Speeches 2005-13 156
Basilica of Saint John Lateran Monday, 9 June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the fourth time that I have the joy of being with you for the Convention; every year it brings together the multiple live forces of the Diocese of Rome to give continuity to, and to point out, shared goals for our pastoral activity. I address an affectionate and cordial welcome to each one of you, Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, consecrated men and women and the lay people of parish communities, ecclesial associations and movements, families, youth and people involved in various capacities in formative and educational work. I cordially thank the Cardinal Vicar for his words on behalf of you all.
After dedicating special attention to the family for three years, we have now focused for two years on the topic of the education of the new generations. It is a theme that involves the family first of all but also very directly concerns the Church, schools and society as a whole. Thus we seek to respond to that "educational emergency" which, for everyone, is a great and unavoidable challenge. The goal we have set ourselves for the coming pastoral year on which we shall be reflecting at this Convention once again refers to education, in the perspective of theological hope nourished by faith and trust in God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ as man's true friend. "Jesus is risen: educating for hope in prayer, action and suffering" will therefore be our theme this evening. Jesus raised from the dead is truly the faultless foundation that supports our faith and hope. He has been from the outset, since the time of the Apostles who were direct witnesses of his Resurrection and proclaimed him to the world at the cost of their lives. He is today and always will be. As the Apostle Paul wrote in chapter 15 of his First Letter to the Corinthians, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (v. 14), "if our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people" (v. 19). I repeat to you what I said on 19 October 2006 at the Ecclesial Convention in Verona: "The Resurrection of Christ is a fact that occurred in history, of which the Apostles were witnesses and certainly not its inventors. At the same time, it was not simply a return to our earthly life. "Instead, it is the greatest "mutation' that ever occurred, the decisive "jump' towards a profoundly new dimension of life, the entry into a decidedly different order that regards above all Jesus of Nazareth, but with him also us, the whole human family, history and the entire universe" (Address to the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention, Verona, Italy, 19 Oct. 2006).
In the light of Jesus risen from the dead we can thus understand the true dimensions of the Christian faith, as "a life-changing and life-sustaining hope" (Encyclical Spe Salvi ), setting us free from those misinterpretations and false alternatives that have restricted and weakened the breath of our hope down the centuries. In practice, the hope of those who believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead aspires with its whole being to that happiness and full and total joy which we call eternal life, but for this very reason it clothes, enlivens and transforms our daily existence on earth, gives a direction and enduring significance to our small hopes and the efforts we make to change, and makes the world in which we live less unjust. Of course, Christian hope likewise concerns each one of us personally, the eternal salvation of our self and our life in this world. However, it is also a community hope, a hope for the Church and for the entire human family, that is, it is "always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too" (ibid., n. 48).
In contemporary society and culture, and thus also in our beloved city of Rome, it is not easy to live under the banner of Christian hope. On the one hand, distrust, disappointment and resignation frequently prevail. Not only do they contradict the "great hope" of faith, but also the "little hopes" that generally comfort us in our efforts to attain the goals of daily life. In other words, we have the feeling that for Italy, as for Europe, the best years are now behind us and a precarious and uncertain future awaits the new generations. On the other hand, the expectations of great innovations and improvements are focused on science and technology, hence on human efforts and discoveries, as though solutions to our problems could come from them alone. It would be nonsensical to deny or to minimize the enormous contribution made by science and technology to transforming the world and our actual standard of living but it would be equally short-sighted to ignore that their progress puts into the hands of men and women abysmal possibilities for evil and that, nonetheless, it is not science and technology that give our lives meaning and teach us to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore, as I wrote in Spe Salvi, it is not science but love that redeems man and this also means the earthly and worldly aspects (cf. n. 26).
Thus we approach the deepest and most crucial cause of the weakness of hope in the world we live in. Ultimately this cause is no different from that which the Apostle Paul pointed out to the Christians of Ephesus when he reminded them that before encountering Christ they had "no hope and [were] without God in the world" (Ep 2,12). Our civilization and culture, which encountered Christ 2,000 years ago, would be unrecognizable without his presence, especially here in Rome. Yet, it tends all too often to put God in parentheses, to organize personal and social life without him and even to claim that it is impossible to know anything about God and even go so far as to deny his existence. However, when God is left aside none of the things that truly matter to us can find a permanent place; all our great and small hopes are founded on emptiness. Thus, to "educate for hope", as we propose to do at this Convention and throughout the coming pastoral year, it is first necessary to open our hearts, our minds and our entire lives to God, to be his credible witnesses among our brothers and sisters.
