Speeches 2005-13 19013



Dear Friends,

I welcome you with affection and with joy on the occasion of the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. I thank the President, Cardinal Robert Sarah, for his words and I offer my cordial greeting to each one of you, extending it in spirit to everyone working in the service of the Church's charity. With my recent Motu Proprio Intima Ecclesiae Natura I wanted to reassert the ecclesial significance of your work. Your witness can open the door of faith to many persons who seek the love of Christ. In this way, during the Year of Faith the theme “Charity, new ethics and Christian anthropology”, which you are examining, reflects the strong connection between love and truth, or, if one prefers, between faith and charity. The entire Christian ethos receives its meaning from faith as an “encounter” with the love of Christ, who offers a new horizon and impresses on life its decisive direction (cf. Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ). Christian love finds its foundation and form in faith. By encountering God and experiencing his love we learn “to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others” (ibid., n. 33).

Starting from this dynamic relationship between faith and charity, I would like to reflect on one point that recalls the prophetic dimension that faith instils in charity. Believing adherence to the Gospel impresses on charity its specifically Christian form and constitutes the principle of its discernment. Christians, in particular those who work in charities, must allow themselves to be guided by the principles of faith, through which we adhere to the “God’s point of view”, to his plan for each one of us (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). This new outlook on the world and on man offered by faith also provides the correct criterion for evaluating for expressions of charity in today’s context.

In every age, when man has not sought such a plan he has fallen prey to cultural temptations that have in the end enslaved him. In recent centuries, ideologies that praised the cult of nation, race and social class have proved to be real idolatries; and the same could be said of reckless capitalism with its worship of profit that results in crisis, inequality and poverty. People today share more and more a common feeling about the inalienable dignity of every human being and about our reciprocal and interdependent responsibility for it; and this is to the advantage of true civilization, the civilization of love. However, unfortunately, our time also knows the shadows that hide God’s plan. I am referring above all to the tragic anthropological reduction that reproposes the age-old hedonistic materialism, but to which a “technological Prometheanism” is added. From this union of the materialistic vision of man and the great development of technology a fundamentally atheist anthropology emerges. It presupposes that man is reduced to autonomous functions, the mind to the brain, human history to a destiny of self-realization. All this disregards God, his properly spiritual dimension and the horizon of the afterlife. In the perspective of a human being deprived of his soul and consequently of a personal relationship with his Creator, what is technically possible becomes morally licit, every experiment is acceptable, every demographic policy permitted, every manipulation legitimized. The most dangerous snare of this current of thought is in fact the absolutization of man: man wants to be ab-solutus, freed from every bond and from every natural constitution. He claims to be independent and thinks that his happiness lies in his own self-affirmation. “Man calls his nature into question.... From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be” (Discourse to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2012). This is a radical denial of the nature of the creature and child in man, which ends in tragic loneliness.

Faith and healthy Christian discernment therefore lead us to pay prophetic attention to this ethical problem and to its underlying mentality. The just collaboration with international bodies in the field of development and human advancement must not make us close our eyes to these grave ideologies. It is the duty of pastors of the Church — the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (
1Tm 3,15) — to put the Catholic faithful and every person of good will and right reason on guard against the trend of these ideologies. It is a negative trend for humankind, although it may be disguised by good feelings in the name of alleged progress, alleged rights, or an alleged humanism. In the face of this anthropological reduction, what is the task expected of every Christian, and especially of you who are engaged in charitable activities and therefore, in direct contact with many other social agents? We must of course exercise critical vigilance and, at times, refuse funding and partnerships that, directly or indirectly, foster actions and projects that are contrary to Christian anthropology. But the Church is always committed positively to the advancement of human beings according to God’s design, in the integrity of their dignity, with respect for their two-fold — vertical and horizontal — dimensions. The action for development of Church bodies also strives for this. The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great “yes” to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great “yes” to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to “gender” philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.

Dear friends, I thank you for your commitment to promote humanity, in fidelity to their true dignity. In the face of the challenge of the times, we know that the answer is the encounter with Christ. In him men and women can totally fulfil their personal good and the common good. I encourage you to continue with joy and generosity, as I warmly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.



Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with joy in the Lord that I welcome you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through you I extend fraternal greetings to the heads of all the Oriental Orthodox Churches. In a particular way I greet His Eminence Anba Bishoy, Co-President of the Commission, and I thank him for his kind words.

Before all else I would like to recall with appreciation the memory of His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, who died recently. I also remember with gratitude His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, who last year hosted the Ninth Meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was saddened, too, to learn of the death of the Most Reverend Jules Mikhael Al-Jamil, Titular Archbishop of Takrit and Procurator of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate in Rome and a member of your Commission. I join you in prayer for the eternal rest of these dedicated servants of the Lord.

Our meeting today affords us an opportunity to reflect together with gratitude on the work of the International Joint Commission, which began ten years ago, in January 2003, as a initiative of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In the past decade the Commission has examined from an historical perspective the various ways in which the Churches expressed their communion in the early centuries. During this week devoted to prayer for the unity of all Christ’s followers, you have met to explore more fully the communion and communication which existed between the Churches in the first five centuries of Christian history. In acknowledging the progress which has been made, I express my hope that relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches will continue to develop in a fraternal spirit of cooperation, particularly through the growth of a theological dialogue capable of helping all the Lord’s followers to grow in communion and to bear witness before the world to the saving truth of the Gospel.

Many of you come from areas where Christians, as individuals and communities, face painful trials and difficulties which are a source of deep concern to us all. Through you, I would like to assure all the faithful of the Middle East of my spiritual closeness and my prayer that this land, so important in God’s plan of salvation, may be led, through constructive dialogue and cooperation, to a future of justice and lasting peace. All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in serving the cause of peace and justice in fidelity to the Lord’s will. May the example and intercession of the countless martyrs and saints who down the ages have borne courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen all of us in meeting the challenges of the present with confidence and hope in the future which the Lord is opening before us. Upon you, and upon all those associated with the work of the Commission, I cordially invoke a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace. Thank you for your attention.



Dear Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

It gives me great joy to meet you on the occasion of the opening of the judicial year. I thank Mons. Pio Vito Pinto, your Dean, for the sentiments he has expressed on behalf of you all, which I warmly reciprocate. This meeting gives me the opportunity to reaffirm my esteem and respect for your lofty service to the Successor of Peter and to the whole Church, while for you it is an incentive to ever greater commitment in a context that is indeed arduous, but invaluable for the salvation of souls. The principle that the salus animarum is the supreme law in the Church (cf. CIC,
CIC 1752) must indeed be borne in mind and every day must find in your work the strict respect that it merits.

1. In the context of the Year of Faith, I would like to reflect in particular on several aspects of the relationship between faith and marriage, noting that the current crisis of faith, which is affecting various parts of the world, brings with it a crisis of the conjugal society with the whole burden of suffering and hardship that this entails, also for the offspring. We can take as a starting point the linguistic root that the Latin terms fides and foedus have in common. Foedus is a word with which the Code of Canon Law designates the natural reality of matrimony as an irrevocable covenant between a man and a woman (cf. can. 1055 § 1). Mutual entrustment is in fact the indispensable basis for any pact or covenant.

At the theological level, the relationship between faith and marriage acquires an even deeper meaning. Indeed, although the spousal bond is a natural reality, it has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized (cf. ibid.).

The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does. However, if it is important not to confuse the problem of the intention with that of the personal faith of those contracting marriage, it is nonetheless impossible to separate them completely. As the International Theological Commission observed in a Document of 1977: “Where there is no trace of faith (in the sense of the term ‘belief’ — being disposed to believe), and no desire for grace or salvation is found, then a real doubt arises as to whether there is the above-mentioned and truly sacramental intention and whether in fact the contracted marriage is validly contracted or not” (La dottrina cattolica sul sacramento del matrimonio [Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage] [1977], 2.3: Documenti 1969-2004, Vol. 13, Bologna 2006, p. 145).

However Blessed John Paul II, addressing this Tribunal 10 years ago, pointed out that “an attitude on the part of those getting married that does not take into account the supernatural dimension of marriage can render it null and void only if it undermines its validity on the natural level on which the sacramental sign itself takes place” (John Paul II, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, 30 January 2003). With regard to this problem it will be necessary, especially in today’s context, to promote further reflection.

