Speeches 2005-13 542



Hall of the Popes Friday, 24 February 2012
Dear Members of St Peter’s Circle,

I am happy to welcome you at this meeting which is taking place in the proximity of the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, an occasion which enables you to show the special fidelity to the Apostolic See which has always distinguished your praiseworthy Circle. I greet you all with warmth and cordiality. I greet the President General, Duke Leopoldo Torlonia, and thank him for his affectionate and devoted words to me, interpreting the sentiments of you all, and I greet your Chaplain.

We have just begun the Lenten journey and, as I recalled in my recent Message (cf. L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 8 February 2012, PP 6-7), this liturgical time invites us to reflect on the heart of Christian life: charity. Lent is a favourable time for renewing our faith and love, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments, at both the personal and community levels. It is a journey marked by prayer and by sharing, by silence and by fasting, in the expectation of experiencing the joy of Easter. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us with these words: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (10:24).

Dear friends, today as in the past, the witness of charity touches people’s hearts in a special way; the New Evangelization, particularly in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, requires great openness of spirit and wise availability to all. The network of projects you carry out every day to assist those in need fits into this context well. I am pleased to recall the generous work you do in the Soup Kitchens, the Night Shelter, the Family House and the Polyfunctional Centre, as well as your witness — silent, but all the more eloquent — in support of the sick and their relatives at the Fondazione Roma Hospice, without forgetting your missionary commitment in Laos and your distance adoptions.

We know that the authenticity of our fidelity to the Gospel is also proven by the consideration and material help we endeavour to show to our neighbour and, especially, to the weakest and most marginalized. Attention for the other entails seeking his/her good in every dimension: physical, moral and spiritual. Even though today’s culture seems to have lost its sense of good and evil, it must be forcefully reaffirmed that good exists and wins through.

Responsibility for our neighbour therefore means desiring and doing good for others, in the hope that they may be opened to the logic of goodness; being concerned for our brothers and sisters means opening our eyes to their needs, overcoming hardness of heart which blinds us to the suffering of others. Thus charitable service becomes a privileged form of evangelization in the light of the teaching of Jesus, who will consider as done to him what we do for our brethren, especially for those who are lowly and neglected (cf. Mt 25,40).

It is necessary to attune our hearts to the heart of Christ, so that the loving support offered to others may be expressed in participation and conscious sharing in their suffering and their hopes, thereby making visible on the one hand the infinite mercy of God for every human being, which shines on Christ’s face, and on the other, our faith in him. The encounter with the “other” and opening our hearts to his/her needs are an opportunity for salvation and happiness.

Dear members of St Peter’s Circle, you have come here today, as you do every year, to offer me the Peter’s Pence Collection for the Pope’s charity that you have collected in the parishes of Rome. It is practical assistance offered to the Successor of Peter, to enable him to respond to the innumerable requests that come to him from every part of the world, especially from the poorest countries.

I warmly thank you for all the work you carry out so generously in a spirit of sacrifice that is born from your faith, from your relationship with the Lord, nurtured every day. May faith, charity and witness continue to be the guidelines of your apostolate.

Then how can I fail to mention your presence during the liturgical celebrations in St Peter’s Basilica? This is especially to your credit, since with it you demonstrate the constant attention and devout fidelity that unite you with the See of the Apostle Peter. May the Lord reward you and bestow his blessing upon your Circle; may he help each one of you to fulfil your Christian vocation, in the family, at work and within your Association.

Dear friends, as I express my appreciation of your service to the Church once again, I entrust you, together with your families, to the motherly care of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani and to your Holy Patrons. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you, for all those who support you in your various initiatives and for those whom you meet in your daily apostolate, while I impart to to everyone with affection a special Apostolic Blessing.


Clementine Hall Saturday, 25 February 2012

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

I am glad to meet you on the occasion of the 18th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I greet and thank all of you for your generous pro-life service, and Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, your President, in particular for his words to me also on your behalf. The orientation you have given your work reflects the trust that the Church has always placed in the possibilities of human reason and in strictly conducted scientific work, which always takes the moral aspect into account.

The theme you have chosen this year, “Diagnosis and Treatment of Infertility”, in addition to its human and social importance, it has a particular scientific value and expresses the concrete possibility of fruitful dialogue between the ethical dimension and biomedical research. With regard to the problem of the infertility of couples you have in fact chosen to recall and to consider attentively the moral dimension, seeking to find a correct diagnostic evaluation and treatment that corrects the causes of infertility. This approach is not only prompted by the wish to give the couple a child but also to restore to the spouses their fertility and the full dignity of being responsible for their own procreative decisions, in order to cooperate with God in begetting a new human being.

