Religious life, in order to find itself again, must rediscover contact with the people so that they can know it for what it is: God's gift to men and women in the mystery of communion that enlivens the Church. You will always understand more deeply the vitality of the charism that God has given you, through your founders and foundresses, the more you put yourself at the service of others starting from the poorest. Every charism is given for the life of the world. Contemplation as well as evangelization, service to the marginalized and to the sick as well as teaching, are always in dialogue with humanity, that same humanity for whom God did not hesitate to send his Son, so that he might give his life for our redemption.
How often has it been said that today we do not need teachers as much as witnesses! Therefore be witnesses of the Gospel, faithful to God and faithful to man. Religious life, precisely because of the strength of faith in Christ's presence in his Church "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20), will then live with the whole Ecclesial Community a "new impetus in Christian living" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 29), making the divine presence the inspiring force of its journey.
The certainty of God's presence in your lives helps you to understand the relationship between consecrated life and Gospel proclamation. God wants to need your personal and community availability to his Spirit, so that humanity understands and finally discovers his mercy and tenderness for every creature. St Paul affirms: "When I am weak, then I am strong" (II Cor 12,10). Why? Because God is not afraid of man's weakness, as long as his mercy is accepted.
5. Dear Superiors General, I am with you in spirit and I accompany you with prayer, thinking that every religious vocation in the Church carries a renewed message of hope. We can say that a woman's heart is created to bring the message of God's mercy and tenderness to the world. So I gladly entrust you to the Virgin Mary, the first consecrated woman, who in obedience became the Mother of God. And with trust I repeat: "Let us go forward in hope!... Did we not celebrate the Jubilee Year in order to refresh our contact with this living source of hope? Now, the Christ whom we have contemplated and loved bids us to set out once more on our journey" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 58).
From the Vatican,14 May 2001
To Reverend Father Marcellin Theeuwes
Prior of Chartreuse
Superior General of the Carthusian Order and to all members of the Carthusian family
1. While the members of the Carthusian family celebrate the ninth centenary of the death of their Founder, with them I give thanks to God who raised up in his Church the eminent and always relevant person, St Bruno. With a fervent prayer, appreciating your witness of fidelity to the See of Peter, I gladly share the joy of the Carthusian Order which has a master of the spiritual life in this "very good and incomparable father". On 6 October 1101, "on fire with divine love", Bruno left "the fleeting shadows of the world" to reach definitively the "eternal delights" (cf. Letter to Ralph, n. 13). The brothers of the Hermitage of Santa Maria della Torre in Calabria, to whom he had given much affection, could not doubt that this dies natalis would have inaugurated a singular spiritual adventure, which still today produces abundant fruit for the Church and for the world.
Bruno was a witness to the cultural and religious upheaval that shook Europe at its dawn and an architect in the reform that the Church wanted to realize in the face of internal difficulties. After having been an esteemed teacher, Bruno felt the call to consecrate himself to the one good that is God himself. "Is there anything so good as God? Is there any other good except God alone? Thus the holy soul that perceives this good, its incomparable brightness, its splendour, its beauty, burns with the flame of heavenly love and cries out: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God!'" (Letter to Ralph, n. 15). The radical character of the thirst impelled Bruno, in patient listening to the Spirit, to invent an eremitic lifestyle with his first companions, where everything favours the response to the call of Christ who, in all times, chooses men "to lead them into solitude and unite himself to them in an intimate love" (Statutes of the Carthusian Order). With this choice of "life in the desert" Bruno invited the whole ecclesial community "never to lose sight of the supreme vocation, which is to be always with the Lord" (Vita consecrata VC 7).
