Speeches 2005-13 288



Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

With great joy I welcome you, the Bishops of Sudan, on your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I am grateful to Bishop Deng Majak for the kind words which he has addressed to me on your behalf. In the spirit of communion in the Lord which unites us as successors of the Apostles, I join you in giving thanks for the "higher gift" (cf. 1Co 12,31) of Christian charity which is evident in your lives and in the generous service of the priests, men and women religious and the lay faithful of Sudan. Your fidelity to the Lord and the fruits of your labours amid difficulties and sufferings bear eloquent witness to the power of the Cross which shines through our human limitations and weakness (cf. 1Co 1,23-24).

I know how much you and the faithful of your country long for peace, and how patiently you are working for its restoration. Anchored in your faith and hope in Christ the Prince of Peace, may you always find in the Gospel the principles needed to shape your preaching and teaching, your judgements and actions. Inspired by those principles, and echoing the just aspirations of the entire Catholic community, you have spoken out with one voice in rejecting "any return to war" and in appealing for the establishment of peace at every level of national life (cf. Sudan Bishops’ Statement, For a Just and Lasting Peace, 4).

If peace is to plant deep roots, concrete efforts must be made to diminish the factors contributing to unrest, particularly corruption, ethnic tensions, indifference and selfishness. Initiatives in this regard will surely prove fruitful if they are based on integrity, a sense of universal brotherhood and the virtues of justice, responsibility and charity. Treaties and other agreements, indispensable building blocks in the peace process, will only bear fruit if they are inspired and accompanied by the exercise of mature and morally upright leadership.

I urge you to draw strength from your recent experience at the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops as you continue to preach reconciliation and forgiveness. The effects of violence may take many years to heal, yet the change of heart which is the indispensable condition for a just and lasting peace must even now be implored as a gift of God’s grace. As heralds of the Gospel, you have sought to instil in your people and in society a sense of responsibility towards present and future generations, encouraging forgiveness, mutual acceptance and respect for commitments taken. You have likewise worked to advance fundamental human rights through the rule of law and have called for the application of an integral model of economic and human development. I appreciate all that the Church in your country is doing to assist poor people to live in dignity and self-respect, to help them find long-term work and to enable them to make their proper contribution to society.

As the sign and instrument of restored and reconciled humanity, the Church even now experiences the peace of the Kingdom through her communion in the Lord. May your preaching and your pastoral activity continue to be inspired by a spirituality of communion which unites minds and hearts in obedience to the Gospel, participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and fidelity to your episcopal authority. The exercise of that authority should never be seen "as something impersonal or bureaucratic, precisely because it is an authority born of witness" (cf. Pastores Gregis ). For this reason, you yourselves must be the first teachers and witnesses of our communion in faith and the love of Christ, sharing common initiatives, listening to your collaborators, helping priests, religious and faithful to accept and support one another as brothers and sisters, without distinction of race or ethnic group, in a generous exchange of gifts.

As a significant part of this witness, I encourage you to dedicate your energy to strengthening Catholic education, and thus preparing lay people in particular to bear convincing witness to Christ in every aspect of family, social and political life. This is a task to which all Catholic institutions of higher learning and ecclesial movements can make a meaningful contribution. After parents, catechists are the first link in the chain of handing down the precious treasure of the faith. I urge you to see to their formation and to their needs.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for your efforts to maintain good relations with the followers of Islam. As you work to promote cooperation in practical initiatives, I would encourage you to stress the values that Christians share in common with Moslems as the basis for that "dialogue of life" which is an essential first step towards genuine interreligious respect and understanding. The same openness and love should be shown to people belonging to the traditional religions.

Dear Brother Bishops, through you I send warm greetings to the priests and religious of your country, to the families and, in a particular way, to the children. With great affection I commend you to the prayers of Saint Bakhita and Saint Daniel Comboni, and to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and strength in the Lord.



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to offer my warm thanks to the whole Community, your leaders, and in particular to Pastor Kruse, for having invited me to celebrate this Laetare Sunday with you this day on which the crucial element is hope, which sees the light spread by Christ's Resurrection dispel the darkness of our daily routine and the unresolved matters of our lives. Dear Pastor Kruse, you have interpreted St Paul's Message of hope for us. The Gospel, from the 12th chapter of John which I would like to try to explain, is also a Gospel of hope. At the same time, it is a Gospel of the Cross. These two dimensions always go together. Since the Gospel refers to the Cross it speaks of hope and, since it gives hope, it must speak of the Cross.

