Speeches 2005-13 10907

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RESPONSES OF THE HOLY FATHER TO QUESTIONS POSED BY YOUNG PEOPLE



Question posed by Piero Tisti and Giovanna Di Mucci:

"Many of us young people in the suburbs do not have a centre, a place or people with whom we can identify. Often we are without a history, a perspective or even a future. It seems that what we really wait for never happens. From this come the experience of solitude and at times, an improper dependence on others. Your Holiness, is there someone or something by means of which we can become important? How is it possible to hope when reality negates every dream of happiness, every project of life?".

Response of the Holy Father:

Thank you for this question and for your very realistic presentation of the situation. It is not always easy to respond concerning the peripheries of this world with great problems and we do not want to live an easy optimism; but on the other hand, we must have the courage to go forwards.

I will therefore anticipate the essence of my answer: Yes, there is hope today too; each one of you is important because each is known and desired by God and God has his plan for each one. It is our task to discover and respond to it, so that despite these precarious and marginalized situations, we will be able to put into practice God's plan for us.

However, to go into detail, you have realistically presented to us the situation of a society: in the outskirts it seems hard to move ahead, to change the world for the better. Everything seems concentrated in the great centres of economic and political power, the great bureaucracies dominate, and those in the outskirts truly seem excluded from this life.

Then, one aspect of this situation of marginalization that affects so many people is that the important cells of social life that can also build centres on the fringes are fragmented: the family, which should be the place where generations meet - from great grandfather to grandchild -, should not only be a place where generations meet but also where they learn to live, learn the essential virtues, and this is in danger.

Thus, all the more should we do our utmost to ensure that the family survives, that today too, it is the vital cell, the centre in the periphery.

Therefore, the parish, the living cell of the Church, must also really be a place of inspiration, life and solidarity which helps people build together centres in the periphery. And I must say here, there is often talk about the Church in the suburbs and in the centre, which would be Rome, but in fact in the Church there are no suburbs because where Christ is, the whole centre is there.

Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, wherever the Tabernacle stands, there is Christ; hence, there is the centre and we must do all we can to ensure that these living centres are effective, present and truly a force that counters this marginalization.

The living Church, the Church of the little communities, the parish Church, the movements, must form as many centres in the outskirts and thus help to overcome the difficulties that the leading politics obviously cannot manage to resolve, and at the same time, we must also think that despite the great focuses of power, contemporary society itself is in need of solidarity, of a sense of lawfulness, of the initiative and creativity of all.

I know that this is easier said than done, but I see here people who are working to increase the number of centres in the peripheries, to increase hope, and thus it seems to me that we should take up the initiative. The Church must be present precisely in the suburbs; Christ must be present, the centre of the world must be present.

We have seen and we see today in the Gospel that for God there are no peripheries. In the vast context of the Roman Empire, the Holy Land was situated on the fringe; Nazareth was on the margins, an unknown town. Yet that very situation was, de facto, to become the centre that changed the world!

And thus, we must form centres of faith, hope, love and solidarity, centres of a sense of justice and lawfulness and of cooperation. Only in this way will modern society be able to survive. It needs this courage, it needs to create centres even if, obviously, hope does not seem to exist. We must counter this desperation, we must collaborate with great solidarity in doing our best to increase hope, so that men and women may collaborate and live.

The world - we see it - must be changed, but it is precisely the mission of young people to change it! We cannot change it with our own strength alone but in communion of faith and in journeying on together. In communion with Mary, with all the Saints, in communion with Christ, we can do something essential, and I encourage you and invite you to trust in Christ, to trust in God.

Being in the great company of the Saints and moving forward with them can change the world, creating centres in the outskirts, so that the company of Saints may truly become visible and thus the hope of all may become realistic, and every one may say: "I am important in the totality of history. The Lord will help us". Thank you.

Question posed by Sara Simonetta :

"I believe in the God who has touched my heart, but I have many insecurities, questions and fears that I carry within. It is not easy to speak about God with my friends; many of them see the Church as a reality that judges youth, that opposes their desire for happiness and love. Faced with this refusal, I feel all of my solitude as human and I want to feel near God. Your Holiness, in this silence, where is God?".

