Speeches 2005-13 618
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you with great joy on the occasion of your pilgrimage, organized by the Associazione Santa Cecilia, which I praise first of all with a warm greeting to the President, whom I thank for his courteous words, and to all the collaborators. I greet you with affection, members of the numerous Scholae Cantorum in every part of Italy! I am very glad to meet you, and to know — as was announced — that tomorrow you will be taking part in the Eucharistic Celebration in St Peter’s Basilica, at which the Cardinal Archpriest Angelo Comastri will preside, offering, of course, the service of praise in song.
Your Congress fits intentionally into the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. And I saw with pleasure that the Associazione Santa Cecilia has intended in this way to draw your attention once again to the teaching of the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, in particular where — in chapter six — it addresses sacred music. On this anniversary, as you well know, I wanted a special Year of Faith for the entire Church so as to encourage a deepening in the faith of all the baptized and a common commitment to the New Evangelization. In meeting you I would thus like to emphasize briefly how sacred music can first and foremost foster faith and, in addition, can cooperate in the new evangelization.
Concerning faith, the personal life of St Augustine — one of the great Fathers of the Church who lived between the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ — springs to mind. It is certain that listening to the singing of the Psalms and hymns during the liturgies at which St Ambrose presided made an important contribution to his conversion. Indeed, if faith is always born from listening to the word of God — a form of listening, naturally, not only of the senses but that also passes from the senses to the mind and heart — there is no doubt that music, and especially song, can give the recitation of the Psalms and Canticles of the Bible greater communicative force. Among his charisms St Ambrose had in particular an outstanding musical sensitivity and talent. Once he had been ordained Bishop of Milan, he put his gift at the service of faith and evangelization.
In this regard the witness of Augustine, who was then a teacher in Milan and was in search of God, in search of faith, is highly significant. In Book Ten of his Confessions, his autobiography, he writes: “when I call to mind the tears I shed at the songs of your Church at the outset of my recovered faith, and how even now I am moved, not by the singing but by what is sung (when they are sung with a clear and skillfully modulated voice), I then come to acknowledge the great utility of this custom” once again (33, 50).
Augustine’s experience of the Ambrosian hymns was so strong that they were impressed in his mind and he often cited them in his works; indeed, he wrote a commentary of his own on music, De Musica. He says that he does not approve of the search for mere tangible pleasure during the sung liturgies, but recognizes that good music and good singing can help one receive the word of God and feel a salutary emotion. May this testimony of St Augustine help us to understand that the Sacred Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, in line with the Tradition of the Church, teaches that “as a combination of sacred music and words, it [the musical tradition of the universal Church] forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy” (n. 112). Why “necessary and integral”? Certainly not for purely aesthetic reasons, in a superficial sense, but because, due to its beauty, it cooperates in nourishing and expressing faith and hence is to the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, which is the purpose of sacred music (cf ibid.).
For this very reason I would like to thank you for your precious service: the music you perform is neither an accessory nor merely an external embellishment of the liturgy; it is the liturgy itself. You help the entire Assembly to praise God, to draws his Word into the depths of hearts; by singing you pray and enable others to pray, and take part in the singing and prayers of the liturgy that in glorifying the Creator embrace the entire creation.
The second aspect I would suggest to you for your reflection is the relationship between sacred song and the new evangelization. The conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy recalls the importance of sacred music in the mission ad gentes and urges the faithful to esteem the traditional music of peoples (cf. n. 119). However, even in countries of ancient evangelization, such as Italy, sacred music — with its own great tradition, which is our Western culture — can have and indeed has an important task: to encourage the rediscovery of God, as well as a renewed approach to the Christian message and to the mysteries of the faith.
Let us think of the famous experience of Paul Claudel, a French poet, who was converted while listening to the singing of the Magnificat at Vespers of Christmas in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. “At that moment”, he wrote, “I understood the event that dominates my entire life. In an instant my heart was moved and I believed. I believed with such a strong force of adherence, with such an uplifting of my whole being, with such powerful conviction, in a certainty that left no room for any kind of doubt, that since then no reasoning, no circumstance of my turbulent life has been able to shake or touch my faith”. Yet, without turning to distinguished figures, let us think of all the people who have been moved in the depths of their heart while listening to sacred music; and even more, of those who have felt once again drawn to God by the beauty of liturgical music — as was Claudel. And here, dear friends, you have an important role: strive to improve the quality of liturgical song without fearing to recover and to enhance the great musical tradition of the Church, which in Gregorian chant and polyphony has two of its loftiest expressions, as the Second Vatican Council itself says (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 116).