2. Contemporary culture, marked by accentuated subjectivism and ethical and religious relativism, places the person and the family before pressing challenges. Firstly, it is faced with the question about the capacity of the human being to bind him or herself, and about whether a bond that lasts a lifetime really is possible and corresponds with human nature or whether, rather, it contradicts man’s freedom and self-fulfilment. In fact, the very idea that a person fulfills him or herself living an “autonomous” existence and only entering into a relationship with the other when it can be broken off at any time forms part of a widespread mindset (cf. Discourse to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2012).

It escapes no one that the basic decision of each person to enter into a lifetime bond, influences the basic view of each one according to whether or not he or she is anchored to a merely human level or is open to the light of faith in the Lord. It is only in opening oneself to God’s truth, in fact, that it is possible to understand and achieve in the concrete reality of both conjugal and family life the truth of men and women as his children, regenerated by Baptism. “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15,5). This is what Jesus taught his disciples, reminding them of the human being’s essential inability to do what is necessary for achieving his true good alone. The rejection of the divine proposal, in fact, leads to a profound imbalance in all human relations (cf. Discourse to the International Theological Commission, 7 December 2012), including matrimonial relations, and facilitates an erroneous understanding of liberty and of self-fulfilment which, together with flight from the patient tolerance of suffering, condemns people to withdraw into selfish egocentricity.

The acceptance of faith, on the contrary, makes the person capable of self-giving, in which “only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family… by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity” (Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2012).

Faith in God, sustained by divine grace, is thus a very important element for living mutual dedication and conjugal fidelity (Catechesis, General Audience. 8 June 2011). In saying this, there is no intention to affirm that fidelity and likewise the other properties are not possible in natural marriage, contracted between people who have not been baptized. Indeed, natural marriage does not lack the goods that “come from God the Creator and are included in a certain inchoate way in the marital love that unites Christ with his Church” (International Theological Commission, La dottrina cattolica sul sacramento del matrimonio [Catholic doctrine on the sacrament of matrimony] [1977], 3, 4: Documenti 1969-2004, Vol. 13, Bologna 2006, p. 147). Yet, closure to God or the rejection of the sacred dimension of the conjugal union and of its value in the order of grace certainly makes arduous the practical embodiment of the most lofty model of marriage conceived by the Church according to God’s plan and can even undermine the actual validity of the pact, should it be expressed — as the consolidated jurisprudence of this Tribunal assumes — in a rejection of the principle of the conjugal obligation of fidelity itself, that is, of the other essential elements or properties of matrimony.

Speaking of conjugal life marked by faith, Tertullian wrote in his famous Letter to His Wife that Christian spouses “are truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually exhorting, mutually sustaining” (Ad Uxorem Libri Duo, II, IX: PL 1, 1415b-1417a).

St Clement of Alexandria expressed himself in similar terms: “For if the God of both is one, the Instructor — Christ — of both is also one, one Church, one wisdom, one modesty; their food is common, marriage an equal yoke.... And those whose life is common have common graces and a common salvation; common to them are love and training” (Paedagogus, I, IV, 10.1: ).

Those saints who lived the matrimonial and family union in the Christian perspective succeeded in triumphing over even the most adverse situations, at times achieving the sanctification of their spouse and of their children with a love that was always strengthened by solid trust in God, by sincere religious devotion and by an intense sacramental life. These very experiences, marked by faith, make us understand that the sacrifice offered by the abandoned spouse or the spouse who has suffered divorce, is still precious today, if — recognizing the indissolubility of the valid matrimonial bond — they refrain from “becoming involved in a new union…. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio [22 November 1981], n. 83).

3. Lastly I would like to reflect briefly on the bonum coniugum. Faith is important in the realization of the authentic good of the couple, which consists simply in always and constantly desiring the good of the other, in terms of a true and indissoluble consortium vitae. In truth, there is in the resolve of Christian spouses to live a real communio coniugalis a dynamism proper to faith, for which the confessio, the sincere personal response to the announcement of salvation, involves the believer in the impetus of God’s love. “Confessio” and “caritas” are “the two ways in which God involves us, makes us act with him, in him and for humanity, for his creation.… ‘Confessio’ is not an abstract thing, it is ‘caritas’, it is love. Only in this way is it really the reflection of divine truth, which as truth is also, inseparably, love” (Meditation during the First General Congregation of the 13th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 8 October 2012).

