Audiences 2005-2013 11106

Wednesday, 11 October 2006 - Simon and Jude

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, let us examine two of the Twelve Apostles: Simon the Cananaean and Jude Thaddaeus (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot). Let us look at them together, not only because they are always placed next to each other in the lists of the Twelve (cf.
Mt 10,3), but also because there is very little information about them, apart from the fact that the New Testament Canon preserves one Letter attributed to Jude Thaddaeus.

Simon is given a nickname that varies in the four lists: while Matthew and Mark describe him as a "Cananaean", Luke instead describes him as a "Zealot".

In fact, the two descriptions are equivalent because they mean the same thing: indeed, in Hebrew the verb qanà' means "to be jealous, ardent" and can be said both of God, since he is jealous with regard to his Chosen People (cf. Ex Ex 20,5), and of men who burn with zeal in serving the one God with unreserved devotion, such as Elijah (cf. 1R 19,10).

Thus, it is highly likely that even if this Simon was not exactly a member of the nationalist movement of Zealots, he was at least marked by passionate attachment to his Jewish identity, hence, for God, his People and divine Law.

If this was the case, Simon was worlds apart from Matthew, who, on the contrary, had an activity behind him as a tax collector that was frowned upon as entirely impure. This shows that Jesus called his disciples and collaborators, without exception, from the most varied social and religious backgrounds.

It was people who interested him, not social classes or labels! And the best thing is that in the group of his followers, despite their differences, they all lived side by side, overcoming imaginable difficulties: indeed, what bound them together was Jesus himself, in whom they all found themselves united with one another.

This is clearly a lesson for us who are often inclined to accentuate differences and even contrasts, forgetting that in Jesus Christ we are given the strength to get the better of our continual conflicts.

Let us also bear in mind that the group of the Twelve is the prefiguration of the Church, where there must be room for all charisms, peoples and races, all human qualities that find their composition and unity in communion with Jesus.

Then with regard to Jude Thaddaeus, this is what tradition has called him, combining two different names: in fact, whereas Matthew and Mark call him simply "Thaddaeus" (Mt 10,3 Mc 3,18), Luke calls him "Judas, the son of James" (Lc 6,16 Ac 1,13).

The nickname "Thaddaeus" is of uncertain origin and is explained either as coming from the Aramaic, taddà', which means "breast" and would therefore suggest "magnanimous", or as an abbreviation of a Greek name, such as "Teodòro, Teòdoto".

Very little about him has come down to us. John alone mentions a question he addressed to Jesus at the Last Supper: Thaddaeus says to the Lord: "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?".

This is a very timely question which we also address to the Lord: why did not the Risen One reveal himself to his enemies in his full glory in order to show that it is God who is victorious? Why did he only manifest himself to his disciples? Jesus' answer is mysterious and profound. The Lord says: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14,22-23).

This means that the Risen One must be seen, must be perceived also by the heart, in a way so that God may take up his abode within us. The Lord does not appear as a thing. He desires to enter our lives, and therefore his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only in this way do we see the Risen One.

The paternity of one of those New Testament Letters known as "catholic", since they are not addressed to a specific local Church but intended for a far wider circle, has been attributed to Jude Thaddaeus. Actually, it is addressed "to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ" (v. 1).

A major concern of this writing is to put Christians on guard against those who make a pretext of God's grace to excuse their own licentiousness and corrupt their brethren with unacceptable teachings, introducing division within the Church "in their dreamings" (v. 8).

This is how Jude defines their doctrine and particular ideas. He even compares them to fallen angels and, mincing no words, says that "they walk in the way of Cain" (v. 11).

Furthermore, he brands them mercilessly as "waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever" (vv. 12-13).

Today, perhaps, we are no longer accustomed to using language that is so polemic, yet that tells us something important. In the midst of all the temptations that exist, with all the currents of modern life, we must preserve our faith's identity. Of course, the way of indulgence and dialogue, on which the Second Vatican Counsel happily set out, should certainly be followed firmly and consistently.

But this path of dialogue, while so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to rethink and to highlight just as forcefully the main and indispensable aspects of our Christian identity. Moreover, it is essential to keep clearly in mind that our identity requires strength, clarity and courage in light of the contradictions of the world in which we live.

Thus, the text of the Letter continues: "But you, beloved" - he is speaking to all of us -, "build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt..." (vv. 20-22).

The Letter ends with these most beautiful words: "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen" (vv. 24-25).

It is easy to see that the author of these lines lived to the full his own faith, to which realities as great as moral integrity and joy, trust and lastly praise belong, since it is all motivated solely by the goodness of our one God and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, may both Simon the Cananaean and Jude Thaddeus help us to rediscover the beauty of the Christian faith ever anew and to live it without tiring, knowing how to bear a strong and at the same time peaceful witness to it.

