Speeches 2005-13 373



(SEPTEMBER 16-19, 2010)



Chapel of the Francis Martin House, Oscott College - Birmingham Sunday, 19 September 2010
My dear Brother Bishops,

This has been a day of great joy for the Catholic community in these islands. Blessed John Henry Newman, as we may now call him, has been raised to the altars as an example of heroic faithfulness to the Gospel and an intercessor for the Church in this land that he loved and served so well. Here in this very chapel in 1852, he gave voice to the new confidence and vitality of the Catholic community in England and Wales after the restoration of the hierarchy, and his words could be applied equally to Scotland a quarter of a century later. His beatification today is a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s continuing action in calling forth gifts of holiness from among the people of Great Britain, so that from east to west and from north to south, a perfect offering of praise and thanksgiving may be made to the glory of God’s name.

I thank Cardinal O’Brien and Archbishop Nichols for their words, and in so doing, I am reminded how recently I was able to welcome all of you to Rome for the Ad Limina visits of your respective Episcopal Conferences. We spoke then about some of the challenges you face as you lead your people in faith, particularly regarding the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment. In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you. Moreover, many of the new ecclesial movements have a particular charism for evangelization, and I know that you will continue to explore appropriate and effective ways of involving them in the mission of the Church.

Since your visit to Rome, political changes in the United Kingdom have focused attention on the consequences of the financial crisis, which has caused so much hardship to countless individuals and families. The spectre of unemployment is casting its shadow over many people’s lives, and the long-term cost of the ill-advised investment practices of recent times is becoming all too evident. In these circumstances, there will be additional calls on the characteristic generosity of British Catholics, and I know that you will take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. The prophetic voice of Christians has an important role in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources. In their teaching document Choosing the Common Good, the Bishops of England and Wales underlined the importance of the practice of virtue in public life. Today’s circumstances provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living.

Another matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests and religious. I have spoken on many occasions of the deep wounds that such behaviour causes, in the victims first and foremost, but also in the relationships of trust that should exist between priests and people, between priests and their bishops, and between the Church authorities and the public. I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise. You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.

As we reflect on the human frailty that these tragic events so starkly reveal, we are reminded that, if we are to be effective Christian leaders, we must live lives of the utmost integrity, humility and holiness. As Blessed John Henry Newman once wrote, “O that God would grant the clergy to feel their weakness as sinful men, and the people to sympathize with them and love them and pray for their increase in all good gifts of grace” (Sermon, 22 March 1829). I pray that among the graces of this visit will be a renewed dedication on the part of Christian leaders to the prophetic vocation they have received, and a new appreciation on the part of the people for the great gift of the ordained ministry. Prayer for vocations will then arise spontaneously, and we may be confident that the Lord will respond by sending labourers to bring in the plentiful harvest that he has prepared throughout the United Kingdom (cf. Mt 9,37-38). In this regard, I am glad that I will shortly have the opportunity to meet the seminarians of England, Scotland and Wales, and to assure them of my prayers as they prepare to play their part in bringing in that harvest.

Finally, I should like to speak to you about two specific matters that affect your episcopal ministry at this time. One is the imminent publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the contribution you have made, with such painstaking care, to the collegial exercise of reviewing and approving the texts. This has provided an immense service to Catholics throughout the English-speaking world. I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration. “The more lively the eucharistic faith of the people of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 6). The other matter I touched upon in February with the Bishops of England and Wales, when I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.

With these sentiments, I thank you warmly for your hospitality over the past four days. Commending all of you and the people you serve to the intercession of Saint Andrew, Saint David and Saint George, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the clergy, religious and lay faithful of England, Scotland and Wales.



(SEPTEMBER 16-19, 2010)


International Airport of Birmingham Sunday, 19 September 2010
Prime Minister,

Thank you for your kind words of farewell on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and the people of the United Kingdom. I am very grateful for all the hard work of preparation, on the part of both the present and the previous Government, the civil service, local authorities and police, and the many volunteers who patiently helped to prepare for the events of these four days. Thank you for the warmth of your welcome and for the hospitality that I have enjoyed.

During my time with you, I have been able to meet representatives of the many communities, cultures, languages and religions that make up British society. The very diversity of modern Britain is a challenge to its Government and people, but it also represents a great opportunity to further intercultural and interreligious dialogue for the enrichment of the entire community.

