Speeches 2005-13 13150

MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS OF PORTUGAL Conference Hall of the "Casa Nossa Senhora do Carmo" - Fátima Thursday, 13 May 2010


Dear Brother Bishops,

I thank God for giving me this occasion to meet all of you here at the Shrine of Fatima, the spiritual heart of Portugal, where multitudes of pilgrims from all over the world come looking to discover or to reinforce their certainty in the truths of Heaven. Among them has come from Rome the Successor of Peter, accepting the oft-repeated invitations and moved by a debt of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who herself transmitted to her seers and pilgrims an intense love for the Holy Father which has borne fruit in a great multitude which prays, with Jesus as its guide: Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (
Lc 22,32).

As you see, the Pope needs to open himself ever more fully to the mystery of the Cross, embracing it as the one hope and the supreme way to gain and to gather in the Crucified One all his brothers and sisters in humanity. Obeying the word of God, he is called to live not for himself but for the presence of God in the world. I am comforted by the determination with which you too follow me closely, fearing nothing except the loss of eternal salvation for your people, as was clearly expressed in the words of greeting spoken by Archbishop Jorge Ortiga upon my arrival in your midst, and which testify to the unconditional fidelity of the Bishops of Portugal to the Successor of Peter. From my heart I thank you. I thank you as well for all the attention that you have given to organizing my Visit. May God reward you, and pour out the Holy Spirit in abundance upon you and your Dioceses so that, with one heart and with one soul, you may bring to completion the pastoral work which you have begun, that is, offering each member of the faithful an exacting and attractive Christian initiation, one which communicates the integrity of the faith and genuine spirituality, rooted in the Gospel, and capable of forming free and generous labourers in the midst of public life.

In truth, the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigour on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out, as faithful lay men and women, their Christian freedom.

You maintain a strong prophetic dimension, without allowing yourselves to be silenced, in the present social context, for “the word of God is not fettered” (2Tm 2,9). People cry out for the Good News of Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to their lives and protects their dignity. In your role as first evangelizers, it will be useful for you to know and to understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources; what is decisive, however, is the ability to inculcate in all those engaged in the work of evangelization a true desire for holiness, in the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, when, in the view of many people, the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society and, often, seen as seed threatened and obscured by the “gods” and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by means simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a general appeal to Christian values. The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people’s hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts is, above all, the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him. The words of Pope John Paul II come to mind: “The Church needs above all great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness among the ‘Christifideles’ because it is from holiness that is born every authentic renewal of the Church, all intelligent enrichment of the faith and of the Christian life, the vital and fecund reactualization of Christianity with the needs of man, a renewed form of presence in the heart of human existence and of the culture of nations (Address for the XX Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Conciliar Decree “Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 18 November 1985). One could say, “the Church has need of these great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness…, but there are none!”

In this regard, I confess to you the pleasant surprise that I had in making contact with the movements and the new ecclesial communities. Watching them, I had the joy and the grace to see how, at a moment of weariness in the Church, at a time when we were hearing about “the winter of the Church”, the Holy Spirit was creating a new springtime, awakening in young people and adults alike the joy of being Christian, of living in the Church, which is the living Body of Christ. Thanks to their charisms, the radicality of the Gospel, the objective contents of the faith, the living flow of her tradition, are all being communicated in a persuasive way and welcomed as a personal experience, as adherence in freedom to the present event of Christ.

The necessary condition, naturally, is that these new realities desire to live in the one Church, albeit with spaces in some way set aside for their own life, in such a way that this life becomes fruitful for all the others. The bearers of a particular charism must feel themselves fundamentally responsible for communion, for the common faith of the Church, and submit themselves to the leadership of their Bishops. It is they who must ensure the ecclesial nature of the movements. Bishops are not only those who hold an office, but those who themselves are bearers of charisms, and responsible for the openness of the Church to the working of the Holy Spirit. We, Bishops, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, are anointed by the Holy Spirit and thus the sacrament ensures that we too are open to his gifts. Thus, on the one hand, we must feel responsibility for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality, but, on the other hand, we must also help the movements to find the right way, making some corrections with understanding – with the spiritual and human understanding that is able to combine guidance, gratitude and a certain openness and a willingness to learn.