And I would like to emphasize that the active participation of the whole People of God in the liturgy does not consist solely in speaking, but also in listening to and welcoming the Word with one’s senses and mind, and this is also true for sacred music. In liturgical celebrations you, who have the gift of singing, can make so many hearts sing.
Dear friends, I hope that in Italy liturgical music may reach greater heights, to praise the Lord as he deserves and to show that the Church is the place in which beauty is at home. My thanks again to everyone for this meeting! Thank you.
Rome, Monday 12 November 2012
Dear Brothers and Dear Sisters,
I am really glad to be with you in this “casa-famiglia” of the Sant’Egidio Community for the elderly. I thank Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, your President, for his friendly words. With him, I greet Prof. Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the community. I thank you for coming, Bishop Matteo Zuppi, Auxiliary for the Historical Centre, and Archbishop Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family and all the friends of the Sant’Egidio Community.
I come to you as Bishop of Rome, but also as an old man visiting his peers. It would be superfluous to say that I am well acquainted with the difficulties, problems and limitations of this age and I know that for many these difficulties are more acute due to the economic crisis. At times, at a certain age, one may look back nostalgically at the time of our youth when we were fresh and planning for the future. Thus at times our gaze is veiled by sadness, seeing this phase of life as the time of sunset. This morning, addressing all the elderly in spirit, although I am aware of the difficulties that our age entails I would like to tell you with deep conviction: it is beautiful to be old! At every phase of life it is necessary to be able to discover the presence and blessing of the Lord and the riches they bring. We must never let ourselves be imprisoned by sorrow! We have received the gift of longevity. Living is beautiful even at our age, despite some “aches and pains” and a few limitations. In our faces may there always be the joy of feeling loved by God and not sadness.
In the Bible longevity is considered a blessing of God; today this blessing is widespread and must be seen as a gift to appreciate and to make the most of. And yet frequently society dominated by the logic of efficiency and gain does not accept it as such: on the contrary it frequently rejects it, viewing the elderly as non-productive or useless. All too often we hear about the suffering of those who are marginalized, who live far from home or in loneliness. I think there should be greater commitment, starting with families and public institutions, to ensure that the elderly be able to stay in their own homes. The wisdom of life, of which we are bearers, is a great wealth. The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life. Those who make room for the elderly make room for life! Those who welcome the elderly welcome life!
From the outset the Community of Sant’Egidio has supported so many elderly people on their way, helping them to stay in their own living milieus and opening various “casa-famiglia” in Rome and throughout the world. Through solidarity between the young and the old it has helped people to understand that the Church is effectively a family made up of all the generations, where each person must feel “at home” and where it is not the logic of profit and of possession that prevails but that of giving freely and of love. When life becomes frail, in the years of old age, it never loses its value and its dignity: each one of us, at any stage of life, is wanted and loved by God, each one is important and necessary (cf. Homily for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry, 24 April 2005).
Today’s visit fits into the European Year of Active Aging and of Solidarity between the Generations. And in this very context I would like to reaffirm that the elderly are a value for society, especially for the young. There can be no true human growth and education without fruitful contact with the elderly, because their life itself is like an open book in which the young generations may find precious indications for their journey through life.
Dear friends, at our age we often experience the need of the help of others; and this also happens to the Pope. In the Gospel we read that Jesus told the Apostle Peter: “when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21,18). The Lord was referring to the way in which the Apostle was to witness to his faith to the point of martyrdom, but this sentence makes us think about that fact that the need for help is a condition of the elderly. I would like to ask you to seek in this too a gift of the Lord, because being sustained and accompanied, feeling the affection of others is a grace! This is important in every stage of life: no one can live alone and without help; the human being is relational. And in this case I see, with pleasure, that all those who help and all those who are helped form one family, whose lifeblood is love.
