Speeches 2005-13 25030


Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your visit “to the threshold of the Apostles” and I thank Bishop Arborelius for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf. You exercise pastoral governance over the Catholic faithful in the far north of Europe and you have travelled here to express and renew the bonds of communion between the people of God in those lands and the Successor of Peter at the heart of the universal Church. Your flock is small in number, and scattered over a wide area. Many have to travel great distances in order to find a Catholic community in which to worship. It is most important for them to realize that every time they gather around the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice, they are participating in an act of the universal Church, in communion with all their fellow Catholics throughout the world. It is this communion that is both exercised and deepened through the quinquennial visits of bishops to the Apostolic See.

I am pleased to note that a Congress on the Family is due to be held at Jönköping in May of this year. One of the most important messages that the people of the Nordic lands need to hear from you is a reminder of the centrality of the family for the life of a healthy society. Sadly, recent years have seen a weakening of the commitment to the institution of marriage and the Christian understanding of human sexuality that for so long served as the foundation of personal and social relations in European society. Children have the right to be conceived and carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to their own parents that they can discover their identity and achieve their proper human development (cf. Donum Vitae, 22 February 1987). In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is “the first and indispensable teacher of peace” (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace), the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life.

While the Catholic population of your territories constitutes only a small percentage of the total, it is nevertheless growing, and at the same time a good number of others listen with respect and attention to what the Church has to say. In the Nordic lands, religion has an important role in shaping public opinion and influencing decisions on matters concerning the common good. I urge you, therefore, to continue to convey to the people of your respective countries the Church’s teaching on social and ethical questions, as you do through such initiatives as your 2005 pastoral letter “The Love of Life” and the forthcoming Congress on the Family. The establishment of the Newman Institute in Uppsala is a most welcome development in this regard, ensuring that Catholic teaching is given its rightful place in the Scandinavian academic world, while also helping new generations to acquire a mature and informed understanding of their faith.

Within your own flock, pastoral care of families and young people needs to be pursued with vigour, and with particular care for the many who have experienced difficulties in the wake of the recent financial crisis. Due sensitivity should be shown to the many married couples in which only one partner is Catholic. The immigrant component among the Catholic population of the Nordic lands has needs of its own, and it is important that your pastoral outreach to families should include them, with a view to assisting their integration into society. Your countries have been particularly generous to refugees from the Middle East, many of whom are Christians from Eastern Churches. For your part, as you welcome “the stranger who sojourns with you” (
Lv 19,34), be sure to help these new members of your community to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the faith through apposite programmes of catechesis – in the process of integration within their host country, they should be encouraged not to distance themselves from the most precious elements of their own culture, particularly their faith.

In this Year for Priests, I ask you to give particular priority to encouraging and supporting your priests, who often have to work in isolation from one another and in difficult circumstances in order to bring the sacraments to the people of God. As you know, I have proposed the figure of Saint John Vianney to all the priests of the world as a source of inspiration and intercession in this year devoted to exploring more deeply the meaning and indispensable role of the priesthood in the Church’s life. He expended himself tirelessly in order to be a channel of God’s healing and sanctifying grace to the people he served, and all priests are called to do likewise: it is your responsibility, as their Ordinaries, to see that they are well prepared for this sacred task. Ensure too that the lay faithful appreciate what their priests do for them, and that they offer them the encouragement and the spiritual, moral and material support that they need.

I would like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that men and women religious have made to the life of the Church in your countries over many years. The Nordic lands are also blessed with the presence of a number of the new ecclesial movements, which bring fresh dynamism to the Church’s mission. In view of this wide variety of charisms, there are many ways in which young people may be attracted to devote their lives to the service of the Church through a priestly or religious vocation. As you carry out your responsibility to foster such vocations (cf. Christus Dominus CD 15), be sure to address yourselves to both the native and the immigrant populations. From the heart of any healthy Catholic community, the Lord always calls men and women to serve him in this way. The fact that more and more of you, the Bishops of the Nordic lands, originate from the countries in which you serve is a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is at work among the Catholic communities there. I pray that his inspiration will continue to bear fruit among you and those to whom you have dedicated your lives.

With great confidence in the life-giving power of the Gospel, commit your energies to promoting a new evangelization among the people of your territories. Part and parcel of this task is continued attention to ecumenical activity, and I am pleased to note the numerous tasks in which Christians from the Nordic lands come together to present a united witness before the world.

With these sentiments, I commend all of you and your people to the intercession of the Nordic saints, especially Saint Bridget, co-patron of Europe, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.