Bruno, who could forget "his" project to answer the requests of the Pope, manifests his lively sense of the Church. Aware that the journey on the way to holiness cannot be conceived without obedience to the Church, he shows us that true life in the following of Christ means putting ourselves in his hands, expressing in self-abandon a surplus of love. He always maintained a similar attitude in joy and constant praise. His brothers noticed that "his face was always radiant with joy and his words modest. With a father's strength, he knew how to show the sensibility of a mother" (Introduction to the funeral parchment dedicated to St Bruno). These delicate words of the funeral parchment express the fruitfulness of a life dedicated to contemplation of the Face of Christ, the source of apostolic efficacy and of fraternal charity. May the sons and daughters of St Bruno, after their father's example, continue untiringly to contemplate Christ, thus mounting "a holy and persevering guard, awaiting the return of their Teacher to open to him as soon as he knocks" (Letter to Ralph, n. 4); this is an encouraging appeal so that all Christians remain vigilant in prayer in order to receive their Lord!
2. After the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation, the celebration of the ninth centenary of the death of St Bruno takes on another significance. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte I invited the whole People of God to set out anew from Christ, in order to enable all who are thirsting for life's meaning and for truth to hear the heartbeat of God and of the Church. The Word of Christ, "lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20), invites all those who bear the name "disciple" to draw from this certainty a new impetus in their Christian living, making it the force which inspires their journey of faith (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 29). The vocation to prayer and contemplation that characterizes the Carthusian life shows in a particular way that only Christ can give human hope a fullness of meaning and joy.
How can we doubt for even an instant that a similar expression of pure love can give an extraordinary missionary effectiveness to the Carthusian life? In the withdrawal of monasteries and in the solitude of the cells, patiently and silently, the Carthusians weave the nuptial garment of the Church, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Ap 21,2). They present the world to God daily and invite all humanity to the wedding feast of the Lamb. The celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the life in the desert. It conforms to the very being of Christ those who abandon themselves to love, so that they may make visible the Saviour's presence and action in the world, for the salvation of the world and the joy of the Church.
3. In the heart of the desert, the place of testing and purification of faith, the Father leads men along the journey of self-emptying that is opposed to all the logic of having, of success and of illusory happiness. Guigo the Carthusian encouraged all who wanted to live according to the ideal of St Bruno to "follow the example of Christ poor [to] ... have a share in his riches" (Sur la vie solitaire, n. 6). This self-emptying passes through a radical break with the world, which is not contempt for the world, but an orientation given to one's life for the constant seeking of the only Good: "You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced" (Jr 20,7). Blessed is the Church who can use the Carthusian witness of total availability to the Spirit and a life totally dedicated to Christ!
I invite the members of the Carthusian family, through the holiness and simplicity of their life, to remain like a city on a hilltop and like a light on a lampstand (cf. Mt Mt 5,14-15). Rooted in the Word of God, nourished by the sacraments of the Church, sustained by the prayer of St Bruno and his brothers, may they remain for the whole Church and in the centre of the world "places of hope and of the discovery of the Beatitudes, a place where love, drawing strength from prayer, the wellspring of communion, is called to become a pattern of life and source of joy" (Vita consecrata VC 51).
As a visible expression of the offering of one's whole life lived in union with that of Christ, the cloistered life which makes one feel the precariousness of life, invites one to trust in God alone. It sharpens the thirst to receive the graces granted by meditation on Word of God. It is also "the place of spiritual communion with God and with the brethren, where the limitation of space and contacts works to the advantage of interiorizing Gospel values" (ibid., n. 59). The search for God in contemplation is inseparable from love for the brethren, love that makes us recognize the face of Christ in the poorest among men. The contemplation of Christ lived in fraternal charity is the most sure path to the fruitfulness of every life. St John does not stop recalling it: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God" (1Jn 4,7). St Bruno understood it well, he who never separated the primacy he gave to God, throughout his entire life, from the deep humanity of which he bore witness among his brothers.