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking groups, pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate. I pray that your stay in Rome will renew your faith and that the Lord will keep you strong in your Christian identity, following the example of the Apostles Simon and Jude. May God bless you all!

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Today, the Liturgy commemorates my venerable Predecessor Bl. John XXIII, who served Christ and the Church with exemplary dedication, doing his best with constant concern for the salvation of souls. May his protection support you, dear young people, in the effort of daily faithfulness to Christ; may it encourage you, dear sick people, not to lose trust in the hour of trial and suffering; may it help you, dear newly-weds, to make your family a school of growth in love of God and others.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 18 October 2006 - Judas Iscariot and Matthias

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, concluding our walk through the portrait gallery of the Apostles called directly by Jesus during his earthly life, we cannot fail to mention the one who has always been named last in the list of the Twelve: Judas Iscariot. We want to associate him with the person who is later elected to substitute him, Matthias.

Already the very name of Judas raises among Christians an instinctive reaction of criticism and condemnation.

The meaning of the name "Judas" is controversial: the more common explanation considers him as a "man from Kerioth", referring to his village of origin situated near Hebron and mentioned twice in Sacred Scripture (cf. Gn
Gn 15,25 Am 2,2). Others interpret it as a variant of the term "hired assassin", as if to allude to a warrior armed with a dagger, in Latin, sica.

Lastly, there are those who see in the label a simple inscription of a Hebrew-Aramaic root meaning: "the one who is to hand him over". This designation is found twice in the Gospel: after Peter's confession of faith (cf. Jn 6,71), and then in the course of the anointing at Bethany (cf. Jn 12,4).

Another passage shows that the betrayal was underway, saying: "he who betrayed him"; and also during the Last Supper, after the announcement of the betrayal (cf. Mt 26,25), and then at the moment of Jesus' arrest (cf. Mt 26,46). Rather, the lists of the Twelve recalls the fact of the betrayal as already fulfilled: "Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him", says Mark (Mc 3,19); Matthew (Mt 10,4) and Luke (Lc 6,16) have equivalent formulas.

The betrayal itself happens in two moments: before all, in the planning, when Judas agreed with Jesus' enemies to 30 pieces of silver (cf. Mt 26,14-16), and then, in its execution, with the kiss given to the Master in Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26,46-50).

In any case, the Evangelists insist on the status as an Apostle that Judas held in all regards: he is repeatedly called "one of the twelve" (Mt 26,14) or "of the number of the twelve" (Lc 22,3).

Moreover, on two occasions, Jesus, addressing the Apostles and speaking precisely of Judas, indicates him as "one of you" (Mt 26,21 Mc 14,18 Jn 6,70 Jn 13,21). And Peter will say of Judas that "he was numbered among us and allotted his share in this ministry" (Ac 1,17).

He is therefore a figure belonging to the group of those whom Jesus had chosen as strict companions and collaborators. This brings with it two questions in the attempt to provide an explanation for what happened.

The first consists in asking how is it that Jesus had chosen this man and trusted him. In fact, although Judas is the group's bursar (cf Jn 12,6 Jn 13,29), in reality he is called a "thief" (Jn 12,6).

The mystery of the choice remains, all the more since Jesus pronounces a very severe judgement on him: "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed!" (Mt 26,24).

What is more, it darkens the mystery around his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Mt 27,3-4). Even though he went to hang himself (cf. Mt 27,5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God.

A second question deals with the motive of Judas' behaviour: why does he betray Jesus? The question raises several theories. Some refer to the fact of his greed for money; others hold to an explanation of a messianic order: Judas would have been disappointed at seeing that Jesus did not fit into his programme for the political-militaristic liberation of his own nation.

In fact, the Gospel texts insist on another aspect: John expressly says that "the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him" (Jn 13,2). Analogously, Luke writes: "Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve" (Lc 22,3).

In this way, one moves beyond historical motivations and explanations based on the personal responsibility of Judas, who shamefully ceded to a temptation of the Evil One.

The betrayal of Judas remains, in any case, a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Mt 26,50); however, in his invitations to follow him along the way of the beatitudes, he does not force his will or protect it from the temptations of Satan, respecting human freedom.

In effect, the possibilities to pervert the human heart are truly many. The only way to prevent it consists in not cultivating an individualistic, autonomous vision of things, but on the contrary, by putting oneself always on the side of Jesus, assuming his point of view. We must daily seek to build full communion with him.

