Speeches 2005-13 11208
Dear Students and Members of the Administrative and Technical Staff,
I am pleased to welcome you to this meeting with which you have wished to commemorate the ancient roots of the Athenaeum of Parma, and I am particularly pleased that, referring exactly to that period of your origins, you chose as a representative figure St Peter Damian, the 1,000th anniversary of whose birth we have just celebrated and who was first a student and then a teacher at schools in Parma. I cordially greet Prof. Gino Ferretti, and I thank him for his courteous words expressing the sentiments of all those present. I am delighted to see together with you Bishop Enrico Solmi of Parma, as well as the other political and military Authorities. My sincere welcome to you all, professors, students and members of the administrative and technical staff.
As you know, the university was my area of work for a number of years and even after leaving it I have never stopped keeping up with it and feeling spiritually attached to it. I have often had the opportunity to speak at various athenaeums, and I also clearly remember coming to Parma, in 1990, when I gave a reflection on the "ways of the faith" in the midst of the changes of the present time (cf. Svolta per l'Europa?, Pauline Press 1991, PP 65-89). Today I would like briefly to consider with you the "lesson" that St Peter Damian has bequeathed to us, taking up several of his ideas that are particularly relevant to the university environment of our day.
Last year, on the occasion of the liturgical memorial of the Great Hermit, 20 February, I sent a Letter to the Order of Camaldolese Hermits in which I shed light on how especially applicable the central feature of his personality is to our time: in other words, the felicitous synthesis between the eremitical life and pastoral activity, the harmonious tension between the two fundamental poles of human existence: solitude and communion (Message to Fr Guido Innocenzo Gargano, o.s.b. cam., for the centenary of the Birth of St Peter Damian, 20 February 2007). Those who, like you, dedicate their time to advanced studies for their whole life or in their youth cannot fail to be sensitive to this spiritual heritage of St Peter Damian. Due mainly to the spread of the new computer technologies the young generations are increasingly exposed to a double risk: on the one hand, there is the danger of seeing the capacity for concentration and mental application at the personal level progressively reduced; on the other, that of individual isolation into a reality that is increasingly virtual. Thus the social dimension has been shattered into smithereens while the personal dimension withdraws into the self and tends to be closed to constructive relations with others or with those who are different. Instead, the University, by its very nature, lives precisely the fine balance between the individual moment and that of the community, between the research and reflection of each one and sharing and exchange that is open to others in a tendentially universal dimension.
Like that of Peter Damian, our epoch is also marked by forms of particularism and uncertainty, by the lack of unifying principles (cf. ibid.). Academic studies must undoubtably contribute to qualify the formative level of society, not only at the level of scientific research strictly speaking but also, more in general, offering youth the possibility to mature intellectually, morally and civilly with the important questions that challenge the conscience of contemporary man.
History lists Peter Damian among the great "reformers" of the Church after the year 1,000. We can call him the soul of the Gregorian Reform that took its name from Pope St Gregory vii, Hildebrand of Soana, whose close collaborator Peter Damian had been since the time when, before he was elected Bishop of Rome, he was Archdeacon of this Church (cf. ibid., 20 February 2007). However, what is the genuine concept of reform? One fundamental aspect that we may find in the writings and, especially, in the personal witness of Peter Damian is that every authentic reform must first of all be spiritual and moral, in other words, it must be born in the conscience. Today, in Italy too, there is often talk of university reform. I think, having duly weighed the pros and cons, that this teaching always remains valid. Structural and technical modifications are effectively efficient if they are accompanied by a serious examination of conscience on the part of those in charge at all levels but more generally, of each teacher, each student, each member of the technical and administrative personnel. We know that Peter Damian was very strict with himself and his monks, very demanding in discipline. If one wants a human milieu to improve in quality and effectiveness, it is first necessary that each one start by reforming himself, correcting anything that may damage the common good or hinder it in some way.
