Speeches 2005-13 311



30 April 2010
Dear Members of the Academy,

I am pleased to greet you at the beginning of your Sixteenth Plenary Session, which is devoted to an analysis of the global economic crisis in the light of the ethical principles enshrined in the Church’s social doctrine. I thank your President, Professor Mary Ann Glendon, for her gracious words of greeting and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your deliberations.

The worldwide financial breakdown has, as we know, demonstrated the fragility of the present economic system and the institutions linked to it. It has also shown the error of the assumption that the market is capable of regulating itself, apart from public intervention and the support of internalized moral standards. This assumption is based on an impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism driven by self-interest and profit-seeking. As such, it overlooks the essentially ethical nature of economics as an activity of and for human beings. Rather than a spiral of production and consumption in view of narrowly-defined human needs, economic life should properly be seen as an exercise of human responsibility, intrinsically oriented towards the promotion of the dignity of the person, the pursuit of the common good and the integral development – political, cultural and spiritual – of individuals, families and societies. An appreciation of this fuller human dimension calls, in turn, for precisely the kind of cross-disciplinary research and reflection which the present session of the Academy has now undertaken.

In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I observed that “the current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment” (No. 21). Re-planning the journey, of course, also means looking to comprehensive and objective standards against which to judge the structures, institutions and concrete decisions which guide and direct economic life. The Church, based on her faith in God the Creator, affirms the existence of a universal natural law which is the ultimate source of these criteria (cf. ibid., 59). Yet she is likewise convinced that the principles of this ethical order, inscribed in creation itself, are accessible to human reason and, as such, must be adopted as the basis for practical choices. As part of the great heritage of human wisdom, the natural moral law, which the Church has appropriated, purified and developed in the light of Christian revelation, serves as a beacon guiding the efforts of individuals and communities to pursue good and to avoid evil, while directing their commitment to building an authentically just and humane society.

Among the indispensable principles shaping such an integral ethical approach to economic life must be the promotion of the common good, grounded in respect for the dignity of the human person and acknowledged as the primary goal of production and trade systems, political institutions and social welfare. In our day, concern for the common good has taken on a more markedly global dimension. It has also become increasingly evident that the common good embraces responsibility towards future generations; intergenerational solidarity must henceforth be recognized as a basic ethical criterion for judging any social system. These realities point to the urgency of strengthening the governance procedures of the global economy, albeit with due respect for the principle of subsidiarity. In the end, however, all economic decisions and policies must be directed towards “charity in truth”, inasmuch as truth preserves and channels the liberating power of charity amid ever-contingent human events and structures. For “without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation” (Caritas in Veritate ).

With these considerations, dear friends, I once more express my confidence that this Plenary Session will contribute to a more profound discernment of the serious social and economic challenges facing our world, and help point the way forward to meet those challenges in a spirit of wisdom, justice and authentic humanity. I assure you once more of my prayers for your important work, and upon you and your loved ones I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


MEETING WITH THE YOUNG PEOPLE St. Charles Square Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2 May 2010

Dear Young People of Turin,
Dear Young People who have come from Piedmont and the surrounding regions,

I am truly glad to be with you on this Visit to Turin to Venerate the Holy Shroud. I greet all of you with great affection and I thank you for your welcome and the enthusiasm of your faith. Through you, I greet all the young people of Turin and of the Dioceses of Piedmont, with a special prayer for those who are in situations of suffering, difficulty or confusion. I address a special thought and strong encouragement to those of you who are following the path to the priesthood, to the consecrated life or to generous decisions in the service of the lowliest. I thank your Pastor, Cardinal Severino Poletto, for the cordial words he has addressed to me, and I thank your representatives who have presented to me the proposals, problems and expectations of the young people of this City and this region.

Twenty-five years ago, on the occasion of the World Youth Day, Venerable and Beloved John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter to the young people of the world, focused on Jesus' encounter with the rich young man in the Gospel (Apostolic Letter to the Youth of the World, 31 March 1985).
Precisely on the basis of this Gospel passage (cf.
Mc 10,17-22 Mt 19,16-22) which was also the subject of my Reflection for this year's Message for the World Youth Day, I wish to offer some thoughts that I hope may help you in your spiritual growth and in your mission within the Church and in the world.

