Speeches 2005-13 562



Mr Commandant,
Mons. Chaplain,
Dear Officials and Members of the Swiss Guard Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to extend a cordial greeting to you all. In particular, I welcome the recruits who are accompanied today by your parents, relatives and friends and I likewise welcome the representatives of the Swiss Authorities, who have come here for this happy event.

Dear Guards, you have the privilege to work for a few years in the heart of Christendom and to live in the Eternal City. Your relatives, and all those who have wished to take part in these days of festivity with you have combined attendance at the swearing-in ceremony with a pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Apostles. I hope that here in Rome you may all have the unique experience of the universality of the Church and that you may strengthen and deepen your faith, above all with the moments of prayer and meetings which are a feature of these days.

The duties that the Swiss Guard carries out are a direct service to the Supreme Pontiff and to the Apostolic See. Thus, it is a reason for deep appreciation that young men should choose to devote several years of their life to being entirely at the service of the Successor of Peter and of his co-workers.

Your work is one of indisputable fidelity to the Pope which played a heroic role on the occasion of the “Sack of Rome” in 1527 when, on 6 May, your predecessors sacrificed their lives. Neither today nor then could the special service of the Swiss Guard be carried out without the distinguishing features of every member of the Corps: firmness in the Catholic faith, fidelity and love for the Church of Jesus Christ, diligence and perseverance in the small and important daily tasks, courage and humility, altruism and availability. Your hearts must be filled with these virtues when you carry out your service of honour and security in the Vatican.

Be supportive of one another in your daily work and for your own edification and preserve the Gospel style of charity in dealing with the people you will meet every day. In Sacred Scripture the appeal for love of one’s neighbour is linked to the commandment to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, with all one’s strength (cf. Mc 12,29-31). If you are to love your brethren you must draw from the fire of divine charity, by means of prolonged moments of prayer, constant listening to the Word of God and a life that is totally focused on the mystery of the Eucharist.

The secret of the effectiveness of your work here in the Vatican, as well as of your own projects is consequently the constant reference to Christ. This is the witness borne by a number of your predecessors who not only distinguished themselves in their work but also in their commitment to Christian life. Some of them have been called to follow the Lord on the path of the priesthood or of the consecrated life, and have responded promptly and enthusiastically. Others, however, have happily crowned their vocation to married life through the sacrament of marriage. I thank God, the source of all good, for the different gifts and for the various missions that he entrusts to you, and I also pray for you who are entering the service that you may respond fully to the call of Christ by following him with faithful generosity.

Dear friends, make the most of the time you spend here in Rome to grow in friendship with Christ, to love his Church ever more and to walk toward the goal of every true Christian life: holiness.

May the Virgin Mary — whom we honour in a special way during the month of May — help you to experience more and more every day that profound communion with God which, for us believers, begins on earth and finds fulfillment in Heaven. Indeed we are called, as St Paul recalls, to be “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ep 2,19). With these sentiments, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer and I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing upon each one of you.


Dear Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Mr Rector, Superiors, religious, students of the Pontifical Spanish College of St Joseph in Rome,

It is a joy for me to receive you on the commemoration of the 50 years of the present headquarters of the Pontifical Spanish College of St Joseph, and especially on the liturgical Memorial of St John of Ávila, Patron of the Spanish diocesan clergy, whom I shall soon declare Doctor of the universal Church. I greet Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, whom I thank for his kind words, as well as the Archbishops, members of the Patronage, the Rector, the formators, the women Religious and you, dear students.

This event marks an important stage in the already impressive itinerary of this College, which began at the end of the 19th century, when Bl. Manuel Domingo y Sol, Founder of the Brotherhood of Diocesan Worker Priests, set out to create a College in Rome, with the blessing of Leo XIII, my Venerable Predecessor and the support of the Spanish Episcopate.

Thousands of seminarians and priests have graduated from your College, who have served the Church in Spain with profound love and fidelity to their mission. The specific formation of priests is always one of the main priorities of the Church. On being sent to Rome to further your priestly studies you must think above all, not so much of your own personal good, but of the service to the holy people of God, who need pastors who dedicate themselves to the beautiful service of the sanctification of the faithful with a high standard of training and competence.

