Speeches 1979 - TO THE RECRUITS OF THE PONTIFICAL SWISS GUARD
Tuesday, 8 May 1979
Beloved in Christ,
With understandable emotion, joined, however, with deep satisfaction, I have come here to inaugurate the Exhibition of Autograph Gifts made to Pope Paul VI on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, on 26 September 1977. He should have been present at today's ceremony, but the Lord called him to eternal glory on the feast of the Transfiguration last year.
1. My first thought goes, therefore, to the figure of my predecessor: a great Pope, listening continually and attentively to the multiple and differentiated voices of modern men: voices of faith, hope, love, dedication and solidarity; but also voices of grief, anguish, uncertainty, doubt, denial, hatred. Plunged in continual meditation of the Gospel, for so many years he made his voice heard, passionate, enlightening, guiding and at the same time exhorting, pointing out to the Church and to the world the way, sometimes a hard and difficult one, in the midst of the cultural, political and social changes of today. His pontificate was a real gift of God, and today, reverently, we bow to his memory, watchful and solicitous not to lose anything of his enlightened Magisterium and his noble example.
2. This sad memory is accompanied by satisfaction at this Exhibition, which represents a particularly significant homage to Paul VI. Just as he was offered on his eightieth birthday various works of art, which illustrated the rich personality of the apostle Paul, so he was given numerous and precious autographs, which are displayed today in this room, and will subsequently be kept definitively in the Vatican Apostolic Library.
In the introduction of the elegant and copious catalogue of the Exhibition, we find the felicitous expression "Witnesses of the Spirit". This collection, in fact, contains Autographs of Saints, artists, poets, men of letters, musicians, philosophers, scholars, scientists, politicians and economists. Followers of different trends, of opposite ideologies, are represented. But above everything, in these handwritten sheets, traced out now with nervous rapidity, now with calm serenity, man is present: man who, at the moment when he puts pen to paper, intends to confer with himself, to analyse himself and get to know himself better; or else confer with others, to communicate and express to them his own conceptions and feelings; or to confer with God, to pray to him with quivering anguish or artless humility. Man is present in these manuscripts in the complete and complex variety of his life, his aspirations to truth, good, beauty, justice, and love. To this man, or rather to these men, whose testimonies are preserved with loving care so that they may be handed down completely to posterity, goes the respect of the Church. She is conscious that her fundamental function is "to direct man's gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus" (Enc. Redemptor Hominis RH 10).
My affectionate Apostolic Blessing to the donors, organizers and all those present.
IN ACCEPTING YOUR LETTERS of Credence this morning, it is my intention to manifest my deep respect and esteem for all Kenya – for its people, for its worthy traditions, for the role that it is called to play in Africa and in the world. I also wish to express my gratitude for the greetings and best wishes that you bring me from His Excellency the President, and from the Government and people of your country. Be assured that I reciprocate with the most cordial sentiments.
The words you have just spoken are much appreciated. You have emphasized the fact that Kenya regards the fear of Almighty God as a source of the blessings of stability and prosperity, a basis for the unity that you profess and foster. This is indeed consonant with the view of the Psalmist expressed in the Bible: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111,10).
You have spoken kindly about the Church’s contribution to Kenya’s development. You have mentioned the satisfaction with which your country takes cognizance of the international role of the Holy See in the master of peace, human dignity and equality. These are all indeed key issues for the Holy See, as well as for the entire Catholic Church, as it pursues its mission of service to man, in the cause of "the Gospel of peace" (Ep 6,15).
In particular, the Church attaches great value to promoting the unity of mankind, finding the principle of this unity in the fatherhood of God and in his creative love. At the same time the Church will not cease to concentrate on the exigencies of this unity, which include mutual love, fraternal support, sustained collaboration, as well as the rejection of every theory of practice at variance with this basic truth.
The Church’s interest in and service of man is based on the teaching which, in the words of Paul VI, "reflects a whole Christian concept of man himself, who is created in God’s likeness and redeemed by Christ..." (Address of 22 May 1974 to the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid). It is motivated by the concept of true brotherhood that "takes into account the common origin, nature and destiny of all members of the human family and the equality of their fundamental rights" (ibid.).
