Speeches 2005-13 383




Atrium of Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 23 October 2010
Dear friends,

In keeping with the lovely tradition created by Pope John Paul ii, a Synod concludes with a luncheon; this friendly custom fits well with the atmosphere of this Synod, which speaks of communion. This communion was not only discussed, but also realized.

I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’. Thank you to the Secretary General of the Synod and his staff, who prepared and are still also preparing the follow-up to the work. Thank you to the Presidents-Delegate and thank you especially to the Relator and the Deputy Secretary who did a marvellous job. Thanks! I was also once the Relator of the Synod on the Family, so I can imagine all the work that you have had to do. Thank you also to all the Fathers who gave a voice to the Church in the East, to the Auditors, to the Fraternal Delegates, to everyone!

Communion and testimony. At this moment we thank the Lord for the communion that he gave and gives to us. We have seen the abundance and the diversity of this communion. You are all Churches with different rites that nevertheless constitute, together with all the other rites, the one Catholic Church. It is beautiful to see this true catholicity that is so rich in diversity, so rich in possibilities in different cultures. Indeed, this is the way the polyphony of the one faith grows into one true communion of hearts that only the Lord can give us. For this experience of communion we thank the Lord and I thank all of you. It seems to me that communion is perhaps the most important gift of the Synod that we have lived and realized. Communion connects us all and is, in itself, testimony.

Communion. Catholic and Christian communion is an open and dialogic communion. Thus, we were also in permanent dialogue, internally and externally, with our Orthodox brothers and with other ecclesial Communities. We felt that in this we are united, even if there are exterior divisions. We felt the profound communion in the Lord, in the gift of his Word, with his life, and we hope that the Lord will guide us as we proceed in this profound communion.

We are united with the Lord and so, we can say, we “find” ourselves in Truth. This Truth does not close, it does not set boundaries, rather it opens them. Therefore, we were also in frank and open dialogue with our brother Muslims, brother Jews, everyone together responsible for the gift of peace, for peace precisely in that part of the land blessed by the Lord, the cradle of Christianity as well as two other religions. We desire to continue on this path with strength, tenderness, humility and on the courage of the truth that is love and opens to love.

I stated before that we are concluding this Synod with a luncheon. But the true conclusion is tomorrow in true fellowship with the Lord in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, in reality, is not a conclusion, but an opening. The Lord walks with us, he is with us, and the Lord gets us going. So, in this sense, we are in Synod, that is on a common path that continues even once we part: we are in Synod, on a common journey. We pray that the Lord may help us. Thank you all!


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear Friends,

I greet all of you who have come to Rome for the International Symposium on Erik Peterson. I thank you in particular, Cardinal Lehmann, for your cordial words introducing this Meeting.

As you said, this year is the 120th anniversary of the birth in Hamburg of this distinguished theologian; and, on almost this very day 50 years ago, 26 October 1960, Erik Peterson died, also in Hamburg his native city.

He lived in Rome with his family for several periods from 1930, and then settled here in 1933. He first lived on the Aventine, near Sant’Anselmo, and later in the Vatican district, in a house facing Porta Sant’Anna. Thus it gives me special joy to be able to greet the Peterson family who are with us here, his esteemed daughters and his son, with their respective families.

In 1990, together with Cardinal Lehmann, in the apartment you shared, on the occasion of her 80th birthday I was able to give your mother an autograph with a picture of Bl. Pope John Paul ii and I recall this meeting with you with pleasure.

“Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (He 13,14).

This citation from the Letter to the Hebrews could sum up Erik Peterson’s life. In fact, he never found in his life a true place where he could obtain recognition and a permanent home.

He began his scientific work in a period of upheaval in Germany after the First World War. The monarchy had fallen. The civil order seemed to be at risk, given the political and social turmoil. This was also reflected in the religious sphere and, in a particular way, in German Protestantism.