Dear elderly brothers and sisters, the days sometimes seem long and empty, with difficulties, few engagements and few meetings; never feel down at heart: you are a wealth for society, even in suffering and sickness. And this phase of life is also a gift for deepening the relationship with God. The example of Blessed Pope John Paul II was and still is illuminating for everyone. Do not forget that one of the valuable resources you possess is the essential one of prayer: become interceders with God, praying with faith and with constancy. Pray for the Church, and pray for me, for the needs of the world, for the poor, so that there may be no more violence in the world. The prayers of the elderly can protect the world, helping it, perhaps more effectively than collective anxiety. Today I would like to entrust to your prayers the good of the Church and peace in the world. The Pope loves you and relies on all of you! May you feel beloved by God and know how to bring a ray of God’s love to this society of ours, often so individualistic and so efficiency-oriented. And God will always be with you and with all those who support you with their affection and their help.
I entrust you all to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, who always accompanies us on our journey with her motherly love and I willingly impart my blessing to each one of you. I thank you all!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to meet you all, Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on the occasion of your Plenary Meeting. I address my cordial greeting to each one, and in particular to the President, Cardinal Kurt Koch — whom I thank for the courteous words with which he has interpreted your common sentiments — to the Secretary and to the Co-Workers at the Dicastery, with my appreciation of their work at the service of a cause crucial to the life of the Church.
This year your Plenary Assembly focuses attention on: “The Importance of Ecumenism for the New Evangelization”. By choosing this theme you are appropriately following up what was examined at the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and, in a certain sense, you wish to give a practical form, in accordance with the Dicastery’s particular outlook to the results of that meeting. Further, the reflection you are making fits very well into the context of the Year of Faith which I called for as a favourable moment to repropose to all the gift of faith in the Risen Christ, during the year in which we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. As is known, the Council Fathers intended to stress the very close link that exists between the task of evangelization and overcoming the existing divisions between Christians. “Such division”, one reads at the beginning of the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature” (n. 1). The affirmation of the conciliar Decree reechoes the “priestly prayer” of Jesus when, addressing the Father, he asks that his disciples “may all be one... so that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21). Four times in this important prayer he invokes unity for the disciples of that time and for those of the future and twice he points out that the purpose of this unity is that the world may believe, that it may “recognize” him as the One sent by the Father. There is consequently a close link between the destiny of evangelization and the Christians’ witness to unity.
An authentic ecumenical path cannot be followed without considering the faith crisis that vast regions of the planet are going through. These include those that first received the Gospel proclamation and in which Christian life flourished for centuries. Moreover the many signs that testify to the continuing need for spirituality and that are demonstrated in various ways, cannot be ignored. The spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries, who no longer perceive the absence of God from their life as a deprivation, constitutes a challenge to all Christians. In this context, we believers in Christ are asked to return to the essential, to the heart of our faith, to bear witness together to the world to the living God, that is, to a God who knows and loves us, under whose gaze we live; of a God who expects the response of our love in everyday life. The commitment of Churches and ecclesial Communities to a renewed proclamation of the Gospel to today’s people is thus a cause of hope. Indeed, bearing witness to the living God who made himself close in Christ, is the most urgent imperative for all Christians, and it is also an imperative that unites us, in spite of the incomplete ecclesial communion that we still feel. We must not forget what unites us, namely, faith in God, Father and Creator, who revealed himself in the Son, Jesus Christ, pouring out the Spirit who gives life and sanctifies. This is the faith of Baptism that we have received, and is the faith that we can profess together in hope and charity. In the light of the priority of faith we also understand the importance of theological dialogue and conversations with the Churches and ecclesial Communities to which the Catholic Church is committed. Even when the possibility of the reestablishment of full communion cannot be glimpsed in an immediate future, they make it possible to perceive, as well as resistance and obstacles, also a wealth of experiences, of spiritual life and theological reflections that become an incentive for a witness ever more profound.
We must not, however, forget that the goal of ecumenism is the visible unity among divided Christians. This unity is not a work that we human beings can simply achieve. We must strive with all our might, but we must also recognize that, ultimately, this unity is a gift of God, it can only come from the Father through the Son, because the Church is his Church. In this perspective the importance of praying the Lord for visible unity appears but it also becomes clear that this goal important for the New Evangelization.
Walking together towards this goal is a positive reality on condition, however, that the Churches and Ecclesial Communities do not stop along the way, accepting the contradictory differences as something normal or as the best that can be obtained. Instead it is in full communion in faith, in the sacraments and in the ministry, that will become concretely evident the present and active power of God in the world. Through the visible unity of Jesus’ disciples, humanly inexplicable, God’s action that overcomes the world’s tendency to disintegration.
