Speeches 2005-13 582
Dear Brother Bishop,
First of all, I thank Archbishop Beniamino Stella for the courteous words which he has addressed to me in the name of all present, and for the valued work that he carries out. With great affection I greet the entire community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. I am pleased to receive you once again this year, as the academic year draws to a close and as, for some of you, the day is approaching when you will depart for service in Papal Representations throughout the world. The Pope also counts on you for assistance in fulfilling his universal ministry. I encourage you to be confident and to prepare diligently for the mission which awaits you, trusting in the faithfulness of the One who has known you from the beginning and has called you into communion with his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1Co 1,9).
God’s faithfulness is the key to, and the source of, our own faithfulness. I would like today to remind you of precisely this virtue, which well expresses the unique bond existing between the Pope and his direct collaborators, both in the Roman Curia and in the Papal Representations: for many, it is a bond grounded in the priestly character that they have received, which is then specified in the particular mission entrusted to each in the service of the Successor of Peter.
In the Bible, faithfulness is above all a divine attribute: God reveals himself as the one who remains ever faithful to his Covenant with his people, despite their unfaithfulness. As the Faithful One, God sees to the fulfilment of his loving plan; thus, he is trustworthy and true. His way of acting makes it possible in turn for men and women to be faithful. In our case, the virtue of faithfulness is profoundly linked to the supernatural gift of faith; it becomes the expression of that steadfastness proper to those who have made God the foundation of their entire lives. In faith we find the sole guarantee of our standing firm (cf. Is Is 7,9); only on this foundation can we in turn be truly faithful: first to God, then to his family, the Church our Mother and Teacher, and within the Church to our own vocation, to the history in which the Lord has set us.
Dear friends, with this in mind, I encourage you to cultivate a personal bond with the Vicar of Christ as a part of your spirituality. Certainly, this is something which ought to apply to every Catholic, and even more to every priest. Yet for those who work in the Holy See, it is of particular importance, since they spend much of their energy, their time and their daily ministry in the service of the Successor of Peter. This entails a serious responsibility, but also a special gift which as time goes on should make you grow in closeness to the Pope, a closeness marked by interior trust, a natural idem sentire, which is exactly expressed by the word “faithfulness”.
Faithfulness to Peter, who sends you forth, also gives rise to a special faithfulness towards those to whom you are sent. The Representatives of the Roman Pontiff and their collaborators are called upon to interpret his solicitude for all the Churches, as well as the affectionate concern with which he follows the journey of each people. You should therefore cultivate a relationship of profound esteem and benevolence, and indeed true friendship, towards the Churches and the communities to which you will be sent. You are also bound to faithfulness in their regard, a faithfulness concretely manifested each day by your diligence and devotion to your work, by your presence among them at moments of joy, sadness and even tragedy, by your coming to know their culture, their journey as a Church, and by your appreciation of all that God’s grace has accomplished in every people and nation.
This represents a valuable contribution to the Petrine ministry, about which the Servant of God Paul VI once said: “By entrusting to his Vicar the power of the keys and by making him the rock and foundation of his Church, the Eternal Pastor also gave him the mandate to ‘confirm his brethren’: he does this not only by leading them and keeping them united in his name, but also by supporting and comforting them, certainly by his words, but also in some way by his presence” (Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, 24 June 1969: AAS 61 (1969), 473-474).
Thus you will also encourage and help the particular Churches to grow in faithfulness to the Roman Pontiff and to find in the principle of communion with the universal Church a sure direction for their own pilgrimage through history. Not least, you will also help the Successor of Peter to be faithful to the mission he has received from Christ, enabling him to know better the flock entrusted to his care and to be present to it more effectively by his words, his closeness, his affection. Here I can only mention with gratitude the assistance that I receive every day from my many collaborators in the Roman Curia and in Papal Representations, as well as the support that comes to me from the prayers of countless brothers and sisters worldwide.
Dear friends, to the extent that you are faithful, you will also be worthy of faith. We know too that the faithfulness proper to the Church and to the Holy See is no “blind” loyalty, for it is enlightened by our faith in the One who said: “You are Peter, and on on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18). Let us all be committed to following this path, so that one day we may hear the words of the Gospel parable: “Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (cf. Mt 25,21).
With these sentiments, I renew my affectionate greeting to Archbishop Stella and his collaborators, to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Child Jesus, and to the entire community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and I cordially impart my blessing.