At our previous Diocesan Conventions we have already considered the causes of the current educational crisis and the proposals that can help to overcome it. Moreover, in recent months, also with my Letter on the urgent task of education, we have sought to involve the whole city, especially families and schools, in this joint undertaking. It is not necessary here, therefore, to return to these aspects. Rather, let us see how we can really teach ourselves to hope, turning our attention to certain "places" where this can be learned practically and exercised effectively and which I identified in Spe Salvi.Among these places, prayer has priority. In prayer we open ourselves to the One who is the origin and foundation of our hope. The prayerful person is never totally alone for God is the One who in every situation and in any trial is always able to listen to and help him/her. Through perseverance in prayer the Lord broadens our desires and expands our mind, rendering us better able to receive him within ourselves. The correct way to pray is, therefore, a process of inner purification. We must open ourselves to God's gaze, to God himself so that, in the light of God's Face, lies and hypocrisy fall away. This manner of exposing oneself in prayer to God's Face is really a purification that renews us, sets us free and opens us not only to God but also to our brothers and sisters. Hence, it is the opposite of escaping from our responsibilities toward our neighbour. On the contrary, it is through prayer that we learn to keep the world open to God and to become ministers of hope for others. It is in speaking with God that we see the whole community of the Church, a human community, as all our brethren, and thus we learn responsibility for others and also the hope that God will help us on our way. Teaching prayer, learning "the art of prayer" from the lips of the divine Teacher, like the first disciples who asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lc 11,1), is thus an essential task. By learning to pray we learn to live and on our journey we must pray ever better with the Church and with the Lord in order to live in a better way. As the beloved Servant of God John Paul II reminded us in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte: "Our Christian communities must become genuine "schools' of prayer, where the encounter with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love'" (n. 33): thus Christian hope will grow within us. And love of God and neighbour will grow with hope.
I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi: "All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action" (n. 35). As disciples of Jesus, let us therefore participate joyfully in the effort to make the face of this city of ours more beautiful, more human and fraternal in order to revive its hope and the joy of belonging to it together. Dear brothers and sisters, it is precisely the acute and widespread awareness of the evils and problems that exist in Rome which is reawakening the will to make a concerted effort to rectify them: it is our duty to make our own specific contribution, starting with the crucial structure that consists of education and the person's formation, but also constructively facing the many other concrete problems that often make the lives of this city's inhabitants stressful. We will seek in particular to promote a more family-friendly culture and a social organization that is ready to welcome life, as well as appreciate the elderly who are so numerous in Rome's population. We will work to respond to primary needs such as employment and housing, especially for young people. We will share the commitment to make our city safer and more "liveable", but we will also strive to make it so for everyone, in particular for the poorest people, so that immigrants who come among us, with the intention of finding a living space and who respect our laws, may not be excluded.
