Audiences 2005-2013 24030

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 - Saint Albert the Great


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the great masters of medieval theology is St Albert the Great. The title "Great", (Magnus), with which he has passed into history indicates the vastness and depth of his teaching, which he combined with holiness of life. However, his contemporaries did not hesitate to attribute to him titles of excellence even then. One of his disciples, Ulric of Strasbourg, called him the "wonder and miracle of our epoch".

He was born in Germany at the beginning of the 13th century. When he was still young he went to Italy, to Padua, the seat of one of the most famous medieval universities. He devoted himself to the study of the so-called "liberal arts": grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, that is, to culture in general, demonstrating that characteristic interest in the natural sciences which was soon to become the favourite field for his specialization. During his stay in Padua he attended the Church of the Dominicans, whom he then joined with the profession of the religious vows. Hagiographic sources suggest that Albert came to this decision gradually. His intense relationship with God, the Dominican Friars' example of holiness, hearing the sermons of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, St Dominic's successor at the Master General of the Order of Preachers, were the decisive factors that helped him to overcome every doubt and even to surmount his family's resistence. God often speaks to us in the years of our youth and points out to us the project of our life. As it was for Albert, so also for all of us, personal prayer, nourished by the Lord's word, frequent reception of the Sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened people are the means to discover and follow God's voice. He received the religious habit from Bl. Jordan of Saxony.

After his ordination to the priesthood, his superiors sent him to teach at various theological study centres annexed to the convents of the Dominican Fathers. His brilliant intellectual qualities enabled him to perfect his theological studies at the most famous university in that period, the University of Paris. From that time on St Albert began his extraordinary activity as a writer that he was to pursue throughout his life.

Prestigious tasks were assigned to him. In 1248 he was charged with opening a theological studium at Cologne, one of the most important regional capitals of Germany, where he lived at different times and which became his adopted city. He brought with him from Paris an exceptional student, Thomas Aquinas. The sole merit of having been St Thomas' teacher would suffice to elicit profound admiration for St Albert. A relationship of mutual esteem and friendship developed between these two great theologians, human attitudes that were very helpful in the development of this branch of knowlege. In 1254, Albert was elected Provincial of the Dominican Fathers' "Provincia Teutoniae" Teutonic Province which included communities scattered over a vast territory in Central and Northern Europe. He distinguished himself for the zeal with which he exercised this ministry, visiting the communities and constantly recalling his confreres to fidelity, to the teaching and example of St Dominic.

His gifts did not escape the attention of the Pope of that time, Alexander iv, who wanted Albert with him for a certain time at Anagni where the Popes went frequently in Rome itself and at Viterbo, in order to avail himself of Albert's theological advice. The same Supreme Pontiff appointed Albert Bishop of Regensburg, a large and celebrated diocese, but which was going through a difficult period. From 1260 to 1262, Albert exercised this ministry with unflagging dedication, succeeding in restoring peace and harmony to the city, in reorganizing parishes and convents and in giving a new impetus to charitable activities.

In the year 1263-1264, Albert preached in Germany and in Bohemia, at the request of Pope Urban iv. He later returned to Cologne and took up his role as lecturer, scholar and writer. As a man of prayer, science and charity, his authoritative intervention in various events of the Church and of the society of the time were acclaimed: above all, he was a man of reconciliation and peace in Cologne, where the Archbishop had run seriously foul of the city's institutions; he did his utmost during the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274, summoned by Pope Gregory X, to encourage union between the Latin and Greek Churches after the separation of the great schism with the East in 1054. He also explained the thought of Thomas Aquinas which had been the subject of objections and even quite unjustified condemnations.

He died in his cell at the convent of the Holy Cross, Cologne, in 1280, and was very soon venerated by his confreres. The Church proposed him for the worship of the faithful with his beatification in 1622 and with his canonization in 1931, when Pope Pius XI proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. This was certainly an appropriate recognition of this great man of God and outstanding scholar, not only of the truths of the faith but of a great many other branches of knowledge; indeed, with a glance at the titles of his very numerous works, we realize that there was something miraculous about his culture and that his encyclopedic interests led him not only to concern himself with philosophy and theology, like other contemporaries of his, but also with every other discipline then known, from physics to chemistry, from astronomy to minerology, from botany to zoology. For this reason Pope Pius XII named him Patron of enthusiasts of the natural sciences and also called him "Doctor universalis" precisely because of the vastness of his interests and knowledge.