4. The ninth centenary of the dies natalis of St Bruno gives me the opportunity to renew my strong trust in the Carthusian Order in its mission of gratuitous contemplation and intercession for the Church and for the world. After the example of St Bruno and his successors, the monasteries of Chartreuse keep before the Church the eschatological dimension of her mission, remembering the wonders that God works and vigilantly awaiting the final fulfilment of hope (cf. Vita consecrata VC 27). Untiring sentinel of the coming kingdom, seeking to "be" before "doing", the Carthusian Order gives the Church strength and courage in its mission, in order to put out into the deep and to let the Good News of Christ inflame all humanity.
In these days of celebration for the Order, I ardently ask the Lord to make resound in the hearts of numerous young men the call to leave everything to follow Christ poor, along the demanding but freeing journey of the Carthusian programme. I also invite the heads of the Carthusian family to respond without fear to the appeals of the young Churches to establish monasteries in their territories.
With this spirit, the discernment and formation of candidates who present themselves must be the object of a renewed attention on the part of formators. Our contemporary culture, marked by a strong hedonistic sentiment, by the desire to possess and by an erroneous idea of liberty, does not facilitate the expression of the generosity of young people who want to consecrate their lives to Christ, longing to go forward, in his footsteps, on a journey of oblative love, of generous and concrete service. The complexity of the personal journey, psychological fragility, the difficulty of living fidelity over time, invite us to make sure that we neglect no means to offer to all who ask to enter the desert of Chartreuse a formation that includes all the dimensions of the person. Moreover, careful attention will be paid to the choice of those in formation so they may be able to direct the candidates along the path of interior freedom and docility to the Holy Spirit. Finally, knowing that the fraternal life is a fundamental element of the journey of consecrated persons, they will invite the communities to live reciprocal love without reserve, developing a spiritual climate and a lifestyle in conformity with the Order's charism.
5. Dear sons and daughters of St Bruno, as I recalled at the end of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, "You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things" (n. 110). At the heart of the world, you make the Church attentive to the voice of the Bridegroom who speaks to her heart: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16,33). I encourage you never to abandon the intuitions of your Founder, even if the shrinking of the community, the drop in those who enter and incomprehension provoked by your radical choice of life could make you doubt the effectiveness of your Order and of your mission whose fruits belong mysteriously to God!
It is up to you, dear sons and daughters of Chartreuse, who are the heirs of St Bruno's charism, to maintain in all its authenticity and depth, the specificity of the spiritual journey he has shown you with his words and example. Your loving knowledge of God, nourished by prayer and meditation of his Word, invites the People of God to extend their gaze to the horizons of a new humanity in search of the fullness of the meaning of life and integration. Your poverty offered for the glory of God and the salvation of the world is an eloquent protest against the logic of profit and efficiency that often close the hearts of men and nations to the real needs of their brothers. Your life hidden with Christ, like the silent Cross planted in the hearts of redeemed humanity, remains, for the Church and for the world, the eloquent sign and permanent reminder that every human being, today as yesterday, can let himself be captivated by him who is only love.
Entrusting all the members of the Carthusian family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mater singularis Cartusiensium, Star of Evangelization of the third millennium, I impart to you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the benefactors of the Order.
Tuesday, 15 May 2001
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ph 1,2). With memories of my recent visit in the footsteps of Saint Paul still vivid in my mind, I greet you, the Bishops of Bangladesh, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum, in these words of the Apostle of the Nations. Your presence is an occasion for us to give thanks to Almighty God for the graces and blessings he has poured out upon the Church in your country since the first missionaries preached the Gospel there, and particularly since the Churchís coming of age there with the establishment of Dhaka as a Diocese in 1886.
Although the Catholic community in Bangladesh is small, the enthusiasm and fervour with which its members prepared themselves for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is an eloquent and convincing testimony to its health and vibrancy. I take this opportunity to thank you for all that you did during the three years of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee to ensure that it would truly be an occasion for a renewal of faith and commitment to Christian living. I also greet the Catholics of your land, and I pray that they will grow "in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to live a live worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col 1,9-10).
