of serious political, economic or social discontent to persist in a country or a region that would make people feel they were social outcasts, barred from the areas of decision making and management, and that they had no right to benefit from the fruits of the gross national product.
Such forms of injustice cannot but be a source of unrest and engender a sort of spiral of violence. The search for peace, justice and understanding among all must be priority targets that demand of people in responsible positions attention to practical situations in the country and an effort to eliminate all that opposes equity and solidarity, especially corruption and the lack of sharing of resources.
This implies, therefore, that people with authority in the nation be constantly concerned to consider their political and social commitment as a service to individuals and not a quest for benefits for a minority to the detriment of the common good. I know that a certain amount of courage is necessary to keep on course in the midst of difficulties, bound for the good of individual persons and the national community.
However, in public life, courage is an indispensable virtue if we are not to allow ourselves to be swayed by partisan ideologies or pressure groups or by the greed for power. As the Church's social doctrine reminds us, the good of the person and peoples must always remain the primordial criterion for decisions in social life.
As you begin your mission as ambassadors to the Holy See, Your Excellencies, I address my most cordial good wishes to you for success with your work. May the Most High accompany you, your dear ones, your collaborators and all the inhabitants of your country, and may he crown each one with an abundance of his Blessings.
This year too, I have the welcome opportunity of meeting the Roman university world and of exchanging greetings with you for Holy Christmas, which is now at hand. I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini who has presided at the Eucharistic celebration and guided you in reflection on the liturgical texts. I next thank the Rector of the Rome III University and the young student, both of whom have spoken on behalf of your learned assembly. I offer my affectionate greeting to each and every one.
We are meeting just before Christmas, which is the feast of gifts, as I recalled last Sunday when I visited the new Roman parish dedicated to Our Lady Star of Evangelization. Christmas gifts evoke the gift par excellence which the Son of God made of himself and offered to us in the Incarnation.
For this reason, Christmas is appropriately emphasized by the many gifts that people give to one another in these days. But it is important that the principal Gift of which all other gifts are a symbol not be forgotten. Christmas is the day on which God gave himself to humanity, and in the Eucharist this gift of his becomes, so to speak, perfect.
Under the appearance of a little piece of bread, as I said to the children of the above-mentioned Roman parish who are preparing for First Communion and Confirmation, it is really Jesus who gives himself and wishes to enter our hearts.
Dear young people, this year you are reflecting precisely on the theme of the Eucharist, as you follow the spiritual and pastoral programme prepared by the Diocese of Rome.
The Eucharistic mystery is the privileged point of convergence between the various contexts of Christian life, including that of intellectual research.
Encountered in the liturgy and contemplated in adoration, Jesus in the Eucharist is like a "prism" through which one can penetrate further into reality, in the ascetic and mystical, the intellectual and speculative, as well as the historical and moral perspectives.
In the Eucharist, Christ is really present and Holy Mass is a living memorial of his Pasch. The Blessed Sacrament is the qualitative centre of the cosmos and of history. Therefore, it constitutes an inexhaustible source of thought and action for anyone who sets out to seek the truth and desires to cooperate with it.
It is, so to speak, a "concentrate" of truth and love. It not only illumines human knowledge, but also and above all human action and human life, in accordance with "the truth in love" (Ep 4,15), as St Paul said, in the daily task of acting as Jesus himself did.
Thus, the Eucharist fosters in those who nourish themselves on it with perseverance and faith a fruitful unity between contemplation and action.
Dear friends, let us enter into the mystery of Christmas, now approaching, through the "door" of the Eucharist; in the grotto of Bethlehem let us adore the Lord himself who, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, desired to make himself our spiritual food to transform the world from within, starting with the human heart.
I know that for many of you, university students of Rome, it is now a custom at the beginning of the academic year to go on a special diocesan pilgrimage to Assisi, and I know that many of you took part in the recent one, too.
Well, were not St Francis and St Clare both "conquered" by the Eucharistic Mystery? In the Eucharist they experienced the love of God, that same love which, in the Incarnation, impelled the Creator of the world to make himself little, indeed, the smallest one and the servant of all.
Dear friends, as you prepare for Holy Christmas, may you nourish the same sentiments as these great Saints, so beloved by the Italian People. Like them, fix your gaze on the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (cf. Lc 2,7, 12, 16).
Learn from the Virgin Mary, the first person to contemplate the humanity of the Incarnate Word, the humanity of Divine Wisdom. In the Baby Jesus, with whom she had infinite and silent conversations, she recognized the human Face of God, so that the mysterious Wisdom of the Son was impressed on the Mother's mind and heart.
So it was that Mary became the "Seat of Wisdom", and with this title is venerated in particular by the Roman Academic Community.