Of course, the scientific methods that St Albert the Great used were not those that came to be established in the following centuries. His method consisted simply in the observation, description and classification of the phenomena he had studied, but it was in this way that he opened the door for future research.

He still has a lot to teach us. Above all, St Albert shows that there is no opposition between faith and science, despite certain episodes of misunderstanding that have been recorded in history. A man of faith and prayer, as was St Albert the Great, can serenely foster the study of the natural sciences and progress in knowledge of the micro- and macrocosm, discovering the laws proper to the subject, since all this contributes to fostering thirst for and love of God. The Bible speaks to us of creation as of the first language through which God who is supreme intelligence, who is the Logos reveals to us something of himself. The Book of Wisdom, for example, says that the phenomena of nature, endowed with greatness and beauty, is like the works of an artist through which, by analogy, we may know the Author of creation (cf.
Sg 13,5). With a classical similitude in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance one can compare the natural world to a book written by God that we read according to the different approaches of the sciences (cf. Address to the participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 31 October 2008; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 November 2008, p. 6). How many scientists, in fact, in the wake of St Albert the Great, have carried on their research inspired by wonder at and gratitude for a world which, to their eyes as scholars and believers, appeared and appears as the good work of a wise and loving Creator! Scientific study is then transformed into a hymn of praise. Enrico Medi, a great astrophysicist of our time, whose cause of beatification has been introduced, wrote: "O you mysterious galaxies... I see you, I calculate you, I understand you, I study you and I discover you, I penetrate you and I gather you. From you I take light and make it knowledge, I take movement and make it wisdom, I take sparkling colours and make them poetry; I take you stars in my hands and, trembling in the oneness of my being, I raise you above yourselves and offer you in prayer to the Creator, that through me alone you stars can worship" (Le Opere. Inno alla creazione).

St Albert the Great reminds us that there is friendship between science and faith and that through their vocation to the study of nature, scientists can take an authentic and fascinating path of holiness.

His extraordinary openmindedness is also revealed in a cultural feat which he carried out successfully, that is, the acceptance and appreciation of Aristotle's thought. In St Albert's time, in fact, knowledge was spreading of numerous works by this great Greek philosopher, who lived a quarter of a century before Christ, especially in the sphere of ethics and metaphysics. They showed the power of reason, explained lucidly and clearly the meaning and structure of reality, its intelligibility and the value and purpose of human actions. St Albert the Great opened the door to the complete acceptance in medieval philosophy and theology of Aristotle's philosophy, which was subsequently given a definitive form by St Thomas. This reception of a pagan pre-Christian philosophy, let us say, was an authentic cultural revolution in that epoch. Yet many Christian thinkers feared Aristotle's philosophy, a non-Christian philosophy, especially because, presented by his Arab commentators, it had been interpreted in such a way, at least in certain points, as to appear completely irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Hence a dilemma arose: are faith and reason in conflict with each other or not?

This is one of the great merits of St Albert: with scientific rigour he studied Aristotle's works, convinced that all that is truly rational is compatible with the faith revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In other words, St Albert the Great thus contributed to the formation of an autonomous philosophy, distinct from theology and united with it only by the unity of the truth. So it was that in the 13th century a clear distinction came into being between these two branches of knowledge, philosophy and theology, which, in conversing with each other, cooperate harmoniously in the discovery of the authentic vocation of man, thirsting for truth and happiness: and it is above all theology, that St Albert defined as "emotional knowledge", which points out to human beings their vocation to eternal joy, a joy that flows from full adherence to the truth.

St Albert the Great was capable of communicating these concepts in a simple and understandable way. An authentic son of St Dominic, he willingly preached to the People of God, who were won over by his words and by the example of his life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray the Lord that learned theologians will never be lacking in holy Church, wise and devout like St Albert the Great, and that he may help each one of us to make our own the "formula of holiness" that he followed in his life: "to desire all that I desire for the glory of God, as God desires for his glory all that he desires", in other words always to be conformed to God's will, in order to desire and to do everything only and always for his glory.