Connected with the concept of reform, I would also like to highlight that of freedom. In fact, the goal of St Peter Damian and his contemporaries' reforming endeavours was to ensure that the Church might become freer, first of all at the spiritual level, but then also historically speaking.
Likewise, the validity of a University reform can only be proven by its freedom: freedom in teaching, freedom in research, the academic institution's freedom from the economic and political authorities. This does not imply the University's isolation from society, nor self-reference nor, even less, the use of public funds to pursue private interests. This is certainly not Christian freedom! Truly free, according to the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, is the person, community and institution that fully respond to their nature and aims, and the vocation of the University is people's scientific and cultural training for the development of the social and civil community as a whole.
Dear friends, I thank you because with your visit, in addition to the pleasure of meeting you, you have given me an opportunity to reflect on the timeliness of St Peter Damian at the end of the millennial celebrations in his honour. I wish you all the best for the scientific and pedagogical activities of your Athenaeum and I pray that despite its now considerable size it may always strive to be a universitas studiorum in which each one may recognize and express himself as a person, taking part in the "symphonic" search for the truth. To this end, I encourage the university's present pastoral initiatives, as they are always a precious service to the human and spiritual formation of youth. And in this context, I also hope that the historic Church of St Francesco al Prato may soon be re-opened for worship, for the benefit of the University and the whole city. May St Peter Damian and the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for all these things and may you also be accompanied by my Blessing which I willingly impart to you, to all your colleagues and to your dear ones
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I offer you my most cordial welcome at this meeting that concludes your ad limina visit and has enabled me, as Successor of Peter, to share in the apostolic work before you in the beloved land of Chile.
I would like first of all to warmly thank Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, President of your Bishops' Conference, for his kind words to me on behalf of all. I also express my affection and recognition to your respective dioceses and to each and every one of the children of the Church in Chile.
The Lord Jesus, having spent the night in prayer, "called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also named Apostles" (Lc 6,13). He has likewise chosen you, dear brothers, successors of the Apostles, and, making you partakers in his love, he has entrusted to you the task of extending his message of salvation throughout the world (cf. Jn 15,15).
I therefore invite you to cultivate an intense and profound inner life of faith because it is in close contact with the Lord in prayer that one develops the best pastoral initiatives to respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful, and thus, starting from God, we shall be able to reach out to our brethren with an effective word of hope. There are of course numerous difficulties and obstacles, but relying on the promise of our Lord who assures us of his presence in our midst every day until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28,20) and on the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall be able to dedicate ourselves with hopefulness and enthusiasm to the important task of taking Christ to all people with the same enthusiasm as the Apostles.
As the result of an immense effort of ecclesial discernment and in harmony with the Final Document of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences in Aparecida, you have drafted some appropriate Pastoral Guidelines for the next four years. With these you intend to inspire in all the faithful the joy of following Christ, as well as a greater missionary awareness that will permit the whole ecclesial community of Chile to confront the challenges of the present time with a real apostolic impetus.
This great evangelical undertaking, to which you have decidedly dedicated yourselves, demands of you a special effort of purification and charity. You well know that contemporary man feels a pressing need for real life examples that are truly evangelical and coherent. For this reason, the holiness of all the members of the Church, especially her Pastors, is one of the most precious gifts you can offer to your brethren. While recalling the many Saints and Blesseds of your land who, with their marvellous witness of faith and devotion at the service of their brothers and sisters (cf. Orientaciones Pastorales, n. 3), are not only a patrimony of the Catholic Church but of the entire Chilean society, may you persevere in tirelessly advancing the universal call to holiness (cf. Lumen gentium LG 39-42).
I likewise wish to commend to you in a special way the priests, your closest collaborators, and I ask you to kindly convey to them my recognition of their fidelity to the ministry they have received and of their constant and generous work. Show yourselves to be very close to them in their difficulties and help them so that among the many activities that fill their day, they may be able to give priority to prayer and to the celebration of the Eucharist, which conforms them to Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest.