The young man in the Gospel as we know asks Jesus: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?". Today it is not easy to speak about eternal life and eternal realities, because the mentality of our time tells us that nothing is definitive that everything changes, and changes very rapidly. "Change", in many cases, has become the password, the most exalting exercise of freedom, and that is why even you, young people, have often come to think that it is impossible to make definitive choices that would tie you down for the rest of your life. But is this the right way to use your freedom? Is it really true that in order to be happy we should content ourselves with small, transient joys that once they are over leave bitterness in the heart? Dear young people, this is not true freedom nor can true happiness be reached in this way. Not one of us is created to make provisional and revocable choices but rather definitive and irrevocable decisions that give full meaning to our existence. We see it in our lives: we should like every beautiful experience that fills us with happiness never to end. God created us with a view to the "forever", he has placed in the heart of each one of us the seed of a life that can achieve something beautiful and great. Have the courage to make definitive decisions and to live them faithfully! The Lord may call you to marriage, to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to a special gift of yourselves: answer him generously!

In the dialogue with the young man who possessed many riches Jesus pointed out what was the most important, the greatest treasure in life: love. To love God and to love others with one's whole self. The word love we know it lends itself to many interpretations and has different meanings. We need a Teacher, Christ, to teach us its most authentic and profound meaning, to guide us to the source of love and life. Love is the name of God himself. The Apostle John reminds us: "God is love", and adds, "not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son", and "if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1Jn 4,8) In the encounter with Christ and in reciprocal love we experience in ourselves the life of God, who abides in us with his perfect, total and eternal love (cf. 1Jn 4,12). Therefore there is nothing greater for man a mortal and limited being than to participate in the life of God's love. Today, we live in a cultural context that does not encourage profound and disinterested human relationships; on the contrary, it often induces us to withdraw into ourselves, into individualism, to let selfishness, that exists in people, prevail. But a young person's heart is by nature sensitive to true love. That is why I address each one of you with great confidence in order to say: it is not easy to make something beautiful and great of your life it is demanding, but with Christ, everything is possible!

In the gaze of Jesus, who, as the Gospel tells us, looked lovingly at the young man, we perceive God's desire to be with us, to be near us. God desires our "yes", our love. Yes, dear young people, Jesus wants to be your friend, your brother in life, the teacher who shows you the way to follow to attain happiness. He loves you for what you are, in your frailty and your weakness, so that, touched by his love, you may be transformed. Live this encounter with Christ's love in a strong personal relationship with him. Live it in the Church, first and foremost in the Sacraments. Live it in the Eucharist, in which his Sacrifice is made present: he truly gives his Body and Blood for us, to redeem humanity's sins so that we may become one with him, so that we too may learn the logic of giving ourselves. Live it in Confession where, in offering us his forgiveness, Jesus accepts us with all our limitations in order to give us a new heart that can love as he does. Learn and become familiar with the word of God and meditate upon it, especially in Lectio Divina, the spiritual reading of the Bible. Lastly, learn to find Christ's love in the Church's testimony of charity. Turin's history offers you splendid examples: follow them, making a practical experience of service freely given. Everything in the ecclesial community should be aimed at making people feel tangibly the infinite charity of God.

Dear friends, Christ's love for the young man of the Gospel is the same love that he has for each one of you. It is not a love confined to the past, it is not an illusion, it is not reserved for a few. You will encounter this love and will experience all its fruitfulness if you seek the Lord sincerely and live with commitment your participation in the life of the Christian community. May each one of you feel "a living part" of the Church, engaging without fear in her work of evangelization, in a spirit of sincere harmony with your brothers and sisters in the faith and in communion with your Pastors, leaving behind every individualistic tendency, also in living out faith, in order to breathe deeply the beauty of being part of the great mosaic of Christ's Church.

This evening I cannot fail to point out to you as a model a young man of your City Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the 20th anniversary of whose Beatification falls this year. His life was completely enveloped by God's grace and love and was spent with serenity and joy in the enthusiastic service of Christ and of his brothers and sisters. Young like you, he experienced his Christian formation with deep commitment and gave his testimony of faith, simply and effectively. A young man who was drawn by the beauty of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, who experienced to the full the joy of being a friend of Christ, of following him, of feeling that he himself was a living part of the Church. Dear young people, have the courage to choose what is essential in life! "Living, and not just managing to get by!", Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati often used to say. Like him, you will discover that it is worth committing yourself to God and with God, to answer his call in your fundamental and your daily decisions, even at a cost!

