Speeches 2005-13 10309


The Holy Father, Benedict xvi, who has asked me to represent him at this important ceremony, conveys his cordial greeting to the religious and civil authorities and to all those present, namely H.E. Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, H.E. Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, the distinguished Ministers, H.E. Mark, President ad interim of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and Archbishop Francesco Cacucci, Pastor of this particular Church. The Holy Father wishes first of all to renew his fervent good wishes to His Holiness Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, asking the Holy Spirit to illumine him in his demanding ministry.

The Pope is glad that this building here in Bari complies with the needs of the Russian Orthodox devotion to St Nicholas. The Russian people have never faltered in their love for this great Saint who has always sustained them in moments of joy and difficulty. This is also testified by this Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, built at the beginning of the past century to welcome pilgrims, especially those on their way to the Holy Land who stopped to venerate the Saint's relics in Bari, a meeting place between East and West. And how can we fail to recognize that this beautiful Church reawakens in us the longing for full unity and keeps alive our commitment to work for the unity of all Christ's disciples?

In fact, the history of Bari and of this Region is deeply marked by the presence of the Oriental world and ecumenical sensitivity is a characteristic trait of Apulians. And for this very reason the Holy Father Benedict XVI expresses the hope that today's event too will help ensure that Bari continues to be "a natural bridge to the East', as Pope John Paul II of venerable memory said, making its precious contribution to the journey towards full communion among Christians.

With these sentiments, as he invokes the intercession of the Mother of God and of St Nicholas, the Pope renews his greeting to those present to whom, through me, he imparts his Blessing.


Your Eminence,
Dear Venerable Confreres,

To say "thank you" is one of the Pope's most beautiful duties. I would like here, on behalf of all of us and all of you, to express heartfelt thanks to you, Your Eminence, for these meditations which you have given us. You have guided us, illumined us and helped us to renew our priesthood. Your talks were no theological acrobatics. Instead of theological acrobatics, you offered us a healthy doctrine, the good bread of our faith.

In listening to your words, I remembered a prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel interpreted by St Augustine. In the Book of Ezekiel, the Lord, God as a Shepherd, says to his people: I will lead my sheep to the mountains of Israel, to good pastures. And St Augustine asks where these mountains of Israel are to be found and what these good pastures mean. He replies: the mountains of Israel and the good pastures are Sacred Scripture, the word of God which gives us true nourishment.

Your preaching was steeped in Sacred Scripture, showing great familiarity with the word of God, interpreted in the context of the living Church, from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and always within the context of the Reading and the Liturgy. And precisely in this way, Scripture was made present with its full timeliness. Your theology, as we have said, was not abstract theology but marked with healthy realism. I admired and enjoyed this practical experience of your 50 years of priesthood, of which you spoke and in the light of which you helped us to actualize our faith. You spoke to us words that are right and practical for our life, our conduct as priests, and I hope that many people will also read these words and take them to heart.

At the start, you began with this ever fascinating and beautiful account of the first disciples who followed Jesus. Still somewhat hesitant and timid they ask: Rabbi, where are you staying? And the answer, which you interpreted, is "Come and see". In order to see we must come, we must walk after, we must follow Jesus, who always goes before us. Only by walking after and following Jesus can we see too. You have shown us where Jesus dwells, where his dwelling place is: in his Church, in his word, in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thank you, Your Eminence, for your guidance. Let us all continue on the way towards Easter with a new impetus and with new joy. I wish you all a good Lenten Season and a happy Easter.



Seat of the municipal government Monday, 9 March 2009

Mr Mayor,
Mr President of the Municipal Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Assessors and Councillors of the Municipality of Rome,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Friends,

As has been recalled, it is not the first time that a Pope has been welcomed with such warmth at this Senatorial Palace and has taken the floor in this solemn council hall, the meeting place of the most important representatives of the municipal administration. The annals of history first record the brief Visit of Blessed Pius IX to Piazza del Campidoglio, Capitoline Square, after his Visit to the Basilica of Ara Coeli on 16 September 1870. The Visit by Pope Paul VI, made on 16 April 1966, is much more recent and it was followed by that of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, on 15 January 1998. These gestures witness to the affection and esteem that the Successors of Peter, Pastors of the Roman Catholic community and of the universal Church, have always felt for Rome, the centre of Latin and Christian civilization, a "welcoming mother of peoples" (cf. Prudentius, Liber Peristephanon, Poem 11, 191), and "a disciple of truth" (cf. Leo the Great, Tract. septem et nonaginta).