In this regard I encourage you not to slacken your efforts to improve the quality of the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of seminarians. In addition, it is necessary to strengthen the vocational dimension of Christian life in the pastoral ministry with youth, through adequate spiritual guidance that enables them to respond generously to the call of Jesus in their lives.
I also know of the great efforts you have made towards lay people assuming with responsibility and maturity the requirements of their Baptism, taking part, as befits their lay condition, in the mission of the whole Church. Continue to offer them an adequate education in the faith, as well as a more assiduous contact with the Word of God that brings them to a greater missionary commitment in their lives. They have received as a specific vocation the sanctification of the world, transforming it from within according to God's plan (cf. ibid., n. 31). All social milieus can be illuminated by the light of the faith. I am referring, among other things, to the world of culture, of science and politics, of the promotion of the family founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, to the creation of fairer working conditions and assistance to the most deprived, to care for the environment, to the defence of human life in all its stages and to the right and obligation of parents to provide for the moral and spiritual education of their children.
Another important aspect of your ministry that I would like to recommend strongly to you is your dioceses' charitable activity in aid of the poor. In fact, after the example of the first community of disciples (cf. Ac 2,42-44), we must endeavour to ensure that the Church, as God's family, is a place of mutual help (cf. Deus caritas est ).
Lastly, I encourage you to continue to foster the spirit of communion with the Roman Pontiff and with your other brother Bishops, especially those in your own Bishops' Conference and your own Province. Dear Brothers, you have been "configured to Christ in order to love the Church with the love of Christ the Bridegroom" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores gregis ) and to watch over and protect her unity. Therefore, may you be true models and instruments of communion for all.
As I take my leave of you I ask you to take back the Pope's greeting to the Bishops emeritus, to the priests, to the men and women religious, to the seminarians and to all the faithful and to assure them of his prayers for them. I entrust you all to the motherly hands of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so that she may guide you and help you to succeed in your apostolic undertakings and I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to each and every one of your dear diocesan faithful.
This ceremony at the beginning of your great responsibility, at which you, Your Excellency, present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Argentine Republic to the Holy See is a particularly important moment in the process of bilateral relations between the Apostolic See and your noble country, which we trust will be increasingly fluid and fruitful.
I would like to reciprocate with my warm thanks for your attentive words and the respectful greetings you have conveyed to me on behalf of H.E. Mrs Cristina FernŠndez de Kirchner, President of the Argentine nation, while at the same time I accompany with my prayers every initiative that encourages harmony, justice and the aspiration to the common good in this beloved land. The Argentineans know well that they have a place of special importance in the Pope's heart. I think of them and present their projects, their joys and their worries to God, so that horizons of prosperity may unfold for all, for a present rich in fruitful achievements and a bright and tranquil future.
I am particularly pleased to receive you, Your Excellency, as Ambassador of a country with deep-rooted Christian traditions. These traditions have sown and cultivated important customs, shaping within them the identity and religious sense of people who yearn to surpass themselves every day and to give the international community the best of themselves, as they have shown on various occasions, giving proof of their generosity and their lofty goals. This valuable spiritual patrimony illuminates and strengthens the fundamental aspirations of the human being. As well as viewing it as a heritage to be preserved, it is also important to see it as a treasure from which to draw constantly the strength to face the present and to offer it as a precious gift to the new generations.
The Gospel message is profoundly rooted in this nation and bears abundant fruits, especially in outstanding models of conduct that have enriched others with the exemplary witness of their human and Christian virtues. Among them, I call to mind with pleasure the famous figure of Ceferino Numuncurŗ, whose Beatification at the end of last year was a joy for the entire People of God. This young Mapuche, a spiritual son of St John Bosco, is a splendid sign of how "Christ, being in truth the incarnate Logos, "love to the end', is not alien to any culture, nor to any person; on the contrary, the response that he seeks in the heart of cultures is what gives them their ultimate identity, uniting humanity and at the same time respecting the wealth of diversity, opening people everywhere to growth in genuine humanity" (Address at the opening session of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, Aparecida, Brazil, 3 May 2007).