A special Icon is dedicated to the Sedes Sapientiae. From Rome it has already visited various countries on a pilgrimage to university institutions. It is present here today, so that it may be passed on from the delegation which has come here from Bulgaria to the one which has come from Albania.
I greet with affection the representatives of both these Nations and express the wish that per Mariam their respective academic communities may advance ever further in their search for truth and goodness, in the light of Divine Wisdom.
I warmly address this wish to each one of you present here and I accompany it with a special Blessing which I willingly extend to all your loved ones. Merry Christmas!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Sons and Daughters of the Coptic Catholic Church,
After your election to the Patriarchal See of Alexandria for Catholic Copts, Your Beatitude, your first official visit to the Successor of Peter is a moment of grace for the Church. I thank you for the words you have just addressed to me concerning your Patriarchate and for your prayers for my ministry.
I am delighted to meet you here, surrounded by the Bishops, priests and faithful of your Patriarchate, to celebrate the "communio ecclesiastica" which I had the joy of granting to you last 6 April. I cordially greet all of you who have come to take part in this important moment of fraternal communion and unity of the Coptic Catholic Church with the Apostolic See. I take this opportunity to greet H.B. Cardinal Stéphanos II, Patriarch emeritus, who has dedicated his life to the service of God and of the Coptic Catholic Church and whom I am happy to greet.
It is in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy that the communion in Christ which makes us brothers is most clearly manifested. It is here that the communion of all Catholics around the Successor of Peter is fully expressed. You, Your Beatitude, are Father and Head of the Coptic Catholic Church of Alexandria, a prestigious See honoured in the first five centuries as the most important Patriarchate after Rome. Your patriarchal Community has a rich spiritual, liturgical and theological tradition - the Alexandrian Tradition - whose treasures are part of the patrimony of the Church: it benefited from the preaching of the Evangelist St Mark, interpreter of the Apostle Peter. In this way, a particularly fraternal bond links your Patriarchate to the See of Peter.
Thus, I wish to assure you of my prayers and support for the "special duty" that the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council entrusted to the Catholic Eastern Churches "of fostering the unity of all Christians, in particular of Eastern Christians" (Orientalium Ecclesiarum OE 24), especially with your brethren of the Orthodox Coptic Church. Likewise, you play an important role in interreligious dialogue for the development of brotherhood and esteem between Christians and Muslims, and among all human beings.
Your Beatitude, in becoming Patriarch, you kept your first name, "Antonios", which recalls the great movement of monasticism born in Egypt that tradition links to the work of St Anthony, and later, of St Pachomius. Thanks to the Western contribution of St Benedict, monasticism grew into a giant tree which has borne abundant and magnificent fruits throughout the world.
In evoking the Coptic Church, how can one forget her writers, exegetes and philosophers, such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, or her great patriarchs, confessors and doctors of the Church, such as Athanasius and Cyril, whose illustrious names have marked the faith of a fervent people down the centuries. You must ceaselessly follow in their footsteps, developing the theological and spiritual research proper to your tradition.
In today's world, your mission is of great importance to your faithful and to all of us men and women, whom Christ's love urges to proclaim the Good News. I hail, in particular, your attention to the human, spiritual, moral and intellectual education of youth through a high quality scholastic and catechetical network that is a service to the whole of society.
I warmly hope that this educational commitment may receive ever wider recognition, so that the fundamental values may be passed on, respectful of the identity of Catholic schools. Thus, the young today will therefore be able to become responsible men and women in their respective families and in society and ready to build greater solidarity and a more ardent brotherhood among all the members of the nation. Please convey to young people all my esteem and all my affection, reminding them that the Church and the whole of society stand in need of their enthusiasm and their hope.
I ask you to intensify the formation of your priests and of the many young people who desire to consecrate themselves to the Lord. The vitality of Christian communities in the world today calls for pastors according to the heart of God who are truly witnesses of God's Word and guides to help the faithful put down ever deeper roots in their life and mission in Christ!
I know the place that consecrated life occupies in your Church. May poverty, chastity and obedience lived in accordance with the evangelical counsels be a witness and an appeal for holiness in the world today! May the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life persevere in their missions, especially with the young and the most forsaken in society.
At the end of our meeting, I offer you, Your Beatitude, my brotherly good wishes that the Holy Spirit may enlighten you in the exercise of your office, console you in difficulties and procure for you the joy of seeing your Patriarchal Church increase in fervour and in size. At the beginning of your ministry, I would like to repeat to all of you Christ's words to his disciples: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Lc 12,32). While, through you, I address my cordial greetings to the whole Egyptian People, I entrust you all to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of all the Coptic Saints. I wholeheartedly impart to you, as well as to the Bishops and all the faithful of your Patriarchate, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to greet such a highly-qualified representation of museum directors from the most important museums around the world. My cordial greetings go to each one of you, accompanied by deep gratitude for your visit today.
