Speeches 2005-13 22612

MEETING WITH GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES Hall of the Throne at the Archbishopric of Milan Saturday, 2 June 2012

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sincerely thank you for this meeting which reveals your sentiments of respect and esteem for the Apostolic See. At the same time, it permits me, as Pastor of the universal Church, to express my appreciation to you of the prompt and praiseworthy work you never cease to promote for the ever greater civil, social and economic well-being of the hard-working populations of Milan and Lombardy. I thank Cardinal Angelo Scola who has introduced this event. In addressing my respectful and cordial greeting to you, my thoughts turn to the man who was your illustrious predecessor, St Ambrose, governor — consularis — of the Provinces of Liguria and Aemilia, with headquarters in the imperial city of Milan, a crossroads and — as we might say today — a European reference point. Before being elected Bishop of Mediolanum, in an unexpected way and absolutely against his wishes because he felt unprepared, he had been in charge of public order and had administered justice there. The words with which the Prefect Probo invited him as consularis to Milan, told him in fact, “Go and administer, not as a judge but as a bishop”. And he was effectively a balanced and illuminated governor who was able to face matters with wisdom, good sense and authority, knowing how to overcome differences and settle disputes. I would like to reflect briefly on certain principles which he followed and which are still precious for those who are called to govern public affairs.

In his comment on Luke’s Gospel, St Ambrose recalls that “the institution of power so clearly derives from God that the person who exercises it is himself a minister of God” (Expositio Evangelii Secundum Lucam, IV, 29). These words might seem strange to people of the third millennium, and yet they clearly indicate a central truth about the human person which forms the solid foundation of social coexistence: no human power can be considered divine, hence no human being is the master of any other human being. Ambrose courageously reminded the Emperor of this, writing to him, “Even you, august Emperor, are a man” (Epistula 51, 11).

We can draw another element from St Ambrose’s teaching. The first quality of whoever governs is justice, a public virtue par excellence, because it concerns the good of the entire community. And yet it does not suffice. Ambrose accompanies it with another quality: love for freedom, which he considers an element to discriminate between good and bad governors, since, as one reads in another letter of his “the good love freedom, reprobates love servitude” (Epistula 40, 2). Freedom is not a privilege for the few but a right for all, a valuable right which the civil power must guarantee. Yet, freedom does not signify the arbitrary power of the individual but rather implies the responsibility of each one. Herein lies one of the principal elements of the secularism of the State: to guarantee freedom so that all may propose their own vision of common life, always, however, with respect for the other and in the context of the laws that aim for the good of all.

Moreover, to the extent that the concept of a confessional State is out of date, it seems in any case clear that its laws must find justification and force in natural law, which is the basis of an order in conformity with the dignity of the human person, surmounting a merely positivist understanding from which no ethical indication of any kind can be derived (cf. Discourse to the German Parliament, 22 September 2011). The State is at the service of the person whose “well-being” it safeguards in its many aspects, starting with the right to life, whose deliberate suppression may never be permitted. Each one, therefore, can see that legislation and the work of State institutions must be in particular at the service of the family, founded on marriage and open to life, and likewise recognize the primary right of parents to choose how to educate and raise their children, in accordance with the educational programme that they consider valid and suitable. No justice is done to families if the State does not support freedom of education for the common good of the entire society.

In the State’s existence for its citizens, a constructive collaboration with the Church appears to be invaluable. This is certainly not to confuse the different and distinct aims and roles of the civil authority and of the Church herself but for the contribution that the latter has offered and can still offer to society with her experience, her teaching, her tradition, her institutions and her works with which she has placed herself at the service of the people. It suffices to think of the splendid array of Saints devoted to charity, the school and to culture, of the care of the sick and the marginalized, served and loved as the Lord is served and loved. This tradition continues to bear fruit: the diligence of Lombard Christians in these sectors is very much alive and perhaps even more important than in the past. Christian communities promote these actions not so much by supporting them but rather as a freely-given superabundance of Christ’s love and of the totalizing experience of their faith. The period of crisis we are passing through needs free giving, in addition to courageous technological and political decisions, as I have had the opportunity to recall: “The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion” (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ).