In exercising her proper mission, the Church seeks at every moment to promote the dignity of the person and to raise him in an integral way for the benefit of all. In this context, faith in Christ has given an impetus to many charitable initiatives and projects of social assistance in dioceses in Argentina as well as through religious institutes and secular associations. The concern and activity of the Church, focused in particular in the moral and spiritual context, has also spread, and with particular intensity in the sectors of health-care, culture, education and work, and attention to the deprived.
With its works, the Catholic community continues uniquely to bear a witness of charity and to project the light of the Gospel for consciences, so that man may discover a fullness of life that shines in a dignified personal conduct and in responsible and harmonious coexistence, reciprocal understanding and forgiveness. It is necessary to point out in this respect the importance of avoiding those attitudes that damage brotherhood and mutual understanding, but on the contrary strengthening all that fosters a sense of civil responsibility with a view to the good of society as a whole.
In this perspective, without wishing to become a political subject, the Church, with the independence of her moral authority, aspires to loyal and open cooperation with all who are responsible for the temporal order in the noble plan of building a civilization of justice, peace, reconciliation and solidarity, and those other norms that can never be abolished or left at the mercy of partisan consensus, since they are engraved in the human heart and correspond to the truth. In this sense, God's presence both in the conscience of each person and in the public sphere gives firm support to respect for the person's fundamental rights and firmly supports the construction of a society founded on them. I therefore desire to express my best wishes for the strengthening of dialogue and collaboration between the Argentine Authorities and the episcopate of this country for the sake of the common good of the whole population.
The 21st century is showing ever more clearly the need to build a personal, family and social life in harmony with the indispensable values that uplift the person and the entire community. Among these values emphasis should be placed on: the endorsement of the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, the inclination to a morality whose main traits are engraved in the depths of the human soul, the spirit of sacrifice and generous solidarity expressed especially when circumstances are particularly adverse, the defence of human life from its conception to its natural end, the eradication of poverty, promoting honesty, the fight against corruption, the adoption of means that help parents in their inalienable right to raise their children with their own ethical and religious convictions, as well as the promotion of young people so that they may be men and women of peace and reconciliation.
In this regard, precisely today, with the presence of the Delegation of this Apostolic See, the Presidents of Argentina and Chile are meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the mediation undertaken by my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II in the resolution of the controversy between the two nations concerning the determination of their boundaries in the southern zone of the continent. The memorial monument that is to be built in the locality of Mount Aymond will be an eloquent testimony and will serve to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and the desire for understanding between both countries. It is thanks to the efforts of their governments and institutions and their common cultural, social and religious ideals that they succeeded in abandoning the paths of confrontation to demonstrate that, with dialogue and magnanimity, it is possible to achieve a dignified, stable and solid peace as befits wise and civilized nations.
To conclude this meeting, I express my best wishes to you, Your Excellency, to your family and to the staff of this diplomatic mission, and I express to you the availability and support of my collaborators in all that may help the successful fulfilment of your office as Ambassador. I ask you to bring the Pope's cordial greetings to all your fellow countrymen, and most particularly to the President of the Argentine Republic and its Government. I pray the Lord, through the motherly intercession of Our Lady of LujŠn, to bestow an abundance of gifts upon the sons and daughters of this beloved country, to whom I impart with pleasure the Apostolic Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
It is with true joy that I welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Session works, which, this time, coincides also with the conclusion of the seventh quinquennial of the creation of the International Theological Commission. I wish above all to express warm thanks for the words of tribute that, in the name of all, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, as the General Secretary of the International Theological Commission, has wished to address to me in his greeting address.
My thanks then also go to all of you who, in the course of the last five years, have expended your energies in a truly precious work for the Church and for the one whom the Lord has called to carry out the ministry of Successor of Peter.