Dear Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members,
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am happy to welcome you at the beginning of the XV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the topic “The New Evangelization in the Field of Civil Aviation”. I extend a warm greeting to the President of the Dicastery, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, and I thank him for the words which he has addressed to me. I greet affectionately all of you who are taking part in these days of prayer, study and exchange, with a view to reaffirming and deepening the spiritual motives that inspire you to continue your specific ecclesial service with renewed zeal and enthusiasm.
I am pleased to hear that during this Seminar, with the assistance of expert speakers, you intend to reflect on new methods and new forms of evangelization in your area of ministry. Dear friends, always be conscious that you are called to embody in the world’s airports the Church’s mission of bringing God to man and leading man to the encounter with God. Airports are places that increasingly reflect the globalized reality of our time. Here one finds people of a wide variety of nationalities, cultures, religions, social status and age. One also comes across all manner of difficult human situations that demand increasing attention. I think, for example, of people waiting anxiously as they seek to pass through border controls without the necessary documentation, either as immigrants or asylum seekers. I think of the inconvenience caused by anti-terrorism security measures. Airport communities also reflect the crisis of faith that affects many people, with the result that the content of Christian doctrine and the values that it teaches are no longer regarded as points of reference, even in countries with a long tradition of ecclesial life. This is the human and spiritual environment in which you are called to proclaim the Good News with renewed vigour by your words, by your presence, by your example and by the witness you bear. Be assured that even in chance encounters, people are able to recognize a man of God, and that often a small seed falling on good soil can bring forth abundant fruit.
In airports, moreover, you have daily contact with a great many men and women who work in an environment marked by continuous mobility and constant technological development, both of which tend to obscure the centrality of the human person. Often more attention is paid to efficiency and productivity than to the love of neighbour and the solidarity that should always characterize human relations. Here too, your presence is of great value and importance: it is a living witness to a God who is close to human beings, and it serves as a reminder never to show indifference to those one meets, but to treat them generously and lovingly. I encourage you to be radiant signs of this charity of Christ which brings serenity and peace.
Dear friends, make sure that every person, of whatever nationality or social background, can find in you a welcoming heart, able to listen and understand. Through your Christian and priestly lives, may everyone experience something of the love that comes from God, drawing them to a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ, who speaks without fail to those who open up to him trustfully, especially in prayer. Hence the importance of airport chapels as places of silence and spiritual solace.
In this pastoral service, your model and protector is the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you venerate under the title of Our Lady of Loreto, the patron saint of all who travel by air, in accordance with the tradition that attributes to the angels the transportation of Mary’s house from Nazareth to Loreto. But there is another “flight”, of far greater significance for humanity, to which that Holy House bears witness, namely the journey of the Archangel Gabriel, who brought to Mary the joyful news that she was to be the Mother of the Son of the Most High (cf. Lc 1,26-32). In this way the Eternal One entered into time, God became man and came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1,14). It is the manifestation of God’s infinite love for his creation. While we were still sinners, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us with his death and resurrection. He did not remain “on high” but became immersed in the joys and anxieties of the men and women of his time and of all time, sharing in their lot and restoring their hope.
This is the mission of the Church, to proclaim Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, “a mission”, in the words of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, “which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent” (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 14). Indeed, in our own times, we too “feel the urgent need to give a fresh impetus and new approaches to the work of evangelization in a world in which the breaking down of frontiers and the new processes of globalization are bringing individuals and peoples even closer. This is both because of the development of the means of social communication and because of the frequency and ease with which individuals and groups can move about today.” (Message for the 2012 World Day of Migrants and Refugees).
Dear Brothers, may your daily encounter with the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and in personal prayer give you the enthusiasm and the strength to be heralds of the newness of the Gospel, which transforms hearts and makes all things new. Be assured of my remembrance in prayer, that you may be effective instruments in assisting those entrusted to your pastoral care to cross the “porta fidei”, accompanying them in their encounter with Christ, who is living and active among us. With these sentiments, I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all who share in your ministry and to all who belong to the vast world of civil aviation.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great joy to be here in the Cathedral of Rome with the representatives of my diocese and I warmly thank the Cardinal Vicar for his kind words.
We have already heard that the Lord’s last words to his disciples on this earth were: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Mt 28,19). Make disciples and baptize them. Why is it not enough for disciples to know Jesus’ teaching, to know the Christian values? Why is it necessary to be baptized? This is the topic of our reflection, in order to understand the reality and depth of the Sacrament of Baptism.