2. During your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you have the opportunity to pray and reflect, in the light of their example, on your own ministry as Bishops and successors of the Apostles. The ministry of the Bishop, as willed by Christ, is essential to the life and mission of the Church. Since "individual Bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular churches" (Lumen Gentium LG 23), the Bishop has the task of safeguarding and promoting unity and communion among all the People of God in the local Church entrusted to his care. He serves the people of his Diocese by preaching Godís word, by sanctifying them through the celebration of the Sacraments, by governing them after the example of the divine Master, and by encouraging them in their living of the faith, often in difficult circumstances. He is also to safeguard the bonds of faith and hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter, and, as a member of the College of Bishops, he shares in the concern for all the Churches (cf. Christus Dominus CD 3).
It is clear that the Bishopís responsibilities and duties are onerous ones, yet he serves his people with joy and confidence in the knowledge that the Lord who has called him to the task will not leave him without the necessary support and graces. Even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, we can draw great strength from contemplating the life and ministry of Saint Paul who, having felt "utterly, unbearably crushed", so much so that he "despaired of life itself", came to see that he should rely not on himself but on God: "on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again" (cf. 2Co 1,8-10). It is therefore essential for Bishops to devote time to prayer, in order to develop a deep spiritual life characterized by intimacy with Christ. Imitating the Virgin Mary, they have to ponder Godís word carefully in their hearts (cf. Lk Lc 2,19). This must be true also of your priests. This necessity was emphasized by the Synod Fathers at the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops: "People in Asia need to see the clergy not just as charity workers and institutional administrators but as men whose minds and hearts are set on the deep things of the Spirit Ö By their life of prayer, zealous service and exemplary conduct, the clergy witness powerfully to the Gospel in the communities which they shepherd in the name of Christ" (Ecclesia in Asia ).
3. Your priests are "your indispensable co-workers and advisers" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7), and I wish to express to them my gratitude and encouragement. Their fidelity and daily commitment is indeed precious in the eyes of the Lord. As Bishops, you are aware of the importance of devoting attention to your priests, especially by supporting and encouraging them in their ministry. Priests should always be able to turn to their Bishop as a loving father, confident that they will find in him sympathy and understanding.
I rejoice with you that vocations continue to grow in number in Bangladesh. There is always a need to ensure that applicants for the seminary are of high moral character and possess sound motives, genuine piety and sufficient ability. The programmes provided in the seminary should aim at training priests after the heart of Christ, priests who will be men of prayer, outstanding in learning and able to respond to the pastoral needs and challenges of our time. I invite you in particular to give careful consideration to the formation of those who will teach in your seminaries. Apart from their intellectual and pastoral qualifications, seminary teachers must be genuine and convincing examples of priestly life, capable of nurturing the progress of seminarians in the priestly virtues.
When you provide opportunities for continuing formation aimed at helping your priests to mature in Christ, you enable each one "to safeguard with vigilant love the Ďmysteryí which he bears within his heart for the good of the Church and of mankind" (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 72). With this in mind, I encourage you to develop initiatives to assist priests in developing their spiritual life and in acquiring greater familiarity with positive developments in theology, Biblical studies, moral teaching and pastoral care. They should be ever more aware that their priesthood is a gift received from God, a special vocation which consists in being uniquely configured to Christ the high priest, the teacher, sanctifier and shepherd of his people. The priestís whole life should be transformed so that he may truly be an attractive and compelling sign of Godís loving and saving presence.
4. Consecrated men and women also need your support and understanding. The Church in Bangladesh is blessed with a great number of male and female religious, outstanding for the commitment and generosity with which they devote themselves to a wide range of apostolic activities. They are active in the fields of education, health-care and various social apostolates. Our gratitude is due to them for all they do to assist in spreading the faith, through the example of their lives and their teaching. Above all, they have accepted Christís invitation to forsake everything in order to follow him through the practice of the evangelical counsels. In any form of pastoral planning, it is essential to see consecrated persons in the first place for what they are, before taking into consideration the particular apostolates in which they are engaged. Special attention should be given to the promotion of vocations to the consecrated life and to the quality of education received by those in formation.