Research for diagnosing the condition and appropriate treatment is the correct scientific approach to the question of infertility, and also the one that best respects the integral humanity of those involved. Indeed, the union of the man and the woman in the community of love and life, which is marriage, constitutes the only worthy “place” to call into existence a new human being, who is always a gift.

I therefore wish to encourage intellectual honesty in your work. It is an example of a science that retains its spirit in seeking the truth at the service of the authentic good of the human being and that avoids the risk of being a merely functional practice. The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a “product”, but in its link to the conjugal act, an expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union, which is not only biological but also spiritual.

The Instruction Donum Vitae reminds us in this regard that “by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new life, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman” (B 4a). The couple’s legitimate aspirations to parenthood who experience a condition of infertility, must therefore — with the help of science — find an answer that fully respects their dignity as people and as spouses. The humility, precision and depth with which you study these problems, deemed superseded by some of your colleagues in the face of the fascination of artificial fertilization technology, deserves encouragement and support.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, I recalled that “easy earnings or, even worse, the arrogance of replacing the Creator, at times play a decisive role. This is a form of the hybris of reason, which can acquire characteristics that are dangerous to humanity itself” (Discourse to the Participants in the International Congress organized by the Pontifical Lateran University, 16 October 2008: L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 22 October 2008, p. 43). Scientism and the logic of profit seem effectively to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation today, even to the point of limiting many other areas of research.

The Church pays great attention to the distress of infertile couples, she cares for them and for this very reason encourages medical research. Science, however, is not always able to respond positively to the desires of numerous couples. I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ.

I would like to encourage all of you gathered here for these study days and who at times work in a medical and scientific context where the dimension of truth is obscured: persevere on the way on which you have set out with an intellectually honest science, fascinated by the constant search for the good of the human being. On your intellectual journey, do not disdain the dialogue with faith. I address to you the heartfelt appeal expressed in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests…. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly” (n. 28).

On the other hand, the cultural matrix Christianity created — rooted in the affirmation of the existence of the Truth and of the intelligibility of the real in the light of the Supreme Truth — I mean, the cultural matrix — made possible in Medieval Europe the development of modern scientific knowledge, a knowledge that in previous cultures had remained only in embryo.

Distinguished scientists and all of you, members of the Academy engaged in promoting the life and dignity of the human person, may you always also bear in mind the fundamental cultural role you play in society and the influence you have in forming public opinion. My Predecessor, Bl. John Paul II, recalled that “scientists, therefore, precisely because they ‘know more’, are called to ‘serve more’” (Discourse to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 11 November 2002: L’Osservatore Romano 20 November 2003, p. 4).

People trust in you who serve life, they trust in your commitment to support those in need of comfort and hope. Never give in to the temptation to treat the good of the person by reducing him or her to a mere technical problem! The conscience’s indifference to the true and the good is a dangerous threat to authentic scientific progress.

I would like to conclude by renewing the hope that the Second Vatican Council addressed to men of thought and science: “Happy are those who, while possessing the truth, search more earnestly for it in order to renew it, deepen it, and transmit it to others” (Message to Men of Thought and Science, 8 December 1965: AAS 58 [1966], 12). With these hopes I impart the Apostolic Blessing to all of you present here and to your loved ones. Many thanks.

CONCLUSION OF THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISE FOR THE ROMAN CURIA "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel Saturday, 3 March 2012


Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers,

At the end of these days of prayer and listening, it is right to say thank you. On behalf of us all I address a “thank you” to you, Your Eminence, for the guidance you have given us during these Exercises.

You have guided us — as it were — through the great garden of the First Letter of St John and thus throughout Scripture with great exegetical skill and with your spiritual and pastoral experience. You have guided us with your gaze fixed ceaselessly upon God, and from this very gaze upon God we learned love and the faith that creates communion. And you seasoned your meditations with lovely stories, taken mainly from your beloved Africa, which gave us joy and helped us.

I was particularly struck by the story in which you spoke about a friend who, since he was in a coma, had the impression that he was in a dark tunnel but at the end of it he glimpsed a point of light and, above all, he heard beautiful music. It seems to me that this might be a parable of our own life. We often find ourselves in a dark tunnel, in the middle of night, but through faith, we see light at the end of it and hear beautiful music. We perceive the beauty of God, of heaven and of earth, of the Creator God and of the creature; and so it is true, spe sumus [for in this hope] we were saved (cf. Rom
Rm 8,24).