It is therefore with understandable emotion that I now take the floor during my Visit today. I speak first of all to express my gratitude, Mr Mayor, for the kind invitation to visit the Capitol which you addressed to me at the beginning of your mandate as Mayor of the City. I also thank you for the profound words interpreting the thoughts of those present with which you have welcomed me. I extend my greeting to the President of the Municipal Council, whom I thank for his noble sentiments, expressed also on behalf of his colleagues. I followed most attentively the reflections of both the Mayor and the President and I could see in them the determination of the Administration to serve this city, pointing to its true and integral material, social and spiritual wellbeing. I offer a cordial greeting lastly to the municipal authorities and councillors, to the government representatives, to the authorities and to the important figures, as well as to all the Roman citizens.

With my presence on this hill today, the seat and emblem of the history and role of Rome, I am anxious to renew the assurance of the fatherly attention that the Bishop of the Catholic community pays not only to its members but also to all Romans and all who come to the Capital from various parts of Italy and the world for reasons of religion, tourism or work, or to settle, integrating themselves into the fabric of the City. I am here today to encourage the difficult task you have as Administrators at the service of this unique metropolis. I am here to share in the expectations and hopes of the inhabitants, and to listen to their worries and problems, of whom you make yourselves responsible interpreters in this Senatorial Palace. It is the natural and dynamic centre of the projects with which, in the third millennium, the "building Palace" of Rome is teeming. Mr Mayor, I recognized in your discourse the firm intention to work to ensure that Rome continues to be a beacon of life and freedom, of moral civilization and sustainable development, promoted with respect for the dignity of every human being and his or her religious faith. I wish to assure you and your collaborators that, as always, the Catholic Church will never let her active support be wanting for any cultural and social initiative aimed at promoting the authentic good of every person and of the City as a whole. The gift of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, which I offer with affection to the Mayor and the Administrators, is intended as a sign of this collaboration.

Mr Mayor, Rome has always been a welcoming City. Especially in recent centuries, it has opened its civil and ecclesiastical university institutes and research centres to students from every part of the world. Returning to their countries, they are later called to assume roles and offices of high responsibility in various sectors of society as well as in the Church. Today, this City of ours, like Italy and the whole of humanity, finds itself facing unheard-of cultural, social and economic challenges because of the profound transformations and numerous changes which have occurred in recent decades. Rome has become increasingly populated by people who come from other nations and belong to different cultures and religious traditions. Consequently it now has the features of a multi-racial and multi-religious metropolis, in which integration is sometimes difficult and complex. On the part of the Catholic community, the sincere contribution to finding ever more suitable ways to safeguard the fundamental rights of the person with respect for legality will never lessen. I am also convinced, as you yourself said, Mr Mayor, that by drawing new sap from the roots of its history modelled by ancient law and the Christian faith Rome will be able to find the strength to demand respect for the rules of civil coexistence from all and to reject every form of intolerance and discrimination.

Allow me furthermore to point out that episodes of violence, deplored by all, show a deeper unrest. I would say that they are signs of the true spiritual impoverishment that afflicts the human heart today. The elimination of God and of his law as a condition for the achievement of human happiness has in no way reached its goal; on the contrary, it deprives human beings of the spiritual certainties and hope they need to face the daily difficulties and challenges. For example, when a wheel is disconnected from its central axle it loses its drive. Likewise, morals do not achieve their ultimate aim if they are not hinged on inspiration and submission to God, the source and judge of all good. In the face of the disturbing enfeeblement of the human and spiritual ideals that made Rome a "model" of civilization for the whole world, through the parish communities and other ecclesial structures the Church is becoming involved in a far-reaching educational effort, striving to make people, and in particular the new generations, discover those perennial values once again. In the post-modern era, if Rome wants to champion a new humanism centred on the question of the human being recognized in his full reality, it must recover its deepest soul, its civil and Christian roots. The human being cut off from God would be deprived of his transcendent vocation. Christianity brings a luminous message on the truth about man and the Church, which is the depositary of this message, is aware of her responsibility with regard to contemporary culture.