In these days, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet Her Majesty The Queen, as well as yourself and other political leaders, and to be able to discuss matters of common interest, both at home and abroad. I was particularly honoured to be invited to address both Houses of Parliament in the historic precincts of Westminster Hall. I sincerely hope that these occasions will contribute to confirming and strengthening the excellent relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom, especially in cooperation for international development, in care for the natural environment, and in the building of a civil society with a renewed sense of shared values and common purpose.

It was also my pleasure to visit His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of the Church of England, and later to pray with them and our fellow Christians in the evocative surroundings of Westminster Abbey, a place which speaks so eloquently of our shared traditions and culture. As Britain is home to so many religious traditions, I was grateful to have the opportunity to meet their representatives and to share some thoughts with them about the contribution that the religions can offer to the development of a healthy pluralistic society.

Naturally, my visit was directed in a special way to the Catholics of the United Kingdom. I treasure the time spent with the bishops, clergy, religious and laity, and with teachers, pupils and older people. It was especially moving to celebrate with them, here in Birmingham, the beatification of a great son of England, Cardinal John Henry Newman. With his vast legacy of scholarly and spiritual writings, I am certain that he still has much to teach us about Christian living and witness amid the challenges of today’s world, challenges which he foresaw with such remarkable clarity.

As I take my leave of you, let me assure you once again of my good wishes and prayers for the peace and prosperity of Great Britain. Thank you very much and God bless you all!


TO STUDENTS FROM THE "PAOLO VI" PONTIFICAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL RUN BY THE RELIGIOUS TEACHERS FILIPPINI Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo Thursday, 23 September 2010

Dear Children,
Dear Teachers, Dear Parents,
Dear Friends,

Welcome here to the Palace, to the Pope's house. I am very pleased to receive you at last, to see the "Paolo VI" Pontifical School, run by the Religious Teachers Filippini, and to be with you, at least for a moment. Spiritually we are always together, here, in this beautiful town of Castel Gandolfo. Now that I can see you, I am very happy.

Dear children, you go to school and learn of course, and I was thinking that it has been 77 years since I started to go to school. It was in a tiny village of 300 people, somewhat "tucked away" one might say; yet we learned the essentials. Above all we learned how to read and write, and I think it is a great achievement to be able to read and write, for this is how we are able to know what other people think and read newspapers and books. We can know what was written 2,000 years ago or even longer; we can learn about the spiritual continents of the world and communicate together. Above all, there is an extraordinary text: God has written a book, that is, he has spoken to us, human beings, and found people who wrote the book that contains the word of God. Thus, in reading it we can also read what God says to us and this is very important: to learn at school everything necessary for life and also to learn to know God, to know Jesus and to know how to live well. At school you make many friends and this is beautiful; in this way a large family is formed. Yet, among our best friends the first one of them, whom we know, must be Jesus, who is the friend of all and truly sets us on the path to life.

Thank you for your presence, for your joy and my good wishes to you all.


TO THE BISHOPS OF THE BRAZILIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE (EAST I REGION) ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISITA Hall of the Swiss, Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo Saturday, 25 September 2010

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

It is with great pleasure I welcome you during your ad limina Apostolorum visit. You have come here on behalf of and for your dioceses of the East i Region, in order to strengthen the ties that bind you to the Successor of Peter. Bishop Rafael Cifuentes highlighted this point too in his greeting to me on your behalf for which I thank him. I deeply appreciate the prayers that every day you raise to Heaven for me and for the whole Church from the various family, parish, religious and diocesan communities of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói. May the goodness of the Lord descend upon each and every one of you: may "the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nb 6,25-26). Yes, dear Brothers, may the brightness of God shine out from the whole of your being and your life, as happened to Moses (cf. Ex Ex 34,29 and 35) and especially since "with unveiled face", we, who are now "beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2Co 3,18). This is what the Council Fathers felt when, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, they presented the Church in these terms: "Rich with a long past ever living in her, and marching on toward human perfection in time and the ultimate destinies of history and of life, the Church is the real youth of the world.... Look upon the Church and you will find in her the face of Christ, the genuine, humble, and wise Hero, the Prophet of truth and love, the Companion and Friend of youth" (Message of the Second Vatican Council to Youth). In allowing the face of Christ to shine, the Church is the youth of the world.