To Special Groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I welcome all the English-speaking visitors, especially a group of priests, Religious and seminarians visiting from the Philippines. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and your families, I invoke God's abundant Blessings. Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick, and the newlyweds. May the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which we shall be celebrating tomorrow be an invitation to all to follow the example of Mary Most Holy: for you, dear young people, may it be expressed in prompt availability to the Father's call, so that you may be Gospel leaven in society; for you, dear sick people, may it be an incentive to renew the serene and confident acceptance of the divine will and to transform your suffering into a means of redemption for the whole of humanity. May Mary's "yes" awaken in you, dear newlyweds, an ever more generous commitment to building a family based on reciprocal love and on the perennial Christian values.
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In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Saint Albert, better known as Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great. A universal genius whose interests ranged from the natural sciences to philosophy and theology, Albert entered the Dominicans and, after studies in Paris, taught in Cologne. Elected provincial of the Teutonic province, he served as bishop of Regensburg for four years and then returned to teaching and writing. He played an important part in the Council of Lyons, and he worked to clarify and defend the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, his most brilliant student. Albert was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII named him the patron of the natural sciences. Saint Albert shows us that faith is not opposed to reason, and that the created world can be seen as a “book” written by God and capable of being “read” in its own way by the various sciences. His study of Aristotle also brought out the difference between the sciences of philosophy and theology, while insisting that both cooperate in enabling us to discover our vocation to truth and happiness, a vocation which finds its fulfilment in eternal life.
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I welcome all the English-speaking visitors, especially a group of priests, Religious and seminarians visiting from the Philippines. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and your families, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 - Easter Triduum


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are living the holy days that invite us to meditate on the central events of our Redemption, the essential core of our faith. Tomorrow the Easter Triduum begins, the fulcrum of the whole Liturgical Year in which we are called to silence and prayer in order to contemplate the mystery of the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord.

In their Homilies the Fathers often referred to these days which, as St Athanasius observed in one of his Easter Letters, bring "us to a new beginning, even the announcement of the blessed Passover, in which the Lord was sacrificed" (Letter 5, 1-2: PG 26,1379).

I therefore urge you to live these days intensely, so that they may decisively direct the life of each one to generous and convinced adherence to Christ, who died and rose for us.

Tomorrow morning, the Holy Chrism Mass, a morning prelude to Holy Thursday, will see priests gathered with their own Bishop. During an important Eucharistic celebration which usually takes place in the diocesan cathedrals, the oil of the sick and of the catechumens and chrism will be blessed. In addition, the Bishop and Priests will renew the priestly promises that they spoke on the day of their Ordination. This year, this action acquires a very special prominence because it is taking place in the context of the Year for Priests, which I established to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé d'Ars. To all priests I would like to repeat the hope I expressed at the end of my Letter for its inauguration: "In the footsteps of the holy Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!".

Tomorrow afternoon we shall celebrate the institution of the Eucharist. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul strengthened the early Christians in the truth of the Eucharistic Mystery, conveying to them what he himself had learned. "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my Body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my Blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (
1Co 11,23-25).
These words clearly express Christ's intention: under the species of the bread and the wine, he makes himself really present with his Body given and his Blood poured out as a sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time, he constitutes the Apostles and their successors ministers of this Sacrament, which he entrusts to his Church as a supreme proof of his love.

We also commemorate with an evocative rite the gesture of Jesus who washes the Apostles' feet (Jn 13,1-25). For the Evangelist this act comes to portray the whole of Jesus' life and reveals his love to the end, an infinite love that is capable of preparing man for communion with God and of setting him free. At the end of the Holy Thursday Liturgy the Church puts the Blessed Sacrament in a specially prepared place that represents Jesus' loneliness and mortal anguish in Gethsemane. Before the Eucharist, the faithful contemplate Jesus in the hour of his solitude and pray that all the loneliness in the world may cease. This liturgical itinerary is likewise an invitation to seek the intimate encounter with the Lord in prayer, to recognize Jesus among those who are lonely, to watch with him and to proclaim him with the light of one's own life.