These are the criteria that inspire the Church in Kenya and elsewhere in her efforts to build up Christian communities; these are the principles that she endeavours to put into practice, thus offering the example of Christian leadership. The Church is irrevocably committed to this pattern of service, and she is happy to pursue her activity in collaboration with individuals and nations. Today in your person she welcomes the continued collaboration of Kenya, and before the witness of history she gives the renewed assurance of her commitment to strengthen the unity of mankind, in justice and truth, in freedom and love.
With these sentiments I welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican, invoking abundant blessings on you and all the authorities and beloved people of Kenya.
Friday, 11 May 1979
I am honoured and happy at your presence and I thank you heartily for the gesture of kind deference which led you to desire this meeting on the occasion of the solemn presentation of the Fifth Marconi International Fellowship. Extending my sincere congratulations to the person selected this year, Prof. John R. Pierce of California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, I am glad to extend my felicitations also to the eminent scholars on whom the Prize was conferred in past years and who have wished to be present at this Audience.
I then greet Mrs Gioia Marconi Braga, the President and organizer name and which is meant to keep alive in the world her father's noble ideals of generous philanthropy. I owe special thanks, further, to Ing. Bruno Valenti, President of the National Federation of the Cavalieri del Lavoro, for the kind and appropriate words with which he interpreted the feelings of those present.
I wish to express my appreciation and my esteem to all. It seems to me worthy of note that, at this meeting, persons engaged in advanced scientific research are side by side with others who have distinguished themselves by the contribution they have made, with their industriousness, to the national economy. It is a kind of ideal union between genius and diligence, in which any thinking person can easily recognize the source of all true human progress. It is, in fact, by means of the work of vast human structures that the brilliant intuitions of an individual or a small team of researchers are expressed as services useful for the common welfare. It seems to me, therefore, that the motto "Ingenium pro bono humanitatis", by which the gold Prize just mentioned is inspired, can well be taken as the greatest inspirer of the commitment of each one and as the criterion of evaluation of its "quality". I mean, it will be a deserving and worthy commitment if it is seen to be useful for man's real good.
This is an aspect which I am eager to emphasize. The Church, in fact, as I recalled in my Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, "cannot abandon man, for his `destiny', that is to say his election, calling, birth and death, salvation or perdition, is so closely and unbreakably linked with Christ" (n. 14). Well, man, today, is in danger: menaced by "the result of the work of his hands and, even more so, of the work of his intellect" (ibid., n. 15). Here lies the "drama of present-day human existence".
"Man lives increasingly in fear", because "he is afraid that what he produces—...and precisely that part that contains a special share of his genius and initiative—can radically turn against himself" (ibid., n. 15).
Now, it is clear that all that does violence to man and mortifies him cannot be considered useful for his real good, nor can it be described as true progress, even if it constitutes a result that is excellent "technically". It is important, therefore, that responsible men should have the courage to denounce a science that proves to be "dishonoured by the cruelty of its applications" (P. Valéry). It is important that they should commit themselves with all their might to guiding their own path and that of their fellow-men towards goals of real human growth. True progress, in fact, is only what contributes to make man more mature spiritually, more aware of his dignity, more open to others, freer in his choices: that is, what aims at forming a man who knows the "reason why" and not just the "how" of things. Never has man been so rich in things, means, and techniques, and never so poor in indications about their destination. To restore to man awareness of the ends for which he lives and works, is the task to which we are all called in this end of the century, which concludes the second millennium of the Christian era. This task can be carried out only by those who believe "in the priority of ethics over technology, in the primacy of the person over things, and in the superiority of spirit over matter" (Encycl. Redemptor Hominis RH 17).
The hope, therefore, that I wish to express in this circumstance, in which I have the pleasure of addressing a gathering of persons so representative of the world of science and work, is the following: that the ideal of spending one's own energies "pro bono humanitatis" may shine like the Pole star in the mind of each one and inspire his every initiative, sustaining his generous effort even at difficult moments: to work for man with sincere love is to honour and serve God.
I strengthen these wishes of mine with the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly grant to you and to the beloved members of your families, invoking the constant help of the Lord on your daily round of toil.
I repeat my congratulations to Professor John R. Pierce for the honour that has been bestowed on him and the trust that has been placed in him to work "pro bono humanitatis" in an effective and worthy manner. My sincere felicitations go also to the distinguished scientists present who have received earlier fellowships. I ask God to uphold and guide you in your service of humanity and to fill you with his blessings.
