Speeches 2005-13 18128
Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
I am delighted to meet with you: staff, collaborators and advisers of the Vatican Television Centre, accompanied by your relatives, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of your Centre. I greet in particular Cardinal John P. Foley and the Director General, Fr Federico Lombardi, whom I thank for his address describing the situation of the Centre. I would also like to remember the late Dr Emilio Rossi, for several years President of the Centre and then President of its Administration Council, offering his witness of a generous and qualified service to the Church and to society. The Centre was desired by my Predecessor John Paul II in 1983. He realized that the Holy See in addition to the means of communication already at its disposal, should at this point also be equipped with its own television structure, so that the Pope's service to the universal Church and to humanity might also use this means whose effectiveness was proving ever more visible.
Videre Petrum, to see Peter: this has been the desire that has brought countless pilgrims to Rome. Today, this desire, at least in part, may be satisfied thanks to radio and television which have enabled a great number of people, first by voice and now also by means of images, to participate in the celebrations and events that occur in the Vatican or in other places to which the Pope goes to fulfil his ministry. Yours is thus first of all a precious service for communion in the Church. Collaboration with Catholic television stations has characterized your Centre since the outset. In Italy, Telepace and SAT2000 broadcast almost all your programmes and it is very encouraging to know that many Catholic television stations in various parts of the world are linked to you. In this way, an ever greater number of the faithful can follow, either on live or recorded broadcasts, what is happening in the heart of the Church.
However, your television broadcasts do not only reach the Catholic faithful. By making the images available to the most important world television agencies and the large national or commercial television broadcasting stations, you relay relevant news quickly on the life and teaching of the Church in today's world, at the service of the dignity of the human person, justice, dialogue and peace. The relationships of close collaboration that you have been committed to establish in the vast world of televised communications, in particular on the occasions of the Pope's international journeys, you have enlarged the field of your service, one can well say, even to the ends of the world, responding to the human and spiritual expectations of a countless number of our contemporaries.
In your service you are very often called to film and broadcast images of important and splendid liturgical celebrations that take place at the heart of Christendom. The liturgy is truly the culmination of the life of the Church, the time and place for a profound relationship with God. Following the liturgical event through the attentive eye of the television camera in order to make real spiritual participation possible for those who cannot be physically present is a lofty and demanding task. Moreover it requires of you a serious training and real spiritual harmony with what in a certain way you are mediating. Close collaboration with the Office of Liturgical Celebrations, which you have fostered for some time, will help you to develop increasingly in this precious spiritual service to viewers throughout the world.
The images you have taken in the course of the years and now jealously preserved make your archives a precious resource not only for the production of television programmes in the present and in the future, but we may well say for the history of the Holy See and the Church. Preserving the recordings of voices and images properly is a technically difficult and, from the financial point of view, expensive undertaking but it is one of your institutional tasks which I encourage you to face with confidence. In order that the Church may continue to be present with her message "in the great areopagus" of social communications" as John Paul II called it and not find herself foreign to the areas in which countless young people surf seeking answers and a meaning for their life, you must seek ways to spread voices and images of hope in new forms, through the internet that wraps our planet in an ever closer web.
Moreover you are not alone in facing your mission. Today people rightly speak of the "convergence" between the various media. The boundaries between them are fading and synergies are increasing. The instruments of social communications at the service of the Holy See are, of course, also evolving and they must be consciously and actively integrated. The collaboration between your Centre and Vatican Radio has always been very close and has become ever closer because, in your broadcasts, images and sound cannot be separated. However, today the Internet requires an ever increasing integration of written, audial and visual communication, and thus is a challenge to broaden and intensify the forms of collaboration between the media which are at the service of the Holy See. The positive relationship with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, with which I encourage you to develop initiatives and fruitful projects, will contribute to this.