Response of the Holy Father:

Yes, even though we are believers, we all know God's silence. In the Psalm we have just recited, there is this almost despairing cry: "Make haste to answer me, O Lord... Do not hide your face!", and a little while ago a book of the spiritual experiences of Mother Teresa was published and what we already all knew was a little more clearly shown: with all her charity and the power of her faith, Mother Teresa suffered from God's silence.

On the one hand, we must also bear God's silence in order to understand our brothers who do not know God.

On the other, with the Psalm we can always cry to God once again: "Answer us, show your face!".
And without a doubt, in our life, if our hearts are open, we can find the important moments when God's presence really becomes tangible even for us.

I now remember a little story that John Paul II told at the Spiritual Exercises he preached in the Vatican when he was not yet Pope. He recounted that after the war he was visited by a Russian official who was a scientist and who said to him as a scientist: "I am certain that God does not exist. Yet, if I am in the mountains, surrounded by his majestic beauty, by his grandeur, I am equally sure that the Creator does exist and that God exists".

The beauty of creation is one of the sources where we can truly touch God's beauty, we can see that the Creator exists and is good, which is true as Sacred Scripture says in the Creation Narrative, that is, that God conceived of this world and made it with his heart, his will and his reason, and he found it good.

We too must be good in order to have an open heart and to perceive God's true presence.
Then, hearing the Word of God in the solemn liturgical celebrations, in celebrations of faith, in the great music of faith, we feel this presence. I remember at this moment another little story which a Bishop on his ad limina visit told me a little while ago.

There was a very intelligent woman who was not a Christian. She began to listen to the great music of Bach, Handel and Mozart. She was fascinated and said one day: "I must find the source of this beauty", and the woman converted to Christianity, to the Catholic faith, because she had discovered that this beauty has a source, and the source is the presence of Christ in hearts, it is the revelation of Christ in this world.

Hence, great feasts of faith, of liturgical celebration, but also personal dialogue with Christ: he does not always respond, but there are times when he really responds. Then there is the friendship, the company of faith.

Now, gathered here in Loreto, we see that faith unites, friendship creates a company of travelling companions. And we sense that all this does not derive from nothing but truly has a source, that the silent God is also a God who speaks, that he reveals himself and above all, that we ourselves can be witnesses of his presence, and from our faith a light truly shines also for others.

Thus, I would say on the one hand, we must accept that God is silent in this world, but we must not be deaf to his words or blind to his appearance on so many occasions. We see the Lord's presence, especially in creation, in the beautiful liturgy, in friendship within the Church, and full of his presence, we can also give light to others.

Thus, I come to the second part, or rather, the first part of your question: it is difficult to speak to friends today about God and perhaps even more difficult to talk about the Church, because they see in God only the limit of our freedom, a God of commandments, of prohibitions, and the Church as an institution that limits our freedom, that imposes prohibitions upon us.

Nonetheless, we must try to make the living Church visible to them, not this idea of a centre of power in the Church with these labels, but the community of companions where, in spite of all life's problems that exist for everyone, is born our joy of living.

Here, a third memory springs to mind. I was in Brazil, in Fazenda da Esperanša, this great community where drug addicts are treated and rediscover hope, the joy of living in this world; and they witnessed what the actual discovery that God exists meant for their recovery from despair.
They thus understood that their life has meaning and they rediscovered the joy of being in this world, the joy of facing the problems of human life.

Therefore, in every human heart, despite all the problems that exist, is a thirst for God, and when God disappears, the sun that gives light and joy also disappears.

This thirst for the infinite that is in our hearts is also demonstrated even in the reality of drugs: the human being wants to extend the quality of life, to have more than life, to have the infinite, but drugs are a lie, they are a fraud, because they do not extend life but destroy it.

The great thirst that speaks to us of God and sets us on the path that leads to him is true, but we must help one another. Christ came to create a network of communion in the world, where all together we might carry one another, and thus help one another together to find the ways that lead to life and to understand that the Commandments of God are not limits to our freedom but the paths that guide us to the other, towards the fullness of life.