It is only through the flame of charity that the presence of the Gospel is no longer only a word, but reality lived. In other words, if it is true that “Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt”, it must be concluded that “faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 14, 11 October 2011).

If this true in the broad context of community life, it is even truer in the matrimonial union. It is in the latter, in fact, that faith makes the love of the spouses grow and brings it to fruition, making room for the presence of God the Trinity and making married life itself, lived in this way, “good news” in the eyes of the world.

I recognize the difficulties, from a juridical and practical viewpoint, of clarifying the essential element of the bonum coniugum, so far understood mainly in relation to the hypothesis of incapacity (cf. CIC, CIC 1095). The bonum coniugum also assumes importance in the context of the simulation of consent.

Of course, in the cases submitted to your judgement, it will be the investigation in facto that will ascertain the possible grounds for this reason for annulment, prevalent or co-existent with another reason of the three Augustinian “goods” of marriage: procreativity, exclusiveness and permanence. One must not, therefore, disregard the consideration that can arise in the cases in which, precisely because of the absence of faith, the good of the spouses is jeopardized, that is, excluded from the consent itself; for example, in the hypothesis of subversion on the part of one of them, because of an erroneous conception of the nuptial bond, of the principle of equality, or in the event of the refusal of the conjugal union that distinguishes the marriage bond, together with the possibly concomitant exclusion of fidelity and of the practice of conjugal relations in humano modo, a truly human manner.

With these reflections, I certainly do not intend to suggest any facile automatism between the lack of faith and the invalidity of the matrimonial union, but rather to highlight how such a lack may, although not necessarily, also damage the goods of the marriage, since the reference to the natural order desired by God is inherent in the conjugal pact (cf. Gen Gn 2,24).

Dear Brothers, I invoke God’s help upon you and upon all those in the Church who strive to safeguard truth and justice with regard to the sacred bond of marriage and, for this very reason, the Christian family. I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ, and of St Joseph, Custodian of the Family of Nazareth, silent and obedient executor of the divine plan of salvation, as I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.




Mr President of the Republic,
Dear Cardinals,
Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I greet Mr Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, and thank him for the fervent words of goodwill he has addressed to me; over the past seven years — as he recalled — we have met several times and exchanged experiences and reflections. I greet his kind wife and the Italian authorities, as well as the Ambassadors and the many important figures present. I extend my heartfelt thanks to this evening’s sponsors and organizers, in particular to the Flying Angels Foundation, which is involved in the field of solidarity.

The Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Zubin Mehta, the conductor, need no introduction. They both have an important place in the international music scene, which tonight they have demonstrated by giving us a deeply uplifting spiritual moment with their remarkable performance of the Overture from Verdi’s opera and of Beethoven’s Third.

Giuseppe Verdi’s The Force of Destiny is a tribute due to the great Italian musician in the year when we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. What is striking in his works is his grasp of life’s situations and his expression of them in music in such an immediate, decisive and essential way — especially the drama of the human soul — as is rarely found on the musical scene.

A tragic fate always befalls Verdi's characters and the protagonists of The Force of Destiny are no exception. This was made clear to us from the very first bars of the Overture which we have just heard. However, in addressing the theme of destiny, Verdi finds himself directly facing the subject of religion, having to reckon with God, with faith and with the Church. Here, once again, emerges this musician’s spirit, his restlessness, his religious searching.

In The Force of Destiny, the heartfelt prayer of “The Virgin of the Angels” is not only one of the most famous arias but in it we also find two stories of conversion and of coming close to God: the story of Leonora, who dramatically acknowledges her faults and decides to withdraw to life as a hermit; and the story of Don Alvaro, who struggles between the world and a life in solitude with God. It is interesting to note that the endings vary in the two versions of this work: the 1862 version for St Petersburg and the 1869 version for La Scala in Milan. In the first version, Don Alvaro’s life ends in suicide, after rejecting the religious habit and invoking hell; in the second version, however, he accepts the words of the Father Guardian, who tells him to trust in God’s forgiveness, and the opera ends with the words “she [Leonora] has gone to God”.

The drama of human existence, depicted here, is marked by a tragic destiny and by the yearning for God, for his mercy and his love, which offer illumination, meaning and hope, even in darkness. Faith offers us this prospect which is not an illusion but real; as St Paul says, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (
Rm 8,38-39).