So, take heart! May the modest size of your structure in comparison with the immensity of your tasks not cause you dismay. Many people, thanks to your work, can feel closer to the heart of the Church. May you be aware also of the gratitude of the Pope who knows that you are generously dedicated to a task that contributes to the outreach and effectiveness of his daily service. May you be accompanied by the Lord who comes, and whose salvation you seek to proclaim through your images. With this hope and with a special good wishes for a Happy Christmas which I extend to all your loved ones, I warmly bless you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to welcome all of you who are taking part in this meeting a few days before the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA) by my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, with the Motu Proprio "Nel primo anniversario" of 1 January 1989. I greet Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, President of the ULSA; I thank him for his cordial words and take the opportunity to express to him my deep gratitude for his long service to the Holy See. I thank Bishop Franco Croci, Vice President, Dr Massimo Bufacchi, Director, and the members of the Executive Board, the Council and the Conciliation and Arbitration Board, together with all of your collaborators.
In the Motu Proprio for the institution of the ULSA, the Servant of God John Paul II as your President recalled expressed the hope that "the dignity of each collaborator will be effectively honoured; the economic and social rights of each member will be recognized, protected, harmonized and promoted; the respective duties will also be more faithfully fulfilled; a real sense of responsibility will be stimulated; an ever better service will be provided" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 June 1989, p. 12). In the subsequent Motu Proprio of 1994 entitled "La sollecitudine" and with which he approved the definitive Statutes of the Office John Paul II wrote: "I would now like to reaffirm the role attributed to the Labour Office of the Apostolic See, a body of this See which has a specific institutional identity and oversees the protection of the legitimate interests of the members of the working community of the Holy See to assure harmony and equalization in the plurality, diversity and specificity of offices, favouring a correct application of the principles of social justice, to guarantee the unity of this community and its growth in the interpersonal relations within it".
These are very clear guidelines which I am pleased to reaffirm, shedding light on the distinctive task that the Labour Office of the Apostolic See is called to carry out in the formation of the personnel in order to make the activity of the working community of the Holy See increasingly efficient and supportive. Another important service of your Office is to prevent any possible disagreement concerning the workers employed by the Apostolic See and to seek, if necessary, the prompt settlement of it by means of a sincere and objective dialogue, with recourse to the procedures foreseen for conciliation and arbitration. All this is for the purpose of consolidating the working community, executing the appropriate interventions for the complete fulfilment of the norms established for its protection and settling any possible administrative or socio-economic problems that may arise in the various bodies of the Holy See. In this very way, cooperating for the best possible organization of the working community of the Apostolic See, your Office succeeds in achieving the aims for which it was established.
On this occasion, I would like to emphasize that the work community constituted by those who are employed in the various offices and bodies of the Holy See forms a single "family", whose members are united, not only by the ties of their work but by their common role which is to help the successor of Peter in his ministry at the service of the universal Church. The professional activity they carry out thus constitutes a "vocation" to be fostered with care and an evangelical spirit, seeing within this a concrete path to holiness. This requires that love for Christ and for one's brothers and sisters, together with a shared sense of Church, motivate and enliven skill and dedication, professionalism, honest and correct commitment and attentive and mature responsibility, thereby making work itself, whatever it may be, a prayer. We could describe all this as an ongoing formative and spiritual task to which everyone may make their contribution: Cardinals, Bishops, priests, men and women religious and lay people. Indeed, if respect for the principles of justice and solidarity, well clarified in the social doctrine of the Church, is important, what is indispensable above all is the common effort supported by convinced adherence to Christ and sincere love for his Church.
Thus, very willingly, as I take the opportunity today to thank all who work in the various Dicasteries and Offices, I express the wish that in each and every one the search for what is right and the constant aspiration to holiness will never be lacking. At the same time, I hope that the Labour Office of the Apostolic See, to the extent that it is able, may contribute to achieving this aim. Furthermore, the approach of Holy Christmas naturally prompts me to think of the employment crisis that distresses the whole of humanity today. May those who are able to work be grateful to the Lord and open their hearts generously to those who instead have employment and financial difficulties. May the Child Jesus, who on the Holy Night of Bethlehem became man to share in our difficulties, look kindly upon those who are harshly tried by this world crisis and inspire sentiments of authentic solidarity in everyone. In my Message for the upcoming World Day of Peace I recall that "what the fight against poverty really needs are men and women who live in a profoundly fraternal way and are able to accompany individuals, families and communities on journeys of authentic human development" (n. 13).