The open theology predominant until then, with its optimism and progress, had entered a crisis and was giving way to new and clashing theological trends. The contemporary situation posed an existential problem to young Peterson. With an interest in both history and theology he had already chosen the subject he was to study, as he says, in accordance with the perspective that “when we are left alone with human history, we find ourselves facing a meaningless enigma" (Eintrag in das Bonner “Album Professorum” 1926/27, Ausgewählte Schriften, Sonderband S. 111).

Peterson, I quote him again, decided “to work in the historical field and especially to address the problems of the history of religions”, because in the Evangelical theology of the time he had not managed “to make headway, hindered by numerous opinions, even things in themselves” (ibid.).

On this path he came ever closer to the certainty that no history is detached from God and that in this history the Church has a special place and finds her meaning. I cite him further: “That the Church exists and is constituted in a quite particular way strictly depends on the fact that... there is a well-defined, specifically theological history” (Vorlesung “Geschichte der Alten Kirche” Bonn 1928, Ausgewählte Schriften, Sonderband S. 88).

The Church receives from God the mandate to lead men and women from their limited and isolated existence to universal communion, from the natural to the supernatural, from transience to the end of time. In his work on Angels Peterson says in this regard: "The Church’s journey leads from the earthly to the heavenly Jerusalem... to the city of Angels and of Saints” (Buch von den Engeln, Einleitung).

The starting point of this journey is the binding character of Sacred Scripture. According to Peterson, Sacred Scripture becomes binding and is binding to the extent that it is not only in itself but in the hermeneutic of Apostolic Tradition which, in turn, is brought about in the Apostolic Succession. Hence the the Church preserves Scripture in a living present and at the same time interprets it. Through the Bishops, who are in the Apostolic Succession, the testimony of Scripture remains alive in the Church and constitutes the foundation for the ever valid convictions of the Church’s faith which we find first of all in the Creed and in dogma.

These convictions are continuously developed in the Liturgy as a living space of the Church for praise of God. The Divine Office celebrated on earth therefore has an indissoluble relationship with the heavenly Jerusalem: it is there that the true and eternal sacrifice of praise, whose earthly celebration is only an image, is offered to God and to the Lamb.

Those who take part in Holy Mass stand almost on the threshold of the heavenly sphere from which they contemplate the worship of the Angels and Saints. Wherever the earthly Church intones her Eucharistic praise, she is united with the festive, heavenly assembly, in which, in the Saints a part of her has already arrived and gives hope to all on this earth who are still journeying on towards the eternal fulfilment.

Perhaps at this point I should make a personal reflection. I discovered the figure of Erik Peterson for the first time in 1951. I was then chaplain at Bogenhausen. Mr Wild, director of Kosel, the local publishing house, gave me the recently published book Theologische Traktate (Theological Treatises). I read the book with increasing curiosity and let myself be truly impassioned by it because in it I found the theology I was seeking: it is a theology that uses all the seriousness of history to understand and study texts, it analyzes them with the full gravity of historical research and does not relegate them to the past.

Indeed, in his research, the author participates in the self-surmounting of the letter, enters into this self-surmounting and lets himself be guided by it. Thus he comes into contact with the One from whom theology itself derives: the living God.

In this way the discrepancy between the past, that philology analyzes, today is surmounted in and of itself, because the word leads to the encounter with reality and the entire timeliness of what is written, which transcends itself towards reality and becomes alive and active. Thus I learned from him, in a most essential and profound way, what theology really is. And I even felt admiration, because here he does not only say what he thinks, but this book is an expression of a quest that was the passion of his life.

Paradoxically, the exchange of letters with Harnack is the maximum expression of the unexpected attention that Peterson was receiving. Harnack confirmed, indeed, he had already written previously and independently that the Catholic formal principle which holds that “Scripture lives in Tradition and Tradition lives in the living form of the Succession”, is the original and objective principle, and that “Scripture by itself” does not function.

Peterson grasped the full seriousness of this affirmation of the open theologian and let himself be shaken, overwhelmed, bent and transformed by it. In this way he found the path to conversion and with it truly took a step, like Abraham, as we heard at the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Here we have no lasting city”.