How many other things I would like to say now! As Bishop of this City I cannot forget that even in Rome, because of the current economic crisis that I mentioned earlier, an increasing number of people are losing their jobs. They are finding themselves in such precarious conditions that sometimes they cannot cope with the financial commitments they have made; I am thinking, for example, of those buying or renting a house. Therefore, a unanimous effort between the various Institutions in order to help those who live in poverty is required. The Christian community, through the parishes and other charitable structures, is already involved in providing daily support for numerous families that are toiling to maintain a dignified standard of living and, as has recently happened, is ready to collaborate with the authorities responsible for the common good. In this case, too, the values of solidarity and generosity that are deeply rooted in the hearts of Romans can be sustained by the light of the Gospel, in order that all may reassume responsibility for the needs of those in the worst hardship, so that they may feel they belong to a single family. In fact, the greater each citizen's awareness is that he is personally responsible for the life and future of our City's inhabitants, the greater will be his confidence that he can surmount the difficulties of the present time.

And what can be said of families, children and youth? Thank you, Mr Mayor, because on the occasion of my Visit, you have offered me as a gift a sign of hope for youth, giving it my name, that of an elderly Pontiff who looks trustingly to the young people and prays for them every day. Families and youth can hope in a better future to the extent that individualism leaves room for sentiments of fraternal collaboration among all the members of civil society and of the Christian community. May this new institution also be an incentive for Rome to weave a social fabric of acceptance and respect, where the encounter between culture and faith, between social life and religious testimony cooperates to form communities that are truly free and enlivened by sentiments of peace. The "Observatory for religious freedom" which you have just mentioned will also be able to make a unique contribution to this.

Mr Mayor, dear friends, at the end of my Discourse, permit me to turn my gaze to the Madonna and Child, which for several centuries has watched maternally over the work of the Municipal Administration in this hall. I entrust to her each one of you, your work and the resolutions of good that motivate you. May you all be always in agreement at the service of this beloved city, in which the Lord has called me to carry out the episcopal ministry. Upon each one of you, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings, as I assure you all of my remembrance in prayer. Thank you for your hospitality!



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After meeting the Administrators of the City, I am very glad to offer my cordial greeting to all of you who have gathered on this square on the Capitoline Hill, towards which the colonnade, with which Bernini completed the splendid structure of the Vatican Basilica, reaches out embracing it in spirit.
Having lived for so many years in Rome, by now I have become somewhat Roman; but I feel more Roman as your Bishop. Thus with deeper participation I address my thoughts, through each one of you, to all "our" fellow citizens, who in a certain way you are representing today: to the families, communities and parishes, to the children, to the young and the old and to the disabled and the sick, to the volunteers, to the social workers, the immigrants and pilgrims. I thank the Cardinal Vicar who has accompanied me on my Visit and I encourage all those priests, consecrated and lay people who actively collaborate with the public Administrations for the good of Rome, its suburbs and bordering towns, to persevere in their commitment.

A few days ago, while I was speaking with the parish priests and clergy of Rome, I said that the heart of Rome is a "poetic heart", to stress that beauty is as it were "a natural privilege... a natural charism". Rome is beautiful because of the vestiges of her antiquity, the cultural institutions and monuments that tell of her history, the churches and their numerous artistic masterpieces. However, Rome is beautiful above all because of the generosity and holiness of so many of her children who have left eloquent traces of their passion for the beauty of God, the beauty of love that does not age or wither. The Apostles Peter and Paul were witnesses to this, as were the throng of martyrs at the beginning of Christianity; many men and women who Roman by birth or by adoption did their utmost through the centuries to serve young people, the sick, the poor and all the needy. I limit myself to mentioning but a few: St Lawrence the Deacon, St Frances of Rome, whose feast is celebrated today, St Philip Neri, St Gaspare del Bufalo, St Giovanni Battista de Rossi, St Vincent Pallotti, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi and the husband and wife Blesseds Luigi and Maria Beltrami Quattrocchi. Their example shows that when a person encounters Christ he does not withdraw into himself but is open to the needs of others and, in every social milieu, puts the good of others before his own interests.