I willingly express this hope, which I place in the hands of Our Lady and St Joseph, for your Office and for the employees of the Apostolic See, extending it to the whole of the working world, and as I wish everyone a holy and peaceful Christmas, I warmly bless you, together with your families and your loved ones. Happy Christmas!
I am pleased to receive you, Your Excellency, and to accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Seychelles to the Holy See. I thank you for conveying to me the greetings of H.E. Mr James Alix Michel, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate my best wishes for his person and for all the people of Seychelles.
In calling your country to mind it is always a pleasure to speak of its beauty and to be able to list the numerous benefits it enjoys. To increase its potential, your country today is making a concerted effort to reduce its debt. In a world context that has become difficult, I want to acknowledge these efforts that deserve the support of international institutions in conformity with the serious commitment undertaken. It constitutes an important challenge in view of the future generations. In fact, it would be unfair for people today to shirk their responsibilities, causing the consequences of their decisions or lack of action to burden the generations to come after them. Thus it is not only a question of improving the economy but also and especially of confronting the challenge of social justice. Additionally, in setting the nation's accounts aright, it also offers a more secure framework for economic activity and thus provides better protection for the poorest and most vulnerable people.
This praiseworthy aim requires the cooperation of all, which is why a sense of solidarity is fundamental. Here we perceive how closely linked social harmony is not only to a fair and adapted legislative framework but also to the moral level of each citizen, since "solidarity is seen... under two complementary aspects: that of a social principle and that of a moral virtue" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 193). Solidarity is raised to the rank of a social virtue when it can rely simultaneously not only on structures of solidarity but also on the firm and persevering determination of each person to work for the common good, because we are all responsible for all.
The education of youth is assuredly the best way to inspire this enduring sense of solidarity. From this viewpoint, I am pleased once again to be able to highlight the efforts your country has been making for a long time to construct a good educational system. Whatever his or her qualification, I encourage each one to pursue this path and to sow generously for the future.
However, this concern for education would be in vain if the family institution were to be excessively weakened. Families are constantly in need of the encouragement and support of public entities. A profound harmony exists between the tasks of the family and the duties of the state. To foster a successful synergy between them is to work effectively for a future of prosperity and social peace.
For her part, the local Church spares no effort to accompany families, offering them the light of the Gospel which sheds light on the full grandeur and beauty of the "mystery" of the family and helping them to assume their educational responsibilities. With regard to those in difficulty, she concerns herself with helping to bring peace to relationships and to foster reconciliation in hearts.
I take this opportunity, Mr Ambassador, to greet warmly, through you, the Bishop of Seychelles and his collaborators, as well as all the Catholic faithful who live in your country. May they preserve their concern, in harmony with all the other citizens, to build a social life in which each person may find the path to fulfilment, his own and that of the community! Thus they will bear witness to the social fruitfulness of the Word of God.
At the time when you are inaugurating your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I wish to renew the expression of my pleasure at the excellent relations the Republic of Seychelles and the Holy See enjoy, and I offer you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes for the success of your mission. Rest assured that you will always find with my collaborators the welcome and understanding you may need.
Upon you, Your Excellency, your family and collaborators, as well as upon the entire people of the Islands of Seychelles and its leaders, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.
Dear Children of ACR,
I am very happy that this year too. With the nearing of holy Christmas you have come with your presence to cheer these solemn buildings, in which nonetheless there is always the joy of serving the Lord. I greet together with you, your teachers, the President of the Italian Catholic Action, the General Chaplain and your new National Chaplain, Fr Dino.
Many people say that children are capricious, that they are never happy with anything, that they consume toys, one after another, without being satisfied by them. You, on the other hand, say to Jesus: You are enough for me! Which means: you are our dearest friend who keeps us company when we play and when we go to school, when we are at home with our parents, our grandparents, our little brothers and sisters, and when we go out with our friends. You open our eyes so that we notice our sad companions and the many children in the world who are suffering hunger, illness and war. You are enough for us, Lord Jesus, you give us true joy, the joy that does not end like our games but is poured out into our souls and makes us good. You are enough, especially, when we pray to you because you always hear the prayers we say for the world to become more beautiful and a better place for everyone. You are enough for us, because you forgive us when we get into some mischief; you are enough for us because if we are lost you come to find us and carry us in your arms as you did with the lost sheep. You are enough for us, because you have a most beautiful Mother whom, before dying on the Cross, you wanted to make our Mother too.