Friday, 11 May 1979
Dear Brothers and Sons,
I am very happy to meet the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Aid Societies. I know that every year you meet round Mons. Simon Lourdusamy, the President of the Superior Council of these Societies, to allocate the sums you have helped to collect, which are distributed entirely to Christian communities in need. On my side, it is the first time I have had the pleasure of receiving you and encouraging you.
The work of solidarity you are carrying out is a magnificent and necessary one. It is typical of the real charity that must reign among all members of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is a concrete expression of ecclesial fellowship, about which people like to talk so much today. An example is found in the very first Christian generation, when the Apostle Paul invites the Churches to participate in the collection in favour of the "saints" of Jerusalem who were at that time in a critical material situation. It is above all a necessity in order that evangelization may be carried on with adequate means in the young Churches or in Churches which are sorely tried.
Missionary dynamism, it is true, lies in persons, animated by the Spirit of Pentecost, anxious to bring the Good News to all their brothers and sisters in the world, exactly because it is a question of their salvation and of Christ's will. There may even exist a very strong religious vitality, while means are poor, because it is based on the holiness of evangelizers and the active participation of Christians. But precisely, true zeal cannot help seeking, not luxury or ease, but at least a decent subsistence and fair remuneration for Gospel workers; catechetical means worthy of an education to faith that is adapted and deep; possibilities for correct formation of priests, Sisters, catechists, married couples, and lay apostles; structures of pastoral coordination which permit exchange, reflection, concerted action, particular care for the young, assistance for those in want, the setting up of places of spiritual renewal, etc.
Now, all this aid must come from Christians themselves: from those of the community concerned in the first place, who must aim at providing for their own needs as far as possible, but also from communities that are better off from the material point of view. The latter, opening up boldly to missionary solidarity—whether it is a question of individuals, families, parishes, dioceses—draw benefit themselves in apostolic dynamism; they become witnesses of the religious vitality of the younger members, which may be an awakening for them. It is also necessary that public opinion should understand well this necessity of helping mission Churches. That is your main task. Last century, a magnificent movement arose when the great missionary Societies came into being. Today, generosity is often manifested in an admirable way, but you must take care to maintain it and broaden it, particularly by associating the young generations with it, perhaps with new methods. For you see, maybe, that certain communities which are, however, quite rich, are too much concerned with the economic difficulties of the present and with their own problems, or are less aware of missionary duty, though they are touched by the material misery of starving countries. The Pontifical Mission Aid Societies which you are directing at the national level must, therefore, carry out first of all this work of education to charity, and to missionary charity. I am anxious to tell you how much the universal Church appreciates your task and, presiding over the charity of all the Churches, I thank you deeply on their behalf. Do not let yourselves be discouraged. Improve your action. Consolidate missionary cooperation continually.
Not only do you prepare in this way the atmosphere for greater generosity for sharing and exchanges expanded to the plane of means, but you also bring forth missionary vocations. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we prayed for vocations. If they are necessary everywhere, how much more so in mission territories, where, for lack of courageous and systematic evangelization, the ground remains fallow, or rather, alas, it becomes the field of ideologies alien to Christian faith. Yes, your educative concern must aim also at bringing forth missionary vocations, of priests, religious men and women, and laity, in old Christian communities as in young communities. The latter, moreover, whose Directors of Mission Aid Societies I have the pleasure of greeting, are experiencing here and there an exemplary reawakening of vocations.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten and strengthen your zeal! May the Blessed Virgin obtain for you his graces which will enable you to open souls to charity! Receive my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Saturday, 12 May1979
Dear Members of the Milan Football Team!
Your visit gives me great joy: that of meeting young athletes who, on the eve of the last football match of the year at the Olympic Stadium of Rome and with the Shield of the 1979 Italian Championship now in their grasp, have wished to pay homage to the Pope to give also a moral and spiritual meaning to the triumph they are preparing to celebrate.
I greet you cordially, dear young men, and I thank you for your presence, together with your President, your sports manager and your trainer.
Seeing you, I cannot but express once more my regard for all sportsmen and for sport in its various forms, and at the same time the esteem in which the Church holds this noble human activity. The Church, as you know, moreover, approves and encourages sport, seeing in it a form of gymnastics of the body and of the spirit, a training for social relations based on respect for others and for one's own person and an element of social cohesion, which also fosters friendly relations in the international field. The dignity of sport rises to this height, when it is inspired by healthy principles and excludes any excess of risk in the athlete and of disorderly passion in the public, which becomes excited over sporting matters!