We can gather yet another precious invitation from St Ambrose, whose solemn and admonitory figure is reproduced on the standard of the City of Milan. St Ambrose asks those who wish to serve in the government and in the public administration to make themselves loved. In his work De Officiis he declares: “what love does can never be achieved by fear. Nothing is as useful as making oneself loved” (II, 29). However, the reason which in turn motivates and stimulates your hard-working and diligent presence in the various spheres of public life cannot but be the will to dedicate yourselves to the good of the citizens, hence a clear expression and an evident sign of love. In this way, politics are deeply ennobled, becoming a lofty form of charity.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, please accept my simple reflections as a sign of my high esteem for the institutions you serve and for your important work. May you be assisted in your task by the constant protection of Heaven, of which the Apostolic Blessing I impart to you, to your collaborators and to your families, intends to be a pledge and a sign. Thank you.

EVENING OF WITNESS Bresso Park Saturday, 2 June 2012



1 CAT TIEN (Vietnamese girl): Hello Papa. I am Cat Tien and I come from Vietnam.

I am seven years old and I wish to present my family to you. This is my Dad, Dan, and my mother is called Tao, and this is my little brother Binh.

I would very much like to know something about your own family and when you were very young like me.

HOLY FATHER: Thank you, my dear, and warm thanks also to your parents. You have asked me about my family memories. They are so many, and I can only speak of a few. The most important moment for our family was always Sunday, but Sunday really began on Saturday afternoon. My father would read out the Sunday readings from a book that was very popular in Germany at that time, which also included explanations of the texts. That is how we began our Sunday, entering into the Liturgy in an atmosphere of joy. The next day we would go to Mass. My home is very close to Salzburg and so we had plenty of music – Mozart, Schubert, Haydn – and when the Kyrie began it was as if Heaven was opening up. Then once we were back home, naturally our Sunday meal together was important. We sang a lot together. My brother is a fine musician; he was already composing pieces for all of us as a boy, and the whole family would sing them. My father would play the zither and sing. These were unforgettable moments. Naturally we would go on journeys and walks together. We lived near a forest and it was so enjoyable to walk and have adventures and play there. In a word, we were one in heart and soul, enjoying so many experiences together, even though times were hard, as this was during the war: first we had the dictatorship and then poverty. But the mutual love that we shared, our joy, even in simple things, was so strong that it enabled us to endure and overcome these things. I think it is very important to understand that even little things were a source of joy because they were an expression of warm-heartedness. And so we grew up convinced that it was good to be human, because we saw God’s goodness reflected in our parents and our brothers and sisters. And indeed when I try to imagine what Heaven will be like, I think it must be like the time when I was a small boy. In this environment of trust, joy and love, we were happy, and I think that Heaven must be rather like those early years. So in a way, I am hoping to return “home” when I leave for “the other part of the world”.


SERGE: Your Holiness, we are Fara and Serge and we come from Madagascar. We met in Florence as students – I was studying engineering, Fara economics. We have been engaged for four years and as soon as we graduate, our dream is to return to our country to help our people, not least through our professional activity.

FARA: The family models that prevail in the West leave us unconvinced, but we realize that in Africa too there are many traditional elements that need somehow to be set aside. We feel that we were made for one another. That is why we want to marry and build our future together. We also want every aspect of our lives to be shaped by Gospel values.

But speaking of marriage, Your Holiness, there is a phrase that attracts us more than anything else, and yet it also frightens us: “for ever”.