There is a real need for such men and women in our time too because many families and many young people and adults are in precarious and sometimes even dramatic situations; these situations can only be overcome together, as Rome's history, which knew many a difficult time, also teaches. In this regard, a verse by Ovid, the great Latin poet, springs to mind. In one of his elegies he encouraged the Romans of his time with these words: "Perfer et obdura: multo graviora tulisti hold out and persist: you have got through far more difficult situations" (cf. Trist., lib. v, el. xi v. 7). In addition to the necessary solidarity and the proper commitment of all, we can always count on the unfailing help of God who never abandons his children.

Dear friends, when you return to your homes, your communities and your parishes, tell everyone you meet that the Pope assures them all of his understanding, his spiritual closeness and his prayers. Please bring each one, especially the sick, the suffering and those in the most difficult situations my remembrance and God's Blessing, which I now impart to you through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, St Frances of Rome, Co-Patron of Rome. And especially of Mary Salus populi romani. May God bless and protect Rome and all its inhabitants always!




Monastery of St Frances of Rome at Tor de' Specchi Monday, 9 March 2009

Dear Oblate Sisters,

After my Visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana, while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29 May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day, commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the "most Roman of women Saints", in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live here and to everyone present.

As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent. In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at Tor de' Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a "laboratory" rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova. But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.

Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual "lung" of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual "breath", the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.

In our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing.

Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.


Distinguished representatives
of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,
Dear Catholic Delegates,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, the delegation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, together with Catholic participants led by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The important dialogue in which you are engaged is a fruit of the historical visit of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land in March 2000. It was his wish to enter into a dialogue with Jewish religious institutions in Israel and his encouragement was decisive to attaining this goal. Receiving the two Chief Rabbis of Israel in January 2004 he called this dialogue a "sign of great hope”.

During these seven years not only has the friendship between the Commission and the Chief Rabbinate increased, but you have also been able to reflect on important themes which are relevant to the Jewish and Christian traditions alike. Because we recognize a common rich spiritual patrimony a dialogue based on mutual understanding and respect is, as Nostra Aetate (n. 4) recommends, necessary and possible.

Working together you have become increasingly aware of the common values which stand at the basis of our respective religious traditions, studying them during the seven meetings held either here in Rome or in Jerusalem. You have reflected on the sanctity of life, family values, social justice and ethical conduct, the importance of the word of God expressed in Holy Scriptures for society and education, the relationship between religious and civil authority and the freedom of religion and conscience. In the common declarations released after every meeting, the views which are rooted in both our respective religious convictions have been highlighted, while the differences of understanding have also been acknowledged. The Church recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation. The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family, knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God. Christians gladly acknowledge that their own roots are found in the same self-revelation of God, in which the religious experience of the Jewish people is nourished.

As you know, I am preparing to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim. My intention is to pray especially for the precious gift of unity and peace both within the region and for the worldwide human family. As Psalm 125 brings to mind, God protects his people: "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from this time forth and for evermore". May my visit also help to deepen the dialogue of the Church with the Jewish people so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land.

I thank you for your visit and I renew my personal commitment to advancing the vision set out for coming generations in the Second Vatican Council's declaration Nostra Aetate.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers,

I receive you with great joy and heartfelt gratitude on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. On this important occasion I am pleased in the first place to offer my cordial greeting to Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect, whom I thank for the words with which he has described the work you have done in these days and expressed the sentiments of all those present here today. I extend my affectionate greeting and cordial gratitude to all the Members and Officials of the Dicastery, starting with Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary, with the Undersecretary, and to all the others who in their various offices carry out their service for the "regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy" (Pastor Bonus ) with competence and dedication. At the Plenary Meeting you have reflected on the Eucharistic Mystery and more specifically, on the theme of Eucharistic adoration. I well know that after the publication of the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium on 25 May 1967 and the promulgation on 21 June 1973 of the Document "De sacra communione et cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam", insistence on the theme of the Eucharist as an inexhaustible source of holiness was one of the Dicastery's priority concerns.