Let us remember that Peter also wanted to oppose him and what awaited him at Jerusalem, but he received a very strong reproval: "You are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mc 8,33)!

After his fall Peter repented and found pardon and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into desperation and thus became self-destructive.

For us it is an invitation to always remember what St Benedict says at the end of the fundamental Chapter Five of his "Rule": "Never despair of God's mercy". In fact, God "is greater than our hearts", as St John says (1Jn 3,20).

Let us remember two things. The first: Jesus respects our freedom. The second: Jesus awaits our openness to repentance and conversion; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness.

Besides, when we think of the negative role Judas played we must consider it according to the lofty ways in which God leads events. His betrayal led to the death of Jesus, who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love by consigning himself to the Father (cf. Gal Ga 2,20 Ep 5,2).

The word "to betray" is the version of a Greek word that means "to consign". Sometimes the subject is even God in person: it was he who for love "consigned" Jesus for all of us (Rm 8,32). In his mysterious salvific plan, God assumes Judas' inexcusable gesture as the occasion for the total gift of the Son for the redemption of the world.

In conclusion, we want to remember he who, after Easter, was elected in place of the betrayer. In the Church of Jerusalem two were proposed to the community, and then lots were cast for their names: "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Ac 1,23).

Precisely the latter was chosen, hence, "he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Ac 1,26). We know nothing else about him, if not that he had been a witness to all Jesus' earthly events (cf. Ac 1,21-22), remaining faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was later added the divine call to take the place of Judas, almost compensating for his betrayal.

We draw from this a final lesson: while there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

To Special Groups

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here today, especially the Sisters of Providence who have come for the Canonization of Mother Théodore Guérin. I greet also the pilgrims from Africa, Asia, Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and the United States of America. May God pour out his Blessings upon all of you and your loved ones at home.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006 - Paul of Tarsus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have concluded our reflections on the Twelve Apostles, called directly by Jesus during his earthly life. Today, we begin to examine the figures of other important early Church personalities.

They also spent their lives for the Lord, the Gospel and the Church. They are men and also women who, as Luke writes in the Book of Acts, "have risked their lives for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (
Ac 15,26).

The first of these, called by the Lord himself, by the Risen One, to be a true Apostle, is undoubtedly Paul of Tarsus. He shines like a star of the brightest magnitude in the Church's history, and not only in that of its origins. St John Chrysostom praised him as a person superior even to many angels and archangels (cf. Panegirico, 7, 3). Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, inspired by Luke's account in Acts (cf. Ac 9,15), describes him simply as "vessel of election" (Inf. 2: 28), which means: instrument chosen by God. Others called him the "13th Apostle", or directly, "the first after the Only".

Certainly, after Jesus, he is one of the originals of whom we have the most information. In fact, we possess not only the account that Luke gives in the Acts of the Apostles, but also a group of Letters that have come directly from his hand and which, without intermediaries, reveal his personality and thought.

Luke tells us that his name originally was Saul (cf. Ac 7,58 Ac 8,1), in Hebrew also Saul (cf. Ac 9,14), like King Saul (cf. Ac 13,21), and he was a Jew of the diaspora, since the city of Tarsus is situated between Anatolia and Syria.

Very soon he went to Jerusalem to study the roots of Mosaic Law in the footsteps of the great Rabbi Gamaliele (cf. Ac 22,3). He also learned a manual and common trade, tent making (cf. Ac 18,3), which later permitted him to provide personally for his own support without being a weight on the Churches (cf. Ac 20,34 1Co 4,12 2Co 12,13).

It was decisive for him to know the community of those who called themselves disciples of Jesus. Through them he came to know a new faith - a new "way", as it was called - that places not so much the Law of God at the centre but rather the person of Jesus, Crucified and Risen, to whom was now linked the remission of sins. As a zealous Jew, he held this message unacceptable, even scandalous, and he therefore felt the duty to persecute the followers of Christ even outside of Jerusalem.

It was precisely on the road to Damascus at the beginning of the 30s A.D. that, according to his words, "Christ made me his own" (Ph 3,12). While Luke recounts the fact with abundant detail - like how the light of the Risen One touched him and fundamentally changed his whole life -, in his Letters he goes directly to the essential and speaks not only of a vision (cf. 1Co 9,1), but of an illumination (cf. 2Co 4,6), and above all of a revelation and of a vocation in the encounter with the Risen One (cf. Gal Ga 1,15-16).

In fact, he will explicitly define himself as "apostle by vocation" (cf. Rm 1,1 1Co 1,1) or "apostle by the will of God" (2Co 1,1 Ep 1,1 Col 1,1), as if to emphasize that his conversion was not the result of a development of thought or reflection, but the fruit of divine intervention, an unforeseeable, divine grace.