But remember that the priest renews his life and draws strength for his ministry from contemplation of the Divine Word and intense dialogue with the Lord. He is aware that he will be unable to take Christ to his brethren or to meet him in the poor and the sick, if he does not first discover him in fervent and constant prayer. It is necessary to nourish a personal relationship with the One, whom one then proclaims, celebrates and communicates. Herein lies the foundation of priestly spirituality, until one becomes a transparent sign and living witness of the Good Shepherd. The itinerary of priestly formation is also a school of missionary communion: with the Successor of Peter, with one’s Bishop, in the presbyterate itself, and always at the service of the particular and the universal Church.

Dear priests, may the life and doctrine of the Holy Teacher John of Ávila illumine and support your stay at the Pontifical Spanish College of St Joseph. His profound knowledge of Sacred Scripture, of the Holy Fathers, of the Councils, of the liturgical sources and of healthy theology, together with his faithful and filial love of the Church, made him an authentic innovator at a difficult time in the history of the Church. Precisely because of this, “he was a clear-sighted and ardent spirit. To denunciation of evils and suggestions for canonical remedies, he added a schooling of intense spirituality” (Paul VI, Homily during the Canonization Mass of John of Ávila, 31 May 1970; L'Osservatore Romano [English edition], 11 June 1970).

The main teaching of the Apostle of Andalusia is the mystery of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, lived in harmony with the Lord’s sentiments, in imitation of St Paul (cf. Ph 2,5). “The priest must see himself in this priestly model to conform himself to him in his aspirations and prayer” (Treatise on the Priesthood, 10). The priesthood essentially requires his help and friendship: “This communication of the Lord with the priest… is the relationship of friends”, says the Saint (ibid., n. 9).

Hence, encouraged by the virtues and the example of St John of Ávila, I invite you to carry out your priestly ministry with the same apostolic zeal that characterized him, with the same austerity of life, as well as with the same filial affection that he nourished for the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of priests.

Under the beloved name of “Mater clementissima”, countless students have entrusted to her their vocation, their studies, their most noble efforts and projects, as well as their sadness and concerns. Do not fail to invoke her every day or tire of repeating her name with devotion. Listen to St John of Ávila, when he exhorted priests to imitate her: “Let us look at ourselves, Fathers, from head to toe, soul and body, and we will see that we resemble the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who with her words drew God to her womb… And the priest attracts him with the words of consecration” (Treatise on the Priesthood, 10). The Mother of Christ is the model of that love that leads to giving one’s life for the Kingdom of God, without expecting anything in return.

May the community of the Pontifical Spanish College in Rome, under the protection of Our Lady, be able to continue to fulfil its objectives of the deepening and actualization of ecclesiastical studies, in the climate of profound presbyterial communion and high scientific rigor that distinguishes it, in view of realizing, henceforth, the profound brotherhood requested by the Second Vatican Council “in virtue of their sacred ordination and of their common mission” (Lumen Gentium LG 28). Thus pastors will be formed who reflect the life of the Triune God-Love, who will serve their brothers with rectitude of intention and total dedication, promoting the unity of the Church and the good of the whole of human society.

With these sentiments, I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your relatives, to your communities of origin and to all those who collaborate in your formative journey during your stay in Rome. Thank you very much.



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

I extend my cordial greeting to all of you, starting with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his kind words and information concerning the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies. I express a grateful thought to Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Secretary, to Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, Adjunct Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, to the National Directors and to all collaborators, as well as to those who devote their generous service to this Dicastery. My thoughts and all of yours go at this time to Fr Massimo Cenci, PIME Undersecretary, who died unexpectedly. May the Lord reward him for all his work done on mission and at the service of the Holy See.

Today’s meeting takes place in the context of the Annual Assembly of the Supreme Committee of the Pontifical Mission Societies, to which is entrusted the missionary cooperation of all the Churches in the world.