The spiritual journey of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati reminds us that the journey of Christ's disciples demands the courage to come out of oneself, to follow the path of the Gospel. You live this demanding path of the spirit in your parishes and in other ecclesial realities. You also live it during the pilgrimage of the World Youth Days, an event that is always eagerly awaited. I know that you are preparing for the next great meeting, scheduled to take place in Madrid in August 2011. I hope with all my heart that this extraordinary event, in which I hope that large numbers of you will participate, will help to increase in each one of you enthusiasm and faithfulness in following Christ and accepting his message with joy as the source of new life.

Young people of Turin and Piedmont, be witnesses of Christ in our time! May the Holy Shroud be an invitation, especially for you, to impress in your minds God's Face of love, so that you yourselves, in your own circles and among your contemporaries, may be a credible expression of the Face of Christ. May Mary, whom you venerate in your Marian shrines, and St John Bosco, Patron of young people, help you to follow Christ without ever tiring. May you always be accompanied by my prayers and my Blessing, which I impart to you with deep affection. Thank you for your attention!



Dear Friends,

This is a moment to which I have been looking forward. I have stood before the Holy Shroud on various occasions but this time I am experiencing this Pilgrimage and this moment with special intensity: perhaps this is because the passing years make me even more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary Icon; perhaps and I would say above all this is because I am here now as the Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, the whole of humanity. I thank God for the gift of this Pilgrimage and also for the opportunity to share with you a brief meditation inspired by the subtitle of this solemn Exposition: "The Mystery of Holy Saturday".

One could say that the Shroud is the Icon of this mystery, the Icon of Holy Saturday. Indeed it is a winding-sheet that was wrapped round the body of a man who was crucified, corresponding in every way to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus who, crucified at about noon, died at about three o'clock in the afternoon. At nightfall, since it was Parasceve, that is, the eve of Holy Saturday, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and authoritative member of the Sanhedrin, courageously asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus in his new tomb which he had had hewn out in the rock not far from Golgotha. Having obtained permission, he bought a linen cloth, and after Jesus was taken down from the Cross, wrapped him in that shroud and buried him in that tomb (cf.
Mc 15,42-46). This is what the Gospel of St Mark says and the other Evangelists are in agreement with him. From that moment, Jesus remained in the tomb until dawn of the day after the Sabbath and the Turin Shroud presents to us an image of how his body lay in the tomb during that period which was chronologically brief (about a day and a half), but immense, infinite in its value and in its significance.

Holy Saturday is the day when God remains hidden, we read in an ancient Homily: "What has happened? Today the earth is shrouded in deep silence, deep silence and stillness, profound silence because the King sleeps.... God has died in the flesh, and has gone down to rouse the realm of the dead" (Homily on Holy Saturday, ). In the Creed, we profess that Jesus Christ was "crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again".

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having lived through the past century, humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. The concealment of God is part of contemporary man's spirituality, in an existential almost subconscious manner, like a void in the heart that has continued to grow larger and larger. Towards the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche wrote: "God is dead! And we killed him!". This famous saying is clearly taken almost literally from the Christian tradition. We often repeat it in the Way of the Cross, perhaps without being fully aware of what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the lagers and the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become increasingly a Holy Saturday: this day's darkness challenges all who are wondering about life and it challenges us believers in particular. We too have something to do with this darkness.

Yet the death of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive, a source of comfort and hope. And this reminds me of the fact that the Holy Shroud acts as a "photographic' document, with both a "positive" and a "negative". And, in fact, this is really how it is: the darkest mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a never-ending hope. Holy Saturday is a "no man's land" between the death and the Resurrection, but this "no man's land" was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of his Passion for man's sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis. And the Shroud speaks to us precisely about this moment testifying exactly to that unique and unrepeatable interval in the history of humanity and the universe in which God, in Jesus Christ, not only shared our dying but also our remaining in death the most radical solidarity.

In this "time-beyond-time", Jesus Christ "descended to the dead". What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made himself man, reached the point of entering man's most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort: "hell". Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated "hell". Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out. Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone: Passio Christi. Passio hominis.