5. The Great Jubilee was an extraordinary year of grace which touched the minds and hearts of countless people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Ap 5,9), and it enables the Church to look to the future with confidence. During the year, two of the more significant projects which you undertook were the Jubilee Bible and the Bengali translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Great credit and profound gratitude is due to all involved in the preparation of these publications, which will help to build up the community of faith in your country. The Bengali translation of the Catechism will be of special value to priests and catechists in teaching the faith and in preparing people for the reception of the Sacraments.
In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, I expressed the hope that the energies released by the Great Jubilee would be channelled into fresh initiatives to teach the art of prayer (cf. No. 32), an essential part of which is devout listening to Sacred Scripture (cf. No. 39). Experience teaches that the work of evangelization always draws fresh strength from attentiveness to Godís word. I invite you to make the new edition of the Bible easily available and to help individuals and families to read it prayerfully by encouraging the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina in a way which is readily understood and accessible to all. In this way, the word of Scripture will become a life-giving encounter with the Lord, shaping and directing peopleís lives.
6. Given the particular situation in which you live, interreligious dialogue is an integral part of your pastoral mission. More frequent contacts between Christians and Muslims, and greater understanding of each otherís religious traditions and values, should help to overcome attitudes of suspicion and distrust, and ensure that Bangladeshís traditions of religious freedom are maintained and upheld. In defending the dignity of the human person and the essential role of the family in the life of society, and in promoting the common good, there is ample room for interreligious co-operation. The best foundation for such co-operation is the moral law inscribed in the human heart, which is mankindís common treasure and a fundamental meeting point between peoples of different cultures and religious traditions. Since this is so, the fidelity of Christians to their religious beliefs and moral traditions is of paramount importance. Faithful witness leads to the so-called "dialogue of life", through which believers of different religions "bear witness before each other in daily life to their own human and spiritual values, and help each other to live according to those values in order to build a more just and fraternal society" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 57).
7. New evangelization and renewal of the Church in Bangladesh is a task for all the People of God. In a particular way, it depends on how much the lay faithful become fully aware of their baptismal vocation and their responsibility for bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to bear on culture and society. In your country the laity face many difficulties due to their minority status and the poverty which afflicts so many. I deeply share your concern for the poor, the marginalized and the suffering, and I encourage the various efforts of the Church in Bangladesh to respond to situations of poverty. You have undertaken practical initiatives in the areas of health care, social services and education, and you have also been active in the defence of human rights. The Churchís social doctrine, provided it is more widely known and implemented, can make a significant and positive contribution to alleviating the causes of poverty and can be a powerful instrument in furthering the common good.
The laity must be encouraged to avail themselves of the educational opportunities open to them and to be ever more active in political, social, economic and cultural life at all levels.
8. One of your principal pastoral concerns and responsibilities is the family, and in recent years you have been involved in various initiatives to promote this "priority sector of pastoral care" (Familiaris Consortio FC 73). Throughout Asia family values such as filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, and love of children are held in high esteem, and this is true also of Bangladesh. Seen through the Churchís eyes, the family is also one of the most effective agents of evangelization, and should be a place in which the Gospel is the rule of life (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). I wish to encourage you to continue to reflect on ways of strengthening and promoting the family, founded upon marriage, as the community with the mission of guarding, revealing and communicating life and love (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 17). Christian families need to become ever more fully the "domestic Church", humbly and lovingly living out their vocation to holiness. This is all the more necessary at a time when the family itself is threatened by an array of forces, especially those that promote an anti-life mentality. Families which are built on a solid foundation are true sanctuaries of life, in which Godís gift of life can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed. It is for this reason that the role of the family in building a culture of life is "decisive and irreplaceable" (Evangelium Vitae EV 92).
