Speeches 2005-13 352
Dear Members of the Circle of St Peter,
I am glad to welcome you on the occasion of this pleasant meeting which gives me the opportunity to renew to you my gratitude for your generous work at the service of the Holy See. This meeting is taking place in the imminence of the liturgical Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul and, in a certain way, gives us a foretaste of the joy of this annual event that is so important for your praiseworthy Sodality and for the entire Church. I greet you all with affection, starting with your President General, Duke Leopoldo Torlonia, whom I thank for his kind words to me on behalf of all, and with your Chaplain.
We have just concluded the Year for Priests, a time of grace during which the Church reflected with special attention on St John Mary Vianney, the Holy Curé d'Ars, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his death. He is a model of evangelical life, not only for priests but also for lay people, especially for those who, like you, work in the vast field of charity. One special aspect of the life of this humble priest was in fact his detachment from material goods. He possessed nothing, he gave everything to the neediest; he felt no need to possess anything for himself: he considered things superfluous. He had learned as a child to love the poor, seeing how they were welcomed and helped by his parents at home. In the course of his priestly life, this love led him to distribute to others all that he had. He also founded a home, which he called "Providence", for poor little girls and young women: he left no stone unturned to ensure that they received a sound Christian education. May his example be for you, dear members of St Peter's Circle, a constant invitation to open your arms wide to every person who needs a tangible sign of solidarity. Continue to be this material sign of the Pope's charity for all those in need, in both the material and spiritual sense, as well as for the pilgrims who come to Rome from every part of the world to visit the tombs of the Apostles and to meet the Successor of Peter.
As has just been recalled, today you have come here to present to me the Peter's Pence collected in the churches of Rome. I would like to express my deep gratitude to you for this attestation of your sharing in my concern for the most deprived people. It represents, as it were, a point of convergence between two complementary actions that embrace each other in a single eloquent testimony of evangelical charity since, on the one hand it shows the affection of this city's inhabitants and of the pilgrims for the Successor of Peter, and, on the other, it expresses the material solidarity of the Holy See for the many situations of hardship and poverty that unfortunately continue to exist in Rome and in so many parts of the world. By bringing the Roman parishes closer and by managing centres for assistance and counselling in the Capital, you can have a direct understanding of the many situations of poverty that are still present; at the same time, you are able to note how strong the people's desire is to know Christ and love him in their brothers and sisters.
Through this commitment to meet the needs of the less fortunate, you spread a message of hope which springs from faith and adherence to the Lord, thereby making yourselves heralds of his Gospel. May charity and witness therefore continue to be the guidelines of your apostolate. I encourage you to persevere in your action joyfully, ceaselessly drawing inspiration from the unfailing Christian principles and finding ever new vigour in prayer and in the spirit of sacrifice as your motto says to bring abundant fruits of good to both the Christian Community and civil society.
I entrust your aspiration, resolutions and every one of your activities to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, Salus Populi Romani so that she may guide your footsteps, making you increasingly staunch operators of solidarity and builders of peace in all the contexts where your praiseworthy association works. With these wishes, I invoke the heavenly intercession of Sts Peter and Paul and gladly impart to each one of you, to your families and to all those you meet in your daily service a special Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (Col 1,2). With great joy and heartfelt affection I welcome you in the Lord to this City of Rome, on the occasion of the annual celebration of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. Their feast, which the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches celebrate on the same day, is one of the most ancient of the liturgical year, and it testifies to a time when our communities were living in full communion with one another. Your presence here today – for which I am deeply grateful to the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – brings great gladness to the hearts of us all.
I thank the Lord that the relations between us are characterized by sentiments of mutual trust, esteem and fraternity, as is amply testified by the many meetings that have already taken place in the course of this year.
All this gives grounds for hope that Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will also continue to make significant progress. Your Eminence is aware that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, of which you are Joint Secretary, is at a crucial point, having begun last October in Paphos to discuss the “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium”. With all our hearts we pray that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Members of the Commission will continue along this path during the forthcoming plenary session in Vienna, and devote to it the time needed for thorough study of this delicate and important issue. For me it is an encouraging sign that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and the Holy Synod of Constantinople share our firm conviction of the importance of this dialogue, as His Holiness stated so clearly in the Patriarchal and Synodal Encyclical Letter on the occasion of Orthodoxy Sunday on 21 February 2010.