This is precisely what you must foster or confirm in your priests. In this Year for Priests now drawing to a close, rediscover, dear brothers, the role of the Bishop as father, especially with regard to your priests. For all too long the responsibility of authority as a service aimed at the growth of others and in the first place of priests, has been given second place. Priests are called to serve, in their pastoral ministry, and to be part of a pastoral activity of communion or oneness, as the Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis reminds us, “No priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can only do so by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who govern the Church” (No. 7). This is not a matter of turning back to the past, nor of a simple return to our origins, but rather of a recovery of the fervour of the origins, of the joy of the initial Christian experience, and of walking beside Christ like the disciples of Emmaus on the day of Easter, allowing his word to warm our hearts and his “broken bread” to open our eyes to the contemplation of his face. Only in this way will the fire of charity blaze strongly enough to impel every Christian to become a source of light and life in the Church and among all men and women.

Before concluding, I would like to ask you, in your role as leaders and ministers of charity in the Church, to rekindle, in yourselves as individuals and as a group, a sense of mercy and of compassion, in order to respond to grave social needs. New organizations must be established, and those already existing perfected, so that they can be capable of responding creatively to every form of poverty, including those experienced as a lack of the meaningfulness in life and the absence of hope. The efforts you are making to assist the Dioceses most in need, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries, is praiseworthy. May difficulties, which today are more deeply felt, not make you shrink from the logic of self-giving. Let there continue and flourish in this country, your witness as prophets of justice and peace, and defenders of the inalienable rights of the person. Join your voice to the voices of the least powerful, whom you have wisely helped to gain a voice of their own, without ever being afraid of raising your voice on behalf of the oppressed, the downtrodden and those who have been mistreated.

I entrust all of you to Our Lady of Fatima, and I ask her to sustain you with her maternal care amid the challenges which you face, so that you will be promoters of a culture and a spirituality of charity, peace, hope and justice, faith and service. To you, to the members of your families and to your diocesan communities I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Brothers and sisters, my dear friends,

I am happy to be among you and I thank you for the festive and cordial welcome which I have received here in Oporto, the “City of the Virgin.” To her motherly protection I entrust you and your families, your communities and institutions serving the common good, including the universities of the city whose students have gathered to show me their gratitude and their attachment to the teaching of the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith. I also thank again those who worked in various ways preparing and realizing my visit, especially the preparations made in prayer. I would have happily prolonged my stay in your city, but it is not possible. So let me take my leave of you, embracing each one of you affectionately in Christ our Hope, as I give you my blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

FAREWELL CEREMONY International Airport of Porto Friday, 14 May 2010

Mr President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

At the conclusion of my visit, my heart is filled with vivid memories of a great many moments from my pilgrimage to Portugal. I shall long remember the heartfelt and affectionate welcome that you accorded me, the warmth and spontaneity with which bonds of communion were established with the groups that I was able to encounter, the hard work that went into the preparation and realization of the pastoral programme.

As I take my leave, I express sincere gratitude to all of you: to the President of the Republic, who has honoured me with his presence since my arrival here, to my brother bishops with whom I have renewed our profound union in the service of Christ’s Kingdom, to the Government and to all the civil and military authorities who have done their utmost with visible dedication throughout the entire journey. I offer you every good wish! The communications media have enabled me to reach out to many people who were unable to see me in person. To them too I am most grateful.