On Good Friday we shall commemorate the Passion and death of the Lord. Jesus wanted to give his life as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of humanity's sins, choosing to this end the most brutal and humiliating death: crucifixion. There is an inseparable connection between the Last Supper and Jesus' death. At the Last Supper Jesus gives his Body and his Blood, that is, his earthly existence, himself, anticipating his death and transforming it into an act of love. Thus he makes death which by its nature is the end, the destruction of every relationship an act of the communication of himself, a means of salvation and of the proclamation of the victory of love. In this way, Jesus becomes the key to understanding the Last Supper, which is an anticipation of the transformation of violent death into a voluntary sacrifice; into an act of love that redeems and saves the world.

Holy Saturday is marked by a profound silence. The Churches are bare and no special Liturgies are planned. In this time of waiting and hope, believers are invited to prayer, reflection and conversion, also by means of the sacrament of Reconciliation, in order to take part, intimately renewed, in the celebration of Easter.

In the night of Holy Saturday, during the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils", this silence will be broken by the singing of the Alleluia which announces Christ's Resurrection and proclaims the victory of light over darkness, of life over death. The Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord, entering Easter Day which the Lord will inaugurate by rising from the dead.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us prepare to live intensely this Sacred Triduum, now at hand, so as to be ever more deeply inserted into the Mystery of Christ, who died and rose for us. May the Most Holy Virgin accompany us on this spiritual journey. May she, who followed Jesus in his Passion and who stood beneath the Cross, lead us into the Paschal Mystery so that we may experience the joy and peace of the Risen One.

With these sentiments, from this moment I offer you all my most cordial good wishes for a holy Easter, extending them to your Communities and to all your loved ones.

To Special Groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Japan, Canada and the United States. I also greet the various student groups present, including those taking part in the annual "Univ Congress". Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

In addressing the Italian-speaking pilgrims, I greet the university students from various countries who are taking part in the international Congress sponsored by the Prelature of Opus Dei. Dear friends, you have come to Rome for Holy Week for an experience of faith, friendship and spiritual enrichment. I ask you to reflect on the importance of university studies in forming that "Catholic or universal mentality" that St Josémaria described as: "a breadth of vision and a vigorous endeavour to study more deeply the things that are permanently alive and unchanged in Catholic orthodoxy". May the desire to encounter Jesus Christ personally increase in each and every one, to witness to him in every context.

Lastly, I address my cordial thoughts to the young people, the sick, and the newlyweds. May contemplation of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you ever stronger in your Christian witness. And may you, dear sick people, draw from the Cross of Christ daily support to get the better of moments of trial and discouragement. May you, dear newlyweds, receive from the Paschal Mystery which we contemplate in these days, an encouragement to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 7 April 2010 - Octave of Easter


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the customary Wednesday General Audience is bathed in the luminous joy of Easter. In these days, in fact, the Church celebrates the mystery of the Resurrection and experiences the great joy that comes to her from the Good News of Christ's victory over evil and over death.

This joy is not only prolonged in the Octave of Easter but is extended for 50 days until Pentecost. After the weeping and distress of Good Friday and after the silence, laden with expectation, of Holy Saturday, here is the wonderful announcement: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" (
Lc 24,34). This is the "Good News" par excellence in the entire history of the world, it is the "Gospel" proclaimed and passed on down the centuries, from generation to generation.

Christ's Pasch is the supreme and unequalled act of God's power. It is an absolutely extraordinary event, the most beautiful, ripe fruit of the "Mystery of God". It is so extraordinary that it is ineffable in its dimensions that escape our human capacity for knowing and investigating. Yet, it is also a "historical" event, witnessed to and documented. It is the event on which the whole of our faith is founded. It is the central content in which we believe and the main reason why we believe.

The New Testament does not describe how the Resurrection of Jesus took place. It only mentions the testimonies of those whom Jesus met personally after he had risen. The three Synoptic Gospels tell us that this announcement: "He has risen!", was first proclaimed by Angels. It is therefore a proclamation that originates in God; but God immediately entrusts it to his "messengers", so that they may pass it on to all. Hence it is these same Angels who tell the women, who had gone at daybreak to the tomb, "go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him" (Mt 28,7). In this way, through the women of the Gospel, this divine mandate reaches each and every one so that each in turn may transmit this same news to others with faithfulness and courage the glad tidings, that are joyful and convey delight.