In the forthcoming Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which I have convoked for the month of October here in Rome, I am certain that the theme of ecumenical cooperation between the Christians of that region will receive great attention. Indeed, it is highlighted in the Instrumentum Laboris, which I consigned to the Catholic Bishops of the Middle East during my recent visit to Cyprus, where I was received with great fraternal warmth by His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus. The difficulties that the Christians of the Middle East are experiencing are in large measure common to all: living as a minority, and yearning for authentic religious freedom and for peace. Dialogue is needed with the Islamic and Jewish communities. In this context I shall be very pleased to welcome the Fraternal Delegation which the Ecumenical Patriarch will send in order to participate in the work of the Synodal Assembly.
Your Eminence, dear members of the Delegation, I thank you for your visit. I ask you to convey my fraternal greetings to His Holiness Bartholomaios I, to the Holy Synod, to the clergy and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may the Lord grant us abundant blessings, and may he keep us always in his love.
I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Jalal Talabani my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of all the citizens of your country.
On 7 March 2010, the people of Iraq gave a clear sign to the world that they wish to see an end to violence and that they have chosen the path of democracy, through which they aspire to live in harmony with one another within a just, pluralist and inclusive society. Despite attempts at intimidation on the part of those who do not share this vision, the people showed great courage and determination by presenting themselves at the polling stations in large numbers. It is to be hoped that the formation of a new Government will now proceed swiftly so that the will of the people for a more stable and unified Iraq may be accomplished. Those who have been elected to political office will need to show great courage and determination themselves, in order to fulfil the high expectations that have been placed in them. You may be assured that the Holy See, which has always valued its excellent diplomatic relations with your country, will continue to provide whatever assistance it can, so that Iraq may assume its rightful place as a leading nation in the region with much to contribute to the international community.
The new Government will need to give priority to measures designed to improve security for all sectors of the population, particularly the various minorities. You have spoken of the difficulties faced by Christians and I note your comments about the steps taken by the Government to afford them greater protection. The Holy See naturally shares the concern you have expressed that Iraqi Christians should remain in their ancestral homeland, and that those who have felt constrained to emigrate will soon consider it safe to return. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have been present in the land of Abraham, a land which is part of the common patrimony of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is greatly to be hoped that Iraqi society in the future will be marked by peaceful coexistence, as is in keeping with the aspirations of those who are rooted in the faith of Abraham. Although Christians form a small minority of Iraq’s population, they have a valuable contribution to make to its reconstruction and economic recovery through their educational and healthcare apostolates, while their engagement in humanitarian projects provides much-needed assistance in building up society. If they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld.
Recent years have seen many tragic acts of violence committed against innocent members of the population, both Muslim and Christian, acts which as you have pointed out are contrary to the teachings of Islam as well as those of Christianity. This shared suffering can provide a deep bond, strengthening the determination of Muslims and Christians alike to work for peace and reconciliation. History has shown that some of the most powerful incentives to overcome division come from the example of those men and women who, having chosen the courageous path of non-violent witness to higher values, have lost their lives through cowardly acts of violence. Long after the present troubles have receded into the past, the names of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Father Ragheed Ganni and many more will live on as shining examples of the love that led them to lay down their lives for others. May their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of so many others like them, strengthen within the Iraqi people the moral determination that is necessary if political structures for greater justice and stability are to achieve their intended effect.
You have spoken of your Government’s commitment to respect human rights. Indeed, it is of the utmost importance for any healthy society that the human dignity of each of its citizens be respected both in law and in practice, in other words that the fundamental rights of all should be recognized, protected and promoted. Only thus can the common good be truly served, that is to say those social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to flourish, to attain their full stature, and to contribute to the good of others (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 164-170). Among the rights that must be fully respected if the common good is to be effectively promoted, the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of worship are paramount, since it is they that enable citizens to live in conformity with their transcendent dignity as persons made in the image of their divine Creator. I therefore hope and pray that these rights will not only be enshrined in legislation, but will come to permeate the very fabric of society – all Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral and peaceable environment.
You begin your term of office, Mr Ambassador, in the months leading up to a particular initiative of the Holy See for the support of the local Churches throughout the region, namely the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This will provide a welcome opportunity to explore the role and the witness of Christians in the lands of the Bible, and will also give an impetus to the important task of inter-religious dialogue, which has so much to contribute to the goal of peaceful coexistence in mutual respect and esteem among the followers of different religions. It is my earnest hope that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and cooperation among Muslims, Christians and others in the service of those most in need.
Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission that you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the Republic of Iraq, abundant divine blessings.