To all the Portuguese, whether Catholic or not, to the men and women who live here, whether they were born here or elsewhere, I extend my greetings at this moment of leave-taking. May you live in increasing harmony with one another, a pre-requisite for genuine cohesion and the only way to address the challenges before you with shared responsibility. May this glorious nation continue to manifest greatness of spirit, a profound sense of God and an openness to solidarity, governed by principles and values imbued with Christian humanism. In Fatima I prayed for the whole world, asking that the future may see an increase in fraternity and solidarity, greater mutual respect and renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Portuguese ecclesial community. I was able to see the enthusiasm of the children and young people, the faithfulness of the priests, deacons and religious, the pastoral dedication of the bishops, the desire to search for truth and evident beauty in the world of culture, the resourcefulness of the social pastoral workers, the vibrancy of faith among the lay faithful in the dioceses that I visited. I hope that my visit may become an incentive for renewed spiritual and apostolic ardour. May the Gospel be accepted in its entirety and witnessed with passion by every disciple of Christ, so that it may show itself to be a leaven of authentic renewal for the whole of society!

I impart my Apostolic Blessing to Portugal and to all its sons and daughters, bringing hope, peace and courage, which I implore from God through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, to whom you pray with such trust and firm love. Let us continue to walk in hope! Good-bye!



Your Excellency, I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates. On this notable occasion, I would ask you to convey my greetings to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Kindly assure him of my gratitude for the good wishes which you have just expressed on his behalf, and of my prayers for his well-being and that of all the people of the Emirates.

As diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United Arab Emirates have only recently been established, your presence here today as your country’s first Ambassador to the Holy See is a particularly auspicious event. During a joint ceremony with other Ambassadors on 15 April 2008, the President of the United Arab Emirates noted that the Papal Representative “exercises a particular mission, which is above all for the preservation of faith in God and the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.” Faith in the Almighty cannot but lead to love for one’s neighbour for, as I wrote recently, “love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace” (Caritas in Veritate ).

Love of God and respect for the dignity of one’s neighbour motivates the Holy See’s diplomacy and shapes the Catholic Church’s mission of service to the international community. The Church’s action in the field of diplomatic relations promotes peace, human rights and integral development, and thus strives for the authentic progress of all, without regard for race, colour or creed. Indeed, it is towards men and women, understood as unique in their God-given nature, that all politics, culture, technology and development are directed. To reduce the aims of these human endeavours merely to profit or expediency would be to risk missing the centrality of the human person in his or her integrity as the primary good to be safeguarded and valued, for man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). Thus, the Holy See and the Catholic Church take care to highlight the dignity of man in order to maintain a clear and authentic vision of humanity on the international stage and in order to muster new energy in the service of what is best for the development of peoples and nations.

Your Excellency, the United Arab Emirates, notwithstanding difficulties, have experienced notable economic growth in recent years. In this context, your country has welcomed many hundreds of thousands of foreigners coming to seek work and a more secure financial future for themselves and for their families. They enrich the State not only by their labour but by their very presence, which is an opportunity for a fruitful and positive encounter between the world’s great religions, cultures and peoples. The openness of the United Arab Emirates towards those foreign workers requires constant efforts to strengthen the conditions necessary for peaceful coexistence and social progress, and is to be commended. I would like to note here with satisfaction that there are several Catholic churches built on lands donated by the public authorities. It is the Holy See’s earnest wish that this cooperation may continue and indeed flourish, according to the growing pastoral necessities of the Catholic population living there. Freedom of worship contributes significantly to the common good and brings social harmony to all those societies where it is practised. I assure you of the desire of the Catholic Christians present in your country to contribute to the well-being of your society, to live God-fearing lives and to respect the dignity of all peoples and religions.

Madam Ambassador, in offering you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support to you in the fulfilment of your duties. It is the sincere desire of the Holy See to strengthen the relations now happily established between it and the United Arab Emirates. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Emirates, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Holy See. I am most grateful for the greetings which you have brought from President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, and I ask you to convey to him my own prayerful good wishes for him and for all your fellow-citizens. As your nation celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its passage to democracy, I express my confidence that the great progress made in these years will continue to bear fruit in the consolidation of a social order which promotes the common good of your citizens, while furthering their legitimate aspirations for the future.