Dear friends, I would like to express my hope that the Year of Faith will also contribute to the progress of the ecumenical journey. Unity is on the one hand a fruit of faith and, on the other, a means and almost a presupposition for proclaiming the faith ever more credibly to those who do not yet know the Lord or who, although they have received the Gospel proclamation, have almost forgotten this precious gift. True ecumenism, recognizing the primacy of divine action, demands, first of all, patience, humility, and abandonment to the Lord’s will. Lastly, ecumenism and the New Evangelization both require the dynamism of conversion, understood as a sincere desire to follow Christ and to adhere fully to the Father’s will. As I thank you once again, I gladly invoke upon you all the Apostolic Blessing. Many thanks.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I thank you, Your Eminence, for your words. I cherish a very vivid memory of my stay in Paris in 2008, which made possible some intense moments of faith and a meeting with the world of culture. In the Message I addressed to you on the occasion of the gathering in Lourdes that you organized last March I recalled that “the Second Vatican Council was and remains an authentic sign of God for our time”. This is particularly true in the context of the dialogue between the Church and the world, this world “and her life and activity there” (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 40), on which she wishes to radiate the light that shines from the divine life (ibid.).
As you know, the more aware the Church is of her being and her mission, the better able she is to love this world, to turn a trusting gaze upon it inspired by that of Jesus, without succumbing to the temptation to discouragement or withdrawal. Moreover “in this way the Church carries out her mission and in that very act she stimulates and advances human and civil culture” (n. 58), the Council says.
Your nation is endowed with a long Christian history that cannot be ignored or diminished and that witnesses eloquently to this truth, which still today shapes its unique vocation. You may be quite sure that not only the faithful of your dioceses but also the faithful of the whole world have great expectations of the Church in France. As pastors, we are of course aware of our limitations but, trusting in the strength of Christ, we also know that it is our task to be “heralds of the faith” (Lumen Gentium LG 1), who with the priests and the faithful must witness to Christ’s message, “in such a way that the light of the Gospel will shine on all activities of the faithful” (Gaudium et Spes GS 43).
The Year of Faith enables us to grow in confidence in the intrinsic power and richness of the Gospel message. Have we not often seen that it is the words of faith, these simple, direct words that are full of the vitality of the divine Word, which touch hearts and spirits most effectively and bring the most decisive illumination? Let us therefore not fear to talk about the mystery of God and the mystery of man with totally apostolic vigour and to expound tirelessly the riches of the Christian doctrine. There are in it words and realities, fundamental convictions and ways of reasoning which alone can bring the hope for which the world is thirsting.
In the important social debates, the Church must make her voice heard tirelessly and with determination. She does so with respect for the French tradition as regards the distinction between the spheres of competence of both the Church and the State. Precisely in this context the harmony that exists between faith and reason gives you a special assurance: the message of Christ and of his Church does not only bear a religious identity that asks to be respected as such; it bears a wisdom that makes it possible to envisage with rectitude practical responses to the pressing and, at times anguishing, issues of these times. In continuing, as you do, to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry, you will contribute to these debates an indispensable word of truth, which liberates hearts and opens them to hope. This word, I am sure, is awaited. It is always favourably received when it is presented charitably, not as the result of our own reflections but first of all as the word God wishes to address to every person.
In this regard I remember the meeting that took place in the Collège des Bernardins. France can consider herself honoured to count among her sons and daughters a number of eminent intellectuals, some of whom view the Church favourably and with respect. Whether or not they are believers, they are aware of the immense challenges of our epoch when the Christian message is an irreplaceable point of reference. Other intellectual or philosophical traditions may be exhausted, but the Church finds in her divine mission the assurance and courage to preach, in season and out of season, the universal call to salvation, the greatness of the divine plan for humanity, the responsibility of human beings, their dignity and their freedom — and, despite the injury of sin — their ability to discern in conscience what is true and what is good, and their openness to divine grace. At the Collège des Bernardins, I wanted to recall that monastic life, wholly oriented to the search for God, the quaerere Deum, wells up as a source of renewal and progress for culture. The religious and, especially, the monastic communities in your country which I know well can count on your esteem and attentive care, with respect for the charism of each one. Religious life, at the exclusive service of God’s work to which nothing may be preferred (cf. The Rule of St Benedict) is a treasure in your dioceses. It contributes a radical testimony of the way in which Christian life, precisely when it is wholly devoted to following Christ, completely fulfils the human vocation to the blessed life. The whole of society, and not only the Church, is greatly enriched by this testimony. Offered in humility, gentleness and silence, it contributes, so to speak, to the proof that there is more to man than man himself.