Dear Brother in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am deeply grateful for the kind words the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid has had the kindness to address to me on behalf of the Patrons of the "Madrid Vivo" Foundation and on behalf of you all. You are in the process of preparing for the World Youth Day that will be celebrated in the capital of Spain in August next year.
A great many young people have their eyes on this beautiful city with the joy of being able to meet there in a few months' time to listen together to the Word of Christ, ever young, to share the faith that unites them and the desire to build a better world inspired by the values of the Gospel.
I invite you all to continue to collaborate generously with this beautiful project. It is not merely a mass meeting but rather a privileged opportunity for the young people of your country and of the whole world to let themselves be won over by the love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, the faithful friend who triumphed over sin and death.
I fervently remember all of you and your families in my prayers, and I ask God to bless the efforts you are making to ensure that the next World Youth Day produces abundant fruits. May Mary Most Holy always accompany you with her motherly love!
Dear Young People,
First of all I want to tell you that I am very glad to meet you! I thank God for this possibility to be with you for a while, like the father of a family, together with your Bishop and your priests. I thank you for the affection you have expressed to me with such warmth! And I also thank you for what you said to me through Francesca and Cristian, your two "spokespeople". You asked me questions with great frankness and at the same time showed that you have firm points, convictions. And this is very important. You are young men and women who think, who question themselves and who have a sense of truth and good. In other words you know how to use your minds and your hearts, and that is no small thing! Indeed I would say that it is the main thing in this world: to learn how to use the intelligence and wisdom that God has given to us properly! In the past, the population of your region did not have sufficient means to study or to assert itself in society, but it had what truly enriches men and women: faith and moral values. It is these that build both individuals and civil coexistence!
Two fundamental aspects emerge from your words: one positive and one negative. The positive aspect stems from your Christian vision of life, the education that you obviously received from your parents, your grandparents and your other educators: priests, teachers and catechists. The negative aspect lies in the shadows that darken your horizon: they are material problems that make it difficult to look to the future with serenity and optimism; but in addition false values and deceptive models are proposed to you and promise to fill your life, whereas they empty it. What should be done, therefore, to prevent these shadows from becoming too burdensome? First of all, I see that you are young people with good memories! Yes, I was struck by the fact that you used words I spoke in Sydney, in Australia, during the World Youth Day of 2008. And then you recalled that the World Youth Days came into being 25 years ago. However, above all you showed that you have your own memory of the history linked to your land: you spoke to me of a famous figure born eight centuries ago, St Peter Celestine V, and you said that you still consider him very up to date! You see,dear friends, in this way you have, as people say "an extra gear". Yes, the memory of the past is truly an "extra gear" in life, because without memory there is no future. It was once said that history is a teacher of life! The contemporary consumer society tends instead to relegate human beings to the present, to make them lose their sense of the past, of history; but by so doing it also deprives them of the ability to understand themselves, to perceive problems and to build the future.
Therefore, dear young women and dear young men, I want to say to you: the Christian is someone who has a good memory, who loves history and seeks to know it.
I therefore thank you because you speak to me of St Peter of Morrone, Celestine V, and can appreciate his experience today in a world that is so different but for this very reason needs to rediscover certain things that are always worthwhile, that are perennial, for example, the ability to listen to God in external and above all internal silence. You have just asked me: how does one recognize God's call? Well, the secret of the vocation lies in the capacity for and joy of distinguishing, listening to, and obeying his voice. But to do this it is necessary to accustom our hearts to recognizing the Lord and to having an awareness of him as a Person who is close to me and loves me. As I said this morning, it is important to learn to live in our days moments of inner silence in order to hear the Lord's voice. You may be sure that if we learn to listen to this voice and to follow it generously, we have nothing to fear, we know and feel that God is with us, that God is Friend, Father and Brother. In a word: the secret of the vocation lies in the relationship with God, in prayer that develops, precisely, in inner silence, in the capacity for listening, hearing that God is close. And this is true both before the decision, that is, at the time of deciding and setting out, and afterwards, if one wants to be faithful and to persevere on the way. St Peter Celestine was first and foremost this: a man of listening, of inner silence, a man of prayer, a man of God. Dear young people, may you always make room in your day for God, to listen to him and pray to him!