Holy Father, the young man of the Gospel asked Jesus: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". I do not even know what eternal life is. I cannot even imagine it, but I know one thing: I don't want to waste my life, I want to live it to the full and not alone. I'm afraid this mightn't happen, I am afraid of thinking only of myself, of making a mess of everything and of finding myself without a goal to attain, living from one day to the next. Is it possible to make something beautiful and great of my life?

Dear young people,

before answering the question I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you all for coming, for this marvellous witness of faith, for wanting to live in communion with Jesus, for your enthusiasm in following Jesus and for living well. Thank you!

And now for the question. You have said that you do not know what eternal life is and cannot imagine it. None of us can imagine eternal life because it is outside our experience. Yet, we can begin to understand what eternal life is and I think that, with your question, you have given us a description of the essential of eternal life, that is, of true life: not to waste life, to live it in depth, not to live for oneself, not to live from one day to the next, but truly to live life in its riches and in its totality. And how can we do this? This is the big question which the rich young man of the Gospel came to ask the Lord (cf.
Mc 10,17). At first sight the Lord's response seems somewhat dry. In sum, he tells the young man to observe the Commandments (cf. Mc 10,19). Yet, if we think carefully, if we listen carefully to the Lord, we find throughout the Gospel the great wisdom of the Word of God, of Jesus. The Commandments, according to another of Jesus' sayings, are summed up in this one alone: love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your life, and love your neighbour as yourself. Loving God implies knowing God, recognizing God. and this is the first step we must take: to seek to know God. And thus we know that our life does not exist by chance, it is not an accident. My life has been willed by God since eternity. I am loved, I am necessary. God has a plan for me in the totality of history: he has a plan specifically for me. My life is important and also necessary. Eternal love created me in depth and awaits me. So this is the first point: to know, to seek to know God and thus to understand that life is a gift, that it is good to be alive. Then the essential is love. To love this God who has created me, who has created this world, who governs among all the difficulties of man and of history and who accompanies me. It means loving my neighbour.

The Ten Commandments to which Jesus refers in his answer are only to clarify the commandment of love. They are, so to speak, rules of love, they indicate the way of love with these essential points; the family, as a foundation of society; life, to be respected as a gift of God; the order of sexuality, of relations between man and woman; the social order and, finally, truth. These essential elements describe the route of love, they explain how really to love and how to find the right route. Hence there is a fundamental will of God for us all, which is identical for us all. However its application is different in every life, for God has a specific project for each person. St Francis de Sales once said: perfection, that is, being good, living faith and love, is substantially one but comes in many different forms. The holiness of a Carthusian and of a politician, of a scientist or of a peasant, and so forth, is very different. Thus God has a plan for every person and I must find, in my own circumstances, my way of living this one and, at the same time, common will of God whose great rules are indicated in these explanations of love. Consequently I must seek to do what is the essence of love, that is, not to live selfishly, but to give life; not to "possess" life but to make life a gift, not to seek for myself but to give to others. This is the essential. And it entails sacrifices, that is, it means coming out of myself and not seeking myself. And it is precisely by not seeking myself but by giving myself for important and true things that I find true life. Thus each person will find different possibilities in his life: he may devote himself to volunteer work in a community of prayer, in a movement or in the activity of his parish, in his own profession. Finding my vocation and living it everywhere is important and fundamental, whether I am a great scientist or a farmer. Everything is important in God's eyes: life is beautiful if it is lived to the full with that love which really redeems the world.

Lastly I would like to tell a little story about Josephine Bakhita, the small African Saint who found God and Christ in Italy and who never fails to make a great impression on me. She was a Sister in an Italian convent; one day, the local Bishop visited that monastery, saw this little African sister, about whom it seems nothing was known, and said, "Sister, what are you doing here?". And Bakhita answered him: "the same thing as you, Your Excellency". The Bishop, visibly irritated, said: "But Sister, do you do the same as me? How come?". "Yes", the Sister said, "we both want to do God's will, don't we?". In the end, this is the essential: knowing, with the help of the Church, of the Word of God and of friends, the will of God, both in its broad lines that are common to all and in the concreteness of my personal life. Thus life becomes not too easy, perhaps, but beautiful and happy. Let us pray the Lord to help us always to discover his will and to do it joyfully.

The Gospel has told us that Jesus, looking upon that young man, loved him. Holy Father, what does it mean to be looked at lovingly by Jesus? How can we have this experience today? And is it really possible to live this experience also in this life in our time? I would of course say "yes", because the Lord is ever present and looks at each one of us with love. Except that we have to find this gaze and to encounter him. How can we do this?