He went from the security of a Chair to uncertainty, to having no dwelling place, and throughout his life he lacked a sure base, a real homeland; he was truly journeying with faith and for faith, confident that by journeying on and possessing no home he was at home in a different way and was drawing ever closer to the heavenly Liturgy which had impressed him.

From all this one realizes that many of the things Peterson thought and wrote remained fragmented because of this precarious mode of life, following the loss of his teaching post because of his conversion. Yet, although he had to live without the security of a fixed salary he married here in Rome and founded a family. By so doing he expressed in practice his inner conviction that we, though foreigners — and he was so in a special way — nevertheless find support in the communion of love and that in love itself there is something that lasts for eternity.

He experienced this foreignness of the Christian. He had become a foreigner in Evangelical theology and remained a foreigner in Catholic theology too, as it was then.

Today we know that he belonged to both and that from him both must learn the whole drama, the realism and the existential and human need of theology.

Erik Peterson, as Cardinal Lehmann said, was certainly appreciated and loved by many, an author recommended in a narrow circle, but who did not receive the scientific recognition he deserved. It would have been, in a certain way, too soon. As I said, he was both here and there [in Catholic and in Evangelical theology] a foreigner.

Cardinal Lehmann cannot be sufficiently praised for having taken the initiative in publishing a magnificent complete edition of Peterson's works, nor can Mrs. Nichtweiß, to whom he has entrusted this task which she carries out with admirable competence.

Thus the attention given to him in this publication is more than deserved, given that various works have now also been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, English, Hungarian and even Chinese. I hope this will ensure that Peterson's thought, which does not stop at details but always has a vision of the whole of theology, will be more widely disseminated.

I warmly thank everyone present for having come. I extend my special thanks to the organizers of this Symposium, especially Cardinal Farina, the Patron of this event, and to Dr Giancarlo Caronello.

I gladly address my best wishes to you for an interesting and stimulating discussion in the spirit of Erik Peterson. I expect abundant fruit from this Congress, and impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to all those who are dear to you.


Thursday, 28 October 2010
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 1,2).

I would first like to thank God for your zeal and dedication to Christ and to his Church which is developing in the North East V Region. In reading your reports I have been able to take stock of the religious and pastoral as well as the human and social problems that you must deal with every day. The general picture has its shadows but also signs of hope, as Bishop Xavier Gilles has just said to me in his greeting, expressing the sentiments of all of you and of your people.

As you know, at previous meetings with various Regions of the National Bishops’ Conference of Brazil, I have stressed the different areas and respective sections of the Church’s multiform evangelizing and pastoral service in your great nation; today I would like to speak to you of how the Church, in her mission of developing and illuminating human society with the Gospel, teaches man his dignity as a son of God and his vocation to union with all men and women, from whom the requirements of justice and social peace derive in conformity with divine wisdom.

In the meantime, the immediate duty to work for a just social order is incumbent on the lay faithful who, as free and responsible citizens, strive to contribute to the right configuration of social life, with respect for its legitimate autonomy and for the natural moral order (cf. Deus Caritas Est ).

Your duty as Bishops with your clergy is mediated since it is your task to contribute to purifying reason and reawakening the moral forces necessary to build a just and fraternal society. However, when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls so require, it is the serious duty of Pastors to issue a moral judgement, even in political matters (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76).

In forming these opinions Pastors must keep in mind the absolute value of those negative moral precepts that hold as morally inacceptable the choice of a certain intrinsically evil action incompatible with the dignity of the human person. This decision cannot be redeemed by the goodness of any purpose, intention, consequence or circumstance. Therefore any defence of political, economic and social human rights would be totally false and deceptive that did not include a strong defence of a right to life from conception to natural death (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 38).

