Speeches 2005-13 21211


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

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Third World Congress for the Pastoral Care of International Students, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I greet and thank Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò for his kind words in opening this event. I likewise greet the Superiors and the Officials of the Dicastery and each one of you who have come from different parts of the world, especially from those countries with a high number of international students.

I would like to express my appreciation for your commitment to providing the young generation with guidance and support to improve their formation, addressing the challenges of a globalized and secularized world. I also greet in particular the international students present here, in the hope that, having received this special pastoral solicitude they may become protagonists in the Church’s Mission.

I noted with great interest the theme you have chosen for this Congress: “International students and the encounter of cultures”. The meeting of cultures is a fundamental reality in our epoch and for the future of humanity and of the Church. Men and women cannot reach a truly and fully human standard of living except through culture (Second Vatican Council, Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes
GS 53). The Church is attentive to the centrality of the human person both as the protagonist of cultural activities and as the ultimate recipient.

Today more than ever the openness of cultures to one another is the most fertile terrain for dialogue among those committed to seeking authentic humanism. The meeting of cultures in universities must, then, be encouraged and supported having human and Christian principles, the universal values, as its foundation so as to bring up a new generation capable of dialogue and discernment, committed to spreading respect and cooperation for peace and development.

Thanks to their intellectual, cultural and spiritual formation, international students have, in fact, the potential to become architects and protagonists of a more human world.

I sincerely hope that there are good syllabi at a continental and worldwide level to offer many young people this opportunity. Because of a shortage of qualified training and appropriate facilities in their own country or origin, as well as social and political tensions, and thanks to funds for study abroad, international students form an increasingly large group within the broader phenomenon of migration.

Therefore it is important to offer them a healthy and well-balanced intellectual, cultural and spiritual formation, so that they do not fall prey to the “brain drain” but become a consistent social and cultural group in view of their return as future leaders of their countries of origin where they can help to build cultural, social and spiritual “bridges” with their host countries.

Catholic universities and institutions of higher education are called to be “laboratories for humanity” by offering syllabi and courses which aim to encourage young students to search not only for a professional qualification, but also the answer to the question of happiness and sense of fullness, which dwells in the human heart.

The university world is a vital field for the evangelization of the Church. As I pointed out in my Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for next year, when Christian universities are faithful to their true identity, they become places of witness, where Jesus Christ can be met and known, where one can experience his presence, that reconciles, calms, and instills new hope. The spread of “weak” ideologies in the various sectors of society urges Christians to make fresh efforts in the academic world, to encourage the new generations in their search for and discovery of the truth about man and God. Bl. John Henry Newman’s life, so strongly associated with the academic world, confirmed the importance and beauty of promoting an educational environment in which intellectual formation, ethics and religious commitment walk hand in hand.

University ministry is offered to young people as support for communion with Christ to lead them to perceive the deeper mystery of man and of history. The meeting between university students helps to discover and appreciate the hidden treasure in every international student, considering his/her presence as an enriching human, cultural and spiritual factor.

Young Christians, who come from different cultures but belong to the one Church of Christ, can show that the Gospel is the Word of hope and salvation for men and women of every people and culture, of all ages and epochs, as I mentioned in my recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus (cf. nn. 134, 138).

Dear young students, I encourage you to take advantage of your study time to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, while you follow your itinerary of cultural and intellectual formation. Preserving your heritage of hope and faith, in the experience of your cultural formation abroad, may you value the universal opportunity of brotherhood and also the communication of the Gospel. I wish the work of your Congress success and I assure you of my prayers. I entrust to Mary, Mother of Jesus, the commitment and generosity of those who take care of migrants, in particular of students from abroad, and to all I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.



Clementine Hall
Your Eminence, Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

At the end of this Advent meeting here in the Apostolic Palace I would like to address a few words to you. First of all, I cordially thank all those who have made this evening possible. I thank Mr Hans Berger, together with his Ensemble and the Montini Choir for their performance of the “Christmas Oratorio from the Alps”, which moved me deeply. My heartfelt thanks. I then thank the Bavarian Radio and Television, represented by Mr Mandlik and Mrs Sigrid Esslinger, for the screening of the film on Advent and Christmas in the Bavarian Prealps. You have all brought a taste of typically Bavarian customs and life to the Pope’s house. I can only wish you a very warm “Vergelt’s Gott” [may the Lord reward you] for this gift!