As the Council recalls, the Church’s liturgical action is also part of her contribution to the work of civilization (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 58). Indeed the liturgy is the celebration of the central event of human history, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. Thus it bears witness to the love with which God loves humanity, to the fact that human life has a meaning and that it is through their vocation that men and women are called to share in the glorious life of the Trinity. Humanity needs this witness.
People need to perceive, through the liturgical celebrations, that the Church is aware of the lordship of God and of dignity of the human being. She has the right to be able to discern, over and above the limitations that will always mark her rites and ceremonies, that Christ “is present in the sacrifice of Mass and in the person of the minister” (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 7). Knowing the care with which you prepare your liturgical celebrations, I encourage you to cultivate the art of celebrating, to help your priests in this regard and to work ceaselessly for the liturgical formation of seminarians and of the faithful. Respect for the established norms expresses love and fidelity for the faith of the Church, for the treasure of grace that she preserves and transmits; the beauty of celebrations, far more than innovations and subjective adjustments, makes evangelization a lasting and effective work.
Today you are deeply concerned about the transmission of the faith to the young people. Numerous families in your country continue to guarantee it. I bless and encourage with all my heart the initiatives you are taking to support these families, surrounding them with your solicitude so as to encourage them to assume responsibility in the area of education. The responsibility of parents in this domain is a precious asset that the Church defends and promotes, both as an inalienable and essential dimension of the common good of all society and as a requirement of the dignity of the person and of the family. You also know that challenges are not lacking in this field: whether it is a matter of the difficulty linked to passing on the faith received — family, social — of that of faith taken on personally on the threshold of the adulthood or, further, of the difficulty of a real rupture in its transmission when several generations succeed one another, already distanced from the living faith. There is also the enormous challenge of living in a society that does not always share the teachings of Christ and sometimes seeks to ridicule or marginalize the Church, wishing to confine her solely to the private sphere. To tackle these immense challenges the Church needs credible witnesses. Christian testimony rooted in Christ can be lived authentically and consistently in multiform ways with no set plan. It is born and renewed ceaselessly under the action of the Holy Spirit. In support of this witness, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a very useful tool, for it manifests the power and beauty of the faith. I encourage you to make it known far and wide, particularly this year as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication.
In your rightful position, you also bear witness through the simplicity of your life, your pastoral care and above all your union with one another and with the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Aware of the power of example, you will also be able to find the words and actions to encourage the faithful to embody this “unity of life”. They must feel that their faith engages them, that it frees them rather than being a burden and that adherence is a source of joy and fruitfulness (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici CL 17). This applies as much to their attachment and faithfulness to the moral teaching of the Church as for example to their courage in showing their Christian conviction without arrogance but with respect, in the various milieus in which they grow up. Those of them who entered into public life have a special responsibility in this domain. With the bishops, they will have at heart attention to projects of civil law that can undermine the norms protecting marriage between a man and a woman, the right to life from conception to death and the proper approach of bioethics, faithful to the documents of the Magisterium. It is more necessary than ever that Christians choose to serve the common good, deepening in particular their knowledge of the Church’s social teaching.
You can count on my prayers that your efforts in this sphere may bear abundant fruit. To conclude, I invoke the blessing of the Lord upon you, upon your priests and upon your deacons, upon the men and women religious, upon the other consecrated people who work in your dioceses and upon your faithful. May God accompany you always. Many thanks.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer you a warm welcome! I thank the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, (Health Pastoral Care), Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, for his courteous words; I greet the distinguished speakers and all those present. The theme of your Conference — “The Hospital, a Place of Evangelization: a Human and Spiritual Mission” — gives me an opportunity to extend my Greeting to all the health-care workers, and in particular to the members of the Italian Catholic Doctors’ Association and of the European Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, which has examined the subject “Bioethics and Christian Europe” at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. I also greet the sick people present, their relatives, the chaplains and the volunteers, the members of the associations, and in particular of the Italian National Union for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI), the students at the Faculties of Medicine and Surgery and those who are taking degree courses in the health-care professions.