I think I am not mistaken in recognizing in you this potential of civil and Christian virtues. In a world in which we sometimes behold the painful presence of young people who are weary, marked by sadness and negative experiences, be for them wise friends, expert guides and trainers not only on sports fields but also on the ways that lead to the goals of the true values of life. In this way to the satisfactions of competitive sport you will add merits of a spiritual nature, offering society a valuable contribution of moral health. You will thus give the Church the joy of seeing in you strong (cf. 1Jn 2,14), loyal and generous sons.
Beloved brothers, these are the feelings and wishes your exuberant youth has aroused in my spirit. May the Lord Jesus grant you that "goal", that is, that final target, which is the true and ultimate destiny of life. May you be sustained for this purpose by my blessing, which I willingly extend to all your families, friends and admirers.
My cordial and affectionate welcome to you, boys of the "Little Choir of the Antoniano", to your dear parents and to the good Franciscan Fathers. I know you have greatly desired this meeting, to manifest to me all your affection and enthusiasm. I, too, am happy to be able to satisfy you at this Audience, short though it is.
In the first place I wish to tell you my appreciation for the well-deserved "fame" you have acquired in these years with your attractive musical performances, which have found favour not only with boys of your own age, but also with adults. And this is because in your songs you often give, with great simplicity, a harmonious and concordant voice to the feelings by which man lives and which belong to his deepest being: love and solidarity for others, especially the neediest, affection and gratitude for those who do us good, the value of friendship, the need of justice, truth, the desire for beauty, respect for nature...
May your songs, limpid and crystalline, always rise to exalt these great values; but let your songs and your hearts rise especially to exalt, worship, and thank God the Father for everything he has done and continues to do for us. "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord", the Psalmist exclaims (Ps 104,33 f.).
Joy! Be bearers and transmitters of it. It is true: singing is the highest language with which man expresses his feelings, with hope, expectation, love, anguish, sorrow, but especially joy. Always sing of joy, joy of living, of being at peace with yourselves, with others, with God. Always be good; always be friends, sincere brothers of Jesus; put into practice, according to your possibilities, the teachings of the Gospel; communicate this Christian joy to your little companions and schoolmates; give it to grown-ups, who sometimes seem to have lost the sense of real joy.
To all of you, to your parents, and to the Franciscan Fathers, my good wishes and my special Apostolic Blessing.
On the occasion of this exceptional meeting I would like to greet you with the words of the Christian greeting: Praised be Jesus Christ.
Together with you I would like to greet Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Primate of Poland, present here. Protector of the pastoral care of Poles in emigration, he is for us all the exceptional, living symbol of the unity of the Poles in their homeland and all over the world. Together with the Cardinal Primate I greet the Pastors of the Church in Poland present at this audience: Henryk Gulbonowicz, Archbishop of Wroclaw, Kazimierz Majdánski, Bishop of Szczecin-Kamien, Józef Glemp, Bishop of Warmia, Bronislaw Dabrowski, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, Jan Wosinski, Auxiliary Bishop of Plock.
In particular I cordially greet Bishop Wladislaw Rubin, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Delegate of the Cardinal Primate for the pastoral care of emigrant Poles, and Bishop Szczepan Wesoly, Bishop Rubin's collaborator in the same work.
I greet all those in charge of pastoral care for Poles all over the world. I greet also the Sisters present here with all the representatives of Poland from the five continents and twenty countries all over the world.
It has been possible to arrange this exceptional meeting on the occasion of the great jubilee of St Stanislaus. The anniversary of his death, which took place in 1079 at the hands of King Boleslaus Smialy, has always been celebrated every hundred years. The last time it was celebrated was in 1889 at Krakow in Poland and all over the world. Divine Providence has brought about such marvellous events that this jubilee is celebrated by Poland and by emigrant Poles together with the Pope, a Pope who until a short time ago was successor of St Stanislaus in the episcopal See of Krakow. The same who, together with the Cardinal Primate, the Bishops of Poland, and particularly with the Bishops who are in Rome, was preparing the programme of this jubilee both in Krakow and in the Eternal City.