I would say that the first point for an encounter with Jesus, for an experience of his love, is getting to know him. Knowing Jesus involves different ways. A first condition is to know the figure of Jesus as he appears to us in the Gospels that give us a very detailed portrait of the figure of Jesus in the great parables; let us think of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, Lazarus, etc. In all the parables, in all his words, in the Sermon on the Mount, we really discover the Face of Jesus, the Face of God, until the Cross, on which, for love of us, he gave himself without reserve to death, and at the end could say: Father, into your hands, I commend my life, my spirit (cf. Lc 23,46).

Consequently: to know, to meditate on Jesus together with friends, with the Church, and to know Jesus not solely in an academic, theoretical way but with the heart, that is, to speak to Jesus in prayer. A person cannot be known in the same way in which I can study mathematics. Reason is necessary and sufficient for mathematics, but to know a person, above all the great person of Jesus, God and Man, also requires reason, but, at the same time the heart. Only by opening our heart to him, only by knowing all that he said and did, can we, with our love, our moving toward him, gradually get to know him a little better and thus also experience being loved. Consequently: listening to Jesus' word, listening to it in the communion of the Church, in her broad experience and responding with our prayers, with out personal conversation with Jesus, in which we tell him about what we cannot understand, our needs, our questions. In a true conversation we are increasingly able to find this way of knowledge which becomes love. Naturally it is not only thinking, not only prayer, but also doing that is part of the journey to Jesus: doing good things, taking trouble for our neighbour. There are different ways; each one knows his own possibilities, in the parish and in the community in which he lives, for working with Christ and for others, for the vitality of the Church, so that faith may truly be a formative force of our milieu, and thus also of our time. Therefore I would say these elements: listening, responding, entering the community of believers, communion with Christ in the sacraments, in which he gives himself to us, both in Eucharist and in Confession, etc., and lastly, putting the words of faith into practice so that they become the force of my life and that Jesus' gaze truly appears also to me, and that his love helps and transforms me.

Jesus invited the rich young man to give up everything and to follow him but he went away sorrowful. Like him I also find it hard to follow Jesus, because I'm frightened of giving up my possessions and sometimes the Church asks me to give up things that are difficult. Holy Father, how can I find the strength for courageous decisions and who can help me?

Well, let us start with these words that are difficult for us: giving up something. Renunciation is possible, and in the end, also becomes beautiful if it is done with a reason and if this subsequently also justifies the difficulty of the renunciation. In this context St Paul used the image of the Olympic Games and of the athletes involved in the Olympics (cf. 1Co 9,24-25). He said: in order to win the medal at last in those days it was a wreath they must abide by a very difficult discipline, they must give up many things, they must practice their sport and make great sacrifices and renunciations, because they have a motive, it is worthwhile. Even if, in the end, they are not among the winners it is nevertheless something beautiful to have disciplined themselves and to have been able to do these things with some degree of perfection. The same thing that applies, like St Paul's image, to the Olympics, to all sports, is also true for the other things of life. A good professional life cannot be achieved without making sacrifices, without an adequate training, which always demands a discipline, demands that we must give up something, and so on, even in art and in all the elements of life. We all understand that to attain an objective, whether it is professional, athletic, artistic or cultural, we must deny ourselves and learn, if we are to make headway. Even the art of living, of being oneself, the art of being a human being, demands making sacrifices, true renunciations, that help us to find our way in life, the art of life, they are indicated in the word of God and help us not to fall shall we say into the abyss of drugs, alcohol, the slavery of sexuality, the slavery of money, of laziness. All these things seem at first like actions of freedom. In fact they are not actions of freedom but the beginning of a slavery that becomes ever more insurmountable. To succeed in resisting the temptation of the moment, to move towards the good, creates true freedom and makes life precious. In this regard it seems to me that we should see that without a "no" to certain things the great "yes" to true life cannot grow, as we see in the figures of the Saints. Let us think of St Francis, of the Saints of our time, Mother Teresa, Fr Gnocchi and so many others who made sacrifices and won. Not only did they themselves become free, but they also became a treasure for the world and show us how we can live. Thus, to the question "who can help me", I would answer that the great figures of the Church's history help us, the word of God helps us, the parish community, movements, voluntary service, etc. And the friendship of people who "move ahead" helps us, of people who have already made progress on their way through life and who can convince me that walking this way is the right way. Let us pray the Lord always to give us the gift of friends, of communities who help us to discern the way of good and thereafter to find the beautiful and joyful life.

April 2010


Palatine Hill
Good Friday, 2 April 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in stillness and moved in heart, we have journeyed in prayer along the Way of the Cross. We have gone up Calvary with Jesus and we have meditated on his suffering, rediscovering how deep his love was and is for us. But let us not limit ourselves to a compassion dictated be weak sentiment; rather, we wish to participate in the sufferings of Jesus, we wish to accompany our Master, to share his Passion in our lives, in the life of the Church, for the life of the world, since we know that it is precisely in the Lord’s Cross, in love without limits, that he gives everything of himself, is the source of grace, of liberation, of peace, of salvation.