In the first place, I greet Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, whom I also thank for expressing the sentiments of everyone present. I greet the Cardinal, the Bishops, the dignitaries and the experts from every continent.
My special thanks go the Director of the Vatican Museums and his collaborators, as well as to those who prepared and organized the Congress, which brings to a close the full programme of events to commemorate the fifth centenary of the Vatican Museums.
The many initiatives organized throughout the year have not only attempted to commemorate events of the past, but also to create new opportunities for the throngs of visitors who come to the Museums every day to deepen their knowledge. Thus, the great interest sparked by a museum complex with so many successive layers over time has been highlighted.
I congratulate you on this Symposium that has focused on a theme of indisputable interest: the museum's identity and role today and its future prospects.
Precisely because it was dedicated to examining the role and objectives of the "museum" as an institution in contemporary society, the Congress did not merely provide for a review of reports by experts.
Rather, you chose to compare one another's theoretical studies, specific interventions, the exchange of experiences and frank dialogue in order to bring forth elements that would make possible a clearer definition of the role of museums, which we might describe in the context of today's globalized society as "educational".
The Church has always supported and upheld the world of art, in the conviction that art is an eloquent expression of human and spiritual progress.
On this occasion, it is also worth remembering the inscription that my venerable Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had engraved over the entrance to the Christian Museum: "Ad augendum Urbis splendorem et asserendam Religionis veritatem - To add to the splendour of Rome and to assert the truth of the Christian Religion".
The development of the Vatican Museums through time shows that these aims have always remained very present in the Pontiffs' endeavours. When I received the staff of this important Institution last month, I noted that this truth is inscribed in its "genetic code": the great classical and Judeo-Christian civilizations are not in opposition to one another but converge in the one plan of God.
Moreover, I added that this logic is proper to the whole Museum, which truly appears in such a perspective as a single unit in the complex sequence of its sections (cf. Address to Vatican Museums Staff, 23 November 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 December 2006, p. 14).
In short, one might say that the Vatican Museums can be an extraordinary opportunity for evangelization because, through the various works displayed, they offer visitors an eloquent testimony of the continuous interweaving of the divine and the human in the life and history of peoples. The huge number of persons who visit them every day demonstrate the increasing interest in these masterful works of art and historical testimonies which form a wonderful synthesis of the Gospel and culture.
On the basis of the actual experience of the Vatican Museums, the decision made by the Congress organizers, who proposed not to limit themselves to analyzing the way in which museum institutions are currently arranged, has proven most appropriate.
They asked the participants instead to examine the role that museums can play in the future and the function demanded of them in our time, marked by rapid social changes and in which the communications network connects the whole fabric of humanity.
There is no doubt, as was noted at the Congress, that the role of the museum in our time has changed tangibly. From being a privilege, the museum has become a right, from being a centre reserved for artists, specialists and cultured people, it has increasingly become today a "home" for everyone, thereby responding to a widespread need in society for education. Special attention is thus rightly given to the young generations, who can discover at museums the roots of their history and culture.
Every opportunity to encourage integration and encounter between individuals and peoples should certainly be fostered. In this perspective, despite the changed social conditions, museums can also become places of artistic mediation, links in a chain between the past, present and future, the crossroads of men and women from various continents, let alone research laboratories and seedbeds of cultural and spiritual enrichment.
Thanks be to God, the ever more desirable dialogue between cultures and religions cannot but facilitate reciprocal knowledge and make more fruitful the efforts to build a common future of progress in solidarity and peace for all humanity. Museums will be able to help spread the culture of peace if, preserving their nature as temples of historical memory, they are also places of dialogue and friendship among all.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, to each one of you I renew my cordial thanks for your visit today and I hope that your daily work will contribute to passing on to the future generations a love for that beauty which, as Dostoyevsky writes, "will save the world" (The Idiot, Part III, chap. V).
With these sentiments, as I express fervent good wishes to you for the upcoming Christmas festivities, I invoke an abundance of God's Blessings upon you all and upon your families.
I am pleased to greet this delegation from B’nai B’rith International on the occasion of your visit to the Vatican. Following the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate in 1965, leaders of B’nai B’rith have visited the Holy See on numerous occasions. Today, in the spirit of understanding, respect and mutual appreciation which is developing between our communities, I welcome you, and through you, all those whom you represent.