HOLY FATHER: Dear friends, thank you for this testimony. My prayers go with you in this journey of engagement, and I hope that you will be able to build a family “for ever”, upon Gospel values. You mentioned different types of marriage: we know the African mariage coutumier and we know Western marriage. Even in Europe, to tell the truth, until the nineteenth century, a different model of marriage prevailed from what we have today: marriage was often in reality a contract between clans, intended to preserve the clan, to make preparations for the future, to defend property, etc. Marriage partners were sought out by the clan, in the hope that they would be suited to one another. To some extent it was like that in our countries too. I remember that in a small town where I went to school, it was still very much like that. But then, from the nineteenth century onwards, there came the emancipation of the individual, personal freedom, and marriage was no longer based on the will of others, but on one’s own choice; first a couple would fall in love, then they would become engaged, and marriage would follow. At that time everyone was convinced that this was the only just model, and that love by itself would guarantee the “for ever”, because love is absolute, it wants everything, and thus it demands permanence: it is “for ever”. Unfortunately, reality was not like that: we see that falling in love is a wonderful thing, but perhaps it does not always last for ever: it is a feeling which does not remain indefinitely. So it is clear that the progression from falling in love to engagement and then to marriage requires a number of decisions, interior experiences. As I said, this loving sentiment is a wonderful thing, but it has to be purified, it has to undergo a process of discernment, that is, reason and will have to come into it. Reason, sentiment and will have to come together. In the Rite of Marriage, the Church does not say: “Are you in love?” but “Do you wish?” “Have you decided?” In other words, falling in love has to become true love by involving the will and the reason in a deeper journey of purification which is the journey of engagement, such that the whole person, with all his or her faculties, with the discernment of reason and strength of will, says: “Yes, this is my life”. I often think of the wedding-feast of Cana. The first wine is very fine: this is falling in love. But it does not last until the end: a second wine has to come later, it has to ferment and grow, to mature. The definitive love that can truly become this “second wine” is more wonderful still, it is better than the first wine. And this is what we must seek. Here it is important that the “I” and the “you” are not alone, but that the parish community is also involved, the Church, the circle of friends. All this – the right degree of personal maturity, communion of life with others, with families who support one another – is very important, and only in this way, through this involvement of the community, friends, the Church, the faith, God himself, can a wine emerge that will last for ever. I wish you well!

3. PALEOLOGOS (Greek family)

NIKOS: Kalispera! We are the Paleologos family from Athens. My name is Nikos and this is my wife Pania. And these are our two children, Pavlos and Lydia.

Years ago, together with two other partners, we invested everything we had in setting up a small IT company.

When the present severe economic crisis broke, our client base was drastically reduced, and the remaining customers take longer and longer to pay their bills. We can barely manage to pay the salaries of our two employees, and very little is left over for the partners: so much so that with every day that passes, we have less with which to support our families. Our situation is just one among many millions of similar situations. In town, people go around with their heads down. No one trusts anyone else any more, hope has vanished.

PANIA: We too, even though we continue to believe in Providence, find it hard to imagine a future for our children.

There are days and nights, Holy Father, when we find ourselves asking what to do in order not to lose hope. What can the Church say to all these people, to these individuals and families who no longer have anything to look forward to?

HOLY FATHER: My dear friends, thank you for this testimony which touches my heart and the hearts of us all. What can we respond? Words are not enough. We ought to do something concrete, and we all suffer on account of our inability to do anything concrete. Let us speak first about politics: it seems to me that all the parties need to develop a stronger sense of responsibility, not to make promises they cannot keep, nor just to seek votes for themselves, but to take responsibility for the good of everyone, and to understand that politics always has to include human and moral responsibility before God and before the world. Then, of course, individuals suffer and have to accept the situation in which they find themselves, often without any possibility of avoiding it. Nevertheless, we can also say this: let everyone strive to do whatever they can, thinking of themselves, their family, other people, with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that sacrifices are necessary in order to move forward. And thirdly, what can we do ourselves? This is my question, at this moment. I think that perhaps twinning arrangements between cities, families, and parishes could help. In Europe we now have a whole system of twinning, but it takes place at the level of cultural exchanges, which are certainly good and useful in themselves. Yet perhaps there is a need for twinning in another sense: that a family from the West – from Italy, Germany, France ... should take on the responsibility of helping another family. So too between parishes, and between cities: that they might genuinely assume responsibility and offer concrete assistance. And be sure of this: I and many others are praying for you, and this praying is not just a matter of words, it opens the heart to God and thus it also leads to creativity in finding solutions. Let us hope that the Lord will help us, that the Lord will always help us! Thank you.

4. RERRIE FAMILY (from the United States)

JAY: We live near New York.

My name is Jay, I am of Jamaican origin and I work as an accountant.

This is my wife Anna, who is a supply teacher.

And these are our six children, aged from 2 to 12. From this you can well imagine, Holy Father, that our life is made up of constant racing against time, anxieties, highly complex situations.

In our country too, in the United States, one of the absolute priorities is to hold onto our jobs, and if we are to do so it’s no use keeping to the timetable, and often this comes at the cost of our family relationships.

ANNA: It certainly isn’t easy ... Our impression, Holy Father, is that institutions and businesses don’t make it easy to reconcile work schedules with the demands of family life.

Your Holiness, we imagine that for you too it isn’t easy to reconcile the enormous number of commitments you have with the need for rest.