Dear little friends, do you also want to help your companions to be like this with Jesus? A boy or girl of ACR is one who when going to Jesus likes to bring some friends because they want him to know them too; they do not only think of themselves but have large hearts, attentive to others. You have so many teachers who help you to live together, to pray and to grow in your knowledge of the Gospel. Catholic Action's true aim is to help you to become holy; for this reason it helps you to encounter Jesus and to love his Church and be concerned with the world's problems. Is it not perhaps true that you are involving yourselves with children and boys and girls who are less fortunate then you? Is it not perhaps true that with the "month of peace" you can also make many adults appreciate peace because you yourselves know how to live peacefully with one another?
Yes, dear boys and girls, you can pray the Lord to change the hearts of the weapons manufacturers, to bring the terrorists back to reason, to convert hearts that are always bent on war and help humanity to build a better future for all the world's children. I am sure that you will also pray for me, thus helping me in the difficult task the Lord has entrusted to me. As for me, I assure you of my affection and my prayers, while I now gladly bless you together with all your loved ones. A Happy Christmas to you, to your families and to all the boys and girls of Catholic Action!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With true pleasure I welcome and greet each one of you who are members of the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Grand Chancellor, and thank him for his courteous words interpreting your common sentiments. I greet the Rector, the teaching staff, the collaborators and the students. Today's pleasant meeting offers me the opportunity to express my keen appreciation of the precious and profitable cultural, literary and academic activity that your Institute carries out at the service of the Church, and more generally, of culture.
Indeed, I am aware of the considerable scientific importance in the traditional milieus of archaeology of the ordinary and specialized courses with which your Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology proposes to make known the palaeo-Christian monuments, especially those in Rome but also with ample references to the other regions of the Orbis christianus antiquus. The "Journal" and the scientific activity of the teachers and students, as well as the promotion of international congresses also aims, complying with your intentions, to respond to the expectations of all who have at heart the knowledge and study of the wealth of historical memorials of the Christian community. The principal aim of your Institute is precisely the study of the remains of ecclesial life down the centuries. You offer those who choose this discipline the opportunity to penetrate a complex reality, to be precise, that of the Church in the early centuries, in order "to understand" the past making it present to people today. For you, "understanding" the past is as it were identifying yourselves with the past that emerges through the typical contexts of Christian archaeology: iconography, architecture, epigraphy and topography. When it is a matter of describing the history of the Church, which is "a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race" (Lumen gentium LG 1), archaeologists, in their patient research, cannot dispense with penetrating supernatural realities too, without, however, renouncing the rigorous analysis of archaeological finds.
Indeed, as you well know, a complete vision of the reality of a Christian community, whether ancient or recent, is not possible unless one keeps in mind the fact that the Church is composed of both a human element and a divine element. Christ, her Lord, dwells within her and desires her as "the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all" (ibid., n. 8). In this theological pre-understanding, the basic criterion can only be to let oneself be conquered by the truth sought in its authentic sources, with a soul free from passion and prejudice, since Christian archaeology is a historical science and as such is based on the methodical study of the sources.
The spread of the culture of art and history through all sectors of society provides the people of our time with the means to trace their own roots and to draw from them the cultural and spiritual elements that help them build a society with a truly human dimension. Every person and every society needs a culture open to the anthropological, moral and spiritual dimensions of existence. I therefore fervently hope, thanks also to the work of your praiseworthy Institute, that the search for the Christian roots of our society may continue and indeed may intensify. Your Institute's experience proves that the study of archaeology, especially of the palaeo-Christian monuments, enables us to deepen our knowledge of the evangelical truth that has been handed down to us and offers the opportunity to follow the teachers and witnesses of the faith who have preceded us. Knowing the heritage of the Christian generations of the past enables those that follow to remain faithful to the depositum fidei of the first Christian community, and following along the same path, continue to make the unchangeable Gospel of Christ resonate in every time and place. For this reason, alongside even the important results achieved in the scientific context, your Institute is rightly concerned to offer a fruitful contribution to the knowledge and deepening of the Christian faith. Drawing close to the "remains of the People of God" is a concrete way of certify how the content of the same unchangeable faith has been received and expressed in Christian life in accordance with the changing historical, social and cultural conditions through the span of many centuries.