Much has been achieved in the past four decades of Jewish-Catholic relations, and we must be grateful to God for the remarkable transformation that has taken place on the basis of our common spiritual patrimony. It is this rich heritage of faith which enables our communities not only to enter into dialogue, but also to be partners in working together for the good of the human family. Our troubled world needs the witness of people of good will inspired by the truth, revealed on the first page of the Scriptures, that all men and women are created in the image of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26-27), and thus possess an inalienable dignity and worth.
Jews and Christians are called to work together for the healing of the world by promoting the spiritual and moral values grounded in our faith convictions. If we give a clear example of fruitful cooperation, our voice in responding to the needs of the human family will be all the more convincing.
On the occasion of your visit, I reiterate my unfailing hope and prayer for peace in the Holy Land. Peace can only come about if it is the concern of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, expressed in genuine interreligious dialogue and concrete gestures of reconciliation. All believers are challenged to show that it is not hatred and violence, but understanding and peaceful cooperation which open the door to that future of justice and peace which is God’s promise and gift.
During this holy season, I cordially invoke upon you and your families an abundance of divine blessings. Shalom alechem!
Dear Boys and Girls of Italian Catholic Action,
This year you again wanted to visit the Pope, just before holy Christmas. I welcome you with affection and I warmly thank you for your presence full of joy and enthusiasm as always.
Through you I greet all the children of A.C.R. in the Italian Dioceses, and those whom you represent here. I cordially greet your General Assistant, Mons. Francesco Lambiasi, and your President, Prof. Luigi Alici, together with all your teachers.
You have told me that this year your formation process is taking the way of beauty [bello] in the search for truth [vero]. You have therefore chosen a simple and effective slogan: "Bello, vero!". Christmas is the great mystery of the Truth and Beauty of God, who comes among us for the salvation of all.
The birth of Jesus is not a fairy tale: it is a story that really happened, occurring in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Faith enables us to recognize in that tiny Child, born of the Virgin Mary, the true Son of God who for love of us was made man.
"The King of Heaven comes to a cold and frigid grotto", says the Christmas carol, "Tu scendi dalle stelle", known throughout the world.
In the face of the tiny Jesus we contemplate the face of God, who does not reveal himself in strength or power but in the defencelessness and frail condition of an infant. This "Divine Child", wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger with the maternal care of his Mother, Mary, reveals all the goodness and infinite beauty of God. He shows the fidelity and tenderness of the boundless love with which God surrounds each one of us.
This is why we celebrate Christmas, reliving the same experience as the shepherds of Bethlehem. Together with so many fathers and mothers who toil constantly every day, facing continuous sacrifices, let us celebrate with the little ones, the sick and the poor, because with the birth of Jesus, the Heavenly Father responded to the desire in our hearts for truth, forgiveness and peace.
And he responded with such great love that we find it surprising: no one could ever have imagined it if Jesus had not revealed it to us!
The amazement that we feel in the face of the enchantment of Christmas is to a certain extent reflected in the wonder of every birth and invites us to recognize the Child Jesus in all children, who are the joy of the Church and the hope of the world.
The newborn Child who comes into the world in Bethlehem is the same Jesus who walked on the roads of Galilee and gave his life for us on the Cross; it is the same Jesus who was raised up and, after his Ascension into Heaven, continues to guide his Church with the power of his Spirit.
This is the beautiful and great truth of our Christian faith!
Dear children of A.C.R., the Pope loves you, he has confidence in you and today he entrusts to you the task of being friends and witnesses of Jesus, who came to Bethlehem among us.
Is it not a beautiful thing to make him all the more known among your friends, in the city, in the parishes and in your families?
The Church needs you to be close to all the children and boys and girls who live in Italy. Witness that Jesus takes nothing from your joy, but makes you more human, true and beautiful.
Thank you again for your visit. I bless you with affection, together with your loved ones, your teachers, the assistants and all the friends of A.C.R.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
I meet you today with great joy and address my cordial greeting to each one of you. I thank you for being present at this traditional appointment held close to holy Christmas.
I especially thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano for the words with which he has expressed the sentiments of everyone here, inspired by the central theme of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.
On this important occasion I would like to express my gratitude to him once more for the service to the Pope and to the Holy See that he has carried out for so many years as Secretary of State, and I ask the Lord to reward him for the good that he has done with his wisdom and his zeal for the Church's mission.
At the same time, I desire to offer a special greeting to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for the new task that I have entrusted to him. I gladly extend these sentiments to all those who have entered the service of the Roman Curia or of the Governorate this year, while we remember with affection and gratitude those whom the Lord has called from this life to himself.
The year that is coming to an end, as you have said, Your Eminence, lives on in our memory; deeply impressed upon it are the horrors of the war near the Holy Land as well as the general danger of a clash between cultures and religions - a danger that hangs threateningly over our time in history.