I do not need to enter further into these problems with which you are familiar because you live them daily. Rather, I wish to emphasize the attitude and approach with which those who put their hope in God first work and commit themselves. Their primary attitude is humility; they do not claim to be successful always or to be able to solve every problem by their own efforts. Yet it is also, and for the same reason, an attitude of great trust, tenacity and courage: in fact, believers know that despite all the difficulties and failures, their life, work and history overall are protected through the indestructible power of God's love; that consequently they are never fruitless or meaningless. In this perspective we can understand more easily that Christian hope also lives in suffering, indeed, that suffering itself educates and fortifies our hope in a special way. Certainly we must "do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering" (Spe Salvi ). Great progress has effectively been made, particularly in the struggle against physical pain. Yet we cannot entirely eliminate the world's suffering because we are powerless to dry its sources: the finiteness of our being and the power of evil and sin. Indeed, the suffering of the innocent and mental imbalances are, unfortunately, tending to increase in the world. Actually, human experience, today and always, and especially the experience of the Saints and martyrs, confirms the great Christian truth that it is not escape from suffering that cures the human being but rather the ability to accept tribulation and mature through it, finding meaning therein through union with Christ. For each one of us and for the society in which we live the measure of our humanity is defined in our relationship with suffering and with people who are suffering. Christian faith deserves the historical merit of having inspired in men and women, in a new way and with new depth, the capacity for sharing also inwardly the suffering of others, hence one is not alone in suffering, and also to suffer for love of goodness, truth and justice: all this is far beyond our own strength but becomes possible on the basis of God's com-passion through his love of humanity in Christ's Passion.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us teach ourselves every day the hope that matures in suffering. We are called to do so in the first place when we are personally afflicted by a serious illness or some other harsh trial. We will grow equally in hope through concrete help and daily closeness to the suffering of our neighbours and of our relatives, and of every person who is our brother because we draw near with a loving attitude. Furthermore, let us learn to offer to God, rich in mercy, the small efforts of our daily existence, inserting them humbly into the great "com-passion" of Jesus, in that treasure of compassion of which the human race stands in need. The hope of believers in Christ cannot, in any case, stop at this world, but is intrinsically oriented to full and eternal communion with the Lord. Therefore, toward the end of my Encyclical I reflected on God's Judgment as a place in which to learn and exercise hope. I thus sought once again to make in some way familiar and comprehensible to humanity and to the culture of our time the salvation that is promised to us in the world beyond death, even if we cannot have a true and proper experience of that world here below. To restore its true dimensions and crucial motivation to education in hope, all of us, starting with priests and catechists, must put back at the centre of the proposal of faith this great truth whose "first fruits" are in Jesus Christ raised from the dead (cf. 1Co 15,20-23).
Dear brothers and sisters, I end this reflection by thanking each one of you for the generosity and dedication with which you work in the Lord's vineyard and I ask you always to preserve within you, to nourish and strengthen the great gift of Christian hope first of all with prayer. I ask this especially of you young people who are called to make this gift your own in freedom and in responsibility, thereby to reinvigorate the future of our beloved city. I entrust each one of you and the whole Church of Rome to Mary Most Holy, Star of Hope. My prayers, my affection and my Blessing accompany you at this Convention and in the pastoral year that awaits us.
Dear Brother Bishops,
It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Bangladesh, on your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Archbishop Costa for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. Your generous love of God, your solicitude for the people entrusted to your care by the Lord Jesus, and your bond of unity in the Holy Spirit are for me a cause of profound joy and thanksgiving.
Personal integrity and holiness of life are essential components of a Bishop’s witness since “before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop must be a hearer of the word” (cf. Pastores Gregis ). Again and again our Christian experience demonstrates the Gospel paradox that joy and fulfilment are to be attained through the complete gift of self for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom (cf. Mc 8,35). Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes. In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 5,1-12). Their personal witness of evangelical integrity is complemented and strengthened by the many fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful as they tend to the perfection of charity (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 39). For this reason, I join you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the growth and fervour of the Catholic community in Bangladesh, especially amid the daily challenges it faces. Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God (cf. Lc 6,22).
As successors of the Apostles, you are called in a special way to teach God’s chosen people, availing yourselves of the many gifts God has granted his community for the effective transmission of the deposit of Faith. In this regard, I appreciate your efforts to ensure that your lay catechists are sufficient in number, well prepared and given due recognition by the faithful. I pray that their example and dedication will draw other lay men and women to a more active role in the Church’s apostolates. As you know from your own pastoral experience, catechists play an integral role in preparing laypeople to receive the sacraments. This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the Sacrament of Matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness. I have often mentioned my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment (cf. Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, 16 April 2008). There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel.
One clear sign of this radical commitment is seen in the many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing. I encourage your efforts to offer these candidates suitable formation that will bring forth abundant fruits. In this regard, I also wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the generous assistance offered by the Church in other countries, especially Korea, in the preparation of your seminarians and priests.
