Speeches 2005-13 14067
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am very pleased to welcome and greet with affection the members of the Administrative Board of the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation for Latin America and the Caribbean Countries on the occasion of the annual meeting. This year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical of my Predecessor Paul VI which gave the Foundation its name.
I would like to thank Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, the President, for his kind words on behalf of you all. I am also grateful for the presence of Cardinal Juan ÕŮiguez Sandoval and of various Bishops who come from the "Continent of Hope", some of whom I was able to greet on my recent Apostolic Visit to Brazil.
I likewise greet the representatives of the Italian Bishops' Conference, who contribute so generously to making St Ignatius of Antioch's words: the Church of Rome "presides in charity" (Epistula ad Romanos, I, 1), come true. I am especially grateful to all those who help us to carry out this most important mission.
Lastly, I would like to greet the collaborators of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" who are also attending this meeting with the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your constant work for the poorest people.
Ever since my beloved Predecessor John Paul II established the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation 15 years ago and put the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" in charge of it, the Foundation has been dedicated to promoting the Church's mission, supporting in particular projects for the indigenous peoples, the campesinos and the African Americans of the Latin American and Caribbean Countries.
In establishing this Foundation, the Pope had in mind the people whose ancestral customs are threatened by a post-modern culture and who are seeing the destruction of their traditions which are so open to accepting the truth of the Gospel.
The Foundation is the fruit of the great sensitivity that John Paul II showed to the men and women in our society who suffer most. This endeavour, embarked upon 15 years ago, must continue in accordance with the principles that have marked its commitment to promote the dignity of every human being and the fight against poverty.
Here, I would like to underline two characteristics of the Foundation.
In the first place, the development of peoples must maintain as a pastoral principle a global and anthropological vision of the human person. Article 2 of the Foundation's Statutes describes this aspect as "complete development". In this regard, Pope Paul VI said in his Encyclical, defining the concept: "What must be aimed at is complete humanism. And what is that if not the fully-rounded development of the whole man and of all men? A humanism closed in on itself, and not open to the values of the spirit and to God who is their source, could achieve apparent success.... There is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute and is conscious of a vocation which gives human life its true meaning" (n. 42).
This complete development takes into account the social and material aspects of life, such as the proclamation of faith which gives man's being full meaning. Man's true poverty is often the lack of hope and the absence of a Father who gives meaning to human existence itself: "Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God" (Deus Caritas Est ).
The second characteristic is the exemplarity of the Foundation's working method, a model for every aid structure. The projects are studied by an Administrative Board that consists of Bishops from different regions of Latin America who evaluate them. Thus, the decisions are taken by those who are familiar with the problems of those people and their material needs.
Likewise, this avoids on the one hand a certain paternalism, which is always humiliating for the poor and dampens their initiative; and on the other, it means that the total sum of the allocated funds reaches the neediest, without being wasted on unwieldy bureaucratic processes.
As I said on my recent Pastoral Visit to Aparecida, the Church in these nations is facing enormous challenges. At the same time, however, she is the "Church of Hope", which feels the need to fight for the dignity of every person and for true justice, and against the wretched condition of our fellow human beings.
Latin America is a part of the world, rich in natural resources, where differences in the standard of living must give way to this spirit of sharing goods, as can be seen in the conversion and subsequent attitude of Zacchaeus, the publican of the Gospel: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Lc 19,8).
In the face of secularization, the proliferation of sects and the poverty of so many of our brethren, it is urgently necessary to form communities united in faith like the Holy Family of Nazareth, where the joyful witness of those who have encountered the Lord may be the light that illumines those in search of a more dignified life.
I entrust the work of this Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" and of the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of all America. May she help you and guide you always!
As an expression of these warm good wishes, I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, to your relatives and to your collaborators.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I meet you with great joy on the occasion of the ad limina visit that you are making in these days. I address to each one of you my cordial greeting and willingly extend it to your respective diocesan Communities.
Through you, I would like to convey my greeting to all the Slovak People, evangelized by Sts Cyril and Methodius, who in the last century were obliged to undergo deep suffering and persecution by the totalitarian Communist regime.