John tells us that Jesus was going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and then he says: "Among those who went up to worship... were some Greeks". Without any doubt they were members of the group called phoboumenoi ton Theon, the "God-fearing", who, going beyond the polytheism of their world, were seeking the authentic God who is truly God, the one God to whom the whole world belongs and who is the God of all mankind. And they had found that God, whom they were seeking and asking for, and for whom every human being is silently yearning, in the Bible of Israel, recognizing him as that God who created the world. He is the God of all men and women and, at the same time, he chose a specific people and place in which to be present among us. They were searching for God and they came to Jerusalem to worship the one God, to know something of his mystery. Furthermore, the Evangelist tells us that these people, having heard talk of Jesus, approached Philip the Apostle who came from Bethsaida, in half of which Greek is spoken and said: "We wish to see Jesus". Their desire to know God impels them to want to see Jesus and through him to become more closely acquainted with God. "We wish to see Jesus": we are moved by these words since we all long ever more ardently to see and to know him. I think there are two reasons why these Greeks interest us: on the one hand their situation is the same as ours; we too are pilgrims asking about God, in search of God. And we too would like to know Jesus better and truly to see him. Yet it is also true that, like Philip and Andrew, we should be Jesus' friends, friends who know him and can show others the way that leads to him. I therefore think that at this time we should pray like this: Lord, help us to be people journeying towards you. Lord, grant that we may see you ever more clearly. Help us to be your friends, who open to others the door to you. Whether or not this effectively led to an encounter between Jesus and those Greeks, St John does not tell us. Jesus' answer, which he does report to us, goes far beyond that chance moment. It is a twofold response. He speaks of the glorification of Jesus that was then beginning: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified" (
Jn 12,23). The Lord explains this concept of glorification with the Parable of the Grain of Wheat: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (v. 24). Indeed the grain of wheat must die, it must sink in the ground in order to absorb energy from the earth and thus develop a stem and become an ear of wheat. With regard to the Lord, this is the parable of his own mystery. He himself is the grain of wheat which came from God, the divine grain that lets itself fall to the ground, that lets itself sink, be broken down in death and precisely by so doing germinates and can thus bear fruit in the immensity of the world. It is not merely a fleeting encounter with some person or another. Now, as the Risen One, he is "new" and goes beyond the limits of space and time. Now, he truly reaches the Greeks. Now, he shows himself to them and speaks to them and they speak to him; so it is that faith is born. The Church grows from all peoples, the community of the Risen Jesus Christ which will become his living Body, the ear of the grain of wheat. In this parable we also find a reference to the mystery of the Eucharist. He, who is the grain of wheat, falls to the ground and dies.

In this manner the holy multiplication of the "loaves" [bread] of the Eucharist comes about, in which he becomes Bread for the people of all times and places.

What the Lord says of himself here in this Christological parable is applied to us in two other verses: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (v. 25). I think that when we first hear this we do not like it. We would like to say to the Lord: "But what are you telling us, Lord? Must we even hate our life? Isn't our life a gift of God? Haven't we been created in his image and likeness? Shouldn't we be grateful and glad that he has given us life?". However, Jesus' words have another meaning. Of course the Lord has given us life and we are grateful for this. Gratitude and joy are fundamental attitudes of Christian life. Yes, we can be happy because we know that each of our lives comes from God. It is not a chance without meaning. I am wanted and loved. When Jesus says we must hate our life he means quite the opposite. He is thinking here of two fundamental attitudes. One is the attitude of wanting to keep my life selfishly, which is why I consider my life as my own property; I consider myself as my own property, which is why I want to make the very most of this life so as to live a full life, living for myself. Whoever does this, whoever lives for himself and thinks of and desires only himself, does not find himself but is lost. What the Lord tells us is precisely the opposite: not seizing life but giving it. And it is not that in seizing life for ourselves that we receive it, but in giving it, in going beyond ourselves not in looking at ourselves but rather in giving ourselves to the other in the humility of love, giving our life to him and to others. Thus we become rich, distancing ourselves from ourselves, freeing ourselves from ourselves. It is by giving, and not by seizing life that we truly receive life.