Furthermore, in the context of work for the weakest and most defenceless, who is more helpless than a newborn infant or a sick person in a vegetative or terminal condition? When political projects contemplate, openly or in a veiled manner, the decriminalization of abortion or euthanasia, the democratic ideal — which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person — is betrayed in its very foundations (Evangelium Vitae EV 74).

Therefore dear Brothers in the Episcopate, in defending life “we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking” (n. 82).

In addition, the better to help lay people live their Christian and socio-political commitment in a uniform and consistent manner, as I said in Aparecida, “there will also need to be social catechesis and a sufficient formation in the social teaching of the Church, for which a very useful tool is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” (Address at the Opening Session of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ Conferences, n. 3).

This also means that on specific occasions, the Pastors must also remind all the citizens of the right, which is also a duty, to use their own vote freely in order to promote the common good (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 75).

On this point politics and faith converge. Faith without any doubt, has the specific nature of an encounter with the living God which opens new horizons far beyond the context proper to reason.

“Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person” (Discourse to Representatives of British Society, Westminster Hall London, 17 September 2010).

A society can be built only by tirelessly respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person. Thus God must find “a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions” (Caritas in Veritate ).

For this reason, dear Brothers, I join my voice to yours in a lively appeal for religious education and, more practically, for the confessional and diversified teaching of religion in State schools.

I would also like to recall that the presence of religious symbols in public life is at the same time a reminder of man's transcendence and a guarantee of respect for him. They have a particular value in the case of Brazil where the Catholic religion is an integral part of its history. How can we fail to think at this time of the image of Jesus Christ with his arms out stretched over the Bay of Guanabara that represents the hospitality and love with which Brazil has always known how to open its arms to persecuted and needy men and women arriving from all over the world? It was in this presence of Jesus in Brazilian life that they were harmoniously integrated into society, contributing to enriching its culture, to its economic growth and to its spiritual of solidarity and freedom.

Dear Brothers, I entrust to the Mother of God and our Mother, invoked in Brazil with the title of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, these hopes of the Catholic Church in the Land of the Holy Cross and of all people of good will in defence of the values of human life and of its transcendence, together with the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anguish of the men and women of the Ecclesiastical Province of Maranhão. I entrust everyone to her maternal protection and I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your people.


Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet all of you here present as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gathers for its Plenary Session to reflect on ‘The Scientific Legacy of the Twentieth Century’. I greet in particular Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Academy. I also take this opportunity to recall with affection and gratitude Professor Nicola Cabibbo, your late president. With all of you, I prayerfully commend his noble soul to God the Father of mercies.

The history of science in the twentieth century is one of undoubted achievement and major advances. Unfortunately, the popular image of twentieth-century science is sometimes characterized otherwise, in two extreme ways. On the one hand, science is posited by some as a panacea, proven by its notable achievements in the last century. Its innumerable advances were in fact so encompassing and so rapid that they seemed to confirm the point of view that science might answer all the questions of man’s existence, and even of his highest aspirations. On the other hand, there are those who fear science and who distance themselves from it, because of sobering developments such as the construction and terrifying use of nuclear weapons.

Science, of course, is not defined by either of these extremes. Its task was and remains a patient yet passionate search for the truth about the cosmos, about nature and about the constitution of the human being. In this search, there have been many successes and failures, triumphs and setbacks. The developments of science have been both uplifting, as when the complexity of nature and its phenomena were discovered, exceeding our expectations, and humbling, as when some of the theories we thought might have explained those phenomena once and for all proved only partial. Nonetheless, even provisional results constitute a real contribution to unveiling the correspondence between the intellect and natural realities, on which later generations may build further.