I am pleased to recall that among the Bishops, priests, Religious and lay people who bore a heroic witness in those comparatively recent years is also Cardinal JŠn Chryzostom Korec, to whom I ask you to convey my fraternal embrace.
John Paul II had close ties with your beloved Nation. On his third Pastoral Visit to Slovakia, in September 2003, he chose as his motto: "Faithful to Christ, faithful to the Church". This motto continues to be an authentic apostolic and missionary programme, not only for the Church in Slovakia but for all the People of God, subjected as they are, especially in Europe, to an insistent ideological pressure that would like to reduce Christianity to a merely "private" dimension.
In fact, from the religious and cultural viewpoints, Slovakia is entering ever more deeply into the typical dynamic of other European countries with an ancient Christian tradition, heavily marked in our time by a widespread process of secularization.
Today, after emerging from the tunnel of persecution, the Christian communities which have preserved their ancient and deeply-rooted Catholic religious practices find themselves following the path of renewal that was promoted by the Second Vatican Council.
They are rightly concerned to preserve their own precious spiritual patrimony and at the same time to update it; and they are striving to remain faithful to their roots and to share their experiences with the other Churches in Europe, in a fraternal "exchange of gifts" that tends to enrich all.
Slovakia and Poland, the two Countries in Eastern Europe which have inherited the greatest riches of Catholic tradition, are currently exposed to the risk of seeing this patrimony, which the Communist regime did not manage to destroy, under heavy attack by the characteristic trends of Western societies: consumerism, hedonism, secularism, relativism, etc.
In the past few days I have heard your reports and learned, for example, that many rural parishes - those which have best preserved the Christian culture and spirituality - are seeing their population dwindling as people go in search of greater well-being and more profitable employment in the larger cities where they stay.
Dear and venerable Brothers, this is the situation in which the Lord calls you to carry out your episcopal ministry. I know that precisely in order to respond to the changed pastoral requirements, you have for some time been involved in drafting the Plan for Pastoral Care and Evangelization of the Catholic Church in Slovakia for the years 2007-13, which will be approved next October.
With a view to 2013, the year when you will commemorate the 1,150th anniversary of the beginning of the mission in your Region of Sts Cyril and Methodius, you have therefore decided to revive and bring up to date the evangelizing action of the two Brother Saints from Thessalonica. And you have started on this unanimous missionary mobilization with the rediscovery of tradition and of the strong and deep roots of Christianity in your people.
This pastoral undertaking intends to embrace all the social milieus and to respond to the expectations of the Slovak People, paying special attention to the spiritual requirements of young people and families. This is why you pay special attention to the youth apostolate in the contexts of both school and parish.
Experience tells you that a good quality training in the scholastic environment is particularly useful for the future of the new generations and in this regard, Catholic schools, numerous in Slovakia, make a precious contribution. Starting with nursery schools and extending to secondary classes, they endeavour to assure students a high-quality instruction and, at the same time, an integral spiritual, moral and human education.
With regard to the pastoral care of youth in the parishes, I know that you are able to rely on the ministry of numerous young priests to offer to boys and girls, in addition to the proper preparation for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, a true and proper process of spiritual and community growth.
I warmly recommend that every decision always be incorporated in organized programmes of formation so as to teach young people always to connect faith with life. Only in this way, in fact, will you be able to help them forge a Christian conscience capable of resisting the enticements of consumerism, which are ever more insidious and invasive.
With regard to the reality of families, I have learned that Slovakia too is beginning to be affected by the crisis of marriage and the birth rate. This is first and foremost due to financial considerations which induce young engaged couples to postpone their marriage.
In addition, the dwindling social esteem of the value of marriage is being recorded, combined with a weakness in the new generations who are often afraid to make permanent decisions and lifelong commitments.
Another destabilizing factor is undoubtedly the systematic attack on marriage and the family conducted by certain areas of culture and by the mass media. In this framework, what should the Church do other than intensify prayer and continue to be strongly committed to supporting families as they face the challenges of the present time?