Yes, dear friends, our whole faith is founded on the constant and faithful transmission of this "Good News", and today we want to tell God of our deep gratitude for the innumerable hosts of believers in Christ who have gone before us in the course of the centuries, because they never failed in their fundamental mandate to proclaim the Gospel which they had received. The Good News of Easter, therefore, requires the action of enthusiastic and courageous witnesses. Each disciple of Christ, and also each one of us, is called to be a witness. This is the precise, demanding and exalting mandate of the Risen Lord. The "news" of new life in Christ must shine out in the life of Christians, it must be alive and active in those who bring it, really capable of changing hearts and the whole of life. It is alive first of all because Christ himself is its living and life-giving soul. St Mark reminds us, at the end of his Gospel, where he writes that the Apostles "went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mc 16,20).

The Apostles' experience is also our own and that of every believer, of every disciple who makes himself a "herald". In fact, we too are sure that the Lord works with his witnesses today, as he did in the past. This is a fact we can recognize every time we see the seeds of true and lasting peace sprouting and wherever the work and example of Christians and of people of good will is enlivened by respect for justice, patient dialogue, convinced esteem for others, impartiality and personal and communitarian renunciation. Unfortunately, we also see in the world so much suffering, so much violence, so much misunderstanding. The celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the joyous contemplation of Christ's Resurrection that triumphs over sin and death with the power of God's Love, is a favourable opportunity for rediscovering and professing with greater conviction and trust in the Risen Lord, who accompanies the witnesses of his word, working miracles together with them. We shall be truly and with our whole selves witnesses of the Risen Jesus when we let the wonder of his love shine through us: when in our words, and especially, in our actions, the voice and hand of Jesus himself may be recognized as fully consistent with the Gospel.

Therefore the Lord sends us everywhere as his witnesses. But we can only be such on the basis of and with continuous reference to the Paschal experience, the experience which Mary Magdalene expresses when she announces to the other disciples: "I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20,18). This personal encounter with the Risen One is the steadfast foundation and central content of our faith, the fresh and inexhaustible source of our hope, the ardent dynamism of our charity. Thus our Christian life itself will fully coincide with the announcement: "Christ the Lord has risen, indeed". Let us, therefore, allow ourselves to be won over by the fascination of Christ's Resurrection. May the Virgin Mary support us with her protection and help us to savour the Easter joy to the full so that in turn we may bring it to all our brothers and sisters.

Once again, a Happy Easter to you all!

To Special Groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the newly ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. Dear young deacons: may the grace of your ordination conform you ever more fully to the Lord in humble obedience and faithful service to the building up of the Church in your beloved homeland. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Malta, Croatia, Australia, Japan and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ!

I also address a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular the deacons and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Catania, as well as the deacons of the Society of Jesus who are gathered here with their superiors and relatives. Together with them I greet the young people present, especially the teenagers from the Diocese of Cremona, the numerous groups of boys and girls who are making their "profession of faith" this year. They come from various Deaconries, Parishes and Prayer and Recreation Centres of the Archdiocese of Milan. Dear friends, may you always be faithful to your Baptism: live to the full your baptismal consecration and be witnesses of Christ who died and rose for us.

I address an affectionate thought also to you, dear sick people: may the light of Easter illuminate you and support you in your suffering. And may you, dear newlyweds, draw from the Paschal Mystery the courage to be protagonists in the Church and in society, contributing with your faithful and fertile love to building the civilization of love.