The texts, the meditations and the prayers of the Way of the Cross have helped us to consider the mystery of the Passion in order to appreciate the great lesson of love which God gave on the Cross, that there might be born in us a renewed desire to change our hearts, living each day that love which is the only force able to change the world.

This evening we have gazed upon Jesus and his countenance marked by pain, derided, outraged and disfigured by the sin of humanity; tomorrow night we will look upon the same countenance full of joy, radiant and luminous. From the moment Jesus goes into the tomb, the tomb and death are no longer a place without hope where history stops in the most complete failure, where man touches the extreme limit of his powerlessness. Good Friday is the greatest day of hope, come to fruition upon the Cross, as Jesus dies, as he draws his last breath, crying out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lc 23,46). Entrusting his “given” existence into the Father’s hands, he knows that his death is becoming the source of life, just as the seed in the earth must be destroyed that a new plant may be born: “If a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12,24). Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls to the earth, is split open, is destroyed and dies, and for this very reason is able to bear fruit. From the day on which Christ was raised upon it, the Cross, which had seemed to be a sign of desolation, of abandonment, and of failure, has become a new beginning: from the profundity of death is raised the promise of eternal life. The victorious splendour of the dawning day of Easter already shines upon the Cross.

In the silence of this night, in the silence which envelopes Holy Saturday, touched by the limitless love of God, we live in the hope of the dawn of the third day, the dawn of the victory of God’s love, the luminous daybreak which allows the eyes of our heart to see afresh our life, its difficulties, its suffering. Our failures, our disappointments, our bitterness, which seem to signal that all is lost, are instead illumined by hope. The act of love upon the Cross is confirmed by the Father and the dazzling light of the resurrection enfolds and transforms everything: friendship can be born from betrayal, pardon from denial, love from hate.

Grant us, Lord, to carry our cross with love, and to carry our daily crosses in the certainty that they have been enlightened by the dazzling light of Easter. Amen.



Hall of the Swiss, Papal Residence of Castel Gandolfo Friday, 9 April 2010

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to have seen the first screening of the film Under the Roman Sky, an international co-production that presents the fundamental role of Venerable Pius XII in saving Rome and many persecuted people between 1943 and 1944. Although it belongs to the popular genre, it aims to reconstruct those dramatic events and the figure of the "Pastor Angelicus", taking into account the most recent studies as well. I thank Mr Paolo Garimberti, President of the RAI, for his courteous words. I also extend a grateful thought to Mr Ettore Bernabei, to the other Producers, and to all who have collaborated to create this significant work that we have just seen. I greet with affection the Cardinal, the Prelates and everyone present.

These works conceived for the wider public, using the most modern means and at the same time aiming to illustrate figures or events of the past century have a special value, above all for the new generations. For those who studied certain events at school and have perhaps heard talk of them, films such as this one can be useful and stimulating and can help increase their knowledge of a period which is not far off but which the pressing events of recent history and a fragmented culture can cause to be forgotten.

Pius XII was the Pontiff of our youth. With his rich teaching he knew how to speak to the people of his time, pointing out the way of Truth, and with his great wisdom was able to direct the Church toward the horizon of the third millennium. However, I am eager to stress in particular that Pius XII was the Pope who, as the father of all, presided in charity in Rome and throughout the world, especially in the difficult period of the Second World War. In a Discourse of 23 July 1944, immediately after the liberation of the City of Rome, he thanked the Members of the Circolo San Pietro [Circle of St Peter] for their collaboration, saying "You help us to satisfy more extensively our desire to wipe away so many tears, to alleviate so much suffering", and pointed out as central for every Christian St Paul's exhortation to the Colossians (3: 14-15) "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one Body" (Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santitŕ Pio XII , pp. PP 87-88).

The primacy of charity, of love which is the commandment of the Lord Jesus: this is the principle of, and the key to, the interpretation of all the work of the Church and in primis of her universal Pastor. Charity is the reason for every action, every intervention. It is the overriding motivation that prompts thought and practical action and I am glad that this unifying principle also emerges in this film. Permit me to suggest this key of interpretation in the light of the authentic testimony of the great teacher of faith, hope and charity which Pope Pius XII was.

As I renew the expression of my gratitude to all, I take the opportunity to address my best Easter greetings to you, as I warmly bless those of you present here, together with your collaborators and your loved ones.