Thanks be to God, the pastoral care in your Country of the sacraments connected with the family, is well structured: Marriage, the Baptism of children, First Communion and Confirmation have obligatory preparation periods, and it is a constant commitment for you as Pastors and for the priests who assist you to help families start out on an authentic journey of faith and of Christian life as a community.
The groups, movements and lay ecclesial associations involved on the front line in the promotion of conjugal and family life and in the dissemination of the Church's teaching on matrimony, the family, sexual morals and bioethical themes, can be an effective source of help in your pastoral action.
At the crossroads between the pastoral care of the family and that of young people is the pastoral care of vocations.
Slovakia is a Nation which subsequent to 1990 experienced a vigorous flourishing of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
In addition to the only seminary that stayed open under the dictatorship, five others have come into being in these years, and today almost all parishes are provided with their own pastor.
We thank the Lord for this wealth of priests, and especially of young priests. However, as was foreseeable, this springtime could not last long, so today every Christian community is encouraged to give priority to a careful pastoral vocations promotion.
The formation of altar servers is a good step in this direction. Many parishes are taking it, in collaboration with the seminaries.
Of course, the increase in the number and quality of vocations also depends on the spiritual life of families: working for and with families is therefore a particularly appropriate way to encourage the birth and consolidation of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
Nor should it be forgotten that this must all be nourished by constant and intense prayer.
Dear and venerable Brothers, continue to foster fatherly and open relations with your priests; seek to share the burden of their difficulties, support them and be concerned with their spiritual formation, organizing suitable pastoral meetings, retreats and spiritual exercises for them.
I rejoice because in accordance with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, every single one of your Dioceses has worked out a formation plan that provides for wise collaboration between elderly and young priests in order to meet the different needs of each one.
Take my cordial greeting back to your first collaborators, and assure them of my remembrance in prayer.
Then please convey my spiritual affection to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, especially the sick and those in greatest need. Upon each one I invoke the heavenly protection of Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia.
With these sentiments, I cordially impart to you, dear Confreres, a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to the faithful of your Christian Communities and to all the inhabitants of your beloved Country.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I meet you with great pleasure today, on an especially significant occasion. Indeed, you are intending to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, created by the Servant of God John Paul II on 20 May 1982 with his Letter addressed to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the then Secretary of State.
I greet all those present and I thank you, Cardinal Paul Poupard, in the first place, for your courteous words interpreting the common sentiments. I address to you, venerable Brother who has headed the Pontifical Council since 1988, a special thought of gratitude and appreciation for the important work you have carried out during this long period. At the Dicastery's service, you have devoted and profitably continue to devote your human and spiritual gifts, always witnessing enthusiastically to the attention which prompts the Church to establish dialogue with the cultural movements of our time.
Your participation in numerous congresses and international meetings, many of which were organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, has enabled you to be ever more thoroughly acquainted with the interest the Holy See takes in the vast and variegated world of culture. I thank you once again for all this and extend my gratitude to the Secretary, Officials and Consultors of the Dicastery.
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council paid great attention to culture, and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes dedicated a special chapter to it (cf. nn. 53-62). The Council Fathers were concerned to point out the perspective in which the Church views and addresses the promotion of culture, considering this task as one of the "more urgent problems deeply affecting the human race" (ibid., n. 46).
In her relations with the world of culture, the Church always places man at the centre, both as the author of cultural activity and the one to whom it is destined. Servant of God Paul VI had very much at heart the Church's dialogue with culture and personally took charge of it during the years of his Pontificate.
The Servant of God John Paul II, who had taken part in the Council and made his own special contribution to the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, followed in his footsteps.
On 2 June 1980, in his memorable Discourse to UNESCO, he witnessed in the first person how much he had at heart to meet man on the cultural plane in order to transmit the Gospel Message to him. Two years later he established the Pontifical Council for Culture, destined to give a new impetus to the Church's commitment to assist the plurality of cultures' encounter with the Gospel in the different parts of the world (cf. Letter to Cardinal Casaroli, 20 May 1982; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 June, p. 7).