I also take this occasion, Mr Ambassador, to express my solidarity and concern for the many individuals and families who suffered as a result of the harsh winter and the effects of last year’s torrential rains and flooding. As you have rightly observed, environmental issues, particularly those related to climate change, are global issues and need to be addressed on a global level.

As Your Excellency has noted, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Holy See, which took place after the great social and political changes of two decades ago, are a sign of your nation’s commitment to an enriching interchange within the wider international community. Religion and culture, as interrelated expressions of the deepest spiritual aspirations of our common humanity, naturally serve as incentives for dialogue and cooperation between peoples in the service of peace and genuine development. Authentic human development, in effect, needs to take into consideration every dimension of the person, and thus aspire to those higher goods which respect man’s spiritual nature and ultimate destiny (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). For this reason, I wish to express my appreciation for the constant support of the Government in ensuring religious liberty. The establishment of a commission, charged with the fair application of law and with protecting the rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, stands as a recognition of the importance of religious groups within the social fabric and their potential for promoting a future of harmony and prosperity.

Mr Ambassador, I take this occasion to assure you of the desire of Mongolia’s Catholic citizens to contribute to the common good by sharing fully in the life of the nation. The Church’s primary mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fidelity to the liberating message of the Gospel, she seeks also to contribute to the advancement of the entire community. It is this that inspires the efforts of the Catholic community to cooperate with the Government and with people of good will by working to overcome all kinds of social problems. The Church is also concerned to play her proper part in the work of intellectual and human formation, above all by educating the young in the values of respect, solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. In this way, she strives to serve her Lord by showing charitable concern for the needy and for the good of the whole human family.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your mission, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to strengthen the good relations existing between the Holy See and Mongolia. Upon you and your family, and upon all the people of your nation, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.




Praise the name of the Lord,
give praise, O servants of the Lord.
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for he is gracious!
Thy name, O Lord, endures for ever; thy renown,
O Lord, throughout the ages. Alleluia!

Venerable Brethren,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just listened to the words of Psalm 135 [134], set to a sublime melody. They are a fine interpretation of our sentiments of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and likewise of our intense inner joy for this moment of encounter and friendship with our dear Brothers of the Patriarchate of Moscow. On the occasion of my Birthday and the fifth anniversary of my election as the Successor of Peter, His Holiness Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, has offered me, along with the much appreciated words of His Message, this extraordinary musical event, presented by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and composer of the Symphony that was just performed.

My profound gratitude, therefore, goes to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. To him I extend my most brotherly and cordial greeting, as I convey my heartfelt wish that our praise of the Lord and commitment to the progress of peace and harmony among peoples can ever increasingly unite us, making us grow in the concordance of our intentions and the harmony of our actions. Thus I also wholeheartedly thank Metropolitan Hilarion, for the greeting he has so kindly wished to address to me, as well as for his constant commitment to ecumenism. I also congratulate him on his artistic genius, which we have just had the opportunity to appreciate. Along with him I warmly greet the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Moscow and the distinguished representatives of the Government of the Russian Federation. I extend a cordial greeting to the Cardinals and Bishops here present, in particular to Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who organized with their Dicasteries and in close collaboration with the representatives of the Patriarchate the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican". I greet further the distinguished Ambassadors, respectable Authorities and all of you, dear friends, brothers and sisters, especially the Russian community present in Rome and in Italy, who are participating in this joyful, festive moment.