And here I would like to say something else to you: true prayer is not at all foreign to reality. If prayer should alienate you, remove you from your real life, be on your guard it would not be true prayer! On the contrary, dialogue with God is a guarantee of truth, of truth with ourselves and with others and hence of freedom. Being with God, listening to his word, in the Gospel and in the Church's Liturgy, protects you from the dazzle of pride and presumption, from fashions and conformism, and gives you the strength to be truly free, even from certain temptations masked by good things. You asked me: how can we be "in" the world but not "of" the world? I answer you: precisely through prayer, through personal contact with God. It is not a question of multiplying words Jesus already said this to us but of being in God's presence, of making our own, in our minds and in our hearts, the words of the "Our Father" that embraces all the problems of our lives, or by adoring the Eucharist, meditating on the Gospel in our room or participating with recollection in the Liturgy. None of this removes us from life but instead helps us truly to be ourselves in every context, faithful to the voice of God who speaks to our conscience, free from the conditioning of the time! This is how it was for St Celestine V. He was able to act according to his conscience in obedience to God hence without fear and with great courage even in difficult moments such as those linked to his brief Pontificate, not fearing to lose his dignity but knowing that it consists in existing in truth. And the guarantee of truth is God. Those who follow him have no fear, not even of denying themselves, of giving up their own ideas, for, as St Teresa of Avila said, "Those who have God lack nothing".
Dear Friends, faith and prayer do not solve problems but rather enable us to face them with fresh enlightenment and strength, in a way that is worthy of the human being and also more serenely and effectively. If we look at the history of the Church we see that it is peopled by a wealth of Saints and Blesseds who, precisely by starting from an intense and constant dialogue with God, illumined by faith, were able to find creative, ever new solutions to respond to practical human needs in all the centuries: health, education, work, etc. Their entrepreneurial character was motivated by the Holy Spirit and by a strong and generous love for their brethren, especially for the weakest and most underprivileged. Dear young people, let yourselves be totally won over by Christ! And start out with determination yourselves too, on the path to holiness, that is by being in contact, in conformity with God a path that is open to all because this will also enable you to become more creative in seeking solutions to the problems you encounter, and in seeking them together! Here is another badge (distinctive sign) of the Christian: he is never an individualist. Perhaps you will say to me: but if we look, for example, at St Peter Celestine, in his choice of the heremitical life might there not have been individualism or an escape from responsibility? This temptation does of course exist. But in the experiences approved by the Church, the solitary life of prayer and penance is always at the service of the community, open to others, it is never in opposition to the community's needs. Hermits and monasteries are oases and sources of spiritual life from which all may draw. The monk does not live for himself but for others and it is for the good of the Church and of society that he cultivates the contemplative life, so that the Church and society may always be irrigated by new energies, by the Lord's action. Dear young people, love our Christian communities, do not be afraid to commit yourselves to live together the experience of faith! Love the Church: she has given you faith, she has introduced you to Christ! And love your Bishop and your priests: in spite of all our weaknesses, priests are precious presences in your life!
After Jesus suggested to the rich young man of the Gospel that he leave everything and follow him, the young man went away sadly because he was excessively attached to his many possessions (cf. Mt 19,22). In you, on the other hand, I read joy! And this is also a sign that you are Christians: that for you Jesus Christ is worth much, even though it is demanding to follow him, that he is worth more than anything else. You have believed that God is the precious pearl that gives value to all the rest: to the family, to studies, to work, to human love... to life itself. You have realized that God takes nothing from you but gives to you "a hundredfold" and makes your life eternal, for God is infinite Love, the only love that satisfies our hearts. I would like to recall St Augustine's experience. He was a young man who, with great difficulty spent a long time seeking something that would satisfy his thirst for truth and happiness. Yet at the end of this process of seeking he understood that our hearts are restless until they find God, until they rest in him (cf. The Confessions, 1, 1). Dear young people, keep your enthusiasm, your joy, the joy that is born from having encountered the Lord and may you communicate it also to your peers! I must now depart and I must say that I am sorry to leave you! With you I feel that the Church is young! But I am happy as I leave, like a father who is serene because he has seen that his children are growing up and growing up well. Dear young men and women, walk on! Walk on the path of the Gospel; love the Church our mother; be simple and pure in heart; be gentle and strong in truth; be humble and generous. I entrust you all to your holy Patrons, to St Peter Celestine and, especially, to the Virgin Mary, and I bless you with deep affection. Amen.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a cause of joy to me to inaugurate this fountain in the Vatican Gardens, in a natural context of rare beauty. It is a work that increases the artistic patrimony of this enchanting green space in Vatican City, full of historical and artistic testimonies of various epochs. Indeed, not only the lawns, the flowers, plants and trees, but also the towers, pavilions, small temples, fountains, statues and other buildings make this garden into a fascinating unicum. They were for my Predecessors, and, indeed, they are for me, a vital space, a place I go to with pleasure to spend a little time in prayer and serene relaxation.