In fact, the works of this seventh "quinquennial" of the International Theological Commission has already given a real fruit, as Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer has recalled, with the publication of the document "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised", and soon you will reach another important threshold with the document: "In Search of a Universal Ethic: New Look on Natural Law", which must still be submitted according to the Norms of the Statutes of the Commission, to the last steps before its final approval. As I have already been able to affirm on previous occasions, I repeat the necessity and the urgency, in today's context, to create in culture and in civil and political society the indispensable conditions of the natural moral law. Also thanks to the study that you have undertaken on this fundamental argument, it becomes clear that the natural law constitutes the true guarantee offered to each one to live in freedom and in the respect for his dignity as a person, and to feel protected from any ideological manipulation and from all abuse perpetrated based on the law of the strongest. We all know well that in a world formed by the natural sciences the metaphysical concept of the natural law is almost absent, incomprehensible. Moreover considering its fundamental importance for our societies, for human life, it is necessary that there be a new response and that in the context of our thought this concept is made comprehensible: being itself bears in itself a moral message and an indication for the paths of law.
Then, regarding the third theme "sense and method of theology" that has been the special object of study in this quinquennial, I am keen to underline its relevance and actuality. In a "planetary society" as that which is being formed today, theologians are asked by the public opinion above all to promote dialogue between religions and cultures, to contribute to the development of an ethic that has as its own base network peace, justice and the defence of the natural environment. And this truly concerns fundamental goods. But a theology limited to these noble objectives would lose not only its own identity, but the very foundation of these goods. The first priority of theology, as already indicated in its name, is to speak of God, to think of God. And theology speaks of God not as a hypothesis of our thought. It speaks of God because God himself speaks with us. The real work of the theologian is to enter into the Word of God, to seek to understand it for what is possible, and to make it understood to our world, and thus to find the responses to our important questions. In this work it also appears that faith is not only not contrary to reason, but it opens the eyes of reason, it expands our horizons and it permits us to find the responses necessary to the challenges of the various times.
From the objective point of view, the truth is the Revelation of God in Christ Jesus, who requires the response of the obedience of faith in communion with the Church and her Magisterium. Thus the identity of the theologian is regained, understood as a reasoned, systematic and methodical reflection on Revelation and on faith. Even the question of method is illuminated. The method in theology is not only the base of criteria and norms common to the other sciences, but must observe, above all, the principles and norms that derive from Revelation and from faith, from the fact that God has spoken.
From the subjective point of view, that is from the viewpoint of the one who does theology, the fundamental virtue of the theologian is to seek obedience to faith, the humility of faith that opens our eyes. This humility renders the theologian a collaborator of the truth. In this way it will not happen that he speaks of himself. Interiorly purified by obedience to the truth, he will reach, instead, the point that the Truth itself, that the Lord, can speak through the theologian and theology. At the same time it will happen that, by means of him, the truth can be brought to the world.
On the other hand, obedience to the truth does not mean to renounce the research and the fatigue of thought. On the contrary, the restlessness of thought, that certainly cannot be totally pacified in the life of believers, since they too are on the journey of research and deepening of Truth, it will still be, however, an unrest that accompanies and stimulates them in the pilgrimage of thought toward God, and it will be fruitful. Therefore I hope that your reflections on these themes is able to bring to light the authentic principle and the solid significance of true theology, in order to perceive and comprehend ever better the response that the Word of God offers us and without which we cannot live in a wise and just way, because only thus will the universal, infinite horizons of truth open.