And I hope that our Italian friends have also enjoyed themselves with this inculturation of faith in our lands, especially you, Your Eminence [turning to Cardinal Bertone], on your birthday. As has been said, we call Advent the ‘time of silence’ — staade Zeit. Nature pauses; the earth is covered in snow; it is impossible, in the farming world, to work outside; all are obliged to stay at home. Through faith the silence of the house becomes expectation of the Lord, joy in his presence. So it is that all these melodies come into being, all these traditions which — as was also said today — “make” a little bit of “heaven present on earth”. A silent time, a time of silence.

Today Advent is often exactly the opposite: a time of frenzied activity, of people buying and selling, making preparations for Christmas, for large meals and so forth. It is also like this for us. Yet, as you have seen, the popular traditions of faith have not disappeared, indeed, they are being renewed, deepened, updated. And thus they create islands for the soul, islands of silence, islands of faith, islands for the Lord in our time, and to me this seems very important. And we must say “thank you” to all those who perpetrate them: they do so in families, in churches, with more or less professional groups, but they all do the same thing: they make the reality of faith present in our homes, in our epoch. And let us hope that in the future too this effort of faith, its visibility, will endure and will help us move forward, as Advent wishes, towards the Lord.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks and a Vergelt’s Gott to everyone!


Foconi Hall
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Dear Citizens of Gubbio,
Dear Friends,

I willingly accepted the invitation to light the large Christmas Tree, which every year towers over the city of Gubbio. I thank the Organizing Committee and especially Bishop Ceccobelli for his words to me on behalf of the city and the Diocese of Gubbio. I greet all who are in the Square of Gubbio or linked live via television!

Before lighting the tree I would like to make a simple threefold wish. This large Christmas Tree is located on the slopes of Mount Ingino at the peak of which, as the Bishop recalled, the Basilica of the Patron of Gubbio, Saint Ubald, stands. Looking at it our gaze naturally turns upward, towards Heaven, towards the world of God.

The first wish, then, is that our gaze, that of the mind and the heart, may not only pause at the horizon of our world, at material things, but be a little like this tree, knowing how to be drawn above and how to turn to God. He never forgets us but also asks us not to forget him!

The Gospel tells us that on the night of holy Christmas a light shone on the shepherds (cf.
Lc 2,9-11) announcing to them a great joy: the birth of Jesus, the One who comes to bring light, rather the One who is the true Light that enlightens every man (cf. Jn 1,9). The large tree, which will soon be lit, overlooks the city of Gubbio and will illuminate with its light the dark of the night.

The second wish is that it may serve as a reminder that we too need light that can illumine the path of our life and which gives us hope, especially in our time when we particularly feel the burden of difficulties, problems, suffering and a veil of darkness seems to envelope us. But what light is truly able to illuminate our heart and give us hope, firm and sure? It is the Child himself, whom we contemplate at holy Christmas in a simple and poor grotto, because it is the Lord who comes near to every one of us and asks that we welcome him again into our life, asks that we love him and trust in him, to feel his presence, he is with us, he sustains us and he helps us.

This large tree is made up of many lights. The last wish that I would like to make is that everyone may know how to bring a little light to the places where they live: in the family, at work, in the neighbourhood, in towns, in cities. May each of us be a light for those nearby; may we step out of the selfishness which often closes hearts and makes us think only of ourselves; may we give a little attention and love to others. Every small act of kindness is like a light of this great tree. Together with other lights it is able to illuminate the obscurity of the night, even the darkest.

Thank you and may the Lord’s light and blessing rest upon you all.


Solemnity of the Immaculate of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every year the important Feast of Mary Immaculate invites us to meet here, in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, to pay homage to her, the Mother of Christ and our Mother. I greet with affection all of you present here, as well as all those who are joining us via radio and television. I thank you for your unanimous support in my act of prayer.

Mary is portrayed, on the top of the pillar around which we have gathered, by a statue which, in part, recalls the passage from the Book of Revelation that has just been proclaimed: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (
Ap 12,1). What is the meaning of this image? It represents at the same time Our Lady and the Church.

First of all the “woman” of the Book of Revelation is Mary herself. She appears “clothed with the sun, that is, clothed with God: the Virgin Mary in fact is wholly surrounded by God’s light and lives in God. This symbol of her luminous garment clearly expresses a condition that concerns Mary’s whole being: she is “full of grace”, filled with God’s love. And “God is light”, St John says further (1Jn 1,5). Here, therefore, the One who is “full of grace”, “the Immaculate One”, reflects in her whole person the light of the “sun” which is God.