In instituting this new Dicastery, my venerable Predecessor emphasized that it was to pursue its aims by establishing dialogue with all, without distinction of culture or religion, "in a joint search for cultural communication with all men of good will" (ibid.).
This aspect of the service carried out by the Pontifical Council for Culture has been confirmed in the past 25 years, since the world has become even more interdependent due to the formidable development of the means of communication and the consequent extension of the social relations network.
It is therefore even more urgent for the Church to promote cultural development, targeting the human and spiritual quality of its messages and content, since culture today is also inevitably affected by the globalization which, unless constantly accompanied by vigilant discernment, can turn against man, ending by impoverishing him instead of enriching him. And what great challenges evangelization has to face in this field!
Twenty-five years after the creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, it is therefore appropriate to reflect on the reasons and goals that motivated its birth in the social and cultural context of our time. To this end, the Pontifical Council has desired to organize a Study Convention, on the one hand, as a pause for meditation on the existing relationship between evangelization and culture, and on the other, to take stock of this relationship as it appears today in Asia, America and Africa.
How is it possible not to find a special cause of satisfaction in seeing that the three "continental" reports have been entrusted to three Cardinals who are respectively Asian, Latin American and African? Is this not an eloquent confirmation of how the Catholic Church has journeyed on, blown by the "Wind" of Pentecost, as a Community capable of conversing with the entire family of peoples, indeed, shining out among it as a "prophetic sign of unity and peace" (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer V-D)?
Dear brothers and sisters, the history of the Church is also inseparably the history of culture and art. Works such as the Summa Theologiae by St Thomas Aquinas, the Divine Comedy, Chartres Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel or Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantatas are unparalleled syntheses of Christian faith and human expression.
However, if these are, so to speak, the peaks of such syntheses between faith and culture, their convergence is brought about daily in the life and work of all the baptized, in that hidden art which is the love story of each one with the living God and with his brethren, in the joy and effort of following Jesus Christ in the daily routine of life.
Today more than ever, reciprocal openness between the cultures is a privileged context for dialogue between people committed to seeking an authentic humanism, over and above the divergences that separate them. In the cultural arena too, Christianity must offer to all a most powerful force of renewal and exaltation, that is, the Love of God who makes himself human love.
Precisely in his Letter establishing the Pontifical Council for Culture, Pope John Paul II wrote: "Love is like a great force hidden deep within cultures in order to urge them to overcome their incurable finiteness by opening themselves to him who is their Source and End, and to give them, when they do open themselves to his grace, enriching fullness" (Letter, 20 May 1982).
May the Holy See, thanks to the service carried out especially by your Dicastery, continue to promote throughout the Church that evangelical culture which is the leaven, salt and light of the Kingdom in humanity's midst.
Dear brothers and sisters, once again I express my deep gratitude for the work done by the Pontifical Council for Culture and I assure all of you who are present here of my remembrance in prayer, and as I invoke the heavenly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Sedes Sapientiae, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Your Eminence, to your venerable confreres, and to all those who in various capacities are involved in the dialogue between the Gospel and contemporary cultures.
Your Beatitude and Dear Brother,
I welcome you today with joy, hearing the words of the Apostle ring out in my heart: "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 15,5-6).
Your visit is a gift of the God of steadfastness and encouragement of which St Paul speaks, addressing those who heard the message of salvation for the first time in Rome. Today, we are experiencing the gift of perseverance because, despite the presence of centuries-old divisions, diverging paths and the effort required in stitching up grievious wounds, the Lord has not ceased to guide our steps on the path of unity and reconciliation. And for all of us this is a cause of consolation because our meeting today is part of an ever more intense process in the search of that full communion so longed for by Christ: "ut omnes unum sint" (cf. Jn 17,21).
We know well that adherence to the Lord's ardent desire cannot and must not be proclaimed solely in words or in a purely formal manner. For this reason, Your Beatitude, in following in the footsteps of the Apostle to the Gentiles, you did not come from Cyprus to Rome merely for an "exchange of ecumenical courtesy", but rather to reaffirm your firm decision to persevere in praying to the Lord to show us how to achieve full communion. At the same time, your visit is a cause of intense joy, for in our encounters we have already been granted to sample the beauty of the desired full Christian unity.