A first door opens if we read these words of the Lord carefully. The choice of the word “in the name of the Father” in the Greek text is very important: the Lord says “eis” and not “en”, that is, not “in the name” of the Trinity — as when we say that a vice-prefect speaks “on behalf” of the prefect, an ambassador speaks “on behalf” of the government: no. It says: “eis to onoma”, that is, an immersion in the name of the Trinity, a being inserted in the name of the Trinity, an interpenetration of being in God and of our being, a being immersed in God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; just as it is in marriage, for example. Two people become one flesh, they become a new and unique reality with a new and unique name.
The Lord helped us to understand this reality ever better in his conversation on the Resurrection with the Sadducees. The five Books of Moses were the only ones that the Sadducees recognized in the canon of the Old Testament and there is no mention in them of the Resurrection; so they denied it. The Lord shows the reality of the Resurrection precisely by these five Books and says: “Have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?’” (cf. Mt 22,31-32). God therefore takes these three and in his very name they become the name of God. To understand who this God is it is necessary to see these figures who became the name of God, a name of God, who are immersed in God. In this way we see that anyone who is in the name of God, who is immersed in God, is alive, because God — the Lord says — is not a God of the dead but of the living, and if he is the God of the latter, he is a God of the living.
The living are alive because they are in our memory, in God’s life. And this happens to us in being baptized: we come to be inserted in the name of God, so that we belong to this name and his name becomes our name and we too, with our witness — like the three in the Old Testament — can be witnesses of God, a sign of who this God is, a name of this God.
Consequently, being baptized means being united to God; in a unique, new existence we belong to God, we are immersed in God himself. Thinking of this, we can immediately see several consequences.
The first is that God is no longer very distant from us, he is not a reality to dispute — whether he exists or not — but we are in God and God is in us. The priority, the centrality of God in our life is a first consequence of Baptism. The answer to the question “Does God exist?” is: “He exists and is with us; he centres in our life this closeness to God, this being in God himself, who is not a distant star but the environment of my life”. This would be the first consequence and we must therefore tell ourselves that we should take this presence of God into account and truly live in his presence.
A second consequence of what I have said is that we do not make ourselves Christian. Becoming Christian is not something that follows a decision of mine: “herewith I make myself a Christian”. Of course, my decision is also necessary, but first of all it is an action of God with me: it is not I who make myself Christian. I am taken on by God, taken in hand by God and thus, by saying “yes” to God’s action I become Christian. Becoming Christians, in a certain sense is passive; I do not make myself Christian but God makes me his man, God takes me in hand and puts my life in a new dimension. Likewise I do not make myself live but life is given to me; I am not born because I have made myself a human being, but I am born because I have been granted to be human. Therefore my Christian being has also been granted to me, it is in the passive for me, which becomes active in our, in my life. And this fact of being in the passive, of not making ourselves Christian but of being made Christian by God, already to some extent involves the mystery of the Cross: only by dying to my selfishness, by coming out of myself, can I be Christian.
A third element which opens up immediately in this vision is that naturally, being immersed in God I am of course united to my brothers and sisters, because all the others are in God and if I am taken out of my isolation, if I am immersed in God, I am immersed in communion with the others. To be baptized is never a solitary act by “me”; it is always, necessarily, being united with all the others, being in unity and solidarity with the whole Body of Christ, with the whole community of his brothers and sisters. This event which is Baptism inserts me in community, breaks my isolation. We must bear this in mind in our being Christian.
And finally, let us return to Christ’s words to the Sadducees: God is “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (cf. Mt 22,32). Hence the latter are not dead; if they are of God they are alive. This means that with Baptism, with immersion in the name of God, we too are already immersed in immortal life, we are alive for ever. In other words Baptism is a first stage in resurrection: immersed in God, we are already immersed in the indestructible life, our resurrection begins. Just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being the “name of God” are alive, so we, inserted in the name of God, are alive in immortal life. Baptism is the first step of resurrection, entry into the indestructible life of God.
Thus, in a first moment, with the baptismal formula of St Matthew, with Christ’s last word, we have already had a glimpse of the essential of Baptism. Let us now take a look at the sacramental rite, so that we may understand even more precisely what Baptism is.