This woman has under her feet the moon, a symbol of death and of mortality. Indeed Mary is fully associated with the victory of Jesus Christ, her Son, over sin and death; she is free from any shadow of death and totally filled with life. Just as death no longer has power over the risen Jesus (cf. Rom Rm 6,9), so, through a grace and a rare privilege of Almighty God, Mary has left it behind her and gone beyond it. And this is manifest in the two great mysteries of her life: in the beginning, having been conceived without original sin, which is the mystery that we are celebrating today; and, at the end, being taken up body and soul into Heaven, into God’s glory. However, the whole of her earthly life was also a victory over death, because it was spent entirely at God’s service, in the unreserved sacrifice of herself to him and to her neighbour. For this reason Mary is in herself a hymn to life; she is the creature in whom Christ’s words have already come true: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10,10).

In the vision of the Book of Revelation there is a further detail: upon the head of the woman clothed with the sun there is “a crown of twelve stars”. This sign symbolizes the 12 tribes of Israel and means that the Virgin Mary is at the centre of the People of God, of the entire communion of saints. And thus this image of the crown of 12 stars ushers us into the second great interpretation of the heavenly portent of the “woman clothed with the sun”: as well as representing Our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all time. She is with child, in the sense that she is carrying Christ in her womb and must give birth to him in the world. This is the travail of the pilgrim Church on earth which, amidst the consolations of God and the persecution of the world, must bring Jesus to men and women.

It is for this very reason, because she is carrying Jesus, that the Church comes up against the opposition of a ferocious adversary, represented in the apocalyptic vision by “a great red dragon” (Ap 12,3). This dragon sought in vain to devour Jesus — the “male child”, destined to rule all the nations” (12:5) — because Jesus, through his death and resurrection, ascended to God and is seated on his throne. Therefore the dragon, defeated once and for all in Heaven, directly attacks the woman — the Church — in the wilderness of the world. However in every epoch the Church is sustained by the light and strength of God who nourishes her in the desert with the bread of his Word and of the Holy Eucharist. And so it is that in every tribulation, in all the trials she meets over time and in the different parts of the world the Church suffers persecution but turns out to be victorious. And in this very way the Christian community is her presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

The one threat of which the Church can and must be afraid is the sin of her members. Whereas Mary is indeed Immaculate, free from any stain of sin, the Church is holy but at the same time she is blemished by our sins. This is why the People of God, on pilgrimage through time, addresses its heavenly Mother and asks for help; it asks her to accompany it on its journey of faith, to encourage the commitment to Christian living and to support its hope. We are in need of this, especially at this time which is so difficult for Italy, for Europe, and for various parts of the world.

May Mary help us to see that there is a light beyond the blanket of thick fog in which reality seems to be enveloped. For this reason, we too, especially on this Feast, do not cease to ask her for help with filial trust: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you”. Ora pro nobis, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Iesum Christum!


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome and greet each one of you gathered here, representing the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives and the Italian Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks. I greet your respective Presidents, Luigi Marino and Alessandro Azzi, thanking them for their words on behalf of you all. I also greet your chaplain, Mons. Adriano Vincenzi, the directors and all those who are gathered together here.

The importance of Catholic cooperation in Italy is well known. It came into being following Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Rerum Novarum, the 120th anniversary of whose promulgation we are celebrating this year. It encouraged the fertile presence of Catholics in Italian society through the promotion of cooperatives and mortgage loan companies, the development of social businesses and many other institutions of public interest. This activity has always aimed to provide material support for the population and to pay constant attention to families, drawing inspiration from the Magisterium of the Church.

What impelled supporters to associate with each other in cooperative-type organizations, often with the crucial contribution of priests, was not only financial need but also the wish to experience unity and solidarity that might lead to bridging the financial gaps and social conflicts between the different groups.

The fulcrum of cooperative experiences likes precisely in the commitment to attune the individual and community dimensions. It is a practical expression of complementarity and subsidiarity which the Church’s social doctrine has always encouraged between the person and the State; it is the balance between the safeguard of the rights of the individual and the promotion of the common good in the effort to develop a local economy that responds more and more to the needs of the group. On the ethical level too it is likewise characterized by a marked sensitivity to solidarity, and with respect for the just autonomy of the individual.

This sensitivity is important because it fosters appreciation of the connections between the cooperative reality and the territory in order to relaunch the real economy that will be driven by the authentic development of the human person and will be able to combine positive results with ethical conduct that is always correct. We must not in fact forget, as I recalled in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate that also in the field of the economy and finance “Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another. If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions” (n. 65).