The Lord continues and in a second verse says: "If anyone serves me he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honour him." (v. 26). This self-giving, which really is the essence of love, is identical to the Cross. In fact, the Cross is nothing other than this fundamental law of the grain of wheat that died, the fundamental law of love: that we ourselves become only when we give ourselves. But the Lord adds that this gift of self, this acceptance of the Cross, this distancing of oneself from oneself means going with him, since, in following him and in following the process of the grain of wheat, we find the way to love. This immediately seems a way fraught with difficulty and effort but for this very reason it is the way to salvation. The sequela, this going with him, who is himself the Way, the Truth and the Life, is inherent in the way of the Cross which is the way of love, of losing and of giving oneself. This concept also includes the fact that this sequela is carried out as "we", that none of us has his own Christ, his own Jesus. It implies that we can follow him only if we walk with him all together, entering this "we" and learning with him the love that he gives. The sequela is carried out in this "we". Being Christian means "being we" in the community of Christ's disciples. And this poses for us the question of ecumenism: sorrow at having broken this "we", at having split the one path into so many paths. As a result the witness we must give is obscured and love cannot find its full expression. What must we say in this regard? Today we hear many complaints about the fact that ecumenism has reached a stalemate and that there are mutual accusations. Yet I think we should first of all be grateful that so much unity already exists. It is wonderful that today, Laetare Sunday, we can pray together, sing the same hymns, listen to the same word of God, explain it and seek to understand it together; that we look to the one Christ whom we see and to whom we wish to belong and that, in this manner, we are already witnessing that he is one, the One who has called us all and to whom, in the deepest way possible, we all belong. I believe that above all it is this that we should show the world: not every sort of dispute and conflict, but joy and gratitude at the fact that the Lord is granting this to us and that real unity exists that can become ever deeper and become increasingly a testimony of Christ's word, of Christ's way in this world. Of course, this must not satisfy us, although we must be grateful for these shared dimensions. Yet the fact that in the essentials, in the celebration of the Blessed Eucharist we are unable to drink from the same cup, we are unable to gather round the same altar, cannot but fill us with sorrow for it is we who are guilty of this, we who cloud this testimony. It must make us inwardly restless on our journey toward greater unity in the knowledge that, basically, the Lord alone can give this to us. For a unity agreed by us would be a human act, hence brittle, like everything made by the human hand. Let us give ourselves to him, let us seek to know and love him, to see him ever better. Let us therefore allow him to lead us, truly, to full unity, for which we should pray with every urgency at this moment.

Dear friends, once again I would like to thank you for extending this invitation to me, for the cordiality with which you have welcomed me, and also for your words, kind Ms. Esch. Let us give thanks for having been able to pray and sing together. Let us pray for each other, let us pray together that the Lord will grant us unity and help the world so that it may believe. Amen.


Dear Cardinal,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
Mr Mayor and the Municipal Councillors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very glad to receive honorary citizenship of the Municipality of Romano Canavese, to which I am bound by ties of affection. First of all because it is the birthplace of my beloved Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, whom I have known and esteemed for so many years, especially since the time when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I would like to renew to him my heartfelt gratitude for his precious service to the Holy See.

Then, because I myself had the joy of visiting your town and of meeting the hardworking people of Canavese last year, on 19 July. I address my cordial greeting to each one of you and especially to Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea, and to Mr Oscar Ferrero, the Mayor, thank you for your words, thank you for your thoughts and for your prayers.

The conferral of honorary citizenship testifies to the esteem, closeness andaffectionyouhave for me; with this gesture, in a certain sense, you have wished to welcome me into the great family of Romano Canavese; although my presence cannot be physical, it will certainly be cordial and paternal.

I shall feel in a certain way part of your glorious history whose roots go back to the second century before the birth of Christ and which has had moments of particular importance, especially in the late Middle Ages and in the 19th century.

However, what characterizes Romano Canavese above all is its long history of faith that begins with the blood of martyrs, including San Solutore, and continues on to our day.

On this occasion I renew to you my invitation to preserve and to cultivate the genuine values of your tradition and your culture, which are rooted in the Gospel, and to witness with ever new commitment to faith in the Crucified and Risen Lord, to attachment to the family and to the spirit of solidarity. May you always trust in the help of God who never abandons his children and is close with his loving care to all who do their utmost for good, peace and justice.

Dear friends, as I renew to you my sentiments of gratitude, I invoke upon each one of you, upon your families and upon all the citizens the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Holy Patrons, so that they may continue to protect and guide your Community. With affection I impart to each one of you and to your fellow citizens, my fellow citizens now, a special Apostolic Blessing.



Dear Mr President,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to offer my cordial welcome to each one of you on the eve of the Feast of St Joseph who is a model for all who are active in the working world. I address a respectful thought to Dr Aurelio Regina, President of the Union of Industrialists and Businesses of Rome, and thank him for his courteous words to me. With him, I greet the Board and Administrative Council of the Union.