This is the strength of Christians which comes from the death and Resurrection of Christ, from the supreme act of a God who entered human history not only with words, but by becoming incarnate.

I would also like to say a word on Beethoven’s Third Symphony, a complex work that marks a clear departure from the classical symphonic music of Haydn and Mozart. As is well known, it was dedicated to Napoleon, but the great German composer changed his mind when Bonaparte proclaimed himself emperor, replacing the title with: “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”. Beethoven expressed in music the ideal of the hero — bringing freedom and equality — who must choose to resign or to fight, death or life, surrender or victory. The Symphony describes this state of mind rich in colour and themes hitherto unknown.

I shall not begin to interpret its four movements but will mention only the second, the famous Funeral March, a soulful meditation on death. It begins with a beginning section marked by dramatic and desolate tones, but in the central part which contains a serene interlude played by the oboe, and then the double fugue and trumpet blasts: the thought of death invites reflection on the afterlife, on the infinite. In those years Beethoven wrote in his Heiligenstadt testament of October 1802: “God looks into my heart, he searches it and knows that love for men and feelings of benevolence have their abode there”. May the search for meaning that is part of humanity’s journey open us to firm hope for the future.

Thank you, Mr President, for your attendance. My thanks to the Director and to the Professors of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra. My thanks also to the sponsors and organizers and to you all! Good evening!



Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers,

It gives me great joy to be with you. I remember well my visits to Palazzo Borromeo, next door to St Mary Major, where I personally met Fr Giussani. I became acquainted with his faith, his joy, his strength, the wealth of his ideas and the creativity of his faith. So it was that a true friendship developed; thus, through him, I also came to know the community of Communion and Liberation better.

And I am glad that his successor is with us and that he is continuing this great work and inspires so many, so many lay men and women, priests and laity, to collaborate in the dissemination of the Gospel, in the development of the Kingdom of God. And it was here that I also met Massimo Camisasca. We talked about various things, I got to know his creativity in art, his ability to see and interpret the signs of the times, his great gift as an educator and as a priest.

I once also had the honour of ordaining several priests at Porto Santa Rufina. It was beautiful to see that a new priestly Fraternity is developing here in the spirit of St Charles Borromeo, who always remains the great model of a Pastor, truly stimulated by the love of Christ. The Fraternity seeks out little ones, loves them, thereby creating faith and making the Church grow.

Your Fraternity is now large, and this is a sign that there are vocations in it. However, there is also a need for our openness in order to find, accompany, guide and help the development of these vocations. For this I thank Fr Camisasca who has served as a great educator. And today education is always fundamental to growth in the truth, to our growth as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God I have been acquainted for some time now with your new Superior General who also has a certain familiarity with my theology. I am therefore glad that I can be with you both spiritually and intellectually and that we can make each other’s work fruitful.

May the Lord bless you. Thanks be to the Lord for this gift of your Fraternity: may it never cease to grow and to deepen its love for Christ, to deepen the love of human beings for Christ. The Lord be with you!

I impart my blessing to you, certain that you will pray for me, that you will accompany me with your prayers.

I thank you all!



Dear Friends,

I am truly pleased to meet you at the beginning of the work of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture in which you will be endeavouring — as your President said — to understand and examine in depth the “emerging youth cultures” from different perspectives.

I cordially greet Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President, and thank him for his courteous words to me on behalf of you all. I greet the Members, Consultors and all the Co-Workers of the Dicastery, wishing you fruitful work which will make a useful contribution to the Church’s youth ministry. It is a complex and many-sided reality, as was said which can no longer be understood within a homogenous cultural universe but within a horizon that may be described as “multi-faceted”, in other words determined by a plurality of views, perspectives and policies. For this reason it is appropriate to speak of “youth cultures”, given that the elements which distinguish and differentiate phenomena and cultural environments prevail over those which, although present, they have in common.

Indeed, many factors contribute to highlighting an increasingly fragmented cultural panorama that is constantly and very rapidly evolving. Far from foreign to this panorama are the social media, the new means of communication that encourage and at times give rise to continuous and rapid changes in mindset, morality and behaviour.