2. Various circumstances show that the nine-hundredth anniversary of the martyrdom of the Bishop of Krakow must be of particular importance also in Rome. Among these circumstances, the following is important: that St Stanislaus, as the Patron Saint of Poland, is a particular witness to the millennium of our Baptism; this millennium has been lived in uninterrupted communion with Peter's See in Rome. The canonization of St Stanislaus took place in Assisi in 1253, and for this reason, too, our thoughts must go to the "Italian land", which, as a result of cultural and historical bonds, has been close to Poland so many times in the course of the centuries. Another particular circumstance is the anniversary of the institution which has borne the name of St Stanislaus right from its origin. I am referring to the Polish Hospice in Rome, joined to the church of St Stanislaus, the origin of which-four hundred years ago-we owe to the Servant of God Cardinal Stanislaus Hozjusz, Bishop of Warmia and one of the pontifical legates at the Council of Trent. This church, with the Hospice of St Stanislaus, is a particular sign of Poland's historical presence in Rome
3. It is a very important sign in our times. After the second World War, the Centre for pastoral care of Poles abroad was set up beside the church of St Stanislaus. Here, next to this church, is the principal centre of which Archbishop Jozef Gawlina was in charge until 1964, followed by Bishop Wladislaw Rubin. Cardinal Hozjusz founded this Hospice in Rome for pilgrims arriving there. It was the time of the First Polish Republic, the last period of the golden age of Polish history. It can be thought that not only pilgrims coming from Poland had their hospice here, but Poland itself: this nation, united with the Catholic Church for so many centuries, had in Rome a house that bore witness to its presence among the other Catholic nations of Europe.
From the last years of the nineteenth century and then through the twentieth century, painful changes took place in our nation and our State, forcing so many children of our country to emigrate. It was at first a political, ideological and cultural emigration. Subsequently it was to find work, and so, many millions of poor Poles, particularly from the country, emigrated mainly across the Ocean. The outbreak of the last war coincided with this wave of migrants. The war surprised very many sons and daughters of our country outside its frontiers, and they offered their lives for their homeland and for its independence on all the world fronts—and after the war they were not able to return to Poland for which they had fought.
So in our age, too, a new part of the books on Polish pilgrimages is being written, as was done by Mickiewicz. This meeting of ours today must be included in this part. Let us leave it to Divine Providence to give an important significance to this meeting of fellow-countrymen from all over the world with the Polish Pope, because none of us can do it. To give it its full significance, it would be necessary to have knowledge of the past and of the future. Knowledge of the future depends entirely on the Wisdom and Power of God.
4. Let us now stop at this point, which enables us to go back over our history and also to know the present: we must draw from our meeting fundamental motives, which take us directly to the great anniversary of St Stanislaus. Medieval tradition confirms that he is the exceptional Patron Saint of the Poles. This Poland of the Piasti which was broken up had to have this Patron Saint of the unity of the country, not only to remain united but, above all, to set out along the way to progress. We know that this development started from the end of the fourteenth century when unity tested first on the crown of Wladyslaw Lokietek and then on that of Kazimierz Wielki. The period of Polish universalism begins at this time, with the first rise to importance of Krakow University. Other important events followed: the beginning of the Jagiello dynasty, the beneficial work of blessed Queen Jadwiga, the Polish-Lithuanian union, the great development of Christian humanistic culture, These were the fruits of the Baptism of Poland as they were revealed at that precise historical moment.
Universalism means belonging to the human community, which is wider than one's own nation. It also signifies the maturity of this nation, which gives it almost full rights among all the nations of the world. Universalism has a deeply humanistic character, and we can also see in it an exceptional Christian influence which wishes to unite men on the basis of full respect for their dignity, for their being subjects, for their freedom and their rights. We all have the same Father
5. At this exceptional meeting today we must hope—with the help of God's Grace and through the intercession of Mary Mother of the Church who is our Lady of Jasna Gora, Queen of Poland, with the intercession of St Stanislaus, St Wojciech [Adalbert] and all Polish Saints and Blesseds up to Blessed Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Mary Teresa Ledochowska—that all of us, wherever we may be, may succeed in bearing witness to the maturity of Poland, in strengthening our right of citizenship among all the nations of Europe and of the world, and in serving this noble purpose: to bear witness to Christian universalism.