Dear brothers and sisters, continue to promote the preservation and acquisition of a deeper knowledge of the immense archaeological heritage of Rome and of the various regions of the ancient world, aware of the proper mission of your Institute, that is, to serve history and art by appreciating the numerous testimonies of Western civilization, culture and Catholic spirituality that the "Eternal City" possesses. It is a valuable patrimony created in the course of these two millennia, a priceless treasure of which you are stewards and from which it is necessary, as the Gospel writer does, to draw ceaselessly from the new and the old (cf. Mt 13,52). Together with these hopes, in the imminence of Holy Christmas, I express fervent good wishes for you and for your loved ones, as I warmly bless you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Nativity of the Lord is at hand. Every family feels the desire to come together to enjoy the special, unique atmosphere that this holy day is able to bring about. This morning, the family of the Roman Curia also comes together, following a fine custom which gives us the joy of meeting and exchanging greetings in this special spiritual milieu.
To each of you I offer a cordial greeting, full of gratitude for your valued collaboration with the ministry of the Successor of Peter. I warmly thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, who has expressed the sentiments of all present, as well as those serving in the various offices of the Holy See, including the Papal Representations.
I began by mentioning the special atmosphere of Christmas. I like to think of it as a kind of prolongation of that mysterious joy, that deep exultation that enveloped the Holy Family, the angels and the shepherds of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. I would describe it as an “atmosphere of grace”, recalling Saint Paul’s words in the Letter to Titus: “Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus” (cf. Tit Tt 2,11).
The Apostle says that the grace of God has appeared “for all”. I would say that this also reveals the mission of the Church and, in particular, that of the Successor of Peter and his collaborators: to help make the grace of God, the Redeemer, ever more visible to everyone and to bring salvation to all.
The year now drawing to a close has been enriched by our commemoration of some important dates in the recent history of the Church; yet it has also been rich in events capable of guiding us along the path to the future. Fifty years ago Pope Pius XII died; fifty years ago, John XXIII was elected to the papacy. Forty years have passed since the publication of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, and thirty years since the death of its author, Pope Paul VI. The significance of these events has been recalled and reflected upon in many ways during the past year, so I do not wish to add anything more in this present meeting
At the same time, our thoughts have also gone back even further, beyond the events of the past century, and, here too, have directed us towards the future: on the evening of 28 June, gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and representatives from many other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, we inaugurated the Pauline Year in commemoration of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles some two thousand years ago.
For us, Paul is not a figure of the past. Through his Letters he still speaks to us today. And whoever enters into conversation with him, is led by him towards the Crucified and Risen Christ.
The Pauline Year is a year of pilgrimage, not only in the sense of an outward journey towards the places associated with Paul. It is also, and above all, a pilgrimage of the heart, with Paul, towards Jesus Christ. In a word, Paul teaches us also that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the Head and the Body are inseparable, and that there can be no love for Christ without love for his Church and her living community.
Three specific events of the year now ending stand out in particular. First of all the World Youth Day in Australia, a great celebration of faith that brought together more than two hundred thousand young people from every part of the world. It also brought them closer, not only outwardly – geographically – but also, by their shared joy in being Christian, it brought them closer interiorly.
In addition, there were the two visits, one to the United States and the other to France, in which the Church became visible to the world and for the world as a spiritual force pointing out paths of life and, through her witness to her faith, bringing light to the world. Indeed, those days radiated light: they radiated confidence in the value of life and in commitment to goodness.