Consequently a widespread atmosphere of instability is to be found whose effects are being felt in the cultural sphere and likewise in that of politics and the economy — the latter is also marked by the difficulty in finding employment that young people encounter. Above all, this instability has psychological and relational effects. The uncertainty and employment that many young people exhibit often drives them to marginalization, making them almost invisible and absent from the historical and cultural processes of society. And ever more frequently their frailty and the margins lead to drug dependence, deviance and violence.

The affective and emotional realm, the sphere of the sentiments, like that of corporeity, are deeply affected by this atmosphere and by the ensuing cultural climate. This is expressed, for example, by seemingly contradictory phenomena, such as making a public spectacle of private life or individualistic and narcissistic withdrawal into personal needs and concerns. The religious dimension, faith and membership in the Church are also frequently experienced in a private and emotionalistic perspective.

Nevertheless there are plenty of phenomena that are definitely positive. The generous and courageous impulses of so many young volunteers who devote their best energies to their needier brothers and sisters; the sincere and profound experiences of faith of so many of the young who joyfully witness to belonging to the Church; the efforts made in many parts of the world to build societies able to respect the freedom and dignity of all, starting with the smallest and weakest. All this comforts us and helps us to draw a more precise and objective picture of youth cultures. However, we cannot be content with interpreting the cultural phenomena of youth according to entrenched models, but which have now become common place, or with analysing them with methods that are no longer helpful, beginning with cultural categories that are out-dated and inappropriate.

Ultimately we find ourselves facing a particularly complex but at the same time fascinating situation which must be understood in-depth and loved with a great spirit of empathy. We are facing a reality we need to grasp with special attention to its basic trends and developments. For example, in looking at the young from many countries in the so-called “Third World”, we realize that with their cultures and their needs they represent a challenge to the globalized consumer society, the culture of consolidated privileges, from which a very restricted section of the population of the Western world benefits. Youth cultures, consequently, also become “emerging”, in the sense that they manifest a profound need, a cry for help or even a “provocation” that cannot be ignored or disregarded, either by civil society or by the ecclesial community.

On various occasions I have expressed, for example, my concern and that of the whole Church about the so-called “educational emergency”, which can certainly be grouped together with other “emergencies” that affect the different dimensions of individuals and their fundamental relationships, and to which an evasive or trivial response can be given. I am thinking, for example, of the growing difficulty in the field of labour and of the difficulty of staying faithful, as time passes, to the responsibilities assumed. An impoverishment for the future of the world and of the whole of humanity — not merely economic and social but above all human and spiritual — would result if young people were no longer to hope, no longer to make progress; if their energy, vitality, capacity for anticipating the future were not integrated into the dynamics of history we should be faced with a humanity, withdrawn into itself, without trust and without a positive view of the future.

Although we are aware of the many problematic situations that are also affecting the context of faith and of membership in the Church. let us renew our trust in young people, let us reaffirm that the Church looks to their condition, to their cultures, as to an essential and inevitable reference point for her pastoral action. For this reason I would like once again to take up certain significant passages of the Message the Second Vatican Council addressed to young people, so that it may provide food for thought and an incentive for the new generations.

In this Message the Council said first of all: “the Church looks to you with confidence and with love.... She possesses what constitutes the strength and charm of youth, that is to say the ability to rejoice with what is beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew oneself and to set out again for new conquests”.

Venerable Paul VI therefore addressed this Appeal to the young people of the world: “it is in the name of this God and of his Son, Jesus, that we exhort you to open your hearts to the dimensions of the world, to heed the appeal of your brothers, to place your youthful energies at their service. Fight against all egoism. Refuse to give free course to the instincts of violence and hatred which beget war and all their train of misery. Be generous, pure, respectful, and sincere, and build in enthusiasm a better world than your elders had”.

I too would like to reassert this forcefully: the Church trusts in young people, hopes in them and in their energies, she needs them and their vitality in order to continue to live with a fresh impetus the mission entrusted to her by Christ. I warmly hope, therefore, that the Year of Faith will also be an invaluable opportunity for the young generations, to rediscover and intensify friendship with Christ, from which to draw joy and enthusiasm to transform cultures and societies in depth.

Dear friends, as I thank you for the commitment that you generously devote to the service of the Church and for the special attention you pay to the young, I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you. Many thanks.

Speeches 2005-13 19013