9. My dear Brothers, your ad limina visit has been an occasion for us to share some reflections and thoughts about the situation of the Catholic community in your land. Yours is one of the "young Churches", strong in its love of Christ and vibrant in its enthusiasm for the Gospel message. I wish once again to assure you and the priests, religious and laity of Bangladesh of my support and encouragement. In the words of Saint Paul I pray: "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father" (Col 1,11-12). With these thoughts I entrust the Church in Bangladesh to the maternal protection of Mary, bright star of evangelization in every age, and I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to extend my cordial greeting to each one of you. Our meeting takes place on account of the initiative you have sponsored that aims at a more detailed study of how to set up an articulated reflection on globalization, solidarity and free economic initiative, on the basis of solid ethical and spiritual values.
I thank Dr Tullio Chiminazzo for his kind words conveying your common sentiments.
I examined with pleasure the programme of the new Ethics and Economy Foundation, and I encourage you to continue your work to integrate into the world of economics the viewpoint and directions of the Magisterium as expressed in the Church's social teaching.
Your institution gathers people from various parts of the world. With your different cultural sensitivities, you share the common determination to combine freedom, development and equity according to the Gospel principles of solidarity. That is more needed now than before in a period that has been deeply affected by social changes.
2. In fact, modern economic processes tend to be increasingly involved in the system that most observers describe as "globalization". There is no doubt that this phenomenon has great possibilities for growth and the production of wealth. But many also admit that it does not in itself guarantee a fair distribution of goods among the citizens of different countries. What happens is that the wealth produced is often concentrated in the hands of a small group of persons, that brings about a further weakening of the sovereignty of national states. Weakened nation-states that are synonymous with the less developed countries, are further undermined by their loss of access to a world system, which is now governed by a few centres run by a small number privately owned businesses. The free market is, of course, a distinctive feature of our time. However, there are indispensable human needs which cannot be left to the mercy of the free market at the risk of their being brushed aside.
The Church's social doctrine holds that economic growth must be integrated with other values, so as to become a qualitative growth. As a result it must be just, stable, respectful of cultural and social individuality, as well as ecologically suitable. It cannot be separated from an investment in people, and in the creative and innovative capacity of the individual, who is the basic resource of any society.
3. If the term "global" is to be understood logically, it must include everyone. Thus it forces the nations to eliminate poverty pockets that result from groups that are socially, economically and politically marginalized. This is also true of the frequently emphasized need to ensure "quality". The concept must not merely concern the product but, in the first place, those who produce it. I refer to the need for "total quality", that is, the overall condition of human beings in the process of production.
Only if people are the leading actors and not the slaves of the processes of production, can a business become a real community of individuals. This is a real challenge to the new technologies that have already eased a great part of human toil, and to the direct and especially the indirect employer, that is to say, all the forces that set the direction of finance and the economy.
Linked to this is both the human person's ability to dominate his work and the discovery of an effective solution to the problem of unemployment, that universal scourge that could be overcome if those channelling capital were never to lose sight of man as their final goal.
4. A closer scrutiny makes globalization appear as a basically ambivalent phenomenon, which could be considered as both a kind of potential good for humanity and yet also a possible social disaster of staggering proportions. To give positive bearings to developing globalization, a deep commitment to building a "globalization of solidarity" is needed by means of a new culture, new norms and new institutions at national and international levels. In particular, it will be necessary to intensify the collaboration between politics and the economy, to launch specific projects to safeguard those who might become the victims of globalization processes throughout the world. I am thinking for example, of ways to lighten the heavy burden of the foreign debt of the less developed countries and of legislation to protect children from the exploitation that results from child labour.
Dear brothers and sisters, I express my appreciation of the contribution you would like to offer to solve such major problems. I sincerely hope that your contribution will always be enlightened by the Church's traditional teaching, so that economic freedom may never be separated from the duty of the just distribution of riches. I assure you of my prayers and willingly impart my Blessing to you all.