Lastly, we must remember the Synod of Bishops. Pastors from all over the world assembled around the Word of God raised up in their midst, around the Word of God whose great manifestation is found in Sacred Scripture.
We saw once more the grandeur of something which we take too much for granted in our daily lives: the fact that God speaks, that God answers our questions; the fact that, with human words, he speaks to us personally. We can listen to him; hear him, come to know him and understand him. We can also realize that he can enter our life and shape it, and that we can emerge from our own lives to enter into the immensity of his mercy.
Thus, we realized once again that, in his Word, God is speaking to each one of us, that he speaks to the heart of everyone: if our hearts are alert, and our inner ears are open, we can learn to listen to the word he personally addresses to each of us.
Yet it is precisely when we hear God speaking to each of us so personally, that we also realize that his Word is present in order to draw us close to one another, and to enable us to emerge from the purely personal. This Word has forged a shared history, and it wants to continue to do so.
We then realized once more that – precisely because the Word is so personal – we can understand it correctly and completely only as part of the “we” of the community established by God. We are always aware that we can never entirely exhaust that Word, and that it has something new to say to each generation.
We understood, of course, that the biblical writings were compiled in particular historical periods, and in this sense it is, first of all, a book from the past. Yet we saw that their message does not remain in the past, nor can it be confined to the past. God, after all, always speaks to the present, and we listen to the Bible properly only when we discover this “present moment” of God, who calls to us here and now.
Finally, it was important to experience the fact that in the Church there is also a Pentecost today – in other words, the Church speaks in many tongues, and not only outwardly, in the sense that all the great languages of the world are represented in her, but, more profoundly, inasmuch as present within her are various ways of experiencing God and the world, a wealth of cultures, and only in this way do we come to see the vastness of human existence and, as a result, the vastness of the Word of God.
Yet we also learned that Pentecost is still “on the way”, still incomplete: there are many languages that still await the Word of God contained in the Bible. It was also moving to hear the many stories of lay faithful from every part of the world who not only live the Word of God but also suffer for it. A valuable contribution was also made by a rabbi who spoke on the sacred Scriptures of Israel, which are our own sacred Scriptures as well.
An important moment for the Synod, and indeed for the journey of the Church as a whole, was when Patriarch Bartholomew, in an insightful analysis, offered us an approach to the Word of God in the light of the Orthodox tradition.
Now we hope that the experiences and the fruits of the Synod may have a constructive influence on the life of the Church: on our personal relationship with the Sacred Scriptures, on their interpretation in the liturgy and catechesis, as well as in scientific research, so that the Bible will not remain a Word from the past, but that its vitality and timeliness will be appreciated and brought to light against the vast horizon of its fullness of meaning.
The presence of the God’s Word – of God himself – in this present hour of history was also a theme of this year’s Pastoral Visits: the real meaning of these visits can only be to serve this presence. On occasions like these, the Church takes on a public profile and, with her, so does the faith itself, and, if nothing else, also the question of God.
This public manifestation of faith is a challenge to anyone who wishes to understand the present time and the forces at work within it. The phenomenon of World Youth Day, in particular, has increasingly become a subject of debate, in an attempt to understand this species, so to speak, of youth culture.
Australia had never seen so many people coming from all continents, not even during the Olympics, as it did during World Youth Day. And although fears were expressed beforehand that this mass influx of young people might create some problems for public order – clogging traffic, disrupting daily life, sparking violence and drug abuse – all these fears proved unfounded. The event was a celebration of joy, a joy that in the end spread even to the doubtful, and when all was said and done, no one was inconvenienced.
Those days were festive for everyone. Indeed, it was only then that people came to realize what a celebration really is – an event where people, so to speak, step outside themselves, beyond themselves, and thus are truly with themselves and with others.
What, then, really happens at a World Youth Day? What are the forces at play? Popular analyses tend to view these days as a variant of contemporary youth culture, a sort of rock festival in an ecclesial key, with the Pope as its main attraction.
Such analyses presume that, with or without faith, these festivals would be basically the same; and thus the whole question of God can be set aside. Even some Catholics would seem to agree, seeing the whole event as a huge spectacle, magnificent perhaps, but of no real significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. They might be ecstatic celebrations, but in the end they would really change nothing, nor have any deeper effect on life.