And you, Your Eminence, have strengthened us in faith, in hope and in charity. Many thanks.



Greetings to the Children before Mass

Dear Children,

I wish you a good Sunday, I wish you a good day!

It gives me great joy to see so many children. Therefore Rome is alive and will also be alive tomorrow! You are on your way in catechesis: learn about Jesus, learn what he did said and suffered; learn in this way about the Church, the Sacraments and in this way you will also learn how to live because living is an art and Jesus shows us this art.

I wish you all a good Sunday. And then already today I also wish you a Happy Easter. Thank you for your warmth!
* * *

Greetings to the Faithful after Mass

Dear Friends,

Thank you for this beautiful celebration and for the church, with Our Lady and the Saints. We are a family with all the saints.

Last Sunday the Lord guided us through the wilderness. This Sunday, to the mountain: they are always privileged places for being a little closer to God, to come out of all the everyday things and perceive that God is there, that he is the centre of our life.

I hope you feel the closeness of God and that he guides you every day. A good Sunday, a good Lent to you all!


Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, this year I wish to reflect with you on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment.

In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio
FC 85). Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom” (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great” (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord


Dear Friends,

I am very glad to meet you on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Major Penitentiary, who has presided at your study sessions for the first time as such, and I thank him for his cordial words.

I likewise greet Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Regent, the Penitentiary personnel and each one of you who with your presence remind everyone of the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the life of faith, highlighting both the constant need for an adequate theological, spiritual and canonical training in order to be confessors and, especially, the constitutive bond between sacramental celebration and Gospel proclamation.

In fact, the Sacraments and the Proclamation of the Word must never be conceived as separate; on the contrary, “Jesus says that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the goal of his mission; this proclamation, however, is not only a ‘discourse’ but at the same time includes his action; the signs and miracles that Jesus works show that the Kingdom comes as a present reality and in the end coincides with his very Person, with his gift of himself.... The priest represents Christ, the One sent by the Father, he continues his mission, through the ‘word’ and the ‘sacrament’, in this totality of body and soul, of sign and word” (General Audience, 5 May 2010).

This totality, rooted in the very mystery of the Incarnation, suggests to us that the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is itself a proclamation and therefore a path to take for the work of the New Evangelization.

In what sense then is sacramental confession a “path” for the New Evangelization? First of all because the New Evangelization draws its lifeblood from the holiness of the children of the Church, from the daily journey of personal and community conversion in order to be ever more closely conformed to Christ. Then there is a close connection between holiness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, witnessed by all the saints of history. The real conversion of our hearts, which means opening ourselves to God’s transforming and renewing action, is the “driving force” of every reform and is expressed in a real evangelizing effort. In confession, through the freely bestowed action of divine Mercy, repentant sinners are justified, pardoned and sanctified and abandon their former selves to be reclothed in the new.

Only those who have let themselves be profoundly renewed by divine grace are able to bear within them — and hence to proclaim — the newness of the Gospel. In his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed John Paul II said: “I am also asking for renewed pastoral courage in ensuring that the day-to-day teaching of Christian communities persuasively and effectively presents the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation” (n. 37).

I would like to reassert this appeal, in the awareness that the New Evangelization must acquaint the people of our time with the face of Christ “as mysterium pietatis, the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself. It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance” (ibid.).

In an age of educational emergency in which relativism is calling into question the very possibility of an education understood as a gradual introduction to knowledge of the truth, to the profound sense of reality, hence as a gradual introduction to the relationship with the Truth which is God, Christians are called to proclaim energetically the possibility of the encounter between today’s people and Jesus Christ, in whom God made himself so close that that he may be seen and heard.

In this perspective the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which begins with a look at one’s actual condition in life, contributes uniquely to achieving that “openness of heart” which enables one to turn one’s gaze to God so that he may enter one’s life. The certainty that he is close and in his mercy awaits the human being, even one who is involved in sin, in order to heal his weakness with the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is always a ray of hope for the world.

Dear priests and dear deacons who are preparing for the priesthood, in the administration of this sacrament you are given, or you will be given, the possibility of being instruments of an ever renewed meeting of people with God. All who turn to you, precisely because of their condition as sinners, will experience within them a profound desire: the desire for change, the desire for mercy and, ultimately, the desire for the encounter with Christ and for him to embrace them once again.

You will therefore be collaborators and protagonists of a great many possible “new beginnings”, as many as the penitents who come to you, bearing in mind that the authentic meaning of every “newness” does not consist so much in the abandonment or excision of the past. Rather it consists in welcoming Christ and in opening yourselves to his Presence, ever new and ever capable of transforming and illuminating all the patches of shade and ceaselessly unfolding new horizons.