My thanks for your commitment and your work in the International Theological Commission during this quinquennial is therefore, at the same time, a cordial wish for the future work of this important organism at the service of the Apostolic See and of the entire Church. In renewing the expression of sentiments of satisfaction, of affection and of joy for today's meeting, I invoke from the Lord, by the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin, copious celestial lights on your work and I impart to you a warm Apostolic Blessing, extending it to your loved ones.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Members of the Grand Magisterium and Lieutenants,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to greet and give my cordial welcome to the Knights, to the Ladies and to the Ecclesiastics who represent the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. In particular I greet Cardinal John Patrick Foley, Grand Master of the Order, and I thank him for the kind words that, also in the name of all of you, he has just addressed to me. I also greet the Great Prior, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins. Through each one of you I wish, moreover, that the expression of my esteem and recognition arrives to all who comprise your worthy Sodality, spread in many parts of the world.
The reason you have gathered here in Rome is the "world consultation", which every five years provides for the meeting of the Lieutenants, the magisterial delegates and the members of the grand magisterium to evaluate the situation of the Catholic community in the Holy Land, the activity underway by the Order and to establish directives for the future. In thanking you for your visit I wish to manifest my lively appreciation especially for the initiatives of fraternal solidarity that the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem for many years continues to promote in favour of the Holy Places. Thus the "Honour Guard" came into being for the custody of the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord. Your Equestrian Order has enjoyed a singular attention on the part of the Roman Pontiffs, who have given it the spiritual and juridical instruments necessary to fulfil your own specific service. Bl. Pius IX in 1847 re-established it to favour the recomposition of a Catholic faith community in the Holy Land, no longer entrusting the custody on Christ's Tomb to the force of arms, but to the authority of a constant witness of faith and charity toward Christians resident in those lands. More recently, the Servant of God Pius XII, of happy memory, conferred to your Sodality juridical personhood, thus making its presence and work, within the Church and in regard to nations, more official and solid.
Dear brothers and sisters, an ancient and glorious bond links your knightly Sodality to the Holy Sepulchre of Christ, where in a completely singular way the glory of his death and Resurrection is celebrated. Precisely this constitutes the pivotal centre of your spirituality. Jesus Christ crucified and Risen is therefore the centre of your existence and of your every project and programme, personal or collective. Let yourselves be guided and sustained by his redeeming power to live deeply the mission that you are called to carry out, to offer an eloquent Gospel witness, to be builders, in our time, of a solid hope founded on the Risen Lord's presence, who, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, guides and sustains the efforts of those who dedicate themselves to the edification of a new humanity inspired by the Gospel values of justice, love and peace.
What need the Land of Jesus has for justice and peace! Continue to work for this and do not tire in asking, with the Prayer of the Knights and the Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, that as soon as possible these aspirations may come to completion. Ask the Lord to make you "convinced and sincere ambassadors of peace and love among your brethren", ask him to make fruitful, with the power of his love, your constant work to support the ardent desire for peace in those communities weighed down by a climate of uncertainty and danger in the last years. To that dear Christian population, who continue to suffer due to the political, economic and social crisis in the Middle East, made even worse with the escalating world situation, I address an affectionate thought, bearing a special testimony of my spiritual closeness to so many of our brothers in the faith who are forced to emigrate. How can one fail to share the sorrow of that sorely tried community? How can one not thank, at the same time, you who have worked so generously to come to their aid? In these days of Advent, while we prepare for the Christmas festivities, the gaze of our faith is directed toward Bethlehem, where the Son of God is born in a poor grotto. Next the heart's eye is directed to all the other places sanctified by our Redeemer's passing. We ask Mary, who has given the world the Saviour, to make her maternal protection felt by our brothers and sisters who live there and who daily face many difficulties. We also ask her to encourage you and those, who with God's help, want to and can contribute to build of a world of justice and peace.
Dear Knights and dear Ladies, nurture within yourselves the atmosphere of Advent, keeping your hearts alert in waiting for the Lord who comes, so that you can encounter him in the events of each day and recognize and serve him especially in the poor and suffering. May the Virgin of Nazareth, who in a few days time we will invoke with the title of the Immaculate Conception, assist you in your mission of watching over with love upon the places that saw the Divine Redeemer pass "doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil, for God was with him" (Ac 10,38).
With these sentiments I gladly impart to all my Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 11208