Greeting to the Russian faithful :

I am glad to be able, by courtesy of the Itar-Tass Press Agency, to send a cordial greeting and good wishes to all Russians, both those who live in their homeland and those who dwell in various parts of the world. May the Solemnity of Holy Easter, which this year we had the joy of celebrating together with the Catholics and the Orthodox, be an opportunity for renewed brotherhood and a more and more intense collaboration in truth and in charity.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 - Munus docendi


Dear Friends,

In this Easter Season that brings us to Pentecost and also ushers us into the celebrations for the closure of the Year for Priests, scheduled for this coming 9-11 June, I am eager to devote a few more reflections to the topic of the ordained Ministry, elaborating on the fruitful realities of the priest's configuration to Christ the Head in the exercise of the tria munera that he receives: namely, the three offices of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

In order to understand what it means for the priest to act in persona Christi Capitis in the person of Christ the Head and to realize what consequences derive from the duty of representing the Lord, especially in the exercise of these three offices, it is necessary first of all to explain what "representation" means. The priest represents Christ. What is implied by "representing" someone? In ordinary language it usually means being delegated by someone to be present in his place, to speak and act in his stead because the person he represents is absent from the practical action. Let us ask ourselves: does the priest represent the Lord in this way? The answer is no, because in the Church Christ is never absent, the Church is his living Body and he is the Head of the Church, present and active within her. Christ is never absent, on the contrary he is present in a way that is untrammelled by space and time through the event of the Resurrection that we contemplate in a special way in this Easter Season.

Therefore the priest, who acts in persona Christi Capitis and representing the Lord, never acts in the name of someone who is absent but, rather, in the very Person of the Risen Christ, who makes himself present with his truly effective action. He really acts today and brings about what the priest would be incapable of: the consecration of the wine and the bread so that they may really be the Lord's presence, the absolution of sins. The Lord makes his own action present in the person who carries out these gestures. These three duties of the priest which Tradition has identified in the Lord's different words about mission: teaching, sanctifying and governing in their difference and in their deep unity are a specification of this effective representation. In fact, they are the three actions of the Risen Christ, the same that he teaches today, in the Church and in the world. Thereby he creates faith, gathers together his people, creates the presence of truth and really builds the communion of the universal Church; and sanctifies and guides.

The first duty of which I wish to speak today is the munus docendi, that is, the task of teaching. Today, in the midst of the educational emergency, the munus docendi of the Church, exercised concretely through the ministry of each priest, is particularly important. We are very confused about the fundamental choices in our life and question what the world is, where it comes from, where we are going, what we must do in order to do good, how we should live and what the truly pertinent values are. Regarding all this, there are numerous contrasting philosophies that come into being and disappear, creating confusion about the fundamental decisions on how to live; because collectively we no longer know from what and for what we have been made and where we are going. In this context the words of the Lord who took pity on the throng because the people were like sheep without a shepherd came true (cf.
Mc 6,34). The Lord had noticed this when he saw the thousands of people following him in the desert because, in the diversity of the currents of that time, they no longer knew what the true meaning of Scripture was, what God was saying. The Lord, moved by compassion, interpreted God's word, he himself is the Word of God, and thus provided an orientation. This is the function in persona Christi of the priest: making present, in the confusion and bewilderment of our times, the light of God's Word, the light that is Christ himself in this our world. Therefore the priest does not teach his own ideas, a philosophy that he himself has invented, that he has discovered or likes; the priest does not speak of himself, he does not speak for himself, to attract admirers, perhaps, or create a party of his own; he does not say his own thing, his own inventions but, in the medley of all the philosophies, the priest teaches in the name of Christ present, he proposes the truth that is Christ himself, his word and his way of living and of moving ahead. What Christ said of himself applies to the priest: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7,16); Christ, that is, does not propose himself but, as the Son he is the voice, the Word of the Father. The priest too must always speak and act in this way: "My teaching is not mine, I do not spread my own ideas or what I like, but I am the mouthpiece and heart of Christ and I make present this one, shared teaching that has created the universal Church and creates eternal life".

This fact, namely that the priest does not invent, does not create or proclaim his own ideas, since the teaching he announces is not his own but Christ's does not mean, however, that he is neutral, as if he were a spokesman reading a text that he does not, perhaps, make his own. In this case t0o the model of Christ who said: "I do not come from myself and I do not live for myself but I come from the Father and live for the Father" applies. Therefore, in this profound identification, Christ's teaching is that of the Father and he himself is one with the Father. The priest who proclaims Christ's word, the faith of the Church, and not his own ideas, must also say: "I do not live by myself and for myself, but I live with Christ and by Christ and therefore all that Christ said to us becomes my word even if it is not mine". The priest's life must be identified with Christ and, in this manner, the word that is not his own becomes, nevertheless, a profoundly personal word. On this topic St Augustine, speaking of priests said: "And as for us, what are we? Ministers (of Christ), his servants; for what we distribute to you is not ours but we take it from his store. And we too live of it, because we are servants like you" (Sermo 229/E, 4).