Let us pray to the Lord to help us understand his presence, to be full of his Revelation, his joy, to help one another to go forward in the company of faith and with Christ to increasingly find the true Face of God, and hence, true life.
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Dear young people who are the hope of the Church in Italy! I am happy to meet you in this remarkable place, on this special evening, rich in prayer, song, periods of silence, full of hope and profound emotion. This valley, where in the past also my beloved Predecessor John Paul II met many of you, has henceforth become your agora, your square without walls and barriers, where a thousand streets converge and from which they branch out.

I listened with attention to those who have spoken on behalf of you all. You have come to this peaceful, authentic and joyful place of encounter for thousands of different reasons: some of you because you belong to a group or were invited by some friend, some by deep conviction, some with several doubts in your heart and some merely out of curiosity.... Whatever the reason that drew you here, I can tell you, although it requires courage to say it, that it was the Holy Spirit who has brought us together. Yes, that is exactly the case; the Spirit has led you here; you have come here with your doubts and certainties, with your joys and your anxieties. It is now up to all of us, to all of you, to open your hearts and offer everything to Jesus.

Say to him: here I am; of course, I am not yet as you would like me to be, I cannot even manage to understand myself fully but with your help I am ready to follow you. Lord Jesus, this evening I would like to speak to you, making my own the inner attitude and trusting abandonment of that young woman who, 2,000 years ago, said her "yes" to the Father who chose her to be your Mother. The Father chose her because she was docile and obedient to his will. Like her, like little Mary, each one of you, dear young friends, should say to God with faith: "Here I am; let it be done to me according to your word".

What an amazing spectacle of young and stirring faith we are experiencing this evening! And this evening, thanks to you, Loreto has become the spiritual capital of youth; the centre towards which multitudes of the young people who populate the five Continents converge in spirit.

At this moment, we feel as though we were surrounded by the expectations and hopes of millions of young people across the world: at this very minute there are some who are watching, others who are asleep, yet others who are studying or working; some are hoping and some despairing, some believe and others are not able to believe, some love life and others, instead, are throwing it away.
I would like my words to reach them all: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pain, and he especially shares in the most intimate hopes that are in your soul. For each one of you he asks the Lord for the gift of a full and happy life, a life filled with meaning, a true life.

Today, unfortunately, all too often a full and happy existence is seen by many young people as a difficult dream - we heard so many testimonies - sometimes almost impossible to accomplish. So many of your peers are looking to the future with apprehension and ask many questions. Worried, they ask: How is it possible to be integrated in a society marked by a multitude of grave injustices and suffering? How should I react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can I give life full meaning?

With love and conviction, I repeat to you young people present here, and through you to your peers throughout the world: Do not be afraid, Christ can fill your heart's deepest aspirations! Are there dreams that cannot come true when it is God's Spirit who inspires and nourishes them in your heart? Can anything block our enthusiasm when we are united with Christ? Nothing and no one, the Apostle Paul would say, will ever separate us from God's love, in Christ Jesus Our Lord (cf.
Rm 8,35-39).

Let me tell you again this evening: if you stay united with Christ, each one of you will be able to do great things. This is why, dear friends, you must not be afraid to dream with your eyes open of important projects of good and you must not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties. Christ has confidence in you and wants you to be able to realize all your most noble and lofty dreams of genuine happiness. Nothing is impossible for those who trust in God and entrust themselves to him.

Look at the young Mary; the Angel proposed something truly inconceivable to her: participation, in the most involving way possible, in the greatest of God's plans, the salvation of humanity. Facing this proposal, Mary, as we heard in the Gospel, was distressed for she realized the smallness of her being before the omnipotence of God; and she asked herself: "How is it possible? Why should it be me?". Yet, ready to do the divine will, she promptly said her "yes" which changed her life and the history of all humanity. It is also thanks to her "yes" that we are meeting here this evening.