The progress made in scientific knowledge in the twentieth century, in all its various disciplines, has led to a greatly improved awareness of the place that man and this planet occupy in the universe. In all sciences, the common denominator continues to be the notion of experimentation as an organized method for observing nature. In the last century, man certainly made more progress – if not always in his knowledge of himself and of God, then certainly in his knowledge of the macro- and microcosms – than in the entire previous history of humanity. Our meeting here today, dear friends, is a proof of the Church’s esteem for ongoing scientific research and of her gratitude for scientific endeavour, which she both encourages and benefits from. In our own day, scientists themselves appreciate more and more the need to be open to philosophy if they are to discover the logical and epistemological foundation for their methodology and their conclusions. For her part, the Church is convinced that scientific activity ultimately benefits from the recognition of man’s spiritual dimension and his quest for ultimate answers that allow for the acknowledgement of a world existing independently from us, which we do not fully understand and which we can only comprehend in so far as we grasp its inherent logic. Scientists do not create the world; they learn about it and attempt to imitate it, following the laws and intelligibility that nature manifests to us. The scientist’s experience as a human being is therefore that of perceiving a constant, a law, a logos that he has not created but that he has instead observed: in fact, it leads us to admit the existence of an all-powerful Reason, which is other than that of man, and which sustains the world. This is the meeting point between the natural sciences and religion. As a result, science becomes a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially, even between man and his Creator.

As we look to the twenty-first century, I would like to propose two thoughts for further reflection. First, as increasing accomplishments of the sciences deepen our wonder of the complexity of nature, the need for an interdisciplinary approach tied with philosophical reflection leading to a synthesis is more and more perceived. Secondly, scientific achievement in this new century should always be informed by the imperatives of fraternity and peace, helping to solve the great problems of humanity, and directing everyone’s efforts towards the true good of man and the integral development of the peoples of the world. The positive outcome of twenty-first century science will surely depend in large measure on the scientist’s ability to search for truth and apply discoveries in a way that goes hand in hand with the search for what is just and good.

With these sentiments, I invite you to direct your gaze toward Christ, the uncreated Wisdom, and to recognize in His face, the Logos of the Creator of all things. Renewing my good wishes for your work, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Clementine Hall Friday, 29 October 2010
Your Excellencies,
Mr President Prof. von Pufendorf,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

I rejoice to welcome to the Apostolic Palace all of you who have come to Rome for the Guardini Foundation's Congress on the theme: “The spiritual and intellectual legacy of Romano Guardini”. I thank you in particular, dear Professor von Pufendorf, for your cordial words at the beginning of this meeting, in which you fully described the present-day “struggle” which links us to Guardini and, at the same time, requires us to carry on his life's work.

In his speech of thanks on the occasion of his 80th birthday in February 1965, at the “Ludwig-Maximilian” University in Munich, Guardini described his life's work, as he understood it, as a method of questioning himself in a continuous spiritual exchange on the meaning of the Christian Weltanschauung [vision of the world] (Stationen und Rückblicke, S. 41). For Guardini this vision, this comprehensive survey of the world, was not an external survey like a simple matter of research. Nor did he mean the perspective of the history of the spirit which examines and ponders what others have said or written on the religious form of an epoch. In Guardini's opinion all these points of view were insufficient.

In the notes on his life he affirmed, “what was of immediate interest to me was not the question of what someone had said about Christian truth, but of what was true” (Berichte über mein Leben, S. 24). And it was this line of his teaching that impressed us as young men, because we were not interested in witnessing a “firework display” of opinions to be found within Christianity or outside it. We wanted to know “what it is”. And here was a man who, fearlessly but at the same time with all the seriousness of critical thought, asked this question and helped us think together. Guardini did not want to know one thing or many things, he aspired to the truth of God and to the truth about man. For him the means of approaching this truth was the Weltanschauung — as it was then called — which is achieved in a living exchange with the world and with men. The specific Christian principle lies in the fact that man knows he stands in a relationship to God which precedes him, and from which he cannot withdraw.

The principle that establishes the yardstick is not our own thought but God who surpasses our units of measurement and cannot be reduced to any entity that we may create. God reveals himself as the truth, not an abstract truth but rather one to be found in the living and the concrete, ultimately in the form of Jesus Christ.