I therefore willingly accepted the proposal that the Plenary Assembly should address the theme of Eucharistic adoration, trusting that a renewed collegial reflection on this process might help to make clear, within the limits of the Dicastery's competence, the liturgical and pastoral means with which the Church of our time can promote faith in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and guarantee the celebration of Holy Mass the full dimension of adoration. I stressed this aspect in my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, in which I gathered the fruits of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod celebrated in October 2005. In it, highlighting the importance of the intrinsic relationship between the celebration of the Eucharist and adoration (cf. n. 66), I cited St Augustine's teaching: "Nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 98, 9: CCL 39, 1385). The Synod Fathers did not omit to express concern at a certain confusion which arose after the Second Vatican Council about the relationship between Mass and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 66). This Apostolic Exhortation echoes what my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II said concerning the deviance that has sometimes contaminated post-conciliar liturgical renewal, demonstrating "an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 10).

The Second Vatican Council shed light on the unique role that the Eucharistic mystery plays in the life of the faithful (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 48-54). As Pope Paul VI said on various occasions: "the Eucharist is a very great mystery, in fact, properly speaking and in the words of the Sacred Liturgy, the mystery of faith" (Mysterium Fidei MF 15). In fact, the Eucharist is present at the Church's very origins (cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 21) and is the source of grace that constitutes an incomparable opportunity both for the sanctification of humanity in Christ and for the glorification of God. In this sense, on the one hand all the Church's activities are ordained to the mystery of the Eucharist (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10, Lumen Gentium, n. 11; Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5 Sacramentum Caritatis PO 17) and, moreover, it is by virtue of the Eucharist that "the Church ever derives her life and on which she thrives" (Lumen Gentium LG 26), today too. Our task is to perceive the most precious treasure of this ineffable mystery of faith "not only in the celebration of Mass but also in devotion to the sacred species which remain after Mass and are reserved to extend the grace of the sacrifice" (Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium, n. 3, g). The doctrine of the transubstantiation of the bread and the wine and of the Real Presence are truths of faith that are also visible in Sacred Scripture itself and were subsequently confirmed by the Fathers of the Church. In this regard, Pope Paul VI recalled that "the Catholic Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but in her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great Sacrament the worship known as "latria' which may be given to God alone" (Mysterium Fidei MF 55 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1378).

It is appropriate to remember in this regard the different meanings of the word "adoration" in the Greek and Latin languages. The Greek word proskýnesis means the act of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure and by whose law we agree to abide. The Latin word adoratio, on the other hand, denotes the physical contact the kiss, the embrace which is implicit in the idea of love. The aspect of submission foresees a relationship of union because the one to whom we submit is Love. Indeed, in the Eucharist, worship must become union: union with the living Lord and then with his Mystical Body. As I said to the young people on the Marienfeld Esplanade during the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne on 21 August 2005, "God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world" (Mass for the conclusion of the World Youth Day, Cologne). In this perspective I reminded the young people that in the Eucharist one lives the "fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, [which] brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood. But it must not stop there; on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn" (ibid.).

In his Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy, my Predecessor Pope John Paul II urged the faithful to take the necessary steps to deepen their experience of renewal. This is also important concerning the topic of Eucharistic adoration. This deepening will only be possible through greater knowledge of the mystery in total fidelity to sacred Tradition and increasing liturgical life within our communities (cf. Spiritus et Sponsa, 4 December 2003, nn. 6-7). In this regard I particularly appreciate the fact that the Plenary Assembly also reflected on the subject of the formation in the faith of the whole People of God with special attention to seminarians, in order to increase growth in a spirit of authentic Eucharistic adoration. In fact, St Thomas explains "that in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that "cannot be apprehended by the senses' but only by faith, which relies on divine authority" (Summa Theologiae, III, 75, 1; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1381).

We are living the days of holy Lent which not only constitute a journey of a more intense spiritual apprenticeship but are also an effective preparation to celebrate Holy Easter better. Recalling three penitential practices very dear to biblical and Christian tradition prayer, alms-giving and fasting let us encourage one another to rediscover and live fasting not only as an ascetic practice but also as a preparation for the Eucharist and a spiritual weapon with which to fight any possible confused self attachment. May this intense period of liturgical life help us to distance ourselves from all that distracts the mind and to intensify what nourishes the soul, opening it to love of God and of neighbour. With these sentiments, from this moment I express my good wishes to all of you for the upcoming Easter festivities and, as I thank you for the work you have done at this Plenary Session and for all the work of the Congregation, I impart my Blessing to each one of you with affection.


Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

It is a cause of deep joy to me to welcome you at this meeting with the Successor of Peter and the Head of the Episcopal College. I am grateful for the kind words of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and President of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, conveying the sentiments of all. Through you I would also like to greet all the clergy, the religious communities and lay people of your dioceses, expressing to them my appreciation and closeness, as well as my constant encouragement in the exciting task of evangelization which they carry out with great devotion and generosity.

You have come here to venerate the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to share with the Bishop of Rome the joys and hopes, the experiences and difficulties of your episcopal ministry. The ad limina visit is a significant event in the life of all who have been entrusted with a portion of the People of God, for in it they demonstrate and strengthen their communion with the Roman Pontiff.

The Lord founded the Church so that it might be "a sign and instrument... of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen Gentium LG 1). The Church in herself is a mystery of communion, "a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (ibid., n. 4). In fact, God has desired to bring the fullness of salvation to all people by making them share in the gift of the Redemption of Christ and thus enter into communion of life with the Trinity.

The episcopal ministry is at the service of the unity and communion of the whole Mystical Body of Christ. The Bishop, who is the visible source and foundation of unity in his particular Church, has the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of the faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and, in addition, of schooling the faithful in the love of all their brethren (cf. ibid., n. 23).

I would like to express my gratitude to you for your determination to preserve and strengthen unity in the heart of your Bishops' Conference and in your diocesan communities. The words of Our Lord "that they may all be one" (Jn 17,21) must be a constant source of inspiration in your pastoral activity which will, without any doubt, redound into greater apostolic effectiveness. In addition, this unity which you must foster intensely and visibly, will be a source of comfort in the serious responsibility that has been entrusted to you. Thanks to affective and effective collegiality, no Bishop stands alone for he is always and closely bound to Christ the Good Shepherd and also, by virtue of his episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion, to his Brothers in the episcopate and to the man whom the Lord has chosen as Successor of Peter (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis ). I would now like to tell you in a special way that you can count on my full support, my daily prayers and my spiritual closeness in your efforts and commitment to make the Church "the home and the school of communion" (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43).

This spirit of communion has a privileged application in the Bishop's relationship with his priests. I am well acquainted with your desire to pay greater attention to your priests, and, in line with the Second Vatican Council, I encourage you to be solicitous, showing fatherly and brotherly love, "for the welfare spiritual, intellectual, and material of your priests, so that they may live holy and pious lives, and exercise a faithful and fruitful ministry" (Christus Dominus CD 16). Likewise, I urge you to show charity and caution, when you have to correct teachings, attitudes or forms of behaviour that do not befit the priestly condition of your closest collaborators and, moreover, could damage and confuse the faith and the Christian life of the faithful.

The fundamental role played by priests must induce you to make a great effort to promote vocations to the priesthood. In this regard, it will be appropriate to plan a more effective matrimonial and family pastoral ministry which takes into account the vocational dimension of the Christian, and a more daring youth ministry which helps young men respond generously to God's call. It is also necessary to intensify the formation of seminarians in all its dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and pastoral, and further, to carry out the effective and demanding process of the discernment of candidates to sacred orders.

In this perspective of deepening communion in the Church it is of supreme importance to recognize, appreciate and encourage the participation of religious in the evangelizing activity of the diocese, enriching it with the contribution of their respective charisms.

By virtue of their Baptism, the faithful are also called to cooperate in building up the Body of Christ. It is therefore necessary to enable them to have a more vivid experience of Jesus Christ and of the mystery of his love. Constant contact with the Lord through an intense life of prayer and a proper spiritual and doctrinal formation will increase in all Christians the joy of believing and celebrating their faith as well as happiness in belonging to the Church, thus impelling them to participate actively in the mission of proclaiming the Good News.

Dear Brothers, I assure you once again of my closeness in my daily prayers, together with my firm hope in the progress and spiritual renewal of your communities. May the Lord grant you the joy of serving him, guiding on his behalf the flock that has been entrusted to you. May the Virgin Mary, with her title "Our Lady of Luján", accompany you and protect you and your diocesan faithful always. With great affection I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

I am glad to be able to welcome you at a special Audience on the eve of my departure for Africa, where I am going to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa that will be held here in Rome next October. I thank Cardinal Cláudio Hummes for the kind words with which he has interpreted the sentiments you share and I thank you for the beautiful letter you wrote to me. With him, I greet you all, Superiors, Officials and Members of the Congregation, with gratitude for all the work you do at the service of such an important sector of the Church's life.