In the past I several times had the fortune to visit the great centres of Polish emigration. Today I ask you, dear fellow-countrymen, to accept the Blessing from the hand of the Pope, from the Primate of Poland, and from the Bishops here present who represent the Polish Episcopate—take it to your families, to your communities, to your parishes, to your places of work—as a sign of this meeting which will always remain in my heart
Beloved Brothers and Sons!
Thirty-five years ago, on 18 May 1944, the Polish soldiers of General Anders, who had just arrived at the front and had been attached to the British "Eighth Army", succeeded in hoisting the red and white Polish flag on the still smoking ruins of this historic Abbey.
Three months before, on 15 February 1944, hundreds of tons of explosives had been dropped by the bombers, destroying the Abbey, considered a military target, while between one bombardment and another the cross-fire of artillery from land and sea sowed death and ruin everywhere.
In the Polish cemetery over a thousand crosses recall the sacrifice of these young men who, together with many other armies, fought and died for freedom and peace.
Thirty-five years have passed; and now today, here in Monte Cassino, in the famous Abbey, risen again and glorious, a son of Poland, become Pope, remembers and prays for his brothers, together with all the fallen, victims of mistaken ideas and of human conflicts.
Oh, the designs of God are really mysterious and the ways of history unforeseeable! Who could ever have imagined that this century, with its stupendous conquests, and progress, would see the outbreak of such hatred and such cruelty? And who could ever have foreseen that the voice of Peter's Successor would come precisely from tortured and humiliated Poland?
There remains only to await the future anxiously, certain, however, that through the sometimes tragic events of humanity, Christ conquers always, and love, in the end, is also always victorious.
Already nine years ago I climbed up here to Monte Cassino with two-hundred priests who had been prisoners in the concentration camps of Dachau and Mathausen. Today, having become Vicar of Christ, I have returned with no longer just Poland, but Italy and the whole world in my heart!
I am here to pray, to meditate with you and also to outline a programme of life in the light of Monte Cassino and St Benedict.
1) Let us listen first of all to the voice of Monte Cassino.
What can it say to us, what does it want to say to us, this outstanding monument of religious spirit and of humanity?
Three times it was destroyed and three times it rose again from its ruins, remaining a mystical centre of inexpressible value for Italy, Europe and the world. There came up here the humble and the powerful, saints and sinners, mystics and the desperate.
There came here poets, writers, philosophers and artists.
There arrived here souls thirsty for truth or tormented by doubt, and they found peace and certainty.
Here came defenceless and fugitive multitudes, exhausted and frightened, victims of the storms of the times, and they found refuge and comfort.
Why did these humble or important people flock to Monte Cassino?
Dante Alighieri, as you well know, has St Benedict himself explain it:
"That mount, upon whose slope Cassino lies, / was erst thronged on its summit by people / deceived and ill-disposed. / And I am he who first brought up there the name / of Him who brought to earth that truth / which lifts us so high; / and so great grace shone upon me, that I drew / the places round about / away from the impious cult which seduced the world (Paradise XXII 37-45).
People have always come and continue to come here to meet "the truth which lifts us so high", to breathe a different atmosphere, transcendent and transforming.
Come, therefore, O peoples, to Monte Cassino! Come to meditate on past history and understand the true meaning of our earthly pilgrimage! Come to regain peace and serenity, tenderness with God and friendship with men, to bring back hope and goodness to the frantic metropolises of the modern world, to the anguish of so many tormented and disappointed souls!
Come particularly you, young people, thirsty for innocence, contemplation, interior beauty, pure joy; you who seek the ultimate and decisive meaning of existence and history, come, and recognize and enjoy Christian and Benedictine spirituality, before letting yourselves be attracted by other experiences!
And you, Benedictine Monks, keep alive your spirituality, your mystical contemplation joined with work, understood as a service of God and brothers! Let your deep joy be praise of God by means of the strong and sweet Latin language and the sublime and purifying Gregorian melodies. Be an example to the world by your work in silence and humble obedience.
2) Let us listen in particular to St Benedict's voice.
A representative man and a real giant of history, St Benedict is great not only because of his holiness, but also because of his intelligence and industry, which succeeded in giving a new course to the events of history.
We will recall only the essential elements of his interesting and adventurous life. Born about 480 at Norcia, that is, in the inland mountains of Umbria, Benedict studied rhetoric in Rome for some time, then, frightened or disgusted by the corruption of the environment, he withdrew in solitude to Lake Aniene, at Subiaco, where as many as thirteen monasteries were constructed. Forced to leave the valley of the Aniene, Benedict made his way to this high hill which dominates the village of Cassino. In 529 he founded the famous Monastery here and dedicated himself to the evangelization of those peoples who were still pagan, while his sister Scholastica directed the convent of religious women.