Evangelization, which is always an urgent matter, in these times is compelling the Church to work more expeditiously along the paths of the world, to lead every human being to the knowledge of Christ. Only in the Truth, in fact, can humanity discover the meaning of existence, and grow in justice and peace. Every man and woman, every people, has the right to receive the Gospel of Truth. In this regard, your role in the celebration of the Year of Faith, already close at hand, assumes a special kind of meaning, to reinforce commitment to spreading the Kingdom of God and the knowledge of the Christian faith. This requires from those who have already encountered Jesus Christ “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 6). Christian communities “too need to hear anew the voice of the Bridegroom, who invites them to conversion, spurs them on to bold new undertakings and calls forth their commitment to the great task of the ‘new evangelization’” (John Paul II Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 23).

Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is always the centre of proclamation, the reference point for the sequela and for same methodology of the mission of evangelization, because he is the human face of God who wants to meet every man and woman to allow them to enter into communion with God, into his love. To walk the highways of the world to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples of the earth and lead them to the meeting with the Lord, (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 7) therefore requires the announcer to have a personal and daily relationship with Christ, to know him and to love him deeply. Today the mission needs to renew trust in the action of God; it needs intense prayer so that His Kingdom will be done on earth as in heaven. We need to invoke light and strength from the Holy Spirit, and to commit ourselves with determination, decision and generosity to usher in, in a sense, “a new era of proclamation of the Gospel... because, after two millennia, a major part of the human family still does not acknowledge Christ, but also because the situation in which the Church and the world find themselves... is particularly challenging for religious belief” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia ).

I am therefore very pleased to encourage the project of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies in supporting the Year of Faith. This project provides for a worldwide campaign, which, through the prayer of the Holy Rosary, will accompany the work of evangelizing the world and, for many of the baptized to rediscover and deepen the faith.

Dear friends, as you know only too well, the proclamation of the Gospel on not a few occasions has entailed difficulty and suffering; the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world, in fact, often comes at the cost of the blood of its servants. In this phase of economic, cultural and political change, where often the human being feels alone, in the grip of anguish and despair, the Gospel messengers, even though they proclaim hope and peace, continue to be persecuted as was their Master and Lord. But, despite the problems and the tragic reality of persecution, the Church is not discouraged, she remains faithful to her Lord's command in the awareness that “throughout Christian history, martyrs, that is, ‘witnesses’, have always been numerous and indispensable to the spread of the Gospel” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio
RMi 45). The message of Christ, today, as in the past, cannot adapt to the logic of this world, because it is prophecy and deliverance, it is the seed of a new humanity that is growing, and which only at the end of time will have its full realization. To you is entrusted in a special way, the task of supporting the ministers of the Gospel, helping them to “preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 80). Your special commitment is to keep alive the missionary vocation of all Christ's disciples, so that each of you, according to the charism you have received from the Holy Spirit, can take part in the universal mission given by the Risen Lord to his Church. Your work of animation and missionary formation is the soul of pastoral care, because the missio ad gentes is the paradigm of all the Church’s apostolic action. Be increasingly a visible and concrete expression of the communion of people and means between the Churches, which, like communicating vessels, live the same vocation and missionary zeal, and in every corner of the world work to sow the Word of Truth in all peoples and cultures. I am sure you will continue to commit yourselves, so that the local Churches assume, always more generously, their share of responsibility in the Church's universal mission.
May the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Missions, accompany you and support all your hard work in promoting awareness and missionary cooperation. With this hope, which I always keep in my prayers, I thank you and all those who cooperate in the cause of evangelization, and I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to each of you.


11152 Paul VI Hall Friday, 11 May 2012

Hon. President of the Republic,
Dear Cardinals,
Hon. Ministers and Authorities,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

A heartfelt and respectful greeting to the President of the Italian Republic, Hon. Giorgio Napolitano and to his dear wife, to which I add my sincere gratitude for his cordial words, for the gifts of a violin and of a valuable score, and for this concert of sacred music by two great Italian composers. They are signs that show once again the bond between the Successor of Peter and this dear nation. I greet the Prime Minister, Senator Mario Monti, and all the Authorities. A sincere “thank you” to the Orchestra and Choir of the Teatro dell’Opera of Rome, to the two sopranos and especially to Maestro Riccardo Muti for his deep interpretation and performance. Maestro Muti’s sensibility for sacred music is well known, as is his commitment to spreading knowledge of this rich repertoire which expresses in music the faith of the Church. For this reason too, I am happy to confer a papal honour on him. I express my gratitude to the municipality of Cremona, to the Walter Stauffer Musicology Centre and to the Antonio Stradivari-La Triennale Foundation for having placed various antique and precious instruments of their collections at the disposal of prominent members of the Orchestra.