The New Evangelization, therefore, also begins in the confessional! That is, it begins in the mysterious encounter between the endless question of human beings, a sign within them of the Creator Mystery and God’s Mercy, the only adequate response to the human need for infinity.

If the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is this, if the faithful have a real experience of that Mercy which Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ has given to us, they themselves will become credible witnesses of that holiness which is the aim of the New Evangelization.

If all this is true for the lay faithful, dear friends, it acquires even greater importance for each one of us. The minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation collaborates with the New Evangelization in the first place by renewing himself, his own awareness that he is a sinner and is in need of receiving sacramental pardon. In this way may be renewed the encounter with Christ, which was begun in Baptism and has found its specific and definitive form in the sacrament of Orders.

This is my hope for each one of you: may the newness of Christ always be the centre and reason for your priestly existence, so that those who meet you through your ministry may exclaim as did Andrew and John “we have found the Messiah” (
Jn 1,41). In this way, every Confession, from which each Christian will emerge renewed, will be a step ahead in the New Evangelization. May Mary, Mother of Mercy, Refuge for us sinners and Star of the New Evangelization, accompany us on our way. I thank you warmly and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.




Holy Father, Mexico and Cuba are countries in which your Predecessor’s Journeys made history. How do you feel and with what hopes are you setting out in his footsteps today?

Dear friends, first of all I would like to say: welcome and thank you for accompanying me on this Journey, which we hope will be blessed by the Lord. On this Journey I am in complete continuity with Pope John Paul II. I remember very clearly his first journey to Mexico which was truly historic. In a juridical situation that was still very muddled, he opened doors, he began a new phase in the collaboration among Church, society and State. And I also remember well his historic Visit to Cuba. I am therefore endeavouring to follow in his footsteps and to continue what he began. From the outset I very much wanted to visit Mexico. I went to Mexico as a cardinal and have excellent memories of it, moreover every Wednesday I hear the applause and feel the joy of the Mexicans. To go there now as Pope gives me great joy and fulfils a wish I have had for so long. To tell you how I feel, the words of the Second Vatican Council spring to my mind: “gaudium et spes, luctus et angor” joy and hope, but also grief and anguish. I share in the joys and hopes, but I also share in the grief and in the difficulties of this great country. I am going there in order to bring encouragement and to learn, to bring comfort in faith, hope and love, and to comfort people in the commitment to good and in the commitment to fight evil. Let us hope that the Lord will help us!

Mexico is a country with marvellous resources and possibilities but in these years we know that violence is rife there due to the problem of drug trafficking. It is said that there have been 50,000 deaths in the past five years. How does the Catholic Church confront this situation? Will you have appropriate words for those in charge and for the traffickers who at times claim to be Catholic or even to be benefactors of the Church?

We know well all the beauties of Mexico, but also this serious problem of drug trafficking and violence. It is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church in a country that is 80 per cent Catholic. We must do our utmost to combat this evil that destroys humanity and our young people. I would say that the first step would be to proclaim God: God is the Judge, God who loves us but who loves us in order to draw us to goodness, to truth against evil.

Thus the Church has the great responsibility to educate consciences, to teach moral responsibility and to expose evil, to expose this idolatry of mammon that only enslaves people; and to expose the false promises, untruthfulness and cheating that are behind drugs. We can see that human beings are in need of the infinite. If God does not exist, infinity creates its own paradises, an appearance of “infinitude” that cannot but be false. This is why God’s presence and approachability are so important. It is a great responsibility before God the Judge who guides us, who attracts us to truth and to goodness, and in this sense the Church must expose evil, must make God’s goodness present, his truth present, the true infinity for which we thirst. This is the Church’s important duty, so together let us all increasingly try to do all we can.

We truly welcome you to Mexico: we are all happy that you are going to Mexico. The question is the following: Holy Father, you said that in Mexico you wish to address the whole of Latin America on the bicentenary of its Independence. Latin America, despite its development, continues to be a region of social disparity where the richest are found side by side with the poorest. At times it seems that the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraged to work in this area. Is it possible to continue to speak about “liberation theology” in a positive way now that certain excesses — concerning Marxism or violence — have been corrected?

Naturally the Church must always ask if enough is being done for social justice on this great continent. This is a question of conscience that we must always ask ourselves: what the Church can and must do, what she cannot and should not do? The Church is not a political power, nor a political party, but rather a moral reality, a moral force.