This, however, leaves completely unexplained the real nature of these Youth Days and the specific character of their joy, and their power to build communion. First of all, it has to be realized that World Youth Days do not consist only of the one week when they are brought to the attention of the world.
They are preceded by a long process of preparation both practical and spiritual. The Cross, accompanied by the icon of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage to many countries. Faith, in its own way, needs to see and to touch. The encounter with the World Youth Day Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with the One who died for us on the Cross. The encounter with the Cross awakens within the young people the remembrance of the God who chose to become man and to suffer with us.
We also see the woman he gave to us as our Mother. The solemn World Youth Days are nothing if not the culmination of a long process in which the young people turn to one another and then, together, turn to Christ.
In Australia it was not by chance that the Way of the Cross, winding through the city, became the high point of those days. Once again, it summed up everything that had occurred in previous years, while pointing to the One who gathers us together: to that God who loves us all the way to the Cross.
Thus, the Pope himself is not the star around which everything revolves. He is completely and solely a Vicar. He points beyond himself to the Other who is in our midst. In the end, the solemn liturgy is the centre of the whole event, because in it there takes place something that we ourselves cannot bring about, yet something for which we are always awaiting. Christ is present. He comes into our midst. The heavens are rent and the earth filled with light. This is what makes life joyful and free, uniting people with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “The important thing is not to be able to organize a party but to find people who can enjoy it”.
According to Scripture, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal Ga 5,22). This fruit was abundantly visible during those days in Sydney. Just as a long journey precedes the celebration of World Youth Day, a continuing journey follows it. Friendships are formed which encourage a different way of life and which give it deep support. The purpose of these great Days is, not least, to inspire such friendships and so to create places of living faith in the world, places which are, at the same time, settings of hope and practical charity.
Joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit – thus we come to the central theme of Sydney, which was the Holy Spirit. In looking back, I would again like to mention, albeit summarily, the whole approach which this theme implies. With the testimony of Scripture and Tradition in mind, it is easy to recognize four aspects of the theme of “the Holy Spirit”.
1. First of all there are the words found at the beginning of the Creation account, which speak of the Creator Spirit who sweeps over the face of the abyss, who creates the world and renews it constantly. Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential part of the Christian creed. The fact that matter has a mathematical structure, is spirit-filled, is the basis of the modern natural sciences.
It is only because matter is structured intelligently that our mind can interpret and actively refashion it. The fact that this intelligible structure comes from the same Creator Spirit who also gave us our own spirit, brings with it both a duty and a responsibility.
Our faith in creation is the ultimate basis of our responsibility for the earth. The earth is not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our interests and desires. Rather, it is a gift of the Creator, who designed its innate order and has thus given us guidelines which we, as stewards of his creation, need to respect. The fact that the earth and the cosmos mirror the Creator Spirit also means that their rational structures which, beyond their mathematical order, become almost tangible in scientific experimentation, also have an inherent ethical orientation.
The Spirit who fashioned them, is more than mathematics – he is Goodness in person who, in and through the language of creation, points out to us the way of an upright life.
Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the Church cannot and must not limit herself to passing on to the faithful the message of salvation alone. She has a responsibility towards creation, and must also publicly assert this responsibility. In so doing, she must not only defend earth, water and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. She must also protect man from self-destruction. What is needed is something like a human ecology, correctly understood.
If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics. What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the “language” of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.
What is often expressed and understood by the term “gender” ultimately ends up being man’s attempt at self-emancipation from creation and the Creator. Man wants to be his own master, and alone – always and exclusively – to determine everything that concerns him. Yet in this way he lives in opposition to the truth, in opposition to the Creator Spirit.
Rain forests deserve indeed to be protected, but no less so does man, as a creature having an innate “message” which does not contradict our freedom, but is instead its very premise.
The great scholastic theologians described marriage, understood as the life-long bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator himself instituted and which Christ – without modifying the “message” of creation – then made part of the history of his covenant with humanity.