Thank you, Your Beatitude, for this gesture of esteem and brotherly friendship. In you, I greet the Pastor of an ancient and illustrious Church, a shining tessera of that bright mosaic, the East, which, to use a favourite phrase of the Servant of God John Paul II of venerable memory, constitutes one of the two lungs with which the Church breathes.
Your appreciated presence reminds me of the fervent preaching of St Paul in Cyprus (cf. Ac 13, 4ff.) and the adventurous voyage which brought him to Rome, where he proclaimed the same Gospel and sealed his luminous witness of faith with martyrdom.
Does not the memory of the Apostle to the Gentiles perhaps invite us to turn our hearts with humility and hope to Christ, who is our one Teacher?
With his divine help we must not tire of seeking together the ways of unity, overcoming those difficulties which in the course of history have given rise to divisions and reciprocal diffidence among Christians. May the Lord grant us that we may soon be able to approach the same altar, to partake together of the one Banquet of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine.
In welcoming you, dear Brother in the Lord, I would like to pay homage to the ancient and venerable Church of Cyprus, rich in saints, among whom I would like to remember in particular Barnabas, a companion and collaborator of the Apostle Paul, and Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, once called Salamis, today Famagusta.
Epiphanius, who exercised his episcopal ministry for 35 years in a turbulent period for the Church because of the Arian revival and the controversies of the "Pneumatomachians", wrote works with a clear catechetical and apologetic intention, as he himself explained in his Ancoratus.
This interesting treatise contains two Creeds, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Creed of the Baptismal Tradition of Constantia, which corresponds to the Nicene faith but is differently formulated and amplified and "more suited", Epiphanius himself pointed out, "to combating the errors that arise because it conforms to that [faith] determined by the aforementioned Holy Fathers" of the Nicean Council (Ancoratus, n. 119). In it, he explained, we affirm our faith in the "holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the perfect Spirit. The Spirit Consoler, not created, who proceeds from the Father and comes from the Son, the object of our faith" (ibid.).
As a good Pastor, Epiphanius pointed out to the flock entrusted to him by Christ, the truth in which to believe, the way to take and the pitfalls to avoid.
This is a method for proclaiming the Gospel that is also effective today, especially to the new generations strongly influenced by currents of thought contrary to the Gospel spirit. At the beginning of this Third Millennium, the Church finds herself facing challenges and problems not at all unlike those which Bishop Epiphanius had to tackle.
It was as necessary then as it is now to be on the alert in order to put the People of God on their guard against false prophets and the errors and superficiality of proposals that are not in conformity with the teaching of the divine Teacher, our one Saviour.
At the same time, it is urgently necessary to find a new language in which to proclaim the faith that brings us together, a shared language, a spiritual language that can transmit faithfully the revealed truths and thereby help us to reconstruct, in truth and charity, communion among all members of the one Body of Christ.
This need, for which we are all aware, impels us to persevere without being discouraged in the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole. It leads us to using effective and permanent instruments to ensure that the search for communion is not interrupted or sporadic in our Churches' life and mission.
As we face the immense task expected of us, whose implementation is far beyond human capacities, we must entrust ourselves first of all to prayer. This does not mean that it is not only right to have recourse, today as well, to every effective human means that can serve this purpose.
In this perspective, I consider your visit a particularly useful initiative for enabling us to progress towards the unity desired by Christ. We know that this unity is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit; but we also know that it requires at the same time a constant effort, enlivened by a sure will and steadfast hope in the power of the Lord.
Thank you, therefore, Your Beatitude, for coming to pay me a visit, together with the brothers who have accompanied you; thank you for this presence, which gives concrete expression to the desire to seek full communion together.
For my part, I assure you that I share in this same desire, sustained by firm hope. Yes, "may the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus".
Thus, let us turn confidently to the Lord, so that he may guide our footsteps on the path of peace, joy and love.
"To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).