This is the mystery of Holy Saturday! Truly from there, from the darkness of the death of the Son of God, the light of a new hope gleamed: the light of the Resurrection. And it seems to me that, looking at this sacred Cloth through the eyes of faith, one may perceive something of this light. Effectively, the Shroud was immersed in that profound darkness that was at the same time luminous; and I think that if thousands and thousands of people come to venerate it without counting those who contemplate it through images it is because they see in it not only darkness but also the light; not so much the defeat of life and of love, but rather victory, the victory of life over death, of love over hatred. They indeed see the death of Jesus, but they also see his Resurrection; in the bosom of death, life is now vibrant, since love dwells within it. This is the power of the Shroud: from the face of this "Man of sorrows", who carries with him the passion of man of every time and every place, our passions too, our sufferings, our difficulties and our sins Passio Christi. Passio hominis from this face a solemn majesty shines, a paradoxical lordship. This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks. It is itself a word we can hear in the silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that huge stain near his rib, made by the blood and water that flowed copiously from a great wound inflicted by the tip of a Roman spear. That blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that murmurs in the silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it in the silence of Holy Saturday.

Dear friends, let us always praise the Lord for his faithful and merciful love. When we leave this holy place, may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity. Thank you.

MEETING WITH THE SICK Church of the Little House of Divine Providence - Cottolengo Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2 May 2010

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to express to all of you my joy and gratitude to the Lord who has brought me here to you, to this place where the love and Providence of the heavenly Father are expressed in so many ways and in accordance with a special charism. Our meeting is one which is in harmony with my Pilgrimage to the Holy Shroud, in it not only can we interpret the whole drama of suffering but also, in the light of Christ's Resurrection, its full meaning for the world's redemption. I thank Fr Aldo Sarotto for his meaningful words to me: through him I extend my thanks to all who work in this place, the Little House of Divine Providence, as St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo chose to call it. I greet with gratitude the three religious families born from Cottolengo's heart and from the "imagination" of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to all of you, dear sick people, who are the precious treasure of this house and of this Institution.

As you may know, at the General Audience last Wednesday, together with the figure of St Leonard Murialdo, I also presented your Founder's charism and work. Yes, he was a true and proper champion of charity whose initiatives, like flourishing trees, stand before our eyes and before the gaze of the world. In re-reading the testimonies of that time, we note that it was far from easy for Cottolengo to begin his undertaking. The many activities of social assistence that existed for the neediest in the area did not suffice to heal the scourge of poverty that afflicted the city of Turin. St Cottolengo sought to respond to this situation by taking in people in difficulty and giving priority to those who were not accepted and cared for by others. The first nucleus of the House of Divine Providence experienced hardship and did not last long. In 1832, a new structure in the Valdocco district to which several religious families also gave a helping hand came into being.

In spite of going through dramatic moments in his life, St Cottolengo always kept his serene trust in the face of events; attentive to perceiving the signs of God's fatherhood, he recognized his presence and his mercy in every situation and, in the poor, the most lovable image of his greatness. He was guided by a deep conviction: "The poor are Jesus" he used to say, "they are not just an image of him. They are Jesus in person and must be served as such. All the poor are our masters, but these who look so repulsive to the physical eye are even more particularly our masters, they are our true jewels. If we do not treat them well, let them chase us out of the Little House. They are Jesus". Motivated in the depths of his heart by the Apostle Paul's words: the love of Christ impels us (cf.
2Co 5,14), St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo felt he should work both for God and for man. He wanted to express this in unreserved dedication to the service of the smallest and the most forsaken. From the outset, a fundamental principle of his work was the exercise of Christian charity for all. This permitted him to recognize great dignity in every person, even those on the fringes of society. Cottolengo had understood that those hit by suffering and rejection tend to withdraw and isolate themselves and to express distrust of life itself. Thus, for our Saint, taking on the burden of so much human suffering meant creating relations of affective, family and spontaneous closeness by opening establishments that would favour this closeness in that family style which still endures today.

For St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, the recovery of personal dignity meant re-establishing and appreciating the whole human being: from his fundamental psychological, social needs to his moral and spiritual needs, from the rehabilitation of his physical functions to the search for a meaning to life, bringing the person to feel that he/she was still a living part of the ecclesial community and of the ecclesial fabric. We are grateful to this great apostle of charity because in visiting these places, in encountering the daily suffering in the faces and limbs of so many of our brothers and sisters, accepted here as in their own homes, we may experience the deepest value and meaning of suffering and pain.