Your praiseworthy institutions have long been present in the Italian social fabric and remain fully up to date; they bring with them evangelical ideals and a vitality that makes them even more able today to make an effective contribution to the whole community, both from the social viewpoint and in the field of evangelization. In a season of great changes, of persistent precarious economic situation, of difficulties in the world of work, the Church feels obliged to announce Christ’s Message with fresh vigour, with the force of humanization and the charge of hope for the future it contains. And, dear friends, you must be aware that Catholic cooperatives have an important role to play in this field.

I would like very briefly to recall certain elements for which your action is invaluable. First of all, you are called to make a contribution with your specific professionalism and tenacious commitment, so that the economy and the market are never devoid of solidarity. In addition, you are called to promote the culture of life and of the family and to encourage the formation of new families that can count on dignified work respectful of the creation that God has entrusted to our responsible care.

May you be able always to appreciate human beings in their wholeness, over and above any difference of race, language or religious affiliation, paying attention to their real needs and also to their initiative capacity. It is particularly important moreover to remember what characterizes Catholic cooperatives: the Christian inspiration that must constantly direct them. Stay faithful to the Gospel, therefore, and to the Church’s teaching. Keep in mind and encourage the various initiatives of experimentation that draw on the content of the social Magisterium of the Church, as in the case of social consortiums for development, micro-credit experiences and an economy animated by the logic of communion and brotherhood.

In the Gospel, the call to love one’s neighbour is closely linked to the commandment to love God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul and all one’s might (cf.
Mc 12,29-31). For Christians, therefore, loving others is not mere philanthropy but rather an expression of God’s love and must be founded on true love for God. Only in this way will it be possible to make the people we meet experience the provident tenderness of the heavenly Father and bring a ray of hope even to dismal situations.

Even in the world of the economy and work in order to live out and bring to it love and solidarity it is necessary to draw from the divine source through an intense relationship with God and constant listening to his Word, a life nourished by the Eucharist. Do not forget the importance of developing this spiritual dimension of your work as a response to today’s challenges and pressing social situations, in order to continue to work in the logic of the economy of giving freely, of responsibility, of promoting a responsible and moderate consumption (cf. Caritas in Veritate ).

Dear friends, I have offered you only a few ideas for reflection but I would especially like to encourage your work that is so effective and important. May the Virgin Mary protect and help you. I express to those of you present here and to all who belong to the Confederazione delle Cooperative Italiane and of the Federazione delle Banche di Credito Cooperativo the wish that you may pursue your commitment in the social sphere with serenity and success; and as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I warmly bless you and your loved ones.



Greeting of the Holy Father to the children:

Dear Children,

I wish you all a good Sunday. We know that Christmas is approaching: let us prepare not only with gifts but with our hearts. Let us remember that Christ the Lord is near us, he enters our lives and gives us light and joy. St Paul says today in his Letter to the Thessalonians: “pray constantly”. This does not of course mean that we must always speak in words of prayer but it does mean that in our hearts we must not lose touch with God. If this contact exists, a factor of joy exists. I wish all of you all the joy of Christmas and all the joy of the presence in our hearts of the Child Jesus Christ who is God. My best wishes! Have a good Sunday and a Happy Christmas from this moment!

* * *

After Mass, outside the church, the Pope took his leave of the parish community of Santa Maria delle Grazie and said extemporaneously:

Dear friends, a spiritual embrace for you all. Thank you for your presence and for your warm welcome. This cordiality, so lovely and so open, the open, lively chorus, is what it was like in Africa. It gives me great joy to see how the Church lives here in the City of Rome: in this new parish people really participate in the Eucharist and are preparing for Christmas.

Preparing for Christmas is very difficult today. And I know there are so many commitments. But preparing for Christmas is not only buying, preparing and thinking, it is also keeping in touch with the Lord, going to meet him. And it seems to me very important not to forget this dimension. I have already explained to the children that St Paul said: “pray constantly”, in other words do not lose your contact with God. And this is not a burden in addition to all the others but rather the strength that helps us to do all that is necessary.

In this regard, I wish you an enduring contact with Jesus, hence all his joy and his strength in order to live in this world. Have a good Advent and a Happy Christmas! I thank you all.

To eleven new ambassadors at the ceremony for the presentation of their Letters of Credence, 15 december

The logic of power breaks up society

“Private interests and the logic of power”, the Holy Father said, “lead to the disintegration of society and accentuate poverty”. The Pope was speaking at the ceremony, in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on Thursday morning, 15 December, at which each ambassador personally presented to him his Letters of Credence in the presence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State. Benedict xvi then addressed the ambassadors, their co-workers and their relatives. The following is a translation of the Pope’s Discourse, which was given in French.