However it will be very difficult to convince anyone of this if the younger generation is not reflected in her. For this reason, as you will certainly have realized, a recurrent theme in my conversations with you is the situation of young people in the various dioceses. Trusting in divine Providence which presides lovingly over future history, never ceasing to prepare for future times, I am glad to see the future shining in the young people of today. Venerable Pope John Paul II, seeing Rome become "young with the young" in the Year 2000, already hailed them as "morning watchmen" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 9; cf. Homily at the Prayer Vigil for the 11th World Youth Day, 19 August 2000, n. 6), with the task of reawakening their brothers and sisters so that they might put out into the deep in the vast ocean of the third millennium. And, to demonstrate this, we recall the scene with the long lines of young people waiting in the Circus Maximus to go to confession. These young people restored to many priests their trust in the sacrament of Penance.

As you well know, beloved Pastors, the core of the spiritual crisis of our time derives from the loss of the sense of the grace of forgiveness. When this is not recognized as real and effective, there is a tendency to free the person from guilt, in such a way that the conditions for his or her existence never occur. Yet, in their heart of hearts, people thus "liberated" know that it is not true, that sin does exist and that they themselves are sinners. Although certain currents of psychology have great difficulty in admitting that in the feeling of guilt there may also be a real sin or guilt resulting from it. They have become so benumbed that they do not feel a sense of guilt even when they should and must seek with every possible means to recover this sense of guilt, because it is necessary in the spiritual order for the salvation of the soul. Indeed, Jesus did not come to save those who have already freed themselves on their own, believing that they no longer stand in need of him, but rather those who feel that they are sinners and need him (cf. Lc 5,31-32).

The truth is that we all need him, as the divine Sculptor who removes the accumulated layers of dust and dirt that obscure the image of God within us. We stand in need of forgiveness, which is the fulcrum of every true reform: the renewal of the person in his inmost depths thus becomes the centre of the renewal of the community. When the dust and filth, which makes God's image within me unrecognizable, are removed, I become truly like the other. He or she in turn is an image of God; and above all, I am likened to Christ, who is the image of God free from any blemish or limitation, the prototype on which we have all been created. St Paul expresses this in a very concrete way: "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Ga 2,20). I am snatched away from my isolation and welcomed into a new community-subject; and my "self" is inserted into the "self" of Christ thereby being united with that of all my brethren. Only on the basis of this deep renewal of the individual is the Church born, as well as the community that unites and sustains people in life and in death. She is a companion on the ascent, in the realization of that purification which makes us capable of reaching the true heights of our humanity, of the company of God. As purification is gradually brought about, even the climb arduous at the start becomes ever more joyful. This infectious joy must shine out from the Church increasingly, involving the world, through the young people of the world.

Venerable Brothers, we cannot carry this out with our own strength; we need the light and grace that come from God's Spirit, that act in the depths of hearts and consciences. May they sustain you and your dioceses in the formation of minds and hearts! Please convey my affectionate greeting to your young people and their counsellors, to the priests, religious and lay people. May they raise their gaze to the Immaculate Conception, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, to whose protection I entrust you. I impart a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to all your diocesan faithful.



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before saying "goodbye" to Castel Gandolfo at the end of the summer season, I am glad to meet all of you who represent the ecclesial and civil communities of this pleasant little town so dear to me, where every year Providence grants me a serene and fruitful stay.

I first offer a brotherly greeting and cordial gratitude to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano; I extend it to the entire diocese which I follow with special and prayerful affection in its life of faith and Christian witness. I then greet the parish priest of Castel Gandolfo and the parish community, together with the various male and female religious institutes who live and work here, joyfully serving the Gospel and their brethren.

I address a respectful greeting to the Mayor and to the members of the Municipal Administration, as I once again express my sincere gratitude for their indispensable contribution, in their own province so that Castel Gandolfo may give a proper welcome to the numerous pilgrims who come here from every part of the world. Through you I wish to express to your fellow-citizens my deep appreciation for the well-known courtesy and caring attention with which they surround me and follow my activity at the service of the universal Church. I would then like to thank warmly the directors and all those who work in the various services of the Governorate, starting with the Police Force, the Garden Services and the Health and Technical Services, as well as the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

Dear friends, I address to all of you a special "thank you" for the concern and professionalism with which you have striven to anticipate my needs and those of my collaborators and of all who came to Castel Gandolfo in the summer months to visit me. I assure each one of you and your families of my constant remembrance in prayer.