The teaching that the priest is called to offer, the truth of the faith, must be internalized and lived in an intense personal and spiritual process so that the priest really enters into a profound inner communion with Christ himself. The priests believes, accepts and seeks to live, first of all as his own, all that the Lord taught and that the Church has passed on in that process of identification with his own ministry of which St John Mary Vianney is an exemplary witness (cf. Letter for the inauguration of the Year for Priests). "For in charity itself we are all listening to him, who is our One Master in heaven" (En. in PS 131,1,7).

Consequently the priest's voice may often seem to be "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Mc 1,3), but his prophetic power consists precisely in this: in never being conformist, in never conforming to any dominant culture or mindset but, rather, in showing the one newness that can bring about an authentic and profound renewal of the human being, that is, that Christ is the Living One, he is the close God, the God who works in the life and for the life of the world and gives us the truth, the way to live.

In the careful preparation of Sunday preaching, without excluding weekday preaching, in imparting catechetical formation in schools, in academic institutions and, in a special way, through that unwritten book which is his own life, the priest is always an "educator", he teaches; yet not with the presumption of one who imposes his own truth but on the contrary with the humble, glad certainty of someone who has encountered the Truth, who has been grasped and transformed by it, hence cannot but proclaim it. In fact, no one can choose the priesthood on his own, it is not a means of obtaining security in life or achieving a social position: no one can give it to him nor can he seek it by himself. The priesthood is the response to the Lord's call, to his will, in order to become a herald of his truth, not a personal truth but of his truth.

Dear brother priests, the Christian people ask to hear from our teachings the genuine ecclesial doctrine, through which they can renew their encounter with Christ who gives joy, peace and salvation. In this regard Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church are indispensable reference points in the exercise of the munus docendi, so essential for conversion, the development of faith and the salvation of humankind. "Priestly ordination... means... to be immersed in the Truth" (Homily at the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, 9 April 2009), that Truth which is not merely a concept or a collection of ideas to be assimilated and passed on but, rather, is the Person of Christ with whom, for whom and in whom to live and thus, necessarily, the timeliness and comprehensibility of the proclamation are also born. Only this knowledge of a Truth that became a Person in the Incarnation of the Son justifies the missionary mandate: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15). Only if it is the Truth is it intended for every creature, it is not the imposition of some thing but openness of heart to what the creature has been created for.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord has entrusted a great task to priests: to be heralds of his word, of the Truth that saves; to be his voice in the world to bring what serves the true good of souls and the authentic path of faith (cf. 1Co 6,12). May St John Mary Vianney be an example to all priests. He was a man of great wisdom and heroic fortitude in resisting the cultural and social pressures of his time in order to lead souls to God: simplicity, fidelity and immediacy were the essential features of his preaching, the transparency of his faith and of his holiness. The Christian People was edified by him and as happens for genuine teachers in every epoch recognized in him the light of the Truth. In him it recognized, ultimately, what should always be recognizable in a priest: the voice of the Good Shepherd.

To Special Groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Korea, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ!

Lastly, I address the young people, the sick, and the newlyweds. May the joy of the Risen Lord inspire fresh ardour in your lives, dear young people, so that you may be faithful disciples; may it be an encouragement to you, dear sick people, so that you may courageously face every trial and suffering; may it sustain your mutual love, dear newlyweds, so that in your home the peace of Christ may always prevail.
* * *

Appeal for China

My thoughts turn to China and to the people hit by a severe earthquake that has claimed a heavy toll of human life, causing injuries and immense damage. I pray for the victims and I am spiritually close to the people tried by such a serious disaster; I implore for them from God relief in their suffering and courage in such adversity. I hope that they will not be left without the solidarity of all.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 21 April 2010 - Apostolic Journey to Malta

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