This rite, like the rite of almost all the sacraments, is made up of two elements: matter — water — and the word. This is very important. Christianity is not something purely spiritual, something only subjective, emotional, of the will, of ideas; it is a cosmic reality. God is the Creator of all matter, matter enters Christianity, and it is only in this great context of matter and spirit together that we are Christians. It is therefore very important that matter be part of our faith, that the body be part of our faith; faith is not purely spiritual, but this is how God inserts us into the whole reality of the cosmos and transforms the cosmos, draws it to himself.
Moreover with this material element — water — not only does a basic element of the cosmos enter, a fundamental matter created by God, but also the entire symbolism of religions, because in all religions water has something to say. The journey of religions, this quest for God in different ways — even if they are mistaken, but always seeking God — is assumed in the sacrament. The other religions, with their journey to God, are present and are assumed, and thus the world is summed up; the whole search for God that is expressed in the symbols of religions, and especially — of course — in the symbolism of the Old Testament which in this way becomes present, with all its experiences of salvation and of God’s goodness. We shall come back to this point.
The other element is the word. This word is presented in three elements: renunciations, promises and invocations. It is consequently important that these words not be only words but also a path of life. In them a decision is made, in these words the whole process of our Baptism is present — both pre-baptismal and post-baptismal; hence, with these words and also with symbols, Baptism extends to the whole of our life. This reality of the promises, of the renunciations, of the invocations is a reality that endures throughout our life since we are constantly on a baptismal journey, on a catechumenal journey, through these words and through the realization of these words.
The Sacrament of Baptism is not an act that lasts an hour. Rather it is a reality of our whole life, a journey of our whole life. In fact, behind it is also the doctrine of the two ways that was fundamental in early Christianity: a way to which we say “no” and a way to which we say “yes”.
Let us begin with the first part: the renunciations. There are three and I shall take the second one first: “Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?”. What is this glamour of evil?
In the early Church, and for centuries to come the words here were: “Dost thou ... renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world?”, and we know today what was intended with these words: “the pomp of the devil”. Above all, the pomp of the devil meant the great bloody spectacles in which cruelty became amusement, in which killing men became something to be watched: a show, the life and death of a man. These bloody spectacles, this amusement of evil is the “pomp of the devil”, in which he appears with seeming beauty but in fact, with all his cruelty. However, beyond this immediate meaning of the phrase “pomp of the devil”, there was a wish to speak of a type of culture, a way of life, in which it is not truth but appearances that count; truth is not sought but effect, sensation. And, under the pretext of truth, men were actually destroyed, there was a desire to destroy and people wished to create themselves alone as victorious.
This renunciation was therefore very real: it was the rejection of a type of culture that is an anti-culture, against Christ and against God. The option was against a culture that, in St John’s Gospel is called “kosmos houtos”, “this world”. With “this world”, John and Jesus are not of course referring to God's creation or to man as such, but to a certain creature that is dominant and imposes itself as if this were the world, and as if this were the way of life imposed.
I now leave each one of you to reflect on this “pomp of the devil” on this culture to which we say “no”. In fact, being baptized means, essentially, being emancipated, being freed from this culture. Today too we know a type of culture in which truth does not count; even if apparently people wish to have the whole truth appear, only the sensation counts, and the spirit of calumny and destruction. It is a culture that does not seek goodness, whose moralism is in reality a mask to confuse people, to create confusion and destruction. We say “no” to this culture, in which falsehood is presented in the guise of truth and information, against this culture that seeks only well-being and denies God. Moreover, from so many Psalms we are familiar with this opposition of a culture which seems untouchable by all the evils of the world, puts self above everyone, above God, whereas it is in fact a culture of evil, a dominion of evil.
Thus the decision of Baptism, of this part of the catechumenal journey which lasts throughout our life, is precisely this “no”, said and acted upon again and again every day, even with sacrifices that are the price of opposing the culture prevalent in many places, even though it is imposed as if it were the world, this world. It is not true. And there are also many people who really desire the truth.
Consequently we switch to the first renunciation: “Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?”. Today freedom and Christian life, the observance of God's commandments, go in opposite directions; being Christian is like a form of slavery; freedom is being emancipated from the Christian faith, emancipated — all things considered — from God. To many people the word “sin” seems almost ridiculous, because they say: “How can that be! We cannot offend God! God is so great, what does it matter to God if I make a small mistake? We cannot offend God, his concern for us is too great for us to offend him”.
This seems true but it is not true. God made himself vulnerable. In the crucified Christ we see that God is vulnerability, God’s love is his caring for man, God’s love means that our first concern must not be to hurt or destroy his love, not to do anything against his love for otherwise we also live against ourselves and against our freedom. And, in reality, this seeming liberty in emancipation from God immediately becomes a slavery of the many dictatorships of the time, that require guidance if they are to be deemed worthy of the time.