The Roman business group, consisting mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises, is one of the most important associations in the area; it belongs to Confindustria which today also works in a context marked by globalization, by the negative effects of the recent financial crisis, by the so-called "financialization" of the economy and of businesses themselves. It is a complex situation because the current crisis has severely tried the economic and productive systems of various countries. Yet, it should be lived with trust because it may be considered an opportunity from the perspective of reviewing development models and a new organization of world finance, a "new season" as has been said, for a profound rethinking.

In my social Encyclical Caritas in veritate, I noted that we are emerging from a phase of development in which priority was given to what is material and technical rather than what is ethical and spiritual, and I encouraged people to make the person, in whom Christ reveals his deepest dignity, the focus of the economy and finance (cf. n. 25). Suggesting, further, that politics should not be subordinated to financial mechanisms, I called for reform and the creation of international juridical and political regulations (cf. n. 67), proportionate to the global structures of the economy and finance in order to achieve the common good of the human family more efficiently. Following in my Predecessors' footsteps, I reaffirmed that the increase in unemployment, especially among young people, the financial impoverishment of many workers and the emergence of new forms of slavery chiefly demand access to steady employment for everyone (cf. nn. 32, 63). What guides the Church in making herself the champion of this goal is the conviction that work is a good for the human being, for the family and for society, as well as a source of freedom and responsibility. In achieving these objectives, together with other members of society, business people are obviously involved and should be given special encouragement in their work at the service of society and of the common good.

Everyone knows sacrifices are necessary in order to open one's own business or keep it viable in the market as a "community of people" which produces goods and services and, therefore, does not make profit, necessary as it is, its only goal. Small and medium-sized businesses are always in greater need of financial backing, whereas credit appears harder to obtain and competition on the globalized markets is very strong, especially on the part of those countries in which systems of social protection for workers do not exist or are minimal. It follows that the high cost of labour makes one's own products and services less competitive and considerable sacrifices are required to avoid the dismissal of one's employees and to permit them professional updating.

In this context, it is important to be able to set aside that individualistic and materialistic mindset that suggests taking investments out of the real economy to give priority to the use of one's own capital in financial markets, with a view to easier and more rapid returns. Allow me to remind you that the safest ways to counter the decline of the business system in one's own area consist instead in keeping in contact with other social realities, investing in research and innovation, steering clear of unfair competition between business companies, remembering one's own social duties and encouraging high-quality production as a response to people's real needs Various proofs exist that a firm's life depends on the attention it pays to all those with whom it builds relations, on its activity and its business ethics. The financial crisis itself has shown that in a market upset by successive bankruptcies, the people financially able to abide by moral behaviour and attentive to the needs of their own area have survived. The success of the Italian business world, especially in some regions, has always been marked by the importance given to the network of relations it has been possible to create with employees and with other businesses, through relations of cooperation and reciprocal trust. Business can be vital and produce "social riches" when entrepreneurs and managers are guided by farsightedness that prefers long-term investment to speculative profit and promotes innovation rather than seeking to accumulate wealth only for themselves.

The businessman attentive to the common good is always called to view his own activity in the context of a plural "all". Such an approach, through personal dedication and a practical experience of brotherhood in economic and financial decisions, gives rise to a more competitive yet at the same time more civil market, motivated by the spirit of service. It is clear that such a business logic presupposes a certain motivation, a certain vision of man and of life, namely a humanism that is born from the awareness of being called, as individuals and as communities, to be part of the one family of God who has created us in his image and likeness and has redeemed us in Christ. This humanism revives charity and lets itself be guided by truth; a humanism open to God and for this very reason open to man and to life, seen as a joyful task in a spirit of solidarity (cf. n. 78). Development in any sector of human life also implies openness to the transcendent, to the spiritual dimension of life, to trust in God, to love, to brotherhood, to acceptance, to justice and to peace (cf. n. 79). I am pleased to emphasize all this while we are in Lent, a favourable Season for the revision of our own profound attitudes and for questioning ourselves on the consistence between the aims for which we strive and the means we use.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I leave you with these reflections. And as I thank you for coming, I wish you all the best in your financial activity, as well as in your group activity, and I willingly impart my Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.




Clementine Hall Friday, 19 March 2010
Dear Friends,

At the end of such intense and spiritually profound listening, the best thing would be to preserve the silence and to prolong our meditation. Nevertheless I am very glad to address a greeting to you and to thank each one of you for your presence on the Feast of my name day, especially those who have offered me this deeply appreciated gift.