Inasmuch as politics should be a moral reality, on this track the Church fundamentally has to do with politics. I repeat what I have already said: the Church’s first thought is to educate consciences and thereby to awaken the necessary responsibility; to educate consciences both in individual and public ethics. And here, perhaps something is missing. In Latin America, and also elsewhere, among many Catholics a certain schizophrenia exists between individual and public morals: personally, in the private sphere, they are Catholics and believers but in public life they follow other trends that do not correspond with the great values of the Gospel which are necessary for the foundation of a just society.

It is therefore necessary to teach people to overcome this schizophrenia, teaching not only individual morality but also public morality. We try to do this with the Church’s Social Teaching because public morality must of course be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non-believers too, a morality of reason. Naturally, in the light of faith, we can see so many things better that reason can also see. However, it is faith itself that serves to liberate reason from false interests, to save it from being blurred by interests, and thus to create through the Social Teaching the essential models for political collaboration, especially in order to surmount this social, antisocial division which unfortunately exists. We want to work in this direction.

I do not know whether the phrase: “liberation theology” which can also be understood very well, would be of much help to us. What is important is the common rationality to which the Church makes a fundamental contribution and her continuous help in the education of consciences, for both public and private life.

Your Holiness, let us look at Cuba. We all remember John Paul II's famous words: “May Cuba open itself up to the world and may the world open itself up to Cuba”. Fourteen years have passed but it seems that these words are still timely. As you know, while expecting your Visit, many opposing and pro human rights voices were raised. Your Holiness, are you considering taking up John Paul II's Message concerning both the internal situation of Cuba and the international situation?

As I said, I am totally in accord with the words of the Holy Father John Paul II, which are still very up-to-date. This visit of the Pope paved the way for collaboration and constructive dialogue; a road that is long and demands patience but stretches out ahead of us. Today it is obvious that the Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality: it is no longer possible to respond to or to build up a society in this way. New models must be found, patiently and constructively.

In this process, which requires patience but also determination, we intend to help in a spirit of dialogue, to avoid traumas and to offer assistance on the journey towards the fraternal and just society that we want for the whole world, and we mean to cooperate to achieve this. It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of freedom: freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. In this regard we contribute, as well as the simple faithful, to this forward journey.

After the Aparecida Conference the people began talking about a “Continental Mission” of the Church in Latin America; in a few months the Synod on the New Evangelization will take place and the Year of Faith will begin. In Latin America too the challenges of secularization and of the sects exist. Cuba is suffering from the consequences of atheist propaganda over a long period. The Afro-Cuban sense of religion is very widespread. Do you think that this Journey will be an encouragement for the “New Evangelization”? What points do you have most at heart in this perspective?

The period of the New Evangelization began with the Council; this was basically Pope John XXIII's intention. Pope John Paul II strongly emphasized the “need” for it in a world that is undergoing great changes, and this is becoming ever more evident. “Need” in the sense that the Gospel must be expressed in new ways; “need” also in the other sense, that the world stands in need of a word, in the confusion and difficulty of finding the way today. There is a common situation in the world: there is secularization, the absence of God, the difficulty of approaching him, of seeing him as a reality that is relevant to one’s life.

On the one hand, there are also the specific contexts; you mentioned those in Cuba with Afro-Cuban syncretism, with many other difficulties, yet every country has its own specific cultural situation. On the other, we should start from the common problem: now today, in this context of our modern rationality, we can rediscover God as the fundamental direction of our life, the fundamental hope of our life, the basis of the values that really build a society up and how we can take into account the specificity of the different situations.

The first point seems to me to be very important: proclaiming a God who responds to our reason, so that we can see the rationality of the cosmos, see that there is something behind it, but we do not see how close this God is, how he relates to me and this synthesis of the great and majestic God and of the little God who is close to me, guides me, shows me the values of my life is the core of evangelization. Hence, essentially a Christianity in which the fundamental nucleus may truly be found for life today with all the problems of our time.

Further, we must take into account the concrete situation. In Latin America, in general, it is very important that Christianity mean more to the heart than to reason. Our Lady of Guadalupe is recognized and loved by all, because people understand that she is a Mother to all and has been present from the outset in this new Latin America, after the arrival of the Europeans. And also in Cuba we have Our Lady of El Cobre who moves hearts and everyone knows intuitively that it is true, that Our Lady helps us, that she exists and loves and helps us. Yet this intuition of the heart must fit into the rationality of the faith and with the depth of faith that goes beyond reason. We must be of good courage and connect heart and reason so that they may cooperate, for only in this way is man complete and really able to help build, and to work for, a better future.

Speeches 2005-13 542