I ask myself and I ask you: can God's requests to us, however demanding they may seem, ever compare with what God asked the young Mary? Dear young men and women, since Mary truly knows what it means to respond generously to the Lord's requests, let us learn from her to say our own "yes".

Mary, dear young people, knows your noblest and deepest aspirations. Above all, she well knows your great desire for love, with your need to love and to be loved. By looking at her, by following her docilely, you will discover the beauty of love; not a "disposable" love that is transient and deceptive, imprisoned in a selfish and materialistic mindset, but true, deep love.

In the very depths of their hearts, every young man, every young woman who are looking out on life, cherish the dream of a love that will give full meaning to their futures. For many, this is fulfilled in the choice of marriage and in the formation of a family in which the love between a man and a woman is lived as a definitive gift, sealed by the "yes" spoken before God on their wedding day, a "yes" for their whole life.

I know well that today this dream is always less easy to realize. How many failures of love surround us! How many couples bow their heads, give up and separate! How many families fall to pieces! How many young people, even among you, have witnessed the separation and divorce of their parents!

I would like to say to those in such sensitive and complex situations: the Mother of God, the Community of believers and the Pope are beside you and are praying that the crisis that marks today's families may not become an irreversible failure. May Christian families, with the support of divine Grace, stay faithful to that solemn commitment of love joyfully assumed before the priest and the Christian community on the solemn day of their marriage.

In the face of so many failures these questions are often asked: Am I any better than my friends and my parents who have tried and failed? Why should I myself succeed where so many have given up? This human fear can be daunting to even the more courageous spirits but in this night that awaits us, in front of her Holy House, Mary will repeat to each one of you, dear young friends, the words that she herself heard the Angel say to her: Do not be afraid, do not fear!

The Holy Spirit is with you and will never leave you. Nothing is impossible to those who trust in God. This applies for those who are destined to married life and still more for those to whom God proposes a life of total detachment from earthly goods, to be dedicated full time to his Kingdom. Some of you have set out towards the priesthood, towards the consecrated life; some of you aspire to be missionaries, knowing how many and what risks this entails.

I am thinking of the missionaries, priests, women religious and lay people, who have fallen in the trenches of love at the service of the Gospel. Fr Giancarlo Bossi, for whom we prayed when he was kidnapped in the Philippines, will have much to tell us about this and today we rejoice to have him with us. Through him, I would like to greet and thank all those who spend their lives for Christ on the frontiers of evangelization.

Dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live more intimately at his service, respond generously. You may be certain: life dedicated to God is never spent in vain.

Dear young people, I shall end my talk here, not without first having embraced you with a father's heart. I embrace you one by one and greet you warmly. I greet the Bishops present, starting with Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Archbishop Gianni Danzi who has welcomed us into his Ecclesial Community. I greet the priests, the Religious and the animators who have accompanied you. I greet the Civil Authorities and all who organized this Meeting. We will be "virtually" united later and we will see one another again tomorrow morning, at the end of this night of Vigil, for the crowning point of our Meeting when Jesus makes himself truly present in his Word and in the mystery of the Eucharist.

From this moment, I would like to make an appointment with you young people in Sydney where, in a year's time, the next World Youth Day will be held. I know Australia is far away and for young Italians it is literally at the other end of the world.... Let us pray that the Lord who works every miracle will grant that many of you may be there. May he grant it to me, may he grant it to you. This is one of our many dreams which tonight, as we pray together, we entrust to Mary. Amen.




VISIT TO THE SHRINE OF LORETO AND PRIVATE PRAYER AT THE HOLY HOUSE PRAYER OF POPE BENEDICT XVI

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Mary, Mother of the "Yes", you listened to Jesus,
and know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart.
Morning Star, speak to us of him,
and tell us about your journey of following him on the path of faith.

Mary, who dwelt with Jesus in Nazareth,
impress on our lives your sentiments,
your docility, your attentive silence,
and make the Word flourish in genuinely free choices.

Mary, speak to us of Jesus, so that the freshness of our faith
shines in our eyes and warms the heart of those we meet,
as you did when visiting Elizabeth,
who in her old age rejoiced with you for the gift of life.