The Church is Catholic: a community embracing peoples of all races and languages, and not limited to any one culture or particular social, economic or political system (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 42). She is at the service of the entire human family, freely sharing her gifts for the well-being of all. This gives her a connatural ability to foster unity and peace. My dear brothers, you and your people, as promoters of harmony and peace, have much to offer the nation. In your love for your country you inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. By encouraging people who share important values to cooperate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country’s stability and to maintain it for the future. These efforts, however subtle, give effective support to the majority of your fellow citizens who uphold the country’s noble tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and social harmony. May you likewise continue to sustain and counsel Catholic lay people and all who wish to offer their service for the good of society in public office, social communications, in education, healthcare and social assistance. May they always rejoice in the knowledge that Christ accepts as a gesture of personal love whatever good is done to the least of his brothers (cf. Mt 25,40).
I am aware of recent initiatives you have taken in the field of interreligious dialogue, and I exhort you to persevere with patient dedication to this essential component of the Church’s mission ad gentes (Ecclesia in Asia ). Indeed, much good can be accomplished when it is conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration in truth and freedom. All men and women have an obligation to seek the truth. When it is found, they are compelled to model their entire lives in accordance with its demands (cf. Dignitatis Humanae DH 2). Consequently, the most important contribution we can bring to interreligious dialogue is our knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6). Dialogue, based on mutual respect and truth, cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country. The delicacy of this task requires thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region.
At the end of this month, we will begin the celebration of the Pauline Year, which will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. Saint Paul was not ashamed to preach the Gospel; he saw in it the power of God to save (cf. Rm 1,16). I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you. Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it (cf. Ac 1,8). My prayers accompany you as you lead your priests, men and women religious and lay faithful along the path marked out by so many dedicated missionaries, beginning with Saint Francis Xavier, who brought the Gospel to your country. The Church you represent “proclaims the Good News with loving respect and esteem for her listeners” (Ecclesia in Asia ). Continue this task with goodness and simplicity, and with “creativity in charity” (cf. Pastores Gregis ), according to your talents, your specific graces and the means at your disposal. Have confidence in the Lord who opens the hearts of listeners to heed what is announced in his name (cf. Ac 16,14).
Dear brother Bishops, I know that you find great courage and inspiration in the words of Christ who commissioned you, “Behold I am with you always, unto the end of time” (Mt 28,20). As you return to your homeland, please convey my prayerful encouragement and affectionate good wishes to your priests, men and women religious, your catechists and all your beloved people. To each of you, and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Mr Mayor and Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like first of all to express my joy at being in your midst and I greet you all very warmly. I thank the Hon. Raffaele Fitto, Minister for Regional Affairs, who has conveyed the Government's greeting to me and I thank the Mayor of Brindisi for his fervent words of welcome on behalf of all the citizens, as well as for his kind gift. I greet and thank with affection the young man who spoke on behalf of the youth of Brindisi. I know, dear young people, that you animated the assembly while awaiting my arrival and that you will continue at a prayer vigil, with which you desire to prepare for the Eucharistic celebration tomorrow. I cordially greet Archbishop Rocco Talucci, your Pastor, Archbishop emeritus Settimio Todisco, the priests, the men and women religious and all those present.
Here I am among you, dear friends! I very gladly accepted the invitation of your diocesan community's Pastor and I am glad to visit this city of yours which, while playing an important role in the context of Southern Italy, is called to project its image beyond the Adriatic Sea to communicate with other cities and other peoples. Actually, Brindisi was once a place from which traders, legionaries, students and pilgrims embarked for the East and it remains a door open on the sea. In recent years, the newspapers and television have shown pictures of refugees from Croatia and from Montenegro, from Albania and from Macedonia who landed in Brindisi. I believe it is only right to remember with gratitude the efforts made, which are still being made, by the Civil and Military Administrations in collaboration with the Church and with various humanitarian organizations to provide shelter and assistance for them despite the financial difficulties which, unfortunately, continue to be a cause of concern particularly to your Region. Your City has been and continues to be generous and this merit was justly recognized by the assignment, in the context of international solidarity, of an authentic institutional role: indeed it hosts the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, run by United Nations' World Food Programme.