Antonio Vivaldi is a great exponent of the Venetian musical tradition. Who does not know at least his “Four Seasons”! However, his sacred production is still not well known; it occupies a significant place in his work and is of great value, especially because it expresses his faith. The Magnificat, which we heard, is Mary’s song of praise and that of all the humble of heart, who recognize and acknowledge with joy and gratitude the action of God in their own life and in history; of God whose “style” is different from man’s, because he sides with the least to give hope. And Vivaldi’s music expresses praise, exultation, gratitude, and also wonder before God’s work, with an extraordinary wealth of sentiments: from the solemn chorale at the beginning, in which the whole Church magnifies the Lord, to the vivacious “Et exultavit”, to the most beautiful choral moment of the “Et misericordia” on which he pauses with bold harmonies, rich with improvised modulations, to invite us to meditate on the mercy of God who is faithful and reaches all generations.

With the two sacred pieces by Giuseppe Verdi that we heard, the register changes: we are before Mary’s sorrow at the foot of the Cross: Stabat Mater dolorosa.The great Italian opera composer, who looked into and expressed the drama of so many personages in his works, here sketches that of the Virgin who looks at her Son on the Cross. The music becomes essential, it almost “grips” the words to express the content in the most intense way possible, a great gamut of sentiments. Suffice it to think of the aching sense of mercy with which the Sequence begins, to the dramatic “Pro peccatis suae gentes”, to the whispered “dum emisit spiritum” to the choral invocations charged with emotion, but also with serenity, addressed to Mary “fons amoris”, so that we can participate in her maternal grief and let our hearts burn with love for Christ, up to the last stanza, intense and powerful prayer to God that the glory of Paradise may be given to the soul, ultimate aspiration of humanity.

The Te Deum is also a succession of contrasts, because Verdi pays meticulous attention to the sacred text, in order to render it in a different way from tradition. He does not see so much the song of victory or crowning but, as he writes, the succession of situations: the initial exultation — “Te Deum”, “Sanctus” — the contemplation of Christ Incarnate, who liberates and opens the Kingdom of Heaven, the invocation to the “Judex venturus”, to have mercy, and finally the repeated cry of the soprano of and the chorus “In te, Domine speravi” with which the passage closes, almost as if it were Verdi’s own request for hope and light in the last stage of life (cf. Letters of Giuseppe Verdi). Those we heard this evening are the last two pieces written by the composer, not destined for publication, but written only for himself; in fact, he would have liked to have been buried with the score of the Te Deum.

Dear friends, I hope that this evening we can repeat to God with faith: In you, Lord, I joyfully place my hope, make me love you as your Holy Mother, so that at the end of the journey my soul may be given the glory of Paradise. Again thank you to Mr President of the Republic, to the soloists, to the whole orchestra and choir of the Teatro dell’Opera of Rome, to Maestro Muti, to the organizers and to all here present. May the Lord bless you and your loved ones. My heartfelt thanks.



Thank you for this beautiful display of your great Renaissance culture.

It has truly touched my heart. Whoever is capable of so perfectly presenting a culture of the past is also capable of opening culture to the future because culture knows man, it loves man who has the great dignity of being not only human, but of the image of God. Thus, this dignity of man compels but also comforts and encourages us: if we are really the imagine of God, we are also able to go forward and to overcome the current problems and to open ways for the new future. Thank you very much for this! May the Lord bless you!.



The stop planned in La Verna, where the Pope was to go on Sunday afternoon, was cancelled due to inclement weather. The following is a translation of the Address which the Holy Father intended to give.

Dear Friars Minor,
Dear Daughters of Saint Mother Clare,
Dear Brothers and Sisters: the Lord give you peace!