I express my cordial gratitude to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, for his beautiful words to me. I greet with affection the other Cardinals, the Cardinal Dean Sodano and the Prelates present. My special thanks then go to the musicians, starting with Maestro José Peris Lacasa, a composer closely linked to the Spanish Royal Family. He is to be credited with having composed a version of The Seven Last Words of Our Redeemer on the Cross by Franz Joseph Haydn which takes up the version for a string quartet and that in the form of an oratorio which Haydn wrote. I also congratulate the Henschel Quartet for its praiseworthy performance and Mrs Susanne Kelling, who put her extraordinary voice at the service of the Lord Jesus' holy words.

The choice of this work was truly felicitous. In fact, if on the one hand its austere beauty is worthy of the Solemnity of St Joseph after whom the eminent composer was also named on the other, its content is particularly suited to the Lenten Season. Indeed, it prepares us to live the central Mystery of the Christian faith. The last seven words of our Redeemer on the Cross is truly one of the most sublime examples in the field of music of how it is possible to unite art and faith.

The musician's composition is wholly inspired and almost "directed" by the Gospel texts that culminate in the words Jesus uttered before drawing his last breath. However, in addition to being bound by the text, the composer was also bound by the precise conditions imposed by those who commissioned the work, dictated by the particular type of celebration in which the music was to be performed.

And it was precisely on the basis of these very strict obligations that he could manifest the full excellence of his creative genius. Having to conceive of seven dramatic and meditative sonatas, Haydn focused on their intensity, as he himself said in a letter of the time: "Every sonata, or every text, is expressed by means of instrumental music alone so that it will necessarily inspire the most profound impression in the listener's soul, even in someone who is least attentive" (Letter to W. Forster, 8 April 1787).

In this there is something similar to the work of the sculptor who must constantly be able to master the material with which he is working—let us think of the marble of Michelangelo's "Pieta"—and yet succeed in making this matter eloquent, in eliciting from it a unique and unrepeatable synthesis of thought and emotion, an absolutely original artistic expression but which, at the same time, is totally at the service of that precise content of faith as if it were dominated by the event it is portraying—in our case the seven words and their context.

Here is concealed a universal law of artistic expression: the ability to communicate beauty, which is also goodness and truth, by a tangible means a painting, a piece of music, a sculpture, a written text, a dance, etc. Indeed, it is the same law that God followed to communicate himself and his love to us: he became incarnate in our human flesh and realized the greatest masterpiece of all Creation: "the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus", as St Paul wrote (1Tm 2,5). The "harder" the material, the more demanding are the bonds of expression and the more visibly the artist's genius stands out. Thus on the "hard" Cross, God spoke in Christ the most beautiful, the truest Word of love, which is Jesus in his full and definitive gift of himself. He is God's last word, not in a chronological but in a qualitative sense. He is the universal, absolute Word, but it was spoken through that real man, in that time and in that place, in that "hour", John's Gospel says.

This binding of oneself to history, to the flesh, is a sign par excellence of faithfulness, of a love so free that it does not fear to be bound for ever, to express the infinite in the finite, the whole in the fragment. This law, which is the law of love, is also the law of art in its highest expressions.
Dear friends, perhaps I have carried on this reflection a bit too long, but the blame or perhaps the merit belongs to Franz Joseph Haydn. Let us thank the Lord for these great artistic geniuses who felt able to illustrate his Word Jesus Christ and his words the Sacred Scriptures. I renew my thanks to all who conceived of and prepared this tribute: may the Lord lavishly reward each one.

In German: I cordially thank once again all those who made this evening possible. I address special thanks to the Henschel Quartet and to Mrs Susanne Kelling, the mezzosoprano who with her expressive musical performance brought us close to the words of the Saviour on the Cross. Many thanks!

In Spanish: I very cordially thank Maestro José Peris Lacasa, the author of a successful reworking of the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross by Haydn which we have had the pleasure of hearing today. I also greet those who have come from Spain for this occasion. Thank you very much.

In Italian: I renew to all a cordial greeting in the hope that you may follow Jesus closely, like the Virgin Mary, to live Holy Week in depth and to celebrate in truth Easter, which is now at hand. With this intention, I impart my Blessing to you and to your loved ones.