Henceforth, all that had constituted for him a value paradoxically became, according to his words, a loss and refuse (cf. Phil Ph 3,7-10). And from that moment all his energy was placed at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. His existence would become that of an Apostle who wants to "become all things to all men" (1Co 9,22) without reserve.

From here we draw a very important lesson: what counts is to place Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, so that our identity is marked essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and with his Word. In his light every other value is recovered and purified from possible dross.

Another fundamental lesson offered by Paul is the universal breadth that characterizes his apostolate. Acutely feeling the problem of the Gentiles, of the pagans, to know God, who in Jesus Christ Crucified and Risen offers salvation to all without exception, he dedicates himself to make this Gospel - literally, "good news" - known, to announce the grace destined to reconcile men with God, self and others.

From the first moment he understood that this is a reality that did not concern only the Jews or a certain group of men, but one that had a universal value and concerned everyone, because God is the God of everyone.

The point of departure for his travels was the Church of Antioch in Syria, where for the first time the Gospel was announced to the Greeks and where also the name "Christians" was coined (cf. Ac 11,20), believers in Christ.

From there he first went to Cyprus and then on different occasions to the regions of Asia Minor (Pisidia, Laconia, Galatia), and later to those of Europe (Macedonia, Greece). The most famous were the cities of Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, without forgetting Berea, Athens and Miletus.

In Paul's apostolate difficulties were not lacking, which he faced with courage for love of Christ. He himself recalls having endured "labours... imprisonment... beatings... numerous brushes with death.... Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, cold and exposure. And apart from these things there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches" (2Co 11,23-28).

From a passage of the Letter to the Romans (cf. Rm 15,24 Rm 15,28) appears his proposal to push on even to Spain, to the Far West, to announce the Gospel everywhere, even to the then known ends of the earth. How can one not admire a man like this? How can one not thank the Lord for having given an Apostle of this stature?

It is clear that he would not have been able to face such difficult and at times desperate situations if he did not have a reason of absolute value, before which no limit could be considered insurmountable. For Paul, this reason, as we know, is Jesus Christ, of whom he writes: "The love of Christ impels us... so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2Co 5,14-15), for us, for all.

In fact, the Apostle renders the supreme witness of blood under the Emperor Nero here in Rome, where we keep and venerate his mortal remains. Clement of Rome, my Predecessor to this Apostolic See, wrote of him in the last years of the first century: "Because of jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one obtains the prize of patience.... After preaching justice to all in the world, and after having arrived at the limits of the West, he endured martyrdom before the political rulers; in this way he left this world and reached the holy place, thus becoming the greatest model of perseverance" (To the Corinthians, 5).

May the Lord help us to put into practice the exhortation left to us by the Apostle in his Letters: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1Co 11,1).

To Special Groups

I am pleased to greet the many English-speaking pilgrims present, especially those from England, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, India, Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America. My special greetings go to the pilgrims from the Dioceses of Cheyenne and Wheeling-Charleston, led by their Bishops. I also greet the priests taking part in the Institute of Continuing Theological Education of the Pontifical North American College. I thank the Holy Ros-ary School Choir from Gauteng, South Africa, for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 8 November 2006 - St Paul's new outlook

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our previous Catechesis two weeks ago, I endeavoured to sketch the essential lines of the biography of the Apostle Paul. We saw how his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus literally revolutionized his life. Christ became his raison d'être and the profound motivation of all his apostolic work.

In his Letters, after the Name of God which appears more than 500 times, the name most frequently mentioned is Christ's (380 times). Thus, it is important to realize what a deep effect Jesus Christ can have on a person's life, hence, also on our own lives. Actually, the history of salvation culminates in Jesus Christ, and thus he is also the true discriminating point in the dialogue with other religions.

Looking at Paul, this is how we could formulate the basic question: how does a human being's encounter with Christ occur? And of what does the relationship that stems from it consist? The answer given by Paul can be understood in two stages.

In the first place, Paul helps us to understand the absolutely basic and irreplaceable value of faith. This is what he wrote in his Letter to the Romans: "We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (
Rm 3,28).

This is what he also wrote in his Letter to the Galatians: "[M]an is not justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Ga 2,16).

"Being justified" means being made righteous, that is, being accepted by God's merciful justice to enter into communion with him and, consequently, to be able to establish a far more genuine relationship with all our brethren: and this takes place on the basis of the complete forgiveness of our sins.

Well, Paul states with absolute clarity that this condition of life does not depend on our possible good works but on the pure grace of God: "[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rm 3,24). With these words St Paul expressed the fundamental content of his conversion, the new direction his life took as a result of his encounter with the Risen Christ.