Contemplating the Cross of Christ! We climbed as pilgrims up to the Sasso Spicco of La Verna where “two years before his death” (Celano, Vita Prima, III, 94: ff, 484) St Francis, received the wounds of the glorious Passion of Christ in his body. His journey as a disciple led him to a union so profound with the Lord that he shared with him even the exterior signs of his supreme act of love on the Cross. A journey which began at San Damiano before the Crucifix, contemplated with mind and heart. The continuous meditation on the Cross, in this holy place, has been a means of sanctification for many Christians, who, throughout eight centuries, have knelt and prayed here in silence and in recollection.

The glorious Cross of Christ takes on the suffering of the world, but it is above all a tangible sign of love, the measure of God’s goodness to mankind. In this place we, too, are called to recover the supernatural dimension of our lives, to raise our eyes from what is contingent, to entrust ourselves totally to the Lord, with a free heart and in perfect joy, contemplating the Crucifix so that it may wounds us with his love.

“Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, all praise is Yours, all glory, honour and blessings (Canticle of the Creatures: ff, 263, written in the vernacular). Only by letting ourselves be illuminated by the love of God, can man and nature as a whole be redeemed, our beauty can finally reflect the splendour of Christ’s face, as the moon reflects the sun. Springing from the glorious Cross, the Blood of the Crucifix returns to give life to the dry bones of Adam who is in us, so that each one may find the joy to walk toward holiness, to climb upward, toward God. Through this blessed place, I join in the prayer of all Franciscans on earth: “We adore you O Christ and we bless you here and in all churches throughout the world, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world”.

Captured by the love of Christ! One does not climb La Verna without being led by the prayer of St Francis of the Absorbeat, which recites: “May the power of your love, O Lord, ardent and sweet power, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of my love” (Prayer of the “Absorbeat”, 1: ff, 277). Contemplation of the Crucifix is a labour of the mind, but it cannot rise freely without the support, without the power of love. In this very place, Friar Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the distinguished son of St Francis, composed his Itinerarium mentis in Deum showing us the way to move forward towards the heights where one encounters God. This great Doctor of the Church communicated to us his own experience, inviting us to prayer. First, the mind must be given to the Passion of the Lord, for it is the sacrifice of the Cross that wipes away our sins, a fault that can only be filled by the love of God: “I urge the reader”, he writes, “above all to beseech in prayer for Christ crucified, by Whose blood we are purged of our sins” (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 4). But, in order to be effective, our prayer needs tears, that is an interior movement of our love which responds to the love of God. And it is then necessary to have that admiratio, which St Bonaventure sees in the humble ones of the Gospel, those capable of wonder before the salvific work of Christ. And humility is precisely the door to every virtue. It is actually not possible to reach God with the intellectual pride of a closed search within oneself, but only with humility, according to the famous expression of St Bonaventure: Man “must not believe that it suffices to read without unction, speculate without devotion, investigate without wonder, examine without exultation, work without piety, know without love, understand without humility, be zealous without divine grace, see him without wisdom divinely inspired” (ibid.).

Contemplation of the Crucifix is extraordinarily effective because it makes us pass from the order of things thought, to lived experience; from salvation hoped for to the promised land. St Bonaventure says: “whoever looks at [the Crucifix] with attention... makes the Passover, that is the transit, together with Him” (ibid., VII, 2). This is the heart of the experience of La Verna, of the experience that the Poverello of Assisi made here. On this Holy Mountain, St Francis lived within himself the profound unity sequela, imitatio and conformatio Christi. And this is how he says to us that it is not enough to call oneself Christian to be Christian, nor even to seek to do good deeds. It is necessary to conform oneself to Jesus with a slow, gradual transformation of one’s being into the image of the Lord, so that by Divine Grace, every member of His Body, which is the Church, may show the necessary likeness with the Head, Christ the Lord. And on this journey — as the Medieval masters in line with the great Augustine teach us — one moves from knowledge of oneself, from the humility of looking with sincerity deep inside oneself.

Carry the love of Christ! Many pilgrims have climbed and still climb this Holy Mountain to contemplate the Love of God Crucified and to let themselves be seized by him. Ever so many pilgrims have climbed in search of God, which is the true reason for which the Church exists: to build a bridge between God and mankind. Here they meet you too, sons and daughters of St Francis. Always remember that the consecrated life has the specific duty to witness, by word and by the example of a life according to the evangelical counsels, the fascinating love story between God and humanity, which runs through history.