And lastly: “Do you reject Satan?”. This tells us that there is a “yes” to God and a “no” to the power of the Evil One who coordinates all these activities and wishes to set himself up as a god of this world, as St John says further. However, he is not God, he is only the adversary and we do not submit to his power; we say “no”, because we say “yes”, a fundamental “yes”, the “yes” of love and of truth. These three renunciations were accompanied in the ancient Baptismal rite by three immersions: immersion in water as symbol of death, of a “no” which is really the death of one type of life and resurrection to another life. We shall return to this.
Then the confession in three questions: “Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? In Christ...?” and, lastly, “in the Holy Spirit and the Church?”
This formula, these three parts, were developed from the Lord’s words “baptize in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; these words are put into practice and deepened: what it means to say Father, what it means to say Son and what it means to believe in being baptized in the Holy Spirit, in other words the whole of God’s action in history, in the Church, in the Communion of Saints.
Thus the positive formula of Baptism is also a dialogue: it is not merely a formula. The profession of faith above all is not something to be understood, something intellectual, something to be memorized — this too of course — it also touches our mind, it especially touches our life.
And to me this seems very important. It is not an intellectual thing, a pure formula. It is a dialogue of God with us, an action of God with us, it is a response of ours, it is a journey. The truth of Christ may be understood only if his journey is understood. Only if we accept Christ as the way do we really set out on the way of Christ and can understand the truth of Christ. Truth that is not lived does not open; only truth lived, truth accepted as a way of life, as a path, also opens as truth in its full riches and depth. This formula is thus a way, it is an expression of our conversion, of an action of God. And we really want to keep in mind throughout our life that we are in communion on our journey with God, with Christ. And so we are in communion with truth: in living the truth, the truth becomes life and in living this life we also find the truth.
Let us now move on to the material element: water. It is very important to see the two meanings of water. Water calls to mind the sea, especially the Red Sea, death in the Red Sea. The sea represents the power of death, the need to die in order to arrive at a new life. To me this seems very important. Baptism is not merely a ceremony, a ritual introduced long ago, nor is it solely a cleansing, a cosmetic operation. It is far more than a cleansing: it is death and life, it is death of a sort of existence and rebirth, resurrection to new life. This is the depth of being Christian: not only is it something that is added, but it is a new birth.
After crossing the Red Sea we are renewed. In this way, in all the Old Testament experiences, for Christians the sea becomes a symbol of the Cross. For it is only through death, a radical renunciation in which one dies to a certain type of life, that there can be a rebirth and there can truly be new life.
This is a part of the symbolism of water: it symbolizes — especially in the immersions of antiquity — the Red Sea, death, the Cross. It is only from the Cross that new life is attained and this occurs every day. Without this ceaselessly renewed death, we cannot renew the true vitality of the new life of Christ
The other symbol is that of the source. Water is the origin of all life; in addition to the symbolism of death, it also has the symbolism of the new life. Every life also comes from water, from the water that flows from Christ as the true new life that accompanies us to eternity.
In the end the question — only a small word — concerning Baptism for children remains. Is it right to have it administered to children or would it be more necessary to make the catechumenal way first in order to arrive at a truly fulfilled Baptism? And the other question that is always asked is: “But can we impose on an infant the religion he should or not live? Shouldn’t we leave this decision to the child?”.
These questions show that we no longer see the new life, the true life in the Christian faith but we see a choice among others, even a burden that should not be imposed on an individual without his or her consent. The reality is different. Life itself is given to us without our being able to choose whether or not we wish to live; no one is asked “do you want to be born or not?”. Life itself necessarily comes to us without our previous consent, it is thus given to us and we cannot decide in advance “‘yes’ or ‘no’, I want or I do not want to live”. And, in reality, the real question is: “Is it right to give life in this world without having received an assent — do you want to live or not? Can one really anticipate life, give life without the individual having had the possibility to decide?”.