Your Holiness, Pope of Ancient Rome and Bishop of the historical Chair of the Blessed Apostle Peter,
The grace of the Holy Spirit and our duty as Archbishop-Primate of the Most Holy Martyr Church of the Holy Apostle Barnabas for the unity and peace of our Apostolic Churches, have guided our footsteps here today, together with our reverend entourage. We have come to the place of the martyrdom of the Coryphaei of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, the shrine of the Catacombs of the martyrs of our common faith, to meet you, the one among the Bishops who holds the primacy of honour of undivided Christianity, to give you the fraternal kiss of peace and, after a non-fraternal journey down the centuries, to build new bridges of reconciliation, collaboration and love!
This is our third meeting after the unforgettable funeral of your beloved Predecessor Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, and the joyful ceremony of your own elevation to this Apostolic Throne. The whole of the Christian Ecumene looks with great hopes to this throne, awaiting gestures of dialogue, re-pacification, rapprochement and love from the wise theologian, the tireless pastor, the dynamic ecclesiastical leader who presides over it. In this regard, the development of the official theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church - in which our Apostolic Church of Cyprus takes part, with responsibility and coherence - is of paramount importance.
Our eyes will perhaps not be able to see the longed for unity of the Church, but with the grace of the Holy Spirit we will have done our duty in time and space as peacemakers and true brothers "ut omnes unum sint".
Furthermore, it is our personal conviction that since the drifting apart of our Sister Churches and the schism between them took place over so many centuries of accumulated misunderstandings, so their reunification and the re-establishment of mutual trust and true love between them will need time, patience and sacrifices.
Yet, with an awareness of our great responsibility, we take it upon ourselves to bring this task to completion "in truth and charity" under the infallible guidance of God's life-giving Spirit.
Our meeting today is felicitously taking place on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the beginning of official diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Cyprus. Indeed, in 1973, after the encounter of the Ethnarch, Archbishop Makarios III, with Pope Paul VI in Castel Gandolfo, the representation of these two parties was entrusted respectively to the current Cardinal Pio Laghi, who was then titular Archbishop of Mauriana and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, and to H.E. Mr Polys ModinÚs, then Ambassador of Cyprus in Paris.
Your Holiness, allow me to mention here the first Ambassador of Cyprus to the Holy See, resident in Rome: our dear friend, H.E. Mr Georgios Poulides, and to thank him warmly for his devotion, respect and love for the Church, and his important and indispensable work.
In recent decades after the Second Vatican Council, some of our Cypriot theologians, clerics and lay people have done post lauream studies at various Pontifical Universities with scholarships awarded by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. We would therefore like to express our gratitude to you and likewise our own intention to offer as a minimal antidoron of gratitude, summer scholarships in Cyprus for Catholic theologians interested in learning modern Greek together with the liturgical riches of the Orthodox Church from close at hand, so that they in turn may one day contribute to the vision of the united Church.
Recently, Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, said very gracefully: "Cyprus has always been Europe, even before Europe was established. With its entry into the European Union, Cyprus has come home". Yet, this common home of ours, Europe, the cradle of Western civilization, the glorious seat of the Christian spirit, the Mother of Saints and Missionaries, is passing through a period of crisis and confusion, of atheism and doubt, of secularization and decadence.
Society and the people of our time are thirsting and seeking. They have values and principles, traditions and customs that were formed in the light of the Gospel and under the wise guidance of the Fathers of the Church and of other ecclesiastical personalities, but are unable to recognize Christ's presence and the power of his soteriological message. They refuse to admit the fundamental importance of Europe's Christian roots: it is the hour of the Church and the new evangelization, the hour of the mission ad intra!
Yet, without the collaboration of the European Churches and our common Christian witness, it is certain that very little will have a positive outcome and that the many isolated efforts of the various Churches and Christian denominations will unfortunately be doomed to failure.
Instead of exercising a positive influence on the convinced European Christian, our globalized epoch seems to reject the historical ecumenicity of the Christian message and to marginalize its dynamic and effectiveness. Secularization, eudaemonism, the deification of technology and atheistic science confuse our neighbour and lead him inevitably to existential desperation. His anguished cry is heard: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" (Jn 6,68).