About the end of the fifth century, the world was upset by a tremendous crisis of values and institutions, caused by the end of the Roman Empire, the invasion of other peoples and the decay of morals.
In this black night of history, St Benedict was a luminous star.
Endowed with a deep human sensitivity, in his project for the reform of society St Benedict looked particularly to man, following three main lines:
— the value of the individual, as a person;
— the dignity of work, understood as service of God and brothers;
— the necessity of contemplation, that is of prayer: having understood that God is the Absolute, and we live in the Absolute, the soul of everything must be prayer: , "Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus" (Rule).
In short, therefore, it can be said that St Benedict's message is an invitation to interiorness. Man must first of all enter himself, he must know himself deeply, he must discover within himself the aspiration to God and traces of the Absolute. The theocentric and liturgical character of the social reform advocated by St Benedict seems to follow exactly the famous exhortation of St Augustine: "Noli foras ire, in teipsum redi; in interiore homine habitat veritas" (Vera rel. 39, 72). St Gregory, in his famous "Dialogues" (Migne, P.L. 125-204), in which he narrates St Benedict's life, writes that he "lived alone with himself under the eyes of the one who observes us from above: solus superni spectatoris oculis habitavit secum" (Lb. II, C. III).
Let us listen to St Benedict's voice: from interior solitude, from contemplative silence, from victory over the noise of the external world, from this "living with oneself", there is born the dialogue with oneself and with God, which leads right to the summits of asceticism and mysticism.
3) And finally, let us listen further to the voice of the times. The voice of our times, which we are living with anxiety and trepidation, tells us that men are aiming more and more at unity. The need is felt for greater mutual knowledge among individuals and among peoples.
But today, especially, Europe is realizing its unity, not only economic, but also social and political, though respecting individual nationalities.
Many complicated problems have to be tackled and solved, from the cultural and scholastic field to the juridical and economic.
But listening to St Benedict, who was defined "Father of Europe" by Pius XII and whom Paul VI decreed its heavenly Patron, the times are urging towards increasingly intense reciprocal understanding, which will defeat and overcome social inequalities, selfish indifference, arrogance and intolerance.
And is this not the message of Christian faith? This Christian faith which is the soul and the spirit of Europe and which invites us to be meek, patient, merciful, peacemakers, pure in heart, poor in spirit, hungry and thirsty for righteousness (Mt 5,1-12).
In this way St Benedict's voice unites with the voice of the times. Let the Beatitudes be the programme of life for Europe and for all.
St Paul says to us, too: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other... And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts!" (Col 3,12-15).
We wish to pray here for this peace of Christ; and if we observe all the present search for greater unity among European peoples, we hope that this will lead also to deeper awareness of the roots—spiritual roots, Christian roots—because, if a common house is to be built, deeper foundations also have to be laid.. A superficial foundation is not enough.
And that deeper foundation—as we have seen also in our analysis—always means "spiritual".
Let us pray that the search for a more united Europe will be based on the spiritual foundation of the Benedictine tradition, of the Christian tradition, the Catholic one, which means universal.
Only in the name of this tradition is it possible that now, in this place, today, there should come as Bishop of Rome the son of a people different in language and history, but rooted in the same foundation, in the same spiritual tradition, in the same Christianity, with such a Christian past that he can be among you not just as one of the family, but also as your pastor.
Let us turn our eyes and our heart to the Blessed Virgin!
May she assist us to be all in agreement to unite Europe and the whole world in the one sun that is Christ!
In 1944, at the end of the tragic days at Monte Cassino, as soon as the troops arrived at the summits of the still smoking ruins, a group of Polish Catholic soldiers erected there a little chapel dedicated to Mary; then they adorned it as best they could in those dramatic circumstances, and finally prostrated themselves in trusting prayer.
On that soil this new Church rises today.
Beloved brothers and sons, let us unite in prayer to Mary, in imitation of her virtues, in filial and consistent love; and then let us proceed with faith and courage, saying with St Benedict "Ora et labora et noli contristari!".
Speeches 1979 - TO THE RECRUITS OF THE PONTIFICAL SWISS GUARD