Dear People of Brindisi, this solidarity is part of the virtues which make up your rich civil and religious patrimony: continue with a renewed impetus to build your future together. Among the values that have taken root in your region I would like to recall respect for life and, especially, attachment to the family, today exposed to the converging attacks of numerous forces that seek to undermine it. How necessary and urgent it is, in the face of these challenges too, for all people of good will to strive to safeguard the family, the solid basis on which to build the life of society as a whole! Your society is also founded on the Christian faith which your ancestors considered as one of the elements that qualified the identity of the people of Brindisi. May adherence to the Gospel, consciously renewed and lived with responsibility, spur you today, as in the past, to face the difficulties and challenges of the present time with confidence. May faith encourage you to respond without compromise to your city's legitimate expectations of the human and social advancement. The new University, called to serve those who are aware of their dignity and tasks and who desire to play an active part in life, cannot fail to make its own contribution to the economic, political, cultural and religious development of the territory. Dear People of Brindisi, so that the culture of solidarity may increase in your City, serve one another, letting yourselves be guided by an authentic spirit of brotherhood. God is with you and will not let you be deprived of the constant support of his grace.
I would now like to address in particular the many young people present. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome, thank you for the fervent sentiments expressed by your representative. Your voices, which find an immediate correspondence in my heart, communicate to me your trusting exuberance and your will to live. I also perceive in them the problems that assail you which sometimes risk stifling the enthusiasm typical of this season of your life. I am aware, in particular, of the burden that weighs upon many of you and upon your future because of the dramatic phenomenon of unemployment which primarily affects the young men and women of Southern Italy. Likewise, I know that your youth is threatened by the demand for easy earnings, by the temptation to seek refuge in artificial paradises or to let yourselves be attracted by distorted forms of material satisfaction. Do not let yourselves be caught in the snares of evil! Rather, seek an existence rich in values in order to give life to a society that is more just and more open to the future. Bring to fruition the gifts with which God has endowed your youth: strength, intelligence, courage, enthusiasm and determination to live. On the basis of these attributes, relying always on divine support, you will be able to nourish hope within you and around you. It is up to you and to your hearts to ensure that progress is transformed into a greater good for all. And the way of good - as you know - has a name: it is called love.
The key to every hope is found in love, solely in authentic love, because love is rooted in God. We read in the Bible: "We know and believe the love God has for us. God is love" (1Jn 4,16). And God's love has the sweet and compassionate Face of Jesus Christ. Here then we have reached the heart of the Christian message: Christ is the response to your questions and problems; in him every honest aspiration of the human being is strengthened. Christ, however, is demanding and shuns half measures. He knows he can count on your generosity and coherence; for this reason he expects a lot of you. Follow him faithfully and, in order to encounter him love his Church, feel responsible, do not avoid being courageous protagonists, each in his own context. Here is a point to which I would like to call your attention: seek to know the Church, to understand and love her, paying attention to the voice of her Pastors. She is made up of human beings, but Christ is her Head and his Spirit firmly guides her. You are the youthful face of the Church so do not fail to make your contribution in order that the Gospel she proclaims may spread everywhere. Be apostles of your peers!
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your welcome. I have read several letters sent to me by young people of your Province. I learned from them, dear friends, to understand your situation better. Thank you for your affection. I assure you and all the people of Brindisi of my prayers that you may witness to the Gospel message of peace and justice. May Mary, Regina Apuliae, protect you and accompany you always. I warmly bless you and wish you all a good night!
Dearest priests, deacons and seminarians,
I am pleased to address my cordial greeting to all of you gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, reopened for worship after its restoration last November. I thank Archbishop Rocco Talucci for the warm welcome he has addressed to me in your name and for all his gifts. I greet the priests to whom I wish to express my satisfaction at the immense and structured pastoral work they carry out. I greet the deacons, the seminarians and everyone present and express my joy at being surrounded by a large crowd of souls consecrated for the advent of the Kingdom of God. Here in the Cathedral, which is the heart of the Diocese, we all feel at home, united by the bond of Christ's love. Let us commemorate here with gratitude those who spread Christianity in these regions: Brindisi was the first city of the West to welcome the Gospel, which reached it on the Roman consular roads. Among the evangelizing Saints I think of Bishop St Leucius, of St Oronzo, St Theodore of Amasea and St Lawrence of Brindisi, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by John XXIII. Their presence lives on in the hearts of the people and is witnessed to by many of the city's monuments.