An integral part of the Church proclamation must be a witness to the Creator Spirit present in nature as a whole, and, in a special way, in the human person, created in God’s image.
From this perspective, we should go back to the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sex as a consumer good, the future against the exclusive claims of the present, and human nature against its manipulation.
2. Let me now briefly mention the other dimensions of pneumatology. If the Creator Spirit is manifest first of all in the silent grandeur of the universe, in its intelligent structure, faith also tells us something unexpected: namely, that this Spirit speaks, as it were, with human words, that he entered into history and, as a force that shapes history, is also a Spirit who speaks. Indeed, he is the Word who, in the writings of both the Old and New Testament, comes forth to meet us.
In one of his letters, Saint Ambrose expressed marvellously what this means for us: “Even now, as I read the divine Scriptures, God is walking in the Garden” (Epistulae, 49, 3). Today, in reading Scripture, we too can, in a sense, roam about the garden of Paradise and encounter God who walks there.
There is a deep inner connection between the theme of World Youth Day in Australia and that of the Synod of Bishops. The two themes of “the Holy Spirit” and “the Word of God” go hand in hand. In reading Scripture, we learn that Christ and the Holy Spirit are also inseparable. If Paul, with disconcerting conciseness, says: “the Lord is the Spirit” (2Co 3,17), he does so not only against the backdrop of the unity of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the life of the Trinity, but also their unity in the history of salvation. In the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the veil of the merely literal sense is torn away, and the presence of the God who speaks becomes visible.
In reading the Scripture with Christ, we learn to hear in human words the voice of the Holy Spirit, and we discover the unity of the Bible.
3. This now brings us to the third dimension of pneumatology, which consists, precisely, in the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps most beautifully seen in Saint John’s account of the Risen Christ’s first appearance to the disciples. The Lord breathes on his disciples, and thus bestows the Holy Spirit upon them. The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ. And just as the breath of God on the morning of Creation changed the dust of the earth into a living man, so the breath of Christ admits us to ontological communion with the Son, making us a new creation. Hence it is the Holy Spirit who prompts us to say together: “Abba! Father!” (cf. Jn 20,22 Rm 8,15).
4. The link between Spirit and Church thus naturally emerges as a fourth dimension. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, and in his Letter to the Romans, chapter 12, Paul described the Church as the Body of Christ, and thus as an organism of the Holy Spirit, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit fuse individuals into a single living whole.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Body of Christ. In the fullness of this Body we discover our task, we live for one another and in dependence on others, drawing deep life from the One who lived and suffered for us all and who, through his Spirit, draws us to himself in the unity of all God’s children. As Augustine says in this regard: “Do you too desire to live from the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ” (Tract. in Jo. 26, 13).
Thus, with the theme of “the Holy Spirit” which guided the days in Australia and, more implicitly, the weeks of the Synod as well, the whole breadth of the Christian faith becomes visible. It is a breadth which, from responsibility for Creation and for man’s living in harmony with Creation, leads, through the themes of Scripture and of salvation history, to Christ and thence to the living community of the Church, in her ranks and responsibilities as well as in her immensity and freedom, which find expression both in the multiplicity of charisms and in the pentecostal image of the multitude of languages and cultures.
An integral part of any celebration is joy. A celebration can be organized, joy cannot. It can only be offered as a gift; and in fact it has been given to us in abundance. For this we are grateful. Just as Paul describes joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so John in his Gospel closely links the Spirit to joy. The Holy Spirit gives us joy. And he is joy. Joy is the gift that sums up all the other gifts. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with ourselves, which can only come from being in harmony with God and with his creation.
It is part of the nature of joy to spread, to be shared. The Church’s missionary spirit is nothing other than the drive to share the joy that has been given to us. May that joy always be alive in us, and thus shine forth upon our troubled world. This is my hope at the end of this year, and, in thanking all of you for your efforts and work, I ask that this God-given joy be bestowed upon us in abundance also in the New Year.
I entrust these wishes to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mater divinae gratiae, praying that we may be able to experience the Christmas celebrations in the joy and peace of the Lord. With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you, and to the great family of the Roman Curia, my Apostolic Blessing.
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