The problem of ways towards peace has thus become a challenge of primary importance for all who are concerned about humankind. This is true in particular for the Church, for which the promise that accompanied her at the outset also means a responsibility and a task: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lc 2,14).
The Angel's greeting to the shepherds on the night of Christ's birth in Bethlehem reveals an unbreakable link between the relationship of men and women with God and their own mutual relationships.
Peace on earth cannot be found without reconciliation with God, without harmony between Heaven and earth.
This correlation of the theme "God" with the theme "peace" was the decisive aspect of my four Apostolic Journeys this year: I would like to review them here.
First of all was my Pastoral Visit to Poland, the Country in which our beloved Pope John Paul II was born. For me, the journey to his Homeland was an intimate duty of gratitude for all that he gave to me personally and above all to the Church and to the world during the quarter century of his service.
His greatest gift to all of us was his steadfast faith and the radicalism of his dedication. His motto was "Totus tuus". It reflected his whole being. Yes, he gave himself without reserve to God, to Christ, to the Mother of Christ, to the Church: to the service of the Redeemer and to the redemption of man.
He held nothing back. He let the flame of faith consume him to his inmost depths. He showed us how, as people of today, it is possible to believe in God, the Living God who made himself close to us in Christ. He showed us that a definitive and radical dedication of one's whole life is possible, and that, precisely in giving oneself, life becomes great and immense and fruitful.
In Poland, everywhere I went I encountered the joy of faith. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" - this word which amid the wretchedness of the new beginning, the scribe Ezra cried out to the People of Israel who had just returned from the Exile (Ne 8,10), can be experienced tangibly here. I was deeply struck by the great cordiality with which I was welcomed everywhere. The people saw in me the Successor of Peter to whom is entrusted the pastoral ministry for the entire Church.
They saw the one to whom, despite all his human frailty, the word of the Risen Lord is addressed then as today: "Tend my sheep" (cf. Jn 21,15-19); they saw the Successor of the one to whom Jesus had said, in the district of Caesarea Philippi, "you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16,18). Peter, on his own, was not a rock; he was a weak and unsteady man. Nonetheless, the Lord wished to make Peter himself a rock, to show that through a weak human being, he himself firmly sustains his Church and keeps her united.
Thus, the Visit to Poland was for me a celebration of catholicity in the deepest sense. Christ is our peace and reunites the separated: over and above all the differences in the historical epochs and cultures, he is reconciliation. Through the Petrine Ministry we experience this unifying force of faith which, starting from many peoples ever anew, builds the one People of God. We truly experienced with joy that, coming from many peoples, we form the one People of God: his Holy Church.
For this reason the Petrine Ministry can be the visible sign that guarantees this unity and forms a concrete unit. Once again, I want to thank the Church in Poland explicitly and with all my heart for this moving experience of catholicity.
My travels in Poland could not omit a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, to that place of the cruellest barbarities, the attempt to wipe out the People of Israel, and thus render their election by God vain and indeed, to banish God himself from history.
It was a source of great comfort to me at that moment to see a rainbow appearing in the sky as, before the horrors of that place, I cried out to God like Job, shaken by the dread of his apparent absence but at the same time supported by the certainty that even in his silence he does not cease to be and remain with us. The rainbow was, as it were, a response: Yes, I exist, and the words of the promise, of the Covenant which I spoke after the flood, are still valid today (cf. Gn Gn 9,12-17).
The Visit to Valencia, Spain, was under the banner of the theme of marriage and the family. It was beautiful to listen, before the people assembled from all continents, to the testimonies of couples - blessed by a numerous throng of children - who introduced themselves to us and spoke of their respective journeys in the Sacrament of Marriage and in their large families.
They did not hide the fact that they have also had difficult days, that they have had to pass through periods of crisis. Yet, precisely through the effort of supporting one another day by day, precisely through accepting one another ever anew in the crucible of daily trials, living and suffering to the full their initial "yes", precisely on this Gospel path of "losing oneself", they had matured, rediscovered themselves and become happy.
Their "yes" to one another in the patience of the journey and in the strength of the Sacrament with which Christ had bound them together, had become a great "yes" to themselves, their children, to God the Creator and to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Thus, from the witness of these families a wave of joy reached us, not a superficial and scant gaiety that is all too soon dispelled, but a joy that developed also in suffering, a joy that reaches down to the depths and truly redeems man.
Before these families with their children, before these families in which the generations hold hands and the future is present, the problem of Europe, which it seems no longer wants to have children, penetrated my soul. To foreigners this Europe seems to be tired, indeed, it seems to be wishing to take its leave of history.