Mary, Virgin of the Magnificat
help us to bring joy to the world and, as at Cana,
lead every young person involved in service of others
to do only what Jesus will tell them.

Mary, look upon the Agora of youth,
so that the soil of the Italian Church will be fertile.
Pray that Jesus, dead and Risen, is reborn in us,
and transforms us into a night full of light, full of him.

Mary, Our Lady of Loreto, Gate of Heaven,
help us to lift our eyes on high.
We want to see Jesus, to speak with him,
to proclaim his love to all.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI




TO THE CAPUCHIN FRIARS AND THE CLOISTERED NUNS OF LORETO Holy House of Loreto Saturday, 1st September 2007

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Dear Fathers and dear Sisters,

At this moment of recollection and prayer, I would only like to say "thank you" to you all.

I first thank the Capuchin Fathers, who help this House of Our Lady to always be truly alive, a place of prayer, conversion and joy in faith.

I know, dear Fathers, that you spend much time in the confessional and that you help many people to find Jesus, to reach conversion and move ahead on the path that Jesus shows us, to move ahead in communion with the "yes" of Our Lady, who helps us with her tenderness, kindness and generosity. I therefore thank you, dear Capuchin Fathers.

For me, as a Bavarian, the Capuchins are Fathers by definition, starting with my youth, for it was always Capuchin Fathers who came on mission and knew how to preach with strength and joy.

Dear Sisters, I also thank you. You truly form the prayerful, living house which makes this "yes" of Our Lady present here, the "yes" of her total willingness in her life for Jesus.

Thus, you demonstrate the presence of Our Lady's "yes", you practice it day after day, and I know that yours is also a life of sacrifices. It is not easy to always renew this "yes" or to place oneself daily at the Lord's disposition.

Thank you all, and thank you especially for I am sure that you pray for the Pope, who stands in need of this help of prayer.

I would now like to impart my Blessing to you all. Once again, I entrust myself to your prayers.

Thank you again. May the Lord bless you all.




MEETING WITH THE FAITHFUL OF LORETO Square in front of the Shrine of Loreto Sunday, 2 September 2007

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Dear Brother, Pastor of this Church in Loreto,
Mr Mayor of this special Marian City,
Dear Faithful,

Thank you for this Meeting which ends my Visit here to Loreto, where I have been able to meet so many young people and live with them strong experiences of Eucharistic and Marian spirituality.
Of course, there had to be a moment, even a short one, especially devoted to the Community of Loreto. The kind words of your Pastor and your Mayor have expressed your sentiments of esteem and affection for the person of the Pope. I thank you warmly and I offer each one of you my most cordial greetings. Thank you for your welcome! Loreto, as your Mayor said, recalling a few words of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II, is also the house of the Pope, and I must say that here, in these hours, I have really felt at home. Thank you for all that you have done to make worthwhile not only my Visit and that of my collaborators, but also that of the young people of the "Agora".

Actually, you citizens of Loreto are used to such imposing Youth Meetings with the Pope. In this respect, John Paul II's Meeting with European youth in 1995, called "Eurhope", has just been mentioned. I am sure that over and above the inevitable inconveniences they necessarily entail, such religious events, like the daily flow of pilgrims who come from all parts of Italy and from other parts of the world, afford you a precious opportunity to be increasingly developed. They are a constant invitation to grow in faith and devotion to Our Lady. Never forget the great privilege you have of living in the shadow of the Holy House! Take advantage of this to linger in dialogue with Mary, our heavenly Mother, a filial dialogue imbued with faith and love. With your hospitality, therefore, provide visitors and the devout with a daily witness of that motherly love which Mary wishes to dispense in this place to all her children. May the Holy House be the real centre and heart of your city!

In taking leave of you, dear friends, I ask you to give my greetings to your families and the assurance that I will continue to keep Loreto present in my prayers. I will remember each of its inhabitants, especially those who are suffering and are in material and spiritual difficulties. I will remember especially those who are in the hospital, whom I have been unable to visit and to whom I send my affectionate greetings. Once again, I invoke the motherly help of Mary on each and every one of you and, as I renew the expression of my gratitude, I bless you all with affection.