Do you have any advice to help us rediscover this essential harmony? In the maelstrom of so many stimuli coming at us from modern society, how can we help families to live and celebrate according to God’s heart?

HOLY FATHER: It is a big question, and I think I understand this dilemma of reconciling the two priorities: the priority of the workplace is fundamental, and so is the priority of the family. How are we to reconcile them? I can only seek to offer a few suggestions. Firstly, there are businesses that allow something extra for families – birthdays, etc. – and they realize that to grant a little freedom ultimately brings benefits for the business too, because it strengthens people’s love for their work, for their workplace. So I would like to invite employers to think of the family, to think of helping to reconcile these two priorities. Secondly, it seems to me that a certain creativity has to be achieved, and this is not always easy. But at least, every day, try to offer some element of joy to the family, some attention, some sacrifice of one’s own will in order to be together as a family, to accept and overcome the dark moments, the trials of which we spoke earlier, and to think of the great good that the family is, and hence, in the determination to do something good every day, to find a way of reconciling the two priorities. And finally, there is Sunday, the day of celebration: I hope that Sunday is observed in America. Sunday, the Lord’s Day, seems to me to be of great importance, and as such it is also “our day”, because we are free. In the creation account, this was the Creator’s original intention: that on one day we should all be free. In this freedom for one another, for ourselves, we are free for God. And this is how I think we defend human freedom, by defending Sunday and feast-days as the Lord’s days and thus as our days. I wish you well! Thank you!

5 THE ARAUJO FAMILY (a Brazilian family from Porto Alegre)

MARIA MARTA: Holy Father, in our country, just as in the rest of the world, marriage breakdowns are continually increasing.

My name is Maria Marta and this is Manoel Angelo. We have been married for 34 years and we are now grandparents. As a doctor and a family psychotherapist, we meet a great many families and we notice that couples in difficulties are finding it harder and harder to forgive and to accept forgiveness. We often encounter the desire and the will to establish a new partnership, something lasting, for the benefit of the children born from this second union.

MANOEL ANGELO: Some of these remarried couples would like to be reconciled with the Church, but when they see that they are refused the sacraments they are greatly discouraged. They feel excluded, marked by a judgement against which no appeal is possible.

These sufferings cause deep hurt to those involved. Their wounds also afflict the world and they become our wounds, the wounds of the whole human race.

Holy Father we know that the Church cares deeply about these situations and these people. What can we say to them and what signs of hope can we offer them?

THE HOLY FATHER: Dear friends, thank you for your very important work as family psychotherapists. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering people. Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people - as you have said - the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment.


HOLY FATHER. Dear friends, you know that we are deeply involved in your pain and suffering; above all, I pray every day that this earthquake will finally come to an end. We are all eager to offer you assistance. Be assured that we will not forget you, that we are all doing all we can to help you – Caritas, the agencies of the Church and the State, the various communities. Each of us wants to help you spiritually, with our prayers and heartfelt sympathy, as well as materially, and I pray for you insistently. May God assist you, may he assist us all! I offer you my good wishes. May the Lord bless you!

LUNCHEON WITH THE CARDINALS, BISHOPS AND SOME FAMILIES Archbishop's Residence in Milan Sunday, 3 June 2012


At the end of the lunch given in the Archbishop's Residence on Sunday, 3 June, both Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Tettamanzi briefly greeted the Pope. The Archbishop emeritus also presented a precious copy of the Ambrosian Evangelarium – the work of great living artists under the direction of Fr Umberto Bordoni – on whose cover is portrayed the heavenly Jerusalem. Benedict XVI responded with a brief extemporaneous Address. The following is a translation of the Pope’s words in Italian.

Dear Friends,

I find it beautiful that in the end we return to the Word of God which is the key to life, the key to thinking and to living: thus we began with the Word and we are ending with the Word. We are in the atmosphere of true life. And I simply wanted to say “thank you” for all that I have experienced in these days: this experience of the living Church. Although at times we might think that Peter's barque is truly at the mercy of difficult adversaries, yet it is also true that we see the Lord is present, that he is alive and is truly risen and that this experience of the living Church, which lives by the love of God, which lives through the Risen Christ, is, let us say, the gift of these days. Let us therefore express our first gratitude to God. And let us also thank Cardinal Scola, Cardinal Tettamanzi, their collaborators, everyone, — the people who collaborated are many — and all who have celebrated with us.



Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, and I thank Archbishop John Ribat for his kind words on behalf of the whole of the Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. This gathering is a privileged opportunity to express our communion in the one Church of Christ. Through you I send warm greetings to the priests, the men and women religious and all those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their continued growth in faith, hope and charity.

I would like to commend your efforts to “tend the flock of God that is your charge” (
1P 5,2). The attention you give to those under your pastoral care has been particularly noteworthy in the way you provide for the basic needs of the poor, the marginalized and the sick – especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS – through the work of your diocesan agencies. Another important part of your pastoral ministry is exercised when you speak publicly as an objective moral voice on behalf of those in need. When the Church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good, not proposing concrete political solutions, but rather helping to “purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles” (Address at Westminster Hall, 17 September 2010). Such principles are accessible to all through right reason and are necessary for the just ordering of civil society. In view of this, I encourage you to continue to dialogue and to work with the civil authorities so that the Church may be free to speak and to provide services for the common good in a manner fully consonant with Gospel values.

I note from your reports that you are initiating various pastoral efforts which have as their common element the evangelization of culture. This is of great importance since the human person can “achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture” (Gaudium et Spes GS 53). We also observe the essential role of culture in salvation history, since the Triune God gradually revealed himself in time, culminating in the sending of his only Son, who himself was born into a particular culture. On the other hand, while acknowledging the respective contribution of each culture and at times calling upon its resources in fulfilling her mission, the Church has been sent to preach the Gospel to all nations, transcending man-made boundaries. In the work of evangelization then, my Brother Bishops, continue to apply the eternal truths of the Gospel to the customs of the people whom you serve, in order to build upon the positive elements already present and to purify others when necessary. In this way, you play your part in the Church’s mission to lead people of every nation, race and language to Jesus Christ the Saviour in whom we find revealed the fullness and truth of humanity (cf. ibid).

When speaking about this aspect of evangelization, the family has a key role to play, since it is the basic unit of human society and the first place where faith and culture are appropriated. Although society has recognized the important role of the family throughout history, particular attention needs to be given at the present time to the religious, social and moral goods of fidelity, equality and mutual respect that must exist between husband and wife. The Church tirelessly proclaims that the family is based on the natural institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and in the case of baptized Christians, it is a covenant which has been raised by Christ to the supernatural level of a sacrament, through which husband and wife participate in the love of God as they become one flesh, pledging to love and respect each other while remaining open to God’s gift of children. In this regard, I commend your efforts to give pastoral priority to the evangelization of marriage and the family in accordance with Catholic moral teaching. As you continue the centenary celebrations of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot, who shed his blood in defence of the sanctity of marriage, I encourage all married couples to look to his example of courage and thus help others to see the family as a gift from God and the privileged environment where children “are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner” (Homily, 9 July 2006).

The work of evangelization involves all members of the Church of Christ. Mindful that Bishops, like the Apostles, “are sent to their Dioceses as the prime witnesses to the Risen Christ” (Ecclesia in Oceania, 19), make every effort to provide proper formation and catechetical programmes for the clergy, men and women religious, and the lay faithful so that they may be strong and joyful witnesses of the faith they profess as members of the Catholic Church. A properly catechized laity and well formed clergy and religious, “like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” (Mt 7,24), will be equipped to resist the temptations of the secular world and will be wise enough not to be deceived by attempts to convert them to overly simplistic versions of Christianity that are often based solely on false promises of material prosperity. While recognizing the importance of developing and maintaining formal programmes, I encourage you to remember that a key element for effective formation and catechetical programmes is the example of holy witnesses who, by “doing the will of God in everything ... wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of neighbour” (Lumen Gentium LG 40). These witnesses and those they teach, with your guidance and support, will help to ensure that the Church in your countries will continue to be an effective instrument of evangelization, attracting those who do not yet know Christ and inspiring those who have become lukewarm in their faith.

Finally, my Brother Bishops, it is my hope that your visit to the Successor of Peter and to the tombs of the Apostles will strengthen your resolve to be protagonists of the new evangelization, especially during the upcoming Year of Faith. I also pray that your efforts will bear fruit, so that the kingdom of God may continue to grow in the portion of the Lord’s vineyard entrusted to your pastoral care. Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and your people, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2005-13 22612