That Medieval Franciscan left an indelible mark on your Church of Arezzo. The repeated visits of the Poverello of Assisi and the time he spent in your territory are a precious treasure. The events of La Verna are unique and fundamental for the singularity of the stigmata imprinted on the body of the Seraphic Friar Francis, but also for the collective history of his Friars and of your people, who rediscover still, at the Sasso Spicco, the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer. Montauto di Anghiari, Le Celle of Cortona, the Hermitage of Montecasale, and that of Cerbaiolo, and the other minor sites on Franciscan Tuscany continue to mark the identity of the Community of Arezzo, of Cortona and of Biturgense.

Many outstanding figures have shone in these lands, like St Margaret of Cortona, a little-known Franciscan penitent, who was capable of reliving in herself the extraordinary vivacity of the charism of the Poverello of Assisi, combing the contemplation of the Crucifix with charity for the least. The love of God and neighbour continues to animate the valuable work of the Franciscans in your ecclesial community. The profession of the evangelical counsels is a sure way to live the love of Christ. In this blessed place, I ask the Lord to continue to send out workers into his vineyard, and especially to young people I address this urgent appeal, that whoever hears God’s call may respond with generosity and may have the courage to give him/herself to the consecrated life and the ministerial priesthood.

I have become a pilgrim to La Verna, as the Successor of Peter, and I would like every one of us to listen to Jesus’ question to Peter again: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?... Feed my lambs” (
Jn 21,15). It is love for Christ which is at the base of the Pastor’s life, as it is for the consecrated: a love which does not fear commitment or work. Carry this love to the people of our time, so often closed in their own individualism; be a sign of God’s immense mercy. Priestly piety teaches priests to live what they celebrate, sharing our own life with those we meet: sharing their sorrow, caring for their problems, accompanying them on their journey of faith.

Thank you, Minister General José Carballo, for your words, and I thank the entire Franciscan family and all of you. Persevere, like your holy forefather, in the imitation of Christ, so that you may encounter St Francis and by encountering St Francis, may you encounter the Lord.

MEETING WITH THE CITIZENS Torre di Berta Square, Sansepolcro Sunday, 13 May 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be here in Sansepolcro and to give thanks to God with you for the millenary foundation of the City, for the miracles of grace and all the benefits that, over 10 centuries, Providence has bestowed. In this historic square, let us repeat the words of the today’s Responsorial Psalm: “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!... Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Ps 98[97]).

Dear friends of Sansepolcro, I greet you all warmly. I am grateful for your warm welcome. Despite the slightly bad weather, our hearts are full of light, warmth and joy. I greet you all with affection, starting with Archbishop Riccardo Fontana and with him I greet the priests, the consecrated people and lay faithful who are actively involved in the apostolate. My respectful thoughts go to the civil and military authorities, in particular to the Mayor, Dr Daniela Frullani, whom I thank for her kind words and for the lovely gifts. Thank you!

A thousand years ago, on their journey to the Holy Land, the pilgrim Saints Aegidius and Arcanus, in the face of the major changes taking place, began to search for the truth and the meaning of life. On their return, they brought with them not only the stones gathered on Mount Zion but the unique idea they had thought of in the Land of Jesus: building on the Upper Tiber Valley an image of Jerusalem, a civitas hominis which in its very name, recalls justice and peace. A plan that evokes St Augustine’s great view of history in the work “De civitate Dei” [The City of God]. When Alaric and his Visigoths entered Rome and the pagan world accused the God of the Christians of not having saved Rome caput mundi, the holy Bishop of Hippo made clear what we should expect of God: the proper relationship between the political and religious spheres. He sees in history the presence of two loves: “love of self” which leads to contempt for God and for others, and “love of God” which leads to full freedom for others and to build a city of man governed by justice and peace (cf. De civitate Dei, XIV, 28).

Certainly the founders of Sansepolcro were familiar with this vision. They planned a well-structured model for the city, one full of hope for the future, where the disciples of Christ were called to be the engine of society in promoting peace by practising justice. Their courageous challenge became a reality, by persevering on the journey, first with the help of the Benedictine charism then with that of the Camaldolese monks, which continued for generations.