The Church always turns with the same brotherly spirit of sharing to all who are suffering, enlivened by the Spirit of the One who, with the power of love has restored meaning and dignity to the mystery of suffering. The Second Vatican Council said to these people “know that you are not... abandoned or useless” (cf. Message to the Poor, the Sick and the Suffering, 8 December 1965).
And in these same tones of hope, the Church also reassures health-care professionals and volunteers. Yours is a special vocation that requires study, sensitivity and experience. Nevertheless, a further skill which goes beyond academic qualifications is demanded of those who choose to work in the world of suffering, living their work as a “human and spiritual mission”. It is “the Christian science of suffering”, explicitly pointed out by the Council as “the only one that can respond to the mystery of suffering” and of bringing to the sick “relief without illusion”. The Council says: “it is not within our power to bring you bodily help nor the lessening of your physical sufferings.... But we have something deeper and more valuable to give you.... Christ did not do away with suffering. He did not even wish to unveil to us entirely the mystery of suffering. He took suffering upon Himself and this is enough to make you understand all its value” (ibid.). May you be qualified experts in this “Christian science of suffering”! Your being Catholics, without fear, gives you a greater responsibility in the context of society and of the Church: it is a real vocation, as has recently been witnessed by exemplary figures such as St Giuseppe Moscati, St Riccardo Pampuri, St Gianna Beretta Molla, St Anna Schäffer and the Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune.
This is also a commitment of the New Evangelization in the times of an economic crisis that are cutting funds for health care. In this very context hospitals and structures for assistance must rethink their role to prevent health, first and foremost a universal good to be guaranteed and defended from becoming a mere “product” subjected to the laws of the market, hence accessible to few. The special attention owed to the dignity of the suffering can never be forgotten, applying also in the context of health-care policies the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity (cf. Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ).
Today, although on the one hand because of the progress in technology and science the ability to heal the sick physically is increasing, on the other, the ability to “care for” the patient, seen in his integrity and uniqueness, appears to be weakening. Thus the ethical horizons of medical science that risks forgetting that its vocation is to serve every person and the whole person, in the various phases of his or her life, seem to be dulled. It is to be hoped that the language of the “Christian science of suffering” — to which belong compassion, solidarity, sharing, self-denial, giving freely, the gift of self — become the universal lexicon of those who work in the sector of health-care assistance.
It is the language of the Good Samaritan of the Gospel parable, which — according to Blessed Pope John Paul II — may be considered as “one of the essential elements of moral culture and universally human civilization” (Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, n. 29). In this perspective, hospitals assume a privileged position in evangelizing, because wherever the Church is the “bearer of the presence of God” it becomes at the same time “the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, n. 9). “Only by being very clear that at the heart of medical and health-care assistance is the well-being of the human person in his frailest and most defenceless state, of man in search of meaning in the face of the unfathomable mystery of suffering, can one conceive of the hospital as “a place in which the relationship of treatment is not a profession but a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first seat of learning and the face of suffering man is Christ’s own Face” (Discourse, Visit to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, 3 May 2012).
Dear friends, this healing and evangelizing assistance is the task that always awaits you. Now more than ever our society needs “Good Samaritans” with generous hearts and arms wide open to all, in the awareness that “The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer” (Spe Salvi ). This “going beyond” the clinical approach opens you to the dimension of transcendence, for which the chaplains and religious assistants play a fundamental role. It is their primary task to make the glory of the Crucified Risen One shine out in the rich panorama of health care and in the mystery of suffering.
I would like to reserve a last word for you, dear sick people. Your silent witness is an effective sign and instrument of evangelization for the people who look after you and for your families, in the certainty that “no tear, neither of those who are suffering nor of those who are close to them, is lost before God” (Angelus, 1 February 2009). You “are the brothers of the suffering Christ, and with him, if you wish, you are saving the world!” (Second Vatican Council, Message to the Poor, the Sick and the Suffering, 8 December 1965).
As I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Salus Infirmorum [Health of the Sick], so that she may guide your footsteps and always make you hardworking and tireless witnesses of the Christian science of suffering, I warmly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 618