What, then, is our responsibility as spiritual fathers? What is our approach to spiritual care for our young people? Shall we succeed at last in protecting the sacred institution of the family? The sacredness of the human person, now defenceless in the face of medical research, abortion, euthanasia? And the oneness of God's creation which surrounds us and risks being destroyed irreparably by us?
The Orthodox path passes through spirituality, ascesis, fasting, the study of the texts of the Church Fathers who were inspired by God, the sense of the sacred and first and foremost the Divine Eucharist: these are our spiritual weapons and we wish to fight side by side with the Sister Church of Rome to transform European society, which is anthropocentric, into a Christocentric society with respect for our brethren of other religions, for immigrants, the poor, refugees and the weak of this earth.
Our presence here today, Your Holiness, is an appeal to you, the Pope who comes from a friendly country, traumatized by division for decades, like ours, but thanks be to God reunited. Therefore, you alone can understand how sad we feel! Our Homeland and Your Sister, the Apostolic Church of Cyprus, is suffering but is also persevering with dignity through the intercession of her saints and in particular the protection of her founder, the blessed Apostle Barnabas.
Human rights are trampled upon, monuments are destroyed, works of our spiritual patrimony become the object of international trade, and the division of the last European capital, Nicosia, seems doomed to continue. Will no one hear our just lament and raise their voices in protest to the powerful of the earth, who exploit Christ's Name but are deaf to the law of love?
We ask your support through the invincible weapons of brotherly prayer, but also through your fatherly cry for the defence of the inalienable rights of the Ancient and Apostolic Sister Church of Cyprus, this crossroads of peoples, religions, languages and civilizations of the Mediterranean and Middle East.
We want you beside us! Through us the Holy Apostle Barnabas invites his elder brother, the Blessed Apostle Peter, to make a first Visit to his humble home and to receive hospitality in it, to feel as though it were his own home and to bless it!
We await you, Your Holiness, as Bishop of the Roman See which presides in charity, in the Cyprus of dialogue, democracy, dignity, faith, monasticism, hospitality, monuments and works of art! May you deign to come to us and give us the opportunity to reciprocate your fraternal hospitality during these splendid days that we have spent in the Eternal City!
Your Holiness, with the intercession of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Patrons of the Diocese of Rome, of the Holy Apostle Barnabas, Founder of the Church of Cyprus, and of the Holy Greeks Isapostolic Cyril and Methodius, Co-Patrons of Europe, we offer you our heartfelt good wishes for health, a long life and the illumination of the Holy Spirit for the success of your lofty mission as Pontiff-builder of bridges between peoples, religions and cultures.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rm 15,13).
"Blessed be God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ep 1,3).
1. We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, full of hope for the future of our Churches' relations, thank God with joy for this fraternal meeting in our common faith in the Risen Christ. This visit has enabled us to observe how these relations have increased, both at a local level and in the context of the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole. The Delegation of the Church of Cyprus has always made a positive contribution to this dialogue; among other things, for instance, in 1983 it hosted the Coordination Committee of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue, so that in addition to doing the demanding preparatory work, the Catholic and Orthodox Members were able to visit and admire the great spiritual riches and wealth of art works of the Church of Cyprus.
2. On the happy occasion of our fraternal encounter at the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul, the "coryphaei of the Apostles", as liturgical tradition says, we would like to declare of common accord our sincere and firm willingness, in obedience to the desire of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our search for full unity among all Christians, making every possible effort deemed useful to the life of our Communities. We desire that the Catholic and Orthodox faithful of Cyprus live a fraternal life in full solidarity, based on our common faith in the Risen Christ. We also wish to sustain and encourage the theological dialogue which is preparing through the competent International Commission to address the most demanding issues that marked the historical event of the division.
For full communion in the faith, the sacramental life and the exercise of the pastoral ministry, it is necessary to reach substantial agreement. To this end, we assure our faithful of our fervent prayers as Pastors in the Church and ask them to join us in a unanimous invocation "that they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).