A firm commitment was necessary to found a monastic community and then, around the Abbey church, your City. The project not only influenced the urban plan of the Borgo of Sansepolcro, since the very location of the Cathedral has a strong symbolic value: it is the reference point from which everyone can direct their journey, and especially their lives. It is a powerful call to look on high, to rise above daily routine, to direct our eyes to Heaven in the continual pursuit of spiritual values and of communion with God, which does not alienate us from everyday life, but guides us to live it even more intensely. This prospective is valid even today in order to recover the desire to search for the “truth”, to see life as a journey to come closer to the “truth” and the “just”.

Dear friends, your founders’ ideal has come down to us today and not only constitutes the cornerstone of the identity of Sansepolcro and of the diocesan church, but also presents a challenge to preserve and promote the Christian thought, at the origin of the City. The Millenium is an occasion to reflect that it is, at the same time, an inner journey on the paths of faith and commitment to rediscover the Christian roots, so that the Gospel values may continue to inspire the conscience and your daily history. Today there is the particular need for the service of the Church in the world to be expressed through enlightened faithful lay people, capable of working in the city of man with the will to serve over and above personal interests, beyond partisan views. The common good counts far more than that of the individual and it is up to Christians to contribute to the birth of a new public ethic. The splendid figure of the newly Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo reminds us of this. Christians, especially the youth, are called to counter distrust of the political and social sphere with their commitment and love for responsibility, enlivened by the love of the Gospel which calls us to not to withdraw into ourselves but to take care of others. I invite the youth to think big: may you have the courage to be bold! Be ready to give new flavour to the whole of civil society with the salt of honesty and disinterested altruism. It is necessary to recover a strong motivation to serve the good of citizens.

The challenge before this ancient Borgo is to balance the rediscovery of its thousand-year identity by acceptance and the merging of various cultures and sensibilities. St Paul teaches us that the Church, but also all of society, is like a human body where every part is different from the others but all contribute to the good of the body (cf.
1Co 12,12-26). We thank God that your diocesan community through the centuries developed an ardent missionary openness, as is witnessed by its twinning with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem which I was pleased to learn has borne fruitful collaboration and charitable works to help the neediest brethren in the Holy Land. These ancient bonds led your forefathers to build a replica of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in stone here, in order to give the identity of the people a solid basis and to keep the devotion and prayer for the holy City alive. This bond continues and makes everything concerning the Holy Land appear as a reality that involves you, and likewise Jerusalem. Your name and the presence of the pilgrims of your Diocese nourish the fraternal relationship. In this regard, I am sure that you will be open to new perspectives of solidarity, giving renewed Apostolic momentum to the service of the Gospel. And this will be one of the most significant outcomes of the Jubilee celebrations of your City.

I would like to mention the Cathedral again where I contemplated the beauty of the “Holy Face”. This Basilica is the place for the entire City to give praise to God, a site of newfound harmony between moments of worship and civil life, a reference point for souls to find peace. Just as your forefathers knew how to build the a splendid stone temple, as a sign and appeal to the communion of life, it is up to you to make the meaning of the sacred building visible and credible, living in peace in the ecclesial and civil community. In the middle of the Renaissance, the Biturgensi asked the painter Durante Alberti to depict the humble crib in Bethlehem in the Mother Church, so that no one would forget that God was with them. Mindful of the past and attentive to the present, looking also to the future, you Christians of the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro know that the spiritual progress of your ecclesial communities and the very promotion of the common good of civil communities requires commitment to an ever more vital integration of your parishes and associations in the area. The path taken and the faith that enlivens you give you courage and strength to continue. Looking at your rich spiritual patrimony, you are a living Church at the service of the Gospel! A hospitable and generous Church, that through her witness makes God’s love present for every human being, especially those suffering and needy.

May the Holy Virgin, venerated in a special way in this month of May, watch over each one of you and support your efforts for a better future. O, Mary, Queen of Peace, hear our prayer, make us witnesses of your Son as well as indefatigable workers for justice and peace. Amen! Thank you!

Speeches 2005-13 562