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I welcome you with great joy, you who have been entrusted with the pastoral care of the Church which is in Burkina Faso and in Niger. I greet in particular the President of your Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Séraphin Rouamba of Koupéla, and thank him for his kind words. Please convey to the members of your dioceses and to all your countries' inhabitants, and in particular the sick and those in hardship, the Pope's encouragement and affectionate greetings. The ad limina visit that you are making is a concrete sign of communion between your particular Churches and the universal Church, which is expressed in a significant manner in your bond with the Successor of Peter. I hope that the reinforcement of this unity between you within the heart of the Church may strengthen your ministry and increase the credibility of the witness of Christ's disciples.

After more than a century, evangelization has already borne abundant fruit, visible in so many signs of vitality of the Church-family of God in your countries. May a new missionary impetus enliven your communities, so that the Gospel message may be fully accepted and faithfully lived! Faith always needs its roots to be consolidated if it is not to revert to former practices or to those that are incompatible with following Christ, and in order to resist the enticements of a world at times hostile to the Gospel ideal. I acknowledge the efforts you have been making for many years for a healthy inculturation of the faith. You will watch over its continuation through the work of competent people, with respect for the laws and with reference to the appropriate structures. Moreover, I encourage you to continue the wonderful missionary effort of solidarity for the Sister Churches on your continent which you have generously undertaken!

The recent Synodal Assembly for Africa asked the Christian communities to confront the challenges of reconciliation, justice and peace. I am delighted to know that in different ways the Church is continuing in your dioceses to combat the evils that prevent the population from achieving authentic development. Indeed, the grave floods of last September afforded an opportunity to promote solidarity to all, especially to the most deprived. This solidarity, rooted in love of God, must be an ongoing commitment of the ecclesial community: your faithful have once again generously shown this with regard to the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti, despite their own pressing needs. I warmly thank them. And lastly I would like to acknowledge in particular the work carried out by the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year in Ouagadougou.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the Year for Priests is an opportunity to highlight the greatness of the priesthood and to promote inner renewal in the life of priests, so that their ministry may always be more intense and fruitful. The priest is first and foremost a man of God who seeks to respond ever more consistently to his vocation and mission at the service of the people entrusted to him, whom he must lead to God. For this reason it is necessary to assure him a solid formation, not only at the time of his preparation for ordination but throughout his ministry. Indeed, it is indispensable that the priest take the time to examine his priestly life deeply, to avoid slipping into activism. May the example of St John Mary Vianney inspire in the hearts of your priests, whose courageous missionary commitment I acknowledge, a renewed awareness of the total gift of themselves to Christ and to the Church, nourished by a fervent life of prayer and the passionate love of Jesus Christ!

Catechists are the indispensable collaborators of priests in the proclamation of the Gospel. They have an essential role, not only in the first evangelization and in the catechumenate, but also in the animation and support of your communities, in close liaison with other pastoral agents. Through you, I would like to greet them warmly and to encourage them in their task as evangelizers of their brothers and sisters. Your dioceses are exerting themselves with a view to guaranteeing catechists a human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation, thereby permitting them to assure their service with faith and competence. I rejoice at this and encourage you to go ahead, while at the same time seeing to their material needs so that they may lead a worthy life.

In order that lay people may find their place in your communities and in society, it is necessary to increase the means of consolidating their faith. By developing institutions for formation, you will offer them the opportunity to exercise responsibility in the Church and in society and be authentic witnesses of the Gospel. I suggest you give special attention to the political and intellectual elites in your countries, who are often confronted with ideologies opposed to a Christian concept of man and of society. A sound faith, founded on a personal relationship with Christ, expressed in the regular practice of charity and upheld by a living community, is a support in the development of Christian life. Therefore give young people, who are often full of generosity, a taste for seeking to encounter Christ! The reinforcement of school and university chaplaincies will help them find in him the Light that can guide them throughout their lives and give them the true meaning of human love.

The good atmosphere that habitually exists in interreligious relations enables the deepening of ties of esteem and friendship, as well as collaboration among all the members of society. Teaching the young generations the fundamental values of respect and brotherhood will encourage mutual understanding. May the bonds that unite Christians and Muslims in particular continue to be reinforced, to further peace and justice for the common good, rejecting every temptation to violence or intolerance!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, as I bring our meeting to a close I entrust each one of your dioceses to the Virgin Mary's motherly protection. In this time, marked by uncertainty, may she give you the strength to look confidently to the future! May she be a sign of hope for the peoples of Burkina Faso and Niger. I warmly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the faithful of your dioceses.

Speeches 2005-13 288