I would say: it is possible and right only if, with life, we can also guarantee that life, with all the problems of the world, is good, that it is good to live, that there is a guarantee that this life be good, be protected by God and be a real gift. Only the anticipation of its meaning justifies the anticipation of life. And because of this Baptism as a guarantee of God's goodness, as an anticipation of the meaning, of the “yes” of God who protects this life, also justifies the anticipation of life. Hence, the Baptism of children is not against freedom; it is truly necessary to give it in order to justify the gift of life — that would otherwise be questionable. Only the life that is in God’s hands, in Christ’s hands, immersed in the name of the Trinitarian God, is certainly a good that can be given without scruples. Thus we are grateful to God who has given us this gift, who has given us himself. And our challenge is to live this gift, to really live, in a post-baptismal journey, the renunciations of the “yes”, to live always in the great “yes” of God, and so to live well. Thank you.
Dear Cardinals, Your Beatitudes,
Venerable Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Members and friends of ROACO,
I am very happy to welcome and greet you in this regular gathering. I extend greetings to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and President of ROACO and I thank him for the kind words that he addressed to me. I also thank the Archbishop Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the other officials and all those present. I renew my gratitude to the institutions represented here, to the Churches from Europe and America that support them and to the many benefactors. I assure you of my prayers to the Lord, in the consoling certainty that he “loves a cheerful giver” (2Co 9,7).
Above all it is my hope that you will persevere in “that movement of charity which, by Papal mandate, the Congregation oversees, so that the Holy Land and other Eastern regions may receive material and spiritual support in an ordered and just way so as to meet the demands of their ordinary ecclesial life and other special needs” (Address to the Congregation for Eastern Churches, 9 June 2007). In these words I expressed myself five years ago while visiting the Dicastery for Eastern Churches and I now wish to reiterate firmly that same exhortation so as to underline the urgent needs of the present moment.
The present economic and social situation, all the more sensitive on account of its global dimensions, continues to create problems in economically developed areas of the world, and, more seriously, spills over into less affluent regions, seriously compromising their present and their future. The East, the motherland of ancient Christian traditions, is especially affected by this process, which engenders uncertainty and instability that also has an impact on the Church and in the ecumenical and interreligious fields. These factors tend to reopen the endemic wounds of history and they have a damaging effect on dialogue and peaceful cohabitation among peoples. They also weaken authentic respect for human rights, especially the right to personal and community religious freedom. This right should be guaranteed in its public profession, not only in terms of worship, but also in relation to the pastoral, educational, charitable and social activities that are indispensable for its effective exercise.
The representatives of the Holy Land, including the Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Father Custodian, all regular participants in ROACO, are joined this year by the two Major Archbishops, His Beatitude Cardinal George Alencherry of the SyroMalabar Church of India and His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine. Also present are the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, and the Bishop President of Caritas Syria. This gives me the opportunity to open up the gaze of the Church of Rome to the universal dimension that is so deeply rooted and constitutes one of the essential marks of the mystery of the Church. It also gives me the opportunity to reaffirm my closeness to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially innocent children and the defenceless. May our prayer, our commitment and our active brotherhood in Christ, as an oil of consolation, help them not to lose sight of the light of hope in this moment of darkness, and obtain from God wisdom of heart for all in positions of responsibility so that bloodshed and violence, that only bring pain and death, may cease and give way to reconciliation, harmony and peace. Every effort should be made, including by the international community, to bring Syria out of the present situation of violence and crisis, which has already lasted a long time and risks becoming a wider conflict that would have highly negative consequences for the country and the whole region. I also issue an urgent and heartfelt appeal, in view of the extreme need of the population, that the necessary humanitarian assistance be guaranteed, and extended to the many persons who have been forced to leave their homes, some of them becoming refugees in neighbouring countries. The precious gift of human life must always be defended.
Dear friends of ROACO, the Year of Faith, which I have instituted to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, will offer fruitful suggestions to Aid to the Eastern Churches, that are a providential witness to what we read in the Word of God: that faith without works withers and dies (cf. Jas Jc 2,17). May you always be eloquent signs of the charity that flows from the heart of Christ and presents the Church to the world in her true mission and identity by placing her at the service of God who is Love. Today in the Latin Rite we celebrate Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, whom I ask to sustain our thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit and to pray with us so that the Lord may also raise up in our days exemplary agents of charity towards others. May the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God always accompany the Eastern Churches in their homeland and in the diaspora, bringing them encouragement and hope for a renewed service to the Gospel. May she also watch over the coming journey which – God willing – I will make to Lebanon for the solemn closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I look forward to offering the Lebanese Church and Nation my paternal and fraternal embrace. In the meantime I am pleased to impart to your Organizations, to all present, to your dear ones, and to the communities entrusted to your care, my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 582