Why are things like this? This is the great question. The answers are undoubtedly very complex. Before seeking these answers, it is only right to thank the many married couples in our Europe who still say "yes" to children today and accept the trials that this entails: social and financial problems, as well as worries and struggles, day after day; the dedication required to give children access to the path towards the future.
In mentioning these difficulties, perhaps the reasons also become clearer why for many the risk of having children appears too great.
A child needs loving attention. This means that we must give children some of our time, the time of our life. But precisely this "raw material" of life - time - seems to be ever scarcer. The time we have available barely suffices for our own lives; how could we surrender it, give it to someone else?
To have time and to give time - this is for us a very concrete way to learn to give oneself, to lose oneself in order to find oneself.
In addition to this problem comes the difficult calculation: what rules should we apply to ensure that the child follows the right path and in so doing, how should we respect his or her freedom? The problem has also become very difficult because we are no longer sure of the norms to transmit; because we no longer know what the correct use of freedom is, what is the correct way to live, what is morally correct and what instead is inadmissible.
The modern spirit has lost its bearings, and this lack of bearings prevents us from being indicators of the right way to others. Indeed, the problem goes even deeper. Contemporary man is insecure about the future. Is it permissible to send someone into this uncertain future? In short, is it a good thing to be a person?
This deep lack of self assurance - plus the wish to have one's whole life for oneself - is perhaps the deepest reason why the risk of having children appears to many to be almost unsustainable.
In fact, we can transmit life in a responsible way only if we are able to pass on something more than mere biological life, and that is, a meaning that prevails even in the crises of history to come and a certainty in the hope that is stronger than the clouds that obscure the future.
Unless we learn anew the foundations of life - unless we discover in a new way the certainty of faith - it will be less and less possible for us to entrust to others the gift of life and the task of an unknown future.
Connected with that, finally, is also the problem of definitive decisions: can man bind himself for ever? Can he say a "yes" for his whole life? Yes, he can. He was created for this. In this very way human freedom is brought about and thus the sacred context of marriage is also created and enlarged, becoming a family and building the future.
At this point, I cannot be silent about my concern about the legislation for de facto couples. Many of these couples have chosen this way because - at least for the time being - they do not feel able to accept the legally ordered and binding coexistence of marriage. Thus, they prefer to remain in the simple de facto state. When new forms of legislation are created which relativize marriage, the renouncement of the definitive bond obtains, as it were, also a juridical seal.
In this case, deciding for those who are already finding it far from easy becomes even more difficult.
Then there is in addition, for the other type of couple, the relativization of the difference between the sexes.
The union of a man and a woman is being put on a par with the pairing of two people of the same sex, and tacitly confirms those fallacious theories that remove from the human person all the importance of masculinity and femininity, as though it were a question of the purely biological factor.
Such theories hold that man - that is, his intellect and his desire - would decide autonomously what he is or what he is not. In this, corporeity is scorned, with the consequence that the human being, in seeking to be emancipated from his body - from the "biological sphere" - ends by destroying himself.
If we tell ourselves that the Church ought not to interfere in such matters, we cannot but answer: are we not concerned with the human being? Do not believers, by virtue of the great culture of their faith, have the right to make a pronouncement on all this? Is it not their - our - duty to raise our voices to defend the human being, that creature who, precisely in the inseparable unity of body and spirit, is the image of God? The Visit to Valencia became for me a quest for the meaning of the human being.
In our minds let us travel to Bavaria - Munich, Altötting, Regensburg and Freising. There, I was able to live unforgettably beautiful days of encounter with faith and with the faithful of my Homeland. The great theme of my Journey to Germany was God. The Church must speak of many things: of all the issues connected with the human being, of her own structure and of the way she is ordered and so forth. But her true and - under various aspects - only theme is "God".
Moreover, the great problem of the West is forgetfulness of God. This forgetfulness is spreading. In short, all the individual problems can be traced back to this question, I am sure of it.
Therefore, on that Journey, my main purpose was to shed clear light on the theme "God", also mindful of the fact that in several parts of Germany there are a majority of non-baptized persons for whom Christianity and the God of faith seem to belong to the past.
Speaking of God, we are touching precisely on the subject which, in Jesus' earthly preaching, was his main focus. The fundamental subject of this preaching is God's realm, the "Kingdom of God". This does not mean something that will come to pass at one time or another in an indeterminate future. Nor does it mean that better world which we seek to create, step by step, with our own strength. In the term "Kingdom of God", the word "God" is a subjective genitive. This means: God is not something added to the "Kingdom" which one might even perhaps drop.
God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means: God reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world. He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains of Jesus' message.
Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch its arrival. "The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!" (cf. Lc 17, 20ff.).
It develops wherever God's will is done. It is present wherever there are people who are open to his arrival and so let God enter the world. Thus, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.
Two topics made an impression during the days of my Visit to Bavaria. They were and are linked to the theme of God: "the priesthood" and "dialogue". Paul calls Timothy - and in him, the Bishop and in general the priest - "man of God" (1Tm 6,11). This is the central task of the priest: to bring God to men and women. Of course, he can only do this if he himself comes from God, if he lives with and by God. This is marvellously expressed in a verse of a priestly Psalm that we - the older generation - spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot" (Ps 165).
The priest praying in this Psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy (cf. 10: 9). After taking possession of the Land, every tribe obtained by the drawing of lots his portion of the Holy Land and with this took part in the gift promised to the forefather Abraham.
The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significance. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself.
The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life - an interpretation that also emerges repeatedly in Psalm 119 - has rightly seen in the following of the Apostles, in communion with Jesus himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must also say today, with the Levite: "Dominus pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei". God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence.
This theocentricity of the priestly existence is truly necessary in our entirely function-oriented world in which everything is based on calculable and ascertainable performance. The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs. If this centrality of God in a priest's life is lost, little by little the zeal in his actions is lost. In an excess of external things the centre that gives meaning to all things and leads them back to unity is missing. There, the foundation of life, the "earth" upon which all this can stand and prosper, is missing.
Celibacy, in force for Bishops throughout the Eastern and Western Church and, according to a tradition that dates back to an epoch close to that of the Apostles, for priests in general in the Latin Church, can only be understood and lived if is based on this basic structure.
The solely pragmatic reasons, the reference to greater availability, is not enough: such a greater availability of time could easily become also a form of egoism that saves a person from the sacrifices and efforts demanded by the reciprocal acceptance and forbearance in matrimony; thus, it could lead to a spiritual impoverishment or to hardening of the heart.
The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in the phrase: Dominus pars - You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too. Celibacy must be a witness to faith: faith in God materializes in that form of life which only has meaning if it is based on God.
Basing one's life on him, renouncing marriage and the family, means that I accept and experience God as a reality and that I can therefore bring him to men and women. Our world, which has become totally positivistic, in which God appears at best as a hypothesis but not as a concrete reality, needs to rest on God in the most concrete and radical way possible.
It needs a witness to God that lies in the decision to welcome God as a land where one finds one's own existence. For this reason, celibacy is so important today, in our contemporary world, even if its fulfilment in our age is constantly threatened and questioned.
A careful preparation during the journey towards this goal and persevering guidance on the part of the Bishop, priest friends and lay people who sustain this priestly witness together, is essential. We need prayer that invokes God without respite as the Living God and relies on him in times of confusion as well as in times of joy. Consequently, as opposed to the cultural trend that seeks to convince us that we are not capable of making such decisions, this witness can be lived and in this way, in our world, can reinstate God as reality.
The other great subject linked to the theme of God is that of dialogue. The inner circle of the complex dialogue which today requires the common commitment of all Christians to unity became clear in the Ecumenical Vespers in the Regensburg Cathedral, where, in addition to the brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church, I was able to meet many friends of Orthodoxy and Evangelical Christianity. We were all gathered together to recite the Psalms and listen to the Word of God, and it is no small thing that this unity was granted to us.
The meeting with the University was dedicated - as befitted the place - to the dialogue between faith and reason.
On the occasion of my meeting with the philosopher Jürgen Habermas a few years ago in Munich, he said that we would need thinkers who could translate the encoded convictions of the Christian faith into the language of the secularized world to make them newly effective.
In fact, the world's urgent need of the dialogue between faith and reason is becoming ever more obvious.
Immanual Kant, in his day, saw the essence of illuminism expressed in the so-called "sapere aude": in the courage of thought that does not allow itself to be embarrassed by any prejudice.
Well, since then, the cognitive capacity of the human being, his dominion over matter by the power of thought, has made progress that would have been inconceivable at the time.
However, the power the human being holds in his hands, which science has increased, is increasingly becoming a danger that threatens the human being himself and the world.
Reason oriented totally to taking the world in hand, no longer accepts limits. It is already on the point of dealing with the person merely as matter of its own production and power.
Our knowledge is growing but at the same time, a progressive blinding of reason with regard to its own foundations and the criteria that give it direction and meaning is being recorded.
Faith in that God, who is in person the creative Reason of the universe, must be accepted by science in a new way as a challenge and a chance.