Before his conversion, Paul had not been a man distant from God and from his Law. On the contrary, he had been observant, with an observance faithful to the point of fanaticism. In the light of the encounter with Christ, however, he understood that with this he had sought to build up himself and his own justice, and that with all this justice he had lived for himself.

He realized that a new approach in his life was absolutely essential. And we find this new approach expressed in his words: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Ga 2,20).

Paul, therefore, no longer lives for himself, for his own justice. He lives for Christ and with Christ: in giving of himself, he is no longer seeking and building himself up. This is the new justice, the new orientation given to us by the Lord, given to us by faith.

Before the Cross of Christ, the extreme expression of his self-giving, there is no one who can boast of himself, of his own self-made justice, made for himself! Elsewhere, re-echoing Jeremiah, Paul explains this thought, writing, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord" (1Co 1,31 = Jr 9,23-24ff.); or: "Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Ga 6,14).

In reflecting on what justification means, not for actions but for faith, we thus come to the second component that defines the Christian identity described by St Paul in his own life.

This Christian identity is composed of precisely two elements: this restraint from seeking oneself by oneself but instead receiving oneself from Christ and giving oneself with Christ, thereby participating personally in the life of Christ himself to the point of identifying with him and sharing both his death and his life. This is what Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans: "[A]ll of us... were baptized into his death... we were buried therefore with him... we have been united with him.... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rm 6,3, 4, 5, 11).

These last words themselves are symptomatic: for Paul, in fact, it was not enough to say that Christians are baptized or believers; for him, it was just as important to say they are "in Christ Jesus" (cf. also Rm 8,1 Rm 8,2 Rm 8,39 Rm 12,5 Rm 16,3 Rm 16,7 Rm 16,10 1Co 1,2 1Co 1,3 etc.).

At other times he inverted the words and wrote: "Christ is in us/you" (Rm 8,10 2Co 13,5) or "in me" (Ga 2,20).

This mutual compenetration between Christ and the Christian, characteristic of Paul's teaching, completes his discourse on faith.

In fact, although faith unites us closely to Christ, it emphasizes the distinction between us and him; but according to Paul, Christian life also has an element that we might describe as "mystical", since it entails an identification of ourselves with Christ and of Christ with us. In this sense, the Apostle even went so far as to describe our suffering as "the suffering of Christ" in us (2Co 1,5), so that we might "always [carry] in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2Co 4,10).

We must fit all this into our daily lives by following the example of Paul, who always lived with this great spiritual range. Besides, faith must constantly express humility before God, indeed, adoration and praise.

Indeed, it is to him and his grace alone that we owe what we are as Christians. Since nothing and no one can replace him, it is necessary that we pay homage to nothing and no one else but him. No idol should pollute our spiritual universe or otherwise, instead of enjoying the freedom acquired, we will relapse into a humiliating form of slavery.

Moreover, our radical belonging to Christ and the fact that "we are in him" must imbue in us an attitude of total trust and immense joy. In short, we must indeed exclaim with St Paul: "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rm 8,31). And the reply is that nothing and no one "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm 8,39). Our Christian life, therefore, stands on the soundest and safest rock one can imagine. And from it we draw all our energy, precisely as the Apostle wrote: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13).

Therefore, let us face our life with its joys and sorrows supported by these great sentiments that Paul offers to us. By having an experience of them we will realize how true are the words the Apostle himself wrote: "I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me"; in other words, until the Day (2Tm 1,12) of our definitive meeting with Christ the Judge, Saviour of the world and our Saviour.
* * *

To special groups

I am pleased to greet the young people of different nations and religious traditions who recently gathered in Assisi to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace desired by my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I thank the various religious leaders who enabled them to take part in this event, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue which organized it.

Dear young friends: our world urgently needs peace! The Assisi Meeting emphasized the power of prayer in building peace. Genuine prayer transforms hearts, opens us to dialogue, understanding and reconciliation, and breaks down walls erected by violence, hatred and revenge. May you now return to your own religious communities as witnesses to "the spirit of Assisi", messengers of that peace which is God's gracious gift and living signs of hope for our world.

I also offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience. Following the example of St Paul, may your pilgrimage to Rome renew your faith and your love for Our Lord. May God bless you all!

Lastly, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear young people, plan your future in full fidelity to the Gospel, in accordance with the teaching and example of Jesus.

Dear sick people, offer up your suffering to the Lord so that he can extend his saving action in the world. And you, dear newly-weds, always let yourselves be guided on the journey on which you have set out by a lively faith so as to grow in spiritual zeal and love.

Saint Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 11106