Music was called upon to set the seal on this occasion in a truly exceptional, evocative way: the music of contemporary and historic Russia, performed for us so masterfully by the Russian National Orchestra, directed by Maestro Carlo Ponti; by the Moscow Synodal Choir and by the St Petersburg Horn Cappella. I offer my warmest thanks to all the artists for the talent, commitment and passion with which they draw the world's attention to the masterpieces of the Russian musical tradition. These works, which today we have heard in a meaningful performance, contain in a profound way the soul of the Russian people, and with it the Christian faith. Both find extraordinary expression precisely in the Divine Liturgy and in the liturgical singing that always accompanies it. There exists, in fact, a tight, fundamental bond between Russian music and liturgical singing. It is in and from the liturgy that a large part of the artistic genius of Russian musicians draws inspiration, as it were: thus giving life to the masterpieces that deserve to be better known in the Western world. Today we had the joy of listening to passages by the great Russian composers of the 1800's and 1900's, like Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, Tschaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. These composers, especially the latter, drew from Russia's rich musical-liturgical patrimony and tradition, reworking and harmonizing it with inspirations and musical experiences from the West, nearer to modernity. I believe that Metropolitan Hilarion's piece follows in this same vein.

So, somehow the music already anticipates and resolves the impact between East and West through dialogue and synergy, and likewise that between tradition and modernity. Venerable John Paul ii imagined an analogous vision of a united and harmonious Europe, when by employing the same image suggested by Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov of the "two lungs" to which it is necessary to return in order to breathe he expressed the hope for a renewed awareness of the profound, common cultural and religious roots of the European continent. Without them, it would be as if modern Europe lacked a soul, or in any case would be marked by a reductionist and biased view. It was precisely to reflect further on these problematical issues that the Symposium was held yesterday on the theme, "Orthodox and Catholics in Europe Today: The Christian Roots and the Shared Cultural Heritage of East and West", organized jointly by the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and that for Culture.

As I have affirmed many times, contemporary culture particularly that of Europe runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and therefore abandoning that extraordinary heritage that the Christian faith has generated and inspired. It constitutes the essential framework of European culture, and not of it alone. Beyond the religious life and the witness of many generations of believers, Europe's Christian roots in fact also encompass its invaluable cultural and artistic patrimony: the boast and precious resource of the peoples and Countries in which the Christian faith in its diverse manifestations has engaged in dialogue with culture and the arts, animating and inspiring them, fostering and promoting creativity and human genius like never before. Those roots are still alive and fruitful today, in both East and West, and they can or rather they must inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress, in order to respond effectively to the numerous and sometimes crucial challenges which our Christian communities and our societies must face. Above all, the first is that of secularization, which not only tends to disregard God and his design but also ends up denying human dignity itself, with a view to a society regulated solely by selfish interests.

Let us return to the vision of a Europe that breathes with both lungs, to restore the spirit not only of believers, but to all the peoples of the Continent, thus promoting trust and hope by rooting them in the age-old experience of Christian faith! At this time, the consistent, generous and courageous Christian witness of believers cannot be lacking. In this way we will be able to seek a common future together, one in which freedom and dignity may be recognized as fundamental values of every man and woman, in which an openness to the Transcendent may be given worth, and in which the faith experience is considered a constitutive element of the human person.

In the piece by Mussorgsky, entitled The Angel Proclaimed, we listened to the words the Angel addressed to Mary and therefore to us, too: "Rejoice, all you people!". The reason for this joy is clear: Christ has risen from the tomb "and he has brought the dead back to life". Dear brothers and sisters, the joy of the Risen Christ is what enlivens us, encourages and sustains us on this our journey of faith and of Christian witness. Hence shall we offer true happiness and concrete hope to the world, so as to give valid reasons to have trust to humanity, to the people of Europe, whom I gladly entrust to the maternal and powerful intercession of the Virgin Mary. I renew my expression of gratitude to Patriarch Kirill, to Metropolitan Hilarion, to the Russian representatives, the orchestra, the choirs, the organizers and all here present. May the Lord's abundant Blessings descend upon all of you and upon your loved ones.