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Your ad limina visit is taking place in an atmosphere of paschal praise and jubilation which envelops the entire Church, shinning the dazzling light of the Risen Christ. In him, humanity has triumphed over death and has completed the last stage of its growth, entering the heavenly places (cf. Ep 2,6). Jesus can now freely retrace his steps and meet his brethren as, when and where he wishes. In his name I am pleased to welcome you, devout Pastors of the pilgrim Church of God in the North II Region of Brazil, with the greeting with which the Lord presented himself risen to the Apostles and their companions: "Peace to you" (Lc 24,36).

Your presence here is agreeably familiar since it seems to recall the finale of the history of the disciples at Emmaus (cf. Lc 24,33-35): you have come to recount what has happened on the journey with Jesus made by your dioceses, scattered throughout the immense Amazon region, together with their parishes and the other entities of which they consist, such as the movements, the new communities and the basic ecclesial communities in communion with their Bishop (cf. Aparecida Document, n. 179). Nothing could give me greater joy than knowing that you are in Christ and with Christ, as the diocesan reports you have sent testify, and for which I thank you. I am particularly grateful to Bishop Jesús María, for the words he has just addressed to me on your behalf and on behalf of the People of God entrusted to you, emphasizing its faithfulness and adherence to Peter. On your return, please assure the People of God of my gratitude for these sentiments and of my blessing, adding: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" (Lc 24,34).

In that appearance, the words if there were any grow hazy in the amazement at seeing the Teacher risen, whose presence says everything: I was dead but now I am alive and you will live through me (cf. Rv Ap 1,18). And being alive and risen, Christ can become "the living bread" (Jn 6,51) for humanity. This is why I feel that the centre and permanent source of the Petrine ministry are in the Eucharist, the heart of Christian life, the source and summit of the Church's evangelizing mission. Thus you can understand the Successor of Peter's anxiety about anything that could cloud the most original point of the Catholic faith: today Jesus Christ continues to be alive and really present in the consecrated host and cup.

That less attention is sometimes paid to the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament indicates and causes an obscuration of the Christian meaning of the mystery, as happens when in Holy Mass it is no longer Jesus who appears pre-eminent and active but, rather, a community preoccupied with too many things instead of recollecting and letting itself be drawn towards the only One necessary: its Lord. Now, the main, fundamental attitude of the Christian faithful who take part in the liturgical celebration is not action but listening, opening themselves, receiving.... It is clear that in this case receiving does not mean remaining passive or uninterested in what is going on there but cooperating since by God's grace they are once again enabled to do so in accordance with "the real nature of the true Church. The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realties, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 2). If, in the Liturgy the figure of Christ who is its principle and is really present to make it effective were not to emerge we should no longer have the Christian liturgy, completely dependent upon the Lord and sustained by his creative presence.

How distant from all this are those who, in the name of inculturation, run into syncretism, introducing into the celebration of Holy Mass rites culled from other religions or cultural particularities (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 79)! The Eucharistic mystery is "too great a gift", my Venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul ii wrote, "to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation", particularly when "stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 10). At the root of the various motivations adopted is a mindset that cannot accept the possibility of a real divine intervention in this world, to help the human being. The human being, however, "is unable of himself to overcome the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though bound by chains" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church, Gaudium et Spes GS 13). The confession of a redeeming intervention of God to change this situation of alienation and sin is seen by those who share the deist vision as integralist, and the same opinion has been expressed with regard to a sacramental sign that makes the Redemptive sacrifice present. More acceptable, in their eyes, would be the celebration of a sign that corresponded with a vague feeling of community.

Worship, however, cannot be born from our imagination; it would be a cry in the darkness or a mere affirmation of the self. The true Liturgy presupposes that God responds and shows us how we may adore him. "The Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross" (Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 14). The Church lives on this presence and her raison d'ętre is to disseminate this presence throughout the world.

"Stay with us, [Lord!]" (cf. Lc 24,29) is the prayer of the sons and daughters of Brazil with a view to the 16th National Eucharistic Congress that will be held in a month's time in Brasília. Thus it will see the golden jubilee of its foundation enriched with the "gold" of eternity present in time: Jesus in the Eucharist. May he truly be the heart of Brazil, from which comes the strength for all Brazilians, men and women, to recognize each other and to help each other as brothers and sisters, as members of the total Christ! Those who desire to live have somewhere to live, have something to live for. Let them approach, believe, and enter, to be part of the Body of Christ, and they will be invigorated! Today, and here, I wish all this for the portion of this Body which is the North II Region, as I impart the Apostolic Blessing to each one of you, to all who work with you and to all the Christian faithful.

Speeches 2005-13 25030