Reciprocally, this faith must recognize anew its intrinsic immensity and its own reasonableness. Reason needs the Logos which was at the beginning and is our light. Faith, for its part, needs the conversation with modern reason to take stock of its own greatness and to correspond to its own responsibilities. And this is what I sought to highlight in my lesson at Regensburg. It is a matter which is certainly not solely academic: it addresses the future of us all.
In Regensburg the dialogue between the religions was only marginally touched on and in a twofold perspective. Secularized reason is unable to enter into a true dialogue with the religions. It remains closed to the question of God, and this will end by leading to the clash of cultures.
The other perspective concerned the affirmation that the religions must encounter one another in the common task of putting themselves at the service of the truth and thus, of the human being.
My Visit to Turkey afforded me the opportunity to show also publicly my respect for the Islamic Religion, a respect, moreover, which the Second Vatican Council (cf. Declaration Nostra Aetate NAE 3) pointed out to us as an attitude that is only right.
I would like here to express once again my gratitude to the Authorities of Turkey and to the Turkish People, who welcomed me with such immense hospitality and offered me unforgettable days of encounter.
In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and to which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.
It is a question of the attitude that the community of the faithful must adopt in the face of the convictions and demands that were strengthened in the Enlightenment.
On the one hand, one must counter a dictatorship of positivist reason that excludes God from the life of the community and from public organizations, thereby depriving man of his specific criteria of judgment.
On the other, one must welcome the true conquests of the Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the authenticity of religion.
As in the Christian community, where there has been a long search to find the correct position of faith in relation to such beliefs - a search that will certainly never be concluded once and for all -, so also the Islamic world with its own tradition faces the immense task of finding the appropriate solutions in this regard.
The content of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims will be at this time especially one of meeting each other in this commitment to find the right solutions. We Christians feel in solidarity with all those who, precisely on the basis of their religious conviction as Muslims, work to oppose violence and for the synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom. In this sense, the two dialogues of which I have spoken penetrate each other.
In Istanbul, lastly, I was once again able to live happy hours of ecumenical closeness in my meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Some days ago he wrote me a letter in which the words of gratitude welling up from the depths of his heart reminded me very vividly of the experience of communion of those days.
We felt we were brothers, not only on the basis of words and historical events, but from the depths of the soul; that we were united by the common faith of the Apostles ever in our thoughts and personal feelings.
We experienced a profound unity in faith, and we pray to the Lord yet more insistently that he will quickly also grant full unity in the common breaking of the Bread.
My deep gratitude and fraternal prayers are addressed at this time to Patriarch Bartholomew and his faithful, as well as to the various Christian communities which I was able to meet in Istanbul.
Let us hope and pray that religious freedom, which corresponds with the intimate nature of faith and is recognized in the principles of the Turkish Constitution, may find in suitable juridical forms, as well as in the daily life of the Patriarchate and the other Christian communities, an increasingly practical fulfilment.
"Et erit iste pax" - this will be peace, the Prophet Micah says (5: 4) about the future ruler of Israel, whose birth in Bethlehem he announces. The Angels said to the shepherds grazing their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem: "on earth peace among men", the expected One has arrived (Lc 2,14).
He himself, Christ, the Lord, said to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14,27). It is from these words that the liturgical greeting developed: "Peace be with you".
This peace that is communicated in the liturgy is Christ himself. He gives himself to us as peace, as reconciliation beyond all frontiers. Wherever he is welcomed, islands of peace develop. We human beings would have liked Christ to banish all wars once and for all, to destroy weapons and establish universal peace. But we have to learn that peace cannot be attained only from the outside with structures, and that the attempt to establish it with violence leads only to ever new violence.
We must learn that peace - as the Angel of Bethlehem said - is connected with eudokia, with the opening of our hearts to God.
We must learn that peace can only exist if hatred and selfishness are overcome from within. The human being must be renewed from within, must become new and different. Thus, peace in this world always remains weak and fragile. We suffer from this. For this very reason we are called especially to let ourselves be penetrated within by God's peace and to take his power into the world. All that was wrought in and through the Sacrament of Baptism must be fulfilled in our lives: the dying of the former self, hence, the rebirth of the new. And we will pray to the Lord insistently over and over again: Please move hearts! Make us new people! Help the reason of peace to overcome the irrationality of violence! Make us bearers of your peace!
May the Virgin Mary, to whom I entrust you and your work, obtain this grace for us. I extend to each one of you present here and to all your loved ones, my most fervent good wishes, and as a sign of our joy, tomorrow will be a free day for the Curia to prepare well, physically and spiritually, for Christmas. I impart my Apostolic Blessing with affection to the collaborators of the various Dicasteries and Offices of the Roman Curia and of the Governatorate of Vatican City State. Merry Christmas and very many good wishes also for the New Year!
Speeches 2005-13 9126