I also address a thought of heartfelt gratitude to the officers and agents of the various Italian Police Forces for their punctual and efficient work, as well as to the officers and airmen of the 31st Squadron of the Italian Air force. I thank God and I am grateful to you all, because everything always happened in an orderly and peaceful way.

In saying "goodbye" to you I would like to entrust to your consideration the figure of St Vincent de Paul, whose Memorial we are celebrating today. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed this apostle of charity, so dear to the Christian people and known in particular through the Sisters he founded, the "universal patron of all the works of charity throughout the world". With his ceaseless apostolic action he ensured that the Gospel would become increasingly a bright beacon of hope and love for the people of his time, and, in particular, for the poorest in body and mind. May his virtuous example and his intercession inspire in your communities and in each one of you a renewed commitment to solidarity, so that the cooperation of each and everyone may help to build the common good.

I accompany this cordial wish with the assurance of my remembrance to the Lord, so that he may help all of you and your families with his grace and fill you with abundant consolations. I thank you once again, dear friends, and I cordially bless you.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before taking my leave of Castel Gandolfo at the end of my summer stay, I am pleased to receive you on this farewell visit, which gives me the opportunity to express to each one of you my deep gratitude for your work and, in particular, to congratulate you on the spirit of service that inspires you.

I thank Dr Saverio Petrillo, the Director, for his kind words and for the sentiments he has expressed to me on behalf of you all. I am glad on this occasion to renew the expression of my appreciation of the competence and attention that you, dear Director, together with all the personnel, devote to the care of the Palace and of the Pontifical Villas. May the Lord reward each one with an abundance of heavenly gifts and keep you and your families. I thank you all because this summer too you have accompanied me with prayers and your daily work. You have always been close to me and I am grateful to you for this.

Continue, dear friends, to offer the daily witness of your faith, especially by listening in docility to the Word of God. Today, in the Liturgy, we celebrate three sublime Messengers of this word that illumines, guides, defends, comforts and helps: the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, sent by God with specific missions at special moments in the history of salvation. Every Christian is called to receive and to live every day, with simplicity and joy, the Word of truth that the Lord has communicated to us. Down the centuries, the Church has known splendid figures, faithful disciples of Christ, who diligently and lovingly drew nourishment from Sacred Scripture, placing deep trust in it. Tomorrow we shall commemorate St Jerome, a Father of the Church, who made the Bible the centre of his life: he translated it into Latin and commented on it in his works. This eminent Doctor of the Church warned that "ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (Commentary on Isaiah, Prologue). It is therefore fundamental that every Christian live in touch and in dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture, not reading it as a Word of the past but rather as a living Word that is addressed to us today and calls us into question.

Dear friends, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer, so that each one may know and assimilate ever more deeply the Word of God, an incentive and a source of Christian life for all situations and for every person. The Blessed Virgin is a model of this obedient listening: learn from her! May the Lord grant you days that are happy and holy; may the Holy Spirit enrich your families with his gifts.

And now, as a sign of friendship, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each one of you, and to your loved ones.


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

I wish first of all to give my heartfelt thanks to ENI, in the person of the President, Prof. Roberto Poli who has graciously introduced this evening. Some time ago ENI offered to organize a concert to coincide with the restoration work on the side walls of St Peter's Basilica. After the memorable cleaning of the façade, admired by millions of pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, this more recent enterprise is in full swing: entering the Vatican through the Arch of the Bells or the Petriano Gate, one is struck - looking at the part that has already been completed - by the aspect of the Travertine that appears almost soft and velvety, as we have never seen it before. This too is a great "orchestral" work, and all those who direct it and who carry it out with skill and effort deserve an applause!

And so ENI had the idea of a concert perhaps to make up for the noise that this work inevitably produces! The Orchestra and Choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, were invited for this reason; it is worth mentioning that these two institutions, because of their history, the quality of their musical skill and their typically "Italian" sound represent Rome and Italy in the global musical arena. I would like to congratulate all the members of the orchestra and choir, expressing the hope that they will always be able to renew themselves in spirit, to give life as they are doing this evening to immortal works. In particular, I express my deep appreciation to Neeme Järve, the conductor, to Andrea Lucchesini, the pianist, and to Ciro Visco, the choirmaster. I also extend a special greeting to the group of poor people, who receive help from the Diocesan Caritas and whom I wanted to invite so that they might experience this moment of joy with us.