CONCERT OFFERED BY THE BAMBERGER SYMPHONIKER ORCHESTRA Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo Tuesday, 4 September 2007

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ON THE OCCASION OF THE MILLENNIUM JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BAMBERG


Most Reverend and Dear Archbishop Schick,
Honourable Mr Minister Goppel,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Perhaps it has happened to you as it has to me: the marvellous sound of the two symphonies made me forget daily life and transported me into the world of music which for Beethoven - as you mentioned, Mr Minister, at the beginning - meant "a revelation higher than any wisdom or philosophy". Music, in fact, has the capacity for taking one beyond oneself to the Creator of all harmony, inspiring within one resonances which are, as it were, in tune with the beauty and truth of God - with that reality which no human wisdom, no philosophy can ever express. This is also what Schubert meant when he said of a minuet by Mozart: "It is as though choirs of angels were taking part with their song". And like perhaps many of you, it is this that I have been able to experience this evening.

I would like to thank the Bamberger Symphoniker with all my heart, together with Jonathan Nott, their conductor. With the vast range of nuances in the quality of sound and the strong expressive power in the interpretation of the two musical masterpieces, you have reaffirmed the excellent fame of your orchestra. May your performances be a sort of revelation for many people in the future, too! Of course, I also extend my gratitude to those who organized this festive evening: to you, dear Archbishop, and to you, honourable Mr Minister, as well as to all those who with their generous support have made this concert possible. It is a gift that I interpret as the sign of a special bond of affection of the Archdiocese of Bamberg with the Successor of St Peter; indeed, for some centuries of its 1,000-year-old history your Diocese was under the immediate supervision of the Holy See. May your Jubilee Pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles and to the current Successor of Peter strengthen your faith and your joy in God, so that you may be his witnesses in daily life! For this, I ask God to pour out his Blessings upon you all.


TO THE BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF LAOS AND CAMBODIA ON THEIR "AD LIMINA VISIT" Castel Gandolfo Thursday, 6 September 2007

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Priesthood,

It is a great joy for me to meet you here in the days of your ad limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles. Thus, gathered round the Successor of Peter, you express the communion of the Church in Laos and of the Church in Cambodia with the universal Church.

I thank Bishop Emile Destombes, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh and President of your Bishops' Conference, for his words on your behalf, presenting to me the ecclesial situations in your Countries.

When you return to Laos and to Cambodia, I ask you to convey the affectionate greeting of the Successor of Peter to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and lay people of your communities. I know of their hardships and of the inner strength which they have all shown in order to live in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and his Church.

Today, I invite them to stand firm in the faith and to witness generously to God's love for all their brethren.

I also offer a cordial greeting to the Laotian People and to the Cambodian People; I encourage them to persevere in their endeavours to build an increasingly fraternal society, ever more open to others, where all may avail themselves of the gifts received from the Creator.

Dear Brothers, you are exercising your ministry at the service of the Church in conditions that are often difficult and in extremely varied situations. In your service to the People of God, you may rest assured of my brotherly support and that of the universal Church!

Indeed, "if we must say that a Bishop is never alone, inasmuch as he is always united to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, we must also add that he is also never alone because he is always and continuously united with his brothers in the episcopate and with the one whom the Lord has chosen as the Successor of Peter" (Pastores Gregis ).

The deep communion with one another that you demonstrate and your collaboration, when possible, expressed in various ways, are a precious help in your pastoral task for the good of the people entrusted to your care.

Your closeness to the faithful, especially the loneliest, is an encouragement for them to persevere, steadfast in the Christian faith, and to grow in discovering the Person of Christ despite the difficulties of daily life.

The help you receive in various areas from those Churches which date back to the first evangelization, especially for apostolic personnel or formation, is also an eloquent sign of the solidarity that disciples of Christ must show to one another.

I warmly greet the priests, your associates in Gospel proclamation, particularly those whose vocation developed in the Christian communities of your Countries. In collaboration with the missionaries, to whom I also express my gratitude for having brought Jesus' message and the gift of faith, they guide the People of God with zeal and self-denial.