Anyone who desires to see Jesus, the truth, however, must “change course”, must leave behind the autonomy of arbitrary thought and move towards the willingness to listen, which accepts “what is”. And this journey backwards, which Guardini made during his conversion, shaped his whole thought and his whole life as a continuous departure from autonomy to turn toward listening, toward receiving. However, even in an authentic relationship with God man does not always comprehend what God says. He needs interpretation and this consists in an exchange with others that down the ages has found its most reliable form in the living Church which unites all people.

Guardini was a man of dialogue. His works, almost without exception, were born from dialogue, even if only an inner one. The lessons of the professor of the philosophy of religion and of Christian Weltanschauung at the University of Berlin in the 1920s represented above all meetings with great thinkers of the past. Guardini read the works of these authors, listened to them, learned from them how they saw the world and entered into dialogue in order to develop through dialogue with them what he, as a Catholic thinker, had to say to them regarding their thoughts. He pursued this habit in Munich and this was the particular style of his teaching — the fact that he was in dialogue with the thinkers.

His key words were: “you see...”, because he wanted to guide us to “seeing”, while he himself was in a common inner dialogue with his listeners. This was the innovation in comparison with the rhetoric of the old days: rather, that far from seeking rhetoric he talked to us in a totally simple way, and at the same time spoke of truth and led us to dialogue with the truth. And there was a broad spectrum of “dialogues” with authors such as Socrates, St Augustine and Pascal, Dante, Hölderlin, Mörike, Rilke and Dostoyevsky. He saw them as living mediators who reveal the present in a word from the past, allowing us to see and live it in a new way. They give us a strength that can lead us once again back to ourselves.

Guardini held that when we open ourselves to the truth an ethos follows, a basis for our moral behaviour to our neighbour, as a requirement of our existence. Since man can encounter God, he can also behave well. This primacy of ontology over ethos applies to him. Upright conduct therefore derives from the being, from the very being of God correctly understood and listened to. Guardini used to say: “authentic praxis, that is, correct behaviour, stems from the truth and it is necessary to fight for it” (ibid., S. 111).

It was first and foremost among the young that Guardini noted this yearning for the truth, this reaching for what is primary and essential. In his dialogues with young people, particularly at Rothenfels Castle which, thanks to him, had by then become the centre of the Catholic Youth Movement, the priest and educator promoted the ideals of the youth movement such as self-determination, personal responsibility and an inner disposition for the truth; he purified and deepened these ideals. Freedom. Yes, but the only person who is really free, he used to tell us, is the one who is “completely what he should be, in accordance with his own nature.... Freedom is truth” (Auf dem Wege, S. 20). The truth of man, for Guardini, is essentiality and conformity to being. Man's journey leads to truth when he practices “the obedience of our being in relation to the being of God” (ibid., S. 21). This takes place ultimately in worship, which Guardini considers belongs to the sphere of thought.

In guiding the young Guardini also discovered a new approach to the Liturgy. For him the rediscovery of the Liturgy was a rediscovery of the oneness of spirit and flesh in the totality of the single human being, since liturgical action is always at the same time both bodily and spiritual. Prayer is extended through physical and community action, hence the oneness of reality as a whole is revealed. The Liturgy is symbolic action. The symbol as the quintessence of the oneness of the spiritual and the material is lost when these separate, when the world is split in half, into spirit and flesh, into subject and object. Guardini was profoundly convinced that man is spirit in flesh and flesh in spirit and that the Liturgy and the symbol therefore lead him to the essence of himself and ultimately, through worship, to the truth.

Among Guardini’s great themes of life the relationship between faith and the world is constantly in the forefront. Guardini saw the university above all as a place for seeking truth. The university, however, can only be such when it is free from all exploitation for political advantage or other ends. Today, in our globalised but fragmented world, it is more important than ever to fulfil this intention which the Guardini Foundation has very much at heart and for the realization of which the Guardini Chair was created.

I once again express to you all my cordial thanks to you for coming. May familiarity with Guardini’s work sharpen our awareness of the Christian foundations of our culture and society. I gladly extend my Apostolic Blessing to you all.

Speeches 2005-13 383