And now, a brief reflection on the music we have just heard one of the "London Symphonies" by Haydn, known as "the Surprise Symphony", or "mit dem Paukenschlag" ("with the kettledrum stroke") because of the characteristic use of the drums in the second movement; the Choral Fantasy by Beethoven, a passage of a rather atypical kind in the range of Beethoven's opus but that sums up the expressive possibilities of solo, orchestral and choral music; and between them, "Cecilia, vergine romana" by Arvo Pärt. The two works of Haydn and Beethoven have resonated with the full wealth and potential of the symphonic music of Classical and Romantic periods. With this music the human genius vies with nature in creativity gives life to various, multiform harmonies where the human voice also participates in this language, which as it were mirrors the great cosmic symphony. This form in particular is characteristic of the Romantic and late Romantic period, but goes beyond it, and represents a universal dimension of this art, a way of conceiving man and his place in the world.

On the other hand although Pärt's work avails itself of a similar instrumentation, a symphonic orchestra and a choir, it wishes to give a voice to another reality that does not belong to the natural world: it gives a voice to the testimony of faith in Christ: in a word, "martyrdom". It is interesting that this testimony is impersonated by St Cecilia: a martyr who is also Patroness of music and opera.

Thus it is also necessary to congratulate those who conceived of the concert's programme, since the juxtaposition of this work on St Cecilia with the works of Haydn and Beethoven provides a contrast rich in meaning that is food for thought. The text of the martyrdom of the Saint and the special style that interprets it in a musical key seem to symbolize the place and task of faith in the universe: amidst the vital forces of nature, that are around and within human beings, faith is a different force that corresponds to a profound saying, "came forth from silence", in the words of St Ignatius of Antioch. The words of faith need deep inner silence, to listen to and obey a voice that is beyond the visible and tangible. This voice also speaks through the phenomena of nature for it is the power that created and governs the universe. To recognize it, however, we need a humble and obedient heart, as the Saint we are commemorating today also teaches us: St Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Faith follows this deep voice wherever art itself alone cannot arrive: it follows this voice on the path of the witness, of offering oneself out of love, as did Cecilia. Then the most beautiful work of art, the masterpiece of the human being, is his every act of authentic love, from the smallest in daily martyrdom to the extreme sacrifice. Here life itself becomes a hymn: an anticipation of the symphony we shall sing together in Heaven. Thank you again and have a good evening.


MEETING WITH BISHOPS, PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND SEMINARIANS Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Palermo Sunday, 3 October 2010


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On my Pastoral Visit to your region a Meeting with you could not be omitted. Thank you for your welcome! I liked the parallel the Archbishop drew between the beauty of the Cathedral and that of the building of "living stones", which you are. Yes, in this brief but intense moment with you I can admire the face of the Church in the variety of her gifts; and, as Successor of Peter, I have the joy of strengthening you in the one faith and in the profound communion that the Lord Jesus Christ bought for us. I express my gratitude to Archbishop Paolo Romeo and I extend it to the Auxiliary Bishop. I address my most cordial greeting to you, dear priests of this Archdiocese and of all the Dioceses in Sicily, to you, dear deacons and seminarians, and to you, men and women religious and consecrated lay people, and with it I would like to reach out to all the confreres and sisters of Sicily, and in a special way to those who are sick or very elderly.

Eucharistic adoration, which we have had the grace and joy to share, has revealed to us and permitted us to feel the profound meaning of what we are: a member of the body of Christ which is the Church. Prostrate before Jesus, here with you, I asked him to inflame your hearts with his love, so that you may be conformed to him and imitate him in the most complete and generous gift of yourselves to the Church and to your brethren.

Dear priests, I would like to address you first of all. I know that you work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no effort. The Lord Jesus, to whom you have consecrated your life, is with you! May you always be men of prayer, so as also to be teachers of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer during which, modelling yourselves on Jesus, you enter into a regenerating conversation with the Father. It is not easy to stay faithful to these daily appointments with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life has become frenetic and work is ever more absorbing. Yet we must convince ourselves: time for prayer is fundamental: in prayer, divine grace acts more effectively, making the ministry fruitful. We are pressed by so many things, but if we are not inwardly in communion with God we cannot give anything to others either. We must always set aside the necessary time "to be with him" (cf.
Mc 3,14).