The theme you have chosen for this Plenary Assembly "The missionary identity of the priest in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the tria munera" suggests some reflections on the work of these days and the abundant fruit that it will certainly yield. If the whole Church is missionary and if every Christian, by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation quasi ex officio (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1305), receives the mandate to profess the faith publicly, the ministerial priesthood, also from this viewpoint, is ontologically distinct, and not only by rank, from the baptismal priesthood that is also known as the "common priesthood". In fact, the apostolic mandate "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole of creation" (Mc 16,15) is constitutive of the ministerial priesthood. This mandate is not, as we know, a mere duty entrusted to collaborators; its roots are deeper and must be sought further back in time.

The missionary dimension of the priesthood is born from the priest's sacramental configuration to Christ. As a consequence it brings with it a heartfelt and total adherence to what the ecclesial tradition has identified as apostolica vivendi forma. This consists in participation in a "new life", spiritually speaking, in that "new way of life" which the Lord Jesus inaugurated and which the Apostles made their own. Through the imposition of the Bishop's hands and the consecratory prayer of the Church, the candidates become new men, they become "presbyters". In this light it is clear that the tria munera are first a gift and only consequently an office, first a participation in a life, and hence a potestas. Of course, the great ecclesial tradition has rightly separated sacramental efficacy from the concrete existential situation of the individual priest and so the legitimate expectations of the faithful are appropriately safeguarded. However, this correct doctrinal explanation takes nothing from the necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart.

Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special "Year for Priests" that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock. It will be the task of your Congregation, in agreement with the diocesan Ordinaries and with the superiors of religious institutes to promote and to coordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives that seem useful for making the importance of the priest's role and mission in the Church and in contemporary society ever more clearly perceived.

The priest's mission, as the theme of the Plenary Assembly emphasizes, is carried out "in the Church". This ecclesial communal, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable to every authentic mission and, alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as intimately connected: the mission is "ecclesial" because no one proclaims himself in the first person, but within and through his own humanity every priest must be well aware that he is bringing to the world Another, God himself. God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest. The mission is "communional" because it is carried out in a unity and communion that only secondly has also important aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be expert, so that he may be able to lead the souls entrusted to him humbly and trustingly to the same encounter with the Lord. Lastly, the "hierarchical" and "doctrinal" dimensions suggest reaffirming the importance of the ecclesiastical discipline (the term has a connection with "disciple") and doctrinal training and not only theological, initial and continuing formation.

Awareness of the radical social changes that have occurred in recent decades must motivate the best ecclesial forces to supervise the formation of candidates for the ministry. In particular, it must foster the constant concern of Pastors for their principal collaborators, both by cultivating truly fatherly human relations and by taking an interest in their continuing formation, especially from the doctrinal and spiritual viewpoints. The mission is rooted in a special way in a good formation, developed in communion with uninterrupted ecclesial Tradition, without breaks or temptations of irregularity. In this sense, it is important to encourage in priests, especially in the young generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of the Church's entire fund of doctrine. It seems urgent to recover that awareness that has always been at the heart of the Church's mission, which impels priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both for their judgement of faith, for their personal virtues as well as for the habit, in the contexts of culture and of charity.

As Church and as priests, we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ, Crucified and Risen, Sovereign of time and of history, in the glad certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest expectations of the human heart. In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, that is, of the fact that God became man like us, lies both the content and the method of Christian proclamation. The true dynamic centre of the mission is here: in Jesus Christ, precisely. The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission nor the Church herself. In this regard it is necessary to be alert to ensure that the "new structures" or pastoral organizations are not planned on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the proper promotion of the laity for a time in which one would have "to do without" the ordained ministry, because in that case the presuppositions for a further dilution of the ministerial priesthood would be laid and possible presumed "solutions" might come dramatically to coincide with the real causes of contemporary problems linked to the ministry.

I am certain that in these days the work of the Plenary Assembly, under the protection of the Mater Ecclesiae, will be able to examine these brief ideas that I permit myself to submit to the attention of the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, while I invoke upon you all an abundance of heavenly gifts, as a pledge of which I impart a special, affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.



Speeches 2005-13 10309