Dear sick people, you are carrying out an important activity: by living your suffering in union with the Crucified and Risen Christ, you share in the mystery of his suffering for the world's salvation. By offering our pain to God through Christ, we can collaborate in the victory of good over evil, because God makes our offering, our act of love fruitful. Dear brothers and sisters, all of you who are here, may each one for his own part: do not feel irrelevant to the world's future but rather feel that you are precious pieces of a most beautiful mosaic that God, like a great artist, continues to create day by day, also with your contribution. Christ, who died on the Cross to save us, let himself be nailed to it so that life in its full splendour might blossom from that wood, from that sign of death. This house is one of the ripe fruits that the Cross and Resurrection of Christ have produced and shows that suffering, evil and death do not have the last word, for life can be reborn from death and suffering. One of you, whom I wish to remember witnessed to this in an exemplary way: Venerable Bro. Luigi Bordino, a marvellous religious who was also a nurse.

In this place, then, we understand better that since the human passion was taken on by Christ in his Passion, nothing will be lost. The message of this solemn Exposition of the Holy Shroud: Passio Christi - Passio hominis, may be understood here in a special way. Let us pray the Crucified and Risen Lord that he may illumine our daily pilgrimage with the light of his Face: may he illumine our lives, the present and the future, the anguish and the joy and the struggles and the hopes of all of humanity. I cordially impart my Blessing to you all, dear brothers and sisters, as I invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo: may it comfort and console you in trials and obtain for you every grace that comes from God, the author and giver of every perfect gift. Thank you!


Dear Mr Commandant,
Reverend Chaplain,
Dear Guards,
Dear Relatives,

I welcome you all with joy and greet in particular the new recruits who are gathered here together with their parents and friends.

You may rightly be proud of the fact that by the oath you have taken you have become part of a guard corps with a long history. You have just put on the famous uniform, you appear to everyone as Swiss Guards, and people recognize you and pay attention to you. From this day you will benefit from the centuries-old skill and all the means available for carrying out your task. What is passed on to you today makes you custodians of a tradition and heralds of a practical knowledge entrusted to you. It is your duty to continue to assert these and make them known. By this will be judged your responsibility, and this requires you to make an extraordinary gift of yourselves. The Successor of Peter sees true support in you and entrusts himself to your vigilance. I sincerely wish that through this guard service you will perpetuate the inheritance you have received from your predecessors and that you will develop together as men and as Christians.

By entering the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps, you are indirectly but really associated with the service of Peter in the Church. From this day forth, I ask you in your meditation on the word of God to pay great attention to the Apostle Peter when, after Christ's Resurrection, he devoted himself to carrying out the mission that the Lord had entrusted to him. These passages from Scripture will illuminate the meaning of your noble engagement, particularly at times of possible weariness or fatigue. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we read that Peter went throughout Judea, visiting the faithful (cf.
Ac 9,32). The first of the Apostles thus expresses in practice his concern for everyone. The Pope would like to pay the same attention to all the Churches and to every member of the faithful, and also to every person who expects something of the Church. Close to the Successor of Peter, the charity that enlivens your soul is impelled to become universal. Your hearts are called to grow. Your service will bring you to discover in the faces of every man and every woman pilgrims who, on their way, expect to meet another face through which they may be granted a living sign of the Lord of every life and every grace.

We know that all we do for the Name of Jesus, however humble it may be, transforms us and configures us a little more closely to the new man regenerated in Christ. Thus your service in favour of the Petrine Ministry will give you a keener sense of catholicity, together with a deeper perception of the dignity of the person who passes close to you and seeks within himself the way to eternal life. Lived with professional conscientiousness and a sense of the supernatural, your duty will also prepare you for future commitments, personal and public, which you will take up when you leave the service, and will enable you to assume them as true disciples of the Lord.

As I invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of your holy Patrons Sebastian, Martin and Nicholas of Flüe, I warmly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families, to your friends and to all who have gathered around you at the moment of your swearing-in.



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I wish you a very cordial welcome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum which brings you on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This visit is a sign of the ecclesial communion that unites the Catholic Community of Belgium to the Holy See. It is also a good opportunity to strengthen this communion through mutual listening, common prayer and the charity of Christ, especially in these times when your own Church is tried by sin. I warmly greet Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard for his words on your behalf and on behalf of your diocesan communities. It gives me pleasure to address a special thought to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who governed the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and your Bishops' Conference for more than 30 years.