Concerning priests, the Second Vatican Council says "However, it is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred functions" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium LG 28). The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. Dear brother priests, can we say that it is so for us, for our priestly life? What care do we devote to preparing ourselves for Holy Mass, to celebrating it, to remaining in adoration? Are our churches truly the "house of God", where his presence attracts people who, unfortunately, today often feel the absence of God?

The priest always finds, and in an unchangeable manner, the source of his own identity in Christ the Priest. He is not in the world to establish our status, according to the needs and concepts of social roles. The priest is marked by the seal of the Priesthood of Christ, to share in his role as the one Mediator and Redeemer. By virtue of this fundamental bond, the immense field of the service to souls, for their salvation in Christ and in the Church, opens to the priest. This service that must be wholly inspired by the love of Christ. God wants all human beings to be saved, he wants no one to be lost. The Holy Curé d'Ars said: "the priest must always be ready to respond to the needs of souls. He does not live for himself, he lives for you". The priest exists for the faithful: he encourages them and sustains them in the exercise of the common priesthood of the baptized, on their journey of faith, in cultivating hope and in living charity, the love of Christ. Dear priests, may you always give special attention to the world of youth. As Venerable John Paul II said in this land, open wide the doors of your parishes to young people, so that they may open the doors of their hearts to Christ. May they never find them closed!

The Priest cannot be distant from the daily concerns of the People of God; on the contrary he must be very close but as a priest, always with a view to salvation and of the Kingdom of God. He is the witness and steward of a life different from earthly life (cf. Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 3). He is the herald of a strong hope, a "trustworthy hope", the hope of Christ, by virtue of which we can face the present even though it may often be arduous (cf. Encyclical Spe Salvi ). It is essential for the Church that the priest's identity be safeguarded with its "vertical" dimension. The lives and personality of St John Mary Vianney and of all the Saints of your land such as St Hannibal Mary di Francia, Bl. James Cusmano and Bl. Francis Spoto are a particularly enlightening and vigorous demonstration of this.

The Church of Palermo recently commemorated the anniversary of the barbarous assassination of Fr Giuseppe Puglisi, who belonged to this presbyterate, killed by the Mafia. His heart was on fire with authentic pastoral charity; in his zealous ministry he made a lot of room for the education of children and young people and at the same time strove to ensure that every Christian family might live its fundamental vocation as the first teacher of the faith to children. The same people entrusted to his pastoral care were able to quench their thirst with the spiritual riches of this good pastor, the cause of whose Beatification is under way. I urge you to keep alive the memory of his fruitful priestly witness, following his heroic example.

With great affection I also address you, who live consecration to God in Christ and in the Church in various forms and institutes. I reserve a special thought for the cloistered monks and nuns, whose service of prayer is so precious for the Ecclesial Community. Dear brothers and sisters, may you continue to follow Jesus without compromise, as the Gospel proposes, thereby witnessing radically to the beauty of being Christian. It is your particular task to keep alive in the baptized the awareness of the fundamental requirements of the Gospel. In fact, your very presence and your style give the Ecclesial Community a precious incentive to attain the "high standard" of the Christian vocation; indeed, we could say that your existence is as it were a form of preaching, very eloquent even though it is often silent. Yours, dear friends, is an ancient way of life yet ever new, despite the decrease in your number and forces. But have trust: our times are not those of God and of his providence. It is necessary to pray and to grow in personal and community holiness. Then the Lord will provide!

With special affection I greet you, dear seminarians, and I urge you to respond generously to the call of the Lord and the expectations of the People of God, growing in identification with Christ the High Priest, preparing yourselves for the mission with a solid human, spiritual, theological and cultural formation. The Seminary is particularly valuable for your future, because, by a full experience and patient work, it leads you to being pastors of souls and teachers of faith, ministers of the holy mysteries and messengers of Christ's charity. Live this time of grace with dedication and cherish in your hearts the joy and dynamism of the first moment of the call and of your "yes", when, responding to Christ's mysterious voice, you gave a decisive turning point to your lives. Be docile to the orders of your superiors and of those responsible for your growth in Christ, and learn from him love for every child of God and of the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you once again for your affection, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer so that you may continue with a fresh enthusiasm and with strong hope on the journey of faithful adherence to Christ and of generous service to the Church. May the Virgin Mary, our Mother, always help you; may St Rosalia and all the holy Patrons of this region of Sicily protect you; and may the Apostolic Blessing that I warmly impart to you and to your communities accompany you.

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