Dear brothers, in seeing you gathered in this Church, in which many of you received your diaconal and presbyteral ordination, I remember the words that St Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: "Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the Bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ". And the holy Bishop added: "Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you" (Letter to the Ep 4). Persevere, dear priests, in seeking this unity of intention and reciprocal help, so that fraternal charity and unity in pastoral work are an example and incentive for your communities. This, above all, was the goal of the pastoral visits your Archbishop made to your parishes which ended last March. Due, precisely, to your generous collaboration, it was not merely a juridical exercise but an extraordinary event of ecclesial and formative value. I am certain that it will be fruitful since the Lord will make the seed sown with love grow abundantly in the hearts of the faithful.
I would like to encourage you with my presence today to place yourselves with ever growing openness at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. I know that you already work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no energy in spreading the joyful Gospel proclamation. Christ, to whom you have consecrated your lives, is with you! In him we all believe, to him alone we entrust our lives, it is he whom we desire to proclaim to the world. May Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14,6), be the object of our thought, the topic of our words, the reason for our life. Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus' example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to congratulate you on the new Archdiocesan Seminary which was inaugurated last November by my Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. On the one hand, it expresses the present state of a Diocese, understood as the culmination of work undertaken by priests and parishes in the area of the pastoral care of youth, in teaching the catechism, in the religious animation of families. On the other hand, the Seminary is a precious investment for the future, because it ensures that through patient and generous work the Christian community will not be deprived of shepherds of souls, of teachers of faith and of zealous guides and witnesses of Christ's charity. Besides being the place of your formation, dear seminarians, true hope of the Church, this seminary of yours is also a place for the up-dating and continuing formation of youth and adults who wish to make their contribution to the cause of the Kingdom of God. The careful formation of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests and other pastoral workers is a primary concern of your Bishop, to whom God has entrusted the mission of guiding the People of God who live in your City as a wise pastor.
Another opportunity for the spiritual growth of your community is the Archdiocesan Synod, the first since the Second Vatican Council and since the unification of the two Dioceses of Brindisi and Ostuni. It is an opportunity to relaunch the apostolic commitment of the entire Diocese but above all it is a privileged moment of communion that is a help in the rediscovery of the value of fraternal service, as indicated in the biblical scene of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13,12-17) that you chose, with the words of Jesus that comment on it: "As I have done" (Jn 13,15). If it is true that the Synod, every Synod, is called to establish laws and to issue the appropriate norms for an organic pastoral activity, raising and stimulating renewed commitment to evangelization and Gospel witness, it is also true that a Synod must reawaken in every baptized person the missionary outreach that constantly animates the Church.
Dear brother priests, the Pope assures you of his special remembrance in prayer so that you may continue on the journey of authentic spiritual renewal which you have been making with your community. May the experience of "being together" in faith and reciprocal love help you in this commitment, like the Apostles around Christ in the Upper Room. It was there that the Divine Teacher taught them, opening their eyes to the splendour of the truth and giving them the sacrament of unity and love: the Eucharist. In the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, at the moment of the washing of the feet, it clearly emerged that service is one of the fundamental dimensions of Christian life. It is therefore a duty of the Synod to help all the members of your local Church to rediscover the meaning and the joy of service: a service for love. This applies above all for you, dear priests, configured to Christ "Head and Pastor", always ready to guide his flock. Be thankful and happy for the gift received! Be generous in carrying out your ministry! Sustain it with assiduous prayer and a continuing cultural, theological and spiritual formation!
While I renew the expression of my lively appreciation and my warmest encouragement, I invite you and the entire Archdiocese to prepare for the Pauline Year which is shortly to begin. It can be an occasion on which to relaunch generous missionary activity, for a more profound proclamation of the Word of God, welcomed, meditated and translated into a fruitful apostolate, as it happened exactly for the Apostle to the Gentiles. Conquered by Christ, Paul lived entirely for him and for his Gospel, spending his existence even to the point of martyrdom. May you be assisted by the Blessed Mother of the Church and Virgin of Listening; may the Patron Saints of this beloved land of Apulia protect you. Be missionaries of God's love; may each of your parishes experience the joy of belonging to Christ. As a pledge of divine grace and of the gifts of his Spirit, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Speeches 2005-13 156