In reading your reports on the situation of your respective dioceses, I have been able to take stock of the changes taking place in Belgian society. These are trends that many European countries have in common but that in your country have their own specific features. Some of them, already mentioned during your previous ad limina visit, have become more pronounced. I am referring to the dwindling number of baptized people who witness publicly to their faith and to their membership in the Church, to the gradual increase in the average age of the clergy and of men and women religious, to the insufficient number of ordained or consecrated people involved in active pastoral work and in the fields of education and social assistance and to the limited number of candidates to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. Christian formation, especially of the young generations, matters related to respect for life and to the institution of marriage and of the family constitute other sensitive issues. Further, one could mention the complex and often worrying situations linked to the financial crisis, unemployment, the social integration of immigrants and the peaceful coexistence of the nation's different linguistic and cultural communities.

I have been able to note how aware you are of these situations and of the importance of insisting on a sounder and deeper religious formation. I have read your Pastoral Letter, La belle profession de la foi, [The Beautiful Profession of Faith] part of the series Grandir dans la foi [Growing in the Faith]. With this Letter you have wished to encourage the faithful overall to rediscover the beauty of the Christian faith. Thanks to prayers and reflection in common on the revealed truths expressed by the Creed, one rediscovers that faith does not consist solely in accepting a set of truths and values but first in entrusting oneself to Someone, to God, to listening to him, to loving him and to speaking to him, in order to engage in serving him (cf. p. 5).

A significant event, for the present and for the future, was the Canonization of Fr Damien de Veuster. This new Saint speaks to the consciences of Belgians. Has he not been designated the most outstanding son of the nation of all time? His greatness, lived in the total gift of himself to his brother lepers, to the point of catching the contagious disease and dying of it, lies in his inner wealth, his constant prayer and his union with Christ, whom he saw present in his brothers and sisters and to whom, as Christ did, he gave himself without reserve. In this Year for Priests, it is right to hold up his example as a priest and a missionary. The fall in the number of priests must not be perceived as an inevitable process. The Second Vatican Council said forcefully that the Church cannot do without the ministry of priests. It is therefore necessary and urgent to give the ministry of priests its right place and to recognize is irreplaceable sacramental character. This results in the need for a broad and serious vocations apostolate that is based on the exemplarity and holiness of priests, on attention to the seeds of a vocation present in many young people and on assiduous and trusting prayer, as Jesus recommended (cf.
Mt 9,37).

I address a cordial and grateful greeting to all priests and consecrated people, often overburdened by work and desirous of the support and friendship of their Bishop and their confreres, without forgetting the older priests who have devoted their whole life to serving God and their brethren. Nor do I forget the missionaries as a whole. May all priests, men and women religious and lay people of Belgium receive my encouragement and the expression of my gratitude, and may they not forget that Christ alone calms every storm (cf. Mt 8,25-26) and restores strength and courage (cf. Mt 11,28-30 and Mt 14,30-32) in order to lead a holy life in full fidelity to their ministry, to their consecration to God and to Christian witness.

The Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium stresses that it is in the Liturgy that the mystery of the Church is made manifest in its grandeur and its simplicity (cf. Introduction, n. 2). Thus it is important that priests take care in liturgical celebrations, particularly the Eucharist, to ensure that they permit a profound communion with the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is necessary that celebrations take place with respect for the Church's liturgical tradition, with the active participation of the faithful, according to each one's specific role, uniting personally with Christ's Paschal Mystery.

In your reports you show that you are attending to the formation of lay people with a view to their increasingly effective incorporation in the animation of temporal realities. This is a praiseworthy programme that is born from the vocation of every baptized person, configured to Christ the priest, prophet and king. It is right to discern all the possibilities that stem from the common vocation to holiness and the apostolic commitment of lay people, with respect for the essential distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful. All the members of the Catholic community, but in a particular way the lay faithful, are called to witness openly to their faith and to be leaven in society, while respecting both a healthy laicism in the public institutions and the other religious denominations. This witness cannot be limited to the personal encounter alone but must also acquire the characteristics of a public proposal, respectful but legitimate, of the values inspired by Christ's Gospel message.

The brevity of this meeting does not permit me to treat other subjects dear to me and that you also mentioned in your reports. I shall thus end by asking you to kindly convey to your communities, priests, men and women religious and all the Catholics of Belgium my affectionate greetings, assuring them of my prayers to the Lord for them. May the Virgin Mary, venerated in so many shrines in Belgium help you in your ministry and protect you all by her motherly tenderness. To you and to all the Kingdom's Catholics, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2005-13 311