In addressing my warm greetings to each one of you, I wish to express deep gratitude for this gift which you have given me by dedicating it to St Joseph. Thank you for this delicate and courteous thought! It was a demanding enterprise which involved the collaboration of many. In the first place, I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo both for the words he addressed to me and for his interesting presentation of the completed work. With him I thank Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, respectively Secretary General and Vice-Secretary General of Governorate. I express my deep appreciation to the Technical Services Department, to the designer and to the sculptor, to the consultants and to the workers, with a special thought for Mr and Mrs Hintze and for Mr Castrignano from London, who generously financed the project, and for the Sisters of the Monastery of St Joseph in Kyoto. I also thank the Province of Trent, the municipalities and firms of Trent, for their contribution.
This fountain is called after St Joseph, a beloved figure close to the heart of the People of God and to my heart. The six bronze panels that adorn it evoke as many episodes in his life. I wish to reflect briefly on them. The first panel represents the Betrothal of Joseph and Mary; it is an episode of great importance. Joseph was of the royal line of David and, by virtue of his marriage to Mary, was to confer upon the Son of the Virgin upon the Son of God the legal title of "Son of David", thus fulfilling the prophecy. The betrothal of Joseph and Mary is thus a human event but is crucial in the history of the humanity's salvation, in the fulfilment of God's promises; And so it has a supernatural connotation, which the two protagonists accept with humility and trust.
The moment of trial for St Joseph was not long in coming, a demanding trial for his faith. Before going to live with her, Mary's betrothed discovers her mysterious motherhood and was upset. The Evangelist Matthew stresses that being a just man, not wanting to repudiate her, he therefore decides to send her away secretly (cf. Mt 1,19). But in a dream as it is portrayed in the second panel the Angel makes him understand that what was taking place in Mary was the work of the Holy Spirit; and Joseph, trusting in God, consents and cooperates with the plan of Salvation. Certainly, the divine intervention in his life could not but trouble his heart. Entrusting oneself to God does not mean seeing everything clearly according to our own criteria, it does not mean doing what we have planned; entrusting oneself to God means emptying oneself of oneself, renouncing oneself, for only those who accept to lose themselves for God can be called "just", like St Joseph, that is, can conform their will to God's and so fulfil themselves.
The Gospel, as we know, has not preserved any words of Joseph, who carries out his work in silence. It is this style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself facing the mystery of God's action in his spouse, and when aware of this mystery he stands beside Mary in the Nativity, represented on the third panel. On that holy night in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, Joseph is there, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, that he carried out in humility and silence.
The fourth panel reproduces the dramatic scene of the Flight into Egypt to escape from the homicidal violence of Herod. Joseph is compelled to leave his land with his family in haste: it is another mysterious moment in his life; another trial, in which total fidelity to God's plan is asked of him.
Then, in the Gospels, Joseph appears in only one other episode, when he goes to Jerusalem and experiences the anguish of losing the Child Jesus. St Luke describes the exhausting search and his wonder at the Finding Him in the Temple as appears on the fifth panel, but even more his amazement at hearing the mysterious words: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lc 2,49). It is this two-fold question of the Son of God that helps us understand the mystery of Joseph's Fatherhood. Reminding his own parents of the supremacy of the One he calls "my Father", Jesus asserts the primacy of the God's Will over every other will and reveals to Joseph the profound truth of his role. He too is called to be a disciple of Jesus, dedicating his life to the service of the Son of God and of the Virgin Mother, in obedience to the Heavenly Father.
The sixth panel shows the work of Joseph in his workshop at Nazareth. Jesus worked beside him. The Son of God is hidden from men and only Mary and Joseph jealously guard his mystery and live it every day: the Word Incarnate grows as a man in the shadow of his parents, but, at the same time, they remain, in turn, hidden in Christ, in his mystery, living out their vocation.
Dear brothers and sisters, this beautiful fountain dedicated to St Joseph is a symbolic reference to the values of simplicity and humility in doing God's Will daily, which marked the silent but precious life of the Custodian of the Redeemer. I entrust to his intercession the future of the Church and of the world. Together with the Virgin Mary, his spouse, may he always guide us on our journey, so that we may be joyful instruments of peace and salvation.
Speeches 2005-13 352