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

It is with joy that I welcome you all, Members and Consultors, participants in the 24th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I extend my cordial greeting to the President, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, as I also thank him for the kind words he has expressed to me; to the Secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and to all those present. Your Dicastery's structure in which primarily lay people, coming from across the world and from very diverse contexts and backgrounds, work alongside Pastors offers a meaningful cross-section of the organic community of the Church. In her the common priesthood of the baptized faithful and the ordained priesthood put down their roots in the unique priesthood of Christ each in essentially different ways, but ordered one to the other. Now that we have almost reached the end of the Year for Priests we feel ourselves, to a heightened degree, to be grateful witnesses of the surprising and generous self-gift and dedication of the many men "conquered" by Christ and configured to him in the ordained priesthood. Day after day, they accompany the christifideles laici on their journey of faith, proclaiming the word of God, communicating his forgiveness and reconciliation with Him, calling them to prayer and offering as sustenance the Lord's Body and Blood. It is from this mystery of communion that the lay faithful draw the profound strength to be witnesses of Christ in the concrete reality and substance of their lives, in all of their activities and surroundings.

The theme of your Assembly: "Witnesses to Christ in the Political Community", takes on a special importance. Of course, the technical formation of politicians is not part of the Church's mission; various other institutions exist for this purpose. Rather, the Church's mission is to "pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.... [T]he only means it may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances" (Gaudium et spes
GS 76). The Church concentrates particularly on the formation of the disciples of Christ, in order that they may ever increasingly become witnesses of his Presence, any and everywhere. It is up to the lay faithful to demonstrate concretely in their personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life that the faith enables them to see reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it; that Christian hope broadens the limited horizon of mankind, expanding it towards the true loftiness of his being, towards God; that charity in truth is the most effective force that is capable of changing the world; that the Gospel gives a guarantee of freedom and a message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the social doctrine of the Church such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity are extremely relevant and valuable in order to support new paths of development in service to the whole person and to all humanity. It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner consistently in accordance with the Church's teaching, bringing their well-founded reasons and high ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among all those who care about the defense of life and freedom, the safeguarding of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the crucial search for the common good. Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony but, whatever their work, they are animated by the certainty that Christ is the cornerstone of every human structure (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 24 November 2002).

In taking up the words of my Predecessors, I too can affirm that politics is a very important field in which to exercise charity. It calls Christians to a strong commitment to citizenship, to building a good life in one's country, and likewise to an effective presence among the international community's institutions and programmes. There is a need for authentically Christian politicians but, even more so, for lay faithful who witness to Christ and the Gospel in the civil and political community. This demand must be reflected in the educational programmes of ecclesial communities and requires new forms of presence and support from Pastors. Christian membership in faith-related associations, ecclesial movements and new communities can provide a good school for these disciples and witnesses, sustained by the charismatic, communitarian, educational and missionary resources of these groups.

This is a demanding challenge. The times in which we live confront us with large and complex problems, and the social question has become an anthropological question at the same time. In the recent past, the ideological paradigms have been shattered that proposed to be a "scientific" response to that question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of a utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favours the dominance of strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political wisdom; be demanding in what concerns our own sphere of competency; make discerning use of the research of the human sciences; face reality in all its aspects, going beyond any kind of ideological reductionism or utopian dream; show we are open to true dialogue and collaboration, bearing in mind that politics is also a complex art of equilibrium between ideals and interests, but never forgetting that the contribution of Christians can be effective only if knowledge of faith becomes knowledge of reality, the key to judgement and transformation. What is needed is a real "revolution of love". The new generations have immense demands and challenges before them in their personal and social life. Your Dicastery looks after them with special care, particularly through the World Youth Days, which have for 25 years been producing rich apostolic fruits among young people. Among these challenges is also the social and political commitment, founded not on partisan ideologies or interests but rather on the choice to serve man and the common good, in the light of the Gospel.

Dear friends, as I invoke abundant fruits from the Lord upon your work in this Assembly and upon your daily lives, I entrust each one of you, your families and communities to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the new evangelization, and I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Speeches 2005-13 13150