May they all, through a deeply spiritual and exemplary life, continue to bear an eloquent witness to the Gospel in the Church and in society!

I also hope that your efforts to promote priestly and religious vocations will bear abundant fruit, directed to the proclamation of Jesus Our Saviour, by taking into account your peoples' sensitivity and making it understandable for their respective mindset and culture.

In this perspective, special care must be taken, even at the price of sacrifices in other areas, to guarantee future priests a sound human, spiritual, theological and pastoral formation.
In fact, one of the important issues you have to face in your pastoral ministry is the proclamation of the Christian faith in a specific culture.

The recent celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Church's presence in Cambodia is an opportunity for the faithful to acquire an ever deeper awareness of the long history of Christians in the region. This history is marked by the generous and at times heroic gift of their lives offered by numerous disciples of Christ for the Gospel to be proclaimed and lived.

"Jesus is the Good News for the men and women of every time and place in their search for the meaning of existence and for the truth of their own humanity" (Ecclesia in Asia ).

In proclaiming this to all peoples, the Church is not attempting to impose herself but is witnessing to her esteem for the human being and the society in which she lives.

In the social and religious context of your region, it is especially important that Catholics show their own identity, while respecting the religious traditions and cultures of other peoples.

This identity must be expressed in the first place through an authentic spiritual experience that is rooted in the reception of the Word of God and the sacraments of the Church.

Members of Institutes of Consecrated Life, whose major involvement in pastoral work and in the service to the most deprived you emphasized in your reports, are those primarily responsible for reminding everyone of God's primacy and for helping "the Church to reveal ever more deeply her nature as the sacrament "of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind'" (Vita Consecrata
VC 46).

In this perspective, one priority is the formation of the faithful, particularly of women religious and catechists with whose courageous commitment to the service of the Gospel I am familiar.

They will thus become evangelizers who can respond to the challenges of society, strengthened by the truth of Christ. Indeed, for the vitality of the Christian communities their role is of paramount importance.

Together with priests, they contribute their specific and indispensable contribution to the life and mission of the Church. May they be authentic witnesses of Christ everywhere, carrying out with serenity and conviction the tasks entrusted to them!

Moreover, their steadfast Christian faith enables them to engage in an authentic dialogue with the members of other religions in order to work together to build up your Countries and to foster the common good.

I also encourage you to develop the education of young people in your communities. In order to take on their Christian engagements they are often confronted by complex situations in social life that demand specific pastoral attention.

In particular, an appropriate preparation for Christian marriage is indispensable if the young are to be able to withstand social pressures and develop the human and spiritual qualities required to establish themselves as united and harmonious couples.

May they learn to preserve family values such as "filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of children and harmony [which] are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious traditions" (Ecclesia in Asia ).

The young must find in their own families the normal place in which to grow humanly and spiritually. I therefore hope that families will always be true centres of evangelization where each one can experience the love of God that may then be communicated to others and first of all to children.

The Christian community's courageous commitment to the most underprivileged is also a special sign of the authenticity of its faith. The population and the Authorities appreciate the Church's social institutions, which are able to develop especially because of ecclesial solidarity and the support of the Representations of the Holy See in your Countries. They show eloquently God's love for all people without distinction.

In fact, love of neighbour, rooted in love of God, is an essential duty for the Christian community and for each one of its members.

Nonetheless, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "It is very important that the Church's charitable activity maintain all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance" (n. 31).

I assure all who are involved in the Church's charitable works of my gratitude, particularly the women religious dedicated to the service of the most underprivileged with competence and devotion, who give each person heartfelt attention, the result of an active faith.

Dear Brothers, at the end of our meeting, I would like to ask you to look to the future, allowing yourselves to be guided by Christ and placing your hope in him, for "hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

I entrust each one of your communities to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, model of all disciples; may she protect you and lead you on the paths of her Son.

I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, the men and women religious, the catechists and all the lay people in your Countries.



Speeches 2005-13 10907