Your Excellencies,

I receive you with joy this morning in the Apostolic Palace for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, the Swiss Confederation, Burundi, Thailand, Pakistan, Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, the Principality of Andorra, Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso. You have just addressed to me the courteous words of your Heads of State, for which I thank you. I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by conveying to them my respectful greetings and good wishes, for themselves and for the lofty office they are carrying out at the service of their country and their people. I also wish to greet through you all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as all your compatriots, I likewise naturally address my prayers and thoughts to the Catholic communities resident in your countries.

The unity of the human family is being lived today as a fact. By virtue of the means of social communication, which link all the regions of the globe, the means of transport which facilitate human exchanges, trade agreements that make economies interdependent and the challenges which are acquiring a global dimension — such as the safeguard of the environment and the importance of migratory flows — people have realized that henceforth they have a common destiny.

Next to the positive aspects, this awareness is sometimes seen as a burden, in the sense that it considerably extends the realm of individual responsibility and makes the resolution of problems all the more complex the greater the number of people actively involved. This cannot be denied; however, the way humanity sees itself must develop if it is not to find this interdependence a threat but rather an advantage: that of human beings who work with and for each other. We are all responsible for everyone and it is important to have a positive concept of solidarity. Solidarity is the real pivot that enables humanity to achieve integral development and to move on towards its fulfilment. In considering all the areas where solidarity deserves to be practised, we must welcome as a positive sign of today’s culture the need, ever more present in the conscience of our contemporaries, for an intergenerational solidarity. This is naturally rooted in families, which it is right to support so that they continue to carry out their essential role in society.

And, at the same time, in order to broaden the field of solidarity to allow it to advance, the education of youth is the main priority. In this sphere I encourage each one — whatever the level of his or her responsibility — and governments in particular to show creativity, to use and invest the necessary means to give youth the fundamental ethical bases, helping them in particular to acquire a training and to combat the social evils inherent in unemployment, drugs, crime and the lack of respect for the person. Concern for the future generations and their future will bring significant headway in the perception of the unity of the human race.

There is no need to fear that this common, shared responsibility for the good of the human race in its entirety may constantly collide with cultural and religious diversity as a dead end. The plurality of cultures and religions does not oppose the common search for truth, goodness and beauty. Illuminated and sustained by the light of Revelation, the Church encourages men and women to trust in reason which, if it is purified by faith is exalted by Revelation and thereby enabled “to broaden its horizons to enter into a field of research as unfathomably expansive as the mystery itself” (cf. Address to Congress on the Occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Encyclical ‘Fides et Ratio’, 16 October 2008).

It is then capable of surmounting partisan or interested forms of conditioning, to recognize the universal goods that all human beings need. Among these goods, peace and social and religious harmony, so deeply desired, are not only linked to a just and adapted legislative framework but also to the moral calibre of each citizen since “solidarity is seen... under two complementary aspects: that of a social principle and that of a moral virtue” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 193).

Solidarity totally fulfils its role as a social principle when it relies on structures of subsidiarity and on each person’s firm and persevering determination to work for the common good in the awareness of a common responsibility. The new challenges that your countries are facing today call for a mobilization of minds and human creativity in order to fight poverty and for a more effective and healthier use of the available resources and energy. At both individual and political levels it is a matter of advancing firmly towards a more practical, more widely shared commitment with regard to respect and to the protection of creation. I therefore warmly encourage the political authorities of your countries to work with this in mind.

Lastly, increasing the responsibility of all also entails exercising active and effective vigilance over respect for human dignity and its promotion, in the face of every attempt to diminish it, such as its denial or the exploitation of every individual. This approach will contribute to preventing social action from too easily falling prey to private interests and the logic of power that lead to the disintegration of society and accentuate poverty.

It is reliance on the notion of the integral development of the human person that will make solidarity possible and permit greater justice. In this regard it is not only the task of religions to honour the primacy of the spirit, but it is also up to states to do so, especially by means of a cultural policy that encourages the access of all to the goods of the spirit, promotes good social ties and never discourages human beings from freely pursuing their spiritual quest.

While you are beginning your mission to the Holy See I would like to assure you, Your Excellencies, that you will always find with my collaborators attentive listening and the help you may need. I invoke upon you yourselves, upon your families, upon the members of your diplomatic mission and upon all the nations that you represent, an abundance of divine Blessings.

Speeches 2005-13 21211