3. At our meeting, we reviewed the historical situations in which our Churches are living. In particular, we examined the situation of division and tensions that have marked the Island of Cyprus for more than 30 years, with its tragic daily problems which impair the daily life of our communities and of individual families. More generally, we considered the situation in the Middle East, where the war and conflicts between peoples risk spreading with disastrous consequences. We prayed for the peace that "comes from the heavenly places". It is the intention of our Churches to play a role of peacemaking in justice and solidarity and, to achieve all this, it is our constant wish to foster fraternal relations among all Christians and loyal dialogue between the different religions present and active in the Region. May faith in the one God help the people of these ancient and celebrated regions to rediscover friendly coexistence, in reciprocal respect and constructive collaboration.
4. We therefore address this appeal to all those who, everywhere in the world, raise their hand against their own brethren, exhorting them firmly to lay down their weapons and to take steps to heal the injuries caused by war. We also ask them to spare no effort to ensure that human rights are always defended in every nation: respect for the human person, an image of God, is in fact a fundamental duty for all. Thus, among the human rights to be safeguarded, freedom of religion should be at the top of the list. Failure to respect this right constitutes a very serious offence to the dignity of the human being, who is struck deep within his heart where God dwells. Consequently, to profane, destroy or sack the places of worship of any religion is an act against humanity and the civilization of the peoples.
5. We did not omit to reflect on a new opportunity that is opening for more intense contact and more concrete collaboration between our Churches. In fact, the building of the European Union is progressing, and Catholics and Orthodox are called to contribute to creating a climate of friendship and cooperation. At a time when secularization and relativism are growing, Catholics and Orthodox in Europe are called to offer a renewed common witness to the ethical values, ever ready to account for their faith in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. The European Union, which will not be able to restrict itself to merely economic cooperation, needs sound cultural foundations, shared ethical references and openness to the religious dimension. It is essential to revive the Christian roots of Europe which made its civilization great down the centuries and to recognize that in this regard the Western and Eastern Christian traditions have a common task to achieve.
6. At our encounter, therefore, we considered our Churches' long journey through history and the great tradition which has come down to our day, starting with the proclamation of the first disciples, who came to Cyprus from Jerusalem after the persecution of Stephen, and reviewing Paul's voyage from the coasts of Cyprus to Rome as it is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (Ac 11,19 Ac 27, 4ff. ). The rich patrimony of faith and the solid Christian tradition of our lands should spur Catholics and Orthodox to a renewed impetus in proclaiming the Gospel in our age, in being faithful to our Christian vocation and in responding to the demands of the contemporary world.
7. The treatment of bioethical issues gives rise to serious concern. Indeed, there is a risk that certain techniques, applied to genetics, intentionally conceived to meet legitimate needs, actually go so far as to undermine the dignity of the human being created in the image of God. The exploitation of human beings, abusive experimentation and genetic experiments which fail to respect ethical values are an offence against life and attack the safety and dignity of every human person, in whose existence they can never be either justified or permitted.
8. At the same time, these ethical considerations and a shared concern for human life prompt us to invite those nations which, with God's grace, have made significant progress in the areas of the economy and technology, not to forget their brothers and sisters who live in countries afflicted by poverty, hunger and disease. We therefore ask the leaders of nations to encourage and promote an equitable distribution of the goods of the earth in a spirit of solidarity with the poor and with all those who are destitute in the world.
9. We also concurred in our anxiety about the risk of destroying the creation. Man received it so that he might implement God's plan. However, by setting himself up at the centre of the universe, forgetting the Creator's mandate and shutting himself in a selfish search for his own well-being, the human being has managed the environment in which he lives by putting into practice decisions that threaten his own existence, whereas the environment requires the respect and protection of all who dwell in it.
10. Let us address together this prayer to the Lord of history, so that he will strengthen our Churches' witness in order that the Gospel proclamation of salvation may reach the new generations and be a light for all men and women. To this end, we entrust our desires and commitments to the Theotokos, the Mother of God Hodegetria, who points out the way to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
From the Vatican, 16 June 2007
Benedictus PP. XVI
Speeches 2005-13 14067